BLACK HISTORY MONTH SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW – RAY BILLINGSLEY

At what point in your life did you discover that you were destined to be a comic book artist?
I believe the entire concept of “destiny” to be questionable and open to debate. No one can tell what it is they were put on this earth for. We basically discover something we like, or at least mediocre to pro efficient and let our wanderings take us where it may. When I was a child, I knew that I liked to draw. I grew up under the rule of a very strict father (who did not see a Black kid doing a career as a cartoonist to be viable at all), so I was rather quiet and to myself and I picked up drawing in my room as a form of escapism. If there was truly destiny then we wouldn’t have to do anything. It would unfold as it’s supposed to. As I literally grew up in the industry I was wildly creative. When, at age 12, I discovered that others would pay money for my art I just kept at it. But as I drew, I studied writing, and panel construction and how to create strong well-developed characters with distinct personalities. It was when I signed the contract for my first syndicated strip, Lookin’ Fine, that I began to think I’d be doing this all my life. I was 21 and had been in the industry professionally for almost ten years.As a kid I actually thought I would do something in science, as it fascinates me and to this day still study it.
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being a comic book artist, and even more specifically a black comic book artist?
I find the most rewarding aspect of doing a Black comic is that it is revolutionary. There will never be an even-ground aspect to it and to make it survive in an almost lily-white profession, you have to be extra good. As a Black cartoonist there are a lot of topics that you may want to do or like to do but it is not accepted or appreciated. A lot of flights of fantasy are just not accepted, and a lot of expectations are not your expectation. I like to believe that my voice is unique and singular-apart from the others, At this point of my career it’s my mission to be the best I can and hopefully inspire some others to pick up the struggle where one day I will leave behind. It’s nice to have some look up to you or read you daily. You become a fond part of that person or that family. Just to find out sometimes just who has been reading your stuff is amazing. I am very lucky.
Who are some of your biggest comic book artist influences?
My art influences are vast. Most of them came as I was just growing into the industry. Some were mainstream, as the usual pick of Charles Schulz, Mort Walker, Hank Ketcham but also those whose began in “alternative political papers like Jules Feiffer and Matt Groening. I also liked some cartoonists that were definitely off the grid, and working with no restrictions whatsoever and didn’t have to worry about offending or appeasing everyone. Most of my biggest influences were incredible artists with unique styles, others were at least very clever in their punchlines.
What inspires you to create and how do you strive to reach your readers within the black community by reflecting themselves in your work?
I’m not inspired to reach out to only the Black community. I want my work to be embraced by people of all races, ages and nationalities. What I offer is a glimpse into my world. If you like it, fine, if you don’t, that’s fine too. I only hope that other Black creators feel that if I could be successful and break some barriers that they could too. For the Black community any excursion into any visual art is a hard daunting one full of rejection by non-creatives or those who just can’t grasp the bigger picture, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
What does your creative schedule look like and how many hours a day do you create?
My creative schedule is loose and strict at the same time. I never say that I’m going to create at a certain time or place. Ideas can hit me anywhere that I’m at, and I either write them done for future editing, or if I have no paper handy, to just remember key words or sentences, There are times when I’m definitely a Night-Owl, working in solitude way into the night when It’s very quiet. Or I may wake up in the early am, before the sun is up, because I cannot shut my brain off. it takes work and dedication because there are some days, say a nice summer day, when I’d rather be outside and hanging at a friends, but I know I must meet my deadline. I have been on a deadline for the better part of my life so I have learned how to juggle everything and have the readers not know what I may be going through.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
There are a few difficult parts to my process. As life goes sometimes there are bad things that happen, like a death of a close family member. An accident that leaves someone close hospitalized. Maybe even I get hospitalized. The fact that I still have to create and not have time off at times pisses me off. But then I remember this is just a business and they are not my true friends. True friendships in this industry are slim to none. And when I’m told “no” to a project I worked my ass off on. I can work on a script for animation then work up storyboards, taking several months of extra work just to have one person say no and the whole project goes down the drain. Everyone likes to feel appreciated.
What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?   
There are many ways I choose to recharge. Lying back and just doing nothing. Checking out classic Noir films or the rare movie at the theatre. I calm myself with cooking, which people tell me I’m good at. Reading science journals and nature, Music is a very big part of me and I never go a day without listening to music. But real music, not auto-tune or image-oriented and most people I like can actually play an instrument. So that gives you an idea of who I don’t listen to.
What have you found to be the most challenging thing about breaking into the comic book industry, especially as a black creator?
As a Black creator the most challenging aspect to this business is that there aren’t any Blacks in high positions like President, Vice-president or even Editors. You can’t expect anyone else to actually understand what it is you’re trying to do. Which is why there aren’t a slew of animated programs with diversity. I guess these things shouldn’t be exactly aimed at a certain group without leaving the other in a secondary role. But when you really look, that’s what is being done anyway. There are programs that go for several seasons with token diversity or none at all. It’s a challenge to even get others to even take your ideas seriously. They don’t come from where you do and have not lived the same experiences so I guess it cannot be expected for them to understand.
How and why is it important that black people are represented in this medium and how important is it that black creators work together to encourage, empower and educate the black community through their work?
As a Black creator I feel it’s very important to represent others that look like me and also a large part of the population. We don’t all look the same and I believe that should reflect in our works. Hopefully it does encourage those to work on their own visions, their own take on life, aside from what has always been slated as the norm. It empowers others to believe that they have a stake in the industry and their own vision to share. And in terms of education, that should come along with the work.
What upcoming project(s) are you working on, which you can share with the readers?
My upcoming projects are still the ones I’ve been trying to get for many years. I’m still working an animation scripts. Hopefully some producer out there with vision and an open mind will open a door. There are CURTIS miniatures figures in the works. And I’m to be in talks about a new series of books. And if haven’t learned anything about me from reading this article, you know it will have to be an original take. Fingers crossed!
Where can the readers continue to follow your career? Do you have a website or blog?
Readers can continue to follow CURTIS in papers, on the web, and on the King Features site called The Comics Kingdom. If you want to look up some personal things, you can always go my site http://www.billingsleyart.com. And yes, it needs a new design. I’ll get to it one day. And of course, there is always Facebook and Instagram.

