Friday, May 17, 2013

My interview with Hannibal Tabu

Mr. Hannibal Tabu

Q: You’re a man who has his hand in a few things with in the sphere of the comic book medium. You write for Comic book Resources, what are the challenges and constraints of the job? Was journalism your first choice of vocation as it relates to the comic book industry?

A: The job now has almost no constraints.  I write pretty much whatever I want. I don't overdo the hyping of my own stuff. I review what I want. That was part of my agreement when I brought the column over from

Challenges are mostly time related -- flying twenty miles from my day gig, standing up for three or four hours in the shop as I read and trade bon mots with the usual suspects, reading until almost 1AM sometimes, and then writing reviews until almost sunrise. Wednesday my family gets less of me, so that's a challenge.
I'd been working professionally as a journalist since 1993, so comics were just another entertainment medium to cover, despite the fact I'd been reading them since first grade or so.  

Q: What can you tell us about the Good Man Project and your role in it?

A: It's a website. It has an audience. My business associate Thaddeus Howze Introduced me to the head honcho just as my Komplicated deal with was coming to a natural and amicable conclusion. Bing bam boom, I've got a Black geek channel on the Good Men Project where I can, again, do pretty much whatever I want.  

Q: You also have a piece in MV Media’s Steam Funk Anthology, which is a black perspective on the steam punk genre. Did the company approach you or did you approach them about putting a short story in the book? Was steampunk a genre you’ve always wanted to work in?

A:  As I noted in my blog on the subject...

... I didn't get the appeal of steampunk. I kind of get it now, but it's not my main area of focus. 

 Also as noted there, I saw a request-for-submissions on Facebook, I remembered my old creed as an emcee -- be able to rhyme on any beat -- and followed that as I go with my writing. Website blurbs, steamfunk stories, poetry, songs -- it's all writing, and I'm a writer, so I took on the challenge and I think it went fairly well. 

Q: Recently you won the Top Cow talent hunt for a story about Michael “Finn” Finnegan the Winter King, are you a fan of the character? Do you read Top Cow comics? What did you feel you could bring to the character of Finn that the character needed?

A: As part of my decade-long reviews column at CBR, I read fifty to seventy comics a week, so yes, there's Top Cow books in there. I wasn't a fan of Finn, but I quickly became one. He's a scoundrel in the Han Solo tradition, a reluctant hero and a hedonistic anti-hero. That's fun to read and fun to write. I looked at what was happening and thought I could tell a scoundrel story that would entertain, that would engage, and -- spirit willing -- would win. 

Tabu's first novel, The Crown: Ascension
Q: Tell us a little about your experience as a journalist, have you worked in other journalistic outlets that didn’t have to deal with “nerd culture?” How was it different from what you’re doing now?

A: Heh. Well, as noted, I've worked as a professional journalist since 1993. Interviews, hard news, reviews of many stripes, columns, I've done it all. I have edited two national magazines. I ran a community newspaper in LA for six years. I have been a part of a staff that won two Eisners. Black Enterprise, MTV, AOL, Vibe (the original) ... I try to stay in circulation.  There's no real difference. The fundamentals of journalism -- fact checking, not using first person perspectives, clarity, et cetera -- don't change based on what the story is about. Rare cases call for variances -- playing chess with the GZA from Wu-Tang for a story leaps to mind -- but it's mostly basic stuff from journalism school and most writing programs.

Q: Have you experienced any racism with in the industry whether intentional or accidental? How do you view the industry’s treatment of underrepresented characters? How do you think this can be addressed?

A: Ha! Well ... I said a lot of what needed to be said on the topic of racism in the arena of writing for mainstream comics here...

... In that, the raw statistics are pretty racist. I can't name a single openly racist individual I've ever met in comics, but stuff has happened. The disasters in Wakanda. The tedium of Batwing. The fact that only 20 Black people have ever written more than one issue for, essentially, 70% of the audience, with Dwayne McDuffie and Christopher Priest accounting for most of those issues. DC hasn't had a Black writer since early 2011. Marvel hasn't had a Black writer since 2009. Racist facts and a possibly racist system, despite my not having any empirical evidence of identifiably racist people.  

I can't say how Massa should run his house. I can build the best house I can with the materials on hand, in the traditions of hip hop, jazz and our diasporic forebears, making a way out of no way. I have two comics due before 2014 that will reach some of the remaining 30% of the audience, as will geniuses like Geoffrey Thorne or Dani Dixon or Marc Bernardin. I do the best work I can while never forgetting how the facts lay down. Raised a southerner, I grew up knowing I had to work three times as hard for half the credit. As reality is currently configured, that's just the way it is. 

Tabu's second novel Faraway

Q: What are your goals a writer and do you have any advice for budding journalists or comic creators of color?
A: Goals? Well, ideally I'd like to grow an empire so vast that calling me the Black George   Lucas would be fair, but realistically, if I end up as the Black John Scalzi, I'd say I beat the bank. I still aim my wars at the stars.

As for advice...

- Shut up and write
- Seriously, shut up and write
- Doing the work and selling the work are two wholly different jobs -- deal with it
- Nobody owes you anything
- Nobody cares about your story until you make them care
- Follow the words of Yasiin Bey, "... burn through your arguments with action."
- Did I say shut up and write?
- It’s better to choose than be chosen
- Learn as much as you can about as much as you can, it makes your writing better
- Brevity is the sister of talent
- There’s always somebody better, faster, hired more often, paid more, et cetera. They don't matter. As Dilated People said, "pace yourself so you can face yourself/run hard, you really only race yourself."
- Future you thinks present day you was incompetent. Prove them right. Improve the craft.
-In all seriousness, shut up and write 

Q: Do you have any new projects other than the Top Cow story in the works? If so tell people where they might be able to find them and find you?

A: Yep.

For Stranger Comics, I'm writing the fantasy prose serial Waso: Will To Power about a shattered tribe of wild elves fighting to have a place in an unforgiving world. That's out in July,

On Saturday, it was announced I'm writing an issue of Watson & Holmes, an urban take on the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle classic detective, alongside Steven Grant (2 Guns). Also slated to write issues: Larry Hama, Brandon Easton and Chuck Dixon. They're doing this via their fully funded Kickstarter, I think that's out this fall.

My third novel, the sci-fi political thriller Rogue Nation should be out ... maybe this fall (just got it back from editors), following my first two, The Crown: Ascension and Faraway (both available digitally pretty much everywhere). I also believe Komplicated will have A. Darryl Moton's brilliant book of music essays, tentatively called The Perfect Chord, out by Malcolm X's birthday (I'm editing that). That data will be on

Oh, I am writing the Egyptian superhero story Menthu: The Anger of Angels with art by Robert Roach and some others, but that street date isn't concrete. 

Of course, there are weekly reviews at Comic Book Resources and whatever may come at Komplicated on the Good Men Project. 

The Top Cow issue, I think, should be December or January, maybe in time for my birthday. 

I think that's all I can talk about in public right now. I tweet all my news @hannibaltabu & update my website ( whenever I can. I just try to keep in circulation as best as I can.


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