These days, you know when something's popular when it produces a sequel. And for Top Cow, last year's Pilot Season contest proved so popular that they quickly brought it back for a second round earlier this year. The now-annual initiative pits six one-shot "pilot comics" head-to-head for two spots as ongoing series. After all issues are released, Top Cow allows readers to vote for their favorite.
With 24 percent of the vote, Genius (full issue here) joined Twilight Guardian in the winners' circle of this year's Pilot Season contest. Earlier this week we talked with the latter's writer, and now we turn to the writers of Genius, Adam Freeman and Marc Bernadin.
Newsarama: Congratulations, gentlemen.
So, what's it like to win Pilot Season? How'd you find out?
Adam Freeman: It feels good to know that people aren't just saying they want something different in comics. Apparently they really mean it. I also would be lying if I said it didn't give us a little sense of vindication since most publishers didn't think the book was worth taking a chance on. Maybe this will open the door for some other creators to get new types of books made.
Marc Bernadin: Just before the voting closed, we got word from our editor saying "Genius has made a push" but he wouldn't elaborate more than that. Bastard. But we got an email from publisher Filip Sablik telling us we "finished in the money." It feels like biting into a jelly donut: sweet on the outside, and even sweeter on the inside.
NRAMA: What would you say put Genius over the top to win the contest?
AF: It's so hard to say. I think it caused a heated debate in some internet circles so people took personal stock in the message, whether they thought it was good or bad. It was very polarizing in that readers either loved it or hated it. As you can see in politics, when there are very different ideals at stake it drives voters to the polls because they have something to be passionate about. Oh, that and Warren Ellis.
MB: Yeah, there's no discounting the amount of sway the Internet Jesus brings. It's Warren's world, we just look at all the uncomfortable craze-porn he stocks it with.
NRAMA: Ellis' positive review of Genius on his blog just prior to the close of voting was bound to have some effect. What was your response to that?
AF: Jaw dropping. Look we don't do comics to get rich. We do it because we love it and although every project is a "passion project" we're still looking for validation of some kind. Winning Pilot Season or having someone like Warren Ellis give your book a stamp approval sends us a little message like, "Ok, we're not crazy. We were on to something here."
MB: It reminded me that I still owe him that other kidney.
NRAMA: Don't joke – he'll come to collect.
Rounding out the Genius team is artist Afua Richardson. Will she be joining you for the new series in 2009?
AF: I damn hope so. Her art made our words better. I think this book would have been received very differently if it had the all-too-typical busty female lead in something skintight. As a woman, she brought a realism to the character that made her smart and sexy all at the same time.
MB: She continues to take our calls, which I can only interpret as a good sign. We've just gotta raise our game to meet the level she's playing at. Because Afua...she's 31 flavors of awesome.
NRAMA: So what can you tell us about the new series - will it be more on Destiny, or will you follow other 'Genius'es?
AF: No, this is specifically Destiny's story. You will see a lot more of her backstory and how she came to power. How she has had this gift since birth and it took until now for her to figure out how to use it. And obviously, you will also see the conflict escalate for better or worse.
NRAMA: Have you had any concrete conversations about planning the series yet with Top Cow, or are you still basking in the glow?
MB: Before committing to the book for Pilot Season, Top Cow insisted that we show them an outline for the first arc. They didn't want to get caught out there, with a winning book that had no plan to continue, and I don't blame them in the least. Doing that work then gives us a head-start now.
AF:I laughed a little when I read things on message boards that said, "It could never sustain itself as a series." Respectfully, they're wrong. Top Cow had a sense of where this would go should we win so know we are just nailing the details so we can produce a series that we, Top Cow and the fans will be happy to see.
NRAMA: From my perspective, this is one of the biggest moments of both of your relatively short comics careers so far. How would you rank this?
AF: Up there with selling Monster Attack Network to Disney. Pretty goddamned cool. Look, I work in television, Marc in magazines. We have been around celebrities, Hollywood, the comic community etc for a LONG time. One of the things I am really proud of is that we still maintain the enthusiasm of fans. We ARE fans. We never forget that we get to do really f*cking cool things for a living. I have heard people say, "Oh, I have to meet with George Lucas next week blah blah blah." You know what I did when I met George Lucas? I called my mom! I said, "Mom, you'll never guess where I am. I have entered Valhalla!" Any time I see a book of ours on the stands I get giddy so winning Pilot Seaon is HUGE for us.
MB: Every book is another rung in the ladder, hopefully boosting us a little higher. I'm just thrilled that everything we've done--from Genius and The Highwaymen to anthology pieces in DC's Infinite Halloween and Gene Simmons' House of Horrors--is something we can be proud of. So, yeah, this is a crowning achievement, but all part of our sinister plan of world domination.
NRAMA: Last question - what are you guys doing to celebrate?
AF: Jumping into writing the series! That and buying Roland V-Drums if I can swing it without getting divorced.
MB: When I heard, I went outside, spilled half of my Cherry Coke Zero on the ground, and said "This is for my homies." Because that's how I roll.