After September 11th there's been a lot of talk about heroes. Firefighters, policemen, emergency workers and soldiers gained new appreciation from average citizens. But many of us still can't shake the fantasy of having a superhero. As a little boy, Cleveland native Eric Dean Seaton dreamed of a superhero that looked like him. A few decades later his dream has come true. He created Nighthawk, an African American who fights the forces of evil seen and unseen. But as 90.3 WCPN's Tarice Sims reports, despite unsuccessful attempts by others to bring African American superheroes to the main stream, Seaton still sees a market open to cultural diversity.
Tarice Sims- In movie Meteor Man, an African American man is hit by a meteorite and inherits superpowers making the savior of his Washington, D.C. neighborhood.
Because no one can know the true identity of Meteor Man... better than Batman and Superman and what's that other one, Spiderman can't touch him!
The movie Meteor Man introduced many people to the idea an African American superhero. Although the film was not a hit it offered a fresh look at minority heroes in mainstream media - an idea Eric Dean Seaton says he's had since he was a child. He wrote his first comic book with a black hero almost a decade ago.
Eric Dean Seaton- When I was in college right before I graduated from Ohio State I showed a friend of mine an outline I had for one and he read and said 'it just sounds like black Batman.' You... we have a whole continent of history you know do something with that - make it deep, make it meaningful.
TS- So, Seaton researched African mythology and created The Prophecy of the Soul Sorcerer. The hero of the story is Elijah Alexander, otherwise known as Nighthawk, also the name of an African fairly tale. Seaton uses what's called an Ankh as an ever-changing weapon of justice to fight the sorcerers from hell. The Ankh is also the African symbol of the key of life. But Seaton also gave his hero an Hispanic girlfriend who is a policewoman. Her partner happens to be Irish. Seaton says although it was important to make the hero black he wanted him to be a hero for everyone. Pop culture professor Dr. Jeffrey Brown agrees. He's written a book on black superheroes in the comic industry. He says the success of the comic book depends on inclusion. The Bowling Green State University professor says most African American comic books don't survive because they don't have balance.
Jeffrey Brown- If it's too Afro-centric it's harder to reach a wide audience. You know a lot of people will look at that and say it's a black book it's not accessible to other ethnicities and it's hard to reach a wider audience. The problem if you go the other way is African Americans will look at it and say "eh I've seen it before it's just Superman it's just Batman who happens to be black."
TS- The Prophecy of the Soul Sorcerer has 10 issues so far. It's published by Seaton's company Arcane Comics and distributed internationally by Diamond Comics. Seaton says it costs about $7,000 a month to put out one issue. But the independent company has managed to break even. Still, some people in the industry say it could do better. North Coast Comics in Cleveland is a carrier of the series. Manager Chuck Switzler has been in the business for over a decade and says the Soul Sorcerer series is just as good if not better than what's out there now.
Chuck Switzler- I mean, the couple issues that he put out... something like 4 issues before. It sold it didn't sell massively but I would say that really because well like anything you have to promote it.
TS- Seaton says he has promoted the book and expects the series and the company to grow. Right now Arcane has seven people working on the series. This month they are working on the 11th and 12th issues of the culturally diverse Soul Sorcerer series.
Meanwhile, Seaton is following the example of projects like Meteor Man and the movie Spawn. He has just finished writing a screenplay featuring superhero Nighthawk. He says he's shopping in Hollywood now, but A-list celebrity, Samuel L. Jackson, has already expressed interest in playing the villain Sirach. In Cleveland, Tarice Sims, 90.3 WCPN News.