In Genius, the winner of last year's Pilot Season from Top Cow, the world's greatest military mind just happens to belong to a 17-year-old girl named Destiny who lives in L.A.'s South Central.
Written by Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman, the single Pilot Season issue of Genius set up the potential for a surprisingly well-planned war against the United States that would establish the South Central neighborhood as Destiny's own. Based on the idea that every generation has one great military mind, Genius establishes that for the next generation, Destiny is its one strategic genius, and she's not waiting around for permission to use it.
It's been over a year since fans voted Genius as the winner of the Pilot Season competition, so Newsarama checked back with Bernardin and Freeman to find out when the comic would be coming back. And as we talked to the two writers, who answered emailed questions together in what they called an "Adam/Marc hybrid we have been building in my parent's garage," we found out why this comic shouldn't have been successful, but somehow was.
Newsarama: Marc and Adam, what's the status of Genius? Will we be seeing the comic soon?
Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman: Genius is alive and well!
Top Cow wants to make sure most of, if not all of, the books are in the can first so they can guarantee it lands every month as promised. It means waiting a little longer but it also shows a lot of respect for the fans, which is great. They don't want to make a promise they can't keep and we totally respect their call.
We have just turned in the script for issue #3 and are jumping into into issue #4. As of now it is slated to hit stands in 2010, hopefully in the first half. We can't wait.
Nrama: What are your thoughts on why this comic appealed to readers so much during Pilot Season?
Marc and Adam: It must have struck a chord, which is the most we could have hoped for. We are not big name writers and Afua is fairly new on the scene so we would like to think it was the work that spoke for itself. There wasn't a Fraction, Ellis or Bendis-like name on the cover to lure you in so it's not like our legions of "followers" bum rushed the stores.
The platform we "campaigned" on was, 'You say you want something different and fresh? Here is different. Put your money where your mouth is.' It was obnoxious bravado that only comes with a race you are convinced you can never win. What did we have to lose? The whole book has a "go for broke" air to it, I think. When you are creating something totally for yourself without any thoughts or hopes of commercial return you tend to subconsciously play by different rules. I think people can sense the "fuck you" vibe engrained in the book.
Nrama: Why do you think aren't there more "urban" comics in the marketplace? And how did this one break through?
Marc and Adam: Simple. Urban comics don't sell. That is no comment on the validity of the genre, the quality of the stories to tell or the talent of the people telling them.
It comes down to numbers and what the market has proven to be true thus far.
As far as pure marketing and economics go, Genius is the perfect storm for a colossal failure:
- No established writers – check.
- No established artists – check.
- Unknown characters – check.
- No capes – check.
- Female lead – check.
- African American female lead – double check.
- Urban setting – check...
I mean the list goes on. Why did Genius break through? I think there are three main reasons.
First, it's a good little book. As you can see by the above list, that is not enough, but if underneath it all the book doesn't resonate with people, nothing will help make its mark on them.
Second, the "Pilot Season" marketing push. The buzz, press and publicity spent and focused on Pilot Season as a whole was exponentially greater than one little book like Genius would have gotten had it been released on its own outside of the competition. As part of a larger, very talented and more commercial group –- it was in great company. That meant more eyeballs checking it out.
And thirdly, Warren Ellis. We did not have big names to sell the book on but a last minute push from Warren Ellis himself on his website was huge and most probably put us over the edge as the finish line approached.
I wish I had a more romantic answer but it really comes down to eyeballs. There are tons of amazing books that come out every year and die because not enough people hear about them or they don't get a strong enough endorsement for the uninitiated to take a chance on them.
Nrama: For people who might not have caught the Pilot Season issue, what's the basic premise of the series?
Marc and Adam: The premise is simple: Every generation is given its great military minds – Hannibal, Napoleon, Patton...what if the greatest military mind of our generation was born to a 17-year-old female gang banger from South Central?
Nrama: Is it challenging to write Destiny? Do you tap into your inner kick-ass female?
Marc and Adam: Feminism, masculine misconceptions and assumptions come in to play on the periphery, but to consciously write Destiny as a kick-ass female would be to limit her, the same way it is limiting to describe Ripley as a kick-ass female. They kick ass regardless of their sex. In Destiny's case, it is more of a challenge showing how the other characters react to learning this deadly war machine is a woman. Their actions say more about them than Destiny says about herself.
Nrama: Who are the supporting cast of Genius as you guys begin the series?
Marc and Adam: Lt. Reginald Grey is the analyst who developed the theory of "Suspect Zero" – one person that has unified the LA gangs against a common enemy, namely the Police. Little does he know his "man" is a 17 year-old girl with a savant like abilities. Chavonne and G-Tron are Destiny's confidants, her best friend and tech geek, respectively. And later on we introduce Izzy, an investigate reporter who throws herself into the action and gets more than she bargained for.
Nrama: What will we see in the next few issues of Genius?
Marc and Adam: We will see Grey fight to make his theory accepted by the LAPD. A desk jockey out of his element, he rides with a SWAT team into South Central and gets caught in a serious "Black Hawk Down" type scenario. We will see Destiny's strategic sensibilities cross over into propaganda and media as she begins to use the mainstream press to win the war for her. We also begin to see what Destiny's grand plan is.
Nrama: The comic has a unique look about it, with Afua Richardson's art. What does her work bring to the overall storytelling and style of the comic?
Marc and Adam: Afua is the perfect artist to tell this story. She walks the perfect line of making Destiny strong and sexy while never being gratuitous or falling into many of the traps men do when drawing women. We knew if Destiny looked liked a big busted, perfectly proportioned super hero we would be dead in the water. Afua's artwork is simultaneously urban and hip-hop while being fresh and new with an almost FLASH like quality to it. We've never met anyone else who works like her.
Nrama: Are you guys on this comic for the long haul? And do you two have any other projects coming out?
Marc and Adam: We're on it for as long as Top Cow and the fans want us. If interest and sales warrant a long run, we're in. But like we said above, it could very well be the perfect storm for disaster. Either way, we got to tell the story we wanted to tell.
We have a lot on our plates: We take over Wildstorm's The Authority beginning with issue #18 this winter. We have another book with Top Cow coming out early next year called Cell Division as well as Genius and a bunch of super top secret stuff we can't talk about just yet. Follow us on Twitter @MrAdamFreeman and @marcbernardin for updates.