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 – 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

BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION MONTH SPOTLIGHT #24

TODAY’S BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION MONTH SPOTLIGHT IS WAYNE RILEY!

allknightzteamWayne Riley is the brainchild behind All Knightz, a team of animators, graphic designers, illustrators and writers who are together most notably responsible for the animated series known as ‘Hard Wired’. Their aim is to give you a whole new fresh take on how you view comic books and cartoons by giving you a different kind of character that you and your children will always remember as well as a new way of story telling that will encourage you to look deeper into the stories from our African history.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BE SURE TO HELP CELEBRATE BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION MONTH BY CHECKING OUT THE WORK(S) OF THIS WONDERFUL CREATOR & REMEMBER TBIYTC!!!

BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION MONTH SPOTLIGHT #19

TODAY’S BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION MONTH SPOTLIGHT IS JOE ROBINSON CURRIE!

Joe Robinson CurrieMy name is Joe Currie aka That Strictly Kid

I am the Head Creator and Publisher for Strictly Underground Comics.

I have been in the comic book business as a publisher and a creator for about 17 years.

My credits: Include,Co-Creator, Co-Writer and Publisher for the “Huntsmen” 3 issue mini series. Published in 1996.

Co-Creator, Co-Writer and Publisher for the “Something” 4 issue mini series.

Creator, Writer and Publisher for the “Prodigy” 4 issue mini series.

Creator, Writer and Publisher for the “PUNXofRAGE 6 issue mini series.

 

 

 

Dodger & Prodigy PUNXofRAGE Pic: Stanley Weaver

Dodger & Prodigy
PUNXofRAGE
Pic: Stanley Weaver

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Website www.punxofrage.com

BE SURE TO HELP CELEBRATE BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION MONTH BY CHECKING OUT THE WORK(S) OF THIS WONDERFUL CREATOR & REMEMBER TBIYTC!!!