Hero Tomorrow

Russell Burlingame Reporting

Hero Tomorrow is the tale of David-a struggling, young comic book artist whose superhero creation is rejected by publisher after publisher on the basis that it's unoriginal. To combat this, he and his girlfriend, an aspiring costume designer who works at the Hero Tomorrow comic book store (as in many of these types of movies, the entire comic shop seems to be stocked floor to ceiling with indie and creator-owned comics-I'd love to see this place try to stay in business for real), bring the character to life by creating a costume that David can wear in public, in so doing generating interest in the property he hopes to sell.

The premise itself-that someone in our "real" world would think superheroing with no real powers or protection is a good idea-is kind of hard to believe, but once you get past the notion that he would be dumb enough to step out there, the flick handles it deftly. The notion of running out in a stupid costume and fighting crime quickly collapses under its own weight, leaving everyone around David thinking that "Apama" might be crazy and stupid (Animal Man notwithstanding, getting high on a rock face and then running out to "fight crime" in spandex is probably not a great idea). Watching the process happen is pretty fun, and most of the character beats feel very believable. The ultimate resolution of the Apama story, which you can kind of see coming but which still works very well dramatically, is probably the best and most interesting plot point.

Jocelyn Wrzosek, who plays David's girlfriend Robyn, is bright and charming but conflicted, delivering the kind of performance that would be a high point in most movies. She has a bit role in the upcoming Mysteries of Pittsburgh, an adaptation of the first novel by Michael Chabon, writer of Wonder Boys and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and her performance reminds me a lot of Jesssica Hynes-Stevenson, of Spaced fame. Together with a cast that's got a terrific, naturalistic approach to the story this gives a sense of production value and cinematic skill that's missing from many low-budget pictures-and especially low-budget superhero fare.

Ted Sikora, who wrote and directed the film, deserves a lot of credit. It's clear that he took his time, making sure that the film was as well done as possible before cutting it to DVD, as opposed to simply getting as much done in one or two takes as possible, a temptation when moving your new property to film for the first time.

Certainly the film is not perfect-as often happens when you have a writer, director and producer who are all the same person, there are lines in the film that I can't imagine anyone actually saying...but they don't necessarily get edited out, because who is there to copyedit the boss?

There's a sequence early in the film-where Robyn, a little strung-out, seethes through a dinner where David, proud of his comic, is pressed for information by his girlfriend's mother, who seems to be well-meaning and feigning enthusiasm. Heddersen's David is a skilled, if a bit stilted, performance and Robyn's mother, depicted by Shelley Delaney, is pitch-perfect, channeling the loving-but-judgmental sitcom moms we've all seen and enjoyed.

The only difficulty with the film is that David is not particularly well-developed in the early stages, and so when his friends, boss and father are cruel and rude to him, the only reason you've got to care is that he's the main character and it's understood you're supposed to. When he makes a serious mistake at work and draws the ire of his best friend/supervisor Greg, and Greg's father, you frankly can understand why they're upset and don't necessarily see why a person who works full time and spends fifty bucks a week on comics shouldn't be able to pay for his own food. He's a character who needs to be played a little less straightforward and with a little more whimsy-the narration he gives himself and the seriousness with which he treats his character early in the film would be more at home in a Bob Burden/Mysterymen comic than in the Marvel or DC Universe.

A strong love story at its heart with its roots firmly planted in geek culture but its feet planted firmly on the ground, Hero Tomorrow is one of the more enjoyable comics movies I've seen in a while. Owing more to Brian K. Vaughan's The Escapists (also culled from the works of Chabon) than to Watchmen (though Hero Tomorrow does feature a squid), it's a fun little flick that really should get some attention when it gets distribution.

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Russell Burlingame is a journalist and columnist living and working in New York City. In high school, Russell interviewed Elliot S. Maggin for a review of the Kingdom Come novelization, and since then has worked consistently in and around the comics industry. He interned for Wizard magazine, and has freelanced for Wizard and Newsarama, in addition to a number of non-comics publications, Russell is currently working on a graphic novel based on Cap'n Internet, the comic strip that ran in his college newspaper; and a graphic biography of folk singer Phil Ochs with artist Marion Vitus.

Currently, in addition to his freelance work and his comics projects, Russell writes a number of columns for ComicRelated, including Conscientious Sequentials, The Gold Exchange, What's Perhappenin', Closing Statements, Reflecting 'Pool and To See or Not To See. Russell also takes point on the Hot Shot of the Week feature.

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