Heart Eyes underwater panels
The End Podcast – X-Men and Heart Eyes


April 13, 2023

In celebration of the upcoming Heart Eyes collected edition, I wanted to share some of my favorite Heart Eyes interviews from last years press tour. Mat and Tim over at The End podcast put together some of the most researched and insightful interview questions I’ve ever been asked. This podcast is what every comics podcast should aspire to be. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

The End Podcast: Interview with X-Men and Heart Eyes Creative Dennis Hopeless | August 2022



Mat 0:32
Welcome, everybody to a new episodes and a bonus episode of the podcast. We’ve got got another interview for you today, but we’re not going to spoil who it is, although obviously you’ve read that and that’s why you’ve clicked on it. But let’s just pretend it’s our little secret for the time being. So we are the end pod. And before we get started, you can find this on all platforms, including the one that you’re listening to. Now we’ve got an Instagram, which is the end of the school pilot. Same on Twitter, we’re on all your streaming platforms of preference. So now that’s out the way with me as always, in Tim, Tim, how are you?

Tim 1:12
Now? I’m doing great. It’s nice to talk to you. I know listeners have now come to expect a brief Boston Celtics minute. So I wanted to just give you an update on that. I don’t know if you’ve been following us. But we got a big trade possibly here. Jaylen brown might be going for Kevin Durant some version of that. So I don’t know if you can rent might be a Celtic here. So you know, stay tuned on that not as you’re

Mat 1:37
in the brief month that I was a Celtics fan by proxy. I felt that Switzer either Brown was either hideously over or hideously underrated. There was no shot down the middle like it was just came out or get more of him. No.

Tim 1:57
Well, he was definitely their best player during the finals. Yeah, but you know, I don’t know, man, we’ll see what happens. I’m gonna I’m

Mat 2:05
gonna cut that off, because we can’t keep them waiting any longer. Now, I don’t know how much you’ll agree with this. But I think we have with us today. Possibly the most handsome man in the whole of comics, and certainly one of the nicest. Welcome aboard Dennis. How are you today?

Dennis Hopeless 2:20
It is early. But I’m doing well. Thanks for having me, guys… And thank you for the compliment I guess.

Mat 2:28
That’s entirely my fault. Because I’m the only person in a different corner of the entire world.

Tim 2:33
You’re being nice. The reason we have to meet at this time is because my kids get up at like 830. And then I’m here. So it’s seven. It’s about seven where I am, which is in Utah.

Mat 2:44
So Dennis, let’s, let’s get the let’s get the easy part of it out the way where we will bro platitude and and I adore your work whether it’s honest or not, no, not really. I enjoyed this probably as much, if not anything that you’ve written before we were talking about, it’s almost felt like a kind of like lyrical exchange in the way that it’s no sort of Chorus verse interchange between the developments in the plot. And I think as well with the way that you write that it’s kind of musical in the way that there’s no preface to a song. It just kind of starts and you hit the ground running, which I think is a great way to set the time.

Dennis Hopeless 3:26
Thank you. Yeah. I think one of the reasons this book reads the way that it does, is we had the advantage of time that I don’t normally have. The book was created. Like I was telling you guys before we started recording, the book was created during lockdown when pencils down happened, and I had nothing else to do. All of my Marvel books got cancelled or got paused first and then cancelled. X amount of work got paused for like eight months, and I had nothing to do. And I was home alone with my children all day. losing my mind. Yeah. So I think heart eyes and then another book that I’m that I created. At the same time, another great room book got more thinking time than anything I’ve ever done. And it allowed us to really, like think and rethink and go through that. And then Victor Barnea is the CO creator and artist. He really likes to think things through and to question me and to make sure I’m not making dumbass decisions. And so we’re able to have a lot of back and forth and really think about like, not just what’s the story? What is Victor want to draw, but also like, why are we the people to tell this and what do we have to say? And so I think that’s probably what you’re getting. Now. We had less time with a later issue. So it’s possible it gets really bad from here but the first issue I

