JOESEPH SIMON
I remember a comic called Alternate Heroes from the black and white explosion.  It was memorable enough to reread it and see if  I could touch base with Alternate Heroes creator Hal Jones.  A short time later I was able to get in touch and in interview him. This is that interview.

Hello Hal.  As you know from our prior conversation, I’m a fan of Alternate Heroes.  In a sense, Alternate Heroes was a shared world universe that chronicled the story of an ensemble of heroes and supporting characters. A chronicle that continues today.

Before we get to that, let’s step back.  You have an art style that takes the classic art style of newspaper comics and marries it to pulp art and wraps it up in your own. What is your art background?

Hal Jones

HAL
I’ve been drawing since I was two years old. I started reading comics when I was 7 and I was “all Marvel”. But I ran into the works of Denny O’Neal and Neal Adams when I was 10 and it planted a seed for something more. I started making my own comics that same year and spent my time creating characters. But I was just piddling around. At 12 I saw Frazetta and bought the Bantam books. I thought he was a god, so I just studied him, I didn’t emulate him. Then, at 15, I discovered Bernie Wrightson and everything changed. I could suddenly see how one could go from comics to being a world-class illustrator like Frazetta. And the sails were set.

I started trying to break into comics when I was 24 and in school for commercial art. My inker, William Trestle, and I went to the Dallas Fantasy Fair that year. When we were just about to leave, we spotted Dick Giordano sitting all alone and we sauntered over with our samples, a barbarian story called “The Bountisman,” and Dick was floored. He kept looking at the four pages over and over. Unable to wait anymore, I spoke up,  “Well?”  He looked up, “Well what?” he asked. I replied, “Well, are we good enough?” He said, ” Good enough to work for us? Sure!” Then we chatted and he told us The Bountisman would go well in “New Talent Showcase”. He said Sal Amendola was the editor and that he was teaching a seminar in Dallas on Monday, and if we would bring Xeroxed he would show them in his next editor’s meeting, So we went home and begged and scraped up every dollar we could get and

From Alternate Heroes 1

On Monday we drove back to Dallas where we met with Sal. He was sick and didn’t want to come down, but we begged so he did. He said, “Come on, I’ll buy you a drink.” So we sat down in the bar. Sal said “Okay, let’s see what we’ve got.” We presented the pages to him and he sat there, staring at them saying over and over again.”I’m really glad I came down here, I’m REALLY glad I came down here.” He shook our hands, we went home to Waco and waited for the call from Sal.  But that call would never come. Fast forward to fall of ’85. My wife and I had moved to Alabama, which was my home.

We were practically starving, I needed work badly. So I finally made the call to DC and asked for Sal. I was told that after he returned from Dallas, there had been a big blowup and Sal had walked out. So I asked for the new editor of New Talent Showcase, and I got some junior editor by saying to me,” I’ve got artist’s up here banging my doors down. Why should I hire some PO-dunk from Alabama?” And. I replied,”Because I’m THAT good” And he roared with laughter. I pulled up at that point and told him,”Listen, you jerk, I’m ex-Special Forces and we have commuter flights from here to there every day., and I will come there and hurt you?” He hung up on me and I raged. I swore off DC and Marvel at that point, though it occurred to me many years later, all I needed to do was call back and ask for Dick.

This all set me up to do my own comics, including Alternate Heroes.

JOESEPH
What comic related material did you do before Alternate Heroes #1?

HAL

I sold my first story to Cat Yronwode at Eclipse, a five pager, The Submission, which saw print in Tales of Terror #10.

 

JOESEPH
What led you to doing Alternate Heroes (to self-publish under Prelude, to create and write the characters / story,  to do the art)?

HAL
The characters in AH were mostly created from the age of 10 to 15, but I didn’t focus on them until I came to hear the term “Packager” David Campiti was doing his thing, supplying talent and comics to small publishers who were flourishing in the tumultuous mid 80’s. He hooked me up with Juan Collado at Prelude, and we were off to the races.

 

JOESEPH
To me, Alternate Heroes was a complete serialized package.  A well-paced story involving a huge cast of characters. The series explored this interesting world you created. Your characters were pretty different. Not just strictly good and evil characters but a lot in between.

HAL
Since Dirty Harry and Billy Jack, I’ve had great affection for anti-heroes. Also, I’ve always believed super-hero stories weren’t “realistic” enough;  that so much more could be done

Then Alan Moore wrote WATCHMEN and I figured, “Well they beat me to it.”

 

From Alternate Heroes #1

JOESEPH
You took the best storytelling techniques of the shorter form (4 to 12 pages) found in early comics and modernized by the 2000 AD creators. Then, instead of three different stories, you combined into one full sized shared world comic creating a secret shared world anthology in the guise of a monthly comic.

I’m sure my description is not altogether your approach to writing that issue. I am curious about your approach and thoughts on my theory.

HAL
Yes, I wasn’t telling the story of the characters, I was telling the story of a world, the”Alternate Universe”. I have a gazillion characters at my disposal, so I picked the most interesting of them to put in the project.

 

JOESEPH
I’ve taken a lot of liberties mentioning possible newspaper comics, pulps, the 4 to 8 page comics of the  age to 2000ad. What comics really had an impact on you as a fan and as a creator?  What comics do you read now?

HAL
Well, like I said, until 1975 I read mostly Marvel. There were so many standouts, there. I collected them all. I enjoyed the work of John Buscema, especially with Tom Palmer on inks. Mike Ploog, Michael Golden, Mike Zack, John Byrne…. and so many more I can’t name here. They all had an effect.

 

JOESEPH
You have been up to a number of things in comics since Alternate Heroes #1.  What are those?

From Beyond Human #1, featuring Crimehater from Alternate Heroes.

HAL
I continued to publish with BEYOND HUMAN: THE VIOLENT MAN in 1995, Graven Images Redeemed in 1997, Michael New: Standing Strong Against. All Enemies in 2001, and BEYOND HUMAN (Regular series) 2009-2012 issue #4 is being inked. Along the way, I also produced a number of short pieces for Alex Steven’s Glory to God, the Christian Comics Association, and Jim Main, among others. Other than that I worked full time as a graphic artist for 35 years.

 

JOESEPH
I for one, am interested in seeing where you take everything.

HAL
I certainly hope I’m around to fulfill those goals.

 

JOESEPH
For anyone interested, how can people get in touch with you?

HAL
I’m on Messenger and Facebook, email: haljones260@gmail.com.  Any of those will do it.

 

JOESEPH
What comics of yours are in print and where can people buy them?

HAL
Www.indyplanet.com/BATTLELINE comics

From Beyond Human

The first three issues of BEYOND HUMAN are there.

 

JOESEPH
Thank you Hal.

From Beyond Human

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JOESEPH SIMON I remember a comic called Alternate Heroes from the black and white explosion.  It was memorable enough to reread it and see if  I could touch base with Alternate Heroes creator Hal Jones.  A short time later I was able to get in touch and in interview him....