Category Archives: Mastering my Kung-Fu

29 Black Comix Artists That I Admire Part: 3

First and foremost, I am an artist. Comics are my medium. With that being said, there have been many artists that I looked up to, admired, envied, and had been intimidated by. In other words, I have learned to be a better comic book creator by observing and studying how they have approached the craft of comics. This is a list of some of my favorite Black comic book artists. If your favorite artist isn’t on this list, make your own.

Part 1 focused on my early influences of the 80s and the 90s before I stepped my toe into this raging ocean called comics. Part 2 focused on the artists whose work pushed me to be a better creator as I began my career in comics. In Part 3, I want shed some light on some of the artists who have come up in the Black Comix world that keep me on my toes.

Let’s get into it…

JAMAL YASEEM IGLE & RAY ANTHONY-HEIGHT

Jamal is one of the most solid draftsmen in the business…

Jamal Yaseem Igle is another artist whose work I first discovered through Alex SimmonsBlackjack series. From the beginning, I was amazed by his solid storytelling and “neo-classic” comic book style. In my opinion, he is a modern heir to the seminal Superman artist of the late 60s and 70s, Curt Swan. That comparison is further warranted by Igle’s stint on Supergirl with Sterling Gates, creating a classic iteration of the character, which has spilled over into her show on the CW. Both are comic book illustrators of the highest order with a command of anatomy that many other creators are still trying to get to.

Since then, Jamal has been focusing more on indie titles like the revolutionary Black, The Wrong Earth for Ahoy Comics and his own creation Molly Danger. If you want to know how to do comics right, Jamal’s work is the perfect start to your education.

Ah, Midnight Tiger. In the words of Roberta Flack, “The first time I ever saw your face…”

Ray Anthony-Height has a style made for all-ages comics. That is not to say that his work is juvenile, but that it has a playful animated bounce that appeals to fans of multiple generations. I first discovered his work via IndyPlanet when his book Midnight Tiger caught my eye.

Suddenly, Ray was everywhere creating work for Marvel on titles like X-Men, Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur as well as Superb for Lion Forge. And, for a while, my beloved Midnight Tiger fell by the wayside as Ray was living the life of a freelance artist. When he announced that he was bringing back the character, I rejoiced…

Then…

In 2019, I was at a convention in Chicago and Ray was one of the attendees. He was selling his original pages, which were on 8.5″ X 11″ copier paper! The brother was drawing final print size the whole damn time with, what? A .02 mechanical pencil? You fiend! How dare you be that precise and awesome all at once? Balderdash, I say… Balderdash!

MICHELINE HESS & TONY PURYEAR

Micheline… Girl! How you gonna apply a children’s book style of illustration to a horror project and make it work? Dag!

One positive aspect of Facebook is the opportunity to connect with other members of your tribe.

Thanks to John Jennings and Damian Duffy‘s Black Comix, a solid community of Black creators was formed. It was the sweetest breath of fresh air. We finally knew that we weren’t alone in our respective bubbles. It was like the movie Highlander without the taking of heads. There no longer had to be “only one.” We we everywhere.

Micheline Hess is another alumni of Milestone Media acting as a colorist working on titles like Static, Icon and (one of my favorite titles) Shadow Cabinet. But, I didn’t know Micheline until I began the 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape anthology series. Her book Malice In Ovenland was exactly what the anthology needed to offset the more standard superhero fare. Her whimsical style was a needed respite from ninjas on motorcycles and dusty shootouts in Western taverns.

But then, she goes and flips the script! Micheline uses that same child-friendly style to the revolutionary Diary of a Mad Black Werewolf, a womanist tale of the ultimate revenge against the twin demons of racism and sexism. Steeped in African iconography, she just decides to pop this thing out during the 2019 Inktober challenge and we were bugging! So glad that she turned that therapeutic art exercise into a graphic novel… Cheers to you, my sister!

Man, does this brother know how to draw beautiful women…

Truth be told, I low-key envy Tony Puryear a little bit.

I mean, how could you not? He’s the first African American to write a summer blockbuster. Any body here of a little film called Eraser starring some dude… I think his name is  Arnold Schwarzenegger? He married my mid-20s crush Erika Alexander, you know, Maxine Shaw: Attorney At Law, of Living Single. On top of that, those two made a comic book together, a multi-cultural, dystopian sci-fi epic called Concrete Park. It’s the artwork of Concrete Park that really stokes that little envy gremlin of mine.