Mat 4:49
possibly one of the things I picked up from doing the sort of deep dive into the back catalogue as well, I don’t know if it’s something intentional or maybe just something that I’m Picking up haven’t read so much of any time. But there’s the old adage that it’s best to write from experience of going through your back catalogue. It’s almost an allegory for your personal experiences at the time. With this, it’s very clear, it’s finding love in the Apocalypse, which is, you know, without delving into your personal life like that is pretty much what happened. For you see, you’ve started about a father being separated from its child, and that is very much a part of your life that was happening, not as obviously as quite as dramatically from that, but it was a part of the divorce process. Speaking of that, cloak and dagger is like, quite almost abruptly coming from that Spider Woman, pregnant Spider Woman when you had, it was something that completely shocked you. And there was quite an adjustment period. It’s, I would absolutely. Okay, let’s not say Absolutely, let’s say 90 to 95% Certainty say that love struck came out of a couple of relationships that didn’t end Quite so. Well.

Dennis Hopeless 6:00
It is. Man love strike. Probably yes. Probably Love Struck is based. I was so young when I wrote that book, because I wrote that book. Right after gearhead, so gearhead came out in 2007. And I wrote the first issue of Love Struck immediately. And then Kevin Mellon, the artists on those two books got really busy with other things to do didn’t come out for four years. So by the time the book was out, like I didn’t relate personally, anymore. But no, I absolutely make things, autobiographical. And I don’t ever do it on purpose. Like when my life changes, while I’m making something, it will turn from like, if it turned from one thing into another accidentally. And I think I just have a very simple brain. And whatever it’s going through emotionally, like comes down to paid but no, you’re 100%, right. And all of those things, and I think cloak and dagger is the weirdest one. Because it don’t works. Like I, I was in the deepest, darkest depths of the emotional turmoil that is a divorce. And I tried to write a story about two superheroes breaking up. And I think I just wrote about my divorce. And I, it’s an uncomfortable read because of that. Fortunately, that series was supposed to be part of a huge Marvel Comixology partnership that Comixology was going to push these Marvel digital first books. And then they decided to do Comixology Comixology originals in the middle of that process, and dropped all the promotion for the Marvel books. So like, nobody said that you’re like one of four people that has ever read my cloak and dagger run. Which is fine, that’s fine with me like i i was i was working some stuff out on the page will say, and I’m not sure how effective it is as a cloak and dagger book. But it is. It was an it was an interesting exploration of my feelings, separation and divorce and the turmoil that comes from that. Leave like

Mat 8:01
that series. They were like Black Label, I can’t remember what they called. It was like Marvel premiere graphic novels or when they actually came to print. Did you do one of the secret was secret walks or something like that? Did you do it? Yeah. And then that process going on to the digital exclusive ones as well gave us Jed Mackey, who I think kind of like treading on the hills if that sort of chip sidarsky tone where you can get levity and tragedy in the same page. So

Dennis Hopeless 8:31
there were some good books and within that, like Kelly Thompson did, maybe Jessica Jones thing through that. That was really good.

Mat 8:40
She did. Yeah.

Tim 8:41
That was very good.

Dennis Hopeless 8:42
I think it would have been a cool line of digital comics, if they had gone that direction. And then it you know, they came out, they came out in print and they came out digitally. They just didn’t promote that.

Tim 8:52
When you say you write these stories that are somewhat autobiographical and sort of unintentionally, do you feel like there the process is cathartic for you? Or do you feel like it because a lot of it’s kind of dark? somatically I wonder if it if it helps you or if it if it gets you into an even darker place? I can imagine it going either way. Honestly, I think so.

