Greg Anderson Elysée Discusses ‘Is’nana the Were-Spider: Birthday Day’

Written by Robert Jeffrey

July 6, 2021

Glyph Comics award-winning comic book writer/ creator Greg Anderson Elysée took some time to speak with about his upcoming work on Is’nana the Were-Spider: Birthday Day. From the page of the series’ Kickstarter campaign, ” A horror-fantasy, coming of age story, Is’nana the Were-Spider: Birthday Day (28-page one-shot) is the fifth release of an ongoing series of graphic novels and one-shots. Is’nana the Were-Spider has won 7 Glyph Awards (2018 Fan Award, Rising Star Award, & Best Male Character Award; 2019 Best Male Character Award, 2019 Best Writer Award, & Story of the Year Award; 2020 Best Male Character Award).

“Accidentally breaking a barrier between our world and theirs (called THE MOTHER KINGDOM), Is’nana (the son of Anansi the Spider God of Stories) accepts the responsibility for releasing creatures of horror into our reality, villains who want nothing more but to cause chaos and mayhem to achieve their own diabolical or selfish goals. With guidance from his father, Is’nana not only strives to live up to his father’s name but to also reach his own potential while he seeks to discover his individuality and place in the world.”

Artwork from Is’nana the Were-Spider: Birthday Day. Art by George Gant.

BlackSci-Fi: Tell our readers a little bit about what Is’nana the Were-Spider: Birthday Day is about? 

GREG ANDERSON ELYSÉE: Well, Is’nana the Were-Spider is a series about the son of Anansi the Spider trying to figure himself and his place in the world while trying to deal with responsibilities, such as stopping horrors from various realms he accidentally unleashed into our world and others. In this particular chapter, we meet Is’nana before Volume 1 where he’s already on our world helping his father fight said horrors. So this one serves as a prequel. He’s a little spider, it’s his birthday, and he has to share it with a good number of his siblings. He’s the oddball of the pack and feels invisible, so his best friends sneak into his chambers and stage a birthday kidnapping to celebrate. It’s a story about friendship and being true to yourself, having that support.

BSF: You have an awesome ability to jump between genres with your writing. Even in the Is’nana universe that you’re building, no one story is the same. Why go this route with your storytelling? 

AE: I love variety when it comes to stories, storytelling, genre, art, and so on. I never like to write the same things twice or similar to something I’ve done. I’m always trying to challenge myself and experiment with style, structure, and so on. As well as experimenting with different artists to bring these stories to life. Every story has a different theme in some sense, so why not mess around with it? And it keeps my readers on their toes… hopefully!

Artwork from Is’nana the Were-Spider: Birthday Day. Art by George Gant.

BSF: Talk about working with your collaborator on this story, George Gant? 

AE: Aww, man! George Gant is awesome! I am a fan of his webcomic, Beware of Toddler. Every strip got either a laugh or a huge smile out of my face. Love his art and storytelling. I met him at a con in Chi-town, Pocket Con, and got a great vibe from him. When time came to finally get an artist for this story, he was one of my first choices and I was excited he said yes. Not only is he an amazing artist with a great sense of capturing innocence and childlike wonder, he is easy to work with and extremely professional.

BSF: How is it writing for an all-ages market? Were there new writing tips or skills that you learned delving into this type of genre? 

AE: I’m gonna be real: I don’t even know [laughs]. At this point I’ve written different types of things for different age groups, but I think in general it was about tapping into the mind of the main characters at the moment. Tap into an adult mindset with adult situations, it flows naturally; it’d be a more mature type of story. Tap into a childlike mindset for a character and give them situations they would react to, as well as finding an artist that can capture that, and you get that story that works for it. It’s also a matter of being a fan of other genres or different age groups in terms of books or art. I will say for this issue and a few other Is’nana shorts, I’m getting better with telling stories with less words/dialogue and hopefully better pacing. 

BSF: You’re one of the best comic book creators who use the backdrop of ancient myth and spirituality to tell stories. Did you feel that this would always be your wheelhouse, and what about this world keeps drawing you back to it? 

AE: Wow… I don’t know if I’m one of the best but I appreciate that. There is still a lot I want to do and feel I can do in terms of showcasing Black myths and spirituality in books, but all in time. Hopefully folks will be patient as I create more content. Growing up, I always wanted to tell stories with Black leads where it just felt normal to see us. I’m fascinated by Blackness and proud of Blackness. There’s been enough bastardization of our culture in various ways, some very overt and others subtle… I want my books to serve as a celebration for different types of Black folk and our cultures and hopefully it gets people interested to look into more. I’m not an expert at everything I write and tackle. I’m learning as well every day as I write, but I want to do it respectfully while showing folks what I’m currently learning and am excited about.

Artwork from Is’nana the Were-Spider: Birthday Day. Art by George Gant.

BSF: I see you have another Is’nana story coming down the line with Sean Hill. What else can we look forward to seeing from you in the future, Is’nana or non-Is’nana related?

AE: Yes! Is’nana the Were-Spider: Drums of Ogoun will be drawn by Sean Hill, your partner in crime! And he is in-freakin-sane!! I don’t know how he does what he does with all that detail while not cluttering anything. He captures so much grace in every panel. Dude is on his own level and I am honored he was excited to jump onto this book. The story finds Is’nana meeting Ogoun, the Haitian and Orisha Loa of War and Iron. It is NOT a pretty meeting. This will be a complete 180 from Birthday Day and will be extremely mature in terms of the storytelling and violence. Bruh… Is’nana gets his ass kicked HARD.

I’m also working on OneNation: Stronghold with 133art. The first issue got good reviews and reception from readers. I have two more issues written out already and issue 2 has been inked, so it’s coming. The book is about a Black gay superhero with albinsm and we see his journey from self hate to self acceptance into the man he becomes today.

A few more anthology shorts in the works as well as projects I can’t really announce just yet. I’m hoping not to spread myself too thin and get overwhelmed but this is the hustle life… But I am HYPE!!

With twelve days left as of this printing, there’s still time to pledge to the campaign here.

Robert Jeffrey II is a freelance writer with over 15 years of experience and is a graduate of the 2017 DC Comics New Talent Writers Workshop. His clients include DC Comics, 133Art, Subsume Media, Blowfish Studios, New Agenda Publishing, and Son of Oak Game Studio. He is the writer/ creator of Route 3, and Mine to Avenge: The Book of Layla. He is the series writer of Changa & the Jade Obelisk, RET: CON, The Autumn Fox Chronicles (co-writer), and Soul Nebula: The Consulars. He has contributed to the Kamikaze: Short Circuits (comic book) Dark Universe (prose fiction), and Eight Gunshots (prose fiction) anthologies.

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