"Capes and Comeups" is a collection where the fantastical world of superheroes meets the rich tapestry of diverse cultures. This superhero-themed compilation is inspired by a vast array of characters from different narratives, with a unique twist in their reinterpretation. Unlike my previous works, this collection is dedicated to a younger audience. It's crafted to inspire these young minds to aim high and discover their inherent strengths. This book diverges from my usual adult-focused themes of personal development, venturing into the realm of youthful aspirations and empowerment. Each piece is imbued with motivational insights, designed not just to entertain but to ignite a spark of ambition and self-discovery in young hearts. The spotlight shines brightly on African American characters and women, showcasing them in powerful, insightful, and sometimes irreverent illustrations. "Capes and Comeups" is a gateway for individuals to visualize themselves as heroes, overcoming challenges and soaring to new heights.
In "Wakanda 4eva" I capture a poignant moment as my daughter Assata stands proudly among the Dora Milaje during the solemn tribute to the late Black Panther in "Black Panther 2." Her smile, amidst the funeral's gravity, is a beacon of hope and resilience, reflecting the enduring spirit of Wakanda and the legacy left by Chadwick Boseman. It's a symbol of the strength and courage that define the Dora Milaje, and a testament to the unyielding optimism that even in moments of profound loss, the future holds promise. The backdrop of the scene is rich with African patterns and drummers, encapsulating the vibrant culture and heritage of Wakanda. Shuri's presence, her arms crossed in homage, adds a layer of deep respect and sibling love, further intensifying the emotional depth of the scene. The quote by Namor McKenzie, "How is never as important as why," resonates profoundly with me, underscoring the importance of understanding the deeper purpose behind our actions. The billboard bearing Chadwick Boseman's image watches over the scene with a silent, reverent dignity, symbolizing his everlasting impact not just on Wakanda but on the world. The Wakandan text on Assata's spear and the billboard, a homage to our African roots and the creative genius of Hannah Beachler, connects us to a history rich in symbols and meanings. This piece is a celebration of the enduring legacy of the Black Panther, a reflection on the power of cinematic storytelling to inspire, and a personal tribute to the strength and spirit embodied by my daughter, Assata, as she smiles defiantly, symbolizing the undying hope and resilience in the face of loss.
In "Brother/Hood" my artwork captures the essence of enduring friendship and resilience, inspired by the bond between Damian Wayne and Jon Kent. The South African backdrop, with its pink mountains and imposing moon, symbolizes the vastness of their journey and the heights of their aspirations. Standing back to back, they embody trust and unity; despite their differences, they are united in their struggles and triumphs. Their shirtless forms and tattoos, D.Wayne and J. Kent, signify their raw, unmasked identities beyond their heroic personas. This scene is a metaphor for the power of friendship to overcome adversity, as reflected in Bruce Wayne's quote, "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." Their stance against the backdrop of nature symbolizes their connection to their roots and to each other, a testament to the strength and resilience found in brotherhood.
In "Spellbound" my reinterpretation of Zatanna Zatara is a whimsical blend of street art and mystical allure. Sitting on a graffiti-covered corner, her attire - pink shoes, purple pants, and a yellow tank top adorned with a wizardly bird - merges urban vibrancy with her enchanting persona. Her greyish-bluish hair and magical top hat add to her mystique, while the playful wand in her hand hints at her ability to weave magic into the mundane. The two doves circling her symbolize peace and the transcendent nature of her powers. The Rawkus Records logo on her knee is a nod to the underground creativity and revolutionary spirit of '90s hip-hop, echoing Zatanna's own unconventional and transformative path. This emblem represents not just a music label, but a cultural movement that challenged norms and pushed artistic boundaries, much like Zatanna challenges the boundaries of reality with her magic. Zatanna's presence in this urban, artistic setting is a powerful metaphor for the fusion of everyday life with the extraordinary. It speaks to the mysteries and wonders of life, as captured in her quote, "Life is a mystery after all - frustratingly, wonderfully, unfathomable."
