Award-winning writer Hannibal Tabu (Irrational Numbers, Scoundrel) has a lot of time on his hands. After winning the 2012 Top Cow Talent Hunt, Tabu has been making a name for himself in the world of comics, most recently penning the original graphic novel MLPS Sound from publisher Humanoids alongside writer and editor Joseph Illidge (Hardware, Shadow Cabinet). Tabu recently took to the task of writing a 12 issue run of Wunderman’s comic’s Time Corps, a science-fiction adventure series centered on the exploits of an eccentric group of travelers snatched from disparate eras and tasked with the monumentally important job of keeping the universe running smoothly.
Tabu’s run began with Issue #12, and within the course of a mere four issues, the writer has created a interesting world filled with equally interesting characters who must figure out how to work together in order to prevent a catastrophe of universal proportions. Among the inhabitants of this strange new world are a Mayan athlete, a former African-American slave and a villain hailing from a future Utopia who wants nothing more than to experience chaos. Tabu took time to sit and speak with CBR to discuss his series, what has happened so far, and the stunning developments he has in store for the future.
CBR: What should readers know before jumping into Time Corps?
Hannibal Tabu: For new readers to Time Corps, here’s the premise: If people die without having done enough good or bad in the course of their lives, according to their own belief system, they end up with the Celestial Hierarchy’s Time Corps. The Time Corps are charged with protecting the timeline from anything that goes wrong, such as a Roman Centurion accidentally loose in Santa Monica, for example. In my initial arc, the Corps discover that they’re not the only ones with an interest in the timeline, and that leads to some pretty big-scale adventure. I’m a third of the way through a 12-issue run, issues #12-24.
CBR: How would you define your run on the series so far?
Tabu: My run thus far has been about developing character. The three leads — Smoke Jaguar, a Mayan athlete; Paulina Popova, a Russian count; and Gary, a prohibition-era gigolo — have to define themselves against a more experienced team and face challenges none of them could ever conceive.
CBR: Yes, there are quite a few delightfully eccentric characters from different eras comprising the Time Corps. Who is your favorite and why?
Tabu: My favorite? Easy call — The Baron. He’s a mix of Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham, empowered by the crown to resist the problems created by the crown. He’s hilarious. I also love Cherry Turner, Nat’s wife, but I shouldn’t say more, I’m about to spoil something that hasn’t come out yet.
CBR: Is there anyone the Baron reminds you of in real life?
Tabu: Unfortunately, no. The Baron is power with responsibility, something I have not seen in my own life. Aspirational, really. A white man serving under the command of a Black woman who respects his teammates and works to do better. If he wasn’t such a womanizer, he’d have had a better final disposition.
CBR: Are any of the characters we see your own creations?
Tabu: The entire Chicago team are my creations. Cherry Turner, the Baron, Ogedei Khan and Vivian Warada are all new to the series, and were made by me. Likewise, the antagonist Malcontent, from the year 3114, is a creation I came up with, based very much on my own boredom and frustration growing up in Memphis. Lots of research went into making them, but these interpretations are all from me.
CBR: What can you tell us about the antagonist, Malcontent?
Tabu: Oh, Mallory. All right, imagine you lived in a world, run by an AI, that has eliminated crime, poverty, inequity, racism. A virtual utopia based on wholly equal allotments to all, with unfairness removed by algorithm. Then imagine you were, basically, a jerk. An all around terrible person who also happened to have a really high IQ. You’re born into this virtual utopia, and there’s no way out. That’s Malcontent. She resists utopia because she’s only happy when it rains. She’s a chaos spirit frustrated by how far ahead from everyone else in the world she is. It was very easy for me to write her.
CBR: How so?
Tabu: I was four years old, standing on my porch in Memphis, looking at the clouds gathering overhead and the Methodist church across the street, when I had the same realization the people of Krikkit did when they discovered there was a universe beyond their world in the Douglas Adams books. “Not good enough,” was my assessment, and I’ve been working at hacking and changing it via force of will ever since. If I was as smart as Malcontent, I might be a problem.
CBR: There are a number of appearances from not only celebrities but also iconic comic book artifacts. I recall seeing Iron Man and Dr. Doom’s face plates and the Helmet of Fate to name a few. Common sense says that you can’t actually use these items in the story, but is there a particular reason for including them or was it done just for fun?