Tony’s art reminds me of Los Bros Hernandez, creators of the indie classic Love and Rockets, in the best way possible. His economy of line, use of expression and application of visual cinematic knowledge continues to blow me away. In addition, he is a fantastic graphic designer using the tool of visual communication in his scathing Gangkstas series lambasting this current administration that festers in the White House. Yes, I tip my hat to you, sir. Keep feeding my envy.

SHAWN ALLEYNE & CHUCK “DRAGONBLACK” COLLINS

Ok. Now this is the part where people might get mad with me. There are so many great artists out there that I want to give love to, but I limited myself to 29 artists to focus on for this series and I know I had to leave some people out. To those of y’all who may feel a certain way about this, let it be known that it was only because of space that you were not included, nothing personal. If you’re still mad at me after that… Well I can’t do nothing for you, mayne…

I want to buy a comic book drawn by Shawn so bad…

Shawn Alleyne was another artist I discovered through being associated with Black Comix. Born in Barbados now residing in Philadelphia, Shawn’s work is… How shall I call it… Sexy A.F. His figures are long and sinewy bursting with a sensual energy that exists in his lovingly-rendered linework. He doesn’t do too much interior work, but his covers for books like The Almighty Street Team and his pin-up work taking his own unique spin on existing properties fro the “Corporate Two” are absolutely stunning.

Shawn Alleyne is Black Love incense walking. His work is sure to make even the hardest of the hard swoon. But, for real bruh, I need a comic book from you with the quickness…

For real? That’s what you thought they were singing the whole time?
It’s funny because it’s true…

Keep, keep bouncing…

When Bounce first appeared, I was completely blown away by this mash-up of science fiction, political comedy, social commentary, Afrofuturistic fantasy and pure nerdom based on the real life adventures of Chuck Collins as a bouncer. Characters like the aforementioned Bouncer, his best friend Yemaya and the rest of the crew became some of my new best comic friends. As the strip has gone on, the proud Haitian Collins has incorporated more of his animation background into the strip making Bounce a companion of Black satire to works like The Boondocks (comic strip and animated series) and the Black Dynamite cartoon.

He also be dropping a lot of Orishas in his strip, too. I love the spiritual connection his work and mine have in common. Luckily, Chuck has collected a bunch of his strips in a volume called BOUNCE! First Round of Shots. You need to step up to the bar and order one.

JASON REEVES & MARCUS WILLIAMS

This was the piece from Jason Reeves that made say COTDAMN!

He’s a hustler. He’s a curmudgeon. He’s got beef with Luke Cage and How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way (seriously, what did Marvel do to you?). But Jason Reeves is one of the coldest artists in the game today.

The visionary behind 133Art, illustration studio and printing company, Reeves came to my attention through his creation, One Nation. Since then, his work has graced such projects as the animated series T.A.S.K. and the book Kid Carvers. His rendition of M.E.C.C.A. Con founder Maia Crown Williams graces the cover of 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape’s first volume.

What does Jason’s work bring to the table? Power. His characters are confident and strong evoking the inner majesty we all hope to one day possess…

But real talk? Just let the beef go, fam. Let it go…

Marcus Williams’ Nubia fan fiction is the only story about the underused Wonder Woman character that matters…

Marcus Williams stays drawing.

Every week, he pops out a new series of images. From his latest, Ebony Images to his annual gender-bending Swaptober series to his fan fiction mash-ups of properties like Black Panther and the Thundercats, Williams’ work sparks the imagination and is an undisputed favorite among many Black comic book fans. With his partner-in-crime Greg Burnham, he co-created the superlative Tuskegee Heirs, a futuristic take on the Tuskegee Airmen and Japanese Mecha anime.

Williams’ work is everything a Black comic book fan wants. It references popular culture and has that animated style that people can immediately glob onto. It’s colorful, bombastic and joyful. He’s the “People’s Champ” of comic book artists and it’s easy to see why.

AFUA RICHARDSON & ASHLEY A. WOODS

Much like the main character, Dr. Cecelia Cobbina, of Omni, Afua Richardson is a multifaceted woman…

I love seeing the rise of the Black woman in comics.

I’m not talking about characters, I’m talking about creators. I could write a whole articles about these amazing writers and artists, but I’m going to focus on the two women whose work always has me doing double-takes.

African-Native American Afua Richardson is a vocalist, performer, songwriter, voice actor, activist, cosplayer and one hell of an illustrator. She is truly a Jane of all Trades, multi-talented and multi-dimensional. I first discovered her on Facebook, unaware of her early work under the moniker Lakota Sioux. She then went on to illustrate Top Cow‘s unexpected and underrated Genius written by Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman. It was her illustrations of mermaids though that caught my attention.

