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DF Interview: Joe Kelly brings us the continuing story of a boy and his dragon in Four Eyes: Hearts of Fire
By Byron Brewer
Writer Joe Kelly and artist Max Fiumara launch the second arc in the critically-acclaimed story of a boy and his dragon in Four Eyes: Hearts of Fire. On the hunt for revenge, our dynamic duo must make due as they face life – and training! – in Depression-era New York City.
To discover more about this four-issue miniseries from Image Comics, Dynamic Forces flew on borrowed dragon wings to sit down and chat with scribe Joe Kelly. Here’s the 411.
Dynamic Forces: Joe, I know this is a second go-‘round for these characters, but let’s turn back the clock: Tell us how you created Four Eyes.
Joe Kelly: It was one of those times where an image pops into your head and doesn't let go. I 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, but I started digging and the story came to life.
I love dragons – always have – and love the idea that not only are they real, but they’re still in the hidden corners of the world. Four Eyes was a way to bring that fantasy to life.
DF: Tell us about both young Enrico and the dragon (the titular “Four Eyes”) that befriends him.
Joe Kelly: Enrico and Four Eyes are both ultimate underdogs: Enrico is a 10-year-old kid running with gangsters and monsters; Four Eyes is the runt of the litter, born with physical handicaps that cursed him to be cast out of his mother’s nest. When they find one another, in a way, Enrico and Four Eyes become whole – but that’s Enrico’s naïve way of looking at their partnership. Truth is, Enrico is still just a kid and Four Eyes is a wild animal. But they have something going for them … tenacity. No matter what, these kids do not give up.
DF: One thing I as a reader found appealing about this book was the really down-to-earth motivations behind Enrico. Is there any particular place inspiration for this character came? Other media? Personal?
Joe Kelly: I love adult stories with kid protagonists. That pretty much sums it up. Kids can be so malleable and unpredictable that when you drop them into a dangerous setting you get some great story possibilities. Also, watching a younger character grow and change over time can really hit all the right emotional buttons.
It’s probably also a way to work out my own demons – I was the sort of kid who was scared all the time. Enrico is scared, but he still enters the darkness and starts swinging. He gets to do the things I never could.
DF: Why did you decide on Depression-era New York City as a setting?
Joe Kelly: It goes back to that initial image – the bare feet told me Enrico was poor and the tommy gun meant “New York Gangster”. I started thinking about Prohibition, then the Great Depression. It really took off for me when I started thinking about the fall of America’s institutions and the struggles of everyday people at that time. The Romans knew that when people were angry, it was time to trot out the lions and put on a show. The monolithic institutions had failed, so I imagined a world where people found a sick pleasure watching gigantic monsters battle to the death for sport. It all sort of clicked.
DF: Will we be learning any more about Enrico’s dad in this arc?
Joe Kelly: For sure. Even in death, he’s the most important figure in Enrico’s life. And like many fathers, he had his secrets.
DF: Can you tell us a little bit about the storyline in Hearts of Fire?
Joe Kelly: In a nutshell, Enrico has a dragon now, and he wants to fight. He wants it so bad he can taste it, but you don’t take an untrained beast into the ring. Hearts of Fire shows the beginning of Four Eyes’ training. In case you don’t know, training a dragon to fight on command is a nasty business, so Fawkes forces Enrico to really question how far he is willing to go to chase this dream.
DF: How does it feel to be re-teamed with artist Max Fiumara?
Joe Kelly: Awesome. Max is a force of nature. He’s one of the most talented artists working and he brings soul and ferocity to the book. I am seriously lucky to have him as a partner.
DF: Joe, what can you tell the valued “new reader” of this book as their intro into the Four Eyes saga? The elevator pitch, lol.
Joe Kelly: It's a crime story and a revenge story played out in our alt-historical setting. 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 … but if you haven’t read the first volume – go get it! It’s seriously gorgeous.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Joe Kelly for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions, Four Eyes: Hearts of Fire #1 hits stores January 6th, 2016!
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