Black Joy

Flexin’ your super heroic Blackness | Black Joy – November 5, 2021

Blake Showers is changing up the manga industry one illustration at a time.

The Birmingham native would check out stacks on stacks of manga books from his local library when he was a kid. He dove into stories featuring kid protagonists, like Pokémon Adventures, which is based on the anime. But even in these epic tales, he found something that was lacking: characters who looked and acted like him.

Now 28, Showers is creating artwork that aims to increase Black representation in manga, otherwise known as Japanese comics. His manga series, “4strikes,” follows Meleak Williams, a shy, timid Black teen who becomes a bat-wielding demon hunter. The series is co-written by Showers’ editor – and fellow Birminghamian – Daniel Williams and is published in Saturday AM, which is the world’s most diverse manga anthology. While he is now studying art education in Pennsylvania, “4strikes” still has many Southern touches, which Showers talks more about in my story on Reckon’s site.

To give y’all a taste of Showers’ work, I asked him to share some of his Blacktober artwork. You can read more about the month-long art challenge that asks Black creatives to reanimate non-Black characters as Black in last week’s Black Joy.

Showers said Blacktober’s daily prompts, which are posted on social media at the beginning of the month, challenged him to be creative on a deadline – factors that are important while working in the manga industry. He chats with me about his favorite Blacktober submissions and why they brought him so much joy.

Day 2 – Black Joy: Showers’ artistic style is actually influenced by the multiple ways he found joy during his childhood. Along with reading manga, Showers said he really enjoyed listening to southern hip hop with his dad. So, he decided to spread more joy some more with this Blacktober piece, which was inspired by videos of parents who tried to prank their kids by having horror characters like Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees sneak up on them. But he noticed that most of the kids would just laugh.

“The kids don’t find this stuff scary like they’re supposed to,” Showers said. “I have a little cousin who is really into horror stuff. She loves “Chucky” and “It” and just all these things that I wouldn’t have watched when I was younger. This is kind of based on her a little bit. Like, there’s nothing wrong with liking horror films or anything weird.”

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