There is an amazing independent comic book about to introduce a dawn of an exciting, new chapter in creator-owned content. The veteran comic book group who have joined forces like a team of heroes forging together creating a new horizon of social justice awareness and cultural pride. with the Kickstarter project aptly titled BLACK.
The love of comics and passion for creation is why Kwanza Osajyefo, Tim Smith 3, Jamal Igle, Khary Randolph and Sarah Litt have teamed up to produce the amazing graphic novel, BLACK. PopCultHQ is thrilled to talk to the whole creative team, to find out what fans can expect from this groundbreaking series, how it originated for each of them and what the future might hold.
“In a world that already fears and hates them – what if only Black people had superpowers!“
After miraculously surviving being gunned down by police, Kareem Jenkins, a young man learns that he is part of the biggest lie in history. Now he must decide whether it’s safer to keep it a secret or if the truth will set him free.
BLACK is a 120-page black and white story that is comprised of six chapters, In advance of the printed book Kickstarter backers will receive issues as DRM-free PDFs in addition to the entire digital volume (with extras!). Black is set to release monthly on digital platforms starting mid-2016.
“BLACK” created by
Creator and writer of BLACK – Kwanza Osajyefo
Co-creator and designer of BLACK – Tim Smith 3 (A.K.A TS3),
Artist for BLACK – Jamal Igle
Cover artist for BLACK – Khary Randolph
Editor – Sarah Litt
PopCultHQ Exclusive Interview with the creative team of “BLACK”
PopCultHQ: The BIG question, what is the inspiration for BLACK to each of you?
KO: I’ve been a fan of comics for most of my life and like many, was drawn to characters who dealt with fringe status. As my tastes matured, I realized that these allegories for racism didn’t hold up since most characters could take off their masks and live normal lives. These “outcasts” were not overlooked for jobs, pulled over by cops, or murdered on the street for being in the wrong neighborhood – but that is the reality for Black people.
Metaphors didn’t seem necessary to craft a sci-fi story that reflected that truth.
KR: At its simplest, BLACK is an opportunity to tell a story that most likely couldn’t be told anywhere else. Therefore, we are telling it ourselves. With any project, you’re looking to find an angle or niche that isn’t currently being served, and with this project I don’t see anyone else telling this story. Which is exactly why I hopped on board.
JI: I think it’s a combination of wanting to tell a compelling story that’s based in a functioning, real world scenario and wanting to draw some great action. I’m drawing from what I know, as an African American man who grew up in the tumultuous NYC of the 1980s and 90s, and extending it to the present.
TS3: Telling a story and not having to answer to anyone for its approval.
PopCultHQ: Congratulations on the Kickstarter! It is obvious that BLACK is striking a huge positive response from the fans, but have you also been receiving any negative responses from any “critics” out there?
KO: Not really. The concept of BLACK may have different meaning to people depending on their personal experiences. The juvenile or ignorant statements about the book have fortunately been few.
KR: Of course. Negativity and criticism is a given no matter what you do, and when you add in politics and race, you’re just asking for it. We’ve seen the gamut of criticism from fair to not-so-nice to downright ugly. But on the whole I was braced for a lot more than we’ve gotten (or than I’ve seen), so maybe that’s a good thing.
JI: Oh, we’ve had a range of responses that have been very interesting. Some people have questioned what we were trying to accomplish. Some have said that we were being equally as racist as those we were supposedly condemning for creating all-White superhero teams. We were once sent a link to a forum where the racism was so thick, you’d need an atomic laser to cut through it. We’ve gotten people, sight unseen, trying to compare the story to things like Wanted, which is a completely different story.
TS3: I try not to even go down that rabbit hole. Stay focused, positive, and motivated. That’s what gets me going, anything else is not worth my time.
PopCultHQ: For each person on the team… what was the spark or main motivation for saying it was time to do this project?
JI: The concept was so juicy, compelling that I was sold just on the one sentence pitch.
KO: Social media has helped elevate our struggles in society that people may have thought ended with Do The Right Thing. It’s bittersweet that themes explored in BLACK are still relevant today because they’ve been ignored.
TS3: Kwanza and I have been kicking this idea around for a number of years now. In that time, we have both been busy with all that life has to offer. So when the time came, we just knew it was right.
KR: For me it really does all come down to Kwanza. He and I have talked about working together for years and years. When he brought BLACK to my attention, the pitch, the timing, the names involved — everything seemed like it was a good fit. And my gut said that this could be something special.
PopCultHQ: What can we expect to get from BLACK? Now that you see this response, does it change course at all?
KO: Somewhat. People have been vocal that they want more content from this world. I’ve no love for ongoing periodicals, but the response to BLACK has made it clear that we should consider more stories.
That’s why we set a stretch goal for the Mann Diaries; so that we could explore the history that leads up BLACK.
TS3: Nope! We keep doing it the way we said we would. That’s how I see it anyway. That’s what got us here today, and that’s what’s going to get us going tomorrow.
