Interview: Hilary Goldstein on Hoodlum

by Stephanie Shamblin Gray

By Stephanie Shamblin Gray

Interview: Hilary Goldstein on Hoodlum

Synopsis: In a world where demons have all of the power and humans are second-class citizens, only a young girl has the courage to stand up to the city’s ruling class. Riley Brennan steals magic from rich demons and gives to poor humans. With the help of her mechanized ape-like guardian, John, and the demon priest Arnillius, Riley will square off against Regent Steig and his demon army, with the fate of the human race in the balance.’s Staff Journalist Stephanie Shamblin Gray caught up with the writer of “Hoodlum”, Hilary Goldstein, to ask a few questions about the book.

Stephanie Shamblin Gray: Can you tell us a little about the story of Hoodlum and the main characters?

Hilary Goldstein: Hoodlum is a little bit Robin Hood, a little bit Joan of Arc, with steampunk and demons thrown in the mix. Riley is an orphan, raised by a demon priest named Arnie, and John, an ape-like war machine turned pacifist. She doesn’t accept the fact that demons have all the wealth, power, and magic. So she steals from the rich and gives to the needy.

Stephanie Shamblin Gray: There are definitely some strong social themes explored in this story, such a racism and classism. Can you tell us about what inspired you to approach these subjects?

Hilary Goldstein: I don’t think you have to look hard to find examples of racism and classism in our society. Those who have less tend to both despise the rich for what they have and deeply desire having the same. I think, at some level, the wealthy feel guilt over their success – maybe even subconsciously – and so they often portray the poor as being less than they are, unworthy, or rightfully in a lower position. Not as overtly or maliciously as it’s portrayed in Hoodlum, but I definitely think there is this underlying need in many of the rich to justify to themselves why they are wealthy and the poor are poor.

Racism and classism are two of the biggest driving forces in shaping our society. And I don’t think comics handles or even examines that very well. Look at Batman. Wealth is only a way of explaining how he can do what he does. Often Bruce Wayne is written as a man with a middle-income attitude who sleeps in a big house. You do find these themes examined from time to time (the early days of Spider-Man being a great example), but not often enough.

Stephanie Shamblin Gray: Was writing a horror story for young adults intended, or did the story just flow in that direction?

Hilary Goldstein: I didn’t worry at all about genre when I started writing Hoodlum. I chose to write a young character, because, well, I guess there’s a bit of wish fulfillment in it. I think most of us, when we’re young, feel like there are things wrong with the world and we want to change them. But usually we give in to the responsibilities of becoming an adult or it just seems too daunting. Here, I can go back to when I was younger and imagine I did something about it. Maybe others can feel the same through Riley.

Stephanie Shamblin Gray: Tell us about working with the artist, John Toledo.

Hilary Goldstein: One of the great things about comics as opposed to writing a novel is that you aren’t the only one building the story. Artists can really surprise you. And John has turned a lot of the words I’ve given him into a world I had not expected. There’s an incredible amount of detail given to the city and a lot of what I get back from John is really inspiring.

Stephanie Shamblin Gray: Three issues are now available. How many issues are you anticipating in this series?

Hilary Goldstein: We’ve finished four issues, with the fourth being three shorter stories about the Wastelands, which exist beyond the city walls. I could write a hundred more issues of Hoodlum if time and money permitted. I’m not sure how much further we can go, but I hope to continue on for a while. I find the Wastelands far more interesting than the city.

The city is industrial, with structured government and walls designed to keep out the rest of the world. The Wastelands are really the rest of the known world and there’s a lot more fantasy elements that exist there. I can take on any genre at any time out there – from Western (which you get a taste of in issue #4) to mad scientists to bigger mythological stories about the world.

Stephanie Shamblin Gray: Where can our readers go for more information on the book?

Hilary Goldstein: They can check out the Hoodlum site

Stephanie Shamblin Gray: Anything else you would like to say about Hoodlum?

Hilary Goldstein: You can order a copy of the first volume, collecting issues 1-4, at your local comics shop right now! It comes out in August, but if you order in June you can be certain your local comic shop will have a copy for you.

Stephanie Shamblin Gray: Thank you, Hilary, and good luck with the book!


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