In our latest Meet the Independents we proudly introduce our fans to Eric Dean Seaton. Mr Seaton has been in the television business for quite some time, directing hit shows such as “That’s So Raven”. The Legend of the Mantamaji graphic novel series is Mr. Seatons first forray into the comic book field, and he has indeed made a big impression!
1. Introduce yourself for our readers.
As an Television Director, I have directed more than 200 television episodes for 38 different shows, including NBC’s Undateable, TBS’s Ground Floor, Disney’s Austin & Ally and That’s So Raven, BET’s Reed Between the Lines and Nickelodeon’s The Haunted Hathaways and Nicky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn. I’ve also directed 18 music videos and two pilots for Nickelodeon, as well as two pilots for Disney XD.
I was born in Cleveland, Ohio and while most children were running the streets, I was reading comics, studying television and movies with the dreams of one day becoming a story teller and director. I graduated from The Ohio State University – Go Bucks! – and “Legend of the Mantamaji” is my first graphic novel series.
2. Who were your early influences?
Growing up I had two dreams – to become a director and create my own comic book.
My love for both started as a kid. I have always been interested in how things were made and I loved movies, TV and comic books so much that who was telling the story became just as important as watching the story. I would watch the credits and always know director’s and writer’s names.
I work for big corporations that own everything they show to the public. They are very nice and have been good to me but I like how things used to be. Back when I was growing up independent production companies owned the shows I loved and licensed them to the networks. Normal Lear owned “The Jeffersons,” Castle Rock owned “Seinfeld,” Stephen J. Cannell created and owned over 40 TV shows. It’s very hard to own anything now and building a brand is what everyone tries to do. I felt if I did it all myself I could accomplish both. I wanted something that was identifiable with me that I could say was truly my creation, my baby. Of course I started this before I had kids of my own. Now I see what a big responsibility children are :). Still it brings great satisfaction to try to create a new company, brand, and idea and be able to watch it grow into whatever it will become.
Later after I finished college I moved to California and was hired as a production assistant on the Fox sitcom “Living Single.” The director’s husband ran Marvel Comics, so when he would come to set I’d drill him on the books and stories I loved.
One day he offered me a tour of a new company that Marvel bought called Malibu Comics. I got to see how they made the books and at the end of the tour one of the editors offered me a chance to write a “Spiderman Stop The Violence Special.” From that moment I knew I had to create my own book.
3. What project are you currently working on?
I am promoting Books One through Three of the Legend of the Mantamaji graphic novel series, with an 11 city (and growing) book tour and we have just finished shooting the live action short based on the book called Legend of the Mantamaji: Short. We are also working on the 4th book in the series called “Legend of the Mantamaji: Emerald of Peace,” and I’m directing the sitcom “Undateable” for NBC.
4. What books did you collect or read growing up?
Growing up I loved Teen Titans by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. Marv did a fantastic job making the Titans like real teenagers.
Jim Starlin is a master storyteller with rich characters and my favorite work of his was Dreadstar.
John Byrne’s run on the Fantastic Four captures everything about family and adventure and I also loved Chris Clarmont’s run on the X-Men because he made being a minority in comic books cool.
5. Who do you think are the top five black superheroes out there and why?
Well, I’d have to say Mantamaji first and foremost but I’m biased! But let me explain why — because he is the most human. He’s a flawed character put in a situation he has to fight his way through. He may not always do it right but he’s gonna do something.
You have to give your respect to Black Panther because he is a great warrior from a powerful African land. He represents the best of the best.
Also, Cyborg – the original from the Teen Titans. He just wanted to fit in. He was an outcast and people thought he was weird by the way he looked. Who can’t relate to that?
Storm – She actually is number one to me if I had never created a book. Strong, compassionate, smart. My favorite X-Men storyline was when she lost her powers and was living with the Morlocks.
Biship – Because he was from the future and we never see heroes of color from the future.
6. If you could rewrite any character out there who would it be and why?
Oh I have too much respect for the process to try and re-write someone! I always think that’s disrespectful. If you don’t like it that’s fine but it’s what the creator’s vision was. If you can do better, then go create your own and do it!
It’s not easy. I always say this — when Superman was created he could not fly, there was no Kryptonite and no Lex Luther, so in todays world he would be boring. But years and years a great writers developed all the things that make him an icon. Now all creators must do those things from jump. It’s hard, but if you can pull it off, boy do you have something special.
7. Given the success of books like Watson and Holmes and Midnight Tiger, what other books do you see having mainstream appeal?
I’d like to see Deron Benett’s “Quixote,” Marc Bernardin and Afua Richardson’s “Genius,” “Concrete Park” by Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander, “Shaft” by David Walker and Bilquis Evely (which just got nominated for the first Walter McDuffie award at Long Beach Comic Expo), “Ajala” by N. Steven Harris and Robert Garrett and “Kid Code: Channel Zero” by Stacey Robinson, John Jennings and Damian Duffy is cool too.
8. If there were anything you would say to someone looking to get into the comic industry; especially a person of color; what would it be?
Start with a really good story. Set rules for how the world you create works and be consistent. Take your time, and keep working on it. You also should probably not quit your day job right away. Or ever if you have a great one like I do! Also, make sure you create an engaged social media following and strong social media campaign plan, solid distribution plan, press kit, have a really good editor and work with other creators to promote your work together. Approach media for reviews and articles about your work and be certain to nurture your grassroots support.
9. Is there anyone in particular you would like to work with on a book?
I’m actually open to anyone with a good idea or story. Every year around this time they announce the TV pilots that are going to be shot. I usually get a copy of all the scripts that sound interesting and read them. I can honestly say I can tell from the read if it’s good or not. Not you need more than that to make a great show, the casting and the directing have to be dead on but you can see why they are shooting it. So I’m very open to work with anyone who has a great idea. They don’t even have to share the same interests if they can convince you that what they are writing or drawing is good.
10. What is the biggest obstacle that Indy creators must overcome to be taken seriously alongside mainstream companies like Marvel and DC Comics?
Stop trying to be a company and focus on the characters. Marvel and DC are huge brands but even they started with one character at a time. The best way to get in is to push a great character and blow that character up – that will get the name of the company out there. I could be wrong, but when I walk up to a table and they have 5 different things to offer how do I focus on one of them? What if I pick up the wrong one?
If you are going to do five different books can they have characters that cross over or tie into the others? That’s all Marvel and DC does now. You can’t just buy one book because a character from another book will show up and you need to get that one to connect the story. I remember at the height of Chris Clairmont’s run on the X-Men a new Mutant showed up each month. I think more independents should try doing that as well.
I may even end up doing that with my books, but I will likely get other people to write them, maybe spin off Cornerstone and the Sanctuants or tell the story of Noah one hundred years ago or a thousand years ago.
11. Why do you think it’s so hard for Indy creators to get mainstream coverage?
Because even your grandmother knows the story of Superman or Batman or the Hulk. All these characters have been around for a long time in many forms, TV, toys, animation and now live action movies. Who has time to cover the new person? Also, a lot of the major comic book media simply do not to cover them. So how do you make people pay attention? By keeping at it and growing your fan base. Just like anything else if people keep asking about a brand or they see they are losing out on scoop, they will come around.
12. Name three independent books that you would like to see as movies.
You mean besides Legend of the Mantamaji? I think Static Shock would be a good one, it’s already getting the live action treatment in TV, Concrete Park would be CRAZY cool on the big screen and hm…
13. Why do you think it’s important to have Black Superheroes?
Because we are at the forefront of everything that has happened in this world. Why can’t we be superheroes, WHY CAN’T WE SURVIVE THE APOCALYPSE?!
We go into space, we save the world, we have amazing abilities, we love, we hurt, we have all of the experiences any sci-fi/fantasy creator can come up with and these stories are being told right now and have been being told for decades. It’s just people get segregated by color and income and exposure and if they don’t see it, then it’s out of their mind.
I created Legend of the Mantamaji because I saw myself as Black Panther or wanted to date Storm or felt I was Cyborg. I was all of them. I was also Batman and Iron Man and Wonder Man. And every other kid or adult should be able to relate to whoever they want to be regardless of the color of their skin.
Fans of the hit graphic novel series Legend of the Mantamaji will be pleased to know that the title for the next series has been announced by Mr. Seaton. It will be called Legend of the Mantamaji: Bloodlines. Look for it coming next year. He has also announced the title of the short. It is simply entitled; Legend of the Mantamaji: Live Action Short.
Check back next week as we continue to MEET THE INDEPENDENTS!
If your a black indy writer or have a series starring a black protagonist then send us an email at Worldofblackheroes@gmail with the subject “Meet the Independents” for your chance to be the next indy spotlight!
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