Filmmakers, writer and comic book creator Dy of Red Arcis Entertainment writes for Bleeding Cool; Being a Black comic book creator in the indie space that can be unpredictable and unforgiving on a good day. Add to that a pandemic, a struggling economy, worldwide protests against real police brutality amidst rising unemployment; it can mean disaster for any entrepreneur.
But that hasn't stopped T.J. Sterling, founder and Lead Artist of the Independent publisher Red Arcis Entertainment (RAE). Sterling, who launched a Kickstarter for the fourth issue of his 6 issue flagship comic Okemus last week, not only successfully funded but surpassed his goal of $3,000 in a matter of hours. By the end of the week, the campaign flew through its stretch goals and raised over $9,000.
Okemus is a time-traveling sci-fi, anime-inspired story about Cale, a college student chased by four biomechanical warriors known as The Okemus Hunters. Travelers from a future Earth, The Hunters, are on a mission to steal Cale's super-human abilities. One-part Terminator, one-part Power Rangers,one-part HULK, Okemus is all adventure as Cale's destiny is the key to both worlds' salvation.
"Okemus and its characters started as just a sketched idea in my high school art class but quickly, I realized there was something more to this creation," Sterling said, "I wanted to mash-up all of the cool things I loved about comics, anime, and manga into one source."
No stranger to the comic book industry, Sterling got his start working for the "Big Two": Marvel Comics and D.C. Comics. As one of the few Black artists employed by both companies, he started out as a Production Artist working on well-known comics such as Spider-Man and Avengers, and then as a Layout Artist on Batman. But in 2015, he decided to do something about the lack of diversity present in the industry he loved. "Growing up, I saw almost no representation of Black or people of color in the comics I read," Sterling laments. "I promised myself that when I created my own stories, the characters would reflect the world I know."
That year, RAE Comics was born, with the aim to publish unique stories about underrepresented characters, as well as creating innovative, popular, and rarely seen narratives about BIPOC. With the help of the campaign, the funds raised will help pay artists and marketing for the fourth issue in the series. To date, the Okemus Kickstarter has made three times its original ask and still has time to grow as the campaign will run through September 12th.
RAE's crowdfunding success is yet another example of how marginalized voices are finding their audience outside of the mainstream comic-book machine—following in the footsteps of successful crowdfunding campaigns such as for Roye Okupe's Malika: Warrior Queen, (over $13K) Taneka Stotts' Elements: Fire anthology (over $50K), and Kwanza Osajyefo's Black, which made well over $90,000. These numbers alone are proof that BIPOC consumers are no longer waiting for large publishers to give them more diverse characters with well-developed storylines; instead, fans are going right to the source.
For more information on how you can donate to the Okemus campaign, click here.
Dy is an aspiring filmmaker and writer; she loves all genres but is increasingly becoming interested in writing fantasy and sci-fi. She spends all of her time watching anime and movies and reading comic books.