Today Melissa is joined by the creator of series Black which explores the idea of “what if only black people had super powers?” and the follow up series White, which continues this thought interwoven into modern politics.
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Kwanza Osajyefo – Interview
[00:00:00] Melissa: This is spoiler country and I’m Melissa searcher tonight on the show. I’m excited to welcome comic book creator and writer Kwanzaa. Oh, such Jeff Lowe. Welcome to the show.
Kwanza Osajyefo: Thanks for having me on.
Melissa: Thanks for being here tonight. How are you doing?
Kwanza Osajyefo: Too bad. I mean, the weeks just getting started, so we’ll see
Melissa: busy week plans.
Kwanza Osajyefo: No, but I mean like that’s just any Monday, you know, you never know how things are going to go, so you’re kind of like,
Melissa: That’s true. Right. It’s still Monday, even in the apocalypse. So,
Kwanza Osajyefo: I want to tell him that is like a great idea for like a short or a comic book. It’s like it’s Monday, even in the hip hop.
Melissa: Nice. Feel free to use that. That’s awesome. Well, I would love to talk to you [00:01:00] obviously about your comments book black. It’s a story that takes place in a world and political climate. That’s kind of similar to our own. But the twist is that only black people have super powers. What inspired this story and what made you decide to set it in a modern world versus like a historical one?
Kwanza Osajyefo: I think there’s. The inspiration is a combination of things. One part was my experience working as a editor at DC and Marvel and sort of noticing that there was a lack of people of color, specifically black people working at the company and that, that had a direct correlation to why there was a lack of representation.
The content. So, you know, it wasn’t anything that was Makaveli in, or like malicious or anything like that, but it was more of a like lack of perspective and a lack of, you know, people there who had. You know, agency to put [00:02:00] characters who look like themselves into these stories, tell stories about characters that reflected their experience.
And there was just this sort of like moment where I realized like, Oh, that’s, that’s something that impacts the thing that like, I’ve always loved since I was a kid. And then obviously like, you know, Life affected inspired that. I mean, just the experience of being a black person in America, because it was a different experience and trying to navigate, you know, this country.
And I think that, you know, it really was about me taking the two things that I loved and kind of, you know, scraping the veneer off of like superhero stereotypes in order to tell a story that like actually reflected. You know, our reality a little bit more because of the best science fiction, like really solid, like cook in reality.
Melissa: Right. Yeah, because I mean, if you look back over the last, well, since the beginning of time, there is a very one dimensional point of view. [00:03:00] So I think it’s really important that that not always be the narrative. So I think it’s awesome that you have brought that, you know, forward and that more artists like you are doing that.
So my hats off to you for that.
Kwanza Osajyefo: Thank you.
Melissa: So your main character, Kareem, what, what are some of the challenges that he has to face after discovering he has these super powers?
Kwanza Osajyefo: So Kareem was an interesting protagonist. I didn’t want to write a character who, you know, suddenly had, you know, everything handed to him or because he gained super powers, suddenly had all the answers.
Hey, he’s a 15 year old. Boy who’s, you know, he’s just been assaulted and killed by the police, but he comes back to life, finds out he has super powers, and now he’s being like, you know, pulled in different directions by all of these clandestine forces that have been working to keep it a secret from, you know, The general [00:04:00] public for centuries.
And when you put a 15 year old in that situation like that, it’s not like they have like a wealth of experience to navigate. So I really want it to put what I felt, you know, a 15 year old person would be in that situation. They’re kind of like, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s almost like a running start. For him where he’s just trying to figure out, you know, who these people are, who he’s supposed to be in this, what his role is.
So I really thought that could be like an interesting protagonist as opposed to somebody who gets the magic sword and all of a sudden they can perform miracles.
Melissa: Right. Okay. And when you were writing this character, did you discover anything new about yourself?
Kwanza Osajyefo: I think it was an interesting exercise in exploring a lot of different perspectives that I.
Have as a black person, but also that I don’t have, because you’re trying to [00:05:00] write all of these characters who, you know, are generally invested in, you know, their point of view, you know, they believe, you know, what w you know, what they’re doing is right. So there’s antagonist in the story, but not necessarily in my, my opinion, villains.
And it was really interesting to like, Kind of try and invest myself in, you know, like the character. Oh, like why he’s so adamant about like, you know, being, you know, a radical and, and, you know, taking, trying to upset the status quo and like the systems that have been oppressing, like his people and then theater men who.
You know, it was just really at his core, a capitalist and just someone who is almost a product of a system where he doesn’t really have the moral compass to like care, you know, and what kind of person that is, you know, we w if you’re on the opposite side of it, you, you, [00:06:00] you can maybe rightfully so call that evil, but it’s like a person who doesn’t have that wherewithal is just operating.
Yeah, based on their experience. Right. And that’s not to absolve them at all, but I mean, like, that’s kind of where I tried to put my head more to write those.
