“How do you fight violence without being violent?” Robert Drake wants to know. “You look around and see things that happen, things like hate crimes, and you wonder why people don’t go to extremes to protect themselves.” The author/literary agent, a gentle soul who sometimes attends Quaker meetings, explores that issue in his Plume paperback The Man: A Hero for Our Time (Book 1: Why?). The Man, a gay superhero, begins his crime-fighting career when his lover is murdered by a serial gay-basher. But, says Drake, “It’s not like Batman where Bruce Wayne’s parents are killed and he becomes the Dark Knight….The Man wants to remain a normal person,” and is troubled by his use of force to combat homophobia. Drake conceived The Man as an illustrated novel; black-and-white sketches by illustrator Derrick Buisch open each chapter, and Drake’s visually oriented language does “reflect a comics sensibility,” as he intends. Yet a more traditional graphic-novel approach might have been more effective, for Buisch’s drawings are entirely nondescript, barely serving to establish the volume’s bleak mood. Nevertheless, sequels are in the works: “Book 2 [which will be set in D.C.] is scheduled for June of ’96, and if I have it my way, there will be another in June of ’97 that will conclude the present series,” Drake says. He also wants The Man to become a full-fledged comic book, à la the now-defunct series about gay heroes North Star and Spectral. No matter what happens, Drake’s publishing career seems secure; with co-editor Terry Wolverton, he’s compiling gay and lesbian anthologies titled His and Hers for Faber and Faber.