This week saw the debut of Hardware: Season One #1, an explosive first issue that reintroduces the journey of Curtis Metcalf/Hardware for the modern age. The title is the final release of the first wave of Milestone Returns titles, and fans have been relishing in all of the ways it homages the original Dwayne McDuffie and Denys Cowan run on the character. ComicBook.com recently got to attend a virtual press conference with Cowan and Hardware: Season One writer Brandon Thomas, where the pair spoke about the experience of working on the series — and of honoring the work of McDuffie, who passed away in 2011.
“It’s a humbling, kind of sobering feeling,” Thomas said of working on the series. “It is very surreal to me even now to see Hardware pages that Denys has drawn, showing up in the email, and I’m like, ‘Wow, did I write this?’ It’s a very kind of like out of body experience sometimes. I try to do my best with every project that I do, obviously, but this one is a little more…It’s a little heavier, it takes a little more time, a little more thought, because I just want to really do a great job. Because there’s an additional level of responsibility for this project and these characters and this world, especially since Dwayne is not here with us anymore.”
“I had completely forgotten how to do it, what he looked like,” Cowan, who returned to do art on the series, added. “I had to get the old Hardware comics to get back into that world. It has not been nostalgic. It has been revisiting an old friend but with new eyes. With Brandon writing, it has given it a new twist and I have to approach the stories differently. I will say it’s the same spirit that Dwayne brought to it [and] Brandon brings to it tenfold. It’s just brilliant writing. It’s been an experience drawing Hardware again but it’s been an experience in a way that I didn’t expect it. I didn’t know it would be so challenging and yet so fulfilling. So that’s what it’s been like, getting back to this story. It’s been a great experience.”
Part of the homage to McDuffie includes a reference to the iconic parakeet metaphor from the original Hardware series.
“It’s not Hardware if it’s not referenced,” Thomas argued. “It felt inappropriate not to be a big part of that first issue. I was thinking about someone who hadn’t read it. I didn’t want to essentially take credit. This is Dwayne’s monologue and it is Hardware and it had to be there.”
“Without that story, without that metaphor, there’s no way to really understand Hardware’s perspective,” Thomas added. “I wanted to show the violation and rage this black man felt after his white mentor told him that he made Curtis matter. That was so emotionally important to me because I think a lot of us have felt that way in our own lives. Those feelings had to stay plugged into this character, and I’m really proud about how it all came out.”
“It was a metaphor for our experiences in the comic industry as Black creators, which is not to put anybody down, but it’s really to tell the truth as we saw it about the glass ceiling that existed, about the way we were treated, and about exploitation and about, you know, using one’s talents and abilities to one’s best advantage,” Cowan suggested. “All those things are the core of the characters, so they’re all still the same. Are we bringing that same kind of angst or whatever, anger, to the books now? I’m a different person in a way than I was 30 years ago. So the things that made me mad then just make me madder now [laughs]. So yeah, we are bringing the same things back. Until society changes, we’re going to still talk about all this stuff, right? Because it all means something. It’s all important. So, while I find myself not looking at some things the same way, I look at some of the things in a much sharper way. So it makes drawing his book as vital as ever, because all those things that made Dwayne and I so upset still exist, in society and in the comic book world.”
Hardware: Season One #1 is now available wherever comics are sold.