Melissa: That must have been difficult to switch to that. You know, that type of point of view where, you know, some of those characters coming from a place of ignorance for lack of a better word was that difficult for you to kind of work through?
Kwanza Osajyefo: I think it was, it was a struggle. Sometimes I feel like I was. Doing it accurately because they aren’t in a lot of cases, perspectives that I have, you know, so a lot of time I was like, it was almost like trying to be a character actor. It’s like, all right, I’m going to try and get into this head space with this character.
And this is why they would be motivated to do this or that, you know, while not necessarily holding those [00:07:00] views, like really, and truly, you know, In myself. So when I write characters, I tend to write these like long psych profiles of them, you know, where I kind of detail like their past up until the present to dictate how they’re going to operate, but also to keep myself honest, you know, when I’m writing them.
So I can look back at that and said, Oh, okay. That character probably wouldn’t do that because they experienced this trauma or this is what actually happened to them. So maybe this is how they would react. So it was, it was. It was an interesting exercise and trying to play those roles in a sense.
But did you have to do any type of research for that? I mean, was there did you try to reach out to anybody in those particular types of groups to get any kind of Clarification or any or anything like that?
Kwanza Osajyefo: Not for this round. What I really did was I did a lot of reading of, you know, and a lot of studying of the characters who I kind of [00:08:00] use or the people who are kind of using as templates for these characters so that I could say like, all right, well, what if, you know, like, you know So Richard Branston was like really evil.
What if he use, like, you know, like what if he was just like completely amoral or something like that? Like how, you know, and, and I mean, when you’re like a businessman of any, like, you know, like wealth or like capability, like you kind of are in a sense, but you aren’t, you it’s, it’s like, it’s like you think of somebody like.
I was just having a conversation with a friend a while ago about like Jeff Bezos. And I’m like, you know, he could just end homelessness. Like that would just be like a flex and it wouldn’t put a dent in his wealth at all. And I’m like, I wonder why people don’t do that. You know, because there’s a limit to his lifespan.
It’s like, you’re not going to like live any longer just because you’re wealthy. Like you’re like, why not just do it just to do it? Like [00:09:00] I mean, I’m kind of a petty. Well, like nice person. Like I would do it just to be like, ha ha U S government,
Melissa: right? No, it’s funny that you mentioned that because I’ve had a conversation like this not too long ago as well, where I basically was thinking if all of, if you took like 10 of the world’s billionaires or even just the United States billionaires They could single-handedly, you know, give every single person that’s not rich an income through this pandemic.
You know what I mean? Like, you know, with the unemployment and all that kind of stuff, but if you took like 10 billionaires could single-handedly do it if they wanted to. But like you were saying, like, why don’t they do it? You know?
Kwanza Osajyefo: Yeah. And that’s an interesting thing to like explore and a character it’s like, Well, what they do versus what they don’t do just as much, you know?
Melissa: Yeah, exactly. Well, also, so black was funded by a very successful Kickstarter. And so were you surprised by the outpouring of support when, when you reached your, your goal and you got fully funded and then it [00:10:00] surpassed it?
Kwanza Osajyefo: Yes. I very much was because I had had friends who had done Kickstarters before colleagues in the comic industry.
And I I really thought we were going to be hustling and we hit our goal, our initial goal in like three days. So like at the time I’d had the kickstart app on my phone and I was. Like, you know, getting alerts, just, you know, to see like, Oh, it’s, you know, it’s progressing. Like, do I have to like tweet a little more and Savannah a little more, but it was really three days of it just pinging constantly.
And that was really, really gratifying, you know, it’s when you put an idea out there in the world, you, you, you, you hope that it’ll resonate with, you know, a few people, but the fact that it resonated with so many people and they were so. Willing to like, make us, help us make it into reality. It was just, it was really validating.
Melissa: Well, it sounds like it sort of like, it’s just spread like wildfire essentially. Do you think that was [00:11:00] like word of mouth or did you just do an aggressive marketing campaign?
Kwanza Osajyefo: I think it was because we managed to get picked up by What was it? I’m not sure if it was like deadline, like it’s, it seems it’s like such a blur.
But I think it was like amazing your newspaper picked it up and not just kind of like all of a sudden they started getting picked up by other papers and other outlets, like it got picked up outside of the comics industry. And I think that’s really what made it like kind of explode.
Melissa: Yeah. So it was like media, essentially.
That’s really cool. Do you think you’re going to use Kickstarter for like all of your future projects now?
Kwanza Osajyefo: Possibly, I mean, we are currently sending out rewards now for the SQL to black white, because you know, I’m clever. And you know, we had a pretty successful Kickstarter for that one as well.
And I’ve always, you know, been a really big fan of like [00:12:00] technology, like, you know, shifting how we, you know, Producing media, how we consume media and you know, it, it was a huge game changer, like crowdsourcing, you know, or crowdfunding for the creators because you didn’t really have to go through a publisher anymore.
You didn’t have to like, you know, go and make photocopies at like a Kinko’s or whatever. Are there teams?
Melissa: I know I was like, wait, I don’t think there are actually,
Kwanza Osajyefo: that’s great. But that changed, you know, and, and it’s really, it’s really. A good thing to be able to put that out there. Cause I was absolutely prepared to fail.
Know. I really wanted to put the idea out there and let that be the litmus test. I was like, look, if people don’t respond to this and they don’t back it, then I know I can stop wasting my time with it essentially. And we don’t do a different project, but if they like it, you know, that’s the great thing about crowdfunding it validates the idea.
Melissa: Yeah. Well, and I think too you know, as, as artists or writers, I’m a writer, we, we get imposter [00:13:00] syndrome, you know, a lot, no matter how success successful you get, or no matter how many people tell you. You’re amazing. I think it’s just this weird thing. And I’ve talked to a lot of writers about it that you just sometimes get.
Imposter syndrome. So you’re like, you’re just expecting to fail. And then you’re like shocked when you do well, you know?
Kwanza Osajyefo: Oh yeah. That’s perpetual for me. That’s like, literally everything I write, I’m definitely a person who, if, if I could, I would just go back and rewrite everything that I’ve ever done constantly, you know?
Cause I’ve never feeling like I got it. Right. So I, I think, I think, I think you’re probably not. A good artist. If you don’t have imposter syndrome, you know, it’s like, if you don’t question yourself at least a little bit, like, I feel like that’s the thing that like drives you to like, you know, keep digging, to keep like searching and my, you know, extrapolating those ideas from within yourself as like that, that little bit of doubt, you know?
Cause [00:14:00] it’s not crippling you, it’s making you go like, okay, well, what if I keep trying, what if I keep pursuing this thing? Yeah, maybe then I’ll feel like I’m really doing it, but never quite getting there. And that, it’s a weird thing. Cause it sounds bad, but I don’t really think it totally is.
Melissa: Yeah, no, that’s an interesting perspective on it actually, because yeah, it’s the same thing where you, you push yourself to learn more and grow more.
If you’re doubting yourself, So, you know, whether it’s like going to workshops or, you know, reading craft books and, you know, listening to other writers, talk, things like that to get advice or just the actual writing to, you know, practice and get better. I think that’s no, that’s a good point. So
Kwanza Osajyefo: yeah, I mean, yeah, go ahead.
Melissa: No, no, go ahead.
Kwanza Osajyefo: I actually lost whatever I was about to say. So go ahead.
Melissa: So I wanted to ask you about black, how many issues is that done or do you have how many issues do you have planned for that series?
Kwanza Osajyefo: So I had always envisioned black as a trilogy, so [00:15:00] there’s black and now there’s white and that kind of follow the whole star Wars kind of trajectory of like, you know, there’s new hope empire strikes back, and then they’ll be returned to the jet.
So, you know, the, the core books are three volumes and I always felt like that would kind of, I’m like be the tech poles of the universe. And so we’ve done. Other books in between like black and white. So we did a America’s sweetheart which was a standalone Y a graphic novel, and then widows and orphans, which is about child trafficking in the Stan.
And then devil’s die, which is about drugs being brought into like small POC communities. And. It’s all things that like I wanted to tap into, because again, like having that seed of like reality to base the fiction off of, it was always something that was interesting to me. And like, once you kind of like unpack the idea of like, well, what if only black people had super powers?
It’s like, well, Then there [00:16:00] would definitely be a black market for them. And it’s a, there might be narcotics that only affect, you know, like people with super powers. You know, there might be, you know, a young girl who didn’t even know who that other black people had superpowers because she was raised by her, you know, conservative, adopted family in the Midwest, you know, so was like a lot of angles to explore in that universe that aren’t just.
You know what I think people expected black to be, which is that very amazing cover that Carrie Randolph created. Like we’ve tried to, you know, tell stories that explore different genres and perspectives, you know, because black people aren’t a model. If there’s like conservatives, there’s like liberals, there’s anarchists.
There’s. People who don’t even subscribe to any of those things, you know, LGBTQ, like that’s a whole nother,
Melissa: isn’t it completely different. Yeah, totally. You have so many possibilities. So do you have more spinoffs planned, [00:17:00] like in development or are they just like ideas floating in your head right
Kwanza Osajyefo: now?
Or ideas floating in my head? Like I did come up with the CQL for America’s sweetheart, because people really enjoyed that book. It was. It was an interesting one to do because our publisher black mask, you know, it was like, okay, black was really great. So what’s the SQL. And I told them, I was like, well, I want to do this.
Why a graphic novel set in years? He’s like, wait, what? Like, yeah, it’s going to be all in color and it’s going to be kind of whimsical and you know, aesthetic. And he’s just like, I don’t even understand that. Like, because you can tell that kind of story in his universe. So let’s do that. So. I came up with the idea for the SQL to that.
