May 26, 2017 08:30am ET
Kwanza Osajyefo has been working in and around comics for almost two decades, being an early part of Marvel’s 1990s digital comics initiative to being a leading editor in DC’s Zuda imprint. Now the New Yorker has segued from editor to creator, writing the well-received creator-owned title Black currently being serialized at Black Mask Studio.
But while Black is his current comic project on shelves, Osajyefo is much more than just one book. From his years as one of the earliest digital comics pioneers to his current position as director of creative strategy at one of the most prominent mainstream public relations firms in the world.
With those bona fides and Black on the shelves, Newsarama reached out to Osajyefo to pick his brain about his comics work and his views on the industry and the medium.
Newsarama: Kwanza, in your own words what are you doing in comic books right now?
Kwanza Osajyefo: Trying to expand the type of stories being told in comics by providing new perspectives. By that I mean viewpoints outside of the straight white male framework that dominates U.S. entertainment and culture.
Nrama: You have previously worked as an editor both at DC and Marvel, leaning heavily into digital comics and direct fan engagement. What do you think about the state of digital comics/webcomics now in 2017?
Osajyefo: Watching webcomics give way to digital comics but seeing neither medium usurping print, despite a huge shift in consumption habits, has been very surprising. That stated, the power of digital has clearly shifted industry behavior in terms of sourcing creative talent and engaging fans online and mobile.
Major publishers have improved their digital acumen, but most are still haven’t taken full advantage of this not-so-new media. It’s tough because comics is so mired in print and the direct market system. There’s a lack of expertise and willingness to invest in building outside of what comics has been the last 75 years.
Nrama: In the past year you have re-engaged with comic books via Black, on a creator level. What did your previous jobs do to help you prepare for that?
Osajyefo: Primarily, my experiences gave me a clear view of publishers’ weaknesses and, to me, evident whitespace to promote an idea in.
Nrama: What were you not prepared for, now looking back at the launch of Black?
Osajyefo: The positive response. I think I was much more prepared for resistance and more of an uphill battle to get the Kickstarter for it funded. Exceeding our goal in only three days was the beginning of a very humbling experience. click