The GeeksverseBrian “Hammer” Williams Interview

Brian “Hammer” Williams Interview
Published on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 by

Harlem Shadow Poster
Brian Williams describes himself as a writer. Period. His goal as a writer is the further development of black superheroes that are accessible and enjoyable by the masses. To that end, he has copiloted his own comic company, Raven Hammer Comics. He has aspirations of changing the big comic company scene, but at the moment his penning his own characters his own way. His black cape universe hit readers in 2009, although he had been promoting the book before hand. The universe was introduced with Lucius Hammer and The Harlem Shadow. Now the independent company is back with follow ups to those titles, and Brian “Hammer” Williams was kind enough to answer a few questions via email for the Pryde.

Brian also sent over a poster for Harlem Shadow [above] and the cover to #2![below]

The cover of Harlem Shadow #2

So, why do you want to write comics?
Brian Williams: I have been headed towards this goal of being a comic book writer since I was very young. It’s something I feel I was born with…my calling, if you will. Unfortunately I have denied that calling for a number of years due to the fact that being a comic book writer or artist is not a “practical” choice of profession. I also felt compelled to write comics because I see many opportunities in this current market to inject life…introduce new characters and reboot old. We have finally got the global marketplace’s attention…comic books are attracting the attention they have always deserved because of the emergence of the superhero film. I see this as the optimum time to introduce new characters and stories using the comic medium. The most important reason though for me wanting to write comics is, however, I love the platform of the comic book to tell stories from. You get the best of both worlds…words and art.

As a creator of small press comics how important is internet to get your comic in front of the public? What online outlets do you use to reach the readers?
Williams: The internet has been very pivotal. I won’t try and pretend like I have figured out the riddle of steel as far as internet marketing and promotion goes but I do recognize that we have quite a few fans on facebook (1790 since December of 2009) and sales seem to be steady on our website. As we become a more advanced company, Ravenhammer plans on aggressively using the internet as our main channel of communication and delivery…but I believe you gotta put in the hard work first and figure out the basics of indie publishing before you implement some high tech cyberspace strategy because that’s a playing field that can literally change from day to day. Right now, as sort of the Stan Lee of this operation, I am contacting reviewers and sending them pdfs of the book to get buzz going and that’s worked to our advantage. We were reviewed on Aint it Cool News a couple of months ago and I was absolutely floored. I got global exposure instantly on one of the hottest fanboy websites in existence just because of the power of e-mail and social networking. You can also get Lucius Hammer and The Harlem Shadow on your i-phone and ipod through graphic.ly.

Ain’t it cool news:

Williams, who was so brilliant in LUCIUS HAMMER, does a great job of capturing everything that gave “birth” to “cool” in that era. That includes some pretty nifty dialog and (of course), gangsters and tommy guns. I also like the careful attention he pays to the evolution of his characters but amidst the crime fighting and self discovery, I felt an odd disconnect with the story. It looks good and reads even better, but at times it feels like all heart and no soul. The opening scrawl describes the HARLEM SHADOW as being known for his “scary appearance, vicious hand-to-hand combat skills and mastery of two lethal revolvers,” yet I didn’t feel like he lived up to his billing.

One of the projects that I have not read about on your Facebook page recently is the online comic. How is that coming?
Williams: Yeah…I wrote a series of webisodes that are going to be produced Zuda Comics Style…exclusively for our website. The title of the online comic is “When We were Heroes” and it is meant to be sort of a companion piece for Lucius Hammer. The extraordinary opportunity I have here with the whole “black superhero” angle is to tell a story that has literally never been told before. In this piece, I’m going to build an overarching framework that historically explains the emergence and development of the black superhero…starting with death of John Henry. We will discover that he was actually the first African American paranormal of record and then from that point I will reveal other heroes and supernatural individuals of color that existed under the radar. It was my sincere hope to have the online comic launched already but the particular artist that I had tied to the project has had some life issues get in his way…so it’s been postponed.

