Ajani Brown joins the ranks of comic book writers
By Sayvon Shaw
Ajani Brown is a double alumnus of San Diego University in California, where he currently
teaches in the African-American studies program. Brown received both his master's degree in creative writing and bachelor's in English from the university. Using those skills Brown returned to his alma mater to teach and even developed a new course called "AfroFuturism," defined as the interdisciplinary study of African and African-American contributions to science fiction, comic book art, pop culture, and its origins and influences. Beside his teaching duties, Brown has been on a nationwide lecture tour since 2014, presenting at such conferences as The World Science Fiction Convention and Comic Con International, according to the school's website.
Now, he has penned a comic book titled, "Straight Outta Freemanville." The book is
described as a "weird western, steamfunk, historical fantasy set in the post-Civil War frontier town of Freemanville, USA," according to its marketing materials.
Brown says he was inspired by the 1993 film "Posse," whose cast included Mario Van
Peebles, Blair Underwood, Big Daddy Kane and Tone Loc. For those that don't remember or
may not have seen the film, the story concerns a group of Buffalo Soldiers on the run after being betrayed by a white commanding officer. They head across the American frontier looking for a new life.
Brown's comic is the story about newly freed slaves who moved out west and founded the town they called Freemanville. "Technologically advanced, the town is always under the
constant threats of "marauders", of this world...and not," according to a release.
Reached by email, Brown had the following to say about the comic that was illustrated by Erik Reichenbach.
What made you want to write a comic book? Did something inspire you?
"Comic books have been in my personal library for as long as I can remember. I still have my
first purchases from childhood bagged, boarded and boxed up. It was an easy decision to
become a comics writer. It was something I always knew I wanted to do. My inspiration to
jump into the field was to tell my own original story. There are a lot of story ideas that I have
tucked away, in development, waiting to be brought to the public. World building, for me, is
Do you feel it was easy to write "Straight Outta Freemanville"? Did you have problems
finding the right concept or story?
"Writing the series felt natural. I'm creating alternative African-American history, which is fun for me because I can re-write aspects of our country's past. I like answering the "What If?" question. That's the engine that runs this story. The challenge with writing alternative history is constantly asking myself the questions--How much do I change? What do I keep or alter? The story must make sense."
Is there a theme or message you're trying to give off in the comic? Something everyone should know or think about?
"Yes. The overall message in the series is about freedom and independence and protecting that way of life. Straight Outta Freemanville tells the story of a fictional town founded by African Americans during the post-Civil War, Reconstruction Period in U.S. history. The citizens of Freemanville are under constant attack by marauders both of this world and not. I'm using science fiction and fantasy as mechanism to carry the message metaphorically."
Any more stories or projects you have in the works? Also, is there anything you hope to get
out of your work?
"I do have other projects on the horizon but for now 'Straight Outta Freemanville' is leading the charge. There is a lot more to come from me for sure. I'm just getting started. All I want is for people to enjoy this story and ask me for more."
For aspiring creative writers and authors, what would you tell them? Any advice? What did
"For those aspiring writers or artists, I'd tell them that networking is as important as developing your craft. Create and complete a viable product that can be sold while simultaneously learning about the business of your industry. Everyone needs mentors that are where you want to be in five or 10 years. I have surrounded myself with an ever-growing list of established mentors in the comic book industry. Their collective experiences and knowledge are invaluable."
For more about Brown, check out the following links:
Sayvon Shaw is a junior mass communications major with an emphasis in multimedia journalism.