So that might be the next one that I work on in a universe. And then we’ll see, because the other thing that I wanted to do is. You know, make the universe have no platform. So devil’s dye was the first book in the universe where I didn’t script the entire thing. I just wrote the plot and , who’s been doing a [00:18:00] lot of great work over at Marvel.
She’s about to start writing new mutants over there. Wrote that story, you know, and I want to be able to like, you know, kind of pass the Baton, you know, after, after creating those tent poles, just like let people have at it and say, like, go tell whatever stories and this university won. Oh, that’s
Melissa: really cool.
You know, it’s, it’s kind of and just using this as a loose comparison, but when I think of something like the walking dead, right. And there, that world is constantly building, they’re always coming up with spinoffs and new factions and this and that. And I think it’s kind of similar to where you have this university have created.
That is there’s so many people in this universe, you know, so many different stories that you could tell going on in different corners of the world or the country.
Kwanza Osajyefo: Yeah. And that’s the interesting thing about like world building, because again, like you’re taking the world that we know, and you’re just like, you’re just twisting it a little bit.
And once you do that, then you’re kind of looking at everything around you in the world and saying like, okay, well, all right, if [00:19:00] only black people had super powers and nobody knew like, well, Like, why was there slavery or like, you know, why did this happen or why hasn’t this happened? You know? Or like, you know, are there any famous black people who had super powers certainly even know.
So I think like once you, once you ask that question, it just like opens up like infinite possibilities for storytelling.
Melissa: Yeah, that’s totally interesting. Did you address any of and if you don’t want to give any spoilers away, that’s fine. But did you address any of those historical systemic issues? Like you just said with like slavery and you know, famous, you know, jazz musicians from the Harlem jazz era, did you touch on any of that or just stick to like the modern story?
Kwanza Osajyefo: Not yet. I do give some hints to some of the characters. Past and like past events, but I’ve yet to like, fully explore like the, the, the far past. And those are some of the stories that I do want [00:20:00] to spin out around some of the characters who are a bit older, but No again, it’s also just a lot of fodder for other people to play with too.
So it’s just like, if somebody has that story in them, I can, to me, it’s just like, Hey, I really want to tell the story and your universe, it takes place in like 18, 12. So I’m like, okay, what’s the story? And it’s just like,
Melissa: Yeah, no, that’s super cool. That sounds really interesting. I can’t wait everybody get on that.
So the other exciting news about black, it’s been acquired by Warner brothers for I believe a film. And how, how excited are you first of all? And I tell you, be, will you be involved in the adaptation?
Kwanza Osajyefo: So I’m a co-producer on the film and it’s something that was like really interesting because.
The day that we launched a Kickstarter, we had an offer for film with within hours. And they gave that first week, that first day was just like, I didn’t know, like a lawyer. I didn’t have a manager. I didn’t have any. And the next thing, you know, [00:21:00] like my phone’s just ringing up at work. And I was like, I don’t know what that is.
I don’t know. I don’t have. Like agent what, I still don’t have an agent. I don’t know what any of these things are. I just made a comic because I wanted to tell the story. But you know, we have that offer and it really became like this interesting practice of learning to say no to things, because there are a lot of studios, like for, you know, quite some time, like really.
Wanting to do this project. And, you know, we ended up working with studio eight who, you know, put together like, you know, script and you know, worked on adaptation and then like Warner brothers, you know, and some other people were like looking at the, you know, looking at it. And that was really just like mind boggling, because this is something that I had come up with.
Like, Almost 15 years ago. And you know, that we had put out into the world like four years ago and now it’s at Warner brothers. So it’s
[00:22:00] Kwanza Osajyefo: like, Whoa, okay. Then I guess this is a real thing.
Melissa: Wow. And do you have any idea of, of when that’s gonna start happening is like, is it in pre-production? I was a big cast.
Kwanza Osajyefo: That stuff I can not talk about, but it is it has been, the script has been written and it’s, it’s, it’s one of those is very excited about it.
Melissa: That’s awesome. We’re excited too. So we’ll just, we’ll have to keep, look out on your Twitter feed for, for the announcement
Kwanza Osajyefo: on my Twitter feed.
Melissa: Well let’s get back to white because I, I’m not really sure. The premise, I did a little bit research on it, but I wanted to hear in your own words. Is this a continuation of black? Is it a different story or is it a SQL and is it available? [00:23:00]
Kwanza Osajyefo: So it will be available once all our Kickstarter backers received their rewards.
So probably sometime next year, maybe probably say early next year if we’re, you know, on our PS and QS, of course COVID is not all of us on our heels in terms of like, it really has. It’s like people are just like, where’s my comic. I was like, dude, we’re all locked inside.
But. White is a continuation of black it’s it’s takes place three years after the events at the end of black. And essentially the world has discovered that only black people have superpowers. And it’s all about the United States sort of reaction to that. They elect theater man as president and I had written this before current events.
So I don’t know I’m on like, I’m a little scared of like, you know, Putting the third part out in the world, because I’m just like, maybe I just should write it as like puppies and kittens. [00:24:00] Maybe that’s what happened. And if I can put that in the new world, that would be fantastic. But it’s really about like that, you know, visceral reaction people have to like that power shift in dynamic and how much.
