ArtBooks

We need a Black girl fantasy lead character like NIOBE on the big screen

May 17, 2018
By Sebastian Jones, AFROPUNK contributor

NIOBE: She is Life. She is Love. She is Now.

With a world divided, who do you turn to?

For some, we are one step away from falling into the abyss of social acceptance. For the geek tribe warriors, we are screaming for our voice to be heard. An eternal prom dance on a knife edge to the sound of what we think is cool. From an early age, many struggle with the danger of anxiety, pressure, and the latest transient shape of cosmetic revolution. But who do we turn to in the ash of the early morning? Who do we turn from, so as to see our own triumphant instgram smile, high on the robot click of validation? With a red hand we reach for the phone guided by a spirit not our own. A ceremony of cellular. A filtered religion. But who is God?

NIOBE: She is Life.

I needed to find her a long time ago. And she needed to find me. I am not sure when Niobe first made herself known, but I was young. I created her to be a guide out of reality, not yet realizing how much she would come to shape it. As a mixed scrawny kid growing up in small-town England, I needed to escape from my own temper and the narcissists who held canes and titles like headmaster and housemaster – some of whom lorded over us like Voldemort stand-ins at a weekend theme park, all full of importance and hate disguised as tradition (with benefits).

In my late teens, I started to pour all of my love, fear, and hope onto Niobe’s winged shoulders, which was too much to ask, and too much for anyone to bear. It wasn’t fair to her, as she too was young and blossoming as I was, but I needed her to make me better, show the fantasy world of Asunda I was sculpting that we could be better. Show the world.

It wasn’t until years later, after moving to America and running a small record label releasing albums with artists ranging from James Brown to Alice Coltrane, that I started Stranger Comics. I had been courted by other companies in the comic realm, some were very cool, others were less than, and one or two tried to play the overbearing bully. Not easy when bills are piling and mouths must be fed, but I couldn’t trust my savior with folks who only release black heroes during black history month, building characters on generic magazine cover trends and PC POC algorithms. Dare I say, the bullshit.

So we had to just roll our sleeves up and paint her into existence with THE UNTAMED: A Sinner’s Prayer, and then her own titles NIOBE: She is Life and now She is Death, where Niobe becomes a badass bounty hunter, hunting down sex traffickers and slave traders. She is Spirit and She is God are in the works, where she binds nations against the hordes of the devil – her own father. It took near ten years for her to emerge after much work, serious development, and soul searching, most notably with the She is Life series. But Niobe needed to be first represented in the most authentic way possible, so when Amandla Stenberg and Ashley A. Woods signed on to be co-author (with me) and illustrator (with Darrell), it was a blessing. When Viola Davis offered the following words for the foreword, it was everything.

“We all have a Niobe inside ourselves, and it’s time to let her roar.”

Niobe became the first nationally distributed comic in history with a black female author, artist, and hero, and helped shed light on many other tales in our world: DUSU, and soon ERATHUNE, MORKA MOA, and ESSESSA. We have Niobe backpacks (BeHuman), jewelry (Badali) and in the fall we will have the NIOBE Pathfinder roleplaying game with the brilliant team at Paizo.

Now folks tell me what I have is timely. 30 years of my life’s work is… timely. With battle lines being drawn in the social and political landscape, where the need for green supersedes all, a trend has risen across the landscape of all entertainment with that catchy catchall term – “diversity.”

As the industry turns their gaze towards black, brown, female and other underrepresented heroes in the genre space, we hope the tales to be told will have weight, gravitas, and the depth they deserve. Enter Get Out and Black Panther, two of the most important films in recent memory (I was a crying and cheering mess in both). But in truth, folks have shown interest in Niobe before, and since T’Challa and Killmonger set the world on fire like James Brown’s return to the Apollo in ’68. So with the fantasy success of Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones to the heroic achievements of Wonder Woman and Black Panther, more and more can see it is her time. However…

Niobe was never to be a single moment.

As I have gotten older, Niobe has grown with me. In fact, she was passin’ me by quicker than the 90’s I still love, as a queen who could obliterate the tin-flavored-sound-a-like show sold to middle-aged teens in pre-torn jeans and other such angels spreading their wings. Niobe is you and me – flawed, vulnerable, still carrying the weight of obligation vs adventure. Niobe is half elven and half human, half angel and half demon, reflecting the duality within we all share. She is representation. Niobe and her tribe will rise whether or not a hashtag is trending. Her soul is laid more bare than edges on skin, daring to be raw and wild and free.

A sun Goddess we can all embrace.

And so, I do celebrate her time is now and for that I am thankful! Thankful for all of the trailblazers, cosplayers, collaborators, organizers, artists, and Niobe tattoo rockers. And the fans, our Niobe tribe who rush our booths at shows, festivals, and conventions. You are the inspiration. And I am excited to see the world share this experience beyond the comic realm. So when Niobe makes her presence on screen – if I have anything to say about it – she will be iconic, tangible, and timeless, shattering every ideal of what a hero is and what you may expect. I have spent my life creating her world. It is time for her to transcend.

To stay connected:
Website:  www.strangercomics.com – Social Media: @strangercomics
PreOrder NIOBE: She is Death via kickstarter in June: bitly.com/niobe2ks

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