This week on Meet the Independents!
Jiba Molei Anderson is the owner of Griot Enterprises and creator of its flagship property The Horsemen and Outworld: Return of the Master Teachers. He has also written the educational text Manifesto: The Tao of Jiba Molei Anderson, maintains The Afrosoul Chronicles a blog dedicated to the discussion of race, politics and the business of popular culture and recently created The Song of Lionogo: An Indian Ocean Mythological Remix for the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art.
My name is Jiba Molei Anderson. I am the CEO and Chief Creative Officer for Griot Enterprises, the Creative Director for Cedar Grove Books and the creator of The Horsemen.
- How did you get started in the comic industry?
I broke into the industry in 1995 working on a book called Jigaboo Devil, which was created by writer LaMorris Richmond (which is currently published through Griot Enterprises). In 1997, I created The Horsemen while developing my Master’s thesis for The School of The Art Institute of Chicago. I’ve been publishing under the Griot Enterprises banner since 1999.
- Who were your early influences?
Artistically, my top 5 influences are Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, George Perez, Steve Rude, Alan Davis and Walt Simonson. As a writer, my top 5 are Chris Claremont, Christopher Priest, Warren Ellis, Octavia Butler and Dwayne McDuffie.
- What books did you collect or read growing up?
I have been a Batman fan since I was about 3 years old. But, I’m not a DC or Marvel guy. I always felt that they were the obvious choices and wanted to read new and interesting concepts off the beaten path, so to speak. I’m a fan of the comic book medium in general. So, I’ve read books from Charlton, First Comics, Heavy Metal, Elfquest, Mage, etc. If it were in the form of a comic book, I was interested.
- Who do you think are the top five black superheroes out there and why?
Black Panther, Storm, Static, Spawn and the Miles Morales Spider Man. They are in the top five because they became iconic either through historical importance (Black Panther), association with a larger brand (Storm), vanguards of a movement in comics (Spawn and Static), or a representation of the redefinition of an historic and beloved property (Miles).
- If you could rewrite any character which one would it be and why?
I don’t really think about rewriting other companies’ characters, as I’m more concerned with continuing the development of my own concepts. But, to answer the question, I would bring back David Zavimbie as Batwing because of my African heritage and I thought that he was a fascinating member of the Bat Family… Way more interesting than Luke Fox. In fact, I would have David as Luke’s mentor, his “Alfred” if you will. That would have been really great to explore.
- Given the success of books like Watson & Holmes and Midnight Tiger, what other Indy books do you see having mainstream appeal?
In addition to The Horsemen (naturally), I think that Quinn McGowan’s Wildfire and Damion Gonzales’ T.A.S.K. as well as Roye Okupe’s EXO: The Legend of Wale Williams are three properties that would appeal to wider audiences.
The Horsemen is the story of seven ordinary people thrust into extraordinary
circumstances as the gods of Ancient Africa possess them to save Humanity from itself.
- Who comprise the main cast of “The Horsemen”? How are they different from your typical Black Superhero?
The Horsemen are the Orishas of Yoruba faith. They are Obatala, the Shaper, Oya, the Catalyst, Oshun, the Light, Yemaya, the Protector, Ogun, the Architect, Shango, the Avenger and Eshu, the Trickster. They are different from the typical Black superhero because, simply, the are not superheroes… They are gods.
- The Horsemen were a surprise hit on Worldofblackheroes.com, why do you think the concept resonates with readers?
I think The Horsemen resonate with readers because they were not created from the lens of the “other.” As a person who was raised in both an African (mother) and African American (father) culture, The Horsemen are unapologetically Black. I created them with a sense of authenticity in mind. I never questioned whether or not they could compete with, say, a Justice League or an Avengers. I wanted to create an iconic team of Black superheroes steeped in African mythology. I think that’s what readers feel when they experience the world of The Horsemen.
- If there were anything you would say to someone looking to get into the comic industry; especially a person of color; what would it be?
