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Black heroes take the spotlight in new comic book project

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The superhero Isis, created by Carlton Hargro and illustrated by artist Jimmie Robinson.

Nearly a year has passed since Carlton Hargro resigned as editor of Creative Loafing in Charlotte. He said when he left last August that he wanted to spend time pursuing some personal interests.

Since then, he has joined the Qcitymetro team as an editor and writer; he writes twice a week for a music blog in Creative Loafing Atlanta; he co-hosts a weekly television show on WTVI; and, true to his music-loving heart, he hosts a monthly “Su Casa” event at Dharma Lounge in uptown Charlotte.

In his most recent endeavor, Hargro has pulled together a small team of writers and artists to produce a comic book that will feature African American superheroes. We recently caught up with him to discuss that project:

Q. So what’s this comic book thing about?

It’s called the African American Superhero Anthology. It’s a comic book that I’ve been wanting to do since I was a kid. I’ve collected comic books since I was 5 years old, and I’m 41 now. In the mid-1990s I actually published some comic books. I didn’t really make any money and had to stop, but I still kept my hand in comic books. So when I left Creative Loafing, I though it would be a good time to do it. The comic book will have several different stories. It is designed really to focus on African American superheroes. There just aren’t a lot of characters of color in comic books. Growing up, I always wanted so see characters who looked like me. Even to this day there really aren’t many, and the ones who do exist aren’t really that good. So this anthology will have several stories written by me and several other people and will be drawn by a bunch of other artists. We’ll create a bunch of new characters. The only character that won’t be new is a character I used to publish back in the day, a character named Isis. So I’m bringing her back, but other than that, everything else is new.

Carlton Hargro

Q. Who’s the audience for this book?

I think the audience, for one, is people who collect comic books, and there are a lot of African Americans who read comic books. There are a lot of people who will just read comic books, regardless of race. Second, I think, are people who just want to see better representation of African Americans in the media. One of the things about comic books now is that they turn into movies and television shows. You still don’t see us represented in those things. So this is a way to say your next big blockbuster movie might come from a book like this. Then we might get to see ourselves on the big screen or the small screen. So it’s just a way to reach out to people who just want to see something different.

Q. Are there many comic book readers out there?

Yes. Of course, there are fewer now than at their peak in the '90s. The '90s for comic books were sort of like the 2000s were for real estate. It was inflated. Your top comic book now may sell, at most, 200,000 copies. Nobody is selling like a million copies anymore of anything, at least not in America. You know how CDs come out every week and DVDs? Well, comic books come out every week. On Wednesday, all over the country, comic books are coming out, so it’s still a thriving industry.

Q. What are your plans for distributing this anthology?

Two ways. I’m going to sell it direct myself. You’ll be able to go online — the site isn’t actually up yet — but you’ll be able to purchase the book online and we’ll mail it to you. The other way is through a distributor. There is a distributor that, all they do is distribute comic books. When I used to publish my comic book before, I went through them. They sell to stores all over the country. I’m going to approach them. I’m pretty sure we can get it into their catalog.

Q. This project also has a fund-raising component. What’s that about?

We’re trying to raise money for the anthology through a site called Kickstarter, which is a crowd-funding site. It lets you hit up family, friends and other people to support your project. Now we’re in the process of getting the money, and we’re really close. We’re trying to get $3,000. Right now we’re actually at $2,621. So we don’t have far to go. The campaign lasts for 40 days, and I’m really confident that we are going to have all the money soon.

Q. What does the money go for?

The money will be used to pay the artists. It also will be used to print the book and do other little stuff, like lettering and graphic design – everything that goes into the publication. Everybody who’s working on it is doing it for the cheap, but we want to make sure they are getting something.

Q. Is there a minimum amount you’re asking people to give?

The minimum amount is $1. You can literally give $1. I’m actually encouraging people to give small amounts. My average amount is about five bucks. So it’s a grass-roots kind of thing. Of course, some people are giving at bigger levels, and at every level there are rewards. If you pledge five bucks, we’ll give you a signed copy of the comic book. But for $100, I made a reward where we will actually kill you in the comic book, if you want it. We’ll put someone in the comic book who looks like you and kill them.

Q. LOL. Have you gotten many takers for that?

Yeah. I had eight opportunities to get killed available at $100 each, and all of them are sold out. I had to add seven more. They will die in the pages of the comic book — in gruesome ways — but that’s what they wanted. It’s a fun project. But the root behind all this is that we want to diversify the portrayal of African Americans in the media. That’s why we’re doing it. We want to be seen in a different light. We want to put some better ideas out there.
If you want to help: Visit the Kickstarter website to make a pledge.

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October 8, 2015
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