#BlackComicsMonth – Day 24 – Afua Richardson Interview

BlackComicsMonthSpotlight

Interviews, interviews! Day 24 of BlackComicsMonth.com brings a few EXCLUSIVE interviews, up first we have an interview with Afua Richardson! Leonardo Faierman and myself got a chance to talk to Afua Richardson and she dropped some jewels. Richardson will strike nerves in this interview, you will sip tea and clutch your pearls. This interview is NOT for the faint of heart and easily offended.

You’ve been warned!

The talented amazing and beautiful Afua Richardson is here! Please tell us a bit about yourself to those that may be new to you and your work.

Afua_Richardson

Well thank you kindly! I am a comic book illustrator who does pencils, digital inks and colors. My medium of choice is primarily digital/vector illustrations. I am one of the few African American female creators to work for Marvel, DC and Image comics. I am also a professional singer, songwriter, voice actor and lead singer of the band Waking Astronomer, based in Atlanta Georgia. I’m originally from New York City, but I’ve been in Georgia for about 6 years now.

One of the things I’m quite interested in – yet unable to track much information about online – is your stint with Sizzle. Can you speak a little about making erotic comix, what work in this genre that you appreciate, and comment on whether we’ll see other work like this from you in the future?

[Laughs] Oh the shame of it! No – I’m only kidding. My work with Sizzle under NBM Publishing was actually my first published creator owned miniseries entitled, Campus Meats. I’m grateful they gave me a shot. It was horrible, but so is EVERYONE’S first book. It was about a futuristic university that attempted to find peace by having a campus planet of co-ed co-species students. It was cathartic for me. I’d been the victim of sexual assault and had a very negative outlook about sensuality in general. This was a way for me to make adult consensual sex fun, silly and remove the negative connotations I’d accumulated because of my experiences. I’m a big appreciator of Anias Nin, a French/Cuban author, who controversially wrote erotic commissions in the 40’s.

I’m currently writing a book that I’d been sitting on for a while entitled SPOT. A collection of poems, illustration short stories, excerpts from interviews and essays about where we get our ideas about sex from and how that may affect our consciousness. I’m not certain if I’ll put it out; just releasing a few of the poems online has gotten me into quite a bit of trouble. Some assume that if you write about sex, you’re some kind of deviant and can’t have any ideas other than erotic ones. Many assume I’m some kind of perverted freak.

Art to me is a conversation. There are conversations one would have with a child that they’d not have with an adult. This would be one of those conversations, but that also is a big part of the problem. I think I suffered immensely because I wasn’t given ANY instruction as to how to take care of my changing body. We just guess and make mistakes, falling victim to rumor and fear and p0rn which seems to be an inaccurate window into the realm of the human condition. There are thankfully more blogs offering reasonable voices in regards to sex. When I gain the courage one day I’ll publish it. But more than likely it will be under an alias…

Genius works on several different levels of narrative. While working on it, what did you think about the story’s message, and did you find it successful in communicating its intentions?

Afua Richardson's Genius

Afua Richardson’s Genius

[Spoiler warning] Genius changed me as a person. It was an interesting process for me. I only received one issue script at a time, so I had no idea what the intentions were going in. As I poured over each one and contracting the world and its characters, I started doing research. Research that eventually lead me to a greater understanding of the level of corruption that governing bodies have attained in order to maintain dominance, infighting and self perpetuated destruction of the poor. Welfare, if carefully examined, is a device made to destroy the family integrity. Subsequently removing community and replacing the individual’s support network with the state itself.

As Dr. Thomas Sowell so greatly worded in his various speeches and interviews “Welfare…is paying people to fail. To the degree that they fail is to the degree they are rewarded.” If these institutions were made to actually help people [which in many cases like my own family], then they would help them find ways to start their own businesses and be financially independent, but the poor are paid to stay poor. Section 8 housing may offer many opportunities for those who are in need of low income housing, but there is no way to transition OUT of it. So plant that kind of institution in less than desirable neighborhoods, and the end result is a malnourished, suppressed people who serve as political bargaining chips and revolving-door cannon fodder in the for-profit prisons they fill.

Generations of broken families. Impoverished, underfunded schools and indoctrination, then add a dash of emasculation and minority idols being praised for being murderers and thugs as they wear their proverbial pain on their oversized sleeves. You get gangs. Gangs who just want respect, protection, community and independence.

Hip-hop was a voice of the unheard and outraged. Then it was corrupted and changed to a mantra for self-destruction sans the few holding the torch. Then we look at the gang of the police. They can murder, mug, rob, beat and harass and be backed by the state. The only difference is the uniform and the paycheck.

