"My family and my upbringing played a large part in defining my career path. I was lucky enough to be born into a family of creative people, artists, educators and thinkers. My dad is an architect, and my mom is from Liberia. She instilled in me a strong sense of African heritage. Growing up, my living room was green, and there was a lime green map of Africa painted in that living room. So every day, that's what I woke up to and what I grew up in. I just woke up in blackness, in African-ness.
My parents had a book of African myths and legends that I loved. It allowed me to start discovering and exploring African mythology. My father was the first person to give me a comic book, and I became a huge fan of the genre."
—Comic-book artist Jiba Molei Anderson, in his keynote presentation, “The Power of Myth: Representation in Comics," at Penn State Altoona's annual African American Read-In Chain, held Feb. 11.
Anderson is CEO of Griot Enterprises, a publishing company/visual communication studio and creator of its flagship property, "The Horsemen." He is also the curator of "4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape," an anthology which focuses on independent works from creators of color and maintains "The Afrosoul Chronicles," a blog about comics, pop culture, politics and race. Anderson also currently is a part-time lecturer at Chicago State University.
Anderson discussed how his work examines the root of the superhero — the mythology — thereby taking an esoteric approach to the comics genre.
"The superhero is a mythological construct unique to American society and the backbone of the American comic book industry," he said. "The superhero is the construct of immigrants, people from different cultures coming together to form a new nation where the unique attribute of each culture contributes to greater whole. African-American superheroes are as important as African Americans in the tapestry of this country.
"In order to continue the African-American superhero’s relevancy, we as African-American creators must tap into our folklore, mythology and history, to give our characters depth and substance so that our creations go beyond the limitations of the perception of color and recognized as a crucial thread in the fabric."
See photos from the event here.