Greg Anderson Elysée is the creator of fan-favorite comic-book Is’nana The Were-Spider, which explores Black folklore and mythology, blended with contemporary characters and settings, making for an uber-cool mix. We caught up with him, and he spoke about the Kickstarter of the second volume of his creation, more were-creature madness, his unique approach to indie publishing, and so much more. Herewith, are excerpts:
By Abdulkareem Baba Aminu @KareemReal
The first volume of Is’nana was a hit with critics. With volume 2’s release looming, what should fans look forward to?
Greg Anderson Elysée: Fans should look forward to more bad-assery from Is’nana the Were-Spider, kicking more butt than he did last volume and being more assertive than passive. He’s growing more into his own as not just a fighter, but also as his own person. So we’ll be seeing a bit of that. Some sick and demented were-bees, hornets, and wasps who were brought into this world because of Is’nana, and they decide they want to take over since they weren’t getting respect in their world.
There will be some gore and more body horror, a lot of wisecracks from Anansi the Spider because we have to stay true to the original stories. Some tension between father and son, and we’ll see how their relationship has sort of changed since Is’nana has spent some time in our world.
Also, a beautiful Black family fighting hell and back for each other against an evil family of bugs. I thought it was imperative to focus and showcase a loving Black family. Last but not least: amazing art by Daryl Toh and beautiful colors by Lee Milewski and the rest of my team, Joshua Cozine on the letters and Walt Barna on the covers.
For volume 2, as for the first book, you’re running a Kickstarter. Could you please tell us why backers should flood your campaign with pledges?
Elysée: Backers and people who are hesitant (c’mon, y’all!) should flood it because the first one was a success and it proved to not be a fluke, as many people loved it and more people supported all the way to the point that the first volume is currently sold out. I would say the success of this book has proved that there is an audience looking for fresh and different characters and stories.
People continually ask for more representation of color with original stories, and this book is that. We’re following a Black boy who is trying to discover his place in the world and it’s a type of story you won’t get anywhere concerning his backstory, his supporting cast, and the villains and journeys he faces.
The best way to get a copy now is to pledge and back the Kickstarter (Click HERE) where new readers can get copies of both Volumes 1 and 2. It’s a fun horror-fantasy book with some coming of age themes and essentially a father and son story with some heart. Despite the craziness and sick horror, I try to give it a feel good tone at the same time. I’ve been told a few times and reminded recently that some people found it quite inspirational reading.
Speaking of tone, Is’nana has fans young and old. Does this wide appeal restrict you in the sense of the stories you’d like to tell, as opposed to stories you could tell?
Elysee: Funny you ask that. The very first time I was developing the idea for the character and his story, Is’nana was going to be an adult, and it was going to be a mature book. Over time that idea started to shift and he became a young teen. I really wanted to push the legacy theme and a character starting to discover who he was and question things. I also think it’s fun watching a young person doing extraordinary things. I started to write the story with a teen and adult audience in mind, but surprisingly to me kids fell in love with it, along with their parents.
The art by Walter Ostlie in volume 1 really lends to a very fun, quirky, and dynamic style that can appeal to younger readers. And while there are some scary imagery and themes for adults, I believe younger readers are drawn by the art, cool characters and action, and the fact that they can read it and not feel like they’re being talked down to.
So no, I don’t feel any actual restrictions, but I would like parents to be aware that there may be some themes I may not sugar coat, especially down the line where I’ll have Is’nana exploring his teenage social side.
For the benefit of readers yet to experience Is’nana, what’s your character’s origin, and how did you come up with it?
Elysée: So Is’nana is from an alternate realm called The Mother Kingdom. Anansi the Spider is one of the only figures from that world who can travel to our world. Unfortunately, he is also believed to be the life line of the Mother Kingdom. If he is gone too long, there’s a strong possibility that the Mother Kingdom may die and cease to exist. Is’nana, who is a little spider, finds a way to come to our world to save him but in doing that, accidentally breaks barriers between different worlds, causing some chaotic characters to travel around and come into our world. In coming to our world, he gets a human form comprised of spiders and finds his father. They then work together to stop these creatures that escaped into our world.
