Archive for Interviews

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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Interview with Will Terrell


Will Terrell by Will Terrell

This past weekend’s “Texas Country Reporter” segment on the Lubbock Sketch Club seems like a good time to present this short interview I did with the Sketch Club’s head honcho, Will Terrell.

Could you tell us something about yourself? Background, history, age, biography, etc…

I did not grow up in West Texas, in fact I moved around a whole lot before I ended up here. From Austin to Dallas to Denver to Houston and so on. Nine times in all. I moved to Lubbock my Senior year of High school and graduated in 1995 from Lubbock High.

I decided I wanted to make comic books for a living after graduation, mostly because I couldn’t really picture myself doing anything else. I’ve pretty much always been a storyteller. Even as a little kid I would make up invisible worlds wherever I was. Moving around so much, your imagination is pretty much all you have. I’d lay in bed, or in a field somewhere, and make up stories involving every person I knew going on some strange adventure or another with me. In retrospect, it was only natural for me to do that for the rest of my life.

How did the Sketch Club come about?

The Sketch Club came about from my experiences living in San Diego. I worked as a caricature artist out there at Seaworld and Legoland California. While there, I worked with hundreds of other professional artists — cartoonists, caricature artists, comic book artists, and so on. This environment, combined with the knowledge I attained studying at the Watts Atelier of the Arts, allowed me to learn more in a six month period than I’d learned in 10 years in West Texas. It was the entire culture of learning as a group and constantly challenging each other that inspired me to start the Sketch Club when I returned to Lubbock.

I don’t believe that Lubbock has any less talent than other cities, the problem is that there aren’t enough resources or opportunities to do something with it. In this I saw an opportunity for the Sketch Club. I’d been trying to start some sort of comic book artists group in Lubbock since the very beginning. I’ve tried lots of different ways of doing that. From publishing companies, to artist studios, to teaching classes and workshops. None of those seemed to work though. I can honestly say though, that the Lubbock Sketch Club is already enormously successful at what I intended it for. And it is only getting better and better.

Things look to be moving forward very quickly for y’all, especially with the new space at Asbury. Please tell us a little about the new space and all it entails? How quickly is the Sketch Club growing?

The Hope Shalom Community has provided a space for the Sketch Club to give hands-on art education to the community. We are very grateful for this opportunity. Our attitude is to be interactive with teaching and learning. To make the process fun and easy, and teaching people to teach themselves. This is why you’ll see us at local events covering 4 or 5 tables with artists of all ages drawing and having fun.

The new spaces at the Asbury United Methodist Church allow us to do several things. We’ve started with a weekly figure drawing/painting group and that has been very successful so far. It’s training that is available to anyone, that might otherwise be very hard to come by outside of a university (sometimes even INside of a university). In the spring we will begin the next phase of the Sketch Club by hosting monthly workshops on illustration, digital painting, cartooning, etc., as well as a weekly after-school program. We’re very excited about that.

The sketchclub seems to be growing at a steady pace. We just passed our first birthday in October, and we had 35 people show up to our weekly Freebirds Saturday Sketch Night. The numbers tend to fluctuate each week, but we average 20-30. And we’re constantly getting new people along with our regulars cycling through depending on their schedules. Our figure drawing group averages 6-10 people every Wednesday night, and we intend to grow that into multiple nights.

What do you have planned for the Sketch Club’s future?

In the immediate future, we are planning to publish our 3rd issue of the Sketch Club Sketchbook in January. Along with our first comic book anthology. We are also putting together our first comic book CONVENTION in conjunction with the Science Spectrum and Star Books and Comics scheduled for Saturday, May 3rd, 2008 (Free Comic Book Day!).

In the near future, we would like to do a lot more public events where we have tables set up where the general public is invited to sit and sketch with us. We did 4 this year. My favorite was the Lubbock Arts Festival, where we had over 400 people sit down to draw with us, and we did cartooning for kids workshops for more than 3,000 kids. I’d also like to start taking that into the local school systems.

In the long term, we intend to incorporate the Sketch Club and file as a non-profit art organization. And focus a lot of our energy into training artists to teach and putting them in after-school programs around the city. With an emphasis on teaching young artists to make a career out of their art, and providing the resources and opportunities for them to do that… while enjoying the process.

Is there anything else I should have asked you but forgot to?

There is no fee to join the Sketch Club. Just show up and participate! We meet every Saturday night from 7-10 p.m. at Freebirds world burrito, 4930 S. Loop 289. Also visit our website for more information:

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