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Interview: Writer Joshua Dysart Discusses ‘Harbinger’ & Upcoming ‘Renegades’ Story Arc

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One of the crown jewels of the Valiant re-launch has been Harbinger. Writer Joshua Dysart and artist Khari Evans have done an exceptional job of making this title stand out amongst the crowd.

Bloody-Disgusting caught up with Joshua Dysart to discuss his reboot of “Harbinger” and the impending epic showdown between Peter Stanchek (aka Sting) and Toyo Harada. Dysart also gave Bloody-Disgusting the inside scoop on where the series is headed with the upcoming “Renegades” story-arc, as well as the return of Zephyr, Flamingo, and Torque from the original series.

BD: First of all congratulations on the reboot of Harbinger and the first few issues. So far the series has been the best of the Valiant re-launch for me…

Dysart: Cool! Thanks! It’s only going to get better!

BD: The series is only four issues in and it’s building to a showdown between Peter Stanchek (aka Sting) and Toyo Harada’s Harbinger Foundation after the murder of Peter’s best friend Joe. How will that confrontation drive the series and what can fans expect from it in the coming months?

Dysart: Well, we’ve seen a lot in a relatively short amount of pages. We’ve seen Harada capable of possessing both a global compassion and a cold personal ethic. We’ve seen Peter slowly moving away from being a broken human being, hurting everyone around him, to actually believing in something (there’s a lot more of that in the coming issues). And we’ve seen a particularly sticky prophecy with Peter at the center of it. A prophecy that no matter what Harada does, he seems to be invoking instead of stopping. But the murder of Joe, well, that’s the wedge that splits everything right down the middle. There is no coming back from that. Harada, incapable of using love or understanding in his approach to Peter has caused the single occurrence that’s going to be the engine for everything that follows.

BD: In series Toyo Harada’s Harbinger Foundation has a global reach with agencies located all over the world. Does this mean the Harbinger Foundation will have a larger role in the overall Valiant universe and if so what part will they play?

Dysart: Yes, and I’m not telling. But bear in mind, though Harada is powerful, he has a blind side. He is virtually incapable of imagining anyone able to outwit him. He is a creature of super-ego. This is a weakness, and there are other organizations and individuals out there that are smart enough to exploit that. Harada and Harada Global Conglomerates, while awesome in the truest sense of that word, aren’t the only big fish in the Valiant sea, you know what I mean.

BD: One of the more compelling plot lines in the book so far that I’d love to see explored more is the relationship between Peter Stanchek (aka Sting) and Kris Hathaway. There is definitely some issues between them with regards to trust. Where is their relationship headed in the coming months and how will it impact the series?

Dysart: What a coincidence. Issue six, less than two months away, is literally all about Kris. Expect the bulk of this question to be answered then. But their relationship will be an evolving thing. Peter’s story is one of redemption in many ways, and ultimately Kris is the only one who can redeem him. Kris’ story is a different one altogether. It’s that of the reluctant warrior. The human being amongst gods… hers is a story of average everyday strength. Where Kris’ strength and Peter’s redemption intersect… that will be a big part of our book over the next year.

BD: Issue #4 introduce Faith Herbert (aka Zephyr) into the series. One of the things that makes her compelling is her overall geeky nature and the fact that she is one of the few overweight superheroes in comics. What was about those two characteristics about Zephyr that make her a crucial part of the series?

Dysart: Ours isn’t a world where people call themselves heroes and fly around saving the day. This is a world of corporate backed hyper-psychics that manipulate markets, eliminate competition and control the future. But all it takes is the imagination and soaring (that’s right, I said it!) spirit of one plus-size teen girl to change that. Faith believes in things. She believes in heroes and in saving the day and wearing cool costumes, and her influence on Peter and those who choose to follow him will entirely remake the world. Faith is 215 lbs of pure weightlessness. Faith is the best soul in the book. And if any good comes out of Peter’s powers, it’s because Faith made it happen.

BD: You are about to introduce Flamingo to the series in issue #7. What can you tell us about this new incarnation of the character and where does she fit into the overall picture?