Dennis Hopeless 9:11
So look, plot to me is something you have to do in order to get to character work. Why I chose to write genre fiction and income books. I don’t know, because it would be a lot easier to just do indie movies where it’s just all about character development. Yeah. So I think what I’m doing when I write is trying to make stories about monster apocalypse is or you know, like a pair of superhero with with weird drug powers that need each other to survive. I’m trying to find a way to make that human and relatable. And the only experience I have is my own so like, even if I come at it from an angle that’s not that relatable to me, but seems relatable to the human experience. I think I just, you know, it gets infused with that. What ends up happening is I kind of Figuring out what a book is about in the middle of writing it. And that can be really fun, especially on an ongoing, because you have what the books about at the beginning and then what it becomes because there were the characters take you what I’m learning now and what I learned with heart eyes and this other creator a book that I’m doing. If you figure that out in the plotting stage, you can kind of set yourself up for it, and you can promote it that way and talk about it that way. Which is nice. And I never had that leeway, horrible. I never had that time to, to do that pre thinking. Axel Alonso, the former editor in chief of Marvel once told me that the best thing you can do for a story is give it time. Like get get a draft out, get an outline out early, so you’ve got time to let it percolate. And yeah, that always happens for me while scripting so I think it is me working out stuff on the page. I think it is probably really cathartic. It’s a little embarrassing sometimes to go back and look at old stuff and realize, oh, wow, that was just straight up doing that. But I think I think it’s what, if anything about my work resonates with people, it’s probably bad. Like there’s real human experience in there. Every time

Mat 11:07
the protagonist of heart eyes seem like I wouldn’t say the first but they’re definitely the most optimistic. I feel like a lot of them have been either reluctant or born out of tragedy and there’s always been a kind of unwillingness to to have a reason. Whereas with heart eyes, it’s just like a beautiful story of optimism. Do you think that’s reflective?

Dennis Hopeless 11:29
I think it’s funny because I know where that started goes.

Yeah, Lupe is she sees the world and the very broken world. So heart eyes is it’s like a Romeo Juliet after the monster Apocalypse like Lovecraftian monster monsters have destroyed humans to civilization, everybody that survived is living in hiding. And these two young people meet. And one of them is Lupe, who’s out on the road alone, inexplicably surviving all of this and doesn’t make any sense. And then there’s the RICO that she’s falling in love with, whose family thinks she must be a monster come to eat. And then they they kind of find each other within that loop is wrong, like Lupe is the world is not safe, she shouldn’t be out on the road, but it’s safe for her. So from her experience, everybody just needs to calm down and stop being afraid of things and then they can live their life. And that’s not true of most other people. That’s not the experience other people have. So I think it’s refreshing in that world to see someone who can still see the beauty and still just wants to make human connections and when wants to live her life, when everybody else is still stuck in the, you know, five years ago, we had to crawl into a hole in order to survive this. If we come out of the hole, we’re going to die. And, you know, I’ve never put it that way aloud before. But I wrote all of that, while we were all locked down in our homes during the beginning of COVID. And my life had basically stopped like everything outside the home. And everybody was afraid and hating each other online and doing all of this. You know, the world as it was when everybody was stressed out? And sci fi I think she was like, the person who was ignoring that and just going on. So yeah, it’s I don’t know, in my head, she’s maybe that’s not healthy. But neither is what everybody else is doing. Right. Everybody else in that world is just trying to get by and not living their life and like living in fear and avoidance. And she is taking it on head on. But what are the repercussions of that? So I think the story is dealing with like there’s not there’s not a great middle ground in this world.

Mat 13:54
I think you’ve just perfectly surmised the vaccine anti vaccine problem. Right.

Dennis Hopeless 14:05
I didn’t see that on purpose at all. Yeah, I did I at that time. This is really interesting. I never thought about it this way. At that time, I was really struggling with how much we were hating other people from afar for being wrong. You know, like, regardless of what wrong is to you personally, the world was very angry with other people for being wrong. And we were creating monsters all around, because Oh, you’re wrong about this. So you’re bad. And like, Yeah, but half of the world is wrong about this. So if if all of those people are evil, like we’re screwed, right, like you can’t you can’t tilted those windmills, windmills forever. It’s okay. Apparently I just put that in the book.

Mat 14:48
Because I have to like a great duplicity with that because it’s kind of like there was the easiest solution ever was which was if everyone just fucking stayed inside for two weeks and the pandemic was over. Ever. But yeah, that’s like on the micro level. But then on the macro level, it seems like I mean, don’t get me wrong, we’re not in a great era for for politics or politicians. But at the same time, the macro solution wasn’t really there. Like we’ve got the vaccines now they don’t work as well as we think, Okay, now, it’s just, if you get it, you can still pass it on, but it’s gonna, it’s a really easy solution. But actually, it’s really difficult at the same time.

