Komplicated Commander of Pop Culture
by Savas Abadsidis on 2012-06-07
As the head of Komplicated, Hannibal Tabu has created the most successful commercial blog for black nerds and people of color. A talented polymath whose writing has graced the pages and sites of various outlets including Vibe, The Source, Rap Pages, Black Enterprise, the Los Angeles Sentinel, and on MTV Online, Hannibal has been writing since he was eight (when he wrote a truly atrocious novel about a very petty pantheon of gods). He has seen his poetry published in The Drumming Between Us, Voices From Leimert Park, Drumvoices Review, (Sic) Vice Verse and other anthologies. Former editor-in-chief of the Los Angeles Herald-Dispatch group of newspapers, he's the author novels The Crown: Ascension (on Amazon) and the as-yet-unpublished sequel Faraway, owner and editor-in-chief of Komplicated.com and weekly comics reviewer for Comic Book Resources.
What is your favorite place to escape to when you have an opportunity?
I almost never get that opportunity -- I grind harder than teenagers in love at a spring formal. There are Los Angeles places I love -- Huston Park, for example, or the hills of Malibu. I liked Manhattan Beach at night, the waves and the serenity.
I do miss Memphis, where I grew up, which feels more authentic than anywhere else I have ever been. I had the best clubbing experiences of my life in Detroit, and even though the Ryan's a nightmare, you can't beat the food in Chicago. Honestly, before gas was seventeen hundred dollars an ounce, I used to love road trips. A radar detector, good mix CDs (in the pre-iPod era) and open road, especially at night.
Maybe I do have some places I like.
What are three essential items you must have when traveling?
• Music. Absolutely vital, and can change the timbre of an experience.
• Money. You can rough it, but it sucks. Having a decent budget makes you much more relaxed.
• Access to information. Be it a local Auto Club or a well-wielded smartphone, raw data, maps and a means to look up phone numbers is amazing.
If you crash landed on a deserted isle, what are 5 things you couldn't live without (Provided you had food and water)?
Teleport chamber? Spare VTOL fighter jet with extra fuel pods? Not an option? *sigh* Okay ... Okay ... well, I'd want a prefab structure. So I don't have to get all Lindelof Lost with it. Weaponry -- a good machete should do, but I wouldn't turn down a shotgun with enough rounds. Enough clothes that I could keep a decent rotation. I'd need something I could write with, so I wouldn't go nuts with boredom. Being offline would be the hardest part -- is a satellite enabled iPad doable if I *promise* not to call for help? Being without electricity is the hardest part, so can I make the last two "MacBook Pro" and "solar powered generator" if the satellite link isn't an option?
How did Komplicated come about?
I lost a bet. No, joking. I'd been talking to former Hollywood producer Jeff Katz (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Snakes On A Plane) about doing some writing for his site Geekweek.com. Then his ideas got a little grander -- he'd have a network of websites, each creating its own content (and for his purposes video) so he could create his own virtual G4 network, a geek-powered community of interest, and I was to use my voice to fuel a space for Black geeks, an audience we both felt was dramatically under-served. I called in my wife and my good friend, comics retailer and Total Recall writer Vince Moore, to form the core of this. We asked for and received a community of elders to watch over us -- Underworld creator Kevin Grevioux, former hip hop writer and community activist Marsha Mitchell Bray, X-Clan veteran Claude "Paradise" Gray, former music exec Frank Higginbotham, tech writer and educator Sonya Donaldson and so on. One of our elders David Walker turned us on to a few other writers, including the inestimable A. Darryl Moton, and we were off to the races.
We produced 27 hour long webcasts, all of which are still on the archives at Justin.TV, with interviews like Rent/Cold Case veteran Tracie Thoms (who was Etta Candy in the ill-fated Wonder Woman pilot), would-be John Stewart actor Nick Jones Jr and many more.
We also have been grinding, three updates a day, every day, for so long I can barely remember. Free Mp3 downloads every Monday, syndicated web comics and fiction on weekdays, humor and news on video games, comics, movies, television, technology, culture -- all from a Black geek perspective. Fun stuff.
