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Why Are Four-Eyed Dragons In New York City?

by Vince Brusio

Crime, revenge, and dragons in an alternate history that blends fact and fiction. Sound like the ultimate head game to play with miniatures and dice?  No. We’re actually describing the next chapter of Four Eyes by Joe Kelly which unfolds in the new mini-series Hearts of Fire (NOV150484). Joe explains in this PREVIEWSworld Exclusive interview that young Enrico and his dragon are very much alike in that they’ve both been discarded in life, and this makes rising to the top all the sweeter, and long overdue.

Four Eyes: Hearts of Fire #1 (NOV150484) is in comic shops January 6.

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PREVIEWSworld: For those not familiar with the property — and to help bring them up to speed — what can you tell us about the storyline behind Four Eyes, and what message is being conveyed with the cover of issue #1 for the Hearts Of Fire (NOV150484) mini-series?

Joe Kelly: Four Eyes tells the story of Enrico, a boy growing up in Brooklyn during the Great Depression who discovers that dragons are real and fought for sport in an underground league... after one kills his father (that's not much of a spoiler if you haven't read the first volume — it happens on page 9). It's a crime story and a revenge story played out in our alt-historical setting.

The cover for this Hearts of Fire arc gives us a glimpse of Enrico's next step on his journey: he's gotten himself a dragon, and he wants to train it to fight.

PREVIEWSworld: What served as your inspiration for creating an alternate reality with 1930s New York as the backdrop? Any particular book or movie help light that fire?

Joe Kelly: Believe it or not it was one of those moments writers experience sometimes where an image pops into your head and doesn't let go. One day I just had a vision of a boy in bare feet on a cobblestone street with a tommy gun and a dragon on a chain. I didn't know what it meant at the time - which can be a great thing - so I started digging and the story came to life.  

PREVIEWSworld: There are a few pages of Hearts of Fire in the November PREVIEWS catalog, and an interesting phrase can be seen on the third page where the dragon is trying to eat a chicken. The phrase uttered is “You found him in his momma’s waste pile, boy…what you think that means?” Does such a detail foreshadow some things to come?

Joe Kelly: Could be... but it also references the scene in Volume 1 when Enrico finds Four Eyes. They have both been cast aside in their own way. What Fawkes sees as a weakness in Four Eyes, Enrico sees as a shared history/destiny.

PREVIEWSworld: When does this storyline pick up from the previous Four Eyes book? Is there any interruption in continuity? We ask this because the solicitation text for the books mentions “the training begins,” and we just wanted to make sure we didn’t miss anything if some of us left the room for a minute.

Joe Kelly: Hearts of Fire starts up about 3 months after Volume 1 ends, so a few pieces have moved but not in such a drastic way as to be confusing.  

PREVIEWSworld: If you were to sit at your laptop and “geek” for a while about this project, what would you most likely write to show people how Four Eyes is so dear to your heart?

Joe Kelly: First, I would type "Max Fiumara" about 1000 times. Max is a genius, and his art truly brings the world and the characters to life with a ferocity and tenderness that one rarely sees. He bleeds for Four Eyes and it shows.

I'd gush about Enrico and his story. I love this damaged little child-man who has to grow up fast but has no one to guide him but gangsters, an absentee mother, and the shady characters in the dragon-fighting trade. Enrico's story has all of the trappings of a "boy and his dragon" fantasy, but gets emotionally complex right away. The sadist in me loves torturing this kid to see if he'll make it through to the other side... and he does, but not always intact.

And did I mention that there are dragons in New York? If that's not geek enough, there's bona fide history of the city woven into the book. For example the armory where Boccioni keeps his stable is an actual building, part of which still stands today. It happens to also be the "castle" in The Fisher King, one of my favorite movies.

I'm gonna stop before I overclock my geek-meter. Check out the book. You'll see what I'm all about.