|MARC BERNARDIN AND ADAM FREEMAN
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DF Interview: Marc Bernardin, Adam Freeman talk Genius
By Byron Brewer
Genius -- a new Top Cow book running weekly this month by writers Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman, and artist Afua Richardson -- follows Destiny Ajaye, a military-minded teen savant growing up in South Central Los Angeles. In the midst of poverty and violence, Destiny sees hope. She sees a way to survive. She also sees the solution to her problem as secession. Not of the state of California, just three blocks of her neighborhood.
Dynamic Forces caught up with Bernardin and Freeman at a juice bar just north of Destiny’s hood and put them through the interview wringer. Here’s what they would reveal.
Dynamic Forces: What did it feel like to win Top Cow’s second Pilot Season competition with Genius in 2008?
Adam Freeman: Really nice because we never expected to win. Genius is such a different kind of story and different kind of book that we did it purely for selfish reasons. We were passionate about the story and wanted to put it out there in the world. We never thought for a second that it actually had a chance, until the voting started coming in.
Marc Bernardin: Of course, it’s always nice to win something. That whole “it’s great just to have been nominated” line is just that: a line you give to cover up just how much it hurts.
DF: Now here you are with a five-issue mini-series to sort of prove yourself and your creation. Is this a direct continuation of the Pilot Season tale?
Marc Bernardin: Absolutely. Page 1 of Issue #1 [on sale last week] picked up exactly where Page 22 of the Pilot Season issue left off. Destiny just lit the world of fire…now we get to watch it burn.
Adam Freeman: It may just be coming out now but it was always designed as a six-issue arc.
DF: Marc, you were on stage at SDCC with Marc Silvestri, Ron Marz and some of the top names of comicdom! What was that experience like?
Marc Bernardin: Comics is such a wonderfully small community that you simply get to know these folks after a while. And yet, having Marc Silvestri lean over and tell me he loves the book is pretty friggin’ cool.
DF: Top Cow must have confidence in your creation. Even though at the time of this interview #1 has hit, tell us the concept of Genius and how you brought it to comic books.
Marc Bernardin: Every generation gets its own prodigies, its own geniuses in every discipline – music, art, science, war. So what if the 21st century’s war savant – our Napoleon, Hannibal, Alexander, Patton – was born poor and black in South Central L.A.? And what if she was very, righteously angry?
Adam Freeman: Although her end game is originally unknown, she decides to unite all of L.A.’s warring gangs to focus on a common enemy – the LAPD.
DF: Tell us about teenager Destiny Ajaye.
Marc Bernardin: She’s a villain. She is absolutely the person in this story that’s doing the wrong thing. You know how they always say that every villain is the hero of their own story? Yeah, well, Destiny knows that she’s not the hero. She’s cursed with heightened self-awareness: She knows what she has to be to win this war – and that’s a murderer. But she’s also willing and able to shoulder that burden, because she thinks it’s worth it. The war is worth it. What it means is worth it.
Adam Freeman: She is Ender Wiggin, if Ender was running the show.
DF: Tell us about your collaboration, here and elsewhere. Long-time friends, eh? How is the co-writing divvyed up?
Marc Bernardin: Everything we write together starts with long phone calls and IM sessions and deep-tissue massages. We hammer out the character, plot and story details. Then one of us will put it into outline form. After that, either I’ll start writing or he will. And when we’ve gone as far as we can, we’ll pass it off to the other guy. We pass it back and forth until we’re done.
Adam Freeman: Growing up together, about 90% of our influences overlap so we really have a shorthand when it comes to what interests us and the stories we want to tell. We’ve heard other partnerships work more individually or they each have very specific roles. Our line is more blurred.
DF: Is there any representation of a “big bad” in Destiny’s world aside from so-called “society” – and herself, I guess? What undercurrents of reality do you hope to touch upon with Genius?
Marc Bernardin: Despite it starring a predominately black and Hispanic cast, Genius isn’t a book about race. It’s about power. Who has it, how they keep it, and what happens when it’s challenged. There are big bads both inside and outside Destiny’s camp – as well as the general feeling that actions provoke reactions. And the reaction to Destiny’s war is going to be brutal.
Adam Freeman: We placed this story in Los Angeles but it could easily be the story of any people that feel they are being repressed.
DF: If it became an ongoing, what direction would you like to take Genius in? Things that you have yet to touch upon that are impossible in a finite mini?
Marc Bernardin: Destiny is a character that can be put through any number of different wringers. Right now, she’s a bit like a wild mustang – all instinct and power and drive. Imagine what might happen if someone learned how to channel all that power.
Adam Freeman: Every creator says this so it has become white noise at this point, but honestly, when you read the final issue of this mini you will not believe the turn this tale has taken. Once you see how this first arc ends, it becomes crystal clear that this journey is not over and there is a lot more story to tell.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer our questions. Genius #2 hits stores August 13th!
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