Tag Archives: John Jennings

4 Pages | 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape… The Blaxis is Coming

4 Pages | 16 Bars... Step in to the Cypher...
4 Pages | 16 Bars… Step in to the Cypher…

The Black Age of Comics. This is the term coined in 1992. With the emergence of Milestone Media, Brotheman, Tribe and other entities in the early nineties, the presence of the African American in sequential art could not be denied.

Sho Nuff...
Sho Nuff…
We are Afrofuturistically fly...
We are Afrofuturistically fly…

20 years later, the book Black Comix created by John Jennings and Damian Duffy became the link that brought the African American comic book community together. 4 Pages | 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape is the next stage in the evolution of this movement.

We turn the world upside down...
We turn the world upside down…
... And redefine reality with our unique vision...
… And redefine reality with our unique vision…

4 Pages | 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape began in 2013 as an art installation that ran for four months at Chicago institution The Silver Room. The event celebrated the cultural diversity of the independent comic book scene… And, was a stone groove, baby.

We bring a sense of wonder...
We bring a sense of wonder…
...And walk the path sideways from the norm...
…And walk the path sideways from the norm…

In 2015, diversity has become the buzzword in the comic book industry with companies like DC and Marvel claiming to lead the charge, but merely scratching the surface of the complexity and intersection of race, culture and gender.

We look to the future...
We look to the future…
...And battle the forces of mediocracy on the daily.
…And battle the forces of mediocracy on the daily.

The 4 Pages | 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape trade paperback series will be a celebration of where true diversity exists in this industry, a sampler for potential fans to enjoy our intellectual properties, a showcase for existing and upcoming talent as well as a source guide for those fans to purchase our books.

We bathe in the waters of imagination...
We bathe in the waters of imagination…
...And, our Kung-Fu is strong.
…And, our Kung-Fu is strong.

In other words, it is the multicultural Heavy Metal magazine for the 21st Century.

From traditional comics to webcomics to animation and the prose world, from superheroes to fantasy to Sci-Fi to humor, Steamfunk, Afrofuturism and more, is all in here. Each of the artists and writers in this series will bring a unique, but shared viewpoint, in the creation of their work.

We are the Sound and the Fury...
We are the Sound and the Fury…
...We are the Rhythm and the Rhyme.
…We are the Rhythm and the Rhyme.

We are Visual MCs and Literary DJs. We move our pencils and pixels like the comic book B-Boys and B-Girls we are with our Graffiti making the world a little more beautiful… A little more flavorful.

We are the Past, the Present and the Future...
We are the Past, the Present and the Future…
We will not be denied...
We will not be denied…

The first volume will drop in June 2015 with subsequent volumes coming out in Fall 2015, Winter 2016 and Spring 2016.

We are the Blaxis... Keep, keep on...
We are the Blaxis… Keep, keep on…

The comic book industry is more than DC or Marvel. The scene is more diverse than Image or Dark Horse. This is visual Jazz, Rock, Funk, Hip Hop and electronic music. This is art for the people.

This is the Blaxis
This is the Blaxis

We hope that you will become a part of The Blaxis.


I Don’t Need You… I Want You…

Mad congrats to my man David Walker for landing the writing gig for DC's Cyborg... Well deserved!
Mad congrats to my man David Walker for landing the writing gig for DC’s Cyborg… Well deserved!

This is a public service announcement for all of those working to get into the game.

I have, officially, been a working artist since 1994.

I’ve actually been getting paid for making art since I was a teenager. I was getting paid for my craft since I was, about, 13 years old. For real, my parents were among my first clients, paying for my services because they understood that this was going to be my profession, not a past time.

But, as a professional, I’ve been making money off of my talent since I received my bachelor’s degree lo those many moons ago.

I’m not saying this to brag. This is just a simple fact. Indeed, my fellow creatives will tell you that making a living in this business is hard work… Extremely hard work. A lot of blood, sweat, tears, money and time went into getting to this point in my career. The fact that I can live a lower-middle class lifestyle off of this art game is a success in itself.

With that being said, if you want to guarantee that I will never work with you on a project, say these two words:

Let’s build.

I've wanted to work with Ken Lashley for years, but I need to get my coins up!
I’ve wanted to work with Ken Lashley for years, but I need to get my coins up!

If I had a dollar for every time someone uttered those words to me for a possible collaboration, I would be a rich man.

Let’s build comes from a cat that had an idea for a comic book after smoking the finest while watching Meteor Man or Steel and said to himself, “I could make some coin off of comics, son (swupp, swupp). I’ma make a comic book the first comic book with a real Black superhero and get paid, yo.”

