Micah Curtis is a former video game journalist who has appeared on Blistered Thumbs, Techraptor, SuperNerdLand, and Truthrevolt, and now, when he isn’t writing biting commentary for Bleeding Fool, he focuses on creating biting Youtube content where he comments on the nerd subculture, politics, and the growing intersection between the two. He focuses on the politics surrounding the industry, the importance of keeping the market free, the rights of the people involved, and the games, movies, television, and so forth that we all enjoy.
After spending so much time commenting on them, now Micah is embarking on creating his own comics. Englewood launched today on Indiegogo. I interviewed Micah recently to find out what inspired him to embark on this new endeavor.
Chris Braly: What are your earliest memories of comic books? How long have you been a fan?
Micah Curtis: The very first comic book I ever read was Amazing Spider-Man #361. This was a while ago, back when David Michelinie and Mark Bagley were on the book, part of that legendary run that made Bagley, Todd McFarlane, and Eric Larsen big names. To this day, the arc of 361-363 made me a comic book fan. Spider-Man to this day is my favorite superhero, and Venom is my favorite fictional character of all time. I had known of superheroes like Superman through the super old cartoons, but this was my first encounter with the darker side of comic books. You had Carnage, a serial killer whose flesh was his weapon. You had Venom’s absolute hatred for Spider-Man and vice versa that they had to put aside to catch Carnage. It just was magnificent storytelling, and in those three issues you get more story than you would in six in the modern day.
CB: When you first discover the ugly side of the comics professionals and what prompted you to start vlogging about it on Youtube?
MC: The very beginning of 2017. We were about two days into the new year when I started reading about what was going on in comics, and was mortified by the creative direction. So, I decided to do a video about it. At the time I was sort of a middling entertainment/politics vlogger and when I released my “Social Justice Doesn’t Sell” video it exploded. It just snowballed from there. Other comic book YouTubers started tweeting at me and basically let me know I had only scratched the surface. Since then I’ve observed what has felt like an industry that the professionals are more than happy to bleed dry, and that the fans and pros who still love entertaining people are desperately trying to breathe new life into it.
Fun fact: Seemingly the only way to find that video on YouTube is to search for the exact name of it or find it on my channel. You search my name it doesn’t come up any more. Over half a million views and it’s that hard to find? My spider-sense is reacting to some nonsense.
CB: I’ll be sure to embed it in this article. Do you feel you’re observing and commenting on what you’ve seen, along with other like-minded supporters has had any positive impact on comicdom or geek culture?
MC: Maybe. I’m not really sure. What I can speak to are a couple of things. I can speak to my audience saying that I’ve got them into a lot of classic comics that show there’s still potential in the medium. Christopher Priest’s Black Panther and Deathstroke, David Michilenie’s Amazing Spider-Man, Venom, and Iron-Man books, Chris Claremont’s X-Men and Ms. Marvel, Garth Ennis’ The Punisher MAX and more. I can also speak to how divided the fanbase is right now. You have the die-hard comic book fans and die-hard nerds who just want good entertainment, and then you have as Eric July calls “the normies” who think that Joker was great in Infinity War and they like how Captain Marvel punches all the mean boys. They’re the type of person who can tell you what Tessa Thompson said in an interview about Valkyrie being bisexual (which is never shown in the films so it may as well not exist) but they don’t know that Valkyrie was white in the comic books.
CB: You’re launching your own comic book project, Englewood this weekend. What inspired this decision and why have you decided to embark on this project now?
MC: Well, it’s twofold but one of those folds is in another question. The decision to make the idea of Englewood into a comic came from encouragement from a few different people. Specifically Timothy Lim, Richard Meyer, and Ethan Van Sciver. All three guys encouraged me to flex my creative muscles at different points. Richard specifically has given me a ton of tips and things to consider as the process has gone on. Not to mention with the indies being as hot as they are right now it’s the best time to strike that iron. There’s a demand for comic books that are new and fresh ideas but still scratch the itch that Marvel and DC aren’t able to scratch. People want comics that entertain, not some sermon about a socio political concept that they either don’t care about or think is nonsense.
CB: How long has this story been gestating?
MC: The basic idea has been gestating for about four years. One commonality about the two monthly series that I want to do is they’ve been idea’s I’ve had for years but didn’t know what to do with them. This particular one came from a story from one of my old co-workers when I was security at a four star hotel. She’s from Englewood originally. For those who don’t know, Englewood is the most crime-ridden part of Chicago. Nasty place and people don’t want to be there. She had to bury four or five relatives in the course of a month, all of whom were bystanders in gangland violence. I’m originally from a south suburb of Chicago called Sauk Village. I love the area. Always will, but I want someone to give a damn about these people who are suffering. So I said to myself, “what would happen if someone stood up to the gangs and corruption?”
CB: Tell me a little bit about Englewood. Give me the elevator pitch / synopsis
MC: A disgraced MMA heavyweight champion decides to hang up his gloves and use his wealth and ability to try and change his city from the ground up. He teaches martial arts to kids, helps fathers reconnect with their sons, and helps rehabilitate ex-cons. One day, when he stands up to a gang member it changes his life forever. Retaliation turns to slaughter, and a hero is born from the blood that is shed.
CB: Sounds fascinating! I know you’re Christian, has your faith or politics influenced this story in any way?
