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Russ Breimeier

A Different Kind of Hero

Retelling the gospel in a new rock opera

It started as a simple concept that grew into a fully developed idea, which took the shape of a song and eventually evolved into a rock opera. Shortly after that it expanded into the medium of comic books and then a trilogy of novels.

The phenomenon is called !Hero, and don't let the oddly placed exclamation point throw you—love it or hate it, it's there to call attention to the title. The vision behind !Hero stems from Eddie DeGarmo, best known as half of the Christian rock duo DeGarmo & Key, as well as the co-founder of Forefront Records. Currently the President of EMI Christian Music Publishing, DeGarmo has made !Hero a labor of love for more than ten years now. "I wanted to do a modern depiction of Christ that incorporated the culture of today," says the Christian music veteran. "I asked myself, What could I do to re-create the story of Jesus for the MTV Generation?"

DeGarmo started by writing a song called "Hero," the core of what has now evolved into a 33-track, two-hour rock opera. Since DeGarmo is a product of the late '60s and early '70s, it's natural to draw comparisons between !Hero and the messianic-themed rock operas of that era. This new creation combines the heart of Stephen Schwartz's Godspell with what is essentially the same story as Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar, set to music that is the modern rock and hip-hop equivalent of The Who's Tommy with the goals of a Billy Graham Crusade.

!Hero was written by two evangelically minded Christian music veterans, DeGarmo and his friend Bob Farrell (from Farrell & Farrell). A retelling of Christ's Passion through modern music, it's also a hypothetical glimpse of a parallel universe that is seeing the Word made flesh for the first time. "I'm not the first guy to do this kind of adaptation [of the Gospel]," says DeGarmo. "The difference for me was that I gave this particular version of the world 2,000 more years to get weirder. It's not a second coming, it's the first coming."

In the !Hero universe, ...

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