Black History Month 2019FeaturedNews

Arclight Comics: Forging A Path in Black Comics

Hot on the tail of their release of their new issue, The Passing Issue #0, Arclight Comics seem to be moving at a high speed toward success. They are gearing up to continue moving forward at this pace and put out great content. Arclight is located everywhere, according to founder and chief creative officer, Ed Williams.

“We are a remote company mainly on the east coast. I recently moved to Memphis, Tennessee in September. It’s weird being an hour behind the team and scheduling meetings feels like learning how to ride a bike for the first time. I haven’t gotten used to it, and we’ll be turning 7 on December 13, 2018,” Williams said in an interview.

That time has not stopped Arclight’s show whatsoever. Williams’ biggest influence for coming up with the idea to start a publishing company stemmed from many things, but a large part was from home. Williams’ parents always inspired him and his brother to become whatever they wanted.

Arclight Comics Heroic Roster

“They gave us permission to dream and my dreams took me down this path. Dwayne McDuffie, Joe Illidge, Denys Cowan, Reggie Hudlin; all these powerful, prolific Black men in the industry have been equally important in starting Arclight,” Williams said.

“Also my love of Pixar has something to do with all of this. I have a degree in Computer Animation because of them. I tried several times to get into their internship program but never made it. So I thought to myself ‘I’ll make my own Pixar someday’. Now we’re here.”

Coming up with a name for this crazy idea was a process for Williams’ and his team. They had gone through over 200 choices, but in the end, it came down to what they wanted to stand for. They wanted to create something that acknowledged underrepresented people and their stories and to be a beacon of hope, a lighthouse in the dark. This was what led to the team to choosing Arclight in 2011.

That same thought process was what played a role in how his team was put together. Williams’ believes that his team chose him. Each member approached Arclight or responded to the companies call for help. “They (Arclight’s team members) volunteer so much of their time into building this platform,” Williams explained.

Braxton

“I know that I am blessed beyond measure and thankful for every single one of them.  They make this company what it is. [I] couldn’t do it without them.”

Tim Wasney is an artist and colorist at Arclight and has a passion for the flare. Wasney first found out about Arclight through Facebook. He had known that Williams was starting a company, but it wasn’t until after he saw the characters and listened to a podcast that Williams was doing with co-host Brent Lyles, that he became a huge fan.

“At the time I was working on my own book and while listening to the podcast, they had me shook, all my struggles as an independent creator, they had answers for,” Wasney said.

Wasney had learned a lot from their podcasts, but he learned that it was only so far that he could take his solo project alone. He takes his hat off to those indie creators who are doing it alone, but knew that wasn’t for him. He really wanted to work with Williams as an artist and new that he was sensitive about his work, so he was a little hesitant to apply. But the opportunity has allowed for him to grow as a person who was willing to give it a try to work with an artistic collective creative. He was then given the chance to interview.

“I also realize as a white male, I can see my face on 90% of the rack and find something I can relate to or lose myself in. That experience of seeing parts of myself or my morality that I can relate to or aspire to is extremely important to me and [should] be experienced by a younger reader of color,” Wasney said.

Bolt

“I want everyone to experience a sense of belonging when it comes to how they see our brand. Instead of complaining about it, Ed gave me the chance to be about it.”

Wasney has been a part of Arclight since March of 2016 and this is the first time that he has started writing a little with the guidance of Williams and some of the other team members. Wasney also believes that him speaking up helps with the fact that ideas sometimes need to be challenged in order to consider other possibilities and that a great idea can be built off of the smallest suggestion.

Another common characteristic of what the members share is what they want for Arclights efforts and content. For Wasney that is for people to be moved and inspired by their comics like he was when he was a kid. “Selfishly speaking, when someone is enjoying a piece you had a hand in creating, it just fills me with pride and a sense of meaning. Leaving something behind people can appreciate when we’re gone is the dream.”

Another member of the team, Brian Haggenmiller, was in the middle of a Twitter rabbit hole clicking on a bunch of indie comics, when he came across Arclight.

“I saw Arclight and immediately stopped clicking. It was just different. The quality was higher than most of the other comics I saw, but it was the roster of characters that just grabbed me,” Haggenmiller said.

Go Girl

“Diversity is out there in comic books, but Arclight’s didn’t feel forced, it was genuine. I followed Arclight on Twitter, downloaded the mini issues, bought The Passing and then I was hooked. John Henry?!? Ya’ll crazy. I immediately started Twitter stalking Ed and the rest is comics history.”

Spencer Bolletiri has been with ArcLight for about 2 years now and wanted to be a part of it because there were so many great ideas and so much unrecognized talent and infinite possibilities.

“I knew some of the creators as far back as the Peacekeepers, an interesting experiment in storytelling and comic creation that started out as a gaming guild and grew beyond the confines of the worlds and lore we all palyed in,” Bolletiri said.

