Dan Fogler’s familiar to many for his acting in film and TV, including The Walking Dead, The Goldbergs, and as baker/wizard ally Jacob Kowalski in the Fantastic Beasts film series. He’s also a major, major, major, major comics fan – and now he’s creating an entire universe of comic books at Heavy Metal Publishing beginning this August.
'Fogler’s Fictions,' as they’re nicknamed, include the surreal SF satire Brooklyn Gladiator with Heavy Metal veteran Simon Bisley debuting August 5; the dark crime tale Fishkill with Ben Templesmith (30 Days of Night) beginning August 12; and the return of his Twilight Zone-esque horror series Moon Lake with an all-star art team including Tim Seeley and Darick Robertson on August 19.
First up is the return of his Brooklyn Gladiator series from a few years ago, returning now at a prescient time.
Newsarama: Dan, tell us about this new volume of Brooklyn Gladiator.
Dan Fogler: It’s all the things that I loved watching growing up – dystopian futuristic sci-fi, Star Wars, The Matrix, Mad Max, and so on, and then also a universe where all conspiracies are all true or proven true.
I thought, "What's that universe look like, where we basically take all the conspiracy headlines from today and turn up the dial on everything, and jump ahead 15-20 years?" I wanted to see what that looked like, and that's Brooklyn Gladiator.
So, it's very Orwellian. It's a technocracy. And there's something going on with the sun, where it's emitting this core radiation associated with bumps in evolution, so there are all these psychics popping up all over the place. And our hero is John Miller, who is getting by in this world by fighting underground death-matches for money.
He starts to have these very powerful dreams, and he starts to go on these astral-projecting excursions which allow him to navigate the city in his astral form during lockdown curfews. So he's able to find all the nooks and crannies and he's able to operate around all the cameras that are constantly watching.
He starts off using his abilities in this world where everyone’s constantly being watched, and everyone's just marinating in technology. That's why he's having the spiritual awakening, and the powers that be are doing their best to stop the effects. They want to have the sun. They want to keep the status quo.
So, one of the big things they do is blanket the sky with this fog that blocks out the sun. This constant screen of clouds, the cosmic cloud screen, is used as a silver screen when they project these movies and ads and television non-stop. So, wherever you look, you can't even look up at the sky to avoid all this bombardment of media. It's everywhere.
It's so saturated, and our hero John Miller is having this awakening, and he starts using his powers at first to be this Robin Hood who's navigating this futuristic world and basically stealing from the rich and giving to the poor and just trying to get by. He's gotta be a criminal in order to get by.
As the series progresses, he gets out of New York and he's trying to get back home to Canada, and he realizes that the rest of the world is very much mired in a very futuristic World War Three – could be World War Four – and he's just trying to get his bearings in this this new world that is totally foreign to him because all information has been redacted within the walls of America.
So, he’s out in this new world and his psychic abilities start to grow exponentially. He's like the Neo of this world.
Nrama: I was actually gonna say he might be more like the Tetsuo of this world, though that might just be because I just watched Akira again last night.
Fogler: Akira! Man, when I first saw that movie, it just blew my mind… and yeah, it’s a very similar concept, where you have all of these psychics who are very powerful popping up.
I'm a true believer that that's the next step in evolution, where we’re using more of our minds, where we’re unlocking more of our brainpower and 'junk DNA,' where all these cool skills might be hidden.
So, we’re kind of delving into the idea of what if the sun is the missing link – what if every 30,000 years the sun emits this core radiation. That would explain the missing link essentially, we take these massive jumps in evolution.
Nrama: Those are some very heavy concepts! I think a lot of people probably associate you from film and TV as, you know, a pretty fun guy – you do a lot of comedy. And while this certainly has a satirical element to it, it is dark, literally, with the sun blocked out.
Do comics let you get out of your – I don’t want to say, "comfort zone," necessarily, but the creative box that often comes with typecasting?
Fogler: It’s a great way to exercise your full spectrum of emotion and abilities. Like, thank God for everything that I've been able to contribute to these characters. My entire career, I've been able to help create the character that I'm playing. Sometimes I'm creating them from the ground up, and then sometimes I’m given an opportunity to add to the, uh, sandwich. [Laughs]
And so, whenever I'm writing something, whether it's a play or a film or, in some cases, written and directed something, it’s out of necessity. Sometimes, I’m like, "Damn, I need to scare up some work right now – write something for myself!" And then, oftentimes, your effort begets more work.
And that’s especially true with the comic books, man. When I started writing Moon Lake, which is my first endeavor into the comic book world, that is my Twilight Zone, that was basically my homage to Heavy Metal, so it’s really so awesome with that I'm gonna be published with them.
Brooklyn Gladiator came out of my own diving down the rabbit hole. You know, ever since 9/11 happened, trying to figure out what's really going on, who's controlling things. I found myself going down these rabbit holes and I want to siphon this world into my scripts because, if anything, all of those conspiracies, even if none of them are true, it's just an amazing endless well of golden nuggets of sci-fi plot.
But Gladiator was closer to home because I was worried about where we were headed as a society. And then, as I was writing that, I realized we were living the dystopian sci-fi movie right now, so I better write about what's happening now, and that became Fishkill, which is the prequel to Brooklyn Gladiator, which has the seeds that are sown that turn the world into a dystopia.
Like, I agree, I’m fun. [Laughs]
But I'm also a concerned citizen of this planet. And the best way that I can get my voice out there, warning people through protesting certain things, it shows up in my work. That's what this has been all about.