Talking the Business of Comics: The Hannibal Tabu Interview

hannibal tabu, theblerdgurl

Talking the Business of Comics: The Hannibal Tabu Interview

Many of you might be familiar with Hannibal Tabu’s regular column over on “The Buy Pile”, but he is also an independent comic book creator, collector, writer and entrepreneur as well. But don’t take my word for it, check out this interview…

 TBG: How long have you been in the comic book  game? Are you an artist? Writer?
HT: I got the idea to write comics from now-head honcho of Image Comics Eric Stephenson. At the time, I’d recently hired him as the editor of a now-defunct dot com called Next Planet Over, and we worked together on lots of things. Anyway, he gave me the idea writing comics was something I could actually do, so I started networking and meeting people. That was 1999. In 2012, after paying multiple artists to disappear on projects and a near-miss at Image Central, I won the Top Cow Talent Hunt and voila, overnight success.
TBG: What is the Operative Network and how are you affiliated with it?
HT: The Operative Network is an idea that just wouldn’t go away. When I was domain hunting in the late 1990s, I got the idea of it from a Douglas Adams quote. In Mostly Harmless, he wrote …
“… at this level of security, you didn’t even call them people anymore. And they were probably doing stuff that only operatives would do. When they went home to their families in the evening they became people again, and when their little children looked up to them with their sweet shining eyes and said, ‘Daddy, what did you do all day today?’ they just said, ‘I performed my duties as an operative,’ and left it at that.”
… and something about that appealed to me. I didn’t need help with much of anything, so I figured I was here *to* help — an operative. I then found “” was taken by some video game and saw the “.net” extension was available. My brain started reeling: a *network* of crazy people like myself, doing the work that needs doing. Originally, I thought this would be a web design and tech company, but meh. Running that kind of business is a lot of paperwork that I did not like.
hannibal tabu, wildfire, theblerdgurl
I heard about Gaijin Studios (Brian Stelfreeze, Adam Hughes, Cully Hamner, Jason Pearson, Dave Johnson, Tony Harris, Karl Story, Georges Jeanty, Laura Martin) and the Empath Magic Tree House (Jeph Loeb, Geoff Johns and Allan Heinberg), — two collectives of creatives working together for common goals — as well as seeing the enormous product coming from Genre 19 with Geoff Thorne and Todd Harris, and wanted that kind of comics synergy around me. I met artist Quinn McGowan online (in a Larry Stroman Facebook thread of all places) and then would be animation tycoon Damion Gonzales and we started thinking we could do more together than apart. We batted around names and ultimately decided to fly a banner I’d flown for years, together.
Now we’re a creative studio — making work and hiring out to other parties — and having a blast. I suppose I’m in charge, arguably, but it’s truly a team effort.
TBG: You are pretty well known for writing “The Buy Pile” column over at Comic Book Resources. How did that gig come about?
HT: Another Eric Stephenson-related story! Eric was friends with a guy named Jonah Weiland, who owned Comic Book Resources at the time. Eric knew that Rob Worley was leaving his Comics 2 Film column to write Young Ancient One for Bill Jemas’ Epic imprint at Marvel and suggested it would be smart for me to try and get the gig. He told me that thousands of people would see my name and that was good for a would-be comics writer. I agreed, and the gig paid, so I interviewed for it and got the job. Hold that thought while we jump back a little…
I’d started reviewing comics on Next Planet Over after Eric needed content, and we continued on together for a while on a site he owned called I liked doing it, so I kept on, posting my reviews on Usenet. I was noticed by an editor at Underground Online, who wanted to pay me to put my reviews on that site. I rarely turn down a check, so I went with it. Three years later, a new editor was in at UGO who didn’t work so well with me, and I was complaining about it with Jonah around. Jonah asked why I didn’t just come do the reviews on CBR, and offered me twice as much as UGO was paying. Off I went, that was 2006.
TBG: What’s it like reporting on mainstream comics but also promoting/working on your own indie titles?