Dealines can be a problem when you have a small pool of artists and attach a particular artist to each project. Image Comics has ran into that trouble time and time again. Even though keeping tight deadlines would be nice, it is probably more important to reach fans. It is especially important for small press creators to reach readers. What comic-cons do you attend throughout the year?
Williams: Great question. We attend whatever comic-cons we can afford to get to at this point. I have three children and obviously a full time job so my schedule availability is limited. Last year I attended 5 cons (East Coast Black Age of Comics in Philadelphia, Onyxcon in Atalnta, Da Black Age of Comics in Chicago, Cincinnati Comic Expo and The Mid-Ohio Comicon).

This year because we decided to put more time and energy into product…I think we will probably be at the Cincinnati Comic Expo again and The Onyxcon down in Atlanta…and if everything goes as anticipated financially…The New York Comicon in October. Cons are important to us…we have big plans for our booth but I can’t tell you about it just yet.

Fair enough. Fans will just have to head out and support the product at the cons down the road. Hopefully someone will report back about that Ravenhammer booth [hint, hint]. Let’s shift gears from the product to your fellow producer Christian Colbert. Colbert penciled and colored Lucius Hammer #1 and other projects for you. How did you and Christian team up?
Williams: Back in 2006 I was busy trying to get another comic project off the ground that was totally unrelated to Lucius Hammer. I put out an ad for an artist on DigitalWebbing.Com and Christian responded. Oddly enough, the subject matter of the book I wanted Christian to draw (a werewolf comic that I still intend to release at Ravenhammer) presented a conflict with another company he was working with at the time so he couldn’t draw werewolves…but we stayed in touch. Our conversations and sophomoric musings over the telephone one day led to him discussing one of his dream projects with me and then I told him about Lucius Hammer. I agreed to write his dream project (The soon to be released horror sci-fi epic…Ravens Hollow) if he would draw Lucius Hammer. The rest is history.

Every writer-artist team works a little differently. How do you communicate what you want to see to Christian?
Williams: Christian and I have become great friends over the years…a relationship that I would characterize as brotherly. Since Day 1, he has been able to read my scripts, which are sometimes unorthodox and demanding, and pull from it the exact visual I was looking for. It’s really amazing. He understands Lucius Hammer completely. When I first approached him about Lucius Hammer, Christian wanted to market it as a superhero story without emphasizing the “black” in order to increase its appeal. I understood where he was coming from, being a white artist…he might catch some flack from his peers illustrating a comic book as ambitious and unapologetic as Lucius Hammer is. I simply asked him to show me anything he had ever seen that resembled what I was proposing to do with Lucius Hammer and it clicked for him. He realized that there were wonderful tales waiting to be told within this universe of black superheroes…and he also discovered that I had written many white superheroes to accompany these black superheroes on their journey. So everything was everything.

Did you have the same working relationship with Rodolfo Buscaglia on Harlem Shadow?
Williams: I found Rodolfo on DigitalWebbing.Com as well. Rodolfo lives in Argentina so we have never met personally but we have good chemistry on the page. Rodolfo is an exciting contrast to Christian’s art. The steamy, film noir environment that I need for the Harlem Shadow is second nature to Rodolfo. He intuitively understands what I need on the page and obviously his command of blacks and whites gives The Harlem Shadow a surprising Sin-City flavor that I was not anticipating.

Lucius Hammer #1, October 2009, was narrator heavy. You used more text boxes than dialogue balloons. You wrote it with a decade spanning montage to establish this character as a long running hero. Harlem Shadow has a different narration to dialogue ratio. Will the next issue o hammer be as narration heavy, or will it have more dialogue between the characters?
Williams: The first issue of Lucius Hammer was my attempt at mimicking the iconic first issues of characters like Bat Man and Superman. I always found it pretty awe-inspiring that there was very little dialog in those stories but rather a firm foundation was laid for the legend to be built upon. I wanted to hit the readers solidly between the eyes with the root cause of Lucius Hammer’s heroic quest. Issue 2 will still have narration because the first story arc, I Hammer, is his autobiography and he is telling you his story in his own words. But yes…we’ve gotten to the point in the story where dialog begins to play an important part. So yes…you will see Lucius interacting with other meaningful characters a lot in this next issue.