BLACK HISTORY MONTH SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW – SUMIKO SAULSON

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what does it mean to you to be a black writer in this society?

When I was five years old, my dad asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said, an artist, a writer or a veterinarian. My dad explained how long it would take to become a veterinarian and how much time was involved with sick animals. I ended up giving that dream and going into technology, like my father. So I became a computer repair technician, an author and an artist. Two out of three ain’t bad, though.

Being a Black writer means you are faced with choices on an almost daily basis as to whether you are going to market yourself to mainstream or Black audiences. And mainstream authors like Stephen King will criticize people for making race more important than mainstream notions of talent. But mainstream notions of talent are geared towards people like Stephen King as a genre trope. Toni Morrison refused to write for white audiences, and I don’t think Stephen King is nearly as talented.

Yet, he’s won a dozen Stoker Awards while Toni Morrison was never recognized in the genre for works like Beloved and Sula. Octavia Butler had to win posthumously, with the Kindred graphic novel. Blind submission calls in the horror genre reward people for sounding as much as possible like Stephen King. They aren’t really blind, because people are going to favor those who sound like whoever they read. If they never read Octavia Butler and other Black authors, and their favorites are all white men they will be subconsciously biased towards white male voices.

What genre(s) do you write in, is there a favorite and which do you feel have had the most important impact on the black community? Traditionally, in mainstream media, blacks have been vastly marginalized in Speculative Fiction and fic, tion in general, how do you see that changing and what impact will your work have on making those changes?

I write Horror, Sci-Fi, Erotica/Paranormal and Afrosurrealism. Afrosurrealism has a profound impact on the Black community because it is the dark fantasy analogous Afrocentric genre and Toni Morrison is the most famous author associated with it. However, I think my horror essays and non-fiction horror works like 60 Black Women in Horror, 100+ Black Women in Horror, and Black Celebration have a more profound impact on the Black Community. I also write a column called Writing While Black about the challenges I have faced on the convention circuit as a black author.

I think the essays, in particular, contribute, as they have challenged the mainstream culture. I am not the only author demanding an answer to the question, “Why would Candyman be considered horror and Beloved not?” but I am one of the voices that is forcing the question in the genre of horror. And there are changes. The idea that Octavia Bulter is valid as a horror author is a change.

How long does it usually take you to complete work on a book?

