Tuskegee Heirs: Flames of Destiny An Interview with Marcus Williams and Greg Burnham
From the minds of illustrator Marcus Williams (Hero Cats, Super Natural and D.M.C) and children’s book author Greg Burnham (Broken Glass and Grandpa’s Shoes) comes the Tuskegee Heirs: Flames of Destiny series. Tuskegee Heirs is a futuristic sci-fi adventure that follows a squadron of young, gifted aviators who are forced to become Earth’s last line of defense against a menacing race of artificially intelligent villains bent on destroying civilization.
The duo looks to pay homage to the historic Tuskegee Airmen, while bringing forth a new set of character rich young heroes. With a graphic novel set to release mid 2016, Marcus and Greg intend to push this project towards animation. “Heirs” follows in the Japanese animation genre’s age old practice of dropping unusually talented youths inside cockpits of enormously powerful machines. The story promises to entertain while also detailing some of our lesser known world history.
Anime Complexium got a chance to interview the duo about their inspirations and future plans.
Where are you from originally?
Marcus: I was born in Louisiana, but moved to San Diego at a young age. Been in Georgia for about 18 years.
Greg: Well my Father was in the Air Force, so I was born in Selma Alabama, but my family is from Missouri.
How long have you been involved in comics?
Marcus: I began drawing comic art in 1997. But I’ve officially been making comics for the past four years.
Greg: Well, working with Marcus, we’ve dabbled in comics for the last 15 years. I’ve mainly done children’s books though.
What’s your favorite comic book past or present?
Marcus: As an artist, I tend to identify more with my favorite artists. Jim Lee, Greg Capullo, Joe Mad, Adam Hughes, and Japanese Manga. All of it. LOL!
Greg: Anything with Spiderman, I love The Walking Dead comics, Black Panther, and X-men.
When did you decide that writing is your passion?
Greg: I think I truly discovered the passion when I was in the fifth grade. I spent about three weeks writing this elaborate story, which I look back now and admit, was a total rip-off of Star Wars. But that story was everything to me at the time. Just putting all these ideas on paper, and making it all flow together, it was the best feeling.
Marcus: I have been writing visually as an artist using images to convey stories and all my life.
What was the inspiration for Tuskegee Heirs?
Marcus: Being a fan of anime, science fiction, and high adventure stories as a youth, it falls upon me as a father to provide stories that will excite my children the same exact way. Using elements from history, and presenting them in a new fashion is just icing on the cake.
Greg: I majored in history in college, and I have to say that the thought of the Tuskegee Airmen is inspirational. Having the ability to tell a futuristic story, that will hopefully cause people to pick up a history book is just too enticing for me.
What was the inspiration for the main characters?
Greg: Honestly, our inspiration is that kid we meet at a book signing that says he wants to be a writer, or an illustrator. That little girl, who has never been exposed to comics, but sees a poster, or a book and totally loses it. We did a festival last summer and this young man (about 10 yrs old) comes up to the table and sees Icon and Static posters, and proceed to tell me their life stories. He knew more about those heroes than me!! I’m just nodding my head acting like I am following him. I remember being that kid, and not really understanding that one day I could create those types of stories. We are inspired by the youth.
How did you two decide on the particulars of the artwork? How did it help the story’s vision?
Marcus: Japanese animation set the bar really high in terms of quality art. So matching that quality was, and still is a main visual goal. Style wise we wanted to convey an attractive world/cast.
Greg: We started brainstorming on the initial idea, and once Marcus put pencil to paper, it was a wrap. He has the ability to make one image say so many things. I feel so free as a writer because I know that whatever we come up with, this guy can bring it to life.
What are some of the difficulties or challenges you feel will come up while creating this comic?
Marcus: Pushing technology 80 years from now, and making it look believable. Locking in the equation that blends history, and future and making it presentable for the future.
Greg: Time. Time. Time. We both are single fathers, who have to bring home the turkey bacon. So carving out the time to knock this graphic novel out in chunks is very important. We’re doing well so far.
Where do you hope to see the success of Tuskegee Heirs a year from now?
Marcus: A full season of an animated series completed. Two complete graphic novels, and actively attending comic, anime, and children’s book conventions.
Greg: Hopefully we’ll have action figures, toy planes, T-shirts and Halloween costumes too. LOL. But seriously, we’re rolling up our sleeves on this one. We know it may not come easy, but we’d love to have an animated series or movie being produced this time next year.
Can you provide any advice for those looking to write for independent comic books companies or self-publishing?
Marcus: Learn the comic book industry, in terms of what it takes to be financially successful first. Ask as many questions to as many successful comic book creators. Learn the business.
Greg: Also, you absolutely have to have prove that you can do what you say you can do. Create something. Believe in yourself and keep pushing.
What can fans expect from you in the future?
Greg: I feel like we are just getting started. We have a few different series that are ready to go. And of course more children’s books.
Marcus: Video games, 3d illustrations interactive media as well. We have so many ideas.
The team will be launching a Kickstarter Project in the following weeks, and is looking for as many publicity opportunities as possible. The immediate goal is to produce the graphic novel, but any additional funds will be applied to an animated pilot project.