Tabu: The artist Neal Yamamoto is a criminal mastermind. Sometimes I ask for stuff like that, sometimes he just puts it in for his own amusement. It’s never the wrong choice. Always hilarious. In any case, the Celestial Hierarchy spans universes and timelines, so sure, some “trinkets” from here or there might pop up. It’s an in story reason and our own amusement, I guess.
CBR: Various celebrities have appeared as well. Two particularly fun appearances were Elvis and Hendrix. With your recent MLPS Sound graphic novel exploring a world heavily influenced by Prince, is there any chance of the Purple One making an appearance here?
Tabu: Prince didn’t fall under the domain of the Time Corps — he earned his rest. Hendrix died so young, his work was undone so he ended up a Station Chief, which I thought was a cool idea to keep his mind in circulation. Sadly, no, Prince was an occurrence for once in a lifetime. We’ll not see his likes again, alas.
CBR: I never thought about it like that. That’s great reasoning. So why was Elvis there?
Tabu: Ha! Elvis just missed his final disposition, but I wasn’t allowed to say which was he would have gone. I know, of course, but I’m not supposed to say. Same as Capone. That may actually say what I’m not supposed to, but hey.
CBR: Can you tease any of what we can expect to see in the future of this run?
Tabu: Okay, here are some high points. Cherry Turner is forced to help make sure the Berlin Conference happens, the one which helped colonial powers make sure Africa remained under their heel, and that’s a lot to deal with. There’s a very unexpected visit to imperial China coming. My favorite of all, however, will be meeting one of Cronus’ brothers who really makes an impression. I hope everyone will love Jason as much as I do.
CBR: That sounds pretty intriguing, especially the dichotomy of what it sounds like Cherry will be facing.
Tabu: It’s a very big character beat for her, and it leads to a discussion with Prunella that’s super relevant, I think. Also very time travel-y, which I like.
CBR: I’m glad you mentioned Prunella. Why on earth is a DMV employee heading up a team like this, especially when you have the child of Genghis Khan and a Baron available?
Tabu: Ha! Well, Prunella, like the rest, didn’t have enough of a weight on either side of the scale, so she ends here. The Hierarchy evaluates people for whether they’d be better managing (like Hendrix) or working as an agent to deal with drama in the field. Prunella? She’s management material, baby! The Baron loves action, so he’d avoid any kind of an office job. Khan, likewise, is from an action oriented background. The only exception is James Dean (points if you note where he is in the hallways), who worked his way up to management from a field position.
CBR: It sounds like you’ve given this a lot of thought.
Tabu: Each character has an Official History of the Marvel Universe level write up. I mapped the entire Hierarchy HQ in Photoshop so I wouldn’t get lost. The degree of work I put into things borders on alarming.
CBR: Do you find that degree of meticulousness necessary to write a story like this?
Tabu: I personally find that degree of meticulousness necessary to write anything. I’m weird that way. For a time travel story happening in multiple eras with multiple locations, yeah, keeping good notes makes sure everything makes sense…I hope.
CBR: With that level of planning do your characters ever do anything that legitimately surprises you?
Tabu: Absolutely. Because of the demands of my day job and my family life, I have to make very extensive, panel by panel outlines. However, like Waze tells you where to go, actually driving there is different. I found out the Baron was funny when I was scripting, which I didn’t see when I was writing. I saw that Gary had a little crush on Cherry in scripting, which she does not notice at all, and the outline didn’t show me that. Character write ups are always where I return, and sometimes they have unexpected treasures waiting for me.
CBR: Are you working on any future projects that you can talk about?
Tabu: Later this year, Wunderman and I are joining forces for a three issue supernatural western called War Medicine, a revenge story that takes a half-Black, half Cheyenne shaman from Oklahoma to New Orleans to Liberia in 1866. Then in November, Project Wildfire comes to comic book shops via Second Sight Publishing. That’s all I can say right now, but yeah, I’m just trying to do good work.
Time Corps #16 is by Hannibal Tabu, Neal Yamamoto, and Josephine Roberts, and is available now from Wunderman Comics.
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