I've reimagined Night Thrasher, an African-American vigilante hero, blending his vigilantism with the vibrant ambiance of Paris. Behind him, the iconic Eiffel Tower stands tall, juxtaposed with an alien spaceship and a flock of flamingos, symbolizing the intersection of reality and fantasy, the mundane and the extraordinary. Adorning his pants is the logo of rapper J.I.D, whose album profoundly influenced me in 2022, while his skateboard, emblazoned with "Kick. Push. Coast," pays homage to Lupe Fiasco's seminal skateboarding anthem. His wild hair, baggy pants, t-shirt, and Nike Low Top Retro Dunks all exude a particular urban energy, a manifestation of contemporary style and defiance. Night Thrasher's presence is a statement of cultural identity and a celebration of defiant individualism. The quote, by Dwayne Taylor, a.k.a Night Thrasher, encapsulates the essence of this piece. It's about confronting the shadows of history, personal and collective, and transcending them with strength and determination. In this visual narrative, Night Thrasher isn't just a hero fighting external foes; he's a symbol of battling and overcoming the internal struggles that define us all.
In "Vixen's Essence" I've reimagined Mari McCabe, known as Vixen, drawing inspiration from the resolute Angela. With an elephant and eagle at her back, symbols of wisdom and freedom, she exudes confidence. The lioness on her shirt speaks to her indomitable spirit, embodying the strength and majesty of this queen of the animal kingdom. Her necklace, a nod to Vixen's Tantu Totem, connects her to the legacy of her ancestors, empowering her with the abilities of the animal kingdom. This is complemented by a tattoo of sunflowers on her shoulder, representing loyalty and adoration, and a headband adorned with a cobra and the name "Sekhmet." This invokes the fierce Egyptian goddess, symbolizing both destruction and healing, embodying the dual nature of strength and nurturing. Through this illustration, I embody the spirit of Vixen and Sekhmet, blending the ancient with the modern, the mythical with the real. It's a tribute to the resilience of women who, like Vixen and Angela, harness their inner power and wisdom to navigate the complexities of life. In their essence, they are guardians, warriors, and symbols of enduring strength and grace.
In "Meteor's Mission" I pay homage to Robert Townsend's groundbreaking character, Meteor Man, intertwining his legacy with the vibrant, complexity urban life. Adorned with West African patterns, Meteor Man stands as a beacon of hope in the cityscape, a symbol of empowerment and the transcendent power of representation. The meteor streaking across the sky behind him represents not just his origin of power, but the spark of change and the potential within us all to rise above our circumstances. The mural of the child, with innocent eyes and adorned with "All you see is crime in the city," echoes the dialogue from BlackStar's song "Respiration" and the Hip Hop documentary "Style Wars", capturing the duality of urban life – the often unseen innocence amidst prevailing narratives of crime. This powerful visual dialogue between the superhero and the child mural reflects my belief that acknowledging and addressing the complexities of urban reality is the first step toward transformation. Meteor Man's presence in this setting is a statement: a call to action not just for external help, but for internal community upliftment. As Jefferson Reed suggests, real change begins when we stop overlooking the issues in our communities and start engaging with them.
In my creation, "Celestial Genesis," I've envisioned a fusion of the cosmic and the earthly, embodied by an interplanetary African woman. Her golden skin symbolizes a connection to the stars, a physical manifestation of the universe's majesty, while her West African features pay homage to my cultural roots. The Saturn earrings represent the vastness of space, tying her to the infinite cosmos. Her green afro, intertwined with blue DNA strands, signifies the intertwining of life and the universe, a reminder of our intrinsic bond with the cosmos. The lotus flower tattoo on her elongated neck and the blooms on her shoulders symbolize purity and enlightenment, blooming amidst the chaos of the universe. The celestial rock behind her, inscribed with Kendrick Lamar's profound words, "I Got Loyalty, Got Royalty Inside My D.N.A.," serves as a testament to the inherent nobility and inherent potential within our genetic makeup. This juxtaposes beautifully with Dr. Manhattan's symbol on her forehead, an emblem of the ability to manipulate reality at a quantum level. This piece is a dialogue between our human heritage and cosmic potential. It's an exploration of the quantum realm's possibilities, where every probability is an opportunity for creation. The melding of Dr. Manhattan's powers with the vibrancy of African culture portrays a narrative of empowerment – a universe where every so-called 'accident' is a chance to shape reality, reflecting the infinite possibilities that lie within us all.