I think Genius was a wonderful script. I had the pleasure of illustrating one young woman seeing the playing field and attempting to play the way our war-hungry, sociopathic overseers see us; “as pawns to be moved and played with.” But she loses that game, and in losing she learned that people are precious individuals that have to demand their independence by organizing themselves in a community but also being individually accountable for their well being. The detective who cracks the case realizes that the system created her. Cyclical, like a revolution. Revolutions technically bring you back to the start. Evolution is to break that cycle and become more; which is what I feel I have become in the co-creation of this comic.

Afua-RichardsonYou’re apparently a huge proponent of the use of digital tools in producing comic art. Did you draw from any resources to develop your techniques, or are you primarily self-taught as a digital illustrator?

I am a self taught artist, but I have my friends and online tutorials to thank. Professionals like Neal Adams, Nelson Blake, Brian Stelfreeze, Caesar Antomattei and Chuck Collins were incredible friends and mentors, advising and sharing their knowledge and advice. I posted to a lot of forums under an alias to remain anonymous so my work would be critiques and not me personally. I draw every single day. I usually feel strange if I don’t. I try to pay it forward by sharing my experiences as an artist in my group on Facebook, Docta Foo’s Lab.

Captain Marvel - Afua Richardson - Marvel Comics

Captain Marvel – Afua Richardson – Marvel Comics

Just last week you posted a sneak peek of the Captain Marvel variant for next month. I absolutely LOVE Captain Marvel, that artwork is simply GORGEOUS! Are there other projects that you’ll be doing with Marvel or DC Comics in the future, perhaps a full series?

Thank you very much! I’m going to be doing one shots here and there while I work on my own series. Next up is Wonder Woman, for those Sensation Comics/DC comics writer team ups, with Trina Robbins as my writer. A darling woman, so happy to be working with her on this.

You’ve produced work in several different genres. What is your favorite type of story to illustrate?

I’m a big fan of the esoteric. I love anime and Sci-fi and I hope to work on something that pulls all of those things together.

Concrete Park

Concrete Park

Genius and Concrete Park are two books that are always mentioned when the black community is asked what’s your favorite books by a black writer or artist. Genius was only last year and so many love that book, would you like to see it brought back and if so, what kind of ideas might you have?

I am in the process of writing something with multi-ethnic protagonist. It will take me a while so I won’t spill the name just yet. I call out criminals by [metaphoric] name and hopefully serve as an societal ailment healing guide while shooting lasers, casting spells and traveling through the cosmos. I’m a BIG fan of Concrete Park and its creators Erika Alexander and Tony Puryear. I want it in movie form…yesterday. It’s potent and lush and I love everything about it. I fall into the world they’ve created and I’m stoked to even be mentioned WITH that book!

There is a lack of black comic book writers and artists in the comic book world. Do you experience any “hardships” when it comes to finding that next gig?

Thankfully not. I think we have a unique opportunity to create our own community and create it our own way, but you HAVE to grind incredibly hard. Comics are extremely competitive, but you can gain support by supporting others. As a creator, find out how you can be of service. When you create something, those people you helped will help you. Mainstream comics want to hire people who will sell books. If you come with that community already, you’ll be a shoe in.

Afua Richardson on flute

Afua Richardson on flute

Not only are you a talented artist, I hear you’re an equally talented musician! That’s such a blessing to have so much talent. How do you spend your time between both arts and which one has just a tad bit more of your heart than the other one?

Art takes up a lot more of my time than music. It’s sort of an odd thing considering at one point in my life it was the exact opposite. I don’t really have any spare time. Most of my life is consumed with creating something, I don’t mind it really. I do wish I could have weekends off but, I work for myself and I’m an incredibly tough boss. Unfortunately I have the tendency to run myself ragged. I’m trying to find balance but the end results are gratifying. I feel like I’m finding my life’s purpose, which to me, is bringing medicine through art.

So what’s next for Afua Richardson? Can you tell us what projects you have lined up that you’re especially excited for?

I’m excited about Wonder Woman and have a few things in the pot negotiations wise, so nothing in stone yet. I’m writing and constructing a Kickstarter for a project called, Aquarius the Book of Mer. It will get into the history of the mermaid and aquatic therianthropes in history and cultural myth and the subsequent sightings, meanings and metaphorical allegories that may entail. I have a LOT of research to do for it. I don’t want to half do it so I’ll take the time. I’ll be sure to let Vixen Varsity get sneak peeks when I have things to share!

Thank you so much for participating in BlackComicsMonth. Where can the people find you online?

Thank you for having me! You can find my work at AfuaRichardson.com and visit TheFooStore. Like me on Facebook and follow me on Instagram, Tumblr and of course on
Twitter. Also check out the band, WakingAstronomer.

Waking Astronomer