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Look at the sky !
It’s a bird?
Is it an airplane.
(And before we start, no, this newsletter won’t be about the Netflix series “You.” Joe and Love’s toxic relationship doesn’t have a place here lol.)
Corn is that you are the superhero of your own story. Now we may not be fighting giant monsters or demons. Your archnemesis may be anything adult. But metaphorically speaking, we all have more power than we think to change the problems we see in the world.
Today we’re going to introduce you to two black Southerners who are adding more melanin magic to the predominantly white illustrative world. Whether you know how to draw or not, I hope our two interviews inspire you to take this step – big or small – to make the world a better place for yourself and for others.
But before you all shine and transform, consider spreading the black joy by passing this newsletter on to a few of your loved ones.
Let’s go take it over!
Manga mania with Blake Showers
Blake Showers is changing the manga industry one illustration at a time.
The Birmingham native would check stacks of manga books in his local library as a child. He’s immersed himself in stories featuring child protagonists, like Pokémon Adventures, which is based on the anime. But even in these epic tales, he found something he lacked: characters who looked and acted like him.
Now 28, Showers creates works of art that aim to increase the representation of blacks in manga, otherwise known as Japanese Comics. His manga series, “4strikes,” follows Meleak Williams, a shy and shy black teenager who becomes a bat-wielding demon hunter. The series is co-authored by Showers editor-in-chief – and fellow Birmingham fellow – Daniel Williams and is released on Saturday mornings, which is the most diverse manga anthology in the world. While now studying arts education in Pennsylvania, “4strikes” still has many southern touches, which Showers talks about more in my story on the Reckon site.
To give you a taste of Showers’ work, I asked him to share some of his Blacktober artwork. You can find out more about the month-long art challenge that asks black creatives to revive non-black characters as black in last week’s Black Joy.
Showers said Blacktober’s daily prompts, which are posted to social media earlier this month, challenged him to be creative within a deadline – factors that are important when working in the manga industry. He chats with me about his favorite Blacktober submissions and why they brought him so much joy.
Day 1 – Greetings: In addition to redrawing or cosplaying non-Black characters, Blacktober attendees also used the prompts to share their original work or a moment of joy, as a favorite family keepsake. Showers introduced themselves by drawing different types of blacks – old, young, dark skinned, and fair skinned – as well as a plethora of hairstyles. Not surprisingly, since he entertains his legion of 189,000 TikTok followers through art tutorials. His clips on black hair versatility have collectively earned him millions of views and caught the attention of a few major sponsors, like Mountain Dew. Were talking box braids, cornrows with edge up and fade, a afro mohawk with braided sides.
“I really wanted to show a wide range of different types of black people to show like, ‘Hey, my people aren’t just this or that,'” Showers said of his article on Blacktober, “One thing that drives me nuts , it’s playing a video game and a character having no afro or braids. But there are so many ways to show black hair. There are so many ways to make that person more likeable to the gamer. Game. ”
Day 2 – Black joy: Showers’ artistic style is actually influenced by the myriad ways he found joy as a child. In addition to reading manga, Showers said he really enjoys listening to southern hip hop with his dad. So he decided to spread even more joy with this Blacktober play, which was inspired by videos of parents trying to prank their children by sneaking horror characters like Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees out. But he noticed that most of the children just laughed.
“Kids don’t find this stuff scary like they’re supposed to,” Showers said. “I have a little cousin who really likes horror stuff. She loves “Chucky” and “It” and all those things that I wouldn’t have watched when I was younger. It’s kind of based on her. Like, there’s nothing wrong with liking horror movies or something weird.
‘We are beautiful’
Morgan Bissant has come a long way since she started drawing people who looked like potatoes.
Her mom says she’s been drawing since she was a year old. And in first grade, Bissant got in trouble because she drew so much in class. But sister continued to draw despite criticism from adults who told her she would not make a living as an illustrator in high school.
Today, the 30-year-old illustrator from New Orleans has become a sought-after talent. His more than 23,200 Instagram followers were impressed with Bissant stretching his illustrative muscles by redrawing a range of anime characters as Black. She also draws her own interpretations of black life at different times. While I’m a huge fan of the way she revived “Demon Slayer” characters, his re-illustration of 1972 Ebony Magazine wig ad also kills as much as hair styles of the time.
Bissant discusses with me the work of art that brought him joy along the way. She’s heavy on skin tones and other dark features when it comes to her job. Bissant noticed the lack of black main characters in his childhood. She hopes to change that through her art.
“I hope they can feel a sense of inclusion – a reminder that we are beautiful,” Bissant said. “I want them to see what we maybe haven’t seen growing up – more characters who look like us in the foreground and who are important.”
Inuyasha: Inuyasha was not his favorite Hanime of all time. But at the request of a fan of the Hanime, she decided to redesign some of Inuyasha’s characters – albeit with a twist. Inuyasha takes place during the Sengoku period in Japan, which is between 1467 and the early 1600s. So Bissant got down to his game of research and decided to place the characters in an African kingdom that existed around the same time. Bissant chose the Songhai Empire, which was the dominant kingdom in West Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries. She reworked the clothes, jewelry, hair and headdresses of the characters. She even translated the names of the characters into Zarma, which is one of the Songhai languages.
Bissant studied Swahili and pre-colonial African history at university. So, she really wanted to work this knowledge while redrawing Inuyasha.
“It’s just always cool to see that stuff because I’ve never really seen it grow,” Bissant said. “Although I really liked cartoons and movies and things that I saw, you didn’t really see a lot for us, and even when we saw things from different countries it would be like the France or Italy. ”
Marcella: The viral nature of Bissant’s work also helps him get a better look at some of his original characters, some of whom are faith-centric. Marcella is based on Ephesians Chapter 6, which describes the armor of God. Bissant said the armor allows Marcella to fight demons and evil spirits.
As with his series Inuyasha, Bissant also turned to African culture by illustrating Marcella. This time, she withdrew from the Tuareg people, a semi-nomadic people who reside in North and West Africa. Marcella’s weapon is based on a Tuareg sword.
Since Bissant isn’t much of a writer, Marcella hasn’t been included in a story yet. But when she gets the chance to shine, Bissant has said she wants Marcella’s personality to extend beyond the labels placed on black women on television.
“Marcella is a warrior, but she’s still a really passive and shy woman who doesn’t like to talk and isn’t really super angry or in your face,” Bissant said. “We’re already seeing the angry black lady sort of thing.”
That’s all I have for you this week. Now go up, up, and keep spreading your Black Joy! See you next time !