At the end of Lucius Hammer you introduced the Dream Team. Members were profiled in Harlem Shadow as a bit of a special feature bonus. They are obviously important to expanding the black cape movement that you are creating. I see Iron Tiger in that lineup. However, I’m not seeing Blackwing and Troublemaker which are your next stars. How did they develop after the first issues?
Williams: The best way to explain that without giving a whole lot away is this; There are two major teams of African American Superheroes that Lucius is connected to in his lifetime. The first is a government sponsored group called The American Guardians. Blackwing and Troublemaker are actually members of that group.

Williams: In the storyline, Lucius becomes dissatisfied with the American Guardian Program and resigns…he is later convinced to return but this time he fields his own team of paranormals called The Dream Team. Iron Tiger will appear later in the story and is actually not a member of either of these teams.

What time line do you hope to deliver Blackwing and Troublemaker, Iron Tiger, and Brown Recluse to the fans?
Williams:Blackwing and Troublemaker, my blatant homage to Batman and Robin, will be appearing briefly in issue two of Lucius Hammer…and so will Brown Recluse. In fact…the second issue is pretty much about Brown Recluse. I wish I could tell you more…but trust me, when you get issue 2 in your hands…I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Iron Tiger will appear in Issue 8 and 9. Expect heavy doses of kung fu action and blaxploitation intrigue…Lucius meets Iron Tiger on the Hollywood set of a movie he’s starring in and that’s how they become friends.

Still working our way through this large universe you are unveiling a piece at a time, let’s talk about Doc Bronze. Doc Bronze is mentioned as a WWII survivor and being one of the older adventures in your universe. Will we be seeing a book where he is in WWII? Will that be a Captain America hero style book or a Sgt. Rock tales of war style book?
Williams: Doc Bronze is actually a pulp style adventurer (another homage character…Doc Savage is his inspiration) and we will see him cross paths with Lucius Hammer in WW2 in a mini-series entitled Hell’s Commandos: Dark Axis. Doc Bronze is going to be a key character because he is the person that convinces Lucius to form the Dream Team. I do have a Doc Bronze One Shot in the making and it will connect not only to the Lucius Hammer books but also the online comic book, When We were Heroes.

Along with Lucius Hammer and Harlem Shadow I received trading cards. Will be adding more trading cards as you expand your universe?
Williams: Yes. The second wave of trading cards will officially go on sale in August through our webshop and Onyxcon in Atlanta.

At the moment you are the writer at the helm of creating this comic universe. Do you envision a point in the future where you will be bringing in other writers to work with these characters in your universe
Williams: Yes. The plan is for me to establish characters and universe…complete the first arc of Lucius Hammer and the second. By that time, hopefully we will have negotiated a publishing deal, sold film and animation rights, toys and video games…the whole shebang. At the point at which it begins to become self sustaining…I definitely intend on bringing in other writers and artists. Kind of like Mignola and Hellboy. But, I’m getting way ahead of myself. Right now…it’s just Christian and I against the world.

How do you picture the future of the RavenHammer Universe?
Williams: At the end of the day…Christian and myself are dreamers. We may have other talents and qualities that people find admirable but we excel at dreaming. I want Ravenhammer to be an outlet for these dreams. Lucius Hammer and Ravens Hollow are the first wave. Every creator wants to see his or her idea proliferate into something bigger. I want Lucius Hammer to be a high end animated tv series on Cartoon Network or Spike TV. I have always envisioned Ravens Hollow as an HBO series. I already had a Lucius Hammer action figure sculpted. So I have big plans, but to keep it simple and as real as I can possibly keep it…I want to produce top quality, independently published comic books that give the fans something that they aren’t getting from the other companies. Strong concepts that can be the basis for stories for years to come.

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