John Jennings is an amazing cat. He’s a designer, illustrator, writer, and lecturer at Eye Trauma Comix. He’s the artist and co-adapter, with Damian Duffy, of the celebrated hit Kindred based on the novel by Octavia Butler. His other works include I Am Alfonso Jones, Black Kirby: In Search of the Motherboxx Connection, Blue Hand Mojo, The Blacker the Ink, and Artists Against Police Brutality. With Damian Duffy, he’s the co-editor of the celebrated showcases Black Comix and Black Comix Returns.
Jennings is also a professor of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California at Riverside, the same institution where Afritopian trailblazer Nalo Hopkinson teaches in the department of Creative Writing.
And now, because of Jennings’ mega-success with Kindred, he’s starting a whole new career as the founding freelance editor for the Abrams graphic novel imprint Megascope. Megascope will feature works by creators of African, Indigenous, Latin American, Asian, and Oceanic backgrounds, with a special on focus on Africentric stories.
John Jennings spoke with me by web video on October 9, 2018. We discussed:
Brotherman: Dictator of Discipline is one of the most celebrated indie comics ever to be published in the United States. Brotherman is the creation of two siblings: writer Guy A. Sims and artist-writer Dawud Anyabwile. While Marvel and DC today struggle to sell many of their titles in the low thousands, the original eleven issues of the black-and-white Brotherman comic sold a total of 750,000 copies via indie channels from African-American bookstores to barbershops and Black Expos.
Many credit Brotherman with fueling the growth of African-American comics in the 1990s. Now after a long hiatus, the series is back, not as individual pamphlet comics but in graphic novel form. Brotherman: Revelation – Book One is now out and it’s as engaging and gorgeous as ever—maybe even more now that it’s in full colour as ebook and trade paperback. When I learned the book was out, I just had to contact the artist, since I’d also loved his and his brother’s adaptation of Walter Dean Myers’ novel Monster.
In addition to co-creating Brotherman, Dawud Anyabwile worked for the video game company WanderLust Interactive, and on the television shows The Wild Thornberrys and Rugrats, and at Turner Studios as a designer and storyboard artist for Turner channels Cartoon Network, TNT, TBS, and others. He was nominated for the Will Eisner Best Artist Award, and won a 2016 Glyph Award for Brotherman: Revelation – Book One. And he also won a 2008 Emmy for conceptualising a public service announcement for the Dalai Lama, and in 1992 received the Key to the City of Kansas City, Missouri, for “Outstanding Service to Children” for the original run of Brotherman.
Dawud Anyabwile is also a down-to-earth, friendly, and very informative brother. A major reason I produce MF GALAXY is to support artists in various disciplines, including many who don’t have close to the creative discipline, sales success, and ability of Anyabwile and so need the publicity. And yet when I ask some of them who as yet have accomplished very little to come on the show, some of them turn up their noses. Not Anyabwile! Even though he’s been the subject of countless interviews and even documentaries, and you can find links to some of them on MF GALAXY.org, he was quick to respond, generous with his time, and kind. So, creators of various types, you can learn from this man in many ways.
In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Dawud Anyabwile and I discuss:
We spoke by Skype on May 17, 2017. I began by asking Anyabwile to summarise the story of Brotherman: Revelation - Book One, and what he hoped to accomplish with this volume that he hadn’t been able to do before.
Vancouver-based comics artist and writer Faith Erin Hicks has been publishing graphic novels since 2007, and her best known books include Brain Camp, Friends with Boys, and The Last of Us. She’s just released the historical adventure work The Nameless City, set in medieval China. Her work features girls and boys in contemporary, realist, and horror scenarios, and is funny, heartfelt, and exciting. Part of the energy and character in Hicks’s drafting comes from her animation training, which also emphasised the importance of what animators call “acting” in pictures. In 2011, she won the prestigious Eisner Award for The Adventures of Superhero Girl.
Hicks’s latest work is The Nameless City, published by First Second. It’s the first volume of a trilogy set in Mongol-occupied China. It’s about a street girl named Rat and a military brat named Kai who learn from each other about how much bigger life is than their own deprived worlds, and how they run head-first into a plot to assassinate their city’s ruler.
In spring 2016, Hicks was touring North America to support The Nameless City, and in April she came to Edmonton as the guest of Happy Harbor Comics, through which she conducted workshops around the city and in St. Albert.
In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Faith Erin Hicks discusses:
Hicks spoke with me by Skype on April 29, 2016. She began by discussing the superstars of animation and graphic novels who’ve raved about The Nameless City.
Gene Luen Yang is the celebrated graphic novelist behind the recent LA Times Book Prize-winner Boxers & Saints and the award-winning American Born Chinese.He’s the first comic creator to be nominated for the US National Book Award and the first to win the American Library Association’s Printz Award. He’s also the writer of the graphic novel sequels to the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender. Somehow while he’s changing the face of American comics, Yang finds the time to teach high school computer science and graduate-level creative writing.
In part two of our conversation, Yang discusses:
Gene Luen Yang is the celebrated graphic novelist behind the recent Boxers & Saints and the award-winning American Born Chinese, and a remarkable force in the world of American comics. While thoroughly enthralled by the artistic traditions and lore of US superheroes, Yang is equally engaged by other artistic traditions such as Chinese opera, which is full of super-powered heroes and villains in primary-coloured costumes, and massive backstories with centuries of continuity behind them.
Although Yang laboured for years at making comics and losing money, he eventually struck adamantium with American Born Chinese. The 2006 graphic novel features a contemporary Chinese-American boy, an outrageously offensive fictionalised sitcom character named Chin-Kee, and the Monkey King from classical Chinese literature. The book is Yang’s fascinating fusion of three stories exploring alienation, racial self-hatred, and transformation of social consciousness and personal self-concept.
The graphic novel established Yang as one of the most important graphic novelists in the United States. It won the Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album, and became the first graphic novel to be nominated for a US National Book Award, and the first to win the American Library Association’s Printz Award. His 2013 two-volume Boxers & Saints explores the Chinese anti-colonial struggle that also pitted traditionalist Chinese against Chinese Christian converts, and by taking sides with neither, the book humanises both. It received a nomination for a US National Book Award and won the L.A. Times Book Prize.
In addition to having written and drawn many other works, Yang currently writes the sequel graphic novels to the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, where he ceded art-creation duties to the Japanese duo Gurihiru. He’s also taught high school computer science for almost twenty years and creative writing through Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults.
Gene Luen Yang spoke with me via Skype on December 10, 2014, from his home office in Oakland, California. In our conversation, Yang explains: