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Indie Comics Spotlight: Tini Howard has your dream job, writing for Marvel, WWE, Rick and Morty, and GLOW

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Dec 21, 2018, 4:45 PM EST

2018 has been a good year for Tini Howard. Not only has she been writing the Tim Seeley spinoff Hack/Slash: Resurrection (Image), but her creator-owned works Assasinistas and her Flatliners-meets-Supernatural comic Euthanauts (IDW/Black Crown) have been going strong. She brought Bucky back for Captain America Annual #1 (Marvel) but Marvel also gave her her own series Bêlit, Queen of the Black Coast (2019) from the Conan universe. Plus she continues to collaborate with friend and co-writer Ryan Cady on The Magdalena (Top Cow) and Valiant let her reshape War-Monger for The Forgotten Queen (Valiant).

She's also received a lot of attention for her licensed work with IDW for her ongoing Rick and Morty comic and her WWE storylines. A gaming and wrestling fan, Howard figures that the convergence of those two experiences helped earn her the opportunity to adapt the Netflix series GLOW (put out by IDW). We caught up with the busy writer as she took a break to wrap holiday presents and tell us where her inspiration comes from.

Cover Artist: KANO

When you were growing up, did you read comics or was it something that you got into later?

I was an only child who learned to read really young because and my parents were like 20-year-olds and they both worked nonstop trying to raise me. I was a voracious reader. I read all of every comic I could find, which at first was like what my dad had in the newspaper, Calvin and Hobbes, Doonesbury and Peanuts. At the library I discovered historic graphic novels. My first favorite was called The Cartoon History of the Universe by Larry Gonick. Then when I got older, I would go to the bookstore (back when Borders existed) and just pull the Sandman trades off the shelf and sit there and read them.

So it was libraries and bookstores, not the comic book shop.

I didn't go into a comic store to buy comics until I was an adult, like 18 or 19. I knew they existed, but my dad was really into gaming so I would go into gaming and hobby stores with him. I remember when I saw Iron Man [onscreen]. I saw the movie and realized that he's really cool. After that, I went to the [comic book store] and grabbed whatever Iron Man comic was coming out at the time. It was Matt Fraction's Invincible run, and it was like number 200 and something. Then I borrowed a bunch of books from my friends and started reading all of like Ultimates and all of Civil War. Now my dad goes into the comic stories with me because I can show him around and tell him what's, what.

But you didn't go straight into comics. I heard you were in a completely different field. Tell us about that.

10 years later I was still devouring every Iron Man comic I could get my hands on. I would drive an hour and a half every day to a defense contracting job in Northern Virginia I really didn't like. And I could relate to Tony Stark, I'm kind of smart, but I felt like my brains were getting used for something I didn't agree with. I just felt like it was going to waste there and when my husband got laid off, we both asked ourselves, "Why are we here?"

Rick and Morty

So we moved to North Carolina and during that time I went back to being a barista. I didn't have to put thought into slinging lattes. And [after work] I'd go home and write. I was writing whatever I could get paid to write. Resumes, tons and tons of blog copy. I was doing a lot freelance work. Finally, my big break was that I submitted a script to the Top Cow Talent Hunt in 2013 and won with my little one-shot story.

That's a huge break.

I remember like coming out after my shift at 10 at night, covered in like milk and vanilla syrup and coffee grounds. turning my phone on and seeing an email from Matt Hawkins telling me "Congratulations, you won! We're going to pay you for your script." I had never been paid for creative writing like that before. I'd certainly never been paid to write comics before. And I just burst into tears in my car. And in that moment I was like, all right, we're doing this.

Artist: Sanford Greene

What was the little 20-page story about?

Well, Magdalena is about a woman who can wield the spear that pierced Christ at the crucifixion. She's descended from Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalena and the story is kind of The Da Vinci Code meets Buffy. In all of the publication's history, they never talk about how the spear got from the Middle East to Europe. How did a lot of religious artifacts from the Middle East from Europe? They were stolen during the Crusades. So my story focuses on that.

In Rick and Morty, you wrote Summer coming out as bisexual. Did you get push back from that?

It was brought to me specifically as a writer, which was really awesome. They trusted my lived experience to make the story good. I was a bisexual teenage girl, which was not always positive and it was often kind of like funny and awkward. But since it's Rick and Morty, when Summer comes out, Rick answers, "I like trunk people, I don't care". It was fun and liberating as a queer woman to be able to write l the most cynical version of my experience because I'm a humor writer and I find cynicism really cathartic.

You mentioned The Forgotten Queen that you're doing with Valiant. For those not familiar with UNITY, can you tell us about her?

War-Monger one of Valiant's mysterious immortals, a villain who has the power to wake the inner bloodlust and madness that lies inside us all. The Forgotten Queen is both the story of the War-Monger's return, and also the story of her past, a frame story (like Titanic!) that takes place on a boat and tells us about some crazy stuff in the past. And there's kissing. Like Titanic! That's one thing I enjoy with her — I don't interpret her as someone who has the power to put rage and lust and power where there's none. I think she awakens the latent urges in all of us. And well, that makes her an enemy to a group that prides themselves on UNITY.

It was just announced that you are writing an adaptation of Netflix's GLOW for IDW. How did that come about?

It's great.! I was going to have to decline it because of my schedule actually and I was super bummed about it and they went out of their way to bring me on because we wanted to work together so badly. I'm just really grateful. Especially because I'm a huge fan of the show, I'm a wrestling fan and I've written for the WWE comics. I've been geeking out all week because the cast has been posting the cover on Instagram and tagging me and I'm trying to play it cool.

Artist: Nick Robles

Since Assassinistas and Euthanauts are so cinematic, who would you fancast in the starring roles?

Funny thing is, before I was writing GLOW, my forecast for Octavia from Assassinistas has always been a Sydelle Noel, who plays Cherry Bang. I love her. I think she's such an incredible actress. She goes between hardass and tender like so well and she's just like gorgeous. Plus she looks so good and in the retro world of the show that I'm like okay, she'd be amazing as Octavia.

And I'd pick Orange is the New Black's Dascha Polanco to play Thalia from Euthanauts. I totally Google pictures of her with blonde hair on. And the big glasses and red lipstick and like, she's such a babe. Nick Robles and I have said that for Mercy, we want Sarah Paulson. She's so good at just being like icy and a hardass, and Rami Malek was who we said for Indy, because he's such a sprite. Ellen Wong, also on GLOW, who plays Jenny I think will be a perfect Circe. And Nick wanted William Jackson Harper (Chidi Anagonye from The Good Place) for Guillaume.