In "The Amazing" I channel the essence of an iconic hero through the lens of a powerful black woman, merging the invincibility of Superman with the depth of African heritage. The fusion of the Superman emblem and African patterns on her costume symbolizes a blend of universal strength and cultural resilience. The nuclear mushroom cloud looming behind her is a stark emblem of destruction and the potential for catastrophic change. It represents the daunting challenges and systemic adversities that she, as a black woman, confronts in a world teeming with both visible and hidden threats. Confronting her is a malevolent green squid creature, its piercing blue eyes and crown symbolizing the pervasive forces of oppression and the entrenched power structures that seek to dominate and control. This creature embodies the societal and internal demons that she must battle – fear, discrimination, and the weight of historical injustice. The quote, "The 'Amazing' can only be created by facing fear, risk, and failure during the process," resonates deeply with this tableau. It underscores the courage required to confront and overcome such formidable challenges. Her clenched fists and resolute expression convey a readiness to engage in this battle, embodying the spirit of resilience and unwavering determination.
In "Fury's Heist," I embody the daring spirit of Miss Fury, the pioneering female superhero, as she elegantly swings from a chandelier, seizing a bag emblazoned with 'Get that Bag!!' This act, set in a cryptic 1920s building adorned with skulls and skeletons, is more than a mere theft; it's a metaphor for seizing control of one's destiny, symbolized by the box marked 'Peace' within the bag. The ominous, ritualistic backdrop, shadowed under the distant gaze of the Statue of Liberty, represents the societal constraints and hidden powers that often dictate the paths of women, especially those who dare to break norms as Marla Drake and her creator, Tarpe Mills, did. On the back of her cape, the phrase "You can't predict the future, but you CAN Create it!!" resonates as a powerful manifesto, encapsulating the essence of Miss Fury's and, by extension, every woman's struggle to carve out her own place in a world that's often unwelcoming to such bold endeavors. This piece is a tribute to the audacity of defying expectations, a celebration of feminine strength and cunning in the face of daunting odds. It's a visual ode to the legacy of Miss Fury and Tarpe Mills, a reminder that even in dark, cryptic settings, a woman's resolve can shine brightly, crafting a future that's as unpredictable as it is self-determined.
In "Merc's Mayhem" I delve into the world of a youthful Deadpool, portrayed as a child, his costume reimagined in playful aqua and violet hues, oversized as if he's still growing into the role of the iconic mercenary. His defiant stance, fist ready to strike, captures the essence of his character - irreverent, fearless, and unapologetically himself, even in his younger years. Beside him stands Domino, inspired by Zazie Beetz's portrayal, her bright yellow and green attire and pink afro adding a vibrant contrast to the scene. This pairing in front of graffiti-laden walls symbolizes the defiance against norms and the spirited resilience of youth. The quote, "Never underestimate the stupidity of idiots," attributed to Wade Wilson, speaks volumes about their outlook - a blend of humor and a keen understanding of the absurdity often found in the world around them. This piece is a tribute to the rebellious spirit in all of us, to the journey of growing up and finding one's identity in a world that often doesn't make sense. It's a reminder that we should embrace our uniqueness and face life's challenges with a blend of courage and irreverent humor.