I was utterly captivated by her use of Adobe Illustrator (one of my preferred artistic weapons of choice) to create such organic work that completely hid the digital tools she uses to create. Her “analog” work takes on the flavor of fine fashion illustration, a style that I’ve always loved since my mother would force me to hang out at JoAnn Fabrics on Sundays after church (hey, my mom was into sewing like I was into comics).

Afua has since become an artist in demand, creating covers and interiors for titles like Marvel‘s World of Wakanda, X-Men ’92, DC‘s All-Star Batman, HumanoidsOmni and more. And yeah, she’s a media darling which is cool because she totally deserves all of the accolades.

If my sister drew comics instead of becoming a hair and makeup artist, she would totally be Ashley Woods…

I think of Ashley A. Woods as my little sister.

Keep in mind, I do have a little sister, and she and Ashley share many of the same qualities. They are both sweet and kind, beautiful, intelligent, strong and hella talented.

Ashley graduated from the Chicago campus of the Illinois Institute of Art where I taught at the Schaumburg campus for 11 years. She put herself on by writing and illustrating Millenia War, which showcased her love of anime and video games. She blew up illustrating Stranger ComicsNiobe: She Is Life. Ashley stays hustling like a true Chicagoan becoming an artist-in-demand working on titles like Tomb Raider for Top Cow, Boom StudiosLadycastle and has broken into the cinematic realm creating work for Jordan Peele’s Get Out and the upcoming Lovecraft Country.

Ashley’s work has developed this lovely “broken line” quality which has an almost etherial sensuality. She is also unashamed in exploring the feminine power in her work…

Two words: Cammy Cakes. If you’re an Ashley A. Woods fan, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

I’m super-proud of how far you’ve come in a short time, sis. I can’t wait to see how far you will go.

UKO SMITH

What comic book?

Do not let Uko Smith’s gentle demeanor and warm smile fool you. That dude is a cot damn artistic bully. He is the Deebo of comics riding around on that little-ass bike, wearing the chain that your grandmama gave you. Gaaahhh! It’s so disgusting how good this dude is! I don’t even wanna give him his props like that!

But, he is that good. He’s been that good ever since I met him years ago. He’s been that good with the sexy, flexy-ass art style which graces his own creation Bombshell with bodybuilder Colette Nelson. He’s bullied companies like DC, Marvel, Heavy Metal, White Wolf Publishing and others into giving him work.

Whatever. I’m just putting it out there that I’m not scared of you, Uko! You ain’t all that! You ain’t gonna do nothing to me…

Wait, he’s behind me right now, isn’t he?

So there it is. 29 Black comic book artists that I admire. And, I only scratched the surface. There are some many more people out there doing the damn thing like Quinn McGowan (Master of the One-Finger Technique), Anthony Piper, Julie Anderson, Sean Hill, Alitha Martinez, N. Steven Harris, Eric Battle, George Gant and so many more. And don’t get me started on the writers! Clawd hammercy! I would need to launch a series of books in order to give proper respect to them all…

Oh, wait… I do have a series of books for that purpose. Check out the 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape anthology series, the perfect sampler to discover the amazing world of Black Comix and their creators.

Comics are Hip Hop and them ninjas is spittin’!

Until next Black Future Month, get familiar.

www.griotenterprises.com

29 Black Comix Artists I Admire Part: 2

First and foremost, I am an artist. Comics are my medium. With that being said, there have been many artists that I looked up to, admired, envied, and had been intimidated by. In other words, I have learned to be a better comic book creator by observing and studying how they have approached the craft of comics. This is a list of some of my favorite Black comic book artists. If your favorite artist isn’t on this list, make your own.

Part 1 focused on my early influences of the 80s and the 90s before I stepped my toe into this raging ocean called comics. Part 2 is all about the cats whose work pushed me to be a better creator as I began my career in comics.

CHRIS CROSS & KEN LASHLEY

Chris Cross’ work is so expressive. His ability to create real personality and acting in a 2-dimensional space is almost second to none.

Chris Cross was one of the many artistic bright spots Milestone Media brought to the comic book landscape. Along with fellow alumni Humberto Ramos and John Paul Leon, Chris Cross had to be one of my favorite artists of the mid-90s. From Blood Syndicate to Heroes, his mastery of facial expressions and character “acting” along with his energetic layouts, which are a take on manga through an African-American lens, enhanced every book he worked on. His style makes stories as diverse as Xero to Captain Marvel extremely accessible to audiences from every walk of life.

