Interview - Brandon Barrows

Jack Hammer's got some grittiness to him, thanks to writer Brandon Barrows. His debut in Jack Hammer Book One: Political Science introduced a new look at the streets of Boston.

Barrows was nice enough to answer a few questions about the work and some other things.

Omnicomic: Jack Hammer is a gritty detective story with a superhero twist. Did one of those come before the other in your thought process? That is, did you want to write a detective story and decided to add in superpowers (or vice versa)?

Barrow: Good question! It actually started as a straight detective story, but it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to. I was writing it and I just felt it lacked something.

I am a big fan of old crime noir films and one thing they all have in common is that the main character has some crux to bear that is central to their character, and often the story. I started thinking “what is Jack’s albatross?” and then it hit me, the one thing none of us can change and that many of us are unhappy with: our biology. After that, the super powers angle slid in smoothly and filled in the pieces of the puzzle that I was missing.

I think JACK HAMMER is a much stronger story with the synthesis of genres than it would have been otherwise. It gave me an opportunity to write the things I love and create a niche that I feel is somewhat underserved, the mature (but not adult-themed) super genre.

Omnicomic: Do you plan on spending time in future stories with Jack back in his powers days?

Barrows: I do have notes for a “young Jack” story from the days when he is fresh out of the army and looking for his place in the world (before he became a super human), but at this time, I hadn’t planned on writing him any super hero stories. I may get there after doing the flashback story I have in mind, depending on where it takes me.

Omnicomic: Would you say there was one particular character that inspired Jack Hammer?

Barrows: Not that I am consciously aware of, no. I like tough-talking, secret-heart-of-gold characters and Jack is sort of that type, but maybe a little more damaged.

Originally, I was going for a Mike Mauser/Mike Hammer sort of mash up, you know tough and ready to fight at the drop of a hat (Hammer) but really a good guy at heart (Mauser) but Jack really developed a voice of his own very quickly. I was actually surprised at how easily some of his dialogue came to me when I wrote the first couple stories and he became “real” to me faster than pretty much any other character I’ve created.

Omnicomic: Why set the story in Boston?

Barrows: This is a question I get asked a lot, so forgive me if the answer sounds practiced.

There are two reasons: first, it seems like most fiction requiring a city environment (and using a real one) takes place in New York or L.A., even a lot of foreign comics/movies/etc but I wanted to do something different. Boston is a large and enough old enough city, with the kind of diversity, that is ripe for detective fiction.

I also wanted to add some realism by using a city I was somewhat familiar with. I’ve tried to maintain with JACK HAMMER that yes, this is a world with some extraordinary folks, but it’s still the “real world”, otherwise. Using Boston allows people to make a connection to it, better than they could a generic fictional city.

I’ve had people come up to me at conventions and ask things like “what street is Jack’s office on?” or say “hey, Jack should live in my neighborhood. I know just the building that’d be perfect!” It lets people identify with the place and character a little bit more.

Omnicomic: The story has a political tint to it as well. Is this any sort of comment on the state of the country's current political dysfunction?

Barrows: Absolutely. Politics is all about personal gain, especially in our system, even if it doesn’t start out that way for many people. While I know for a fact that there are good people in politics who really care about their constituents’ welfare, I also know that for every person who says “I truly want to make a change for the better”, there are a dozen who are simply concerned with holding onto power, or the nice office and government expense account or whatever. “Political Science” uses an extreme example as hyperbole to make that point, but I think it’s a valid one.

Omnicomic: How did you get hooked up with Action Lab Entertainment?

Barrows: I read the first issue of “Princeless”, then of “Fracture” and I thought “these guys are building something awesome here” and decided I’d love to be part of it, if they’d have me. So, I sent in a submission and the next day I got an email from Dave Dwonch, ALE’s Creative Director, saying he wanted to chat with me about publishing the book. Dave, Shawn and all the rest of the guys have been really great and it’s been a wonderful experience.

Omnicomic: Do you see digital comics replacing print comics at some point?

Barrow: I hope not, cuz I’d hate to have to quit reading comics. In all seriousness, though, I do not like digital comics the way I love print comics. I was resistant for a long time to the idea of digital comics, but I ran into a few series that only existed digitally that I really wanted to read. I’ve been reading webcomics since such a thing existed, however, and I realized it was stupid to dismiss digital comics entirely when it was basically the same thing.

Since then, I’ve read many digital comics but I still make an effort to buy the print copies of books if they exist and if I feel like I ever want to read the comic a second time. The reason for this is I hate the way a lot of digital distributors work in that you are not buying a copy of the comic, just the right to read it, and the fine print of some of those agreements we all click “yes” to so readily say in essence “we can take this away for any reason or none at all at any time and you have no recourse.”

If I’m going to pay for something like a comic, I want to own it. I also do my best to support other creators, and I read mostly creator-owned stuff, so I have no problem shelling out $3 or $4 (after spending the, usually, $0.99 for the digital copy) to ensure I can re-read their comic years later.

Omnicomic: What conventions do you plan on attending the rest of the year?

Barrows: Well, the weekend of April 21st & 22nd, I’ll be at Boston Comic Con sitting at table AA304.

In June, I’ll be Granite Con in Manchester, NH and then in November, I plan on attending SuperMegaFest in Framingham, MA. Hopefully, I’ll be scheduling a few more appearances as the year goes on.

Omnicomic: Anything else you want to plug while you have the floor?

Barrows: Sure! Thanks for asking. I have a science fiction graphic novel called VOYAGA coming out this fall, with art by Ionic and Rudolf Montemayor, that if you like JACK HAMMER I hope you’ll check out, as well.

We’re still hammering out some details with the publisher, but I’ll post updates on my website ( as I can.