"Resolute Webs" she represents the essence of resilience and determination within the heart of New York City. The river behind her mirrors the flow of life, constant and ever-changing, while the iconic skyline, crowned by the Statue of Liberty, stands as a symbol of hope and freedom. Her curly afro and coy smile aren't just personal trademarks; they are a celebration of identity, diversity, and the unique strengths that I bring to the role of Spider-Woman. Miles Morales, depicted in the background, serves as a subtle yet powerful reminder of the continuous legacy of heroism that transcends conventional boundaries. His presence reinforces the idea that heroism isn't defined by victories alone, but by the relentless spirit of trying, despite the odds. This scenery is more than a backdrop; it's a canvas of my journey, reflecting my resolve to make a difference in a world brimming with challenges. The quote, "A hero isn't the one who always wins. It's the one who always tries," resonates deeply with me. It's a mantra that inspires me to persevere and strive for greatness, not just for personal triumph, but for the greater good of all who find themselves amidst the bustling life of this great city.
In "Mujer Maravilla," I've reimagined the iconic Wonder Woman as a symbol of Mexican heritage and strength, merging the timeless heroism of the Amazonian warrior with the rich cultural tapestry of Mexico. Adorned in traditional Wonder Woman attire blended with calavera makeup, she stands as a guardian of tradition and a bridge between worlds. Her presence in front of a Mexican pyramid, under the gaze of a mysterious, zombie-like figure, embodies the deep connection to ancestry and the enduring spirit of my Mexican heritage. The birds soaring in the distance and the intricate Mexican mosaic replacing the sun in the backdrop symbolize freedom and the vibrant energy of life. The phrase "I Will not be defeated" etched on the pyramid resonates with a sense of unwavering resilience and determination, mirroring the values instilled in me during my transformative journey to Mexico City. This piece, inspired by the Day of the Dead celebration, is a homage to the power of community, family, and the profound respect for ancestors.
In "Titi's Gambit," I've merged the essence of my daughter Teanna, nicknamed Titi, with the enigmatic energy of the X-Men's Gambit, creating a tableau that intertwines hip hop, voodoo culture, and mutant resilience. The cascade of aces in her hands, with the heart ace leading the arrangement, symbolizes not only mastery in the game but also a deep connection to the heart's passions and gambles in life. Her attire, adorned with the word 'Queen,' signifies her strength and regality, echoing the empowering heritage of our West African roots. The presence of the voodoo doll in the background, pierced at the heart, serves as a stark reminder of the spiritual traditions that shape our identity, and the complex interplay of power, pain, and protection in our lives. This illustration is a homage to the multifaceted nature of identity - blending the playful and the profound, the mystical and the mundane. "Every man has a price to charge and a price to pay." It speaks to the universal truth of choices and consequences, and the eternal dance of risking and gaining.
In "Jean Gr(ea)t," I reenvision Jean Grey of the X-Men as a harmonious blend of cosmic power and serene self-care, weaving in the spirit of the talented rapper Jean Grae. This piece captures a moment of tranquility where Jean, despite her capacity to transform into the universe-altering Phoenix, chooses the path of peaceful introspection. The cup in her hand, emblazoned with "Liberation," and its platter stating "Starts in the Mind," symbolize the liberation found in mental peace and the power of introspection. Her sweatshirt adorned with a Phoenix mirrors her own transformative power and resilience, a nod to her ability to rise anew from the ashes of her challenges. The telepathically summoned items - a teapot, a coloring book, and headphones - are more than just objects; they represent the tools of self-care, emphasizing the importance of taking time for oneself, even for someone as powerful as Jean. This illustration is a statement on the strength found in solitude and self-care. It’s a reminder that even the most powerful among us need moments of peace and introspection. "Jean Gr(ea)t" is thus a celebration of the power of self-care and the importance of personal space, especially for those burdened with great power. It's a gentle reminder that in the quest to change the world, one must not overlook the need to nurture and care for oneself.
