Words of Wisdom
What inspired you to create your comic?
What inspired me to create my manga/graphic novel was the manga and the anime called one piece. It followed a hero named Luffy from the islands doing great things! Since I was born in the Caribbean I could really relate to the hero and wanted to be like him! I loved how original and inspiring it was. It always had a good story and action and made me laugh a lot!
In addition I was inspired by African Culture heavily. I love the language of Xhosa, Zulu, Swahili and more. I love the African Martial Arts like Ngolo, Nguni Stick fighting and Musangwe, etc. I love the patterns, they are so complex, like Ankara. Plus the clothes are amazing too, like the agbada, senegalese caftan, dhuku headwrap and so much more. I love the art and meaning of the Adinkra symbols. They are so incredible, like how Fawohodie means independence and Owia A Repue means rising sun! Lastly what inspired me to create BOLDSAGA is how black people are treated in this genre. In manga black characters are either side characters, mocked with subtle as well as overt racism, and drawn without distinguishing features (such as without melanin, straight noses, blue eyes, multi-colored hair, etc).
On top of that the community hates on artists and cosplayers who display European looking Japanese manga and anime characters as black. One person even said, “Anime is supposed to be a perfect world to escape to, adding black people to that world kind of defeats the point.” and with Manga like Terraformars we needed change. So instead of waiting on the industry I created a manga series that honored African Culture. Showed how amazing it really is. Had Black characters with an African setting that showcases amazing themes and morals that uplift, inspire and empower. Showing black readers young, older, and throughout the Diaspora that you are Kings and Queens. That your stories matter. That ultimately African Culture Matters and should be respected!
What is your writing/drawing process like?
My writing drawing process is honestly very time consuming but worth it. I spend lots of time doing research to: make sure the African Languages I am using, like Xhosa or Khoi, have accurate translations. This can sometimes have me reading books from up to 100 years old and older. In addition, since BOLDSAGA is inspired by African Kingdoms and Empires I spend considerable time doing research on so that they are accurate in depiction. Then I consult my beat sheet and write. Once I have written out the story for the chapter and it's to my liking then I move on to the art. This part takes the most time. I do the storyboards, draw, ink, then add skin tone and lights to the drawing. Last is text and effects. Since I am doing all aspects of this process it takes longer than usual but it works out great because I gain a true understanding of all aspects of the process. So that Cover to Cover I know what is necessary to make a great manga!
How many hours a day do you write/draw?
Honestly it depends on if a chapter is in production or post production. While I'm in production I spend anywhere from 3 to 5 hours every day or longer writing. When it comes to art I spend 8 hours and up drawing. However when I am in post production those times of writing and drawing drop to less than an hour a day, because I reroute all my time and resources to promote the chapter I finished for about 3 months. Then the cycle begins again.
What does success look like to you?
Success to me looks like BOLDSAGA becoming an established brand under Great Gale. That BOLDSAGA becomes a household name in the manga industry. That it becomes and anime and beyond. That when fans talk about the greats, like One Piece and Naruto they mention BOLDSAGA as well. Honestly Success to me would look like black fans and black cosplayers of manga and anime having characters that look like them naturally. That these black fans have a home where they can be themselves in a story that honors their culture. That even fans of manga who aren't black can enjoy just how awesome African Culture is! That this story inspires others to be BOLD in realizing their dreams and make manga of their own!
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
The most difficult part of the artistic process is the drawing and the time to create. Since I focus on doing art with a spirit of excellence it takes me awhile to finish the art for BOLDSAGA. In addition I run a business where I am a graphic designer, web designer, podcaster, and I sell merchandise. However, the manga style of art is made to be created quickly with Eurocentric facial features and sometimes in a Japanese world. However these artistic styles don't match how Black people look. So drawing black people accurately is the most difficult. From drawing a wide nose properly, to making sure the lips are full and look authentic, to variety of hairstyles, like locs, braids, burst fades and more (I joked with my friend Jahmahl that I'm not only the artist I'm the barber too, giving these black characters a clean line up lol!). Then there is adding skin tones, and in BOLDSAGA I added characters who have more melanin and are darker skinned. However unlike other manga that do this inaccurately, I add the proper light to the characters face so they look complete, accurate and authentic! I avoid typical negative stereotypes in the depiction of black characters so that when black people read this manga they can say, Wow that looks like me, my son, my daughter, my family, etc!
Does writing/drawing energize or exhaust you?
This work does both. Since chapter 1 took about almost 22 months I can say that it was thoroughly exhausting. I did every aspect of the book. The research, the writing, the art, the cover, self published and marketed the book! However the result of seeing a reader enjoy my book energizes me. Like when one reader said, “I absolutely loved reading BOLDSAGA! The messages and representation were spot on! Please support this black business to change the narrative of our community!” Reviews like that warm my heart and empower me to keep going!
If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?
If I could tell my younger self anything it would be, your exactly we're you're needed. That all the challenges and situations you faced at that moment were for a reason. I would tell him that it will all work out! That you will achieve those dreams you envisioned, just keep grinding and keep the faith!
God won't let you down!
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a comic/graphic novel?
I spend hours, days and sometimes weeks doing research, maybe even longer. That is ultimately my superpower. Not just the art, or the story, it's the research that makes your story rise above the rest. In the manga genre it is a very cultural based creative industry. It usually centers on Japanese Culture being infused into various worlds. So for BOLDSAGA I do research on every aspect of the Culture first. What language did they speak? What do they look like? How did they dress? What did they eat? What did their homes look like? How was their government structured? What martial arts did they use? What weapons did they wield? Is the information I just researched available to be verified from another source? I heard a fan of manga and anime say, regarding black characters, who really cares. It's just an anime character. That even if the black characters are depicted with minstrelsy just enjoy it, the creator didn't know any better. I completely disagree. When you create a character you are responsible for that character and it's reception. If it's depiction has racist undertones or disparages Black characters that is wrong. To me it's not what you see that matters, it's what those images and words communicate. It's about the substratum of what the story is really saying that matters. This is why research matters. Because as I look at manga and anime I notice how much time these creators put into honoring their Culture accurately by showcasing: ramen, orochi, nio statues, meiji restoration, hitai-ate, etc. On the flip side it would be just wrong if a non-Japanese person made a manga about Japanese culture and adhered to the worst forms of racist depictions to showcase that culture. So if you create a manga, make sure you research what you are creating well!
What advice do you have for other Black comic creators?
My advice is to make a comic that is original, authentic to the African Culture and to yourself. By original I mean telling a story from a different vantage point that makes you stand out from the crowd. There are already so many superhero, samurai and black protagonists in Japanese culture with Japanese name manga already made. Make yours unique! I would also advise to make a manga with a Black protagonist in a storyline that honors African Culture. So many times we have seen the slave narrative, the hood narrative. We need narratives that uplift and inspire us, not highlight oppression. I would also advise you Make a story that you would enjoy. A story that your 10, 12, etc. year old self would enjoy. I advise you Make SOMETHING cool! Lastly I advise you never to give up! Manga is not easy at all, I would actually say that to my knowledge it is the hardest form of comics to make. But that's OK the hardest challenges have the sweetest victories! As Les Brown said, “If you do that which is easy, your life will be hard. If you do that which is hard, your life will be easy!”
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