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In Character with Jim Hardison

A conversation with an interesting Portlander
by: L.E. BASKOW What would you do if you had a magical helmet with super powers? Jim Hardison, author of the Helm comic, asks it for advice – and sometimes receives shocking answers.

Back in 2008 Jim Hardison, co-owner of local marketing firm Character, hit the jackpot so many Portland creative types have their eyes on. Dark Horse Comics published his comic book, 'The Helm,' which has since garnered a library association award for one of the top 10 graphic novel collection for teens. And the Helm has begun appearing online at thehelmcomic.com, in which the Helm, a magical talking helmet, gives supposedly sage advice.

Or maybe it's rosemary.

Anyway, it's spicy.

Portland Tribune: So what's up with 'The Helm Speaks?'

Jim Hardison: I was looking for something I could do on a website that I could refresh every day. I decided on words of wisdom from the Helm. The goal was to put up a new one every day for a year.

Tribune: A favorite one?

Hardison: I like, 'Do not just beat the odds, maim and kill them.' The Helm is a violent person.

Tribune: Are you concerned what fans might do with this advice?

Hardison: No. I figure if anybody's a fan of the comic they've probably got a fairly good sense of humor and they're aware of the dark side of the Helm. And it's kind of a fun way to personally vent.

Tribune: Another bit of advice?

Hardison: Most enemies will lose their composure and begin making critical mistakes the moment one of their eyes is gouged out. So go for the eyes.

Tribune: Probably true. But what in the world made you come up with that? You've got children.

Hardison: My children have to get to be 13 before I let them read the Helm or The Helm Speaks. And I'm hoping that by then they'll have learned not to gouge people's eyes out.

Tribune: Which makes me wonder, are they gouging now?

Hardison: No. They're 5 and 10.

Tribune: Woolworth's? Anyway, that's prime gouging age.

Hardison: That's past gouging age for girls and they're both girls. Boys, I think, continue gouging eyes until they're fully grown.

Tribune: One more piece of Helm advice?

Hardison: Shut thine blowhole, focus thine minuscule attentions and drive thine accursed vehicle.

Tribune: You're telling people to hang up and drive.

Hardison: I wrote that one immediately after getting into work one morning after nearly being run off the road by someone talking on a cell phone.

Tribune: What have you learned from the Helm, a hero with a superpower that hates his guts?

Hardison: Not anything funny. I think the Helm came out of some dissatisfaction I had with where I was as a person. I was putting on weight, not doing the things I wanted to do. The sense I had was the major thing I had that blocked me was just laziness. I started thinking how nice it would be to have a merciless personal trainer who would hold me to a lot higher standard.

Tribune: So have you taken your own character's advice to heart?

Hardison: After writing the Helm I lost 10 pounds.

Tribune: But have you rescued any damsels in distress?

Hardison: I have two daughters. Every single day there's some distress.

Tribune: The Helm was your first comic. Any oddities to the comic book world you've come across?

Hardison: There was a brief period when the Helm was out of print, and the price of copies skyrocketed. There was a copy for sale on Amazon for $999.

Tribune: How did that happen?

Hardison: It said on Amazon, 'Out of print. Unavailable.' Apparently those are magic words. I like to believe that people got desperate to have their copy.

Tribune: More comics in your future?

Hardison: I'm working on a science fiction story called, 'Baby Is Unstoppable.' The premise is, how dangerous would a superhero be when they were an infant?

Once you have kids you realize how incredibly great their power is over your life. The story is told through the eyes of the woman the government has kidnapped and forced to be their nanny, and that's because the last three nannies have been vaporized.

Tribune: How are your nannies at home?

Hardison: I don't have nannies.

Tribune: Uh oh.