Dennis Hopeless 15:23
And I think, what’s the like, in my world, comics, Twitter is the loudest screaming thing on my computer or phone at any time. And that is largely people who work indoors who have worked for home from home their entire careers, who wanted everybody to just stay home for the reasons you’re, you’re speaking to. Meanwhile, I had just spent a year with contractors who never stopped working like they were, you know, like construction workers and people that worked in grocery stores and the service industry like those people were, they never stopped. So to them is insane, the idea that they would just stop working and go sit at home. That wasn’t their experience. And that’s the problem is that like people’s perspective is so varied, that they think you’re wrong. And then you add to that algorithms that are giving you biased opinions based on what your watch the longest. Yeah, it was. It really was a perfect storm. I was I was saying this to someone the other day, we all thought that when the robots took over, it would be like literal AI Monster Machines that wanted to kill the meatbags. But really, they just have to trick us into hating each other like that. Right? It’s not even on purpose. Like we created these things to get people to watch the screens longer. And now they make us watch propaganda all the time.

Mat 16:42
Both its actual and KGB, KGB audience from 50 odd years ago, whereby it’s very clearly spelling out that was too expensive. The way to bring that because obviously, in communist countries, you don’t have to worry about the two term getting reelected. And then off you go. So there’s not the short term ism. So they decided to, I can only speak for the authenticity that I heard it. And it’s something that sounded reasonable to me that an easy way to bring down a country isn’t with troops and bombs, it’s to make them fight amongst themselves, because that’s how you stop development of free thought of invention, political freedoms. And I read another report, there was a study done 10 out of 10 of the biggest Krisztian Facebook groups were all generated by wishing and Macedonian troll farms and even with BLM, it was seven out of 10. So it’s just seeded there to cause disruption. So while a country’s infighting with itself, you can’t make any progress, because you’ve always got half the country, that’s against it. By the way, they weren’t both from Joe Rogan. But like, I was just like, This just makes perfect sense. This is this is the Western world that I’ve been living in,

Dennis Hopeless 17:56
put the problem on the macro, if you step back from it, the problem is obvious. Like we all all, yeah, like fundamentally, to our core, relate ourselves to these ideals, and other people relate to the opposite. Right? And therefore, we’re not going to have discourse, there’s not going to be a conversation. And the internet allows you to scream at people without looking them in the eyes and call them names without, you know, like, without seeing the repercussions of that. And at this point, we have a generation of that. And so we’re just all used to getting really angry with people that are somewhere else that are just a name on a screen. And it’s it’s the biggest problem. I think we have like all of these things that people are passionate about. I’m passionate about it too. Like I’m not any worse lip. I’m not any less blue liberal than I was before I realized this, but I don’t think that the individual issues matter as much as we’re not gonna get anything done if we just hate everyone. And it’s, it’s scary. And it’s a problem. And yeah, that’s, that’s a Lupe’s perspective… To take it back to Heart Eyes.

Mat 18:59
That’s very smooth moves.

And one of the interesting things I picked up from from one of your previous podcasts was that you the way that you chose Volvo was kind of like you saw it as the a 24 of comics, which I thought was a brilliant way of describing. So obviously, you’re quite, you’re quite familiar with or I would say good friends with Colombian.

Dennis Hopeless 19:33
Yes. Yeah. We named one of my children after

Mat 19:39
that I ended up being somebody molecule comics, so I didn’t know.

Dennis Hopeless 19:43
Yeah, that one. That’s why because I had named Colin bloodstone after Columbine and then I call him bloodstone was my favorite character from the vendors and arena. And right around that same time is when my kids were born so good stuff that’s

Mat 19:57
your first interview ever was with Colin Berg and After about 15 minutes, was it 15 minutes? It was let’s just for argument’s say 15 minutes on the hour. Tim said, Oh, we spoke about before we started taping. And I just looked at my I just looked down and was like, Yeah, I wish I wish we were taping. But he was so gracious about it. And that’s what she’s currently she logged on for 10 more minutes, and then just and then just say, thank you very much in and off we go. Or do I? Or do I just like kaput to it now? So, but I didn’t I covered this. But he’s obviously got like a huge experience with writing for him independent publishers. And he actually says he has like a spreadsheet when it seems like it’s an absolute minefield. So do you think your experience with vault is going to lead you to look at them first choice? Or is it going to be very much? Which sort of which shoe fits for each for each future release?

