Brian Hawkins is an assistant editor at Mad Cave Studious; the writer and creator of Cornrows; and an educator, teaching English to the next generation of comic book collectors and creators. His editorial skills have helped bring books like Knights of the Golden Sun, Midnight Taskforce, Battlecats, & Honor and Curse to life, and his imaginative writing skills are on full display in Cornrows, an explosive story about a vigilante teacher seeking revenge for the death of a former student, merging his two worlds in an urban fantasy comic book.
Brian sat down with us at NerdBastards to answer a few questions and share some advice in the next installment in our series of interviews with indie comic creators.
NerdBastards (NB): Brian, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. We know you have a rather busy schedule.
Brian Hawkins (BH): Haha, yea busy. A lil’. But thanks for having me for this — never too busy to talk. Relationships are the most important things in life. So here we are… We’re in a relationship now haha.
NB: Things are moving fast here, ha ha.
NB: So you are an assistant editor for Mad Cave Studios, an educator, and the writer of Cornrows. Needless to say, you are a very busy man. Let’s start with your work as an assistant editor. What can you tell us about working for Mad Cave? How did you get started there? Did you have an editing background?
BH: Mad Cave Studios. That’s family to me. We met and clicked and it’s been business and fun, and fun and business since. They are extremely professional — organized and goal oriented; they have a plan and vision for telling stories through their comics and I’m grateful to be a part of that. We met by chance, or fate, depending on how you see life — I choose a little of both haha… I was freelancing and we crossed paths and the rest is history. Love them! All of them! Again, it’s about relationships.
NB: Mad Cave is growing fast and it seems to be gaining a loyal fan base. How has your experience been working for them?
BH: Yea, things are happening, they/we are growing… It’s cool to see and that’s what is supposed to happen — things grow. But the cool thing about indie comics especially, is that you can’t grow without building that connection with your readers and the audience. They are the lifeline of all of this. Mad Cave does a lot outside of making comics, they/we are going to stores, creating platforms for creators and comic book enthusiasts to interact. From Mark London (CEO of Mad Cave Studios) to Chris Fernandez (CSO at Mad Cave) to Chris Sanchez (Communications & Digital Media) and so many others… They’re literally in geographical locations meeting people and making themselves available, again to build relationships. And then there’s the online presence, the social media platforms that we are constantly on, talking about comics and pop culture and finding out what’s going on in other peoples’ lives. Also, charity work, working with groups to share profits on special variations of books, it’s amazing and all just so cool and dope to be a part of.
NB: So they must have some big aspirations!
NB: So you’re an educator as well? Tell us a bit about that.
BH: Yes. I’m an English teacher. I’ve been teaching for 14 years. And… It’s great! I’ve never been the teacher to stress or feel weighed down, some of that comes from just who I am and some it comes from learning how to manage myself. It’s a calling — I get to speak to youth, teach about self and discovery, and dive into how to write and the understanding of the human condition through author’s purpose. Teaching and being an educator is an extension of who I am and it connects to my other extensions, like writing and storytelling and editing.
NB: Now to our main event, Cornrows! First off congratulations on a successful Kickstarter. What can you tell us about this urban fantasy series? Where did you get the idea?
BH: Whelp, THANK YOU for that! It’s been the effort of a lot of people, including backers and those that shared and supported by spreading the word. That goes without saying… So, Cornrows is about a teacher who attempts to avenge the death of a former student of his by becoming a masked vigilante. It’s set in Baltimore, MD, a real geographical location instead of a fictional world — the reason behind that is because we wanted to tell a real story. Not a superhero story. A core question of the series would be, what would you do to right a wrong? Me? I feel like most people see bad things and wish they could do something about it, step outside of themselves and societal norms and expectations and just do something about it. That’s what this teacher, Theo Mayfield, does. In his case, he has a background in martial arts, June Keet Do to be exact (stems from my love of Bruce Lee), and so with those particular set of skills and mindset he decides to go after the bad guys. Theo is us. The us that decided to do something.
NB: Can you tell us a little about the artist, Marcio Loerzer? Where did you guys meet? What was it like to work with him?
BH: Marcio and I linked up through another publisher. I was writing for a small indie press and Marcio messaged us, he was interested in doing some work — there wasn’t any yet. I talked to him and looked at some of his samples, they were dope. And so… We talked some more and we began building a relationship and then I pitched him the idea of collaborating. Staying indie, self-publishing, it being our own thing under my imprint GNOSIS Entertainment, and doing Kickstarter releases. He was down! Then I pitched him Cornrows and here we are.