Study your craft. Whether it is art, writing or both. Become the absolute best you can possibly be. Be aware of the design of comics (i.e. lettering, logo and package design, etc.). Peep game on how other companies market their books to a wider audience and follow that road map while defining your own lane.
Don’t be a fan of comics. Be a student of comics. That means reading more than just Marvel or DC. Be different. Be unique. Bring your experience and culture into your creation.
Don’t read other comics to inspire your comic. Otherwise, your creation would just be a pale imitation of your favorite comic, thereby not making your property an original one.
And finally, make your own comic book. The “Corporate Two” are not looking for original ideas. They’ve got more than enough of their own characters to exploit. Besides, the notion of the portfolio review is all but dead nowadays. If you do want to get to the “Corporate Two,” making your own consistently, developing a body of work and an audience is the best way to get you noticed. Crazy, but true.
- Is there anyone in particular you would like to work with in the future or on a book?
There are quite a few people that I want to work with and who will be working with me in the near future. They know who they are…
Currently, I’m working on the latest Horsemen series, Mark of the Cloven, with writer Jude W. Mire. I’m also putting the finishing touch on the second volume of 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape, which is an anthology series depicting some of the finest original IP developed by creators of color through the Griot Enterprises imprint, Blaxis Publishing.
- What’s the experience been like working in comics?
It has been a journey, a tough journey, a long journey, but a very rewarding one as well. As a teacher, I have had the pleasure of seeing a number of my students find success in the comic book industry and I have made a lot of good friends in the industry as well. I am blessed to be part of a community whom I respect as creators and as people. Plus, I love making new fans, meeting with and connecting with them. The game ain’t a sprint. It’s a marathon… One that I feel I’m winning.
- Milestone comics has been teasing us their re-launch, what are your thoughts on this development?
I’m glad Milestone is coming back. I’m glad that they are coming back in a climate where they are sharing the space with other IP that has been inspired by their example. I’m very excited to be sharing rack space with the company that inspired me to create Griot Enterprises and The Horsemen… Bring it on!
- Which of your Horsemen is your favorite? Why?
Come on now… You don’t ask a parent which child is their favorite. That just causes confusion, undue competition, and huge therapy bills… LOL!
- Why do you think it’s so hard for Indy creators to get mainstream coverage?
Quite simply, the mainstream isn’t checking for Indy until they get big. What Indy creators have to understand is that you have to go after press in the beginning, they won’t come to you. You are the one that has to create buzz, you are the one that has to toot your own horn the loudest before anyone else is going to listen. And, you have to have dope product in order for people to notice you.
- Which of your black characters do you think fans should keep an eye on? Why?
All of them; The Horsemen is a team and all of them are interesting.
- Name three independent books that you would like to see as movies.
The Horsemen (of course), T.A.S.K. and EXO: The Legend of Wale Williams.
- What is the biggest obstacle that Indy creators must overcome to be taken seriously alongside mainstream companies like Marvel and DC Comics?
The biggest obstacle that Indy creators must deal with, in terms of respectability, is the look of their package.
Comic books are an exercise in graphic design; illustration and writing are but two parts of the whole. You have to make sure that ALL of the aspects of your book (writing, illustration, coloring, lettering, logo design, book layout) not only is on par with books coming from the “Corporate Two,” but many time must EXCEED the look and vibe of books from the mainstream; especially if your are a creator of color.
- Why do you think it’s important to have Black Superheroes?
The answer to that question is so obvious; I don’t even have to answer it…
- African retentions are still frowned upon even today despite the high access to information and social media. How can black superheroes be used to combat negative stereotypes of black people and mother Africa?
Through honesty, authenticity, research, diverse depiction of the Diaspora and a sense of purpose. As creators, we need to stop seeing ourselves through the lens of the “other.” We cannot wait for them to depict us in the way we see ourselves. That’s why so many people are consistently dissatisfied with that representation. Only by taking our destiny and our representation into our own hand, using the tools I laid out in the beginning of my answer, will we be able to combat the stereotypes.
We know we’re better than that. Let’s show it and support those who support us.
Learn more about Jiba Molei Anderson below
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