Ken Lashley draws EXACTLY the way I wished I could draw back in the day…

I first discovered Ken Lashley through one of his first gigs providing illustrations for Alexander SimmonsBlackjack: Second Bite of the Cobra. However, I didn’t become a fan of his work until he self-published the WAY too short-lived Legends from his own studio. What a quantum leap! Ken AKA Ledzilla knows what makes for powerful images. His command of structure and anatomy was a goal that, some days, I’m still trying to achieve. His career is similar to one of my other favorite artists Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez in that Ken has done a lot of licensing art for properties like G.I. Joe and Star Wars. He knows the business of being a professional commercial artist and flexes it like a champ. Man, I really need to pick his brain about that the next time I see him at a con…

SANFORD GREENE & THE LOVE BROTHERS

The homie. I am so glad to see Sanford Greene receive all of his well-deserved accolades… This is what happens when you put the work in!

Sanford Greene. The homie. We came up around the same time, meeting at the then Chicago Comic Con (before it became WizardWorld Chicago). Right away, I was a huge fan of his “Hip Hop meets Anime” style. It was super clean, perfect for all-ages titles like The Batman and Legion of Super Heroes. As time went on, his style became looser, grittier and I was along for the ride. This flavor in his work emerged when he worked on the Method Man graphic novel. Since then, Power Man and Iron Fist, the smash hit Bitter Root, An Army of Frogs… Man.

In 2007, Sanford and I were talking about how far we had gotten in our career. We were talking about the evolution of the sketchbook. He was the one that made the metaphor of the sketchbook being the equivalent of a mixtape. That conversation was the beginning of the 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape anthology series… You can thank Sanford Greene for that as well. I know I do…

The Love Brothers and Gettosake Comics were the brothers-in-arms and the low-key friendly competition Griot Enterprises needed to make sure we were on point…

When we launched Griot Enterprises in 1999, another company popped up almost at the exact same moment. That company was Gettosake Comics, owned and operated by Jeremy and Robert Love. These brothers were making the work Griot Enterprises wanted to be judged by. Chocolate Thunder was our jam and I loved (pun intended) these brothers’ cartoony style. We at Griot considered Gettosake the friendliest of competition as they made us want to create better comics.

Since then, Gettosake has gone the way of the dodo (which is bullshit because I want more). Of course, you could chalk up Gettosake’s demise to the fact that the Love Brothers have blown up at other labels like Image and Dark Horse thanks to books like Fierce, Number 13 (with David Walker) and the classic Bayou published by DC Comics. Still, I want more Gettosake comic books… Can we make that happen, fellas?

KHARY RANDOLPH & EMILIO LOPEZ

These two are like the greatest duos in Hip Hop. Everything the do is magic…

I could have just focused on Khary Randolph in this piece. I mean, he has a helluva resume working on books like We Are Robin, Teen Titans Go!, Starborn and others. I could just go on and on about his combination of Hip Hop aesthetics, animation and manga giving an ill kinetic flavor all its own…

But, when Khary connected with his colorist of choice Emilio Lopez, that’s when the whole thing came together. These two are straight-up the EPMD of comics, banging illustrations, all business. Khary is the MC while Emilio is the DJ. Together, they have created classic joints like Mosaic from Marvel and their current banger, Excellence, written by another brother-in-arms, Brandon Thomas.

JOHN JENNINGS & STACEY ROBINSON


John Jennings work feels like it was etched in the oldest trees from Africa…

Together, they are Black Kirby, the dynamic duo who brought the synthesis of Afrofuturism and comics to academia. Separately, they are two of the greatest artists I have the privilege to call colleagues and friends.

I first met John Jennings in 2009 when he approached me to have my work featured in the first volume of the seminal art book Black Comix. I was honored to be included in that volume, especially when I saw the pedigree of creatives that were in that book. Sine then, we have collaborated on a number of projects and exhibitions as fellow academics including SOL-CON and The Black Speculative Vision.

John’s work looks like he consults the Loa every time he creates an image. It’s like he has altar to Ogun, offers the rum, chews the roots and gets to work. It truly is Jack Kirby seen through the rough-hewn eyes of a master woodworker. It’s visual southern gothic Vodou with a rich tradition steeped in African spirituality. Just check out The Hole or the adaptations of Kindred and Parable of the Sower (with the blue-eyed soul brother Damian Duffy) to get a taste of some down-home comic book making.