Three to five months to write a novel, and another three to five months in editing.

As a black author, do you feel a personal responsibility to the black community to create content which not only entertains, but also uplifts and educates?

To some extent, I do. I write a lot of political and psychological horror, like Jordan Peele does with Get Out and Us. But I also write sheer trash urban fiction soap operas. I mean, The Moon Cried Blood, my young adult urban fantasy, is like LA Bank’s The Vampire Huntress Legend Series meets Steven King’s The Firestarter. It’s all about this precocious thirteen year African and Mexican America old witch in 1976. There are many educational things in the book but most of it is action, gore, and visceral horror. And there are a lot of urban genre tropes about drug addiction, orphans, foster care, and all that which aren’t exactly uplifting. Urban fiction is pretty much all about the Jerry Springer show tropes that set it in the gritty city.

How can you educate and enlighten while including all of that? Well, honestly, Toni Morrison and Alice Walker did it. Domestic violence, child abuse, incest, and all of that showed up in their novels. In that light, I suppose that The Moon Cried Blood is potentially uplifting.

How long have you been producing artwork professionally?

I have been a professional commercial graphic artist and designer since I was 19, and I have been getting paid for artwork since I was 15, so some 30 to 35 years now.

What medium(s) do you create with and is there a favorite?

I am a cartoonist who uses pencils, inks, and computer graphic programs such as Photoshop, and Gimp. I am also a painter, and I prefer acrylics on wood, canvas or paper. I do SecondLife digital photography which is post-processed in Photoshop and Gimp.

At what point in your life did you discover that you were destined to be a comic book artist?

I always wanted to be, but I didn’t have the patience to finish enough cels for a comic book until 2012, when I started to illustrate Agrippa. It is a short story about a dystopic 1984 style future where student loans can lead to debtor’s prison. In Trump’s America it seems strangely prophetic. My father was dying in 2012 and I got writer’s block. Unable to write, I drew.

I have since illustrated my mother’s tragic mulatto/reversal of fortunes tale “Living A Lie,” and have put out some additional titles of my own. Dreamworlds is a dark fantasy about my mental health struggles and how my characters slip in and out of reality during a nervous breakdown. Mauskaveli is a kinky comic with anthromorphic, polyamorous, multiethnic queer mice in it.

How many pieces have you created and how long does it usually take you to complete work on a piece/project?

I can’t count how many paintings I have done, but approximately 100. I have done more commissioned illustratrions than I can count. It takes me about four hours to complete a panel for a comic strip or a painting for sale. Obviously, it takes a lot longer to do a comic given that a single cel takes two to four hours. I charge a hundred dollars for an illustration for a book or album cover or a flyer, so it comes out to around $25 an hour. I do a lot less work than I did when I was in my 20s and 30s and did graphic design as a full time occupation.

How can the readers learn more about your work and follow your career?

https://sumikosaulson.com/
https://sfbayview.com/
https://mauskaveli.com/
https://dookyzines.com/
https://www.deviantart.com/sumikoska

Collection –  Black Celebration: Amazing Articles on African American Horror
https://www.amazon.com/Black-Celebration-Amazing-Articles-American-ebook/dp/B07XXH9WQY
Performance  – with my band Stagefright. February 8, 2020
https://www.reverbnation.com/stagefrightsfhttps://www.facebook.com/events/1222743191266917/
African American Multimedia Conference
https://aammc.org/

BLACK HISTORY MONTH SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW – JIBA ANDERSON

Do you create full time, or do you have another full-time job? What is your educational background?
I have a BFA from the University of Michigan in Photography & Illustration and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Visual Communication. I freelance as an illustrator, designer and writer as well as teach classes in multimedia at Chicago State University.
What tools of the trade do you most like to create with?  
Blue pencil, Adobe Photoshop & Adobe Illustrator
Who are some of your biggest comic book artist influences?  
George Perez, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Brian Stelfreeze, Larry Stroman and Walt Simonson
Do you have a particular project or projects which stand out as your favorite(s)?  
My latest book, Contrast: Blackness In White, is my current favorite title I’ve worked on.
As a black comic book artist, do you feel a personal responsibility to the black community to create content which not only entertains, but also uplifts and educates?
No. To me, that’s a given. I’m an African American so of course I’m going to make work that reflects my culture, my bi-cultural, Pan-African viewpoint and my community. My goal is to get other people outside of my community to get on board and take that ride with me.

