Creators of Color Bring the Fire in New Anthology

Posted: July 7, 2016 by Sam in Comics
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

As someone who always identified with fire on a symbolic level, I’m proud to promote the latest anthology from Beyond editor Taneka Stotts, ELEMENTS: Fire. Not only is it an all-ages book featuring a plethora of artists and writers (the full list can be found here), but the choice to utilize the work of only creators of color inserts ELEMENTS: Fire into the greater conversation surrounding comic books and the lack of exposure given and value placed on creators of color and characters of color in a thriving and lucrative industry.

Artists: Kiku Hughes, Michelle Ngyuen, Sara DuVall, and Der-shing Helmer

Artists: Kiku Hughes, Michelle Ngyuen, Sara DuVall, and Der-shing Helmer

 

The thesis of the book is simple yet powerful:

 

Elements looks to add to the current conversation happening in the book industry: yes #WeNeedDiverseBooks, but #WeNeedDiverseCreators too. We are no longer just the sidekicks or token characters, we’re creators with our own stories to tell. In Elements we’re the main characters, dismantling tropes with our own stories that see people like us saving the day. Be it quelling a volcano, learning to fight with our brand of love, or breaking cyberspace, we want to let these stories and characters take center stage.

 

The purpose of the Kickstarter is primarily a means of paying the the contributors, another of many conversations happening around pay-for-work vs. exposure. As a writer, I can sympathize. Do you invest your time and energy in something that offers no money but promises “exposure,” which is already a vague concept to begin with, or do you put that focus on a project that will at least provide a monetary incentive however small the platform or the sum? Where do you draw the line and what do you sacrifice in the process? Obviously, Fire wants the artists and writers to receive compensation, not just for contributing but also as a visible means of creating value for their work. The comic book industry is still difficult to break into and it’s even harder for writers and artists of color, especially where mainstream comics are concerned, so every bit helps in terms of payment and exposure. Through the anthology and the Kickstarter, the visibility of the creators and the value of their work increases significantly.

 

Top: Marisa Han, Mildred Louis | Bottom: Melanie Ujimori & Chan Chau, Kou Chen

Top: Marisa Han, Mildred Louis | Bottom: Melanie Ujimori & Chan Chau, Kou Chen

 

One of the creators, it turns out, is past guest of That Girl with the Curls podcast Christina “Steenz” Stewart (Archival Quality) and I reached out to Steenz via email to ask her about her contribution to the book:

 

My story is called The Update. Its a sci-fi dystopia where the entire city is run by an operation system called PIOS: Pyre Intelligence Operation System. Transportation, where people eat, crime regulation… everything runs on PIOS. It’s just… better. But every once in a while the system shuts down and everything must be updated. And that includes the people.
It’s written and illustrated all by me!

 

And wouldn’t you know it, editor of ELEMENTS: Fire Taneka Stotts is also a past guest of That Girl with the Curls! Her episode includes some talk about Fire, but I reached out to Taneka via email with a few questions:

What’s been the most exciting aspect of putting the anthology together? What’s been the most terrifying?

The most exciting aspect is finding all the new voices, mixing them with voices that are already around, and maybe reacquainting myself with voices I haven’t heard from in some time. It is a variety that I seek when putting together any project and one that I find I benefit from greatly. I would say the most terrifying moment is usually sending out any sort of invitation to someone you respect and super admire and hoping you’re not interrupting their day while you wait for them to get back to you. Also, realizing if they accept your invite, then you have to be the one to edit their work.

Isuri Merenchi Hewage, Rashad Doucet

Isuri Merenchi Hewage, Rashad Doucet

What made you choose Fire as the inaugural element? What does Fire mean to you?

I wanted to show that I was serious and I wanted to make an impact. Fire represents serious business to me and I just wanted to spread it around. For some it’s a symbol of life, death, and rebirth, so why not make it the theme of my first project? For me, fire takes on many forms, from passion to inspiration.

What do you feel is the ultimate goal of this anthology? What would you like people to walk away with should they support the campaign? 

The ultimate goal is to have the printed book in all the contributors hands, to have it in the hands of the backers, to have it on library shelves and in shelters. It’s to be tucked under pillows, used to stop doors, and ultimately an emergency paper weight for those who have already enjoyed it a few times over. I guess what I’m trying to say is just for it to exist and for those who were part of it to be recognized even more as a result. I hope that anyone who backs this book realizes they are making something great happen and they are putting themselves into a position of power that tells other markets that watch us that they are tired of disingenuous representation.

Do you think crowd-source funding is a better means of exposure for upcoming comic book creators?

Yes and no. People die of exposure… from the sun. So you know, exposure is great but in moderation. I hope it’s something these creators can use to show why they deserve a place in the mainstream and why they should no longer be ignored but instead are a force to be reckoned with.

Why are you so awesome?!

WHY ARE YOU SO AWESOME?? That is the true question! I just wanna make books, write books, work on books and have fun. It’s important for me to at least have fun.

 

If Taneka’s fire and passion for this anthology doesn’t sell you on giving even a little bit, I don’t know what will. There’s only a little less than a month to go, so get on it!

 

You can find the Kickstarter here.

 

You can also visit the official website where creators are given their own spotlight and updates happen regularly.

 

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