Let’s build comes from that dude who I meet at parties, finds out what I do, and says “Yo, I got a dope idea for a comic book. I don’t wanna tell you my idea, ‘cuz I’m worried someone will steal it like ‘ol girl who wrote The Matrix. But, you could help me make it, yo, and then we’ll both come up.”

Let’s build comes from my man who one of my boys told him about me, showed them my work and says that they should get in touch with me to get advice on how to get into the business and they approach me like we shared Pampers back in the day.

Yeah… Good luck with that, fam…

Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander... We'll work together in the near future... Watch...
Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander… We’ll work together in the near future… Watch…

Let’s build is probably the most unprofessional phrase in this business. It’s downright insulting. It’s the assumption that I am just a dupe waiting for someone of “brilliance” to come and bless me by exploiting my talent to make his half-assed, half-baked dreams come true.

I learned to avoid the hook up because 9.5 times out of 10, those cats were not as serious as I was about the game.

Notice how I kept my examples male-specific, because no woman has ever come to me with this phrase. They understand the need to get paid.

I’ma let my comrade Damon Alums throw some dimes into the conversation.

“The folks that didn’t give you the time of day made the shift to the professional lane, and it paid off for them. Going back to the ‘lemme see if I can get the hook-up’ lane would be a step backward, and that’s not what life is about. Not that they forgot where they came from, not that they’re crabs in the bucket, trying to stop your shine, it’s just they’re at that higher level, and looking to work with folks who are at that same level. A reflection of being at that level is having cash up front. That’s just business talking. Not personal. Whether that money comes from street corner hustling, a bank loan, or quarters saved from movie theater floors is immaterial. That much I also know.”

Thank you, Brother Alums. We now return to our regularly scheduled program…

Such a fan of Afua Richardson's work... To have her working on a Griot project is a goal...
Such a fan of Afua Richardson’s work… To have her working on a Griot project is a goal…

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I’ve never collaborated with another creative or creatives. Indeed, some of the best work I’ve ever done has been in collaboration with others. Shoot, my advertising days were nothing but collaborations. Griot Enterprises started as a collective of artists and writers trying to put themselves on in the comic book industry. The Horsemen: Mark of the Cloven is in collaboration with my comrade Jude W. Mire. I’m currently involved in collaborating on an anthology, Artists Against Police Brutality, created in part by my brother-in-arms John Jennings.

The fact is this: I don’t need to collaborate with them. They don’t need to collaborate with me. Neither one of us is dependent upon the other to build our repertoire. We have all had some success, built some notoriety because of our own merits. All of us have developed our craft on our own and we recognize the talent, drive and dedication in each other. We’re like-minded in focus. Because of this, we want to work with each other, thereby building collectively on the foundations that we individually established.

It also doesn’t hurt that we consider each other not just friends, but professionals.

True collaboration comes when all parties equally bring something to the table. I can’t ask someone to do something that I can’t do myself.

Looking forward to working with fellow Visual MC and comic book "little sister" Ashley A Woods again...
Looking forward to working with fellow Visual MC and comic book “little sister” Ashley A Woods again…

It’s not predatory when an artist or a writer asks for compensation for their time and their talent. It’s actually more predatory to talk collaboration than to hire an artist. Illustration is incredibly time-consuming and creating work on faith with no compensation just doesn’t make fiscal sense especially when drawing is how you put food on the table.

As a businessman, which professional artists are, you’ve got to make sure that you’re gonna eat and that the people you work with are on the same page, the same level as it were.

You know how many times those artists got burned in their career? You know how many empty promises cats have had to swallow like horse pills with no water to wash it down? Trust, if you had to deal with that level of janky hustlin’, you would be mad cagey as well.

It’s not about being greedy; it’s about protecting your talent and making sure that you keep a roof over your head.

Peep game: I’m in the process of finding funding for a Horsemen project, Lumumba Funk, that will include the talents of Arvell Jones, Larry Stroman and a few of my fellow Blaxis agents like Hannibal Tabu, Damion Gonzales, Quinn McGowan, Jason Reeves, Ashley Woods and many more.

Quinn McGowan: master of the "One Finger Technique" and fellow member of #DemIndieDudes...
Quinn McGowan: master of the “One Finger Technique” and fellow member of #DemIndieDudes…

Now, though they made the verbal agreement to be down for the cause (and, I truly appreciate the love), I’m not gonna ask them to draw, or write, page one until I have that funding in hand to pay my brothers and sisters.

Trust, they’re as impatient to get started, as I am to get them paid. But I know when I’m ready, they’re ready. And, they know that I’ll keep my word as a professional to get them squared away…

That’s beyond hustle… That’s gangster… And with gangster shit, we all eat.