How and why is it important that black people are represented in this medium and how important is it that black creators work together to encourage, empower and educate the black community through their work?

It’s important because too many Black fans focus on how many comic book characters of color companies like Marvel and DC have as opposed to how many Black creators work at these companies. The more these fans see that the creators of these characters look like the fanbase, it reinforces that creativity in this medium is not the sole domain of the “other.” It shows that we do not have to wait for the “other” to represent us, our hopes, dreams and representations of the fantastic. It shows that we have command of our own imaginations.

How long does it usually take you to complete work on a comic book piece/project?  
It depends on the page count and whether the book is in color or black & white. Usually, it takes about 2 – 3 months to complete a 32-48 page book with no distractions or prior obligations.
What are the names of some of the titles you’ve illustrated?  
The Horsemen, Outworld: Return of the Master Teachers, The Song of Lionogo: An Indian Ocean Mythological Remix, The Union & Contrast: Blackness In White

What does artistic success in the comic book world look like to you?

Being able to touch people, to give them something they’ve never seen before but always wanted in their lives.

Where can the readers continue to follow your career? Do you have a website or blog?

http://www.griotenterprises.com

BLACK HISTORY MONTH SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW – MILTON DAVIS

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what does it mean to you to be a black writer in this society?
I dabbled in writing for a long time, since I was in the fifth grade. I didn’t decide to get serious about it until I turned 45. I feel it’s very important for us to have a voice in all aspects of this society. We have to tell our own stories in order for there to be some semblance of truth in this society, culture and world.
Do you write full time, or do you have another full-time job? What is your educational background?
I write part-time. My full time job is as a technical director for a small chemical  company. I have a Bachelors in Chemistry.
How do you best meet the challenge of juggling your day job (if applicable) and/or your family, against your writing career?
I block off at least one hour a day for writing and another hour for editing and other writing related work. My children are grown and gone, so I have a good amount of time to spend with the art. And I make sure I give my wife priority when it comes to my schedule and events.
What genre(s) do you write in, is there a favorite and which do you feel have had the most important impact on the black community? Traditionally, in mainstream media, blacks have been vastly marginalized in Speculative Fiction and fiction in general, how do you see that changing and what impact will your work have on making those changes?
I write in a variety of genres; sword and soul, Steamfunk, Cyberfunk and space opera. Of all of them, Sword and Soul is my favorite. I think they all have an effect, but I feel science fiction has the most impact on black readers because it puts us in the future under our own terms. As far as the mainstream, times are changing. Readers are demanding diversity, and the powers that be must conform.
Who are some of the major writing influences who most inspired you?
My biggest writing influences are Charles R. Saunders, James Baldwin, Frank Herbert and Phillip Jose Farmer.
Do you listen to music when you’re creating? If so, what type?
Music is an essential part of my writing. I listen to jazz mostly, but I’ll throw a little reggae in every now and then.
How long does it usually take you to complete work on a book?
It usually takes me about three months to finish a book.
What does your writing schedule look like and how many hours a day do you write?
I write probably an hour a day, two hours on weekends. I write in the morning; that’s when I’m the most creative and focused.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I hate outlines.
How many books have you written?
I’ve written 21 books.
As a black author, do you feel a personal responsibility to the black community to create content which not only entertains, but also uplifts and educates?
Yes and No. I write for myself first and foremost. However, I do make sure that what I write is of the highest quality I can produce. I do want my books to leave people with a positive sense of self, and I want them to be a temporary escape from this world.
What type of research do you conduct and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
The level of research depends on the subject matter. I’ve done extensive research into African/African Diaspora history in order to write Sword and Soul and Steamfunk. The time I spend researching for a particular book will vary based on the subject matter.
What are some of the best resources you’ve found for research?
The internet is your friend. I also have an extensive history book collection I’ve built over the years that is very helpful.
How important is it that black creators work together to encourage, empower and educate the black community through their work?
I think its vitally important that Black creators work together. We operate under this notion that there’s only so much our there for us, and even less for Black creators. I don’t believe that. I think there’s plenty for all of us, especially if we work together. We might not get rich, but we can be comfortable and provide the content our people want and need.
What does literary success look like to you?
Literary success to me is two-fold. I want readers to like my work, and I want to be able to pay my bills. Awards and all the other stuff isn’t significant to me. If it happens I’ll happily accept it, but it’s not something I crave.
What legacy do you want your work to represent and resonate in the black community and the world?
I’m not concerned about a legacy. If anyone says anything about my work, I hope it’s that they enjoyed it and that it made them happy.
What are some of the upcoming projects you’re working on?
I’m currently working on the sequel to Amber and The Hidden City, Amber and the Enchanted Sword. I also plan on completing my From Here To Timbuktu series, as well as a few anthologies.
How can the readers learn more about your work and follow your career?
You can find me at www.mvmediaatl.com and www.miltonjdavis.com. You can also find me on instagram as @obadoro and Facebook as Milton Davis.

