Is’nana: Getting to know Greg Anderson

Today at RRAP, we’re talking with indie creator Greg Anderson.  Going to try to find out a little about him and his latest endeavor, IS’NANA THE WERE-SPIDER.

  1. So who is Greg Anderson-Elysee and what’s a typical day for him like?

Dang, haha. That’s a bit of a tough question because one day I’m at home all day and the next I’m running around doing something. I’m an artist; from filmmaking and editing to writing to modeling. Although I’m constantly hustling, a general typical day has me reading, writing, doing some research, finding gigs of any sort, spending time with the bae, and going to the gym.

  1. What is it that appeals to you about the comic book format?

I think for me it’s the combination of visual arts and reading, which are two of my favorite things. Seeing what was once words put to life visually is always fun and the talent out there is amazing and acts as a great escape and insight to the artists involved. There’s no other art medium I love more.

  1. Do you remember the first comic book you picked up?

I do, actually. The first comic book I ever bought was Superboy #19! I was probably in the first or second grade. I saw a commercial for Superman action figures; it was when they were introducing the new Superman characters that were inspired after his death to take his place. And there was an animation of Superboy and I thought he looked awesome. When I found a comic shop heading home from school one day, I had some cash and asked for a Superboy comic. I was so damn upset when I saw my mom using that comic to write someone’s phone number on it, haha. I’ve been a comic book geek ever since.

  1. When did you make the decision that you wanted to write comics? 

Growing up I was always drawing. I don’t really draw anymore now but as a kid, a pencil and sheet was always in front of me with some type of Disney or superhero character. Around 5th grade I started making my own characters for fun and by high school I wanted to be a comic book artist but my passion for drawing dwindled and I got into filmmaking. But I continued to write short stories about my characters and I got into Dwayne McDuffie, David Hine, and Peter David’s work. I bought Peter David’s book on writing comic books and after finishing it, I decided then and there I was going to make it my life’s mission to be a published comic book writer.

  1. For the newbies, what is the typical procedure for creating a comic? 

Starts with an idea. It could be a small little nothing but you think of ways to expand it. It’s also best to put it down on paper, no matter how small. One of my pet-peevs is when someone says, “I don’t have to write it down, it’s all in my head.” What happens with that? It stays in your head and it never gets written down and therefore never produced.

After figuring out the story and themes and characters, I plot it out and eventually flesh it out further. By then I’ve already had some ideas or scenes done. I eventually write the whole script and have an idea in mind of what I want the art to be. From there it’s talent search time! Ask around for artists and post ads on various websites and see who is interested.

Oh! And important thing before searching for artists… SAVE AS MUCH MONEY AS POSSIBLE!!! I had to work multiple gigs and jobs to save up enough to hire the artists involved. Drawing is a grueling art craft and if the artist is very talented, they deserve compensation for their time in helping you bring your vision to life.

After finding that artist, establish a good rapport and make sure you make a contract after every one agrees on a good union and interest for the book. Make sure the artist actually is interested and reads the script beforehand. Do NOT jump on a book with an artist who isn’t that interested or can’t see eye to eye with your vision. After that, it’s a while going back and forth to make sure all is well, then comes the coloring process then getting a letterer and then publishing. It’s a looooooong process with a lot more details but it’s fun.

  1. Give us a little rundown of your former/current projects and aspirations.

Well in the comic realm, I had one short published called “In Loving Memory…” in an anthology called Rx Tales. That was years ago, maybe 5-6 years ago. This past year or so I’ve been working to develop my first book Is’nana: The Were-Spider. Prior to that I was working on Jeremy Tableau, a character I’ve been working on for a long time but had to put on the backburner for now.

  1. Is’nana the Were-Spider definitely evokes a certain flavor right off the bat.  What were you going for with the title?

Definitely a sense of mystery or possibly horror or something that would make you think “This seems weird… what is this about?” It’s a bit unusual and I like unusual things.

  1. I know a lot of comic work doesn’t really fit neatly into one genre, but if you had to pick where would this book fall?

That’s funny because I didn’t initially have a general genre in mind when producing this but horror will always sneak into my work. I’ve been a fan of horror since I was a kid and it naturally gets written, even if it’s one scene. I’d say this falls under horror-fantasy.

  1. Obvious question.  Where did the concept of the book come from?

I’m a big fan of mythology, especially Greek mythology. I taught myself Greek mythology when I was a kid later being introduced to Clash of the Titans, Hercules, and Xena. By the time I got to high school, I started getting interested in Caribbean folktales and characters and deities. Over time I got into Anansi the Spider. I grew to love the Trickster figure archetype when I started doing more research in college. A regular theme that shows up in some of my writing is the theme of establishing your roots and cultures along with the themes of stories being forgotten. Is’nana came about as a stand in for Anansi, his father, and he was going to make sure he goes around inspiring people in a way to bring prominence of his father and other Africana-based lore back into importance. That was the beginning.

  1. Tell us a bit about our characters.  What’s driving them in this story?

Is’nana is the lead character. Originally he started off looking like a 30 year old but now he passes as a kid reaching adulthood. He’s generally kind-hearted and positive but when we jump into this first story, he has the weight of the world on his shoulders and it’s forced him into a responsibility he refuses to let go. He is from another world called the Mother Kingdom where a particular set of fantasy characters live and are being forgotten. Anansi is the only one from the Mother Kingdom that can travel from there to our world and he goes missing. Is’nana, his son who is just a spider, finds a way into our world to find his father and breaks a barrier, bringing horrors from various places into our world. He now sees it as his right to rectify this.

