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A Kansas City comic company is making space for Black and brown characters in manga

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 Panels from the series Black Spartans from Kansas City-based Darkmoon Comics.
Darkmoon Comics
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Panels from the series Black Spartans from Kansas City-based Darkmoon Comics.

Brandon Calloway is putting characters of color at the center of their own stories with his Kansas City-based publishing company Darkmoon Comics.

Kansas Citian Brandon Calloway has always loved Japanese manga, especially titles like "One Piece," "Yu Yu Hakusho" and "Attack On Titan." But he noticed those worlds were missing something: Black protagonists.

“One of the things that always baffles me is, in a fantasy world, you could create a world full of, walking, talking, lobsters, anyone, literally anything you want,” Calloway told KCUR’s Up To Date. “But we don't often see a lot of worlds that are predominantly Black people or predominantly people of color.”

In a 2021 interview with the Kansas City Star, Calloway said that he noticed Japanese anime and comics portrayed Black characters inaccurately. The character's big red-lips, pitch-black skin and mannerisms made him feel awkward.

Calloway is also the founder of Generating Income For Tomorrow’s Goal, a business that invests in Black owned businesses in low-income communities. G.I.F.T is centered around increasing economic prosperity in communities affected by discriminatory redlining.

After a conversation with his friend about building his own comic, Calloway launched Darkmoon Comics, a publishing company for manga comics and graphic novels, in November 2020.

Darkmoon Manga Covers (3).png
The third chapter of the "Black Spartans" series from Darkmoon Comics.
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Darkmoon Comics
The third chapter of the "Black Spartans" series from Darkmoon Comics.

“I wanted to create a world, in this medium that I loved that actually represented me in this large sub-section of Black people that also love anime,” Calloway said.

In March 2021, Darkmoon launched the first chapter of Calloway’s “Black Spartans,” a graphic novel series illustrated by the Black-owned firm Macchiato Studio.

"Black Spartans" follows a guild of Hunters using their extraordinary abilities to take on mythical creatures to keep people safe. Three chapters of the series have now been published.

R. Alan Brooks noticed a similar trend as Calloway when reading and enjoying the world of American comics. He was introduced to comics at a young age, but noticed that he would be the only Black person attending conventions.

Now an arts professor at Regis University, Brooks has since centered his career around writing and comics storytelling. He writes a weekly comic for the Colorado Sun — “What’d I Miss?”, focusing on social issues — and is one of the writers of the upcoming series Skybreak.

Calloway praised Brooks for writing stories that center Black and brown characters.

“Seeing yourself being able to be represented, in these fantasy worlds that are, that traditionally have not been done, is a huge, like emotional point of connection,” Calloway said.

Stay Connected
Rachel Schnelle is an intern for KCUR 89.3. She is an alum of the Missouri School of Journalism.
Reginald David is an assistant producer with Up To Date. You can reach him at reginalddavid@kcur.org.
As senior producer of Up To Date, I want our listeners to hear familiar and new voices that shine light on the issues and challenges facing the myriad communities KCUR serves, and to expose our audiences to the wonderful and the creative in the Kansas City area. Just as important to me is an obligation to mentor the next generation of producers to ensure that the important conversations continue. Reach me at alexanderdk@kcur.org.