ALTER EGO Interview: Superheroes in 1940’s Hollywood

Go back to the Golden Age of film and superheroes with Alter Ego.

GateCrashers’ writer, Terrence Sage, got the opportunity to sit down for an interview with comic writer Nate Cosby, about his upcoming project, ALTER EGO, a superhero story set in the Golden Age of film at Hollywood, now on Kickstarter.

Terrence: What is your favorite sandwich?

Nate Cosby: Depends on the situation. If it’s lunch, I want halloumi and egg with labneh, tomato, and avocado on ciabatta. If I’m on the go, almond butter with raspberry jam on caraway rye, with a generous sprinkle of sesame and pumpkin seeds.

Terrence: What was the attraction to setting the book in 1940’s Hollywood?

Nate Cosby: It’s where my favorite movies come from! I hit up the TCM app on a nightly basis. There’s something about films from the Golden Age that have a certain “Let’s put on a show!” energy, that I thought would work great for the type of bombastic story that Jacob and I wanted to tell. And since our main character, Ace Adams, thinks of his superhero personas as “performances,” we liked the idea of Hollywood as a backdrop, where performing is the main business.

Alter Ego by Nate Cosby, Jacob Edgar, Kike J. Diaz, Rus Wooton
Alter Ego by Nate Cosby, Jacob Edgar, Kike J. Diaz, Rus Wooton

Terrence: How has it been creating the adventures of a Black Superhero as Non-Black storytellers?

Nate Cosby: It’s been an experience that I’ve tried to be thoughtful and empathetic about. Once we’d decided that Ace was a Black man, it felt crucial to not write the story “colorblind.” Racial and cultural identity are important to translate into narratives, to say nothing of the fact that having respectful portrayals of all sorts of different people makes for a richer and vibrant story. 

The choice to make our main character a Black man in 1940s Hollywood actually unlocked a lot of exciting ideas. Rather than attempt to tell a tale within the constraints of “real” history, we decided to take the trappings of the era (movie stars, big studios, gangsters, etc) but expand from there, creating a historical fiction where Hollywood was a massive “theme park” of different neighborhoods, each one dedicated to a different genre or cultural approach: Sci-Fi, Westerns, Noir, Bollywood, films from Japanese filmmakers, Nigerian, Korean, and so on. We’ve built this massive melting pot, where everyone comes to be a star or make their movie for the masses.

Alter Ego by Nate Cosby, Jacob Edgar, Kike J. Diaz, Rus Wooton
Alter Ego by Nate Cosby, Jacob Edgar, Kike J. Diaz, Rus Wooton

Terrence: Seeing how the story has Ace fighting crime, does he have two different supporting casts, or will it be the same people viewing him through different lenses?

Nate Cosby: He traverses two different worlds, but there’ll be overlaps in supporting characters because I wanted to show how he’d be treated differently, depending on who he is at the time. When he’s Whiz-Bang, everybody loves him…the public, the police, the politicians, everyone. As The Black Dog, everybody’s edgy, not sure what to make of him.

But we will have one particular character, Detective Kalsoom Qaisrani, who happens to hate BOTH of Ace’s heroes and wants to make life hard on anyone wearing a cape.

Terrence: From the preview pages I’ve seen, Rus Wooten is bringing such a lighthearted charm to the book! How’s it been working with Jacob Edgar on art and Kike Diaz on colors?

Alter Ego by Nate Cosby, Jacob Edgar, Kike J. Diaz, Rus Wooton
Alter Ego by Nate Cosby, Jacob Edgar, Kike J. Diaz, Rus Wooton

Nate Cosby: The book wouldn’t exist without Jacob Edgar. He’s my co-creator and co-storyteller. The idea for two heroes was just a germ of an idea in my head…once he bought in, we created everything together, and the amount of energy he brings to every panel on every page brightens my day every time he sends in something new.

I actually put Kike and Jacob together on a previous project, so Kike really has a great feel for how to bring out the best in Jacob’s work through color and texture. We didn’t just want simple flat covers that are sometimes layered on open art styles. There’s a warmth and depth to Kike’s approach and a great contrast between the daytime and nighttime settings.

And Rus Wooton…I love Rus Wooton. The guy is a master of design and lettering. The care he takes to lead the reader’s eye across the page, with appealing balloon shapes and fonts, making the lettering feel like a part of the art itself…swoon. The man’s worth ten times his weight in gold.   

Alter Ego by Nate Cosby, Jacob Edgar, Kike J. Diaz, Rus Wooton
Alter Ego by Nate Cosby, Jacob Edgar, Kike J. Diaz, Rus Wooton

Terrence: What are the hopes as we navigate Ace’s journey as two Heroes trying to do the right thing, albeit in different ways?

Nate Cosby: My biggest hope is that people relate to Ace because his journey is righteous but flawed. His decision to try and be two different superheroes is utterly ridiculous and impossible. But he tries anyway because he feels it’s the right thing to do. I hope there are a lot of people out there that can relate to the idea that they can’t save the world themselves…but that doesn’t stop them from trying to do some good.

Terrence: As you’re getting it funded with Kickstarter, what can you say to Creators that are looking for help when it comes to crowd-funding books?

Cross-promotion within the crowdfunding community is super-important. Most people on Kickstarter or other platforms aren’t trying to make millions; they just want to see their passion projects through on their own terms. And the people that can relate to that the most are others trying to do the same. So I’d encourage anyone considering a crowdfunder to reach out to other creators on the platform and figure out how to help each other. It’s really been one of the coolest aspects of crowdfunding for me.

By Terrence Sage

Black pop culture writer that has a way with words, reads comics (a lot), watches movies, and digests music like food.

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