Anansi is the Spider God of West African and Caribbean lore. He is a trickster figure who uses his mind and wits to overcome his enemies. He is also the God of Stories. Before the story begins, he was missing and eventually found by his son, Is’nana. I plan to go into further details in another volume to serve as a prequel. But in this, Anansi is a loving father who is using these recent moments on our world to spend time with his son and encourage him to become a responsible man of his own right. He also acts like a comedic and fight-ready Jiminy Cricket on Anansi’s shoulder and could serve as either or both the Devil and Angel fighting to influence Is’nana at times.

Osebo The Leopard is the antagonist of the story and is Anansi’s rival in the old folklore of Anansi the Spider. Osebo is one of the horrors brought to our world by Is’nana, coming in as a spirit. He feels that he, as a former legend, is being forgotten along with the other creatures of the Mother Kingdom. Although he hates Anansi, he feels that it was Anansi’s duty to keep their spirits alive and so he now plans to make sure he will not be forgotten. But first he needs to rid us of those pesky arachnids.

Finally there’s Roger, a lonely musician who finds himself caught between these warring creatures.

  1. What goals, personal or otherwise, are you hoping to achieve with this story?

Hmm. Personally I feel a lot of Black culture, when it comes to stories from our folklore, is dying or is simply not being told and that’s due to many not being exposed to them. Everyone knows of the Greek gods, the Norse. But I would like to at least present a story that can get people to see that Africana-based stories can be used for inspiration also and could be used in complex ways, like their originally orally told ways. It just got lost, but it can be found again.

  1. Have you learned any lessons along the way while bringing this to life?

A lot, actually. I’ve learned a lot about the visually aspect of it, working together with the different artists to get it down, especially preparing for it to print. There’s so much going on that I was never aware of. There’s still a lot to do and I’m always willing to learn more of the process of self-publishing. It may be stressful at times and money may be tight, but I love it.

  1. What do you feel makes your book necessary to have out there? 

It’s a story I feel that hasn’t been told and it shines a light on themes that I feel isn’t as common in comics, at least in the style that my artists and I have done it. Essentially I wrote a comic I’d love to read and I feel a lot of people may like it and hopefully it strikes interest in a lot of the themes that are presented and gets people wanting to learn more.

I refuse to allow Anansi and his crew to go out without some type of bang!

Flat out, Greg’s vision is amazing and ambitious.  He has a Kickstarter that has already raised over 7K for his project.  Click on the play button below if you want to support:


Shadowshaper: A Slick Diss on Gentrification

shadowshaper_coverLiterature is one of the best ways for marginalized people to fight back against oppression.  It’s an unfortunate truth of the publishing world that many marginalized voices are smothered.  So that literary weapon can seem out of reach and hard to use.  I’m glad to say that Daniel Jose Older grabbed that weapon with SHADOWSHAPER and took a couple of necessary jabs along the way.  But like much good literature, he doesn’t have to tell you that’s what he doing.  He just walks you into the room and you figure out the decorating for yourself.

This Young Adult (though I find that label limiting here) novel is about a young girl named Sierra and her embracing her family legacy.  That legacy is held up in stark contrast against the gentrification going on in her community of Brooklyn.  I have a very good friend from that area who has more than made me aware of that insidious invasion going on in an area full of rich history.  So I had an idea of that going into the novel, but Older makes it real. He breathes life and circumstance into it.   He’s able to contrast the richness and depth of the Dominican culture against the blandness of rising coffee shops and suburban living trying to disguise itself in an urban setting.

The indictment of gentrification and how it drains on communities is ever in the background as Sierra is dealing with fading murals and the significant danger that represents.  I can’t help but to think of these fading murals as a symbol of the encroaching nature of gentrification and how it erases the character of a neighborhood with hipster barber shops and nauseating cafes.  Sierra is struggling to figure out exactly what is causing these murals to fade and why they seem to be alive in the first place.

There is also another angle in which the acidic nature of gentrification and how it destroys the foundation of a neighborhood is explored.  You see how it erodes history and makes people ashamed of it.  Sierra is in a constant struggle with her family and the elders of her community to discover the origins of shadowshaping and just how that flows into her family history.  It’s symbolic in a way of how the original residents in gentrified neighborhoods, if they survive the price hikes, are forced to alter themselves to survive in their new surroundings.  They have to become something acceptable to the new white infrastructure.

Sierra’s character is a loud middle finger to such a system.  She is unapologetically her ethnicity, embracing every aspect of it without doubt or shame.  You can’t help but to love her because of it.  I look at Sierra and hope that my two nieces are so in tune with themselves like this young woman is.  That’s what makes her important in the YA field.  She’s a female character of color who isn’t going through existential angst about her gender or color.  It’s not some source of boogeyman drama.  No, it’s her identity and it serves the story without having to be the story.

I look at Sierra and hope she is the future of Young Adult characters for POC audiences.  We want to see ourselves represented but not have our identities dragged out for white audience torture porn.  We want to be the heroes, the warriors, the people flying starships and to paraphrase another remarkable YA series; we too want our girls to be on fire!  Loved this book from top to bottom and it has solidly made me a Daniel Jose Older groupie (and if I ever get to meet him I’m sure that’ll be amazingly awkward…)