Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Dave Hooper: a politically-incorrect … hero…well, sort of.

Pop culture is currently in a superhero moment and has been for the past 10 years: audiences love their superheroes and anti-heroes, so says John Birmingham in conversation with John Weldon at the session: John Birmingham: Monsters and Mayhem.

Birmingham —author of the cult hit He Died With a Felafel in His Hand (a novel and movie about the nightmare of share houses), Leviathan (a historical book about Sydney) and the Axis of Time trilogy aka World War 2.1, 2.2 and 2.3 (think Philadelphia Experiment but with more wide-reaching consequences, social comment and many more “splodey” bits)— thought he'd tap into the Marvel audience and present a new anti-hero who is so politically-INcorrect, that people will feel guilty for liking the hero. (Birmo totally nailed it, by the way).

Add “splodey” bits and fire-breathing dragons and you have Dave Hooper, hero of what is affectionately known as the Dave and the Monsters trilogy.

The origins of this trilogy (written for the American market) can be traced back to Jon Pertwee-era Doctor Who, with the Brigadier and UNIT and their inability to kick monster butt no matter how big-ass their guns. This ‘really annoyed’ our illustrious author, whose vernacular does not descend into phrases like, “This really pissed me off”—at least not at the MWF. The Dave Hooper novels had other influences as well, such as the movie Reign of Fire and others of that ilk in which battles between modern military and medieval monsters inevitably end up with the monsters winning no matter how ill-equipped they may be.

But the attraction, or not, of the Dave novels lies not so much with Hooper’s ability to kick the stuffing out of the orcs as Birmo likes to call them, but rather with Hooper’s inability to kick his own butt into gear. He is a polarising character: totally unreconstructed, racist, sexist, red neck in the extreme yet loveable…or not.  Magic might have gifted Dave with the ability to slaughter en masse, but it doesn’t allow him the gift of self–reflection nor an ability to reach deep within himself to find the ‘real Dave’. There is no reality to Dave other than what we see and he remains, in the words of Birmo, ‘an utter douche bag’ throughout.

To counteract Dave’s louche behaviour, Thresh,—with Klingon-esque pronunciation— remains as comic relief. A monster from the deeps — or a parallel universe, take your pick — he is indelibly imprinted by the personality of the first human brain he eats: that of a New Orleans mall rat who sounds like a cross between a stereotypical Hood dude and a Beach Boys’ surfer-dude. Thresh is hilarious.
This was a panel well worth attending—if only for its pop culture references and exploration of the politically-incorrect Dave Hooper novels. The two John’s expanded their conversation into other areas too — more of an insight into production and publishing — but The Dave Hooper trilogy remained the topic du jour.

John Birmingham can be found at his blog Cheezeburger Gothic or on his Twitter accounts (@GothicBurger and @JohnBirmingham), when he's not stirring the pot by wearing thongs into eateries in Brizvegas.

Edited by Jessica Donnison

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