MC: Faith is a big part of it. There’s a piece of me in Elijah, and Elijah’s father (who is introduced later) is partially based on my own dad. I grew up in the church, and I’ve preached sermons and taught young people about Jesus. He’s not that different. Though he struggles with his faith he wants to do the right thing. He believes in redemption, and knows he can show people the path forward. He’s a bit more hands-on than Bruce Wayne or Matt Murdock in that sense.
CB: Tell me about your creative team? How did you come together?
MC: Well, my editor Alex is my podcasting partner. Most people probably know him better as Hatman. Brian Martinez, who is doing pencils and inks, is someone I’ve known for a while. He’s part of the Honey Badger Brigade and a super talented artist. Armand Strange, the colorist, I brought into the fold very recently. He’s someone who has watched my vids and he showed me his color work. I was stunned by it, and was shocked he wasn’t on a book.
CB: What’s been your process from idea to finished product?
MC: It’s really all been about refinement. I try to pose questions to myself during the process. “What does it look like when a superhero just started?” Then I answer that question. “How does he become so skilled he can beat the crap out of 20 guys?” Then I answer THAT question. It just snowballs from there. I wanted to create a modern version of a Shang-Chi or Iron Fist in a sense. Mixed martial artists are the perfect example. As time has gone on a lot of martial art myths have been shattered. We can thank (or blame) the UFC for that. MMA fighters are the new Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris’ of the world. You want to find someone who is an expert in several martial disciplines? That’s where you look. From there it was all about figuring out how they would look at the start, and how they would get the technological edges and such that would support a one-man war on Chicago’s gangs.
CB: What are you hoping to accomplish with Englewood?
MC: Well, I want this book to be a monthly comic. I don’t think monthly’s are dead. I think the big two are neglecting them because those companies are run by morons. This crowdfunding campaign is Issue #1, I’m scripting the second issue soon, and I want to bring a street-level symphony to people’s doors and computers every single month. If you’re disappointed with Batman or Daredevil or other street level comics these days, I’ve got a book that’s going to leave you satisfied on day one, and then counting days on the calendar from day two onwards.
CB: A lot of indie creators have been jumping into the crowdfunding game lately. What approach are you taking that you hope will ensure your success from kick off to final delivery?
MC: I listen to fans. I’ve always believed in a market it’s not hard to make money. All you have to do is listen. Pay attention. I’m delivering something that they want. An action packed comic that scratches the street level itch that books like Frank Miller’s Daredevil or Christopher Priest’s Black Panther scratched for folks years ago. Plus, we do have awesome swag planned included a pinup poster from an artist that will blow you away. I can’t wait for this to drop.
CB: If this is a success, do you have more ideas and do you plan on continuing this particular story or even perhaps launching something altogether new?
MC: I want to write Englewood for years. I also have other comics in the pipeline. I’m working with artist Preston Acevedo to bring forward an 88 page or so horror graphic novel called Three Knights, Four Days that’s inspired by works like Eaters of the Dead, Crossed, and even some pulp works like Conan the Barbarian and Elric of Melnibone. That book is a prequel to the monthly that Preston and I will be bringing forth called Project: Lazarus, which is a horror/sci-fi cape comic. Plus, Brian Martinez has his own book he’s doing in the same little universe called Bombshell that looks fantastic. You know what’s crazier? I’ve got even MORE ideas in the pipe that hit fantasy, sci-fi, and even comedy.
CB: Back to the comic industry, what do you see 5-10 years down the road if the big publishers continue on the path they’ve been on? Do you see any hope for positive change?
MC: They’re toast if they keep going down this road. You can only rely on Spider-Man and Batman to carry you for so long. Superman went from enjoyable to trash. They gave Wonder-Woman to the most overrated writer in comics today. Nick Spencer’s Spider-Man isn’t bad but he’s not doing anything new (though Ryan Ottley was BORN to draw Spider-Man). They don’t even promote writers like Priest or Donny Cates on social media for titles like Deathstroke or Venom respectively. They are doomed. On the flipside, in 5-10 years I see Englewood being 60+ issues in, same with other comics alongside my peers continuing to put forward great work while Ta-Nehesi Coates continues to whine about reparations and not draw a dime.
CB: What do you think is the biggest complaint the big publishers could address that might do the most good for the industry if they addressed / fixed it tomorrow?
MC: Simple. Fire everyone who isn’t making them money. If I were one of the heads at Disney, Tom Brevoort would be gone. Joe Quesada would be gone. Sana Amanant would be gone. I’d purge it. Nepotism would be gone. That means no more YA writers, no more Ta-Nehesi Coates and his buddies, no more. Lifestyle brand nonsense dies. We focus on awesome stories. Event books don’t happen any more. I approach older writers and ask them to do graphic novels for me. Names like David Michelinie, J. Michael Strazynski, Jim Starlin, Walt Simonson and others are getting books. We’re going to have social media focus on selling comics. We’ll encourage our writers to do interviews with popular comic book YouTubers. I’d clear out any waste on the staff and increase the page-rate for artists. If Marvel did that tomorrow they’d instantly be in a better spot. Focus on making money, not pandering to Vox’s blogs about how we need a transgender biracial papaplegic midget superhero.
CB: Anything else you’d like to let our readers know?
MC: That I love all of you, and I couldn’t be more excited to bring you guys great stories, hopefully year after year after year!
CB: Thanks Micah. We are rooting for you!
MC: And I am humbled by it. God bless.