Raymond Sanders, born and raised in Hugo North Carolina, after graduating high school and spending a few years in college I moved to Georgia in 2001. After moving to Georgia and starting a new life, I didn’t have much time for drawing. After getting married in 2004, and having three kids in a span of three years I thought that my dreams to create comic books was not going to happen. Finally I decided that it’s now or never and that I was going to start putting out my comic books anyway that I could. I started Fantasy Art Comics in August of 2008. My first book I released was Fierce #1 which would be the first of seven issues released from 2008 to 2011. During that time I worked of a number of different titles, I.P.F (International Police Force), Avengence, and BloodShark, these are all characters that created or co-created during my years in school. I’ve done a few indy comics for other independent creators and a few children’s books for customers that I’ve met since I’ve been creating comics. My goal is to make Fantasy Art Comics a place where indy creators will join us and help us create more great comics.
Introduce yourself to our readers.
How did you get started in the comic industry?
Since I was five years old I knew that I wanted to draw comic books, so as I went through school almost everything that I drew was comic book related. I drew and created my own characters from elementary school all the way through high school. After I got married and my three kids were born I decided that it was time for me to start putting out my own comics. So in 2008 I created Fantasy Art Comics and released Fierce #1 (vol.1).
Who were your early influences?
My parents Raymond and Mary Sanders, they always believed in my dream to create comics and helped me to get to where I’m at now. My brother Anthony Sanders, he introduced me to comic books and he started drawing them which made me want to draw them too. I tell everyone that he was my first art teacher and he made me want to become a better artist. Other influences include Mark Bagley, M.D Bright, Larry Stroman, Erik Larsen, Jim Valentino, Ron Frenz, and many more.
What books did you collect or read growing up?
Spider-Man, Thor, Black Panther, New Warriors, Spawn, ShadowHawk, Savage Dragon, Youngblood, X-Men, and more.
Who do you think are the top five black superheroes out there and why?
#1) Brother Man: One because it’s a great book, the story, the artwork, and just what the book has meant to all of the black indy creators over the years. #2) Spawn: When Spawn came out it was done by the artist that was considered to be the best in the industry at the time. No one even thought about the possibility of him being black until we read the first issue. #3) Shadow Hawk: When I read the first ShadowHawk story arc I knew that I loved this character, but the second story when they revealed his identity while fighting a racist copycat of him, man I read that issue at least five times that night. #4) Black Panther: Not only is he the king of a country he’s also a superhero that can go toe to toe with any character in the Marvel Universe. #5) Storm: For a long time Storm was one of the only black female characters that anyone could name. The thing that I liked about Storm was she’s very powerful and also very smart.
Blade, it’s not many mainstream characters that I would want to draw, but I believe that I could make him more popular as far as his comic books go. If I had the chance to make his book in the Marvel Universe he would interact more with other Marvel villains not just vampires. Just think about it, the Hand (from Daredevil) becomes enemies of Blade. They realize that they can’t beat him so they created Vampire Ninjas. Sounds crazy, I know but it would be cool to draw.
Given the success of books like Watson & Holmes and Tuskegee Heirs, what other Indy books do you see having mainstream appeal?
Swag Patrol by Rubyn Warren, Gabriel Smith, Mark and Marvin Maravda. Purge by Roosevelt Pitt. Legend of the Mantamaji by Eric Dean Seaton and Brandon Palas. Route 3 by Robert Jeffery. Stealth by William Satterwhite. Urban Shoguns by James Mason. Ray Thunder by Shan Nabors. Amen by Chester Colston.
What is the central premise behind your book “Fierce” which made our “17 Books to read in 2017” list?
Fierce is the story of two heroes. The Crimson Stalker has been the protector of the city of Hugo for nearly twenty five years. He’s defeated many types of enemies, the mob, genetic mutations, robots, whatever you can think of, but the enemy that he can’t defeat is time. The Crimson Stalker has no super powers he relies only on his training and some homemade weaponry. He knows that his days of fighting crime are coming to an end, but he believes that he can’t retire until he finds someone to take his place. Enter a high school freshman named Aaron Adams, he’s the star of the varsity basketball team at Hugo High and he’s one of the school’s most popular students. The summer before Aaron started high school discovered that he had super powers. He’s not sure what they are or even why he has them but he keeps them a secret from his mom and his best friends. Aaron may not want the attention that comes with being a superhero but the will come when he has to decide to use his powers to save his friends or keep them a secret so that he can continue to live a normal life.
How is Fierce different from your typical Black Superhero?
What makes Fierce different the fact that he didn’t have any intention on being a superhero once he discovered his powers. Aaron aka Fierce still wants to live his normal life even though he has all of these powers and abilities. And Aaron is still a fifteen year old kid so sometimes when he has to choose between going on a date with a cheerleader or fighting crime, in the end he will do the right thing. Most of the time.
Who would you say is your target audience? Because Fierce is the story of heroes, one at the beginning of his crime fighting career and one at the end his time of being the hero, I believe older comic book readers and young readers can both relate to this book.