Dennis Hopeless 20:56
Yeah, I mean, I think each publisher has different different feel like I think vault, I’ve said this before, but I think vault, what the books have in common there are, they’re all a little bit strange, like a little bit weird, but also really high quality, like the art is amazing. You know, like, there’s a lot more editorial there than most create your own, you know, indie comic publishers, Adrian, like, he edits every book, so I get great story notes on each issue. Whereas a lot of other places, you take it to image, you get to keep all the rights, it’s probably the biggest independent publisher by far. But it’s just your book to make once they’ve approved it. Like they leave you alone, and you go in a vacuum. So I think

Mat 21:49
Skybound doesn’t do that, though, does it? I think I think they were they they retained the IP rights. I think, yeah, that’s a diffusion.

Dennis Hopeless 22:02
I think Skybound, it’s a little bit like, Top Cow, right? Like, it’s under the image banner on some level, but it’s its own entity. So yeah, I’m doing another book Comixology. And I’m doing this other creator own book right now, that is a 1980s rural crime story that’s based on my parents. And because it’s my mom’s story, and I’m doing that in conjunction with like, her telling me, you know, like, she’s, she’s sort of CO writing it with me, because she’s the one that was there and loved it and knows all the things intimately. I didn’t want to give any of those rights up. But also, Tyler Jenkins, the fantastic artist, and Hilary Jenkins, they needed their page rate to make the book so I needed to go to a place where I could get retain the rights to it for my mom, but where they also got, you know, full page rates, so we can get the book made. Yeah, so I took that project to Comixology specifically to keep the rights but also get a page rate for the not for me, but for the creative, the art team. And yeah, so what I’m learning now that I’m doing more creative on work is you, you got to find the right home and the right editor and the right publisher for each of these projects to make sure they’re gonna get the right push. And one of the things I love about vault is they don’t flood the market with books. They like you, they usually have new one new number one every month. And they have an actual like marketing and promotional plan and team that helps you out and helps you figure out what to do. And as a as a comic creator is one of the most challenging things has always been promoting my own work like being the online face of my brand and my work while also making the work especially when you’re as slow as I am like Colin can do it because Colin can write a script and in two hours and

Mat 23:52
there is no logical explanation to how he keeps up with your output keeps up with his output. I mean, even he didn’t even sort of go straight half of the exports title as well as Am I remembering that right?

Dennis Hopeless 24:05
We did an arc that of that I got so Okay, when I first started at Marvel, the I got Avengers arena and x force at the same time they launched the same day, I had never written an ongoing book before. And both of those double shipped every other month. So I was on three books essentially worth of issues. And I kept behind on both of those books at the same time. And Colin came in and did an arc with me in order to get me on X horse. But yeah, he’s he just I think some of its organization. Some of it is like my anxiety when writing comics is very much about it’s like imposter syndrome. Like this isn’t good enough yet. I have to convince myself inside my own head that it’s good enough in order to type it and then I have to convince myself that the outline is good enough in order to you know to write the script, Collins anxiety Is I gotta get this done because there’s 11 Other things to do. So he is like very much a workhorse and sits down and does it and I wish we could switch places. But he tells me both are just equally stressful. wouldn’t be any better. And goes, sorry. Good. Yeah,

Mat 25:14
it reminds me of when I was at uni. And I was constantly getting, like extensions for coursework. And my friend kit was like, You’re busted. It goes, we’ve been up all night doing this. And you just asked for another week? And they just said yes. Because I wish I could be more like you. And I was like, I was like, Dude, you definitely didn’t do not want to stress if you’re having a nice day today. I am not.

