HEAT VISION

How 'Hashtag: Danger' Became an Adventure Comic for the Twitter Age

Cartoonist Chris Giarrusso explains the origins of his new work.
Courtesy of Chris Giarrusso/AHOY
Cartoonist Chris Giarrusso explains the origins of his new work.

Part-love letter to the adventure comics of the past, part-Venture Bros.-esque parody of the same, Ahoy Comics’ Hashtag: Danger dares to ask the question, “What kind of person would search out the unknown and spooky in the hopes of gaining social media followers?”

Hashtag: Danger debuted in short strips in Ahoy’s High Heaven and Captain Ginger series before graduating to its own five-issue series earlier this year. Now all of that material has been brought together in Hashtag: Danger: Danger on Dinosaur Island, a collection promoted by the publisher by saying that it’s “not intended for children…unless they’re bad and very curious.”

The origins of that unlikely tactic stem from the co-creator of the series, cartoonist Chris Giarrusso, who’s best known for his all-ages strips G-Man and Mini Marvels — but that seeming incongruity was part of the draw to sign onto the project, he told The Hollywood Reporter.

“Ahot’s chief creative officer — and brilliant cartoonist — Frank Cammuso suggested me to Tom [Peyer, series writer and Ahoy Comics editor-in-chief] as a possible artist. Tom thought I'd be a good fit, and it sounded fun to me,” he said when talking about how he ended up co-creating the property. “Sure, it's not the kid-friendly stuff people are accustomed to seeing from me, but I was looking for a change of pace and I found Tom's ideas and sense of humor very appealing.”

As the title suggests, Hashtag: Danger is a tongue-in-cheek reimagining of the adventure strips of yore — think Challengers of the Unknown, or even Marvel’s Fantastic Four — that sees the concept rebuilt for today’s world, which was part of the draw for the artist, who’s shown an affinity to (affectionately) parody the superhero genre he loves so much.

“I think it's inevitable to poke fun at the things I love because I've spent so much time obsessing on them,” he admits. “But it's also easy to obsess on things that are highly irritating, and I think the irritation we all experience with social media is partially responsible for the characters Tom has written in Hashtag: Danger.”

Giarrusso ran down the lineup of the team — and, in the process, explained the group’s name.

“Tom said he started by pondering 'Who would spell out the word Hashtag?' Well, the leader of the team, Desiree Danger, is very much obsessed with her image and popularity, the sort of personality you often see 'living their best life' on Twitter or Instagram,” he explained. “She leads this team of explorers, but she needs the world to see her looking successful doing it while she spouts inspirational platitudes.” (The in-story reason the word is spelled out is, simply, that the designer Danger hired to create the group’s logo did it to upset her, after getting frustrated by how faux-inspirational Danger tried to be, which also gives a good idea of the tone of the series.)

Danger is only one-third of the team, however. “Einstein Armstrong is a scientific genius for sure...but he's also the kind of know-it-all who can't help replying to everyone with condescending insults while explaining what's really going on as he rattles off one conspiracy or another,” Giarrusso continued. “And Sugar Rae Huang, who has had more than enough of both of her teammates, is in a perpetual rage similar to what most of us may have experienced after spending too much time on Twitter, when the only answer to any problem seems to be smashing it to pieces.”

After signing on to work on H: D, Giarrusso realized just how much fun the strip allows him to have. “The appeal to working on the strip was how much crazy stuff Tom packed into the series for me to draw: dinosaurs, aliens from outer space, underground mole people, ocean dwelling Atlanteans, a giant robot, and two different U.S. vice presidents. There's a yeti kidnapping, time travel, a trip to the moon and a tussle with a team of villainous rivals who are far more civilized and likable than our protagonists. There's even an adorable alien baby, which we did long before baby Yoda showed up in The Mandalorian. We were first!”

For his part, Peyer said that Giarrusso is the ideal collaborator for the title. “Working with Chris is always a pleasure, but writing bad words into the mouths of his adorable characters is an honor. It looks like a kids' book, but don't worry. Just tell your child that there are things in it you don't want them to see. They'll respect that.”

There’s more to the collaboration than just the unlikeliness of it, however. “I would put Chris' storytelling and character work up against any 'realistic' mainstream comics artist,” he added.

The first volume of the series, Hashtag: Danger: Danger on Dinosaur Island, is available digitally and in comic book and mainstream bookstores now.

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