Author biography:

I’m a Black Speculative fiction writer and owner of MVmedia, LLC, a small publishing company specializing in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Sword and Soul. MVmedia’s mission is to provide speculative fiction books that represent people of color in a positive manner. I’ve written seventeen novels; my most recent is the Sword and Soul adventure Son of Mfumu. I’m the editor and co-editor of seven anthologies; The City, Dark Universe with Gene Peterson; Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology and Griot: Sisters of the Spear, with Charles R. Saunders; The Ki Khanga Anthology, the Steamfunk! Anthology, and the Dieselfunk anthology with Balogun Ojetade. MVmedia has also published Once Upon A Time in Afrika by Balogun Ojetade and Abegoni: First Calling and Nyumbani Tales by Sword and Soul creator and icon Charles R. Saunders. My work has also been featured in Black Power: The Superhero Anthology; Skelos 2: The Journal of Weird Fiction and Dark Fantasy Volume 2, Steampunk Writes Around the World published by Luna Press and Bass Reeves Frontier Marshal Volume Two.

BLACK HISTORY MONTH SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW – EDEN ROYCE

My beautiful picture
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what does it mean to you to be a black writer in this society?
I wanted to be a writer since I was about five years old, but I didn’t pursue it seriously until I was in my mid-thirties. For me, being a Black writer means being myself on the page. Regardless of what genre I’m writing in – Southern Gothic, fantasy, horror, or science fiction –who I am as a person – a Black Southern woman – always makes it into the story in some way.   
Do you write full time, or do you have another full-time job? What is your educational background?
I write full time now, after leaving my day job a little over five years ago. I have a B.S. in Business Administration and worked in finance most of my career.
As far as writing education, I’ve never taken writing classes, but I read voraciously and have since I was a child.
How do you best meet the challenge of juggling your day job (if applicable) and/or your family, against your writing career?
When I had a day job, I did most of my writing after work. I was never without a notebook though, so I could jot down ideas whenever they popped up. You never know when something will inspire you, so I like to be prepared. I still keep one on my nightstand.
How many books have you written?
I’ve published two collections of short stories (Spook Lights and Spook Lights II), but only one novel, a middle-grade Southern Gothic historical that will be published in early 2021. I’m hard at work on two more, though.
Who are some of the major writing influences who most inspired you?
Zora Neale Hurston, J. California Cooper, Edgar Allan Poe
Do you listen to music when you’re creating? If so, what type?
Never. I listen to sounds like crackling fireplaces, thunderstorms, or rain on a tin roof when I write.
How long does it usually take you to complete work on a book?
I’ve only completed one so far, and that started out as a collection of short stories.
Is there any particular book that you’ve written that you’re most passionate about?
Not a book, but a short story. It’s “For Southern Girls When The Zodiac Ain’t Near Enough” and it’s my love letter to Black Southerners, no matter where they may be in the world now. I’ve been lucky enough to have some readers mention that it resonates with them, and they return to read it periodically. And that means so much to me.
What legacy do you want your work to represent and resonate in the black community and the world?
I want my legacy to be one of mixing African-American and Gullah-Geechee folklore and mythology into stories that show we as Black people have a rich cultural past and a tradition of storytelling despite our traumatic history. And to let that rich cultural past inspire us to do even more now and in the future.
What are some of the upcoming projects you’re working on?
I’m working on two novels: a middle-grade Southern Gothic contemporary fantasy and a young adult horror/dark fantasy.
How can the readers learn more about your work and follow your career?
Website: http://edenroyce.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/EdenRoyce
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/edenroycebooks/  

BLACK HISTORY MONTH SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW – DAVID F. WALKER

How long have you been writing comic books professionally and do you work for an outside comic book company/studio, freelance or own your own company/studio?

