‘Heat’: The Superhero You Need

Reading Time: 4 minutes
teen superhero
Heat #1, copyright Javon Stokes

One of the joys of Free Comic Book Day is discovering new heroes and stories to love and that’s just what happened this year when I picked up the first two issues of Heat by JaVon Stokes.

I was blown away by the plotting, characterization, and pacing of Heat. Stokes’ young hero is at at the beginning of his career and uncertain not only about his powers but, overall, about what to do with his life.

Cameron Clarke’s confidence and sometimes arrogance about his powers is in contrast to his inability in other aspects of his life, leading finally to a mistake that leads Cam to question why he uses his powers at all.

What’s It About?

I’ll let the creator, JaVon Stokes, answer that one:

JaVon Stokes: Heat is about Cameron Clarke and not only his struggle to control and learn his powers but to juggle his life between what his father wants and figure out what he wants from life.

GeekMom: Did Any Heroes Influence Cameron’s Creation?

There was definitely an effort to mirror Spider-Man. Other influences included Static (Shock), Invincible, and definitely Savage Dragon. I’ve also loved how Erik Larsen and Robert Kirkman didn’t treat their respective comic universes/characters with kid gloves. They’d blow everything if they felt it make a great story.

black teen superhero
Cover to Heat #2, copyright Visually Stoked Media

What Is Heat’s World LIke?

GM: What made you decide to create a world where superheroes are illegal? What do you think that adds to the story?

JS: For me, making powered individuals, superheroes and vigilantes illegal was my way of nodding to my personal opinion that if superheroes/villains were real, if they weren’t government regulated, they’d probably all be wanted by the police. Also, because Cam’s father & best friend have negative opinions on powered people, it would help explain why he keeps his identity secret from them.

I was justifying why Cam had a secret identity at all. Honestly, if superheroes were accepted, he’d definitely want some of that respect/fame for himself.

Reflection of Real Life Events?

GM: The first two issues feature Cam in trouble with the police, with an emotional surrender than ends with him in handcuffs. Obviously, there is some reflection of that in real-life events. Was that on your mind when you wrote those scenes?

JS: Truthfully, I wrote the scripts for the first 3 issues of Heat back in 2007-2008.

It’s an interesting coincidence and I did kinda run with it in a slightly different direction because of current events. Heat was also always going to face some degree of consequence for his mistake and that it resembles so many current instances, if I had to guess, kinda speaks to the mindset of some (most?) African-Americans concerning our impression of those in authority.

Heat black teen superhero
Heat #3: facing the consequences. Image copyright VisuallyStokedMedia.

Creating ‘Heat’

GM: What was the process like, taking “Heat” from an idea to published product? How long did it take? Do you have any advice for others who’d like to do this? Did the art or the story come easier?

JS: Heat is the first comic I was able to do in a professional manner. It took a while from start to finish (almost 3 years) because: A. I wanted to have all 3 issues done before printing one and B. most of the artwork was done during my engagement, wedding, big move, and helping take care of my mother who was diagnosed with (and, unfortunately, succumbed to) breast cancer.

As I said previously, I had the base scripts done for a while, I just had to update it and finish it. The actual art flowed because I’d had this story in my head for so long It just came spilling out onto the paper.

GM: As for advice for anyone else?

JS: The best thing I can tell anyone who wants to do comics is to (for lack of a better phrase) JUST DO IT.

My journey literally started with me sitting on the couch and going, “Y’know, I just need to start drawing it and figure out the rest later.” Once I did that, every next step got easier. Also, do as much research into the industry as possible. Find friends and mentors with people who have helped pave the path you’re trying to take.

Lastly, I know this will seem elementary, but don’t be a jerk. No one will want to work with or buy a book from someone they can’t stand. I’ve sold more than a few books by just being nice and personable.

What’s Next?

GM: Any comic book dream jobs?

JS: My all-time dream job is to have an extended run on New Warriors (with the original 7 members). I’d love to get a chance to do Steel (John Henry version), Black Panther, Luke Cage, and definitely Captain America & Nightwing.

You can find JaVon Stokes at www.visuallystoked.com, on Twitter, and on Instagram. Hopefully, it won’t be too long for the next issues and more of Cameron’s story.

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