Comic books, particularly mainstream titles, have perennially had issues with diversity in their four-colored pages, from gender representation, characters of non-heteronormative sexuality, and, quite notably, race. While strides have been made by the Big Two to bring more diversity to their stories so that their readers can see themselves represented in the comics they love, there’s still much work to do.
Creators Kwanza Osajyefo, Tim Smith III, and Jamal Igle seem to recognize this, as they have launched a Kickstarter campaign to make Black, their original superhero/sci-fi graphic novel, a reality. The project, timely started today to coincide with Black History Month, looks to address issues of race and superhero narratives in an honest, open way. The story follows a young man, Kareem Jenkins, who survives police violence and uncovers one of the greatest lies in history. His story is folded into the larger notion of exploring the idea of a world where only Black people have superpowers. Here are just a few of the characters we can expect to see:
According to Osajyefo, “With Black, we’re looking to tell a great story, but we’re also purposefully challenging the pop culture status quo, which is dominated by a White male aesthetic. Black tackles the very real and palpable issue of race, which is at the forefront in America and around the world.”
The Kickstarter has a goal of reaching $29,999 by February 29th and, as of the writing of this story, has already garnered nearly $10,000. The story looks to be not only engaging, but sets out to do what some of the best fiction and comic books achieve: prompting readers to question and consider the structural paradigms and assumptions with which they live.
From the official press release from SuperFan Promotions:
February 1, 2016, Timed to Black History Month comes a Kickstarter campaign to fund the new independent superhero science fiction original graphic novel BLACK, from Kwanza Johnson p/k/a Kwanza Osajyefo, the former DC Comics Digital Editor who helped launched the company’s Zuda imprint, and Tim Smith III (Iron Man, The Amazing Spiderman). BLACK, illustrated by Inkpot-Award winning artist Jamal Igle (Molly Danger, Supergirl), asks the question, “In a world that already fears and hates them – what if only Black people had superpowers?” BLACK follows the story of a young man, Kareem Jenkins, who, having miraculously survived being shot by police, learns that he is part of the biggest lie in history. Kareem must decide whether it’s safer to keep history’s secret, or if the truth will set him free. Rounding out BLACK’s creative team are DC Comics illustrator Khary Randolph, who will contribute covers and additional artwork, and editor Sarah Litt, formerly of Vertigo and DC Comics.
“With BLACK, we’re looking to tell a great story, but we’re also purposefully challenging the pop culture status quo, which is dominated by a White male aesthetic,” says BLACK co-creator Kwanza Osajyefo. “BLACK tackles the very real and palpable issue of race, which is at the forefront in America and around the world. We are trying to confront the issue of race head-on by creating a world in which only Black people are superheroes — and the BLACK superhero trope isn’t subtly cast under a label of mutant, inhuman, or meta-whatever. It is also both thrilling and liberating to create the superheroes we’ve always wanted to see — and, frankly, be — outside of the entrenched publishing system.”
“Sometimes a project comes along and you realize you need to be a part of it. As soon as I saw what Kwanza and Tim had in mind, I knew I had to be involved. I’ve known all of the people involved for years, know how professional they are,” says Jamal Igle. “I’m all about unique twists and BLACK certainly fits the bill. It’s going to be a fun ride.”
“BLACK is a story that has come at an important moment in comic book culture. This is a book that brings a contemporary message of identity into a world where anything can happen. A world where creative writing and imaginative visuals can show an alternative to what you would normally see in mainstream books today,” says Tim Smith III.
If funded through the Kickstarter campaign launching February 1st, BLACK will be available digitally to backers as DRM-free PDFs in monthly installments, starting in mid 2016. The limited edition print run of the six-chapter BLACK graphic novel is due out late in 2016.
As additional perks, BLACK Kickstarter backers can also get: original BLACK character art; original BLACK cover art; a cameo of your likeness drawn into BLACK; a commission sketch of your choice from Tim Smith III or Jamal Igle; an original interior page from BLACK by Jamal Igle; an illustrated card set of the 6 BLACK main characters: Kareem Jenkins, Juncture, Theodore Mann, Agent Adams, Agent Washington, and O; your name in the credits page; an online portfolio review of your art, story, or comic by members of the BLACK creative team; a set of three buttons, three stickers, or 1 die cut skin featuring original BLACK art; and signed copies of BLACK.
ABOUT THE BLACK CREATIVE TEAM
Kwanza Osajyefo — Creator and writer of BLACK, Kwanza Osajyefo is a former digital editor at Marvel and DC Comics – best known for launching DC’s Zuda imprint, which published series like the award-winning Bayou, High Moon, Night Owls, Superton, Celadore, Black Cherry Bombshells, Bottle of Awesome, and I Rule the Night.
Tim Smith 3 — Co-creator and designer of BLACK, Tim Smith 3 (A.K.A TS3), has been working in the comic industry for over 15 years. He created and self-published Red After the Party, and has worked on hit titles for some of the biggest publishers in the industry! To see more of TS3’s work, check out: JUNEMOON.NET.
Jamal Igle — Recipient of the 2011 Inkpot Award for Outstanding Achievement in Comic Art, Jamal Igle is the writer/artist/Creator of Molly Danger for Action Lab Entertainment. He’s penciled everything from indie faves to Marvel and DC hits. He is VP of Marketing and Publicity for Action Lab Entertainment.
Khary Randolph — Since graduating from School of Visual Arts with a BFA in Cartooning and Illustration, Khary’s been involved in TV, marketing, and comics. The cover artist for BLACK, he’s worked on everything from TMNT to The Boondocks and Hellboy, as well as designs for Brooklyn Brewery – most recently he’s worked on Robin Wars for DC. Khary is currently developing a new title for Marvel.
Sarah Litt — Sarah Litt has been in the publishing industry for over a decade. She started at Penguin and later moved to DC/Vertigo, where she worked on graphic novels. She was later recruited to work with the DC Digital team in LA. Back in NY, she is currently an editor for The Princeton Review.