Greg Burnham and Marcus Williams, the co-creators of the comic and soon-to-be animated show Tuskegee Heirs, stopped by to drop some knowledge about their experience in the comic world and the obstacles to going mainstream.
What’s the next storyline with The Tuskegee Heirs and your next project?
Greg: It’s no secret that we have been trying to get an animation happening. That will be all-encompassing. I have a comic coming out called The Search For Satika. We’ll still be able to manage the comic book stuff. Marcus has Super Natural and some children’s books. Right now we’re knee deep trying to get the animation solidified. Once that happens, we’ll be releasing some new things.
Marcus: As far as the content goes for Tuskegee Heirs, we’ll be using them as the vehicle to see lesser talked about history. In issue two they see the Olmec heads in Mexico. There are undertones, of course, and as we live in America you understand why you didn’t see it in your history book. But we’re not trying to necessarily present it in a way to argue, but look at this world that’s amazing. We are going to incorporate history whenever we can. We’re working on issue four now and the research alone just had me stop and go, “This changes everything visually. I have to draw this.”
In the process of getting Tuskegee Heirs animated, did you encounter a lot of racial barriers? If so, what were some of those obstacles?
Greg: There are the typical ones, right. Twenty years ago we would have had to ask someone to help us publish this. And they would have said, “Oh, this won’t sell.”
Marcus: And then there’s the common one, “Do they all have to be black?”
Greg: That’s what I was leading to.
Marcus: And we’re like, “Yeah, the five pilots have to be black.”
Greg: We’ve gone into pitch meetings now and they’ve been successful from our standpoint, but then we get certain feedback that’s weird like, “The age is not the target we’re going for.” One guy was like, “I love this, but I wish I could have been a part of this from the beginning’. I’m like, “What does that even mean?” Just say “no.” Just say “they’re all black” and keep it moving. We were already prepared for that, though. We have a friend who worked for a network and he had our stuff up on his screen. His boss walks by and asks about it. Our friend tells him and the boss is like, “You think they would be willing to make one of the main characters non-black?” That’s what life is, right? You always have obstacles.
Marcus: I think the cool part about our comic is that we self-publish our own comic, we bypassed that whole part. Other creators have this uphill battle of trying to prove why it’s going to bring in the numbers.
Since you guys are getting Tuskegee Heirs into production, will you hire young, minority actors for the voiceover?
Marcus: That’s an easy answer. Yes.
Greg: That’s something that we do, but don’t brag about. We have people in the reserves that we want to hire. It’s not like mandatory, but it’s definitely huge for us.
Marcus: We’re huge fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and watching the behind the scenes for that really inspired the authenticity for martial arts. We have a wonderful, black fight choreographer, Marrese Crump; he trained Chadwick Boseman for Black Panther.