You know, people push back against it, but it’s also like a character focus on theater man’s son who, you know, I described him as somebody who’s, you know, a product of his environment, but his son truly is because he’s just been, you know, sort of this molded shadow of his father. And he thinks that things are supposed to be a certain way, but there’s this, this, you know, Thing this hurdle, this, this Karim who’s constantly fake, you know, showing him up in, in his way.
And that’s, that’s something that he’s used to. And like when confronted with those sort of things, he’s just willing to, you know, like bully and bludgeoned his way through it and is very frustrated, you know? And that, that isn’t [00:25:00] necessarily getting him the results that he wants. So it was really me trying to explore the idea of like, You know, what if, you know.
What if like a Donald Trump Jr. Truly had an antagonist, who’s just constantly like pantsing him, like, and, and, and, and not with any sort of malice, but it’s just like, dude, I keep doing it. Cause you keep coming into my space. Like, I don’t want to do it. Like I’m trying to live, but you’re just being a tool.
Melissa: Yeah. So, and then with white, and then you said there’s a third installment cause it’s a trilogy. And can you tell us anything about that aside from, I know you want it to be puppies and kittens, but
Kwanza Osajyefo: I can say this, like one of the biggest questions that people have had since, you know, hearing about the book is like, well, how is it that only black people have superpowers?
Why do only black people have superpowers? And it’s always been my goal to reveal that in the third book and have that sort of [00:26:00] be the culmination of the story, but also. Probably be a catalyst, you know, even more so for the universe. And that, that’s the only thing I can really spoil.
Melissa: Okay. Okay. So the big, the big reveal, basically.
Okay. So what’s the most important message that you want readers to take away from this trilogy?
Kwanza Osajyefo: I always find it to be interesting question because.
I think that people tend to bring their own baggage to anything that they’re consuming and take away, you know, what they will because of that same baggage. You know, I, even though I do believe that, you know, literature has a huge ability to, you know, Influence and impact people. I really kind of feel like I can’t dictate, you know, necessarily what someone takes away.
Like I [00:27:00] wouldn’t, I wouldn’t necessarily know. I do know that my intention in writing the stories were to, you know inject more of of black experience and perspective into the sort of genre that I truly love, you know, and just, you know, Do the sort of things that like, I always wanted to see more of when I was growing up, you know, so for me, the takeaway, the thing that, the thing that really gives me joy is when you know, a younger like reader, a black kid, or what have you is excited about the book.
When they, when they, when they’ve told me and I’ve had this happen enough times where it’s like, I try not to get choked up anymore. It’s like, they’re like, I didn’t, I didn’t know. There were stories like this out there. I didn’t know that there were characters out there that look like me or spoke like me.
And that is what I guess is important to me personally. And I’m [00:28:00] happy that it gives them some joy and inspires them. And. So, yeah, I guess that that’s it,
Melissa: that’s it. Yeah. And I, I guess I’ve read that your, your books are being taught in schools.
Kwanza Osajyefo: Yeah, that’s all. I mean, I love it. Sometimes, sometimes I kind of when said it, when people are like, I was like, which book and what grade?
Cause I do have parents from up, you know, when I’m doing shows or conventions. You know, their kids like gravitate towards it. Cause you know, it’s like, you know, very, you know, minimalist colors, red and black and white. And generally like I’ll say to parents and like, look, it depends on what you’re comfortable with.
You know, I’ll give them the whole spiel is like, this is what the book’s about. Yes. There’s like, you know, adult language in it. Like not particularly too many situations, but I mean, it’s, you know, it’s it’s about as. Graphic is, you know a Marvel movie. But. You know, [00:29:00] that’s, that’s also one of the reasons why I wrote America, sweetheart, because I wanted to, you know, produce stuff in that universe that was, that I felt was actually, you know, all ages appropriate.
And so when that one’s being taught in school, I’m always like, all right, cool, cool, cool.
Melissa: Yeah. I’m good with that one.
Kwanza Osajyefo: Yeah. And people really love that. Yeah. So I I’m, I’m cool with it, but you know, Black has also been part of curriculums and a lot of you know, college literature courses. And that’s always been my really wild and I participated in a few classes, class discussions over the years.
And it’s, it’s, it’s always interesting to like, listen to people, buy sex things in the stories, sometimes things where I was just kind of like, Oh, maybe that, yeah, I totally meant that.
Melissa: I meant to do that.
Kwanza Osajyefo: Yeah.
Melissa: Well, I think that’s what you were saying about it being open to interpretation because you write it with one intention, but then when people read it, they’re gonna sort of take their own, like you said, [00:30:00] baggage and their own have their own perceptions and their own theories and their own fan that the fandom essentially is going to be like, Oh, I think this is going to happen.
