‘Hellcity’ is a graphic novel with explosive results

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Writer Macon Blair loves his apartment in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, and artist Joe Flood says he’s inspired by living in the borough after moving to Crown Heights from New Jersey nine years ago. So you‘ll have to forgive them for blowing up the Brooklyn Bridge.

About halfway through their new graphic novel, “Hellcity,” a chase scene results in a jackknifed tractor-trailer that triggers a dozen-car pile up and an explosion that destroys the bridge.

A lot of other stuff gets blasted, crushed or eaten by giant three-headed dogs in “Hellcity,” which will be published by Image and available Aug. 11 in comic shops and Aug. 25 through mainstream bookstores.

This isn’t your typical fire-and-brimstone vision of hell, or even a frozen lake, like in Dante’s “Inferno.” Blair and Flood have created a humorously insufferable urban hell where The Big Fallen’s minions give the human occupants constant doses of, well, hell. Here’s some advice: In Hellcity, when a bartender pours you a drink, take the tacks out before you consume it.

Former detective Bill Tankersly spends his few quiet moments in hell pining to be reunited with his wife. Then, in true gumshoe style, he is hired by a mysterious dame to follow Satan, who has been reciting poetry, singing and, in general, not acting like himself.

Tankersly dodges demons and leaps off rooftops in a wild ride that‘s part B-level monster movie, part R-rated crime noir — with a dash of Monty Python.

“Hellcity is an awful, disgusting place,” said Blair. “But since Joe and I do live in Brooklyn, it’s kind of impossible not to be inspired either consciously or not by what you see every day. It’s just that it’s all amped-up and turned completely evil.

“For example, you might recognize that what we call the Hellcity Bridge in the book looks quite a bit like the Brooklyn Bridge. There are bodegas and street vendors and cabbies and subways and things which people might think of as inherently New York, but, again, they are presented as the evil version of New York.”

You might think “Hellcity” is cursed. Blair first got the idea for the story about 15 years ago as a college student in Virginia. Along its journey, it’s been rejected as a screenplay, stuck in legal limbo for about three years after the first of three parts was published, and finally delayed a few weeks when the books didn’t arrive to Image on time from China, where they was printed.

Gigantic Graphic Novels owner Rick Spears says he took a chance on “Hellcity” because “Macon’s voice as a writer was so distinct [that] I had to get it out there into the world.”

So Spears introduced Blair to Flood, whose hyper-detailed architecture and street-level scenes bring “Hellcity” to life. In fact, even after the book’s distributor went bankrupt and Spears’s company had to shut down production of the book, Flood went ahead and drew the second and third parts of the book.

“In the beginning, he just stood back in awe as this words were miraculously transformed into a series of images,” said Flood. “I would get feedback like, ‘Oh, wow, that’s what that looks like!’ And ‘Amazing, that’s how I always saw it in my head!’ ”

Spears also didn’t give up hope, eventually brokering the deal between Blair and Flood and Image to publish all 328 pages in one volume.

“It feels so amazing to have the thing actually coming out in its entirety,” Blair said. “The victory, to be a little melodramatic about it, is much sweeter for having come so close to failure.”

“Hellcity” is available at St. Mark’s Comics [148 Montague St. between Henry and Clinton streets in Brooklyn Heights, (718) 935-0911]; Galaxy Comics II [429 Fifth Ave. near Eighth Street in Park Slope, (718) 499-3222]; and Bergen Street Comics [470 Bergen St. between Fifth and Flatbush avenues in Park Slope, (718) 230-5600].

Updated 5:19 pm, July 9, 2018
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