The general theme of the story came about my wanting to educate and introduce people to more Black mythological characters. I was feeling discouraged when I would mention Anansi or other Black folklore characters to people, even Black people, and they were lost as to what I was talking about. Which is why I had that first scene in the beginning of Vol 1 with Anansi doing that stand up show and no one knowing who he was, which made him unable to set up his final joke.
In a way, I felt that some of the legacy of his, and other Black characters, were dying among many of us so that became the actual plot of the comic. Is’nana represents the legacy striving to keep the traditions and roots alive in this day and age.
Over some time, Is’nana has been garnering quite the fan base. Why, do you think, many readers find him appealing?
Elysee: Well, Is’nana the Were-Spider hits many points and conventions, targeting many different types of people. It has a big audience of Black readers, for one. I am drawing on characters from Black folklore and deities to develop his world and mythos, so there’s an interest for people to see more of that showcased than the same old Greek and Norse stories. The element of family is also prominent. I’ve had many people get into the book because of the father and son theme. I’ve also had parents tell me how excited they were because their parents used to tell them stories of Anansi and now they can share it with their children.
The book also appeals to horror fans, I’ve noticed. Especially the ones who have a taste for the old school horror stuff from Marvel. I’ve seen and heard a few people compare it to the 70s era of Marvel horror and that makes me feel good to hear, ha ha.
We’ve heard rumors about the existence of an animated Is’nana sizzle reel somewhere. True, or false?
Elysée: I wish! But nah, sorry. My focus is on the books right now and expanding his mythos. No thoughts on a show yet, but maybe a few years down the line. I love animation, so one of Is’nana would be a dream. But no, truly false at the moment.
All writers have their methods, pre-work routines, etc. How do you get yourself ready to write?
Elysée: Main thing, honestly, is simply getting yourself to write. A lot of people say they have ideas for stories but don’t do anything with it. So my first method is simply to use that time when I’m sitting down to use that free opportunity to convert that idea onto paper or my notes on my phone. From there my mind would jog and come up with things to go along with that idea. I don’t jump into a draft just yet, I’ll probably plot out the general story or write a scene with dialogue between characters, or prompts and main beats that come to mind. Eventually I’ll start to piece them together and flesh them out.
It’s mainly having to manage time. I have so many things going on, and sometimes when you have free time, you just want to relax and not do anything. But I need to get things done so I have to will myself to just write. Once I start, it’s really hard for me to stop and I get extremely irritated and frustrated if I get stopped or pulled away from it.
What do you think are the basics of writing comic books, the 101 of it, if you will?
Elysée: Write your idea down on paper, or computer. Write. It. Down!
Read a lot of comic-books and analyse them, such as the amount of dialogue that’s put on a panel, how many panels can fit a page, how many details can you fit in a panel in order to fit that page and tell the proper scene or story, what makes good lettering as opposed to bad lettering, etc.
Analyse what makes your favorite comic your favorite comic. What is working about it that, from plot and style, appeals to you so much? How can you use that to help develop your own style and engage an audience?
What kind of art do you have in mind? If you look for an artist, how do you approach them and are they good enough for your book?
Save as much money as you can, because it will be used to pay your creative team. Your creative team can make or break your book and if you want a good product, you NEED to invest in a good, professional team.
Make a contract. Make sure your artists and team are serious about your book. Have a relationship with your team. Check in on them aside from just the comic. What do you guys have in common? Can y’all crack jokes with each other?
OK, so cool character and book? Check. Growing fan base? Check. After all that, should we expect you to go mainstream, like publishing Is’nana via Image Comics?
Elysée: I love Image Comics and I love Dark Horse, but right now I’m selfish and want to keep Is’nana all to myself. I don’t mind working with other ideas to pitch for them, but I do want to use Is’nana as my way of finding out more about the business, what to do and what not to do. I want to go as far as I can before I decide I’m feeling ready to present it to such a company.
Do check out the Is’nana Vol. 2 Kickstarter campaign HERE.