Greg Anderson-Elysee's hit comic Is'nana the Were-Spider is back on Kickstarter with a new volume titled Showtime. The project is funded with eight days to go, though you can still reserve your own copy for the very reasonable price of $7 (digital) and $15 (physical) for the 64-page comic. The Kickstarter is also currently working toward a stretch goal to add an additional story to the book. I spoke with my longtime pal and former Bleeding Cool and TheOuthousers writer Greg about Showtime and why you should check it out if you haven't yet (which you should).
Greg, what have you been up to, man?
Everything! [laughs] Been trying to do my best to stay healthily productive and not drive myself crazy during this time, been working on a lot of projects, some that should be coming out soon. I had to step out of comics journalism and Bleeding Cool as I was finding myself being very overwhelmed and the civil unrest after the terrible situation with George Floyd's murder really messed me up at the time. But recently, I've been well. Just working and hustling.
I've mostly moved on from the cutthroat world of comics "journalism" myself, and I've been focusing on pro wrestling lately — it's just so much more civilized — but I come back to comics for special occasions, and a new Is'nana the Were-Spider is one of those. Is'nana is back on Kickstarter and already fully funded, but with one week to go. Why are your Kickstarters so successful, and what do you do with all the money?
Thanks, man. I really truly appreciate that. I'm glad I can get you out of "retirement." [Laughs] The quick funding of the new Is'nana Kickstarter was something that actually surprised me, to be honest. I knew we'd be funded, but I had no inkling it would have occurred that fast. As for why they've been successful, it appears that Is'nana and the mythology being built around him has really resonated with a lot of people. The concept and theme of it being a celebration of sorts of Black culture and stories, showcasing various figures from Black myths, folklore, and spirituality really appeals to a lot of people, especially as it's not something that is rampant. And I feel that Is'nana as a whole is a completely different type of hero than many are used to, and it's been a lot of fun. I've had a lot of supporters over the years, and they continue to make this book a success. I'm very fortunate and thankful for everyone who played a part in it.
What's Showtime all about?
Showtime is about Is'nana, the son of Anansi the Spider, finally setting aside his responsibilities of tracking down and fighting otherworldly villains to enjoy a day of finally being a kid. He meets a group of breakdancers and develops a love for the craft. He joins them, quickly growing fond of each other, but also deal with the harsh realities of being a Black youth in an urban city.
It's a tribute to B-boys and B-girls, Showtime street dancers, New York City hip hop culture. Is'nana has always been a celebration of Black stories, and this is just another form of it.
And can you tell us about the team you're working with this time around?
Most definitely. The first person is Miguel Blanco, aka Michael White. Like me, he's a New Yorker, and he is extremely talented. I've been a huge fan of his work for years, and we grew to be good friends during that time. I really wanted to get an artist who knew NYC, the culture, the youth, someone who can bring that rightful energy of that city to pen and ink, and Miguel was the perfect guy for it with his style. He brought a lot of youthfulness, attitude, and was perfect for what I wanted this book to represent. Angael Davis-Cooper is our colorist. She did a wonderfully beautiful job in helping bring out Miguel's amazing work even more to the forefront. There's a brightness and levity to her work that is very different from the previous Is'nana stories, and it works so well for this particular story. Returning on letters is Deron Bennett, fresh off his award nominations, adding the lovely finishing touches to the book. I'm extremely grateful to have him on the team.
We also have Khary Randolph on the cover, a move I'm still extremely proud of as he's been an artist I looked up to for years! So to have him be a part of this is exciting. And he's a New Yorker! So he gets what I was going for and gets the culture.
Finally, we have David Brame, who's become a regular Is'nana artist. He worked on the bonus back up story, and like always; he turned in another fun entry to Is'nana.
Is'nana deals with police brutality and discrimination in Showtime, obviously, an issue that's both timely but also has been relevant for decades. Without spoiling the ending/epilogue, can you talk a little bit about what you're hoping to accomplish by depicting this issue in your comic?
Is'nana's experience just felt like a realistic place to take the character as a challenge and reflection of situations that are quite common when it comes to inner-city youths, particularly youths of color. And by color, specifically Black in this case. This is the reality for them, and I also wanted Is'nana to deal with another type of danger, something entirely new to him. He's gotten used to dealing with creatures from other realms, but he's never dealt with being a target for the color of his skin. The friends he makes have, just for dancing on the trains. As this story was inspired by former students of mine, I was also used to my students arriving to programs irate or traumatized for being stopped by cops and being stopped and frisked. Given that Is'nana is the hero of this story, I wanted to give it even more impact by having him be the one to experience it, especially still being a fish out of water.