You may think you’re fly. But are you as Afrofuturistically fly as Stacy Robinson?

Becoming a member of an exclusive club of Black comic book creators who are also college professors has its privileges. One of those privileges has been becoming friends and working with Stacey Robinson. His style is absolutely rhythmic. It’s visual jazz swirling in the brain merging with your vertebrate and settling deep within your soul. What I love about his work is that even though we make take similar approaches in creating images, his technique and visual language is so unique it’s almost annoying. Plus, we’ve got the whole DJ thing in common so when I look at his work, I know he’s “digging in the crates” to come up with some of the ills work I’ve ever seen. Check out I Am Alfonso Jones to get a taste of my man’s amazing talent.

KENJJI JUMANNE-MARSHALL

Artistically, Kenjji could stunt on all y’all heaux… If he wanted to…

This dude right here…

It was 1988. I was a junior at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy waiting in line to get my lunch. Here comes this cat, a freshman no less, walking up to me saying: “Yo, I saw you left this drawing in the art room and I decided to finish it. Here you go.”

The audacity! This fool went ahead and drew on my shit! Even more annoying, this fool made my drawing better!

That is how I met Kenjji Jumanne-Marshall.

I can’t condense how much I love his work in just a paragraph or two. Simply put, Kenjji is my litmus test. He is the purest comic book artist I’ve ever met. Kenjji is the best comic book artist you never heard of.

Jim Lee? Nah. Todd McFarlane? Whatever. Rob Liefeld? What the hell have you been smoking?

Kenjji is the Phife Dawg to my Q-Tip, the Big Pooh to my Phonte. He is the cat that pushes me to be the best creator I could possibly be. We thought we were starting a comic book company when creating Griot Enterprises when, in reality, it’s much more than that. Together, we created a standard of excellence that people still measure Black Comix by.

Straight up? Kenjji is family. And no one inspires you to be the best more than family.

So, that was Part Two. Come back for Part Three when I show love to the artists that came after me… And who keep me on my toes.

Cheers!
http://www.griotenterprises.com

29 Black Comix Artists I Admire Part: 1

Yep. It’s that time of year again…

It’s Black Future Month.

Truth be told, I dreaded making this list. I know some people are gonna be mad at me for this. Some people are gonna be like, “What about so and so?” or “You forgot so and so.”

I can’t let the naysayers get to me.

First and foremost, I am an artist. Comics are my medium. With that being said, there have been many artists that I looked up to, admired, envied, and been intimidated by. In other words, I have learned to be a better comic book creator by observing and studying how they have approached the craft of comics. This is a list of some of my favorite Black comic book artists. If your favorite artist isn’t on this list, make your own. Let’s get started:

PARIS CULLINS & CHUCK PATTON

Paris Cullins has a fantastic solid style, which still conveys the energetic bounce of action found in animation…

These two brothers were the first comic book artists that I knew of who were Black. They both worked for DC Comics in the early 80s with Patton working on Justice League of America and Cullins drawing Blue Beetle. In terms of solid, steak and potatoes comic book illustration, these two brothers couldn’t be beat. Their mastery of the fundamentals captivated me. Knowing that they were Black inspired me.

Chuck Patton’s work is just fun to look at, a fantastic example of straight ahead comic book illustration

DENYS COWAN & KYLE BAKER

In the 80s, there was a lot of experimentation happening in comic book illustration. This was the era when cats like Bill Sienkiewicz, Frank Miller and Howard Chaykin emerged, turning sequential art on its ear.

I fell in love with Cowan’s art when he was working on The Question with Denny O’Neil. I would say that his work has an “African” quality that you just don’t see with other creators. I’m not talking about the use of African iconography in his work, but rather the mark-making itself has a sensibility that reminds me of the continent. His illustration is almost like mud cloth to me. I feel the history of every artist who came before him in his linework. It’s damn near ancestral. He was the man who, when looking at my first comic book portfolio in 1994, said: “You want to make your own comics, don’t you?” He is the main reason why Griot Enterprises exists today. Yeah, most cats would mention his legendary status as a co-creator of Milestone Media, but it was The Question that made me a fan.

Hands down, one of my favorite titles from the 80s illustrated by one of my favorite artists from the 80s…

I became aware of Kyle Baker’s work when he followed Sienkiewicz on The Shadow. I thought it was an interesting choice to follow such an impressionistic art style with a more whimsical one, but Baker won me over very quickly. He’s a master cartoonist, doing things in illustration that I’m still trying to figure out. His graphic novel Why I Hate Saturn made me laugh out loud. His comedic timing is unparalleled. Again, Baker will get major love because of Truth: Red, White and Black, but to only know him for that book barely scratches the surface of this brother’s amazing body of work.