JI: Not at all, it actually gives us more to play with story-wise, especially since we hit our second stretch goal.
KR: This is the first Kickstarter I’ve ever been a part of, so even I didn’t initially know what to expect. But the groundswell of support we’ve gotten over the course of this month has been incredible, and humbling. If anything, I don’t know how much the course changes, but I do know that I’m even more committed to making sure that we fulfill all of the promises we have made to the fans and the community. I’ve never wanted a project I am a part of to succeed more than this. When you are a minority, there is an understanding that the things you do reflect more than just yourself — you are a reflection of a whole community. BLACK feels like an extension of that, and as such it feels more personal. I want this thing to blow people’s minds.
PopCultHQ: This is like a Voltron dream team of creators. What’s it like working with each other?
TS3: Fantastic! We are all on the same page. It feels good to get text messages from these folks. It feels good to see them tweet something or discuss some topic. I have never felt such positive energy. It really feels good to have a team that knows what they want and have the confidence to do what they enjoy.
KR: We are still in the infancy stage honestly, but we’re all on the same page. It’s funny, because even though we are all friends and all have the whole black thing in common, we still are very much individuals and bring our differences to the table. A perfect example of this was when we decided to put together a Spotify soundtrack for the comic book. You’d think that we’d have a lot of similar songs in mind but the stuff we all brought to the table was so different and varied that it made the soundtrack its own unique entity. I think it’s a good metaphor for what BLACK will be as well.
JI: I absolutely respect all of these people so much, and in the case of Kwanza and Sarah (Litt, our editor) I’ve worked with them before and we know what each other is capable of.
KO: Awesome. That is all.
PopCultHQ: Have there been any misconceptions you have seen from those talking about what they think BLACK might ultimately be trying to reach with its message?
KR: I think there’s a misconception that this thing will be FOR BLACK PEOPLE, BY BLACK PEOPLE. This is for everybody. I would be so disappointed if only Black people read this book, because that would miss the point. This is superhero comics, this is science fiction. It just has a minority cast.
KO: I have a story to tell in BLACK that comes from a particular perspective. How that will be received is based on the individual.
JI: Absolutely, but I think there’s a natural reaction from some corners to try to compare the concept to something familiar to them. While you can make comparisons to the X-Men or Heroes, we’re taking a different route, coming from a different angle.
TS3: I have seen a comments here and there for sure. And I love it! It tells me we have something people are thinking about.
PopCultHQ: Is there even a “message” that you’re trying to achieve, or is this just a bunch of comic loving dudes wanting to have fun doing what they do best?
KO: At its core, BLACK is an action-adventure, sci-fi story intended to entertain. The themes it explores and the context around the project does highlight issues that society, and in particular the comics industry, need to address.
Diversity is not something that is solved through race swapping or tokenism when the profession and culture of comics is not inclusive.
KR: BLACK is of its time, and there will absolutely be a point of view attached to that. The best stories in my mind always are trying to tell you something, and have a grounding in reality. But this is still fiction. It’s gotta be fun, both for us and for the reader.
JI: A little bit of Column A and B.
TS3: There is a message. Many messages if you think about it. One can be just telling a story about how the last can be first, how they can be heroes and motivate others to do the same even if the odds are stacked against them. Another can be just what you just said, “…bunch of comic loving dudes wanting to have fun doing what they do best.”
PopCultHQ: How far would you guys like to see BLACK go, in terms of issues? or even other medias?
KO: As far as readers want it to go. I won’t produce filler content just to gain shelf space. The goal will always be to deliver stories with intent. I’m open to other mediums, which is why we’re doing a mobile-first story.
TS3: Maybe by issue 1000 we get to open the theme park with rides and its own flavored energy drink? Something like that.
PopCultHQ: I LOVE this idea and only wish my race (Hispanics) could come together and have done this first, lol. We don’t have our very own superheroes with the big two. But what can you say to those potential fans out there on why they should give BLACK a chance if they have not done so yet?
KO: BLACK is a story about humanity, so it is for everyone – not just one group. If you like sci-fi and action-adventure, that is what this book is.
KR: The concept is dope, the art is gonna be dope, and we’re having the time of our lives working on it. My sincere hope is that people come into this thing with an open mind. It’ll be well worth it.
TS3: This is a story you will not read anywhere else. You have not read anything like what’s going to happen. For that alone you gotta read and see how new ideas can take form.
PopCultHQ: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us!
Thank you to the whole BLACK team! This was a blast and cannot wait for this issue to drop!
BLACK has already reached its funding goals and even broken most of its stretch run goals, with the next level for the team to achieve being:
$100,000: TOUCH THE SKY
The final stretch goal aiming at $100,000 to make the book physically bigger – 6.6 x 0.2 x 10.2 inches. Doing so means adding to weight, printing, and shipping costs that way BLACK can be read at the same size as most other graphic novels.
Support Black Kickstarter today!