cartooning afro's future horizon
What do you climb after you come down from Everest? For this mid twenties cartoonist, who’s work has been published and put in stores across the U.S and Europe and again in a graphic novel published here nationally, the future looks bright and it starts right now. We get to the bottom of Michaels new found art direction, Blacula and hip-hop in shinning armour.
"In a nutshell I make absurd and gothic cartoons about people of colour in historic, present and futuristic settings. Lots of bright colours and lot’s of bizarre going ons. Like most people I love the kinda postmodern(?) comics of Charles Burns and Dan Clowes so I’m really trying to reclaim that period for people of colour, what they did with golden age comics to say about America in the 80’s and 90’s I believe can be done for Europe today which is especially fun considering those 50’s comics about Jazz artists or whoever weren’t fabricated by black people, theres lot’s of complex layers to breakdown contextually without adding more negativity."
What is the inspiration behind all these portraits?
"The driving factors behind the project was questioning how to reclaim the sweatshop techniques of indian ink, and the CMYK process to generate contemporary looking brown folk that subvert the typical historic depictions of us. It’s a really fine line to tread and I end up making many changes before publishing, it’s like i’m filtering out internalised racisms whilst referencing the printing process from woodcuts in the middle ages up until now, which although not deliberately racist, limited the palettes of figuration to these 5 colours inc. black and white. I’m avoiding anything below the neck as I’m A: Doing this around my commercial drawing schedule and B: I want to explicitly focus on the face. This week I watched Horror Noire, the documentary on black horror and they highlighted a scene in Blacula where a black character after being bitten by the count, fails to see himself in the mirror and protests that a man has to see his own reflection. It’s reaffirming because I still see prejudicial and probably lazy representations of brown bodies today."
The black knight fighting antiquated stereotypes of Black culture
Whats does your vision of the ultimate hero/ heroine look like?
Hmmm, thats an interesting question. I have ideas… but will say that I’m not big on having kids but If i did It’d be a character that represents them and the world they live in hopefully as a guide and possible an escape. Any character that can achieve that impact on any level in a “I learnt about such and such from here” kind of way could be on to a winner. I’m talking about how people learnt about drugs through that issue of spiderman when a character gets hooked on pills, I’d like to make something at some point that served that function. “And thats why we no longer have bananas kids.” would be the brexit issue.
If you could only make one single project before you die what would it be?
If I could make some ceramic type objects or have some action figures made, That’s something I see artists put out, based on their designs and I feel pretty envious. It might be a hobby I can consistently do and then eventually die when I feel like it.
How do you get out of a creative dry spell?
"No idea, but there’s always something to do with my time. I try and stay alert to interesting things and draw as much as possible, that’s still creative, just thinking about things is creative."
Tell me about the four panel comic? (Above)
"In simple terms this four panel comics was a response to Gucci’s ad campaigns, I used to enjoy them but the trend of total gentrification and beautifying every corner of the planet is started to grate on me."
Whats your major ambition for 2019?
"It would be to put out a publication of some description with friends, It feels like the right time for something like that to happen in Birmingham."
Can you talk more about the merging of hip hop and medieval culture in your work?
This is the probably the biggest challenge in what I’m doing as It’s not a straight juxtaposition as blackness and medieval Europe have a brilliant and complex relationship. And the hip hop aspect obviously is reflective of today's culture, It speaks volumes that the employment of old english type in LA culture denotes a sense of nativism and anti gentrification; Alexis Ross, one of my favourite artists has inspired my choices in that regards. Think pieces about hip hop royalty and the renaissance always ignite ideas, and of course, APESHIT. Essentially I just get to play historian even though I’m not smart enough for that. I get to cherry pick, say If I want to do something thats a straight gag like with the Black Shakespeare cartoon, the juxtaposition is way easier than making a comic because with a narrative, I want to say something succinct so theres a lot to consider because the images and symbols can carry so much weight I’m really looking to alternative manga for that type of synthesis lately. Dipping my toe in medievalist theory and race studies makes my work stronger where it counts. But it’s not an alien thing , as a kid I’d watch Kingdom Of Heaven then I’d play NBA Live 2005. Bosworth field is less than an hour away and the first CD I bought was Get Low by Lil John and the Eastside Boys