NB: Besides Cornrows, you have a few other writing credits to your name, care to share with our readers some of your other projects/jobs?
BH: Sure. I’ve been writing comics since 2012. It’s been an interesting journey, one that has helped me to grow as a person. I have an older title that I’m still figuring out how I want to handle it called America’s Kingdom. I’ve written it as a novel, screenplay, comic… There’s a lot of history there. One day I’ll figure out how I want to carry that forward. Also, I’ve freelanced for a few small presses, writing for two issues of a title called Angelica Reigns. Also, I’ve worked with an independent company based in the U.K. that focuses on kid entertainment — they produced a two issue series called The Lion Pack, I’m currently writing the novel adaptation for that now; there have been several other freelance titles and some other creator owned projects I’ve started but put on hold. It’s sometimes about timing — and focus. For now, I’ve decided to really focus on Cornrows as my self-pub title. There are some other titles in the works, one being pitched, another with Ashcan Comics and Nate Lindley, the publisher himself, is going be the artist on that.
NB: So many projects. What inspired you to become a writer?
BH: Storytelling. One of my fondest and oldest memories is watching soap operas with my mom… I think that’s where my love of stories began. From there: cartoons, comics, books, movies, tv shows… Then I started writing my own. I used to draw too, never good, just okay maybe. But I still draw a decent Bart Simpson — I sometimes draw him in class on the board to give a direction, haha. Storytelling and writing to me is about the human condition, examining it and exploring it, but most importantly, trying our best to understand it so that we might understand ourselves.
NB: See, now I want a Bart Simpson sketch from you, ha ha!
NB: We’ve interviewed a few indie creators in this series, and it seems that most of them seem to gravitate toward a certain genre of storytelling. Is there a genre that you prefer to write?
BH: Aaaah… I don’t think so. I just really like a good story. I read a variety of books. I have a thing for fantasy, horror/mystery, and romance. I believe all stories should have some kind of love interest. That to me really captures the human condition and sets the stakes of the story to high, in a personal way — always. So, in my own writing, no matter the genre, you’ll find some kind of relationship at play. Again, relationships.
NB: I see. It always circles back to relationships.
NB: Do you have any advice you’d like to share with an aspiring writer or editor, any pitfalls that you might caution them about?
BH: It’s about being willing to learn. Maybe I’m bias as an educator, or maybe it’s the catalyst for me being an educator, but learning is the root of all knowledge and knowledge is power in the sense that it creates the ability to do, and potentially to do well. Learn about storytelling, writing, the craft of scripting or writing prose, there’s a method to all of it, many things to be comprehended about it — some tangible and some not; that comes from doing it over and over again. Also, don’t fret over failure. Failure is good. It’s a part of learning. That’s what makes you perfect. Quick note: the Hebrew word for perfect as it was in the Torah and the Christian Old Testament actually means “with the ability to grow and mature.” So, that changes things, right?! Perfection is about growth — the process. Oh, and learn about business. Running a business. Become financially mindful, not just create and write. That’s a part of ownership, the creator owned. I failed at that, and learned how important it is to creating and writing. Learning how to be an entrepreneur.
NB: That is some truly solid advice. So what does the future look like for Brian Hawkins, any upcoming projects that you can share with us?
BH: More Cornrows. The current story, which is subtitled “There Are No More Heroes,” will end in Issue three, but another Cornrows story will follow behind it — I’m looking forward to that next journey, the changes in the characters (some will carry over and some won’t unfortunately). Hmmm, as I mentioned in the other response, I have something coming with Nate Lindley, the publisher for Ashcan Comics, and I’m working on a creator owned project with Nathan Kelly that we are pitching. And… A LOT of editing for Mad Cave! They have a lot of books coming out and it’s MAD cool that I get to get my hands on pretty much all of them at some point. Even yours hehe.
NB: Well… Mine is still a secret wink, wink.
NB: Where can our readers follow you on social media?
BH: Twitter @brianlhawkins, Instagram @brianlouis_I_Am, and Facebook as Brian L. Hawkins, the Brian Hawkins-Writer/Editor Page, and the Gnosis Entertainment Page.
NB: So basically, all over the web!
NB: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us Brian, and for creating this new relationship, wink! We look forward to getting our hands on the next issue of Cornrows and watching your career grow in the world of indie comics.