In "Vamp's Delight," I reenvision the iconic character Blade, blending traditional African aesthetics with the modern vampire hunter theme. Dressed in a blue and red jacket adorned with African floral patterns, this portrayal of Blade symbolizes a fusion of cultural heritage and contemporary action. The phrase on his jacket, "Procrastination Eats Dreams," serves as a stark reminder of the importance of action and determination, qualities intrinsic to Blade's character. The background, inscribed with vampire glyphs, symbolizes the hidden, often misunderstood language of the adversaries Blade faces. This cryptic script serves as a metaphor for the unknown and the misunderstood, aligning with the quote, "When you understand the nature of a thing you know what it's capable of." It speaks to the depth of understanding one must have about their adversaries and challenges in life. The vampire lurking behind him represents the ever-present threats we face, both seen and unseen. Blade’s readiness with his sword is not just a stance against a physical enemy but also an emblem of preparedness against life’s unexpected challenges. The African pattern behind him symbolizes a return to roots, suggesting that understanding one’s heritage is key to realizing one’s true potential and power.
In "Fly Potential" I blend cosmic exploration with youthful aspiration, encapsulating the essence of potential and discovery. The astronaut, a symbol of human ambition and curiosity, cradles a glass ball, within which a young African American Hawk Man, poised in everyday attire, represents the untapped potential in us all. His unfurled wings within the globe are not just literal appendages but metaphors for the dreams ready to take flight. The two planets and flying saucer inside the glass ball symbolize uncharted territories and the unknown, highlighting the boundless possibilities awaiting us in the vast expanse of life. The psychedelic backdrop behind the astronaut serves as a visual manifestation of the infinite and vibrant possibilities of the universe and the mind. It's a call to action, echoing the quote. This piece is a vivid reminder that while contemplation and planning are vital, there comes a moment when action must be taken to realize our dreams and potential. "Fly Potential" is thus a powerful allegory of human potential, urging viewers to embrace their inner strength and take the leap towards their aspirations.
In my rendition of "Ausar's Charge," inspired by Static Shock, I visualize my son Ausar as a symbol of youthful vigor and societal consciousness. Embodying the essence of Virgil Hawkins, his hoodie adorned with the Static Shock emblem and the iconic 'X', he stands as a beacon of aspiration and relatability for young African American viewers. The electric energy radiating from his palms represents not just superhuman powers, but the potent potential within each young person to spark change. His determined smile, set against the backdrop of urban graffiti, speaks volumes of resilience and an unwavering spirit. This piece transcends mere artistic representation; it's a tribute to the groundbreaking impact of "Static Shock" in addressing real-life issues like racism and violence, rare in cartoons of its era. Through Ausar, I channel my hopes and dreams for him – to embrace his power responsibly, to be a force for good in a world rife with challenges. It's a reminder that characters like Static Shock aren't just fictional heroes; they are mirrors reflecting the hopes and potential of young minds, urging them to see their worth and capability to stand tall amidst life's adversities
In "Oshosi's Koffee" my artistic interpretation melds the vibrant essence of Jamaican dancehall artist Koffee with the formidable character of Helena Bertinelli, the Huntress. Embodying the spirit of Oshosi, the deity of the hunt and wisdom, Koffee's stance in this modern abode, crossbow in hand, symbolizes her relentless pursuit of goals and focus. The words 'Goals' and 'Focus' inscribed on her crossbow serve as a constant reminder of her mission, aligning with Oshosi's attributes of astuteness and craftiness. The Picasso-esque imagery on her olive green pants and the Huntress symbol on her belt buckle reflect a fusion of artistic creativity and a warrior's resolve. Her environment, adorned with illustrations of a Superman-esque figure and a samurai demon, speaks to the duality of her journey - the constant battle between light and darkness, heroism and inner demons. The quote, "Once you let the darkness inside, it never comes out," resonates deeply, underscoring the perpetual struggle to maintain integrity and virtue in a world often clouded by shadows.
