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Free Agency: Back On The Market (Professionally Speaking)

Posted in 104, business on February 5th, 2014 by Hannibal Tabu
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As of Monday, I will officially be back on the open market after five and a half years with a major integrated managed care organization (MIMCO).

I learned a lot during my time with MIMCO, made some great friends and have no regrets that my time there has come to a close. I’m excited to move forward with new opportunities and new accomplishments.

What am I available to do? I’m glad you asked — I’ll list from lowest to highest level of committment.

  • FREELANCE WRITING AND EDITING: Blurbs to articles, marketing to journalism, comic books to prose fiction, retail to internal communications.
  • DJ/KARAOKE HOSTING: The largest events I’ve done were concert venues, the smallest were private parties in a home. Ready to deliver good times.
  • WEB PRODUCTION: From wireframes to final deployments, I’ve ushered more websites from concept to execution than I can remember. Small accounts and large.
  • LONG TERM PROJECT/PRODUCT MANAGEMENT: When you need someone to make sure the trains run on time, that things keep going right after you did it the first time.

I can do a number of other things, but I normally stay focused on these areas.

Feel free to contact me with any opportunities or inquiries.

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Funky Cold Medina … Or Timbuktu? Building the world of my Steamfunk story

Posted in 104, business, cheap publicity, creativity, culture, entertainment, fiction, shameless pandering, writing on April 6th, 2013 by Hannibal Tabu
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This is one of a series of blogs promoting the Steamfunk! anthology by MV Media, which features my short story “The Sharp Knife of a Short Life.” This blog was supposed to publish on March 7th alongside ones from other writers in the anthology. Woops. Here we go …

When creating my “steamfunk” story, one of my biggest goals was to not place it on Earth in some kind of alternative history space. “Hannibal, what’s wrong with you? That’s where steampunk is from!” I know. That’s also one of the elements I don’t like about it. Sure, stories like “Men in Black” or the one positing a Black nation in the continental space of north America might feel good, but for me they only remind me of our failures as a people (which is why I would write that sort of wish fulfillment stuff in the future, therefore hoping it could still happen). So, I had to get the heck off of Earth … which led me to Pless.

I created the “planet” Pless for a number of logistical reasons that’d help me in telling the story. I could perfectly set the technological level to whatever I wanted it to be, which was crucial in establishing this as a “steamfunk” style of story, with all the brass and pageantry and pneumatics and what have you. Normally, I go for more … esoteric and futuristic technologies (which savvy readers might note at the end of my work, the moment linking this story to my larger fictional universe), so this was a challenge but one I accepted in looking at the assignment.

Another reason is that Pless’ ambiguous racial history allowed me to sidestep the aforementioned challenges that alternative history poses for my sometimes overcritical brain. The arguable “love interest” is essentially Latino. Two main characters are Black. The lieutenant governor (or whatever I made him, I barely remember some days) was white (based on some late 1800s politician I looked up). The town’s madam is an ambiguous Asian mix. There’s a whole new race that’s nothing like anybody else. Add that to the flora and fauna differences and my little alien “steamfunk” world is almost a character in and of itself.

Finally, growing up at the foot of my great uncle while he religiously tuned in to Gunsmoke gave me a deep sense of possibility in those old western tropes, if I could just sci-fi ‘em up a bit (apologies to Firefly fans). Pless became my untamed frontier, a striking contrast to the super-technological trappings of ‘Dam Clara Perry, a much broader expanse for my lunacy than cobblestone streets lit by gaslamps, patrolled by constables and what gave you.

Where is Pless? Ah, that’d be revealing a big part of Clara Perry’s overall story, which would continue if the proposed Dieselfunk anthology comes along or if I do a set of short stories past the one on my current docket (seeming more likely as more ideas come to me). Suffice it to say there are well-considered reasons for dropping our cryo-frozen NASA scientist there and I have every intention of finishing the larger story begun here. Maybe I just need a new country music song to get me inspired …

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The camera shop was a suggestion from the real NASA scientist who consulted, as she said it’d be a place where strange smells and exotic chemicals and/or technology wouldn’t be looked at too oddly and she could continue the real work, using the “futuristic” technology she brought with her. That worked out really well for what I needed to accomplish for the “apprentice” Jenny Taylor.

I also had to give this place its own depth and nuances, like a fully realized culture. Creating their shared religion, with elements familiar yet haunting differences, was important. They believe in a trinity, but it’s a distant father god Avshalom who sparked life and then buggered off to explore the cosmos, a nurturing, forgiving mother god Iya’a and a daughter Muhsinah cast in the vein of Yeshua ben Josef, sent to redeem through sacrifice. The religion uses elements of traditional African belief (matrilineage, hunter/explorer men and gatherer/nurturer women) as well as tropes from Judaeo-Christianity and some other sources I stumbled upon. The framing device for the story (the song “If I Die Young” by The Band Perry as discussed previously) called for a casket to be sank into water “to the words of a love song,” so that meant composing a kind of hymn that would work as both a devotional of spirit and a romantic overture. Yes, that means I had to sing it, but composing a soundtrack of Plessi spiritual music was a bit more ambitious than I planned. If I ever do a reading of the work, digitally or in person, maybe I could be cajoled into at least humming the tune, for reference. It kind of sounds like “How Do I Live?” by LeAnn Rimes (still very country western influenced, and I heard that a lot as a south bay karaoke host). Anyway, I spent the better part of two nights parsing it all out.

I gave the people of Pless some alterations in their biology. Tying together purple blood with the purple clothing of their funerary rites was a nod to my youngest daughter and two of my wife’s friends, all of whom adore the color, so that’s purely cosmetic. Other alterations had practical purposes — I’d been aiming to redesign humanity since I was maybe six, so tired of the tedium of waste product. If it was all converted into carbon dioxide, something the ecosystem could conceivably handle, well, that’d eliminate some technical concerns and toilet humor all in one swoop, making for a more mature society (I guessed).

Other stuff — ‘Dam Scarlett’s Diversion Emporium, “fluffener,” or the twelve legged bjekk — was just me riffing, kind of like a pianist when the band is playing “Red Clay,” tickling extra ivories here and there but staying pretty much within the boundaries of the tune. I created a small frontier-styled corner of one fairly parochial planet for a reason … that will likely be revealed in a book I hope to put out in late 2014.

The Vanity Pomp was my excuse for a big, splashy visual scene that combined action (you’ll have to read to see what) and steampunk excess and pageantry. It seemed to work and made a good climactic crescendo for the story to achieve. I just kept going back and making the elements of it more ornate and ridiculous until I couldn’t take it (at one point, everybody in the parade was flying), then dialed it back to what I felt would work.

I think it turned out okay. What do you think?

steamfunk anthology cover

The Steamfunk! anthology is available now.

Playing (Music): “Story” by King

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

Posted in 104, business, cheap publicity, comics, creativity, effectiveness, entertainment, happiness, inspiration, script, shameless pandering, torch-passing on April 2nd, 2013 by Hannibal Tabu
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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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