Archive for Afua Richardson

Real Men of Genius: An Interview with Adam Freeman and Marc Bernardin

With any luck, you’ve already heard of Top Cow’s “Pilot Season” promotion, now in its second year. Basically, Top Cow picks a few of its creators, lets ’em create a new series, lets readers vote on their favorites, and the two that get the most votes get awarded a new ongoing series next year.

One of the entries in this summer’s “Pilot Season” is a story called “Genius,” about a girl named Destiny Ajaye who organizes Los Angeles’ gangs and takes on the LAPD. It’s written by Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman, the creators of “The Highway Men” and “Monster Attack Network,” with art by Afua Richardson. When they’re not creating comics, all three have other jobs, too — Marc is a senior editor at “Entertainment Weekly,” Adam is a TV producer who’s worked on everything from “Gene Simmons: Family Jewels” to “Total Request Live,” and Afua is a professional singer, songwriter, voice actress, musician, and graphic artist.

Adam and Marc offered me an opportunity to interview them, and I jumped at the chance.


HERO SANDWICH: Can you tell us something about your lead character, Destiny Ajaye? Personality, background, motivation, you name it… Is she a hero, a villain, or mid-way in-between?

ADAM: Destiny is a 17 year old girl from South Central L.A. She has been surrounded by violence, drugs, street crime etc. her whole life. She decides she is the one that will do something about it. Every generation has its military genius – Hannibal, Napolean, Patton…who is to say Destiny is not ours? I guess hero or villain doesn’t really apply to her. She is doing what she feels she needs to do to ensure survival. And she’s hot.

MARC: It’s always worth remembering that every villain is the hero of his or her own story, and that good and evil are subjective labels. It’s like, the only thing that separates a cult from a religion is numbers. From her perspective, I think she sees merit in what she’s doing, even if she becomes the necessary evil.

HS: How did y’all come up with and approach the story? Is this a story that’s been kicking around your brains for a while?

MARC: I’m a junkie for Discovery/History/Learning Channel documentaries–I could watch those all day long. Anyway, I caught one a couple of years ago about the Middle American Militia culture, and one of these dudes was asked why they’re training so hard. And he said something like “Because you don’t think those gang-banging animals aren’t training? That’s all their lives are, learning to exist under fire, and learning to kill. We need to be ready.” And as he trailed into ranting about the inevitable race war, it planted a seed: What if these people had a leader, a real battlefield commander? What couldn’t they do, unafraid and organized?

ADAM: I have always been fascinated with prodigies. How many go undiscovered because they are not put in contact with their gift? Who says a brilliant strategist or military mind has to be born to an upper crust West Point family?

HS: The descriptions I’ve heard of the story make it sound like something with a fairly strong political focus. A story about LA’s gangs, lead by a teen girl, taking on the LAPD sounds like something that’d have something to say about racial politics, cop culture, feminism, and more. Can you talk a little about the comic’s politics, if any?

ADAM: What I find interesting about “Genius” is that everyone who reads it will imprint their politics or racial feelings onto it. I actually don’t think it is political. It is pretty neutral, as far as the storytelling goes, in that it is “documenting” an event. It doesn’t take sides. How you interpret it will say more about your politics than ours.

MARC: Yeah, neither of us have any axes to grind. We’re not looking to further any sort of agenda; we just went where the story took us. We both first came into comics in the late ’70s/early ’80s, and one of my favorite books ever was Marvel’s “What If?” series. This is, essentially, our version of a What If book, but instead of flights and tights, we’ve got ‘bangers and Barettas.


HS: I’ve already heard some good buzz about the artwork in “Genius.” Could you tell us a little about Afua Richardson and how she’s approaching the book?

ADAM: Buzz is good. She has completely blown us away. I don’t know how to describe her style. It is gritty, but clean. Sexy, aggressive, even elements of pop art at times. Marc is better with the fancy words.

MARC: When we were searching for artists for our first book, the AiT/Planetlar graphic novel Monster Attack Network, I spent long hours trawling the internet, just link-diving from artist website to artist website. I stumbled across her online portfolio and thought “She’s not right for giant monsters trampling Tokyo, but she’s pretty awesome.” So I bookmarked and kept going. Flash-forward three years, and Rob Levin at Top Cow was asking who we’d like to do the Genius art. I tossed out her name and he said, “You know, I’ve got her card right here.” And it all fell into place. We couldn’t be happier: not only does she have a terrific line, and an amazing design sense, but she’s a phenomenal colorist. Her palette is breathtaking.

ADAM: I told you. I just woulda said she draws good.

HS: How did you and Marc come to work in comics? It doesn’t seem like the type of career path we’d expect for a senior editor at a major weekly magazine and a reality-TV producer… 🙂

ADAM: Marc and I have known each other since 5th grade. We have been writing partners for years writing TV and film specs. We are lifelong comic fans going back to the Marvel/Electric Company “E-Z To Read” comics with the little Morgan Freeman logo on them. Marc was instrumental is getting EW to cover comic books and he made so many great relationships we thought, “This is our chance to do something we always dreamed of.” I personally think our day jobs have perfectly prepared us for this new line of work – we have learned to tell stories, respect deadlines and pry our eyelids open till the job is done.

MARC: I just wanted to blow stuff up. This seemed the safest route.

HS: How do y’all rate your chances in this year’s Pilot Season?

ADAM: That’s a tough one. The competition is pretty fierce. I hear that “Lady Pendragon” dude has some pull at Top Cow (we kid!) “Genius” admittedly is a different kind of book and I hope all the people that claim to be open to something new really are. We hope this issue really leaves you wanting more, because we have some unbelievable stuff planned if given the chance. You would not believe where this baby is gonna go. Regardless, it is a story we were passionate to tell so even if we don’t win we got tell a little piece of it.

MARC: I think it’s 6-to-5 and pick ’em. (I don’t know what that means, but I heard Leo McGarry say that once on The West Wing, and always thought it sounded cool.) Seriously, all of the Pilot Season books have something special going for them. I wouldn’t count any of them out. But we’re gunning for the Number One spot, for sure.

HS: Are there any questions I should’ve asked but didn’t, or any other info you wanna make sure gets out about “Genius” or anything else?

ADAM: We were just named as two of Wizard’s “28 Titans to Watch” (I think that is the title), which is pretty cool. Highwaymen was released as a tpb. We have a bunch of anthology work coming up: A western book from Image, a bonus story in a Grunts tpb to be released by Arcana; a resurrection of a classic pulp character – The Sphinx. If you see us at the San Diego Con please say hello. We don’t bite… hard.

“Genius” hits the stores this week. It sounds more and more interesting the more I hear about it, so I’m fer sure gonna try to grab a copy.

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