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Hard Hats: The Only Superhero Action Real Estate Comic Book You're Likely To See

It was just another day for Del O'Malley, owner of Bolt Construction Co., who was overseeing the construction of a major Downtown Chicago building. 

That is, until a wrecking ball crane runs amok, threatens a school full of children next door, and inspires Del to spiral down 15 floors, swinging around steel girders — with super strength and agility he did not know he had — to stop the rogue machine and save the kids just in time.

Detail from the cover of Hard Hats

That is only the beginning for Del, the main character in a recently published 32-page comic book called Hard Hats, which has an unusual subject for that medium: the construction industry. 

There are also a few added twists not generally found in real-world construction, such as random explosions, superpowers, sabotage, an evil twin, dark secrets, karate, menacing holograms and a crew foreman who quotes Shakespeare.

And of course there is more than one berserk machine (set off by the villain) trying to run down innocent bystanders or otherwise wreak havoc. Such as a bulldozer:

A bulldozer with a mind of its own, out to destroy a truck.

And a steamroller with evil on its mind:

An unmanned steamroller chasing hapless high school band members

Real estate developer Robert Frankel, himself based in Chicago's northern suburbs, created the comic. He and Roberto Gutierrez wrote the story, which was drawn by Francis Penavic and inked by Rage Ledbetter and Rich Perez.

Robert Frankel

"I'm a frustrated screenwriter, and spent about a year writing a screenplay about real estate that didn't go anywhere, so I thought it would be good to actually get something published," Frankel said. "I had a writing partner, and we spent about a year at it, and it was a lot of fun to write."

Why the real estate orientation? "Write what you know," he said. "I know real estate." 

During the 1990s and 2000s, Frankel renovated buildings to create loft space and developed mid-rise apartments, mostly in the South Loop of Chicago. Since the end of the recession, he has specialized in renovating and renting North Shore single-family residential properties. 

He said a comic book, like a real estate project, is a genuinely collaborative effort. Frankel, Gutierrez and artist Penavic, who had experience drawing comics, spent a fair amount of time together hashing out the story and what it would look like.

"Every single cell has to be like a camera shot, and you have to make the artwork and dialogue work together — one cell at a time," Frankel said.

The comic is fast-paced and the artwork kinetic, such as when Del spirals down a construction site.

Del to the rescue

Or when Del and girlfriend Sara hit the dojo.

What's an action comic without a little karate?

There is a lot of variety when it comes to sound-effect words: GRRRRING! KA-THUNG! and FA-TOOOM!, just to name a few.

The school is saved!

The result is an entertaining yarn.

The end says TO BE CONTINUED, but Frankel said he has not made up his mind about that. Much depends on the reaction to Hard Hats, which is the first of an unusual genre, real estate action superhero comics.

Related Topics: comics, Robert Frankel