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DF Interview: Two childhood friends begin challenging ‘hero’s journeys’ in David Walker’s Superb
By Byron Brewer
Teenager Kayla Tate is forced to move back to her hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, an "Event" designated Level 5 impact zone. Compared to her new life, returning to Youngstown is a step backwards. She has a strained relationship with her childhood friend, Jonah Watkins, school is a nightmare, and everyone is talking about the mysterious superhero and Internet sensation, "Cosmosis".
To learn more about this new title, DF talked to one of our old friends, Superb co-writer David Walker (Luke Cage, Shaft).
Dynamic Forces: Comics are always saying that “history will be made,” but no doubt that is happening with the new Lion Forge Catalyst Prime line and your book, Superb, David. How did you come to be associated with this project?
David Walker: Joe Illidge, the senior editor at Lion Forge, reached out to me to see if I was interested in co-writing a comic. I had a lot of things on my plate at the time, but there were three things Joe shared with me. First, I’d be co-writing with Sheena Howard, which was something that interested me, because to be perfectly frank, there aren’t enough black women working in comics. I saw this as an opportunity to help push the door open a bit more. Second, Joe told me that Lion Forge was committed to diversity, not just in terms of creators, but content as well. And finally, he told me that one of the lead characters would have Down Syndrome. We talked a lot about what that would mean, how to make it work, and the responsibility to get it right.
DF: Yes, in fact the book is being produced in partnership with the National Down Syndrome Society. What can you tell us about your protagonist Jonah, comics’ first superhero with Down Syndrome?
David Walker: He’s a kid who loves comic books, and he happens to have Down Syndrome. If I say too much more, I’ll get into spoiler territory, and I want to avoid that. But I will say that for me, it was very important that Jonah having Down Syndrome wasn’t just a gimmick. A huge part of that meant that we had to write him with humanity, and that the humanity is defining characteristic, not his having Down Syndrome.
DF: Is there any personal affinity for you with this particular comic? As a writer, you are known to be deep into your characters.
David Walker: I’ve been very vocal in the past about the need for all people to see characters in popular entertainment that reflect them and their experiences. The default character in pop culture tends to be the white guy, and everyone else is left desperately looking for someone to identify with. The thing I like about the characters in Superb is that nearly all of them stand firmly outside of the default settings that inform much of pop entertainment. This is especially true with Jonah. I have been fortunate enough to work with young people with developmental challenges, and it was that work that helped inspire me with Jonah. For me, he is the direct result of the young people I have worked with in the past, who have helped me to see the broad spectrum of true humanity.
DF: Any other important characters we should be on the lookout for? If so, can you tell us a little about them?
David Walker: The co-lead of the book is a teenage African-American girl named Kayla. She is also a great character to work with, because she represents the underrepresented. Both her and Jonah are on their own paths to greatness – their own “hero’s journey,” if you will. It has been really fun charting her journey, and watching her grow as a character.
DF: As you pointed out, you are co-writing this series with Sheena C. Howard, author of the Eisner Award-winning Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation. Tell us about how this collaboration is working, the process.
David Walker: We developed the outline together, and then divided up the writing of the actual scripts. I would write one, then Sheena would write one. And through it all, our editor, Joe, has been helping guide us.
DF: What kind of stories can readers expect from Superb? Can you give us a taste of the first arc (non-spoilery, of course)?
David Walker: I mentioned the “hero’s journey” earlier, and this first arc is really about our lead characters taking their first steps toward becoming heroes. It is them figuring themselves out, and figuring out what it is they are fighting for.
DF: What do artists Ray-Anthony Height, Le Beau L. Underwood and Veronica Gandini bring to the table?
David Walker: I’ve been trying to work with Ray-Anthony for years. He’s an amazing artist, and with LeBeau’s inks and Veronica’s colors, this is the best work Ray has done. As a team, they are truly amazing. Even though I’m a writer, it is always all about the art for me. And the art in this book is just stunning.
DF: David, what other projects are coming up for you that you can talk about?
David Walker: I’m currently working on Luke Cage for Marvel, and War for the Planet of the Apes for BOOM! Studios. There are three or four other projects that I can’t talk about right now, but I think there will be announcements soon. One of them is a childhood dream come true type of project, and the other, I suspect, will be a career game-changer for me.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank David Walker for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Superb #1 from Lion Forge hits stores July 19th!
For more news and up-to-date announcements, join us here at Dynamic Forces, www.dynamicforces.com/htmlfiles/, “LIKE” us on Facebook, www.facebook.com/dynamicforcesinc, and follow us on Twitter, www.twitter.com/dynamicforces.
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