Oh, and we're also syndicated on the web radio show Sunday Morning Live, which airs at 10AM PST, http://sundaymorninglive.net. If you watch the Komplicated feed, you'll see a story every Sunday at around 8:45, noting that link and some of what will be discussed.
What's your favorite comic-book story ever?
Wow, that's tough, I know Alan Moore's Supreme story is in the running, the one where the universe ends. I'd have to give some love to the Giffen/Levitz Great Darkness Saga. Milestone's A Long Hot Summer is in the running for certain (heck, lotsa Milestone would make that list), I loved Thanos' determination in Infinity Gauntlet, Shira Brie's tale in the old Marvel Star Wars series was great (almost as great as the Agent of the Empire stuff they just did), and I remember my socks being knocked off by both Crisis on Infinite Earths and Secret Wars, the dawn of the crossover age. I could make a case for all sixty issues of Transmetropolitan (which is brilliant) ... but I believe the first eight or ten issues of Christopher Priest's Black Panther would have to do it for me. Endlessly re-readable, wonderfully drawn, brilliantly told.
What elements go into the best pop-culture blogs?
Beyond anything else, humor. Taking yourself too seriously is a deathsentence. I remember when Maxim started out, I don't even remember a single photo, but I remember the humor they had in their writing. Every paragraph was worth a look, just to see what wacky slant they'd take on things.
For me? You also have to try and choose joy. I tell people that if they see something getting bashed on Komplicated, it really *needed* to get bashed, as it was almost detrimental to the species. A pop culture blog should be our happy place ... which is why the second I saw the Green Lantern movie, we stopped all coverage. Ow.
Aside from humor and being a place people can be happy, I believe regularity is key. Komplicated updates at least three times a day, every day. That's not a question. It's a fact. It's something you can rely upon. Maybe you don't want tech news. Wait a bit. Maybe you don't need new downloads. There's another story coming soon. Etcetera and so on.
Luck doesn't hurt. We've had some very big traffic spikes from retweets by, in order, Seth Green, Snoop Dogg and Gail Simone that drew a lot of attention to our work, which was great.
Hannibal Tabu was born in Rockford, Illinois; raised in Memphis, Tennessee; matriculated in Tacoma, Washington and broadcasting live from Los Angeles, Hannibal Tabu is a writer, a brother, a husband, a misanthrope, a son, an emcee, an uncle, a poet, a father, a designer, a nephew, a romantic, a storyteller, and by god, a fan. He spent more than ten years doing the journalist thing for Vibe, Slave Trade, MTV Online, Rap Pages, America Online, the Los Angeles Sentinel, Spinnerrack.com, Speak and The Source. Hannibal has worked as a web designer/producer and graphic artist for American Honda, eHobbies.com, Quicken.com, Express.com, the California Association of REALTORS, Disney Channel, NextPlanetOver.com, Toyota Motor Sales, Kaiser Permanente, California Bank & Trust and many more. As a poet, Hannibal has been published in The Drumming Between Us, (sic) Vice Verse, Drumvoices Review, Voices From Leimert Park and other anthologies, as well as being author of the collection BORN BENEATH AN ANGRY STAR and co-author of FLIGHT MANUAL. As a novelist, he's written THE CROWN: ASCENSION (available on Amazon.com) and the forthcoming FARAWAY from Writers of Worlds Publishing. For six years he was the editor-in-chief of the Los Angeles Herald-Dispatch group of newspapers, is currently the owner and editor-in-chief of Black geek website Komplicated.com, and uses his Operative Network website (www.operative.net) to publish his poetry, market what he's doing, rant at the world and emit strangled cries for help. In addition to all that, Hannibal collects comic books, has scores of action figures, DJs private parties, is a Mac OS zealot, sings and sometimes even hosts karaoke, practices a form of spirituality based on ancient Egyptian belief, and goes to bed every day, secretly hoping that half the world will commit suicide in his honor.
Photo by Leroy Hamilton (@photoham)