Hannibal Tabu has been the longtime writer of The Buy Pile at Comic Book Resources, and one of the closest things to a popular literary critic there is in comics. He's also been an outspoken advocate of lesser known innovative writers and ideas and recently he's the writer of a comic himself. Artifacts #35 from Top Cow Comics is the last in the series, and features the singular writing of Mr. Tabu. There are fewer than five Black people writing comics for the top three comic book companies. Hannibal Tabu is one of them. Top Cow is one of the very few options wholly new writing voices have to gain entry into an increasingly competitive industry. The Memphis born, L.A. based Tabu, and I spoke about his latest projects, including Will To Power.
How did you become involved in Artifacts?
I saw the announcement for the 2012 Top Cow Talent Hunt on some site or another and figured, "Hell, I've tried everything else." I spent months poring over every aspect of the shared universe I could find honing my pitch and discarding concepts that wouldn't work -- I kind of wanted Kenneth Irons or the Morningstar for the Alisa Spencer part, but went with chemistry over power. My wife and eldest daughter took a month long vacation that December with Semester at Sea's Enrichment Voyage, so I worked on my pitch every night, getting peer review from some trusted colleagues and contemporaries, and I was very blessed to win a spot as the final bell rang.
You've been a critic for a number of years, how have other critics responded to your work?
Hh. I don't really know. I saw a couple of reviews that were positive, but I haven't really looked around. Maybe I should Google myself... that sounded wrong...
You have been a longtime advocate of more black voices in comics. Why is this important?
I often quote the Ras Kass line, "The diameter of your knowledge is the circumference of your activity." If all that one knows is the same voices, then they will be stricken dumb by experiences outside of those voices. The Black perspective on the western world can be drastically different than the white one, and in voices like an Ava DuVernay, a Neil Drumming, a Marc Bernardin or a Geoffrey Thorne (and I'm just naming people who have already had national platforms, before drilling down to the Dani Dixons or Brandon Eastons of the world) you get such nuance, such richness that you cannot get from your Scorceses or your Tarantinos or your, sorry to say, Bendises (Bendii?) or Morrisons.
To quote Sting, "there is a deeper world than this, tugging at your hand." More Black voices, more Aboriginal voices, more Samoan voices... this can only enrich the quality of the work and elevate the discourse, not to mention expanding the audience, which is simply good for business.
A number of films like the upcoming, new takes on the Fantastic Four and Annie are featuring black actors in place of traditionally white ones. What's your take on the "outcry" of fans? Can we say that it's more (and maybe less) complicated than just saying it's racist?
My general take is that I don't care. I know that the standard comics can is far more conservative than they would care to admit (for all on the web who remember H.E.A.T. or the cries to bring back Barry, despite not being able to name more than one character element). They influence retailers (comics and movies), who buy heavy on the ideas of yesteryear and soft pedal on what's next.
You could easily say "that's racist" and have some element of accuracy, but there's more of an anti-intellectual, anti-discovery, anti-new undercurrent in western culture these days, and that makes it hard for anybody to work, inside or outside of the box.
Personally, I try to not get too worked up over multimillion dollar intellectual properties that I don't own. Well, except for Star Wars, and even there I have my limits. That's not to say I wouldn't run over a gaggle of orphans with my car if it meant getting a chance to write some Star Wars stories, but that's just because I'm a horrible human being.
What can we expect next?
From me? Well, Waso: Will to Power is a six part prose fantasy novella... I think it's six parts, if memory serves me. Anyway the first installment is free and that's being published electronically from Stranger Comics, set in their very involved and engaging fantasy world of Asunda. They have a development deal with Film Roman for their flagship property The Untamed, so I have to always know, "okay, don't kill this character because she has to be used here" and so on and so forth. Anyway, that first free installment of the prose novella goes live March 19th and will be released monthly after that. I'm already writing the third "episode" (the six parts are all one story, starting things off, and the second one is done), so there's tons of that stuff in the pipeline.
Also, I am writing four issues of Project: Wildfire for indie company Legends Press, which should be out in the fall. That's a fun superhero comic that's fully aware of the tropes and deals with a world's lone hero fighting a rash of "kaiju" giant monsters with his plasma blasts, super strength, flight and so on.
The last thing that NDAs will allow me to talk about is Menthu: The Anger of Angels, a three issue run for Hometown Productions. They haven't announced the book before it, which is a Menthu book by Todd Harris and Geoffrey Thorne, so when you see that, I'm up next.
What can we expect next from the universe? More of it's continuing march towards pan-galactic entropy, I'd suppose. Don't quote me on that, though...