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Comics: Fortunate (or “How I Broke Into Comics”)

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I’m writing this on February 15, the day I got the email, the day I “broke in” to comics. When I finally post it, I should have a link to go here about the official announcement (hope I remember to add that).

I was sitting in a Burbank conference room, finishing up a somewhat dull but partially productive meeting, when I saw the “new email” light on my phone flash. While voices droned on the speakerphone, I read …

“I’ve decided to go with three winners and you’re one … I like what you did.”

There was other stuff in the email — logistics and what not, but who cares? I only grasped two words: I won.

I won the 2012 Top Cow Talent Hunt. Me. Really.

By merit alone, with nothing more than ideas spilling from my head, crap I found on Google and stuff told to me by a co-worker who’d been to a certain country where my story takes place … I’d won, beating out a lot of really good competitors.

Wow.

Michael Finnegan in icy form -- no diamonds

Winter is coming

I held it together until I could walk back down to my car, where I squealed like a Whedonite meeting Nathan Fillion, called and then texted my wife (my toddler was napping) so elatedly it almost broke my Android phone’s dictation.

The second thing I felt was an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Driving south on the 5 freeway as the sun heated the Burbank area to 80 degrees after a week of highs in the sixties, I kept thinking of all the people who helped me, who encouraged me, who introduced me to people or opened doors for me or helped make an environment where I could succeed, where I could let some of the crazy stuff inside my head out and into the world for people to (hopefully) pay for it.

This list cannot be complete. I’m sure I’ll forget somebody, even by the time I eventually hit “publish” on this blog. This is a good number of them, people to whom I owe a great debt in terms of helping me break into yet another industry. In no particular order …

  • Eric Stephenson (I wouldn’t have gotten to CBR without him, I’d just be a jackass Usenet and message board guy)
  • Christopher J. Priest (so much advice, so many good examples of how to do the work)
  • Dwayne McDuffie (anedge hirak, showed me some of what winning was like, also shared so much wisdom with me)
  • Jonah Weiland (who took a chance and hired me at CBR, endured my lunacy and found a way for us to work together)
  • Geoffrey Thorne (a bawse in every sense, who’s showing me ways to change the game)
  • Tchise Aje (who helped hone the sword of my writing)
  • Brandon Easton (ditto Geoffrey — watch for us, I’d wager)
  • Allen S. Gordon (my editor at Rap Pages who got me into the column game before blogs even existed)
  • Robert Roach (look for his name below)
  • Dale Wilson (our Antidote Trust cohort)
  • Sebastian A. Jones (Stranger Comics visionary and all around friend of decades)
  • Joe Rybandt (the first person to ever say “yes” to me in comics, no matter how it all turned out)
  • Adam Fortier (the second)
  • Warren Ellis (despite the fact he blocked my email, he taught me to be fearless & try anything to tell the stories)
  • Peter J. Harris (my “father” in writing)
  • David Walker (always on my side)
  • David Gallaher (such a great creative partner, would love to work with him someday)
  • Steven Grant (taught me a lot about the game)
  • Regina Jones (who taught me how to be a professional, such a great mentor)
  • Rumond Taylor (a reader and supporter since my Rap Pages days
  • Jeff Katz (another strong believer in my voice and my work)
  • Kwanza Johnson (who saw the mobile thing coming way before anybody else)
  • Vincent Moore (my retail and business partner, colleague, editor and friend)
  • Kevin Grevioux (who showed me how to stay determined)
  • Larry Hama (who taught me more with G.I. Joe than I could ever repay, also, look below)
  • Jason Smith (my Chi-town brother and future collaborator on … well, it’s too soon to say)
  • Michael Datcher (who welcomed me as a friend and as a writer to the Anansi Writers’ Workshop at LA’s World Stage, and therefore helped me get a lot better)
  • Vince Hernandez (constant encouragement, nascent emcee and a great friend who I hope to work with one day)
  • John Layman (he thinks I hate him, I find him hilarious, and he’s shown me so much on how to diversify the work and the revenue streams while remaining true to yourself)
  • Thaddeus Howze (got me on to the Good Men Project, fantastic and creative writer)
  • Nedra Jenkins (the first person I shared my fiction with)
  • Savas Abadsidis (a true supporter in every shape of the word)
  • Eric Battle (my first comics collaborator, no matter how it all turned out)
  • Steve LeClaire (owner of Comics Ink, who saw the logic in The Buy Pile and has supported it since before it was what it is now)
  • Jenoyne Adams (another writer of amazing talent who’s been a friend, road dawg and supporter from way back)
  • Chinedum Ofoegbu (my personal Darth Maul, who encouraged me when he didn’t even know it)
  • A. Darryl Moton (my personal Vader, he’s next)
  • Marsha Mitchell Bray (my big sister, my editor many times over, a fantastic mentor)
  • Myshell Tabu (my wife, my life, my support, my dream, my everything)

… and last, but certainly not least, Top Cow EIC Matt Hawkins, for saying “yes.” I’m probably forgetting lots of people, but I appreciate them as well, I’m just an airhead.

Some quick Q&A:

“Will you tell me what your comic is about?”

No. Wait until it hits. I had to use all Top Cow characters, so you might be able to narrow it down eventually, but it’ll probably be faster to wait. Anything you wanna know that I can say can be found in the exclusive coverage from CBR.

“How did you do it?”

I followed the rules to an alarming degree of compliance. I sought out and implemented peer review, so I wasn’t flying blind. I followed the advice of elders and people who had gotten published in the industry. I focused on character and plot with equal determination. I acted like I would never get another chance and I left it all on the field. I am also extraordinarily, dangerously blessed.

However, until I have the book in my hands, it hasn’t really happened yet, so I’m still walking on eggshells in some cases.

“What’s next?”

Well, I already had an indie project in the works for … well, hopefully some time this year, the three part Menthu: The Anger of Angels with Robert Roach. Oh. here’s some art from that …

An action scene from Menthu: The Anger of Angels

A two-page action scene from Menthu: The Anger of Angels, art by Robert Roach

I have that about half scripted, and most of the penciling is done. I also have to really pimp my books, The Crown: Ascension, Faraway and the third book, which isn’t ready yet (still with editors) — all building blocks for my own personal shared fictional universe. Oh, and I was just in the Steamfunk! anthology from MV Media, which I liked doing a great deal. So, writing more stuff (I have another novel due in 2015) and pimping what’s here.

Oh, and I’m moderating a panel at California State University, Los Angeles on May 1st at 3:15 called Color Inside the Lines: Superheroes of a Different Hue, which will have as its panelists the aforementioned Kevin Grevioux and Larry Hama, as well as Tone Rodriguez. My goal is to figure a way to live stream it. I’ll see if I can pull that off.

I don’t have anything else lined up immediately (that I can talk about, but I am working on some stuff behind the scenes, as all hustlers should be — apologies to Jai Nitz). I don’t believe in discussing details of deals that aren’t done. Yes, I like alliteration. I make no apologies for that.

“Wait, didn’t you say Black people couldn’t get hired to write in mainstream comics?”

I said it was insanely hard for Black writers to get hired by DC or Marvel, which remains true. I just got hired to write, essentially, an Image comic. Image keeps Jimmie Robinson on regular rotation (Five Weapons!). They brought Enrique Carrion’s Vescell to the party. They even did Mario Gully’s Ant. I’ve got zero beef with Image.

“Have you been drinking?”

Shut up, you don’t *hic* know me …

Okay, back to the grind. Also, thank you for reading these words and playing along at all. I am extraordinarily grateful.

Playing (Music): “Take Over The World” by Kidz in the Hall feat. Just Blaze and Colin Monroe

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