Dysart: You know, with every single character in the Renegades we’re walking a dangerous line between cheese ball comic book cliché and successfully exploring the reason for those clichés in the first place. Faith is a big girl. That’s a real thing. But in comics heavy women never serve any purpose but to be gist of a joke or play the miserable outcasts. But we’ve turned her into the closest thing to a straight up hero we have in the whole universe. Flamingo represents a similar challenge. Make no bones about it, Flamingo is practically a sexual terrorist. And that means my team and I have all got to step up and honestly explore what’s real and true about young, out of control, sexuality instead of just putting her in a tight outfit, having her pose in ways that suggest impossible contortions and turn her sex drive into the ultimate male fantasy for sales. So expect a dangerously fun young woman who is rarely in control of her own power over men. A women who loves sex, but has had that natural desire turned against her enough times to create an uncertainty and anger in her.

BD: Since we are seeing the old cast from the original Harbinger pop up, can we expect to see Torque any time soon?

Dysart: Yup. They’re all coming back. Torque will be our exploration of the male idea of MASSIVE overcompensation. How we depict that, well, you’ll just have to wait and see. I can’t wait to show you Torque. He’s going to be a blast.

BD: Have you heard any feedback from the original Harbinger creators regarding your version of the book?

Dysart: I haven’t. I know David Lapham in passing and have had some super fun email and social media interactions with him. I’m a HUGE fan of Lapham. Stray Bullets is one of the greatest series in the last twenty years (Long Live Amy Racecar!) and Young Liars is sorely missed. The fact that a talent like Lapham doesn’t get to just do creator owned work and make a comfortable life for his family and himself shows a glaring flaw in the comics industry. I once wore a Stray Bullets shirt to a gig that I was unwittingly competing against David for. At the interview I talked about him more than I talked about myself. When Valiant approached me for Harbinger, my first response was, “Get David instead of me!” Having said all of that, I’ve never asked him what he thinks about my run and I never will. It’s best to just let that lay. Know what I mean? Sometimes it’s best NOT to know what the people you respect think of you.

BD: The Valiant Universe is pretty vast and there library of characters is into the thousands. If you have your pick, what other series or characters would you like to take a crack at bringing back?

Dysart: When I first started this gig, I was pretty emphatic and vocal about which other characters interested me. I still have characters that speak to me personally and that I think I could knock out of the park. But since I’m working in concert with four other great writers and we’re focusing on the company as a whole line instead of a single creator/personality, I’d rather keep my intentions, hopes and plans inside the company gate for now. Warren and Dinesh know what makes me tick and what I’m interested in exploring. We’ll just have to wait and see what works best for all of us as a family. Hope that doesn’t feel like I’m ducking the question.

BD: What books are you currently reading and is there any titles out there that you think are deserve more of a spotlight?

Dysart: To be honest, I’m really more of a graphic novel guy as opposed to a series guy. As far as comics go, I just finished BIG QUESTIONS by Anders Nilsen and absolutely adored it. I’m reading INFINITE KUNG FU by Kagan McLeod now. I’m in love with LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: CENTURY 2009. ANIMAL MAN is great, but I’ve fallen behind on it. There’s a lot I’ve been meaning to read, like MANHATTAN PROJECTS and SAGA and BULLETPROOF COFFIN, but haven’t really gotten around to it yet. But that’s my general vibe.

BD: Can you give us some insight into what other projects you’re currently working on?

Dysart: Sure! Coming out this December is my take on Jim Henson’s classic film The Dark Crystal. THE DARK CRYSTAL: VOLUME 2: CREATION MYTHS (volume 1 was very well-written by Brian Holguin) is a graphic novel prequel that shows just how the crystal cracked and features amazing art by Alex Sheikman and Lizzy John. It’s absolutely gorgeous. I’m super proud of it and can’t wait for people to see it. I’m also doing an OGN called HELMET GIRLS: ORIGINS VOLUME 1 with artist Camilla d’Errico. We’ve officially started the art on that and you’ll hear more about it in the coming months. Thanks for the interest!