Bolletiri is a writer, editor and scientific consultant in which he uses his experience as a scientist to explain the lore and answer questions. “For example the team will ask me something along the lines of ‘Ok I want a character to have this power… how would that work?’ or ‘What is dark matter and how would we detect it?’ I never know what is going to be slid across my desk and I never back down from those challenges either.”

Starting out as an intern, Bolletiri was happy to be a part of the team. He did a lot coding and formatting and taking dictation and notes. He had a drive for wanting to do anything creative and he could tell that at Arclight that type of drive did not go unnoticed, so now he is a full fledged creator and architect of their universe. He thinks however that his biggest contribution was the “diversity with drive” philosophy, which was developed with the help of the rest of the team.

 “It’s a of school thinking that adds depth to the characters makes sure that they are complex , real and interesting as they are diverse. In an age when diversity is at the highest we’ve ever seen it and the message is clear that representation matters, I’ve still noticed that to many creators these ideas are still treated like gimmicks. Their characters end at a single aspect and that becomes their focal point. “Diversity with drive” was what brought Arclight and its characters to the next level; it’s why you’ll never see one of our characters be solely defined by their race, sexuality or religion.  It’s this kind of thinking that has created a cast of characters with personality, depth and a level of respect that can sometimes be neglected.”

Solace

Brent Lyles is known as the “concept guy” or professionally titled the conceptualist and has been with the company approximately 3 years ago, when Ed approached him about recording a podcast.

“I’ve known of Arclight and Ed for several years now as I followed Ed Williams through Deviant Art and social media for many years… It’s been an amazing lived experience with ArcLight Comics as I have grown as a storyteller and writer and understanding the business side to run a transmedia company.”

Lyles also offers his skill set when it comes to anything related to psychology and social sciences. He uses his training as a psychotherapist to help bring focus to the psychology of their characters their stories.

Lyles feels that his biggest contribution to the company is being the creator and storyteller of Noah Novak, known as Solace.

“Through Solace I am able to create content around the needed representation of invisible and visible disabilities through authenticity. I’m compassionate about it, as I have personally lived experiences with several invisible disabilities of my own and being an ally to my older brother who lives with Cerebral Palsy. I am blessed in this contribution as I strive to the best of my ability to bring an authentic voice of representation for disabled characters. I cannot wait to create more disabled characters and their stories.”

Braxton

The last team member mentioned but definitely not the least is Stephanie Williams who is a writer. She was inspired to be a part of the comics industry through Arclight when she finally decided to give herself permission to embrace her voice.

“That was the moment I knew I wanted to be a part of the comics industry. It’s a form of storytelling that I’ve always loved since I could remember. The ability to speak through characters in not just text, but also images has always been something that I’ve been drawn to,” Stephanie Williams explained.

“Comics have always been a part of my life so why not make comics my way of expressing myself? The choice was simple really.”

When Williams first started the company he went along with what he knew and as it happened.  He continued to learn where they are heading and are always building towards it. Now that he has made it this far he the biggest lesson learned was to ‘secure the bag’. According to Williams creating comics requires so much money. He believes that had he realized that he would be to two years ahead of where Arclight is now.  He knows that things get pushed back and delayed when you have to nickel and dime your way through it.

Capital is the biggest challenge for getting the company off the ground, “We’re building a Trans media storytelling studio. For those who don’t know what that is; think of Disney/Marvel’s strategic execution of the Marvel Universe. We’ve got the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is connected to the MCU. Then you have the Agents of Shield and other TV shows connected to the MCU, but tell their own stories. Or something like Avatar the last Airbender, broken down into an animated series, graphic novels, and now a continuation of the story is happening on Netflix,” Williams explained.

“That requires money and lots of it. And time. We just really need support. We don’t ask for money to line our pockets and splurge out here in these streets. We have a Patreon and try to sale as much as we can to invest back into the company so we can get this content out to you all. So the challenge has always been capital. It cost almost 2K to produce our first full issue. Imagine the bill we’re looking at now trying to produce 75-100 page graphic novels.”

With a team who are as dedicated and all focused on achieving the same goals with the individual and unique skill sets there is no way that more of Arclight isn’t around the corner. Williams and his team are rebranding the company from the ground up and getting ready to roll out the first 2 books of what their calling Volume One. With that in mind, a part of the transitioning that is taking place is because they don’t want to be just comics and graphic novels. They plan to create a new experience and offer different platforms for their audience to enjoy.

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Amber T. Hubbard is a writer, journalist and creator of Kasiah: Mother Nature Incarnate a comic which is coming soon. She was also featured in Sheena Howard’s Encyclopedia of Comics, and has been writing since she was 12 years old.

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