And which is pretty exciting, I think, as a creator. Do you, do you get a lot of people coming up to you at Comicons then, and kind of. Giving you their theories of what’s going on.
Kwanza Osajyefo: Yes. And I try to like stick my fingers in mirrors and be like LA LA LA. I didn’t hear that. Not doing any ideas or anything like that, but that’s the, that’s the fun part about like this medium and these sorts of characters?
I think, I think in some respect, like the one thing I wish I had more time for is to like write it as like. You know, more decompressed series, because I think one thing that’s apparent is like, people want more of it. Like they already kind of see it as something, you know, in parallel to like an accident.
But like I’m about, I don’t know, 500 issues, 800 issues short [00:31:00] of that tapestry, you know, where it’s like. You know, it, it just, it, those, those characters haven’t like existed quite as long, but, you know, hopefully it’ll get there.
Melissa: Yeah. I mean, yeah. How long has it been out now?
Kwanza Osajyefo: I did it, it was like four years ago.
We didn’t do the first Kickstarter and we did the second one. Two years ago. And I mean, and I would’ve said a year ago, but I forget about COVID year. So, I mean, that’s already, that’s where I’m going to call it. Now it’s just
Melissa: be here, which we will not talk about ever again. No, well, I mean, that’s pretty good.
So for four years, roughly, and I mean, just imagine. You know how much it’s going to grow. And the, as far as the reader, you know, base as well, you know, especially when the film comes out, cause that always attracts new fans, you know, a film comes out, people are like, Oh, it’s based on a book or a comic. I want to go read it.
So you’re probably going to see that exponentially grow in the next, you know, five to 10 years.
[00:32:00] Kwanza Osajyefo: Yeah. I mean, that’s been a very, that’s, that’s been an interesting thing about it because it had this like, sort of like explosive day view, but we’ve seen it. More and more fans of the book. As the years have progressed.
And it’s one of the reasons I started going to conventions because know people would, they would sell it in comic shops and people didn’t have any more copies or, you know, they just wanted to meet the creative team. And what have you. And we were just selling a lot of books at shows. Like I, I go to shows now and like, I leave with nothing and that’s great.
Melissa: Yeah. I know. Usually the last day people were giving them away to you. They’re like, please take it.
Kwanza Osajyefo: Yeah. And that’s been, that’s been so great. Like, like, I, I we’ve sold out sometimes like halfway through a show and I’ve had to like, kind of like parse stuff out or go home and like take stuff from my own personal stash. Like [00:33:00] I’m finally at the point where I don’t have. A personal stash really anymore.
Melissa: well, that’s great. Cause that’s, I think there’s a lot of people, you know, they fear that like you, you fear, like you’re either going to have too many and you’re going to look dumb at the end of it with like all of your boxes of books or you fear that you’re going to like run out the first day and then be like, what do I do with my table for the next three days?
Kwanza Osajyefo: Yeah. And that was the thing, like I think the last. Time when we were at New York, Comic-Con like on Saturday, we were just like, is anybody want to buy our betters tablecloth? Cause that’s all we got.
Melissa: You’re going to take it. I’ll sign it,
Kwanza Osajyefo: take it. So, but I mean, I don’t think, like, I don’t think any artist has ever felt like.
Dom because they had inventory left over to happened. Like that’s, that’s just what happens. You know, you have good shows. You have like shows that are weaker. So
Melissa: yeah. Yeah, no, that’s just my own. That’s my own
[00:34:00] Kwanza Osajyefo: thing.
Melissa: That was always my biggest fear is, is taking too many of my books, you know?
Kwanza Osajyefo: Well, that’s the thing.
I mean, if, if I could throw out any sort of like pro tip out there, it’s just like, I don’t worry about like selling out, you know, it’s like, if you like, make your table and a little profit or, you know, or we saw a lot of, all of your stuff, like in the first day, that’s, that’s a good problem. Go enjoy the city for ones like that, especially at a convention.
It’s just like you all, I always find myself, you go to a convention and you’re trapped inside the convention all day. And some city you don’t live in and you don’t get to see the city. So it’s like, Oh wait, I sold out my books.
Melissa: Yeah, no, that’s a good point. Yeah. That’s a really good point. Yeah. I was actually supposed to be at the Seattle one this year.
Yeah. Yeah. I love that when I go every year. And my best friend lives in Seattle, so we make it a, you know, a fun trip, but
Kwanza Osajyefo: last year was my first year and I didn’t go and have a table. I just went, you know, to be a nerd and hang out with my comic [00:35:00] friends. And I was just like, Oh my God, I have to table at the show.
Melissa: Oh, yeah. Now it’s such a cool vibe there. Everyone’s just super friendly. And you know, I just, I always meet so many cool people and I’m there it’s and it’s such a beautiful city too. Well, you’ve speaking of artists, you’ve worked with some fantastic artists. What’s that like collaborating with people who just really get your vision and that you gel with.