I’ve been making my own comics ever since I was a kid, but the first time someone actually paid me for my writing was 2005. I had a good career in journalism, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I started earning real income as a comic book writer in 2014, as I began to freelance for various publishers like Marvel and DC. I currently freelance for DC and several other publishers, including Ten Speed Press, which published my graphic novel The Life of Frederick Douglass.. I also have my own publishing imprint, where I do my own stuff.

Do you create full time, or do you have another full-time job? What is your educational background?

In theory, I’m a full time creator, but not so much in practice. That’s all on me, as I’ve had trouble the last year or two in maintaining a consistent schedule. Some days, I spent more time on conference calls or answering emails, or taking care of things like accounting than I do with the creative side of things. I’ve also branched out into non-fiction graphic novels, and that takes up a tremendous amount of time with research. I’m also an adjunct college professor, which can get very time consuming.

What style(s) does your comic book writing take and how much has black culture and history influenced your style?

Since black culture and influence has had a significant influence in my everyday life, that influence carries over to my creativity. Whether or not that is at the core of my creative energy, I can’t say for sure – some people might see it that way, while others might not even notice. I’m always thinking of ideas and stories dealing with the black experience, and how to turn those into compelling stories.

As a black comic book writer, do you feel a personal responsibility to the black community to create content which not only entertains, but also uplifts and educates?

My priority as a writer is to craft the most compelling story possible. If that story uplifts or educates, that’s great, and I work to make sure there is some merit to everything I write that extends beyond disposable pop entertainment. But it is up each reader, black or otherwise, to engage with my work and take from it as they see fit. I’m co-writing a series called Bitter Root, which takes place in the 1920s, against the backdrop of the Harlem Renaissance. But the series itself is not meant to be an educational tool about the Harlem Renaissance itself, it is more of an introduction than anything else. For me, the best pop entertainment engages you, and motivates you to explore and learn outside of that particular work. If someone reads Bitter Root, and is entertained by it, my job is done. If they read it, are entertained by it, and they decide to learn more about the Harlem Renaissance then not only is my job done, I’ve earned a bonus and extra vacation time. But unless I’m working on something very specific like The Life of Frederick Douglass, educating and uplifting are the spices I add to the recipe, but not the recipe itself.

What have you found to be the most challenging thing about breaking into the comic book industry, especially as a black creator?

The comic industry is incredibly difficult to break into as a writer, in part because comics are drawn, and if you’re a writer, you’re only half of what it takes to make a comic. You’re an important half, but it is difficult to prove yourself as a comic book writer if you don’t have anyone to draw your work, and that can be difficult. That said, there’s a big difference between making comics and earning a financial living in comics. All you have to do to break into the industry is make a comic and put it out there, either digitally or as printed object. Sure, it can be difficult writing it, or finding someone to draw it, but getting into the comic industry is as simple as making a comic book, period. But like I said, making a living from comics is something else. It’s like playing basketball. You want to play basketball? Get a ball, go to a court, and find other folks tossing balls. That’s what it takes to play basketball. But to make it on a professional ball team, and play at the highest level, that’s something else completely. As for being a black creator in comics, it has many of the same challenges that being black in America has. 

How does your work resonate with the black community and what do you want your legacy within the black community to achieve?

Personally, I don’t feel like its may place to answer those questions. I know how I’d like my work to resonate, and I’ve seen signs that it hits the mark at times, but my focus is the work itself. I attend an event in Harlem at the Schomburg, and I meet hundreds of people, most of them black, and they let me know that they are entertained or inspired by my work, and that feels great. But its not for me to answer for the readers or the community. And as for my legacy, I’m busy just trying to do the work. If I do have a legacy, it will be determined by others. There are so many incredible creators in various different medium – I’m talking folks of every stripe and background – and some of the best have been forgotten by time. Oscar Michaeaux is arguably the most important black filmmaker of all time – every fan of cinema in general and black film in particular should know his name. But most people don’t know his name or his work. I could say, “I want to be the Oscar Michaeux of comics,” but what does that really mean? Does it mean I want to be a pioneer and an innovator that created tremendous opportunities, only to be largely forgotten? We have very little control of the legacy we leave behind, we only have some semblance of control over the quality of the work we create during on time on this planet. The legacy of our work is for the living to determine. 