TBG: There is a special place in my heart for many what are called “mainstream” properties. The Legion of Super-Heroes, for example, showed me the possibilities of scale in The Great Darkness Saga.  I owned every copy of the Hama Marvel run of G.I. Joe and almost every one of the Marvel Transformers run. I have said I have “Pietro Maximoff Syndrome” since X-Factor Vol. 1 #11. When done right, they are a large part or our modern myth and I love that about them.
However, as a Black man, I can’t help but notice how few seats at the table there are for us, and like Franklin on the Charlie Brown special, how they’re all off on one side of the table by ourselves, with not much room for more than one at a time. I want myths my daughters and Quinn’s sons can look to and be inspired by. Thus, I *have* to write about and be engaged with the “mainstream” in order to go where the audience is, but I really wanna be building worlds that look more like my own.  It’s a tortured love story, at best.
TBG: What are your thoughts on “the diversity game” in comics right now going on with the majors?
HT: Your term “game” is right, because the majors are playing around. The big hiring push at Marvel shook out and is barely holding on with two Black writers. Marvel had its first Black woman on a series in history in 2017 and she’s already fired before the summer solstice. In this day and age for an industry as publicly visible as comics to be as shockingly bad at hiring for people of color is saddening and exhausting. For fans of color to still need the validation of the “big two” before they take a creator of color seriously (and even that doesn’t always work, as Jimmie Robinson, whose brilliant Five Weapons didn’t get nearly as much play as it deserved) is tedious and embarrassing. The “game” is rigged and I don’t like it at all.
 hannibal tabu, theblerdgurl
TBG: What do you think of the print vs digital argument? Is print dying a slow death?
HT: Print will never die. The arguments against it are short sighted. Print travels better. That said, I’m almost 90% digital myself and no one is more happy about that than my wife, seeing no more long boxes stacking up in our two bedroom apartment. In the same way we still have strong showings for vinyl in a post-MP3 world, there’s a market for all kinds of things. The story matters, the delivery method not so much. What I like about digital is how it is helping level the playing field — with marketing, The Immortal Nadia Greene and Menthu: The Anger of Angels and Check Please could conceivably reach as many people as a Marvel Infinite Comic. We are making comics in a hip hop fashion, with the tools we have. The market will adapt and every form of delivery has room to play.
TBG: Who were some of your favorite heroes growing up?
HT: I always focused on power more than anything — I remember discovering Duplicate Boy and being terrified that he could literally do almost anything. Then I discovered he was a moron and realized he would never likely do much. I was right. I liked Thor because his solutions were simple solutions — he held a hammer, and everything looked like a nail. I liked the complexity of the Shazam-powered Captain Marvel because of so many roads he could take, even if he never did in comics (well, almost). That said, I appreciated Daredevil’s DIY mentality quite a bit and Storm was an early icon for me. I was grown by the time I saw Blood Syndicate or Icon or Iron Butterfly, but I have a deep appreciation for them as well.
TBG: Please name 5 other artists/writers that you feel are underrated right now.
HT: Underrated artists and writers? Easy peasy …
THADDEUS HOWZE: He’s actually a better writer than I am, just coming from a different direction.
BRANDON EASTON: Scary talented, amazingly nuanced, deeply researched and sourced in almost everything he does.
RAY-ANTHONY HEIGHT: Maker of Midnight Tiger, finally getting some X-Men shine.
QUINN MCGOWAN: He literally draws entire comics with his finger on a Microsoft Surface Pro, an upgrade from a first generation iPad. He’s a miracle of speed and skill.
ROBERT ROACH: Storyboard artist and instructor, creator of Menthu, Glyph Award winner … he’s got it all.


Hannibal Tabu is a futurist, writer, vocalist, DJ, designer and digital project manager based in Los Angeles, California. His next book is a supernatural alternative history thriller called Irrational Numbers due out July 15, 2017.

Personal site:

Studio site:




Writing at Comic Book Resources:


No Comments

Leave a Reply

I accept the Privacy Policy

Order My Book!

protectors of wakanda, theblerdgurl, karma horne, dora milaje

Hi! I'm Karama! I'm a Brooklyn blerd, journalist and content creator fueled by coffee and comics. Anime is my orientation. Read More