There is an unbridled joy to Kyle Baker’s work that is simply infectious…

BRIAN STEFREEZE & LARRY STROMAN

As the 80s became the 90s, I officially decided to make comics my career as an artist. The birth of Milestone Media and Image Comics laid out the path before me.

Before Larry Stroman co-created the monolith of Black Comix known as Tribe, he did a lot of work for Marvel including, the equally-legendary Alien Legion and, my personal favorite work, X-Factor. I love Stroman’s work because he illustrates more like a graphic designer that a classic comic book artist. He has a way with shape and composition that is fascinatingly geometric, kinda like the “clean line” version of everything that I love about Denys Cowan’s work. When the “Mighty” Larry Stroman popped up at the 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape exhibition back in 2013, I definitely felt like I was blessed by a master.

Larry Stroman’s work is dazzling with its sense of composition and graphic design…

Quite simply, Brian Stelfreeze is a zen master of illustration. I became a fan when he was the cover artist for Batman: Shadow of the Bat and he has consistently gotten better with every project he’s worked on. I’m a fan of Matador, Day Men, The Ride and so much more. When he was tapped for Ta’Nehsi Coates‘ relaunch of Black Panther, I thought to myself, “Finally.” He is the most gracious of teachers. I learned more from him in five minutes than I learned in a semester of grad school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Pound for pound, Brian Stefreeze is perhaps the greatest illustrator in comics today…

JASON PEARSON & SHAWN MARTINBOROUGH

“I’m gonna whup your bony ass as thin as my patience.” When I read those lines in the first issue of Body Bags, I knew that Jason Pearson was a brother. His artwork work is kinetic, seamlessly blending the cartoon with the realistic. His interpretations of characters from the “Corporate Two” are some of the best I’ve ever seen. I think I have at least three of his sketchbooks that I picked up throughout the years of going to conventions. His output isn’t as prolific as some other creators. I think that’s one of the reasons why it’s so special to me. Every time I see him on a project, it’s a treat and I do love my treats.

Seeing Pearson at work made me want to tear up my artwork for years…

Shawn Martinborough is a master of noir. I really became a fan of his work during his stint on Detective Comics. Again, his graphic language manifested in his black and white work is astounding. From Luke Gage: Noir to Thief of Thieves and beyond, each page is a mini-education. He is also, quite possibly, the best-dressed man in comics. I have nothing but the highest respect for this artist.

Shawn Martinborough’s work is as clean as the man himself…

So ends Part One of this series. Come back for Part Two when I shed a spotlight on more Black artists in the game that inspire me to continue putting the work in.

Cheers!
http://www.griotenterprises.com

A Dream Realized

Fumetti

an Italian word (literally “little puffs of smoke” in reference to speech balloons), which refers to all comics. In English, the term refers specifically to photonovels or photographic comics, a genre of comics illustrated with photographs rather than drawings. Italians call these fotoromanzi (photonovels). Photonovels are popular in Spain, South Africa, and Latin America, where they are called fotonovelas, and have also gained popularity in France.

What’s happening all.

With this post, I decided to put the dashiki aside and embrace my inner geek by celebrating this moment in time. When I was a young lad, I dreamed of the day that I would see all of my favorite heroes on the big and small screens. I’m talking not just the A-Listers, the obvious ones, but the secondary, more obscure (well, obscure to mainstream audiences) characters coming to life. I thought that day would never happen…

But, we started from the bottom, now we’re here.

So, in anticipation of C2E2 this weekend, in anticipation of Batman V. Superman, Captain America: Civil War, Daredevil and the rest of ’em, enjoy this fumetti love letter created for the twelve-year old that exists in all of us.
ADreamRealized(DC01)ADreamRealized(DC02)ADreamRealized(DC03)ADreamRealized(Marvel01)ADreamRealized(Marvel02)ADreamRealized(Marvel03)

See you at C2E2, March 18-20… Cheers!

 

http://www.griotenterprises.com

 

 

Remixing Mythology: The Creation of a Hero

Originally, Liongo was more arrogant than Kanye West...
Originally, Liongo was more arrogant than Kanye West…

In the stories I read of Liongo, he was portrayed as a scoundrel; a bully arrogant and rude blessed with strength and near invulnerability, a thorn in his people’s side. In many ways, he deserved to be defeated by the copper needle. He had it coming…

That was my first impression when I started creating this project. As I was reading through the initial research sent, the story of Liongo kept speaking to me. I couldn’t avoid it. He kept creeping into my thoughts, singing the song he sang to his mother so that he could be liberated from captivity. He begged… Nay… Demanded that his story be told.

