EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Dawud Anyabwile~ Co-Creator of “Brotherman: Dictator of Discipline” (Part 1 of 2)
Welcome to ADDANAC CITY‘s Black History Month Celebration!
I have had the privilege and honor of speaking with several African-American pioneers and legends who have participated and prospered in the field of cartooning and/or comic book production, and I will be posting exclusive interviews with them throughout this month.
If you are a regular reader, come on in and enjoy today’s offering. If you’re brand-new to the world of Addanac City, then I bid you warm greetings also. You are welcome here anytime. Enjoy your stay!
I was an art major during my sophomore year at Virginia State University in 1992 the first time I ever laid eyes on the cover of this comic book. A friend of mine who was from the northern Virginia area had thrust it in my face and proclaimed, “Man, you gotta check this out!!”
I was bewildered as well as impressed. I had always considered myself to be a comic-book authority. I mean, I knew everything about everything.
I was there when Jean Grey died (the first of many times).
I was there when Bullseye assassinated Elektra.
I was also a huge fan of the Hobgoblin Saga in the Amazing Spider-Man series and I owned several Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics (the real Turtles, not the multi-colored-headband, pizza-munching Turtles, mind you).
So when I say, I was a sequential art afficionado, this was not a crown I wore lightly. There didn’t seem to be a comic book printed within 1,000 miles of me that I was not aware of.
Until that moment.
The cover of this unknown comic sported a stern, powerful face of a brand-new African-American figure whom I was not familiar with in the slightest.
Sure, I had read a few mags that included some Black heroes within their pages. You had The Falcon, Black Panther, Luke Cage aka Power man, Black Lightning, and a few others that were sprinkled amongst predominantly Caucasian lead characters, but this was the first time that I was introduced to a Black superhero who was designed by a team of entirely Black creators.
I could tell by my very first glance at the cover of Brotherman: Dictator of Discipline #1 that this hero with the unwavering gaze and set jaw was going to be a force to be reckoned with for the long haul.
And that was just me admiring the cover.
When I carefully opened up the book and started turning the first few pages, I was completely blown away.
The drawing style was amazing and it reminded me of the graffiti art I would see around town or on television.
Some could claim that the art style was too busy or hectic, but in my
expert humble opinion, I considered the art to be intricate.
There was so much detail going on that I would read that issue a “gajillion” times and would find something new in it on each subsequent read.
I quickly became an avid fan of Brotherman, the citizens of Big City, and the extraordinarily talented creators of this compelling series. The Sims brothers, which were comprised of writer Guy Sims, illustrator Dawud Anyabwile (formerly David A. Sims), and production manager Jason Sims, quickly became my favorite new creative team.
I searched high and low, scouring every barber & beauty shop, health food store, and black-owned outlet that I could find, slowly accumulating each periodical and building my collection until I nearly had them all.
What also helped elevate this series in high regard was that, besides showcasing exquisitely beautiful artwork, it had a solid story with interesting, illustrious characters, side-splitting humor, and a larger-than-life superhero who worked days as a prosecuting attorney (a career previously unheard of for an African-American character in comics) who upheld the law, enforced justice, and possessed positive moral fiber.
Anotnio Valor aka Brotherman was not Frank Castle the Punisher, who was a character who would dispense brutal justice by annihilating anyone he deemed to be an effrontery to his own twisted ideals. Brotherman stood for “Justice”.
Brotherman believed in rehabilitation and he sided with those who were oppressed and mistreated. Bloodshed wasn’t necessary for him to do his job whether it was in the courtroom or in the gritty back alleys of Big City.
Finally there was a hero that young Black children (or kids of any nationality) could respect and admire. And the Sims brothers cared enough to make that happen. For that, I will always be grateful.
So, while Brotherman increasingly gained popularity, I was inadvertently inspired to create my very own team of African-American superheroes. I won’t go all into who they were or post any assortment of sub-par drawings of them here (I’ll save that for a time-capsule unveiling in the future )
Suffice it to say, however, I’m certain that I wasn’t the only art wannabe who broke out the Bristol board and Berol Art Markers and tried their hand at creating faces that their own race could recognize and identify with.
I vividly recall the intricate plans I had for my series and the unrestrained excitement I felt while crafting these tales of superhuman feats. The creators of Brotherman lit a fire for themselves that kept countless artists warm for years to come. That is my story of encountering Brotherman. I’m sure you probably have your own.
Even if you’ve never actually read the series, I’m pretty sure you’ve at least heard of it. If not…well, you’re in for a treat today because, in commemoration of Black History Month, and in honor some of the legends in the field that I hold most high (Comic-making), I was fortunate enough to be in contact with the co-creator and inimitable artist of Brotherman: Dawud Anyabwile!
Mr. Anyabwile was gracious enough to take a few moments out of his busy schedule to answer some of my fanboy questions.
This interview means a lot to me, and I hope that some of the questions I ask this living legend can help enlighten and inform my readers about the actual attainable possibility of achieving your artistic dreams.
In fact, I asked Mr. Anyabwile so many
nosy inquisitive questions that I had to break this interview down into portions.
Today I present to you Part One of a Two-Part interview. The second part will post tomorrow. So, please, have a seat, and welcome to this collabo effort from ADDANAC CITY and BIG CITY ENTERTAINMENT!
