Mike Penny: The New Comic Book Hero Helios

In Mind, Body & Spirit, Pushing Forward by Adam Blasucci

(ADAM)How old are you, and where are you from?

(MIKE) I’m 29, and live in South Jersey, near Philly. I am a comic book creator, producer and editor. I formed Dakuwaka Productions to self-publish the Helios series, which gave me the opportunity to learn all aspects involved in making comics.

(ADAM) Mike who is your favorite superhero or superheroes?

(MIKE) Wolverine and the X-Men.

(ADAM) What are your favorite comic book titles to read?

(MIKE) Astonishing X-Men, Ultimate Spiderman, Y-The Last Man, Authority, Small Gods, Ex Machina and lots of others.

(ADAM) Who were your favorite artists and writers?

(MIKE) Ellis, Brubaker, Joss Whedon Vaughan, Winnick, Finch, Silvestri, and Jim Lee.

(ADAM) When did you start reading comic books?

(MIKE) When I was about 12 years old.

(ADAM) Did you like superheroes or comic books as a child?

(MIKE) Yeah, I always have.

(ADAM) Why are superheroes important to you? Why do people find them so interesting?

(MIKE) I guess because they can make a difference, it’s interesting to see how they use their powers.

(ADAM) What is your favorite comic book/superhero film adaptation?

(MIKE) Batman Begins, then Sin City, then Spiderman & X-Men, (Elektra sucked).

(ADAM) What was your inspiration for Helios?

(MIKE) I’ve always enjoyed the superhero genre, that’s the type of comic I wanted to do. After deciding that, my first step was the development of the concept.

(ADAM) I then came up with characters that would complement the concept. Next, I worked up summaries for 12 issues, and finally, I wrote the script for issue #1.

(MIKE) I wanted to blend the superhero and political-thriller genres, I also wanted to emphasize characters and a universe that seemed realistic, and finally I wanted to tell a story that was unique, and that readers would enjoy.

(ADAM) What is Helios about?

(MIKE) HELIOS is about a team of neogenics (super-humans) – called the Neogenic Task Force (NTF), or as they like to be called Neo-Force. They are a unit of the US military, tasked with policing rogue neogenics the world over.

The story features a group of Neogenic people – people who have an enhanced genetic make up that gives them superpowers. I wanted to have superheroes, and instead of the terms ‘mutant’ or ‘meta’, I made up neogenic from ‘new genetics’ to give it a more scientific sounding name.
It’s been described by Brokenfrontier.com as “X-Men meets 24”.

If you are a fan of Ex-Machina, Ultimate Spider Man, GI Joe, Stormwatch : Team Achilles, or The Authority, you should check it out.

(ADAM) What does the name of your company mean?

(MIKE) DAKUWAKA is a different spelling of “Dakuwaqua”, a mythological Fijiian shark god. I wanted the name to start with a “D” so that my company would be strategically placed in the PREVIEWS COMICS catalogue bunched together with Devils Due, Dynamic Forces and Dynamite Entertainment.

I also thought that we could come up with a neat shark logo and that the name sounded cool.

(ADAM) You recently lost your publisher, Speakeasy Comics, what is the future for Helios and the other projects you’re involved with? Also what is the future of your company?

(MIKE) I wouldn’t quite phrase it that we lost Speakeasy. It was running into some problems with their printer, expanded too quickly, started being late and not shipping some of their titles.

Many of their creators left, and about a month ago I asked for and got released from my contract with them. Last week, Speakeasy announced that they were closing their doors.

I already had a strategy in place to publish through DAKUWAKA Productions once again. I confirmed an AD and listing for Helios with Diamond Publications in early February. I updated the DAKUWAKA web site www.dakuwaka.com and I started to do press releases to the various news sites.

Helios: “In With the New” # 3 will be in April PREVIEWS to ship in June under DAKUWAKA Productions. It will feature a double-sized issue for $ 4.95 and feature a cover by “Witchblade’s” Mike Choi.

Here’s the issue summary:

The king is dead. Long live the king.

Things only get worse when the team is informed of Jack’s death. Ashley, Kyle and Jason are shattered, while the newcomers move to take advantage of their grief. Meanwhile, Strickland and General Harlowe continue to maneuver Neo Force toward their ultimate goals and a new and powerful threat enters the arena.

But are things truly as they seem?

Some other plans at DAKUWAKA include: The debut of FORCE 51, a new title targeted to hit shelves in August.

Force 51 – Concept / Summary
Written by: Shawn Lewis
Art by: PIETRO

The men and women of World War II were the greatest generation the world had ever seen. But when the war ended, the battles were just beginning.

The remnants of Hitler’s Black Reich had once again risen up, this time to create a super-powered race that would finish what Hitler started. Now a grizzled World War II veteran must take seven of the most powerful individuals of this generation and turn them into soldiers.

What these soldiers faced would make them heroes, what they did would make them legends.

DAKUWAKA is selectively considering “one-shot” and mini-series submissions focused in genres other than super-hero or fantasy.

(ADAM) What are some of your favorite films?

(MIKE) Anything by Quentin Tarantino, horror movies and stupid comedy movies like Old School and Happy Gilmore.

(ADAM) What are some of your favorite bands?

(MIKE) Rage Against the Machine, Stone Temple Pilots, Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance, Rise Against, Hawthorne Heights, Led Zep, and Tool.

(ADAM) Do you have any advice for any future comic book writers and creators breaking into the business?

(MIKE) Shop your submission pages and story synopsis first, if you can get a comic company to support, produce, and publish your book, you can fast track your comic to their retailer and fan base, plus you are going to reduce a lot of headaches and financial risks that come with self-publishing.

However, I fully realize that’s not always a choice, and if you believe in your book enough, then you may need to step-up and do it yourself. With self-publishing you will need to learn all aspects involved in producing, promoting, and publishing your comic, and if you don’t, you won’t be successful. It can get “sink or swim” – (financially) very quickly.

If your book is critically successful, and if after a few issues, you have proven that you can put out a good book and meet a deadline, then you may be ready to take another shot with a comic company.

(ADAM) Is creating a comic book a dream come true?

(MIKE) Of course, it’s always been a dream of mine. I really got a thrill seeing a comic that I created on the shelf in my local comic shop.

I’ve been going to Hall of Heroes every Wednesday for the last 15 years buying other people’s comics. I always wondered what it would be like to see my own book on the shelf.

After four years of hard work, to finally see Helios on the shelves felt surreal. You know it really didn’t sink in, that I accomplished my goal until I actually saw it displayed on their shelf right next to X-Men.

(ADAM) Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?

(MIKE) Adam, first off, thanks for the interview. My words of advice, focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t do. If you have a dream, go for it; otherwise, you may always wonder… What if ?