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?
Don’t think just because you create a black comic book character that all black people are going to like your character or buy your book. You still have to put out top quality comic books to compete with mainstream comics and all of the other indy comics out there.
Is there anyone in particular you would like to work with in the future or on a book? I think being able to do a book with William Satterwhite, Robert Jeffery, and Jamar Logan (the creative team of Stealth) would be cool because I spoke with William a few years ago about a Stealth/Fierce crossover.
Right now I’m finishing inking Tim “Taz” Jeter’s Shay Dymond issue two, which will be released later this year. Getting ready to get some more of Fierce story done, the new Fantasy Art Comics website, and I’ll be working with some more artist like Clement Romain, Clifton Hatchett, and Vincent Allen on some new Fantasy Art Comics projects.
What’s the experience been like working in comics?
It was very tough in the beginning, I was trying to do everything on my own, draw, write, ink, color, letter, and more. My first books I colored using cheap markers and coloring pencils and I didn’t think that my books looked professional enough to compete. I was proud of the work I did but I wanted it to be better. I knew that I had to get a team, first my brother Anthony, then I met a writer/artist named Gabriel Smith, he helped me revamp the Fierce story and he is the writer of the current Fierce series and the co-writer and co-artist of Swag Patrol #1. I also met the writer of Swag Patrol Rubyn Warren and with their help Fantasy Art Comics is really putting out some great new titles.
Milestone comics has been teasing us their re-launch, what are your thoughts on this development?
I would love to see a Milestone re-launch and if DC was smart they should really make these characters apart of the DC universe, not an alternate reality. The late Dwayne McDuffie handled this perfectly when he wrote the episodes of Young Justice that included Icon, Rocket, and Static. If the re-launch does happen theirs a lot of talented black artist and writers that could make these Milestone books be some of the best comics in the comic book stores.
Why do you think it’s so hard for Indy creators to get mainstream coverage?
Mainly because most comic book fans look for characters from Marvel or DC only. Some fans aren’t willing to take a chance on a new unknown character. I was the same way growing up, then Image Comics came out, then Milestone Comics and I liked the idea of seeing new characters and new stories that hadn‘t been retold over and over again.
Name three independent books that you would like to see as movies.
Brother Man, Street Team, Trill League
What is the biggest obstacle that Indy creators must overcome to be taken seriously alongside mainstream companies like Marvel and DC Comics?
We have to work together. I’m not saying all black indy books has to be under one company or studio. I’m saying that we have to be willing to share information with each other and help some of the new creators that’s up and coming put out high quality books. And we have to be able to accept criticism, all of your family and friends are going to tell how great your artwork is or how great the book looks. You need to have some people around you that will honestly tell you if there is some aspects of your book that needs to be corrected or worked on.
Why do you think it’s important to have Black Superheroes?
It’s important to have black superheroes because when you ask a young black boy who is his favorite superhero, nine times out of ten they’re going to say Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, or someone other than a black superhero. To be honest I would say these same characters were my favorite as a kid because this is the characters that we grew up with. Their just weren’t many black characters to choose from besides the Black Panther and a few others. Now with all of the black indy characters and comics to choose from, kids can find a number of different characters that they can relate to because the characters look like them. I would like to see our young black girls have more characters that they can choose from.
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?
I believe that most of the media go out of their way to portray being black as something negative, and the sad thing is a lot of other cultures see us in a negative way because of that. Then when come together to speak out things that are wrong with the way we are treated we’re viewed as being angry (even though in most cases we should be) no matter how peaceful we demonstrate our displeasure. I believe black super heroes can be used to tell stories about how it is to be a black man or woman and the day to day issues that we have to face. Just imagine how we would be treated if we could fly or walk through walls, that would a great comic book to read.
What has been your greatest experience as a comic creator?
When I attended my first two conventions in 2008, I was the only black artist there. Growing up in North Carolina wanting to make comic books I just didn’t know of many black comic book creators. My third convention in 08 was the very first OnyxCon in Atlanta and it was filled with black creators that I never knew existed. John Jennings, Dawud Anyabwile, James “Mase” Mason, and so many more, I just couldn’t believe that there was this many talented black creators in this one building.
Why is Worldofblackheroes.com important for Black Superheroes and Black Creators alike? The World of Black Heroes is important to black superheroes and creators because it’s a place where you can see black superheroes that you have heard and some that you haven’t heard of. Years ago seemed like all we had was maybe four of five black superheroes to choose from, and most of them didn’t even have their own comic book, you had to wait for them to make a guest appearance in someone else’s comic book. The site lets comic book fans know that they’re many black superheroes out there and a lot more are on the way.
Check back next week as we continue to MEET THE INDEPENDENTS!
If your a black indy writer or have a series starring a black protagonist then send us an email at Worldofblackheroes@gmail with the subject “Meet the Independents” for your chance to be the next indy spotlight!
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