Saturday, 4 January 2014

Exclusive Interview with 2012 Top Cow Talent Hunt Winner Hannibal Tabu

I was lucky enough to get the chance to ask 2012 Top Cow Talent Hunt Winner Hannibal Tabu a few questions on being a winner of the contest.

How does it feel to be a winner of Top Cow’s Talent Hunt?

Outstanding. I had a chance to win something based on sheer merit, based solely on the work I did and to have Top Cow recognize me for that is an amazing feeling for which I am very grateful.

What influenced you in becoming a comic book writer?

So many things. I was a child, reading the Great Darkness Saga and having my brain flip over the scale of it all. Christopher J. Priest and Dwayne McDuffie have both been enormously inspirational and shared great wisdom with me. I love Kieron Gillen's creativity, I find Warren Ellis deeply entertaining, and recently I've come to adore the work of Geoffrey Thorne and Brandon Easton.

However, the seed of all my writing runs deeper, to Octavia Butler, to Douglas Adams, to Samuel Delany, to Isaac Asimov and Alex Haley and James Baldwin and Langston Hughes. Thaddeus Howze. Jack McKinney. Valjeanne Jeffers. Iain M. Banks. Balogun Ojetade. So many voices spurred me on.

I also owe an enormous debt to Eric Stephenson, who worked with me at Next Planet Over and encouraged me to apply for the Comic Reel job at Comic Book Resources, which has led to so many good things. I have been compelled to tell stories, to communicate, for as long as I can remember, and that drive to create and produce has never left me.  

What comics or writers inspire you?

We talked already about writers, so I'll talk about comics. I love SO much, as we live in a true golden age. Saga, Fables, Five Weapons, Gillen's Journey Into Mystery, Blood Syndicate, Concrete, Will Power, The Standard, Princeless, The In-Crowd, Super, Star Wars Agent of the Empire, Xombi, Transformers More Than Meet The Eye, Dusu: Path of the Ancient, the original Marvel Hama run of G.I. Joe, V for Vendetta, Icon, Menthu, Transmetropolitan, Priest's Black Panther, Hudlin's Black Panther, Pax Romana, Astro City, Voice in the Dark, Casanova, Herobear & Kid (my four-year-old loves it), Dream Thief, Think Tank, Vescell, Watson & Holmes, Double Jumpers, Molly Danger, Midnight Tiger ... there are so many good comics available today that it's scary how many people still rely upon, as they say, "the simple back and forth, the same." 

How does it feel working for a company like Top Cow?

I'm honored to fly the flag of one of comics' biggest iconoclasts, Marc Silvestri, and the legacy of hits the company has is virtually unbroken. The fact that they saw something in my work is an enormous privilege that I hope to live up to. They make gorgeous, high profile books and with titles like Think Tank, they show they're not just a pretty face. I couldn't be happier. 

Yes, that means I'm available to take on more work from them, by the way. 


 How does it feel to work on a series as popular as Artifacts?

Artifacts is a big world building series that stands at the foundation of Top Cow's continuity. For me, that meant having an enormous responsibility to maintain fidelity to that continuity and still tell a story that's personal and has real things at stake for the characters, that they have real motivations and inhabit spaces that feel like you can be there, even with super powers and what not. I'm very happy to have this opportunity and -- especially given my reviews column -- more than ready for the slings and arrows of outrageous (and anonymous) posters.

What do you love writing the most (dialogue, action, character interaction etc.) and what is your favourite genre to write?

Plot is where I feel the strongest sense of competency. However, whenever I am writing anything, the first thing I do is make an OHOTMU styled entry for each character, so I know who they are and can refer back to them. I use this as my guide, so whenever I get to a point in plotting (I do extensive outlines first) where I'm not so sure what to do, I go back and read the character write ups I did and determine what would that character do in the situation. Almost always leads me the right way.


Were you a fan of Artifacts prior to working on the series?

I was a fan of the concept. The idea that the Artifacts themselves are a puzzle, that solving it ends the universe, fascinates me.  Likewise, some of the individual artifacts -- the Spear of Destiny, the Glacier Stone turning anybody into Bobby Drake, the multifaceted uses of The Darkness ... I like a lot of what's going on there.

How does it feel to work alongside Nelson Blake II and do you feel he's shown your story as you imagined it?

The best part about Nelson is how he sat down with me and helped me understand a lot of the mechanics of the process in a way that I didn't really grasp at first. He's been in the game for a long time, and his knowledge and wisdom were invaluable to me in learning more about the craft.

Are you planning to work on any more issues of Artifacts and if not what are you planning on working on next?

Well, I'd have to defer part of that question to my brilliant, talented editor Betsy Gonia and her even more distinguished boss Matt Hawkins. If the phone rings and they're on the other end, my answer is "yes."  

However, thanks to the notoriety I gained from the announcement, I am pleased to say I have a lot more going on.  I am co-writing an issue of "Watson & Holmes" with "2 Guns" creator Steven Grant for New Paradigm Studios.  I am writing an issue of "Project: Wildfire" for Legends Press, and I'm doing a prose fantasy novel called "Waso: Will To Power" for Stranger Comics. If I read correctly, everything but "Project: Wildfire" will be available for sale in the first quarter of 2014, with a few more announcements to come later in the year, spirit willing.

What advice would you give an aspiring writer about tackling Top Cow’s Talent Hunt in the future?

Over perform. Spell check. Get peer review -- not from your friends or family, they're liars. Find people who know story and structure and writing but don't like you well enough to lie to you, and befriend them, then exploit that friendship as best as you can. Develop your craft. Seriously, spell check. Read the best of the best and study it, absorbing the lessons of their example. Study the source material as closely as you can, and live within the lives and personalities of the characters. Show up on time. For the love of pie, spell check that thing again, one typo can be the end of you. Master the fundamentals of story and structure, and leave it all on the field.  Be on time, be professional, be polite, don't be a jerk. Nobody owes you anything, so go out and get it through sheer volume and merit.  

I sincerely wish every contestant all the success in the world -- I always want to see more quality work.  

Artifacts #35 is on sale 19th Feburary.