“Let me be honest. I have had major superhero fatigue for a few years now,” says Richard Mooney, the Scottish creator and writer of indie superhero comic, Daughter of Titan. He’s not the only one, with several superhero movies a year being flushed out by Marvel and DC along with countless television series on streaming services – many on the verge of cancellation – it’s unsurprising that people have come to find the genre tiring.
So then why make a superhero comic? “I wanted to write a story that looked like a superhero story but was actually so much more. I wanted to use superhero tropes to then write about government and corporate corruption, the role of the media in society, the morality and ethics of human augmentation, and how human relationships are affected by great and sudden change.”
Thus, in 2017, Daughter of Titan was born – a heady mash-up of superhero and cyberpunk set in a dystopian future America, a world of mechs, human augmentation, corruption, and degradation. Described by Mooney as “Thelma and Louise meets RoboCop”, the first issue sees Alena Amar discover she has super powers after an attempted mugging, and that she might be related to a near-mythical caped crusader called Titan. Teaming up with her best friend and engineer Suzanne Perkins, they build a mech suit and set out to fight crime and injustice in Tridecca City.
After a brief hiatus, Alena is back this year with the crowd-funder of the second issue smashing its target with 18 days left on the clock. I spoke to Mooney via email the day the funding was secured and the second issue of DoT was finally guaranteed publication.
“I feel absolutely wonderful. A massive weight has been lifted from my shoulders,” he says. “At least with this, I know that I’ll be able to finally start taking the script for issue three seriously.”
This is a joke with a grain of truth, Mooney having struggled once before to secure funding for the second issue on Kickstarter, leading to an overhaul of the script and a team change-up. Artist Monika Laprus-Wierzejska, colourist Maja Opacic, editor Kirsten Murray, and letterer Novella Locritani have joined Mooney (the last somewhat of a coup for an indie creator, Locritani having worked for the big houses DC, Vertigo, and Image) to create something sleek, dark, and vital. What has been seen so far – revealed as a thank-you for backers – pops from the page in twilit colours as we cruise the empty and decrepit side of town.
“The result is that each panel becomes an amazing amalgamation of different creators, adding their own personality onto it in those same layers. It truly is a marvel to watch a page develop this way,” says Mooney about working with the new, multinational team of women.
Women in comics, on and off the page, is a hot topic in the industry – unfortunately there seems to be no shortage of morons who feel under threat by the inclusion of women and anyone with a different skin tone or sexuality from themselves, and perceive the existence of such people and characters as forced diversity (an apparent scandal referred to rather uninspiringly as ‘comicsgate’).
Mooney says: “The industry is getting better year on year with its inclusivity and representation, but a lot more needs to be done to stop comics being viewed as one of the final bastions for the toxic entitlement of straight white male egos.
“One such example that does buck the trend is one of my influences, Ms Marvel, who’s secret identity is Kamala Khan, a young Muslim girl from the Bronx. While the stories around her are often indistinguishable from many other white superhero stories, it was just so refreshing to see a new perspective tackle these stories.”
Like many comic creators trying to address issues of gender, race, and class in their work, Mooney has come under fire from some corners of the comic-reading fraternity.
“It’s really funny… a lot of people claim I am just copying her [Ms Marvel], but then have no real defence against the fact that Captain America, Iron Man, Batman, Spiderman, Superman et al. are all basically the same person: a white man. This is the toxic attitude that needs to be addressed. You can have as many white men as you want, no question. But two middle eastern women and suddenly it’s a problem.”
DoT’s Kickstarter page states creating realistic female characters as one of the key driving points behind the creation of the comic. Mooney cites a late arrival to the medium as one reason for this way of thinking (he got his start writing marketing comics for a men’s grooming company before going on to write for the series Uptown Chronicles):
“When I finally got back into comics in my early twenties, I had passed that awkward male adolescent phase that comic book creators seem to prey upon, with women in revealing, skin-tight outfits. So when I see women like Power Girl with her… ahem… ‘cleavage window’ it doesn’t do anything for me. Comics for me are about stories and presenting them in ways other mediums can’t, not titillation.
“More needs to be done to stop comics being viewed as one of the final bastions for the toxic entitlement of straight white male egos.”
“It was deeply frustrating to have this wonderful medium reduced to ultra-masculinity and voluptuous women in skin-tight outfits when there is so much more to it.
“Using this as the groundwork on which I could build a story I was able to reach a catharsis of sorts. Extemporizing from all these thoughts about superheroes, female depictions, and women in comics in general into some sort of cohesive plot resulted in a fully formed character bursting to the forefront of my mind.”
This character is Alena Amar, a French Algerian woman with latent superpowers and hidden ancestry. Issue two will see her take on the government, a shady ex-detective, Lovecraftian monsters, and her parents.
Mooney describes her world – Tridecca City – as being influenced by classic cyberpunk films like Blade Runner. It’s easy to see Daughter of Titan sitting comfortably in the emerging sci-fi canon of the Scottish indie comics scene.
“Scotland has become a bit of a hotbed for indie comics recently, spearheaded by the incredible success of Scottish duo Dave Cook and Craig Paton’s Killtopia,” says Mooney. “It is an awesome comic drenched in violence and neon colours.” (I myself reviewed Killtopia for Edinburgh sci-fi magazine Shoreline of Infinity, and it is indeed awesome, and violent.)
“Further afield… Christian Carnouse’s The Resurrected and Seth Greenwood’s Gale are great series to follow and thanks to Kickstarter we are seeing a lot of great comics that would never have been created coming to light.”
Daughter of Titan is one of them. Although the comic has reached its funding target, you can still back the project until it closes on Friday 8th March. Various pledge levels can buy you digital and physical copies of the comic, as well as a bundle with the first issue.
Find out more here
All images used courtesy of Richard Mooney.