DAWUD ANYABWILE: Brotherman was created for the purpose of promoting an airbrush business that we had in East Orange, NJ.
It was not designed to start a movement or to qualify as a history maker. However, as we worked on it, we knew the climate of that time and we knew that we were embarking on something that could change the way Blacks in comics are perceived.
It was the timing of the release, the climate of the early 90’s and many other elements that made Brotherman what it was on its release state.
It was not a fluke either because I already had a career dealing with the grassroots community and selling my art so I knew how the response would be well before the release of the first issue.
As far as a business decision, the comic transformed from a promotional concept to quickly becoming something that we wanted to be iconic for our people.
When we first conceptualized it, we based the concept on the men of our communities who are there for their families and neighborhoods but who would most likely go to their graves unknown.
We felt that there needed to be a metaphorical concept revolving around their dedication and discipline. Something that celebrates the soul of our many selves.
The street poetry…the families…the struggle to re-educate ourselves against all odds…our triumphs and our tragedies….
That is the foundation of Brotherman.
It was a book entitled “The Kwanzaa Kids Learn the Seven Principles” which my father published through his company Black Family Rituals Publications in 1985.
Even though this was family-produced and essentially an internal project, I was still very excited because I knew what we were about to accomplish with this book.
At the time, there were no publications for children about Kwanzaa on the market (that we were aware of), so we decided to make a book that explained the Seven Principles in a language that kids would understand.
I was 19 then and this was my first time illustrating a children’s book. Although it was not a paid job, I still considered it a professional job because of its success upon its release.
It was critically hailed as a professional product but the funds coming in went to my dad to keep his business going which helped keep us fed also.
I do remember feeling overwhelmed with excitement when my father brought the first batch home from the printer. I could not wait to see kids reading it!
I have several scenarios, however most were not enough to wreck me as an individual or defeat me spiritually. I think that was rooted in the way I was raised. I was not blind to racism, so when it happens, I see it, I identify it, and I keep doing what I do.
I do remember a comment that occurred when I used to airbrush shirts at the mall in Philadelphia. This was in 1985, and a white girl wanted to see the photos of the t-shirts I did for my clientele at the mall.
As she was looking through the pictures, she placed her hand on her chest and said, “Oh my God they’re all Black!”.
I proudly responded, “They sure are.”
She admitted that her impulsive response was based upon the fact that she was not accustomed to seeing Black characters on t-shirts and, during that time, I was breaking ground as one of the first in my city to bring that to the forefront.
I felt that if they were all white, she would just look at it as if it was another day at the mall, but to see Black images almost shattered her world. I do not respond to situations like that with shock or emotional outrage but instead I say what it is and keep it moving.
I understand that when you are on a mission to change paradigms you will face ignorance and if you already know it exists it’s not as difficult to handle when the reality steps in.
Know your history.
Overton Lloyd, the album-cover artist for Parliament/Funkadelic. I have never met him face-to-face but I did get to speak to him on the phone at great length. I was able to tell him that he shifted the way I saw my own people when I came across his work on the Parliament “Flashlight” album cover. I was about 13 years old.
I never met him personally, but a student of his sent me a paper that was written about me and Ernie Barnes had signed it, saying something to the effect that I should keep at creating art. That was cool!
Finally, Mort Drucker and Sergio Aragones of Mad Magazine fame. Mort Drucker was speaking at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. After the lecture, I presented him with a copy of Brotherman #1. I had just published it and I was nervous to give it to him because I admired his skills so much, and I could not even believe that I was actually meeting him.
I was 25 at the time. He smiled and asked me to sign it right in front of all of these other people (including other notable greats in the industry). I was blown away!
Finally, another legendary creator whom I had the privilege to meet was Sergio Aragones. I had a table set-up next to him at one of the first comic conventions I ever worked. That was in Dallas, Texas.
Mr. Aragones was a very down-to-earth person. I appreciated his advice and I also got to meet some of his family. He was very humble too. I was inspired to be courteous like him when I got older. He motivated me to be kind and humble to the young ones coming up who may be nervous, scared, or star-struck when meeting me.
My family has been supportive ever since I was a baby. No qualms, only love. My foundation was based upon family support and cooperation.
What is a typical workday like for you?
I have a full time job at Turner Studios in Atlanta where I enjoy doing storyboards, character/background design, and a host of other types of production art for the many networks housed under the Turner banner.
When I arrive home in the evenings, I work on my personal art which ranges anywhere from comic art to oil painting.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this first installment of my interview with Dawud Anyabwile. Be sure to come back to this site tomorrow for the informative conclusion. We will discuss pertinent topics such as creative advice, ideal creative conditions, and how to deal with haters and sensitive subject matters. So, don’t miss it!If you would like to learn even more about Brotherman and Dawud Anyabwile, you are encouraged to visit his official website. It’s chock-full of informative tidbits and you can also order your very own Brotherman comics and also get your hands on some of the company’s most current projects.
That web address is:
If you would like to take a moment to read some of the zany comic strips that are created by me and hosted on this website, you can click here if you desire and comfortably work your way around. I create full-color comic strips seven-days-a-week!