That’s how you build. Keep grindin’ my friends.


4 Pages|16 Bars: An Evolution


The Black Age of Comics.

This is the term visionary Turtel Onli coined in 1992.

This is the evolution of that vision.

With the emergence of Milestone Media, Brotheman, Love and Rockets, Tribe and other properties in the Eighties and early Nineties, the artist of color’s presence in sequential art could not be denied.

20 years later, the book Black Comix became the link that brought us artists of color together as a community. This exhibition is a celebration of where we came from and where we are going in this art form.

Each of the artists, known in the mainstream and independent comic book scene bring a unique, but shared viewpoint in the creation of their work.

Who are we? We are:

Jiba Molei Anderson (The Horsemen, Outworld, JBD)

Jiba Molei Anderson
Jiba Molei Anderson

In 1999, Anderson formed Griot Enterprises, a publishing company / creative studio and created its flagship property, The Horsemen. The first Horsemen volume, Divine Intervention was released in 2002 to critical acclaim with The Horsemen: The Book of Olorun released in 2009. He has also written the educational text Manifesto: The Tao of Jiba Molei Anderson, which focuses on the creation of comics and the books Dignity and Divinity: The Holy Bible with Walter D Greason and Jigaboo Devil with LaMorris Richmond.

In addition, Anderson continues to work as an illustrator, designer and writer recently completing illustrations for the animated music video, Start A Fight, for the rock band The Ex-Senators.

Currently, Anderson is an instructor at the International Academy of Design and Technology, teaching courses in Animation and Video Game Design while completing his next project Outworld: Return of the Master Teachers. He has also been featured in the book Black Comix and spoken at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art with The Horsemen, being included in The Smithsonian’s permanent library.


John Jennings (Black Comix, Black Kirby, The Hole)

John Jennings
John Jennings

John Jennings is an Associate Professor of Visual Studies at the University of Buffalo SUNY. His research and teaching focus on the analysis, explication, and disruption of African American stereotypes in popular visual media. He is an accomplished designer, curator, illustrator, and cartoonist.

Along with his long-time collaborator Damian Duffy, Jennings has co-authored and designed the books Out of Sequence: Underrepresented Voices in American Comics, Black Comix: African American Independent Comics Art + Culture, and the GLYPH Award winning graphic novel; The Hole: Consumer Culture Vol. 1.

His new projects include the supernatural crime story Blue Hand Mojo: A Case of You and the forthcoming graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler’s classic dark fantasy novel Kindred (also with Duffy). He has also garnered acclaim for his new artist collective Black Kirby along with his co-creator Stacey Robinson.


Ashley A Woods (Millennia War)

Ashley A. Woods
Ashley A. Woods

Born and raised on the south side of Chicago, Ashley A. Woods has always been immersed in anything related to video games and comics. While attending the International Academy of Design and Technology, she self published her action-fantasy series, Millennia War, which has also been featured in various gallery showings and conventions as well as the Out of Sequence exhibition in Kyoto, Japan in 2008.

There are currently 7 issues and a graphic novel of Millennia War available. Besides being an avid fan of comics and games, Ashley is also a huge movie buff.


Kenjji Jumanne-Marshall (Witchdoctor)

Kenjji Jumanne-Marshall
Kenjji Jumanne-Marshall

Kenjji is a freelance illustrator and comic artist whose work has appeared worldwide. A Detroit native, Kenjji attended the College for Creative Studies. He includes 80’s television, Hip Hop and the Motor City among his influences. Kenjji continues to work on new episodes of his true Voodoo action series WitchDoctor and has recently published children’s books like Money Smart Kids and Read Roared the Lion.


Tony Maldonado (P.I. Jane)

Tony Maldonado
Tony Maldonado

ChicagoRican Antonio “Tmalo” Maldonado has been working as a cartoonist for 20 years. He’s worked as a comic artist, production and storyboard artist, character designer, and game animator for companies like Comico, Moonstone, Snap2Play,UMI, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network.

Maldonado brings unbridled insanity and doodles of mass destruction to the table. Armed with sketchbook, pencil, trusty laptop, and an imagination that just won’t quit. Maldonado will conitnue to strive for cartooning excellence in order to contribute to the evergrowing world of comics.


As you can see, we ain’t no joke.

This is visual Jazz, Rock, Funk, Soul, Hip Hop and electronic music.

4 Pages|16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape will run from June 8 – July 7, 2013 with an opening reception on June 8 from 8 – 11pm at the Silver Room, 1442 N. Milwaukee Ave. Chicago, Illinois 60622.

We are Visual MCs… Come into our cypher and check the flow.