It wasn’t the first concept that I created.
It wasn’t the book that my former partners wanted me to do as my first true comic book. But, The Horsemen is the project that I’m best known for. It’s the one that put me on the map. It’s the project that is making my dreams come true.
The Horsemen was the culmination of a number of projects that I wanted to do during my formative years as an artist. I had always been a student of mythology (blame that on Clash of the Titans). I first read the Greek myths, then the Norse myths, Egyptians and so on. Around the age of 16, I started reading about myths from Africa and decided that I wanted to create a series of illustrations based on the gods and goddesses of various regions.
I created a concept called The Race in 1993 using the mythology theme. The Race was about the descendants of the world heroes and demigods of mythology who had a recessive gene that, when activated through either proximity or severe trauma, would gain super powers. The premise was that they were caught in the middle of a war between two gods, Exodus and Othello. Whosever side they joined would tip the scales of the war in either god’s favor.
Also during that time, I created another concept called Jom and Aida based on not only African mythology, but also the opera Aida (as performed by Leontyne Price), which was the story of an Egyptian princess. I wanted to use the idea of death and rebirth as the central theme.
These concepts never came together…
…Until, in 1997, I was in the middle of writing my graduate thesis. I was writing, designing, and illustrating a book on the history of African American super heroes and their connection to the gods and goddesses of Africa. I had taken a class on Afro-Caribbean art and rituals, which exposed me to religions like Vodou, Santeria, and Candomble. It also exposed me to the African root faith systems of these religions, most notably the Yoruba faith of Nigeria.
Finally! This was my chance to do those African god illustrations I had always wanted to create! The book was going to be called The New Mythology. I used the names of seven Yoruba gods, the Orishas, and their aspects as the chapter titles for the book. However, when I got to actually creating those pieces, I realized that I couldn’t illustrate them in traditional African dress.
Since it was a book about super heroes, the Orishas had to be illustrated as such. I really got into creating these super heroic interpretations of these gods. I was getting real Jack Kirby with this concept. So much so that I did not want to let these designs exist only for this project and nothing else. So, they were going to be my new property.
But, what do I call them?
I remembered the title of a book that I had to read for the Caribbean class, The Divine Horsemen by Maya Deren. I dropped the “Divine” and the rest, they say, is history. As for the premise, thank DJ Krush. On the title track of his album, Meiso, Black Thought of the mighty Roots Crew said these fateful words:
“Who controls the eight immortals, but the number seven, in this continual maze?”
The eight immortals became the Deitis, with Exodus and Othello among them. The Race concept and Jom concept folded into this new universe, this New Mythology. I started a company and put this book out myself. The Horsemen is my firstborn and, therefore, the most precious.
That’s the lesson: follow your heart, be true to you and what you believe in, and the future can be yours.
Griot Enterprises is the future of entertainment… You better recognize!