Kwanza Osajyefo: It’s really awesome, but I mean, you know, 10 years as an editor, you, you meet a lot of artists. And one of the things that has always been key with me is like, you know, working with people who. You know, I not only respect and like their work, but I like them as people. And one of the people who I really like, I really just enjoyed working with so much was Jamal idol.
We had done the race together at DC and like, I was just not, not just blown away by his art, but by his ethic and by his speed, he’s a [00:36:00] very detailed artist. Like he is, he’s a true master and his layouts could be comics. Can you just dash something off or you’d be like, no, we can actually print that. Yeah.
But he’s such a, that, you know, Jamal can, you know, really take, you know, as scene and, and give it life. And, you know, Cari is another person who, you know, I’ve just always respected and loved their work. And he like. More than over-delivered because when I first brought the project to him, you know, I was looking for, you know, a Cari Randolph, signature sort of cover you know, and his style is very unique.
You recognized his art when we see it. And one of the things that he told me, you know, like the script was now, I have something different in mind. I, I he’s like just, if you trust me, It’s going to be dope. And I was just like, well, but you know, I really wanted to do something for the [00:37:00] streets, you know? And it’s like that kinetic hip hop art that you do.
He’s like, he’s like, no, I don’t, I don’t think this is that he’s like, just, just it’s I’m just going to say one word you Banksy. And once he said that, I was like, okay. And then he delivered that iconic cover that literally set the tone for the rest of. The covers on the series, because once he did that, like I just kind of got the ball rolling for like, Oh, okay.
This is, this is the statement that we’re making. Okay. So the next time there’s going to be this and the next cover this, then it’s like, it’s almost like he never should have like, Uncorked that.
Melissa: Well, that’s so cool that you said that that’s total Banksy vibe. Like I never. I was like, where am I seeing this sort of similar field before?
That’s really cool.
Kwanza Osajyefo: Yeah. And so for the covers to white, you know, we went with like you know world war two propaganda, Russian propaganda posters. Oh, wow. So that’s kind of the aesthetic for those covers. Because we really just wanted to capture those two [00:38:00] different sorts of realities, different sorts of like tones for the books.
I don’t know what we’re going to do for the third one.
Melissa: Maybe Justin Bula vibe or something, right?
Kwanza Osajyefo: Maybe, maybe I’m not sure it would just be water watercolors,
Melissa: something totally different.
Kwanza Osajyefo: Again, puppies and kittens. There you
Kwanza Osajyefo: It’s funny. Cause like the other thing that we had done, so that covered two issue, four of black.
We had come up with that, you know, very early, cause we kind of did all the covers, like, you know, together, like right away. And so the cover to, for which people live coined honkie Kong is. I did not. I did not give it that name, but I love that name. I was like, I wish I had come up with that myself, but you guys said it, I’m just repeating your words.
But we had come up with that cover as sort of a joke, because it was prior to the election of 2016. [00:39:00] And, you know, it was meant to, you know, make the statement that it was making, but not with the, not with any sort of intent that, you know, Donald Trump would become, actually become president. Right.
Actually hit the shelves the day he took office. So I was just sort of like, I don’t know if I’m tapping into some sort of like future sense or other universe, like again, puppies and kittens on the next.
Melissa: I know I was going to say it’s starting to get nervous there.
Kwanza Osajyefo: Yeah.
Melissa: Well, I mean, with everything that’s happened you know, specifically this year, just because everything’s sort of.
I don’t know, I guess, because we’re at home and we’re been quarantined, so everything feels like it’s in our faces more than it, you know, it’s ever been particularly with, with politics and with police brutality. Do you feel like it’s important to you to use your platform and storytelling to sort of.
Amplify those voices. And not just in creating stories, but also [00:40:00] in encouraging, you know, other young artists to pick up the pen or the, you know, and to do what you do as well.
Kwanza Osajyefo: Well, if anything that I do encourage is young people to like, you know, make comics and I’m all for it. Like that’s, you know, seeing other people like myself do it is what inspired me to do it as far as politics go.
I mean, there’s, and I don’t think there’s any apolitical comics out there really. Maybe aside from like, you know, Stuff from Scholastic like dog man, and maybe they are because I’ve never read Dogman so I could be wrong. But, you know, I think, I think there’s this misconception that, you know, there was ever a time where comics were weren’t political, but things in the more politicized, like from my perspective, like I’m writing stories for the black experience and the black experience is one that has a very you know, Abuser oppress relationship with, with the police.
Like, [00:41:00] that’s just a fact, you know, so for me it would be difficult to write a story about a young man like this and the environment that he is in and not have something like that happen. Like I could write it so that it doesn’t happen, but I don’t feel like that would be authentic and true to that experience because that’s, that’s the reality for a lot of people.
But people will consider that politics where it’s like, there’s nothing political about it. That’s just a reflection of reality. But when you think about just the idea of like superheroes as a concept, that’s like, that’s, vigilantism, that’s a political response. To society, you know, that’s the individual putting on a Cape or putting on a mask and deciding to take the law into their own hands, which is technically illegal.