In "Sojourner's Surf" I reenvision the iconic Silver Surfer as a powerful African woman, her gaze piercing through the cosmos with ice blue eyes, symbolizing a depth of wisdom and insight beyond the ordinary. Clad in cosmic shades of purple and with her afro and cape mirroring the vast galaxy, she embodies the infinite expanse of space and the profound mysteries it holds. Her surfboard, adorned with West African patterns, signifies a connection to her earthly roots, contrasting with her celestial voyage, and emphasizes the interconnectedness of the universe and African heritage. The Gye Nyame symbols on her cape serve as a testament to the omnipresence and omnipotence of a higher power, guiding her path through the stars. This reinterpretation of Norrin Radd as a female African cosmic traveler transcends traditional comic boundaries, blending cultural symbolism with interstellar exploration. Her journey through the galaxies on her galactic surfboard, amidst satellites and planets, is a metaphor for navigating life's vast uncertainties with faith and resilience. The quote, "It is a strange thing to realize...but our failures so often place us where we need to be," echoes in her story, suggesting that every twist in our journey, even setbacks, are cosmic alignments steering us towards our ultimate destiny.
In "Gotham's Grin" I've captured the essence of youthful mischief through the lens of the iconic Joker, reimagined as a child. The boy's expansive smile, tinged with both innocence and a hint of malevolence, mirrors the duality of playfulness and danger inherent in the character. His grayish skin tone and the African-American Harley Quinn on his shirt symbolize a fusion of comic lore with contemporary cultural narratives, reflecting the evolving nature of these characters in our collective imagination. The phrase "A-Okay, Mr. J" on his pants, coupled with Heath Ledger's Joker face, pays homage to the enduring impact of Ledger's portrayal, a reminder of the thin line between genius and madness. This young Joker, perched casually on a bike rack, represents the untamed spirit of rebellion against conformity, echoed in the quote "They laugh at me because I'm different. I laugh at them because they're all the same." His presence in front of a nondescript building adds a sense of everydayness to the extraordinary, challenging viewers to recognize the extraordinary in the mundane and question the norms that define our perceptions of normality and deviance.
In "Panther's Promise" I've depicted a young boy, a symbol of the next generation, solemnly holding the Black Panther mask, representing the weight and honor of legacy. The presence of Chadwick Boseman's image in the background serves as a poignant reminder of the impact he had, not just as an actor, but as an icon who brought to life the values of unity, strength, and wisdom. The quote, "We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers," resonates deeply in this context, emphasizing Boseman's message of unity and collective responsibility. This scene, set against the backdrop of Boseman's enduring image, is a testament to the influence of role models who transcend their art to become symbols of hope and unity. The boy's engagement with the Black Panther mask signifies the passing of a mantle, a call to the younger generation to uphold the ideals embodied by Boseman's character. It's a reminder that we are, indeed, one tribe, bound by shared humanity, and that wisdom lies in building bridges to unite rather than barriers to divide. This artwork is not just a tribute to a beloved actor; it's an invocation for us to aspire to the principles he stood for and to continue building on the legacy he left behind.
In "Tempest Born" I depict Ororo Munroe, known as Storm, reimagined as a young child with a profound connection to the elements. The monochromatic blue palette symbolizes her affinity with the sky and weather, reflecting her future as a powerful weather manipulator. Her blue skin merges with the environment, suggesting a deep, intrinsic bond with nature from an early age. Her golden eyes, stark against the blue, pierce through the canvas, hinting at her latent mutant abilities and the extraordinary destiny awaiting her. These eyes, like windows to a wise soul, convey an understanding and intelligence beyond her years, possibly reflecting her awareness of the unique path she's destined to walk. The blue tornado swirling in the background represents the untapped, raw potential within her, a force of nature yet to be fully realized. Her casual, almost nonchalant posture, juxtaposed with this powerful backdrop, speaks to the ease with which she will one day command the elements. The African-patterned crown on her head is a nod to her heritage, grounding her incredible powers in her cultural identity. It's a subtle reminder of her roots and the strength she draws from them. The quote, "I don't like expectations. I defy them," encapsulates her spirit perfectly — even as a child, she's already challenging norms and defying the boundaries set by others, setting the stage for her to become one of the most formidable and revered X-Men.