With the popularity of superheroes in comic books and movies, the idea of what actually makes a "hero" is a constant source of debate. In comics, the answer is often made obvious. The "heroes" wear the most colorful costumes. The "villains" are cloaked in a darker, more sinister palette. Heroes are generally motivated by a drive to work for the greater good. Villains work mostly to serve themselves in quests for riches and power. With the distinction between good and evil expressed in those terms, it's obvious that the super hero is a noble soul. One who fights for the weak and the innocent.
But how would people view these characters in real life? Would their motivations always be viewed as pure? Would they be accepted as heroes? Or branded as something else?
That is one of the themes that comic-book author Matt Miner explores in his newest title "LIBERATOR" from Black Mask Studios. As Miner describes it: "The book is a hardline vigilante adventure with two underground outcast heroes who, instead of fighting guys in capes and tights are taking on real-world issues of dog fighting and animal abuse. The book is inspired by the real men and women who do this kind of thing - they pull on masks in the middle of the night, save animals, and make abusers' lives a living hell."
LIBERATOR #1 debuted this week and is already selling out in comic shops everywhere.
READ A SUPER-SIZED PREVIEW OF LIBERATOR #1 BY CLICKING HERE!
Knowing that I am a fellow animal lover who has a passion for pet rescue, Matt Miner took some time from his promotional/signing schedule to talk about LIBERATOR, the inspiration behind the book, his love of animals and what makes a hero:
Geek To Me: Tell me about the genesis of "Liberator." Where did the idea come from?
Matt Miner: I've been active for animals for about a decade or so - all above ground stuff, legal protests against animal abuse and lately I've been really involved with animal rescue in my neighborhood of Queens which was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.
Back when I first started learning about issues with how animals in our society are treated I found videos online of these real-life people who put on masks in the middle of the night and actually went out, saved animals from abusive situations and destroyed the property of (and
therefore profit motivation of) the abusers.
Because in over 30 years these folks have never harmed a single human being I thought these people seemed like real-life superheroes, but for animals! Regular men and women who are willing to break laws and risk jail to act as vigilantes for animals who really needed someone to stick up for them. Ever since learning of these real-life anonymous masked heroes I've thought I'd love to make a comic book that operates within this world.
Geek To Me: What kind of experience do you have with animals?
Matt Miner: Well I always loved animals - when I was a kid I really wanted to be a veterinarian until I realized that sometimes means euthanization. I grew up loving my cats and dogs and ten years ago I stopped eating meat, dairy and eggs - I went vegan because I wanted to lessen the animals that were hurt as a result of my own existence. Anyways after that I got pretty active in the aboveground animal rights world in street protest against fur, vivisection, the circus and other industries that abuse animals.
Like I said before, though - lately I've found my time is better spent doing (legal) animal rescue in my area of NYC where it's common to find dumped pets, dogs fought and discarded, bait animals thrown out and near death - you name it. Add to this problem the hurricane that flooded our area and now we have an even bigger problem with strays that were left behind when the storm came and nobody came back for them.
Geek To Me: Do you think there' a distinction between a "hero" and a "vigilante"?
Matt Miner: I think you can be a hero without being a vigilante - I think firefighters are heroes, teachers are heroes, the people risking their lives and freedoms protesting in Turkey are heroes, and the Occupy folks are heroes.
I tell this story in Occupy Comics #2 about when we got nailed by Hurricane Sandy my wife and I literally didn't have a single flashlight when the lights went out - thought we had tons, but we were wrong. You know how scary that is to have your house filling up with water and not have any light? The Occupy Sandy volunteer who handed me a flashlight the next day is a hero to me.
Geek To Me: The hero of "Liberator" seems to be kind of an angry fella. Why did you decide to make him like that?
Matt Miner: Well he's got some problems that run pretty deep that we'll be exploring in the next issues of Liberator. He's upset at the animal abuse he sees but he's a damaged individual with some heavy emotional baggage and that compounds his rage and frustration.
Geek To Me: How do you think that real-life super-heroes would be perceived in the world?
Matt Miner: I'd like to think that real-life superheroes would be welcomed into the world, but I see folks like these underground men and women fighting for animals and they're smeared as extremists and terrorists even though they've never hurt anyone! Hey I'm a New Yorker and we used to live right near where the towers fell - you know how offensive it is to someone like me to hear a guy saving a dog called a terrorist when we know first hand what real terrorism looks like?
I mean, if superheroes really existed they'd probably be paid for and controlled by the government, which really means they'd be taking orders from the big corporations, and that'd be bad news for everyone.
Geek To Me: Besides dog fighting, what other types of issues will the heroes of Liberator be tackling?
Matt Miner: They'll be taking on a variety of really nasty things - Damon will be struggling with his inner demons and Jeanette's going to have to decide how far she's willing to go by her friend's side. You're gonna see them dig deep and possibly get lost in a conspiracy of crooked cops, fur industry moguls and vivisectors in this series- it's gonna be a wild ride!
Follow Matt Miner on Twitter! (@MattMinerXVX)