How has the pandemic affected your ability to sell and promote your projects? Have you been hitting up any virtual conventions, and if so, how does it compare to being there in person?
The main thing that has messed up my financial flow in terms of the book has been the inability to travel and vend. Doing conventions was one of my absolute favorite things to do. Being able to sell and hustle my work in person, meet fans, make new fans, hang out with like-minded creators, It was definitely a huge source of income that has completely disappeared. But sales on my webstore have been pretty alright. I've had stores show interest in ordering many copies of Showtime for their shop, so that should be cool for me. I haven't done any virtual cons besides a panel thus far. I will be doing MECCAcon this weekend. So the jury is out if that will lead to sales as opposed to in person. But, man, I miss it bad.
You've been a fan of superhero comics for as long as I've known you, which is getting to be a pretty ridiculously long time at this point. God, we're old.
[laughs] Yep! It has been a while. Sheesh, was I in high school when we met…??
What do you think about all the chaos in the industry lately? Shutdowns, the end of the Diamond monopoly, mass layoffs at DC, Marvel… well, Marvel is pretty much business as usual.
I've been feeling very sorry for my friends and peers who work for those companies. Many have been affected hard, some slightly. Some are still doing ok. I know a few who had their works canceled before even launching, so that was sad for me to learn about. I think things are starting to get a little better, though, but I hope things progress. I think it's clear there's still a market to tap from readers and audiences. Just look at Kickstarter; a lot of great projects getting funded without too much hesitation. We just have to find a way that can financially benefit creators while not killing readers' pockets during this crisis.
You recently announced a crossover with Crescent City Monsters. What's it gonna take for that to happen, and what can we expect if it does?
Yes! Crescent City Monsters is one of my favorite books. For those who don't know about it, it's written and created by Newton Lilavois, a fellow Haitian creator. It's illustrated by Gian Carlo Bernal. It's a horror-fantasy book following a young man who is caught up in a situation involving Vodou and Creole magic and showcases Black gods as well. While a more mature series than Is'nana, the themes are very similar, and it seems like a perfect fit. There are two levels of this crossover. The first is that people who back both campaigns on Kickstarter on.a physical level will get a free print by Massimiliano Veltri. Also, they will get a free ebook comic drawn by Massimiliano between Is'nana and Jonas, the hero of Crescent City Monster. I'm looking forward to seeing how Is'nana plays a part in this mythos.
One of the stretch goals for Showtime you also recently announced is another Is'nana the Were-Spider story?
That's correct. We've passed the goal, and now it's time for the next. This was a story I was going to save exclusively for Vol 3, but if I can get the funds here for it, two birds, one stone! If we reach $16,000, we'll be able to start production of the story, which will be a free digital ebook for every backer of Showtime. The story will focus on Is'nana before he comes to our world, on an adventure with his friends back in the Mother Kingdom. You'll get a taste of what Is'nana's life was like as a spider, his relationship with some of his family members, as well as meeting the best friends he left behind.
Art will be produced by George Gant, the creator of the hilarious webcomic Beware of Toddler.
What are your plans for the future?
More Is'nana! I'm already in production of the next Is'nana comic, this one called Drums of Ogoun. It's being drawn right now by Sean Hill, a beast of an artist. The story will have Is'nana meeting Ogoun, the Orisha, and Loa of War. It's going to be brutal. Stronghold by me and Antonello Cosentino should be launching on Kickstarter sometime after my campaign for Showtime. It's a mini-series for 133art. edited by Jason Reeves. It's about a superhero who's part of his universe, One Nation, and we're covering his backstory. He's a biracial Black man with albinism who grew up in Louisiana with the racist and homophobic, religious white side of his family, and he's gay himself. So you can imagine his life and internal struggles. We see his upbringing and having to deal with his family while he deals with accepting of himself as a gay Christian. It's also very action-packed. I'm also working on a project with T.J. Sterling, the creator of Okemus. I teamed up with Ray-Anthony Height of Midnight Tiger for an anthology called Maybe Someday and am also working on a pitch for Noir is the New Black anthology. And finally, a project with Quinn McGowan called Altered Noir. That's been on the back burner for some time due to my schedule, but we're going to get it out!
Lot's of things, man. The hustle continues.
Check out Is'nana the Were-Spider on Kickstarter here.