Black History Month is often described as a time to look back on all the people who shaped our history as a country, but this month we propose a different take. All those who blaze a path, do so for the future. The real-life heroes and heroines of Black History Month were visionaries who refused to settle into the malaise of “what is”. They shaped their formidable wills and imaginations into swords of destiny – visions bigger and brighter than what had ever existed before – and used it to create the future we live in now. They invented it just as surely as the ground we stand on today – a future big enough for all our doubts and all our dreams. But in this ever-expanding universe, more is required to build the utopia we deserve.
This month’s issue pays homage to those great inventors of society and challenges us to carry the dream forward, to take up the torch they have passed on, mold it into the cyber blaster of today, then cast it out into the better day known as tomorrow – because we will create it.
All Indie. All Awesome.
Anachronox: The Movie
by Jake Hughes
What if I told you that there’s a bizarre CGI sci-fi film, over two hours long, that you could watch right now, featuring a cast that includes an African-American scientist who destroys the world, a wisecracking gumshoe, and a retirement-age African-American superhero from a planet of superheroes? For free? Anachronox is a completely bizarre relic from the 90s, a Western-developed JRPG (Japanese Role-playing Game) that never found its original audience, eventually leading to the sudden closure of its development studio. Years later, cinematic director Jake Hughes painstakingly connected the game’s cut-scenes into a feature-length film that would be hailed as one of the early masterpieces of “machinima,” a type of filmmaking which utilizes game assets for its content. Luckily, you can still watch Anachronox: The Movie online, and there are even some murmured rumors of a sequel surfacing in the near future, a full 20 years after the original, so catch up now while you can. With a diverse cast of characters, a terrific sense of comic timing, and a highly imaginative universe-spanning narrative, it’s an unusual niche film that remains highly accessible, despite its dated graphics.
by Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski
2016 gave us The Void, a crowdfunded horror film involving Eldritch cults and tentacled creatures slurping their way out of a parallel universe. Watching it now, it’s stunning to imagine that it was able to be produced with its original $82,150 budget, even more so when you consider that almost all of its special effects are practically designed, employing a grotesque variety of techniques to create a real-deal creature-feature. Violent, macabre, and grisly, it also positions and subverts some recognizable horror tropes—the sheriff hero, the pregnant wildcard, backwoods firearms enthusiasts—and provides a heroic resolution in the face of incomprehensible terrors from the unknown. Expect copious amounts of fake blood and some really memorable and unpredictable gross-out scares. You can watch The Void on Netflix.
by Michael Matthews and Sean Drummond
Finally, take a trip to Cape Town in the incredibly well-crafted—but sadly, all-too-brief—Apocalypse Now Now. Based on the debut novel of the same name by South African writer Charlie Human, the short film is a hopeful proof-of-concept and provides but a taste of its uniquely urban supernatural underworld, where electrified beasts must be coerced out of hiding and hunted to protect the populace. Check out the short film now, and let’s hope for a series in the future, or at the very least a full-length film.
by Balogun Ojetade
LitRPG is huge now, and there’s one author who might have slid under your radar but who definitely brings the adventure and fun: Balogun Ojetade. With a series of titles under his belt (including The Beatdown, best described as Kill Bill by way of Ultimate Fighting), Balogun provides heroes and heroines for the underdogs and the determined among us, and isn’t that what the best heroes do? Not just rescue us, but show us the powers we all possess within ourselves.
by Milton Davis
Too often our “heroes” are muscle-bound men who solve problems with their fists first, brains later. The best thing about heroes, though, is they come in a variety of sizes! Enter Amber from the mind of Milton Davis.
From the publisher’s website: Thirteen-year-old Amber Robinson’s life is full of changes. But little does she know that her biggest change awaits in a mysterious city hidden from the world for a thousand years. Prepare yourself for an exciting adventure that spans from the Atlanta suburbs to the grasslands of Mali. It’s a story of a girl who discovers her hidden abilities and heritage in a way that surprises and entertains.
Add that to this praise from Narazu fav Minister Faust: “I love finding novels I can share with my daughters. I read the entire book to my six-year-old, who loved every bit of Amber and the Hidden City. The hero is a girl, and her mentor (her grandmother) is a woman; one of the two main villains is a woman, and various other entertaining characters are girls and women. Add it all together, and Amber and the Hidden City belongs on countless ‘must read’ lists…”
…and you’ve got a heroine for the small fry in your life to dream about.
Creator and Writer – Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez
Artists – Will Rosado and Sabrina Cintron, Cover Artists – Various
My First pick is a she-ro imbued by Atabex, the spirit of Puerto Rico, with elemental powers. Afro-Latina and Columbia grad student Marisol Rios De La Luz becomes La Borinqueña with powers of flight and super strength, plus command of wind and rain. An incredibly positive image for young folks, Miranda-Rodriguez crafted a story of courage and adventure. Miranda-Rodriguez can be found at most NYC comic conventions speaking and selling La Borinqueña, where I keep hounding him for the next issue. If you’re not able to make it to the NY area you can go to his site La Borinqueña to get the comic and other La Borinqueña merchandise.
Writer – Kwanza Osajyefo
Interior Art/Color – Jennifer Johnson, Cover Artist – Sho Murase, Designer – Tim Smith III
BLACK [AF] is the follow up to the smash kickstarter hit BLACK, and takes place following the events of that series. The creative team opens the world of BLACK up with our she-ro, Eli Franklin, a 15-year old girl who wants to represent her country and her people as the first public Superhero who just happens to be Black. At first a media darling, she is reminded of how quickly public opinion can turn regardless of intentions, and even that having bulletproof skin that’s black is a dangerous situation in a world that is still color crazed. Black [AF] can be found in stores and online.
Artist – Ronald Wimberly
Black History is a collection of quotes selected by Wimberly from important people, accompanied by a brief paragraph about them and illustration of them (also by Wimberly). Known for his other independent works (one that will show up later this year,) Wimberly was asked in 2015 to create some illustrations for Black History Month. From those initial 24 drawings, he created an additional 12 for this book, from artist and writers, to scientists and activists. Among my favorites are Arturo Schomburg, James Baldwin, and Katherine Johnson. This is a coffee table book made with comic book techniques. Wimberly has been making the convention circuit of late, I missed my chance at Black Comic Book Fest, but was able to cop one at BAM Black Comic Expo.
SEEKING THE BLACK PANTHER
Writer – Ivan Brandon
Artist – Eric Battle, Colors – Vittorio Astone, Lettering and Design – John Roshell of Comicraft, Cover Artist – Nic Klein
This one is the hardest to find but fits this month’s theme like a glove. I lucked out as I got it for free at BAM’s Black Comix Expo. I know the artist and I’ve never seen this book in any store! (Artist Eric and I will have words later.) This comic was a free give away to patrons of the UCSC Special Collections exhibit from November 2016 and tells the origins of the Black Panther character from Marvel comics, as well as the tale of how the Black Panther Party subsequently chose a panther as its symbol. A great piece of history retold through a beautifully crafted comic, well worth the hunt (and hunt you will; there are few images of this in the wild; the images here are ones I took with my Ipad).