How and why is it important that black people are represented in this medium and how important is it that black creators work together to encourage, empower and educate the black community through their work?

Representation is very important to me, as is a sense of community with other black creators. When it comes to representation, I know what it was like as a kid to not see characters that looked like me and my family, and my work is always in response to what I felt as a kid. At the same time, I want to be careful that representation is true and authentic to the story I’m telling. If I chose to tell a story about 15th century French aristocracy, I’m not going to throw a black character in to the story just because. That’s pandering and insincere. But it is important that all people see themselves in a way that feels inclusive and empowering, which is why I can’t see myself doing a story that doesn’t do that. I tend to think of stories that provide the opportunity for a level of inclusion and empowerment, because that’s what I want to see and contribute to the world. But I only speak for myself, as I only speak for myself when it comes to encouraging and educating the black community. I believe it is important, but how I do it and how other creators do it can differ, which is perfectly fine. It is for each of us as individual creators to decide how we want to serve and interact with the community. I know some black creators that only want to make comics, and don’t care much about engagement. I know others that use the medium as a soapbox to spread their particular gospel. I believe that either end of that scale is fine, though I prefer more of a balance.

What are the names of some of the titles you’ve written?

I’ve written for a quite a few publishers. For Marvel I wrote Luke Cage, Nighthawk, and Occupy Avengers, among others. Over at DC, I’m currently co-writing Young Justice and a series called Naomi. I wrote a biography of Frederick Douglass, and in 2021 my graphic novel on the history of the Black Panther Party will be released. I’m co-writing a series called Bitter Root, and getting ready to self-publish a western called The Hated. I also write a weekly web comic, Discombobulated.

What upcoming project(s) are you working on, which you can share with the readers?

I’m focusing more on my own company, and publishing my own titles through my Solid Comix imprint, which is still in its infancy. This year I will publish at least two titles through Solid, my western The Hated, and a series about professional wrestlers called One Fall. Next year will see the release of my graphic novel about the Black Panther Party. And I’m currently developing a television serried based on my web comic, Discombobulated.

Where can the readers continue to follow your career? Do you have a website or blog?

I have a two websites, www.davidfwalker.com and www.solidcomix.com. I don’t update them enough, but that’s the best way to find me – I post my web comic on both sites, and there are links to all of social media handles. I’m on social media, but my goal is to spend less time on the web, and more time working and creating. Interacting on Facebook and Twitter and all of those can be a huge time suck, and often fills me with stress and negativity, neither of which I need in my life

David F. Walker is an award-winning comic book writer, filmmaker, journalist, and educator. His writing career started in the 1990s with the self-published ‘zine, BadAzz MoFo. In 1997 he produced and directed Macked, Hammered, Slaughtered, and Shafted, a feature length documentary on the history of blaxploitation films. Walker is best known for his work in graphic novels and comics, which includes The Life of Frederick Douglass (Ten Speed Press), the Eisner Award-nominated series Bitter Root (Image Comics), and the critically acclaimed series Naomi (DC Comics). He has written for Marvel Comics (Luke Cage, Occupy Avengers, Power Man and Iron Fist, Nighthawk, Fury, Deadpool), DC Comics (Cyborg, Young Justice), Dynamite Entertainment (Shaft), and Dark Horse (Number 13). He also teaches part time at Portland State University.

