Amandla Stenberg Teams Up With Stranger Comics To Bring Us Niobe: She Is Life; Changing the Face of Female Heroism
I’ve been hearing some casual talk about this new comic coming out Niobe: She is Life; I have now learned it releases on November 4, 2015 and you should all absolutely get a copy and read it. I honestly didn’t know much, other than Amandla Stenberg (Rue from The Hunger Games) was involved, and the buzz has been around the fact that this comic is going to be DIFFERENT, from anything we’ve seen in a while. Not only is the main character a Female Elf of great and unknown potential, she’s also black. This is just freaking awesome. I was listening to a panel discussion about DC vs. Marvel and someone brought up the conversation about race representation, and how certain characters are fine being represented as white, but there is an overwhelming shortage of diversity. Take Captain America, with his development and the driving force behind his character’s conviction, it would be a tough adaptation to change his race/sex/identification, while keeping the story line the same and convincing. But there are so many characters, who don’t have that kind of ‘tie’ to any representation; realistically Niobe could have been ANYTHING. She is an elf, she could have been blue for that matter. But it’s so important that Niobe is represented as a strong young black woman, because the comic world has been so far behind societies’ need for this representation. I have only read issue 1, and was lucky to spend time talking and listening to the writers and illustrators on this team, but I really believe Niobe is going to bring sweeping changes to the comic world. This story has the ability to capture so many different audiences, hopefully soon on a greater scale than just the books.
Niobe is the first comic ever that has been distributed nation wide with a black female author, illustrator, and protagonist.
Like I mentioned I was at Stan Lee’s Comikaze this past weekend, and it was rockin’ good fun, let me interject here by setting the scene. Tim and I are in this big lecture style room, press badges on, sitting in front of talented, brilliant smart people, dressed head to toe as Fantastic Mr. Fox, and his wife Felicity Fox; face paint, ears and tail included… We had also already been invited to a ‘furry’ convention, which bummed me out a little, so when Amandla looked at us and said ‘I love your Fantastic Mr. and Mrs. Fox’ I definitely gushed about it!
I also mentioned there was a panel and there they are! From Left to Right that is Sebastian A. Jones, writer, Markus Prime, Illustrator for collectors editions, Amandla Stenberg, writer (also dressed as No Face from Spirited Away) , Ashley Woods, illustrator, Darrell May, sketch and storyboard, and Hyoung Taek Nam, gaming concept artist. This creative team for Niobe was talking about their process, and how they created and developed the story. Sebastian A. Jones is a writer for Stranger Comics and has a separate book The Untamed: A Sinner’s Prayer also releasing on November 4, 2015 (check in again very soon for a review on this). In the discussion they began by talking about how Amandla got involved with this project, and it was through finding Niobe as a character in the story of The Untamed, which is where she first appears. Sebastian joked “Everything in writing is me, me, me, bollocks. I am not a 16 year old black girl, I needed her (Amandla) voice, otherwise it would have been a lie.” And you can really see her voice shine through in Niobe’s character. Stenberg mentioned bringing a ‘magical realism’ to this story which I believe they have achieved in this first set up comic.
One more time the comic releases 11/4/15, but they were selling copies and of course I got myself one! The beginning of this story, and theme of this story, could really be taken out Asunda (a world Sebastian created for The Untamed, and other comics) and connected into anyone’s regular life, obviously without the elves/mystical creatures, but it’s a very relate-able story. We begin with Niobe fleeing from the ‘law’, by following this spirit that’s presented its-self in the form of a dragonfly. She ends up trapped, we find out she is fleeing from her father’s (the king) guard and it is here we begin to see the true turmoil she is going through internally. Without giving too much away she ends up with an arrow through her back, leaping over a waterfall hearing Essessa’s words (head guard, given immortality in the form of vampire) “Death is not eternal. We both know this. Only the devil who holds us.”
This is not the full image, at the bottom you see her plunging below the surface with swirling red all around her, maybe her blood, but it looks more like a dark red hand engulfing her. Sebastian commented on this “The hand catching Niobe in the waterfall is the hand of the devil. Mirroring the Untamed hand of the devil. It’s a unification of the stories and universes.” Not only does it intertwine these two tales, but it also brings more depth to this girl than we are even really prepared for. She is life. But she is being caressed in the hand of the devil? Along with seeing this ‘angelic’ form over top of the waterfall. There are so many great portrayals of the idea of redemption, and that no one’s past is determinant of their future if they have the will to transform it. She finds herself healed and in the low levels of some type of monastery having a very ethereal conversation with someone who turns out to be a friend.
“How did you get down there?”
“And you will again. Like all angels do.”
Like I said before, I think Niobe is a breath of fresh air. I don’t think we will see her get anything easily, this is going to be a true test of grit and faith on her part. I think we will see her complete struggle, and she will become more real from that. I love the idea that it’s not about getting it right all the time, or being the best. In the first comic we see her almost die, and fall multiple times in pain, and from her own weaknesses and confusion. But she trusts in finding her path, and has the tenacity to keep moving forward, to keep getting up each time and try again. This is a concept that absolutely anyone can relate to and draw strength from.
I got to ask Amandla where she hopes to take Niobe, since it is something new that the public is in such desperate need for. She said that of course there are hopes to bring her to an online or TV series and beyond. But most on a bigger scale Amandla said she sees the lack of representation for this type of role; and that is so important for little girls (of any race) to see themselves in a character. This is a way to show them they don’t need to change at all; you can be whoever you are, and it’s perfect. This is such a beautiful way of thinking, and I can’t wait for more.
There is also going to be a release party! If you are in Santa Monica, CA on November 7th you should DEFINITELY go, then send us pictures because sadly there is no way for me to make this one. But the whole crew will be there, and they’re freaking awesome people and I really wish I could be there to hang out with them! One more pic for the road! Here I am (sans fox attire) meeting the bad ass illustrator Ashley Woods, who began with Niobe as a cover artist, but they loved her work so much, they had to bring her on for the interior as well!