In a world that already hates and fears them – what if only Black people had superpowers?
That’s the tagline to a newly funded Kickstarter project ‘Black’. Originally asking for just $29,999 the series quickly snowballed and gained over $90,000 in pledges from 2,775 backers.
Kwanza Osajyefo, Tim Smith 3, Jamal Igle, Khary Randolph and Sarah Litt have all teamed up to produce the much anticipated graphic novel.
‘After miraculously surviving being gunned down by police, 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.’ – Source
Kwanza Osajyefo is the creator and writer of the series. A former digital editor at Marvel and DC Comics, he is arguably best known for launching DC’s Zuda imprint, which published series like the award-winning Bayou, High Moon, Night Owls, as well as Supertron, Celadore, Black Cherry Bombshells, Bottle of Awesome, and I Rule the Night.
Kwanza first came up with the idea for Black over 10 years ago, inspired by his ‘love of characters with fringe status’. Having an awareness from his professional experience within the comic industry he felt that ‘actual minorities are grossly underrepresented in content and the industry’.
Choosing to forge traditional publishers, the comic was funded online by fans, people who loved the concept of the series. After working in comics editorial for over a decade, Kwanza felt ‘assured Black would not find receptive ears amongst traditional comic book publishers’.
With such a positive response, and numbers to back it up, it’s hard to believe Kwanza once believed that they would struggle ‘the entire month to get people behind’ the project. The series hit it’s funding goal in the first four days alone. The first stretch goal was reached in 16 days, and the rest by the 23rd day. Kwanza said: ‘I never thought our problem would be coming up with stretch goals.’
The intense reaction from fans and pledges meant that surpassing their initial goal on Kickstarter was assured early on, Kwanza said the team found the reactions and support from heir pledges ‘amazing’.
Over his career, Kwanza has learned ‘that the internet is a powerful community and democratizer’. He said: ‘I speak for the whole team when I say we are honored by the response.’
Obviously, the series is going to be dealing with a number of difficult themes. ‘Our perceptions are based on experiences.’
The intent of the series is to ‘tell a story about humanity through the perspectives of the characters dealing with this situation’. The comic will see how the characters grow and adjust or don’t – ‘depending on how information changes circumstances’ throughout the storyline.
Kwanza thinks that this is how the readers will approach the book – ‘their experiences influence how they interpret the story.’ Through all of the messages, themes and characters Kwanza is hopeful that readers will come away ‘entertained and enlightened’.
The series will cover themes of survival, control, and power – ‘major aspects of human conflict’ that Kwanza sees in the world. Discussing the series Kwanza said: ‘We apply any number of rationales regarding those three things, but I think those are major drivers in most of our lives.’
The team are looking to have the full book released by the end of the year and plan to start rolling out the digital chapters in mid 2016.
Kwanza’s main inspirations were the ‘tropes in comics in which characters bemoaned their fringe status but could actually take off their masks and walk around inconspicuously’. He said that: ‘As a metaphor for racial bias, that didn’t really hold water for me.’ The series is about associating ‘real world context with science fiction content’.
While there are five people on the core team, many others have and will be helping the team out on their project. Kwanza said: ‘If you count all of our supporters the team behind Black is about 3000 people.’
Having started writing Black 10 years ago and over time continually refined it, the launch and completion of the Kickstarter campaign put ‘a stake in the ground’ for Kwanza to complete the storyline and write more for the series.
Overall Kwanza hopes that people will read, enjoy, read again, and share the series.
To all the aspiring comic book creators out there, Kwanza had a few words of wisdom. ‘There is very little holding you back these days except yourself. You’ll learn far more from doing than waiting or asking permission.’
Would you like to read the full interview? Will you read the series when it’s released? Let us know what you think of the comic below!