BLACK HISTORY MONTH SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW – JOE ROBINSON CURRIE

At what point in your life did you discover that you were destined to be a comic book writer?
Hmmm destined, I’ll say this. There was a Comic-Con I had just attended in Chicago. It was my first one and it was like going to Disney World. I had never seen anything like it. The very next week I was having lunch with a friend and he suggested we start a company and create our own comics. I think I started writing comics that day.
How long have you been writing comic books professionally and do you work for an outside comic book company/studio, freelance or own your own company/studio?
About 25 years now. My company is called Strictly Underground Comics, It serves as an imprint under the umbrella of StreetTeam Studios.
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being a comic book writer, and even more specifically a black comic book writer?
Being an independent publisher I have complete freedom to tell any story I want. As a black comic book writer It’s telling stories that otherwise will not be told.
Do you create full time, or do you have another full-time job? What is your educational background?
I have a day job. I went to Columbia College in Chicago. I skipped my 4th year and took the money that would have been my tuition and started Strictly Underground Comics.
What tools of the trade do you most like to create with?
Just a basic pen and a legal pad, once I have the story the way I want I move to the laptop and put it all down. Make what ever edits and changes I need to and so on.
Who are some of your biggest comic book writer influences?
Oh wow Stan Lee, Warren Ellis, Dwayne Mcduffie, Grant Morrison just to name a few.
What style(s) does your comic book writing take and how much has black culture and history influenced your style?
I think you can definitely see and feel that in the work that I do both my parents made sure that I had knowledge of self and my history. So yeah it’s a pretty big influence.
What inspires you to create and how do you strive to reach your readers within the black community by reflecting themselves in your work?
Inspiration comes from all over the place. It could be a book I’m reading. Sometimes it’s music or sometime simply walking down the street. As far as how I reach black readers. I think it’s important to see yourself reflected in a medium that really didn’t have you in there. I’m a black man and I have a certain perspective and vision and it’s important to have those visuals and stories.
Do you have a particular project or projects which stand out as your favorite(s)?
I like them all. Because being Indie you know the sheer sacrifice and energy it takes to get it out. So when It’s done I can reflect back on it. So nah I don’t have a particular favorite.
As a black comic book writer, do you feel a personal responsibility to the black community to create content which not only entertains, but also uplifts and educates?
I think I have to be conscious of what I’m saying. So yeah that’s definitely in my mindset when I go in.
What does your creative schedule look like and how many hours a day do you create?
There is no particular time where I sit down and just go. It’s all day.
How do you best meet the challenge of juggling your day job (if applicable) and/or your family, against your writing career?
That’s difficult at times. You just do the best you can. Doing this creative stuff. Is challenging and can absorb a lot of your time. So I do my best.
Do you listen to music when you’re creating? If so, what type?
Not all the time but I do at times just to have background noise. It varies. One day Rock, One day Hip Hop. Trip Hop some R&B it depends on what I’m writing. Like now I’m listening to Mr. Lif lol.
What is the most difficult part of your writer process?
Trying my best not to edit myself or tone it down. If I’m hitting a topic then I need to really hit it and not try to sugar coat it. Ya know.
What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?   
Just relax, step away from all of it do something different for a while then you get that urge to get back to it.
What have you found to be the most challenging thing about breaking into the comic book industry, especially as a black creator?
If you mean like the big two or a major publisher. Then I really think those days are just done. I think the independent route is the way. Breaking in is simply creating an ip and putting it out. If you don’t have the funds to publish. You can run a crowdfunding campaign for it and if your property draws an audience your off and running.
How does your work resonate with the black community and what do you want your legacy within the black community to achieve?
I think it hits at least I hope so lol. Legacy wise. I just hope I leave a positive mark on the industry when it’s all said and done.
How and why is it important that black people are represented in this medium and how important is it that black creators work together to encourage, empower and educate the black community through their work?
I think it’s very important as black creators to be just as visible as our IP’s. As far as black creators working together. I think that’s important as well. There are a lot of obstacles and hurdles you have to go through and over. I have my own company but I’m also under the StreetTeam Studios umbrella which is the home of six more creators. I think people see that unity and it does resonate.
How long does it usually take you to complete work on a comic book piece/project?
It can be anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years.
How many comics have you written?
About 18.
What are the names of some of the titles you’ve written?
“Something” “Prodigy” “PUNXofRAGE” “The Almighty StreetTeam”
What does artistic success in the comic book world look like to you?
I think you would like the work you do to be received well from your audience.
What upcoming project(s) are you working on, which you can share with the readers?
Almighty StreetTeam #2 is the next immediate project on deck. There are other things in the works. but that’s next.
Where can the readers continue to follow your career? Do you have a website or blog?
PUNXofRAGE.COM Instagram, PUNXofRAGE

Thank You John F. Allen for the interview. Shout out to StreetTeam Studios Crew!The PUNXofRAGE Radio Crew Strictly Underground and all the people that have supported me on this journey. Thank You