Before Facebook sucked my free internet time out of the air, I spent most of my online viewing time on Blacksuperhero.com, particularly its message board, HeroTalk. I conducted an interview with the mad genius creator and curator of The Museum of Black Super Heroes, Omar Bilal. Omar is also the creator of the futuristic indie comic, MCity Defender, and a really nice guy.
Who are you and where are you from?
Omar Bilal. Grew up in Capitol Heights, MD currently residing in Bowie Maryland.
When and how did you become a comics fan?
Well, I’ve always been a fan of comics and art. Growing up, my older brothers had posters everywhere. They also drew comic characters as a hobby and that was probably my first exposure. Moreso a fascination with the art than the stories at first at least.
Do you remember the first comic that you read?
Not really. I was all over the place when it came to comics. I’d read what I came across. I think they were anything from Kids stuff like Archie and Disney, to Marvel, DC and Mad Magazine. As you can tell I wasn’t very picky.
Hey I understand, I was the same way. So when I first met you or at least heard of you was when I googled Black Super Hero and miraculously this wondrous site pops up, Blacksuperhero.com. Tell me about the history of BSH?
That’s my baby. I started the site more as a learning venture than anything else. I had been interested in comics but over the years I found I was seeking out black comic book characters which were few and far between at the time. The stuff I had come across was almost an afterthought compared to other stuff you’d find at the comic shop. In 1997, I started Blacksuperhero.com aka “The Museum of Black Superheroes” as a site that would focus on characters of color and their creators.
How quickly did the museum expand with characters?
When I began I thought it was pretty clear the expansion would be slow… But like anything else you start digging and you find there’s a lot you hadn’t paid attention to. So I started out with information on the mainstays like Marvel’s Black Panther and the Falcon but I found my real interest was in the indie stuff. The expansion went much more rapidly once I tapped into the stuff that was being created on the fringes. That’s where the excitement was in my opinion!
That’s where I came into contact with BSH. Force Galaxia was near completion and I wanted to talk to like minded creators and I discovered the beating heart of the site, HeroTalk. Did you think the message board would become so lively?
I remember you coming onto the boards. Again, your work was inspiring as was a lot of the stuff that come through there. Yes, the Herotalk forum is quite lively at times. I still enjoy many of the people and discussions being had there. Like any forum it has had its ups and downs but I don’t think anyone can dispute that a lot of positive work has come from the discussions being shared.
I know that you yourself became a creator, what are some of your influences as a writer?
When I write I pull from a bunch of stuff. Sci-fi, movies, Comics, news, science. I’m no wordsmith like Don McGregor one of my favorite comic writers back in the day, but am inspired by stuff that I read and know it’s done well. Writing a story that flows correctly and is easy to grasp is not something that’s simple to do and not a lot of guys do it well. But I want to get there one day. I think my approach is probably way more technical than most, but that’s just how my mind works. I see images and story and have these grandiose big picture stories and find it hard to condense them down into short form of a comic book.
One of my favorite books coming up was Jack Cole’s Plastic Man. I think the book I’m currently working on (The MCity Defender) wants to capture some of that simplicity and fun. Might take a few more issues to pull it off, but the process has been great.
Grandiose is good. I like a great space opera. Which leads me to ask about the aforementioned MCity Defender. I know this is your creation. How did you come up with the idea and whats the story?
While in college I was playing with this character named “Crimefighter”. I had done sketches and a bunch of short takes to flesh him out in my mind. Looking back, things that were influencing my work would have been movies like “Robocop”, the comic book “Brotherman” as well as Milestone comics. I knew I wanted to create a comic. I was not sure how you jumped into the publishing ring, but this thing kept gnawing at me. To this day, I still have at least one other book that I feel like I need to do but first things first. The book got underway in mid 2008 but I found the name was already taken (go figure).
So I took some elements of the story and came up with the M-City Defender.
The MCity Defender is defender of one of the last remaining Earth cities. He’s got quite a task ahead of him in that a brilliant scientist gone evil wants to defeat M-City and to make matters worst – he literally hears his wife speak to him through some of the enhancements that he’s been given.
The story is sort of a diatribe about the limits of technology and the natural world.
There are people like his nemesis who hate technology and think enhancements should be more “genetic” while the Defender’s creator is all about the benefits of technology.
BTW, I’d like to thank you for introducing me to the artist “Mike Werner”. I saw his work on your book “Force Galaxia”. The guys a great talent and I’m honored to have been able to work with him.
You’re a great interview because my next question was how has it been working with Mike Werner? Have you two developed a good working model?
Actually, I don’t try and put too many constraints on him. He’s got a good vision of what I’m shooting for and normally he’s dead on. On the occasion I have a real specific image in mind I’m able to send him a sketch or two and he’s normal dialed in at that point. It’s been a good experience. A lot more time consuming than I imagined but it’s like a steady uphill climb – you just gotta take one step at a time.
How’s the book been received by the fans?
I think I’ve sold 5 books. My mom REALLY likes hers. LOL.
I also have to mention that my co-author Todd Threats has been invaluable in forming the story… Couldn’t do it without someone to bounce ideas off of at a moments notice.
Seriously though. I think as I get further into the story people might get on-board.
Man, that’s too bad about the sales. I hope this interview will help get the word out. Speaking of, were can fans buy the book?
No worries. I’m having fun to say the least.
BTW, book 2 is 95% complete.
Cool. Lastly, now that you’re an indie publisher, do you have any advice to other up and coming creators?
Yeah, go make a movie. At least you get popcorn.
Let me stop playing!
Just do what you feel. You never know you might just create something that other people gravitate towards (Brotherman) and the rest will be history. Also, take the time up front to make sure the book your writing is worth the investment, because it is a HUGE investment of your time and money.
Well thanks for your time. See you on BSH!
Thanks for the interview man. I really would like to take time to interview you one day.
Appreciate it. Have a good night!
Andre Owens has been hiding in Los Angeles for over 15 years, a former Director of Photography, he now writes and publishes the cosmic comic, Force Galaxia. He is currently writing and plans to produce a webseries, The Psychedelic Detective. In his free time he enjoys long form television, sushi and a celebration of all things 420. His name’s not Supergreen!