Kwanza Osajyefo: it’s, it’s a sort of thing that like, you accept it because it’s fantastical. But when all reality, you know, is these individuals would be sanctioned by the government arrested or they should be, or if they’re not, why aren’t they, you know, so [00:42:00] there, there is no. Comic out there, at least the ones that we’re used to reading, especially superhero stuff that aren’t political in some vein.
I mean, when you think about it, some of the best, biggest stories in comics history, it’s just like, you know, you can’t say that like Watchman wasn’t political, that would be, that would be ridiculous. You can’t, you can’t even say that like, like Marvel civil war. Well, it’s political, it’s called civil war.
Melissa: Right? Exactly. And I think what’s interesting too, is when you, when you read comics, when your kid, you, you just, you don’t see that aspect, you know at least, you know, growing up in, in my generation, I’m gen X. So, you know, you’re kind of sheltered from that kind of stuff. And then when you get older and you.
Reread a comic. You’re like, Oh, I get it now. You know?
Kwanza Osajyefo: And I think that’s because politics is been used as like this sort of like, you know sort of code word for something like that’s, you know, has bill intentions. But when you think [00:43:00] about. You know, just being a child, there’s a politics of the school yard, where there’s a, there’s a hierarchy.
There’s like groups that have hours and groups that don’t,
Melissa: there’s injustice. So
Kwanza Osajyefo: true. And, and, and I think that’s why like, young people, well read comics and, you know, have some sort of like connection with them because they see those injustices and they. Live out those power fantasies through those characters, because those things are actually a real part of their existence.
So again, it’s interesting for people to make any claim that like, you know, my, my comics are more political than any other ones because of my, I really don’t see how that’s. That’s true.
Melissa: Yeah. Yeah. That’s a great point. Awesome. So if you could go back in time and give your teenage self a piece of advice, what would it be?
Kwanza Osajyefo: Oh man. I don’t know, cause I’m such a scifi nerd that like you said, that I was like, Oh no, we’re going to [00:44:00] do butterfly effect. I’m going to go Ashton Kutcher this. Sure. Like I would just give myself a lottery number, maybe that’s right. But then who knows what that would do? Cause then I could become some like rich prick.
I think the advice that I would, I would probably. Give my self is to start writing my ideas sooner, you know, or like putting them together sooner and pitching. But even that, when I just said that out loud, I’m like, no, because then I might have just ended up pitching to like publishers and like, yeah, I might, you know, at this stage in my life, be like some big notable writer, but I’d be a big notable writer.
Who’s just doing, you know, Marvel or DC work. And I never would have created blocks. So it’s, again, this is me being a nerd. It’s just, it’s too many possibilities, Marty.
Melissa: I love it. Yeah. [00:45:00] I didn’t even think about that when I was formulating the question. But no, yeah, your, your scifi brain has got me thinking now.
Kwanza Osajyefo: Well, it’s a legit question. I just nerded it the best.
Melissa: No, I love that. That’s great. That’s the best answer. Okay. What advice would you give to someone who wants to be where you’re at? And, and to have success and, and and to start a career in comics,
Kwanza Osajyefo: I would say just, just pick something and do it.
That was the best advice on top, because I’ve got so many ideas. For so many different books and it’s funny cause black wasn’t even originally on my top 10 list of stuff that I wanted to do, but you know, I got the advice, like just pick one and do it, you know, because you’ll spend more time spinning your wheels and trying to perfect something like Black’s not.
Perfect. You know, it’s just the thing that I decided to do, and I feel like any piece of art, you put it out there and let the world just kind of have it [00:46:00] and keep moving, you know, working on your next piece, working on your craft,
Melissa: right? Yeah. I like how you describe yourself as the creative architect. I really like that.
What does that mean to you specifically?
Kwanza Osajyefo: Oh, it’s funny. Cause it was a term that was, it’s an actual job title because I was hired by the fringe publisher humanoids to create a universe for them, they went to sort of bring, bring their sensibilities into the American publishing world. And so I helped put together.
Three of their pole books and kind of create like the Bible and the rules for that universe. And the role was creative architect. And I was just like, Oh, I like that. That’s, that’s a good title. I’ll take it. And. Yeah, it it’s, it’s one that like I’d like to apply to any of the other work that I do from now on instead of author, it’s like, ah, creative art.
Melissa: I love that. Yeah. I saw that on your, on your profile and I thought, Oh, that’s [00:47:00] really cool when I think of that. Yeah, no, that’s awesome. Well thank you so much for taking time out of your busy week to chat with me tonight. I really appreciate it.
Kwanza Osajyefo: Well, thanks again for having me on this has been great.
Melissa: Yeah know, it’s been awesome. Getting to know more about you and your career. Everyone, please go check out black and other fantastic comics [email protected] and yeah, thanks so much for being here. It’s been a real plus. Sure.
Kwanza Osajyefo: It really has been. Thanks for having me.
Melissa: Thank you. Thank you.