Hannibal Tabu Catches Flame with 'Project Wildfire'
Nov 29, 2021
Interview by Troy-Jeffrey Allen
Meet Will Watson III. Southern kid, HBCU college student, and Shelby City's resident superhero! In Project: Wildfire (SEP211760), Will is still getting his "cape game" down when trouble comes knocking in the form of his predecessor...Project: Torrent!
What is Project: Wildfire? What was Project: Torrent? Can the city of Shelby withstand a superpowered tussle? And how does the government task force "Monsterwatch" factor in? We asked Project: Wildfire writer Hannibal Tabu to explain...
PREVIEWSworld: So what is Project: Wildfire? As much as you can tell us without spoiling it.
Hannibal Tabu: The logline, “an unexpected superhero battles a plague of monsters in southern streets” is accurate enough. At its heart, it’s a story intended to show the innate goodness that is installed in many Black people in the south by their families, their extended communities. We make a big deal about how Kansas values turned out this larger-than-life visitor from another world, but what about the folks who grow up right here? Some of them turn out to be maniacs and science deniers, true, but some of them turn out to be the best people in the world, people who would go without so you could have. Will Watson is just one example of that, as Quinn and I have known people like that our whole lives.
PREVIEWSworld: Tell us about Will Watson III. Why do we follow him through this story?
Hannibal Tabu: Will was a college sophomore at the local Historically Black College in Shelby City, our stand-in for our hometown of Memphis. Like many college students, money was tight, so he took a chance and signed up for a medical experiment that promised a few extra bucks. Everyone else in the study died. He got superpowers. Then, he gets roped into this government task force called Monsterwatch and giant monsters start appearing on the streets of Shelby City. Just when he thinks he knows what’s going on, at the start of our story, things get so much more complicated.
PREVIEWSworld: Most superheroes reside in a major metropolis of some sort, but this one takes place in Will’s “southern hometown.” What made you made you choose that backdrop?
Hannibal Tabu: We both grew up in Memphis, and see it as a character in our lives as much as in Will’s. We’ve almost never seen our communities reflected in comics — the recent Icon and Rocket from Milestone gave a good depiction of a community as a character, but we’d be hard-pressed to find that kind of representation in Suicide Slum or The Hill or Luke Cage’s Harlem, as far as published comics go. Momma may have, and daddy may have, but we grew up learning that God blesses the child that’s got his own. So here we, and subsequently you, are.
Memphis is the fifth-largest city in the southeastern US. It’s where most FedEx packages have to go through, via their big national hub. It’s not some podunk town, it has a vibrant cultural scene and strong business relationships nationally. For many states around, people talk about going “into the city,” meaning Memphis. As Shelby is its stand-in, now also enjoying a boon of monster tourism and the influx of billions of government dollars, it’s a great choice for a lot of truly engaging stories.
PREVIEWSworld: Is this overtly a superhero comic or are you bringing in a bunch of different genre elements?
Hannibal Tabu: Well, it centers on a superhero, so by definition, it is a superhero book. However, when Kingpin muscles his way into politics or construction contracts, does that make it a business book? Our title will address that in our “Street Justice” storyline. When a disenfranchised person grabs whatever power he can to lash out at a world that damaged him, does that make it a twisted coming of age story? That’s The Corroded King, from the upcoming “Once and Future King” storyline. As much as we both grew up on Ultraman and Godzilla and G.I. Joe, we wear our influences on our sleeves, much like Hidden Fortress ending up morphing into A New Hope.
PREVIEWSworld: Looking forward, what can readers expect from Project: Wildfire?
Hannibal Tabu: Well, we spend a lot of time making sure the psychology of characters is just right, whether they’re human-sized or sixty feet tall. What drives someone who gains, or craves power? How does that play out in a place where healthy skepticism and hustlers of every shade have been known, where people can be suspicious of “carpetbaggers” and unusual goings-on? We hope to provide thrills, surprises, and answers in equal turn. [Artist Quinn McGowan] and I know the last page of this series, we’re working towards it steadily, with lettering coming in from our good friend Zen, who many know from lettering Aspen Comics. We strive to bring professional work that can connect on a personal level while still allowing the ridiculous amounts of property damage we love as an industry.
PREVIEWSworld: In terms of audience, who is Project: Wildfire for?
Hannibal Tabu: Do you like flying people? Do you like wanton destruction? Do you like danger and thrills and plot twists? More than any of that, do you like a hero who is good because being good is the right thing to do, fighting not other heroes, but genuine villains who wish to do you harm, for their own broken reasons? For a certain group of people who have struggled to see themselves portrayed in modern myth, do you want a hero who has to keep a crisp fade at all times, or knows who Project Pat is? If any of that sounds right to you, please pick up Project Wildfire, and we’ll do our best to never let you down.
Troy-Jeffrey Allen is the producer and co-host of PREVIEWSworld Weekly. He is also the Consumer Marketing Manager for Geppi Family Enterprises. Troy's comics work includes MF DOOM: All Caps, Public Enemy's Apocalpyse '91, the Glyph Award-nominated Fight of the Century, the Harvey Award-nominated District Comics, and the Ringo Award-nominated Magic Bullet.