Archive for Pilot Season

Pilot Season winners announced!

If ya ain’t heard the news yet, Top Cow has announced the winners of their second annual Pilot Season event — they’re Troy Hickman and Reza’s “Twilight Guardian” and Mark Bernardin, Adam Freeman, and Afua Richardson’s “Genius.” Both titles are going to get their own ongoing series sometime next year.

I previously reviewed both “Twilight Guardian” and “Genius” — both of them got thumbs-ups, and I’m very eagerly awaiting both of the ongoing series next year.

‘Gratz to the winnahs!

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Pilot Season voting underway!

If you’ve been reading Top Cow’s “Pilot Season” comics, it’s finally time to start voting on your favorites.

Just go to Top Cow’s website or the “Pilot Season” MySpace page and cast your vote. You can vote once a day for the entire month of August. The top two vote-getters will get their own series next year.

I’ve enjoyed all the “Pilot Season” books I’ve read this year — it’s too bad that they can’t all get their own series.

(I’ve previously reviewed “Twilight Guardian,” “Genius,” and “Urban Myths” and interviewed the creators of “Genius.”)

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Foreign Relations


Urban Myths #1

Part of Top Cow’s “Pilot Season” promotion, this one is set in a world where the culture and magic of Ancient Greece survived to the present day. All the buildings look like Greek temples, the cops are centaurs, fauns throw frisbees in the park, minotaurs drive beat-up junker pickups. Our protagonist is a private eye named Jack Kaklamanis, but everyone calls him Jack Medusa, because his mom was, um, the Medusa. That means Jack has snakes for hair, and he has to wear a metal mask to keep from turning everyone around him to stone. One of his few allies is his blind, widowed dad, who helps maintain his mask.

So Jack has been hired to track down a missing girl. He petrifies a couple of redneck cyclopes, but is making no real progress in the case — until he realizes that the girl’s father died recently, so she may have decided to make an unauthorized trip to Hades to visit him. So Jack has to travel to the Underworld to retrieve her, and he has to hurry, or they’ll both be trapped there forever…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Jack Medusa is a really entertaining and appealing character, and the Greek setting is simultaneously familiar and alien, so it looks like the kind of place where you’ll always find something interesting.


Captain Britain and MI-13 #3

The Skrulls have invaded England and taken control of Avalon, the source of Earth’s magic. Things look hopeless — the normal humans and superheroes in England can’t stand long against the Skrulls, the few heroes and mystical creatures left in Avalon can’t hold out long, no one’s left who’s noble enough to draw Excalibre from the stone, and Pete Wisdom is going to have to turn to the forces of evil to fight the alien hordes. But it turns out that unleashing the evils in Avalon, he’s also empowered Merlin himself to work his magic, which he uses to resurrect a certain recently-deceased superhero.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The whole thing was pretty good (John the Skrull and Faiza Hussain are great fun), but this really earns its marks for the scene with all the British flags being whipped off their flagpoles to form the new body of Cap Britain…

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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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Twilight Obsession


Twilight Guardian #1

This is the weirdest comic I’ve read in a while.

I picked it up because I recognized Troy Hickman’s name and had been pretty pleased with the stuff I’d seen of his previously, and because I was in the mood to pick up something new and different. It’s part of Top Cow Productions’ “Pilot Season” promotion, where six new series are introduced, and the two that get the most votes from readers will get a new ongoing series next year.

The story focuses on the Twilight Guardian, a young woman in a hoodie and domino mask who patrols “a nine block area between Sandusky Avenue and Aurora Drive.” She doesn’t have powers, and there’s no real crime in her surburban neightborhood. Why does she do this every night? No idea. She’s broken somewhere, mentally, and somehow, it helps her to obsess over being a vigilante. And she is obsessed — she’s thinks out every last bit of her crusade, from the perfect crimefighting uniform, to the roll of quarters and ninja climbing claws she carries but never needs, to the comics she reads before going on patrol, to the homemade jerky she takes along to placate angry dogs.

So what happens? Nothing happens. She goes on patrol night after night, and nothing ever happens. I mean, nothing comic-booky happens. There’s no alien invasion, no supervillains, no natural disasters, no bank robberies. She goes on patrol, watches people in her neighborhood, encounters a lot of different black cats who want her beef jerky, and thinks about the importance of her “mission.”

And I think I like it. I don’t know that it’d be possible to sustain an ongoing series of this, but it’s a fascinating character study. I doubt she’d fare very well if she ever ran into a real crisis or a supervillain — she has to screw up her courage even to tell loiterers to move along — but I’d love to see how she came to this point in her life, and if she ever manages to come to grips with whatever drives her to pretend to be a vigilante.

Verdict: Thumbs up.

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