Well, I capitulated and allowed him to tell me his tale… So, he did. And, when he was finished, I could only think of one thing:

Liongo was a jerk.

Hatred is never celebrated...
Hatred is never celebrated…

A character like that is not a hero. A character like that is no role model for children much less adults. A character like that does not inspire others to be better than they are.

But, Liongo wanted to be a hero. I wanted him to be a hero. The world needs more heroes, especially in these interesting times we live in.

The mythology of Africa is deep and rich. It is as complex and diverse as the cultures that make up the continent. As a creator, it is a world of untapped depths and precious jewels that have yet to be discovered. Those creators, those storytellers that limit themselves in the exploration of these stories do themselves a great disservice.

In my creation, The Horsemen, I delved into the myths and legends of the western part of the African continent; in particular, the mythology of the Orishas from the Yoruba culture in Nigeria, aspects of which survived the slave trade and combined with Christianity to create religions like Santeria and Candomble. I took these myths as the source material to craft my fictional world, my New Mythology that would speak to a modern world using an ancient voice. I brought my West African sensibilities to the realm of superheroes, enriching the mythology created by the European immigrants of these United States, giving this American mythology a little more soul.

A great hero needs and even greater villain...
A great hero needs and even greater villain…

The world of Liongo was different than the world of the Orishas. It was from a different region with their own way of looking at the world, which was influenced by the cross pollination of cultures from across the Indian Ocean. However, the notion of a hero, a real hero, is universal. And, as I said, Liongo needed to be a hero.

So, I took a second look at Liongo’s tale and took key elements that I thought were crucial to the character (I.e. his mythic strength, the relationship with his mother, the handmaiden, the nephew and the copper needle). I did not want to re-tell his tale, but rather create a sequel to the original story. I wanted to re-shape, re-mix the original myth, and use that re-mix to craft my original tale.

The lands of Zanzibar and Oman would take on a magical quality in my tale, becoming realms of fantasy and wonder, populated by fierce beasts and an evil sorcerer who would wield the power of sinister spirits taken from the Middle Eastern influence that permeates the Eastern African Coast.

Different cultures call for different heroes...
Different cultures call for different heroes…

Combining mythologies from the region, Liongo’s mother would be named Dzivaguru, in reference to the Shona (Zimbabwe) goddess of light and dark. She would represent the Earth, and take a position next to Elders as powerful as she to oversee and protect this magical land from those who would enslave the people of these worlds.

I made Liongo a leader of his people, a warrior that came from the veldt to unite and save this newly formed Bantu Nation from a greater threat. He became a man who sacrificed what was precious to him, his compassion and his family, to save a world. That sort of sacrifice would pay a heavy toll. That sort of man would become cold. In some ways, that sort of man would be perceived as cruel…

In short, he would become The Hard Man.

But, the measure of a hero is overcoming the obstacles before him. And, a great hero, no matter how powerful, would need help in conquering his enemies and to reclaim that which he had lost…

Who better to assist such a man than his own child… His daughter?

Badder than Batman and Robin
Badder than Batman and Robin

As Don Quixote had Sancho Panza, as Sherlock Holmes had Dr. Watson, as Batman had Robin, the Hard Man would have his Sunbird. And that Sunbird, who would come to be known as Rehema would prove to be the lynchpin that was missing in my story.

Finally, Liongo’s name would need an upgrade as well. Just as Xango, Chango and Django are names derived from the Orisha of Thunder Shango, Lionogo would be the evolution of Liongo, the final transformation from scoundrel to hero.

So, was Liongo a jerk? Yes. But, he has grown. He has matured. He has evolved. He has become Lionogo, the Hard Man

And, the Hard Man is a hero through and through.

The Song of Lionogo: An Indian Ocean Mythological Remix, created exclusively for the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, will be available the week of February 23.

Happy Black History Month and Happy Black Future Month… Cheers!

http://www.griotenterprises.com

Know the Ledge

I tried to front on Joe Mad for a long time... But I couldn't deny the sheer talent this guy has for too long...
I tried to front on Joe Mad for a long time… But I couldn’t deny the sheer talent this guy has for too long…

Comic book illustration is cool, but the knowledge gained by drawing from life combined with comic book exaggeration takes the work to a whole ‘nother level…

My statement is about enhancement, not constriction.

