Jazmin Truesdale is doing to the comic book industry what Shonda Rhimes did to primetime television with Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder – adding a splash of color and diversifying it. With a bad a** league of multicultural female superheroes, Truesdale hopes to prove to DC and Marvel — the comic book bigwigs — that Black and female superheroes are in.
*Cue the dramatic superhero soundtrack* There’s Adana, Fenna, Ixcel, Kala, and Amaya — hailing from Mumbai to Bogota — coming together to kick some evil villain butt. These five women, chosen to “save the universe from plunging into darkness,” are a part of Truesdale’s Aza Superheroes.
“I feel like every woman would be able to look at one of the girls and find herself in one of them,” Truesdale told MadameNoire Business.
The Keepers: Origins, a digital book that reveals the Aza superhero mythology, will hit the Kindle and iBook Market on June 24th. This league of multicultural superwomen will come to life in the form of mobile app games, comic books, and even a video game by 2016.
Truesdale spoke with us about what propelled her to create Aza Comics, which launched in January 2015, and how she hopes that Adanna, Fenna, Ixcel, Kala, and Amaya can not only save the world, but also galvanize a change in a predominately White male industry.
MadameNoire: What motivated you to start up a series of female superheroes?
Jazmin Truesdale: I grew up reading comics. I loved Wonder Woman; I’m like a super huge fan and I’ve always been. DC does have Black characters and they introduced some Hispanic ones, but they weren’t given the kind of attention that Wonder Woman was given. And even with Marvel, the most popular Black Superhero was Storm. She isn’t given that much attention either.
I was like, “Well, these companies were started like 60 years ago, which probably has a lot to do with it so why not, instead of waiting for men to do it, why not just do it myself?”
MN: What do you say to comic book writers that say there’s no point in creating Black or female superheroes because there’s no audience for it?
JT: With anything, the market is there. If you never try to market to them to begin with, then they’re not going to think this is a medium for them. So if you don’t have a Black superhero that’s able to stand on their own, put it out there, and market it, then you’re not going to bring in that female readership or Black readership that’s just sitting there waiting to be tapped into. Women are the most untapped resource in the world. There are plenty of women who would love to get into science fiction or whatever , but they don’t see themselves reflected in the industry so they don’t even think it’s something for them. Sometimes you don’t know that you like something until you see it looking back at you. Take CSI for example, so many women went into the forensics field [thanks to the show].
MN:Why do you think there is seemingly a lack of interest in female and Black superheroes?
JT: I think it’s more about the story and development. Hollywood has always struggled with the development of female characters. And then there’s that age-old theory of “ethnic things don’t sell.” But that’s only because when they’re created, they’re created based off of ethnic stereotypes and not actually off of reality. Shonda Rhimes, for example, created Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder – [these shows] have very well-crafted, fully-developed characters that really showcase people the [Black community] can identify with. A lot of the times with female characters, you have to ask yourself, “Who are these writers?” They are usually men who write based on female stereotypes.
MN: What do you think of female versions of male-established characters like She-Hulk and Supergirl?
JT: Women aren’t asking for these female versions of popular male characters, they’re looking for actual individual, standalone characters that have their own back stories. We’re not just extensions of the same old stories. That’s why with the [Aza Superheroes], I didn’t play them off of anything popular. I gave them their own characteristics and their own powers. There are so many different kinds of women out there. And I said “Well, I can create women from all over the world and I can give them personalities that pretty much every girl can find one they can identify with.” Ixchel, for example, is really shy. Kala is very much a leader. Adanna is very go-with-the-flow. Maya is super sarcastic and she’s crucified because of her background. I feel like every woman would be able to look at one of the girls and find herself in one of them.
MN: Tell us more about your digital books. [Three are in development — two adult versions due this June and October and one tween version in September.]
JT: I’ve decided to do a digital book first because I’m having to catch up with DC and Marvel who have been around for 75 years. It’s difficult to tell a full story in comic book format because you have to develop this super complicated plot with mere images. So I said, give people the foundation. Let’s also reach an audience who may not necessarily read comic books, but they read novels. I created a short novel that teenagers and older can read so that they can kind of jump into it and get a good sense of this universe I’m creating.
MN: How are the adult digital books different from the tween version?
JT: All the girls’ powers are based in science. So let’s take Kala for example. Her power is based off of energy and force. For anyone familiar with science and physics, her powers are pretty much based on that. Through these characters, I am able to teach children about different cultures, different languages, about science, about math, and reading as well. These books are created to inspire kids to get into STEM professions. So they get to learn about the characters and learn about something [worthwhile] at the same time. I know this will be something that parents will be comfortable with in terms of the kind of entertainment that their kids are getting.
MN: What do you think about the backlash Michael B. Jordan is receiving for his role in the Fantastic Four reboot?
JT: If you think about it, if they didn’t make him Black, where else would they be able to include people who aren’t White into this industry? But, at the same time, I understand where that’s coming from. You’re reading something , you’re invested in a comic book for years and you’re finally going to see it play out in live action, and they completely change the character and make it totally different from what you’re used to. Still, you have to do something or else you’re excluding a group of people who have been excluded since the inception of [comic book creation].
I understand both sides. As a lover of Wonder Woman, I’d be kind of upset If they made Wonder Woman Black. That’s not what I grew up reading. But, at the same time, instead of just being upset at the lack of Black characters, just create more Black characters. That way, you don’t have to make any changes.
MN: What advice would you give to someone following in your footsteps?
JT: Know your market. I’m a business person. I wouldn’t really consider myself an artistic type, but just being a consumer of this particular superhero industry, I understand what makes a quality comic book and I understand what the consumer wants to read.
For more information on Aza Comics, including release dates and trailers, click here.