In 2010 Professor John Jennings and Dr. Damian Duffy joined forces with Magnetic Press for an art book called Black Comix: American Independent Comics Art & Culture. Featuring work from a number of prominent African-American creators, the book proved a great success on Kickstarter, with a fully funded print run.

Seven years later, the duo have re-teamed for Black Comix Returns, adding David Dissanayake as co-editor, and featuring artists including Sanford Greene, Afua Richardson, and Ben Passmore, plus many, many others. As before, the book has proved immediately popular; the Kickstarter has hit its target and is rapidly racing through its stretch goals. ComicsAlliance spoke to Duffy about the project and how it came together.

CA: What's the format of Black Comix Returns?

DD: Black Comix Returns is the sequel to the art book Black Comix: African American Independent Comics Art & Culture that John Jennings and I co-edited/curated in 2010. The premise of the book is that it’s an art book that highlights samples of art from a lot of different black comics creators, articles that highlight different people, figures, movements [and] events in black comics culture. The purpose, as with the first book, is to provide an entry point into exploring the larger world of black comics art and culture.

CA: What sparked this project for you? Why did you decide to return for second book at this point in time?

DD: It was something people had asked us about since the first book came out seven years ago. It happened now mostly through the circumstance of John showing the eminent David Dissanayake a copy of the first book. David was working for Magnetic Press at the time, and David, John, Magnetic publisher Mike Kennedy, and I started discussing a reprint of the first book. But it quickly became clear that this already broad and diverse area of comics had grown so much since 2010, a new volume, just to document some of that growth, made more sense.

CA: As somebody who has been following comics closely over the years, how do you feel that the industry is opening up now to include black voices as an essential part of creative progress --- if, indeed, you feel like it is?

DD: It depends on how one defines the “industry.” Certainly, the overall field of comics by and about black people have grown in number, in diversity, and in audience. If you include online platforms, self-publishing, work for hire, work for hire in related industries like TV, animation, video games, there are a lot of really talented black folks in all of those positions, there are more instances of talent searches and writing fellowships aimed at diversity.

There has been progress in these areas, but at the same time, that’s progress measured against historical disparities and racial inequalities reaching back to the births of these industries. So, things are better, still room for improvement, I think.

CA: How did you find people to take part in the book? What were you looking for from contributors?

DD: Much like John and I did with the first book, John, David, and I contacted a large mix of people we know, people we don’t know whose work we admire, award-winners, comics focused on by geek culture sites. A few people contacted us and sent stuff. And then whoever was interested, and sent us print resolution art, and gave us permission to reprint their work, was in the book.

It’s always a scattered and imperfect process curating these works, and we always run out of room before we’ve even scratched the surface of all the amazing, talented comics creators of color. And then Mike is at the moment, doing an amazing job running the Kickstarter campaign.

 

Some of the announced creators for "Black Comix Returns"

 

CA: And who else will be participating in the project? I saw there’s a pretty incredible line-up of collaborators working on this!

DD: There are a ton of talented people in the project, and a ton more, equally talented, for whom we didn’t have space. But we’ve got a great mix of industry veterans, independent publishers, artists, writers, and young creators. Some names that come to mind are C. Spike Trotman, Keith Knight, Kyle Baker, Whit Taylor, Khary Randolph… just so many great comics creators, I can’t do the list justice.

CA: How did you first get in touch with one another? How important has the collaborative process been for you?

DD: John Jennings and I have been working together for like 12 years now, curating comics art shows, creating graphic novels, adapting Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred for Abrams ComicArts, and making art books like this.

John met David Dissanayake at the comic shop David was managing at the time, and we all met Mike Kennedy through David. The collaborative process has been hugely important, and I’m incredibly grateful to have had David, Mike, and Magnetic’s help with the curation and crowdfunding process. John and I did the original book by ourselves, so having more voices in the curating, editing, and production of this volume was a great help.

CA: What made you want to bring the project to Kickstarter? What made this the right route for you?

DD: Magnetic has already successfully used the Kickstarter model to fund the production of several critically acclaimed books with gorgeous art and expert design. Mike Kennedy’s expertise in this area is really what made this the right route.

 

Some of the announced creators for "Black Comix Returns"

 

CA: What stage are your currently at with production of the comic? How much has already been completed?

DD: Just to be clear, the book is an art book, in a sort of coffee table book format, not a comic. At this point we’ve been collecting art from the various creators involved, and contacting guest writers to get essay content. We’ve had some discussions about page design and production, and are also working on the best way to present samples from so many amazing black comics creators, so that the book serves as a gateway into finding artists and stories that appeal to all sorts of readers.

CA: Do you have any stretch goals planned for the project?

DD: Yes, all the stretch goals for the project are aimed at increasing the page count and production value of the volume. We’ve already been fortunate enough to reach the stretch goal that increased the page count of the book to 200 pages.

Our next stretch goal is to pay for the book to be hardcover, and then to have a foil logo and ribbon bookmark. In part, this is to make the book more attractive to libraries. In part, this is to underline the status of the volume as an art book, in more of a fine arts publication tradition, making the implicit argument that the art and comics culture it focuses on is as worthy of that kind of celebration and documentation.

 

Black Comix Returns will run on Kickstarter until 5th March 2017, having already hit the funding target of $9,500. To find out more, check out the Kickstarter here! Special thanks to John Jennings and David Dissanayake for their help with this interview.