The reason why Michael Jordan is one of the greatest basketball players of all time is because of his solid foundation in the fundamentals of the game, not just because of his aerial dexterity when making a slam dunk.

Art is no different. For example, Joe Maduriera’s work resonates in large part because of the “steak” of his work, the fundamentals. His construction is rock solid and his knowledge of anatomy comes in extremely handy when he’s exaggerating those elements; the muscle forms still make sense. The “sizzle,” or style, is his personal interpretation of the fundamentals (i.e. the aforementioned construction, anatomy, proportions, etc.) and rendering technique (hatching, bold contour lines, positive/negative space, etc.).

It’s not an “either, or” situation when it comes to comic book illustration. It’s both.

Too many people have been duped into thinking it’s style over substance and that’s what prevents them from growing as artists. There are too many people out there trying to perfect a look without knowing the fundamentals first. Only by knowing the rules, really knowing the rules, would you then be able to break them.

I have looked at Alphonse Mucha's work for years and I still find something new...
I have looked at Alphonse Mucha’s work for years and I still find something new…

I am as influenced by “fine art,” “street art,” classic illustration, graphic design, etc., as I am by comic book art. My influences range from George Perez to Eduardo Risso to Bill Sienkiewicz and I’ve gleaned something from each of them (and more). When one’s influences are diverse (and beyond the realm of comics), it helps in finding one’s own vision, one’s own “style.”

Diversity in knowledge leads to individual development. If one only looks at anime or (G_d forbid) Rob Liefeld, then that work is only going to look like a pale imitation of that influence. If one diversifies their reference pool, in addition to learning the fundamentals, they will eventually establish their own visual language.

Liefeld’s success was totally based on being at the right place at the right time, not his talent. Don’t get me wrong, he was smart and got his money, but very few people are asking “When is Liefeld gonna drop a new joint?” these days. He’s completely locked in the early 90s… And it’s 2014.

To be clear, I am not saying that his talent didn’t get him in the door. However, it wasn’t his talent that made him a mega star… That was the Spike Lee 501 commercial.

As much as I love Moon Knight and Stray Toasters, it's Bill Sienkiewicz's work with acts like EPMD and the RZA that makes him the man in my eyes...
As much as I love Moon Knight and Stray Toasters, it’s Bill Sienkiewicz’s work with acts like EPMD and the RZA that makes him the man in my eyes…

As for an artist, like, Bill Sienkiewicz, he comes from a fine art/classic illustration background that makes his work not only far more interesting, but far more versatile as well. In addition to projects like Elektra: Assassin, New Mutants and Moon Knight, he also did the Jimi Hendrix graphic novel Voodoo Child and album covers for Hip Hop acts EPMD and the RZA. People inside and outside the comic book industry check for him, and he stays in demand.

At the end of the day, cats like are the artists I respect and patterned my career after…. And I thank the Higher Power for that…

What I am saying is that Sienkiewicz’s work is way more versatile, allowing him to be successful in both the comic book industry and beyond.

His understanding of the fundamentals is so tight; he’s able to go into different styles beyond comics, such as post-modernism, collage and more, which creates his idiosyncratic style. That makes him much more appealing, and marketable to different audiences. His work is just at home in a fine art gallery as it is on the printed page.

That’s kind of my point. As an artist, you shouldn’t limit yourself to one market, especially a market as small and as competitive as the comic book industry. If you do, you may very well starve. I peeped game very early on. I knew I wanted to be a commercial artist at the age of 7 and my whole education was dedicated to that goal.

Yeah, comics are my root influence, but they’re not the only one. Because of that, I have been able to carve out a diverse career, which includes comics, but graphic design, animation and education as well. And sure, the reason why I get calls from a diversity of clients is because of the comic book root, but it is as such that these clients see how my work can benefit their projects.

In the words of Wu Tang Financial: Diversify yo’ bonds

Comic book steez, rock star client... Dig it!
Comic book steez, rock star client… Dig it!

M.E.C.C.A. Con is only three days away! I’ll be there selling books, moderating panels and, hopefully, meeting old friends and making new ones…

Speaking of… I’m offering The New Mythology Pack for the con! For only $50.00 you’ll get The Horsemen: Divine Intervention, Issues 1 – 3 of The Horsemen: Mark of the Cloven (written by Jude W Mire), Chronicle: The Art of Jiba Molei Anderson and 2 Horsemen art prints! Can’t beat that with a stick! Hope to see the Detroit fam there!

http://www.griotenterprises.com