Dennis Hopeless 25:40
Yeah, I think there are people that it doesn’t stress out to create things, but they’re rare. And I think most of us, it’s just whether or not you’re stressed out at the beginning, or the end, like you put it off. And Colin, yeah, he can sit down and do that. But it’s nice to have those resources, I have a lot of friends who’ve done a lot more creative work. And it has been really creatively satisfying this last two years to step back, do less work for hire, and really like, focus on my stories and different genres. And like I didn’t have to write a superhero fight for like nine straight months. And it’s amazing.

Mat 26:19
We’ve both invested quite quite heavily on being up to date with Marvel for quite a while. But there was a point of realization that we’d like the restarts and when we got to, like it, was it fresh start when when CD first came in, so it was it was fresh start wasn’t it? And I thought, You know what, this is the perfect time to drop single issues because I put them in these boxes, and I might as well take them into the garden and set fire to them, because I will never ever open these boxes again. At least with the trades like they look nice on the shelf. And at least I can go Oh, yeah, I remember I’ve got that one. Let’s have a little flip through and pull it back and forget about it again. Even with the trades now that I can’t, it’s almost impossible to keep up to date. Like it’s there’s two months. So I’m probably around as we know from November maybe December 2019 with like the trades but even things like Hawkeye freefall that Matthew Rosenberg did or veto AR they did. I can’t remember what it was. But even now, the trade paperbacks are almost becoming a precious commodity. I’m looking at my shelf, and like, like, that’s a year and a half that’s taken up a whole shelf. Even if I only read Marvel for the next five years, I’ve run out of shelf space again. Yeah,

Dennis Hopeless 27:38
I had that experience. When I first when you work at Marvel, they send you PDFs of all of the books that come out. And my email, my inbox would just fill up every like every Friday, Tom river would send out like all the books that are going out that week. And you realize like, I’m never going to be able to read all these like I don’t, I spend all day long thinking about superheroes. And then now my inbox is inundated with all these superheroes like, and they’re digital. So I was nice. I didn’t have to put them in boxes anymore. But I just got super burnout. And so now I only read comics if someone has been talking, like my friends with the internet has been talking about how brilliant something is for a year, then I’ll go back and read that year. Because it’s just, it’s just constant it. And it’s I love superheroes, I’ll always love superheroes. But there are a lot of superheroes in our world now with the movies and the TV shows, all of the comics, and I’ve been doing this since I was 11. It’s just it’s hard to get excited about Captain America punching someone you know,

Mat 28:43
you’ve just refresh my memory. It was because you were you were saying you didn’t have to write a superhero fight. And the point of all that was even with the trade paperbacks now I’ve sort of got to the point where I’m like, this is just gonna end with them punching each other, and then the hero’s gonna win. And I was kind of like, should I want I don’t I don’t even have the I don’t have to do this doesn’t for me anymore. And as you rightly say, like, there is general hype about things like when somebody anamod Did flatboat or like Kelly Thompson Tarkine you can retrospectively pick these things up. I think that’s the beauty of not doing single issues. Like there was a certain excitement of hunting on eBay for certain things that I didn’t have before and single issues but now it’s just feels exhausting, like how much time the the storage space and all that kind of thing to sort of double back a little bit as well. So when you’re writing next for us, there was something I picked up on it from another interview that you did now, I’ll sort of punctuate this with something that Kelly Thompson said on one of podcasts maybe five or six years ago and I know that from Twitter interactions that she didn’t really want Quentin choir in West Coast Avengers because how do you how do you help him and to Hawkeyes in the same team and make the Hawkeyes have any value and even with a forces Well now, I’ll be completely honest with you. I read that and thought it was absolutely horrid. Like I wrote off Kelly Johnson immediately, obviously, I was wrong. And now she’s done like the body of work that came after that. So it was a real relief to me to know that she wrote that under duress, the characters were basically pushed on to her she didn’t want to do the title. And I think, at least for the first few issues that came across, now, you didn’t want to have domino or cable in x force. Now. You were kind of a little bit clandestine to the reasons why. But I’d like to interpret that is that you didn’t want to give Robert light field any more. Any more. Any more spotlight that was absolutely necessary.





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