BEATS OF WAR – The 1st Black Scottish Superhero.

*

For once 5D well and truly has it’s finger on society’s pulse, though the way things seem to be going pear-shaped just about everywhere thesedays it may well be that the pulse may not be around for long – “nurse, get the defibrillator……… CLEAR!”.

*



Anyhoo, to the point of the finger on the pulse comment……as part of the celebration of Black History Month we thought it apt to highlight the work of a Glasgow based creative individual, Etienne Kubwabo, who is currently telling the story of Scotland’s first black superhero through the comic book Beats of War.

*

SYNOPSIS

An alien planet ravaged by robot invaders. A city on Earth plagued by crime. Their hope: a hero from beyond the stars.

*

And so it transpired that earlier this week I pestered Etienne not only for a copy of his comic but also for some of his precious time to answer some of my famously piercing and insightful interview questions. So before I share my thoughts on Beats of War (spoiler alert: I loved it) take a look at the man, his incredible life and career.

*

THE INTERVIEW BIT

*

Q) So tell us a little about your background and comic inspirations.

My name is Etienne Kubwabo, I am a Film director and writer. I started off directing music videos, documentaries when I was at College, and my passion for storytelling started from a young age. I remember back home, we used to have this old, broken 80s TV box that never had the inside parts of it. It was behind our house, and I used to get my brothers and sisters to relax in the grass and I would put my head through and start acting out scenes that I had seen on tv. So I used to get in trouble alot for watching too much tv and wanting to re-act out for my siblings.
So when I moved to Scotland in 2009 from D.R. of Congo, I wanted to do something I was passionate about, and stories have always been on my top things I wanted to do. Stan Lee was my biggest inspiration, but to be honest I didn’t know who Stan Lee was until I was like 20 but I loved Spiderman, Black Panther and I felt like these characters spoke to me in some way. I got exposed to comics here in Scotland.

*

Q) What made you want to create a comic? 

Growing up I lost family members during war, and others due to natural causes. But as a kid I had so much anger, rage and questions that I felt that older people in my life never answered. Questions about these family members. When I moved to Scotland due to political instabilities in my country, I settled here for some years and I started facing racism that came in different ways. I started wondering if I do belong here, If my heart should call this home.  One night at 3am, I had this idea to create a black superhero that looked like me, that dealt with all my questions I had, and also used faces of people I lost growing up in the story, so that I can again ask them these questions I had.
My comic also has my family members, and friends, real people and real places in Glasgow.  Creating this comic was an escape for me, to highlight all these injustices in society, and answer my questions and also stand for people who immigrate from other countries to another, and struggle to fit in. Finally I wanted to pay homage to the city, country I now call home by using the history in the comic too.

*

*


Q) How much did the success of Marvel’s Black Panther movie and changes in diversity within the comic world play a part in the comic’s themes?

I had this idea about creating the comic book but since there are a few black superheroes in Scotland and the UK, I was skeptical on how people would think of me. When Black Panther came out, the same night I went to see it, I came home and started writing and drawing sketches of the character. So I could argue that Marvel’s Black Panther whispered to me to go and do it. And I think Black panther’s success has played a big role in diversity on my shows and films now, and it is still happening which is amazing.

*

*

Q) What, if any, doubts did you face from others that there was an audience for a blend of African and Scottish cultural themes? 

Doubts about blending African and Scottish themes were there. Oh I remember telling one of my friends about it, and he was like, who would read that. One time I was in New York, I visited Brooklyn and took a train with my friends through Queens and we started talking about Spiderman, that excited me and I wanted to create that unique character for Scotland.
I always follow my gut when it comes to things I am passionate about, so even after thinking, this must be crazy, I went ahead and did it anyway.

*

Q) In terms of creative inspiration, what does Scotland provide for you? 

Scotland provides me with its beautiful Landmarks, the language, humour, food and the History of Glasgow, Edinburgh. It’s so fascinating to me, and I think the more I research about Scotland, the more I realise that this is a perfect superhero playground (utopia) and I am super excited about what’s to come.

*

*

Q) How important was it to include both elements of your home country and your adopted country in Beats of War? 

It was very important to include elements of my home because as part of the story, it keeps me close to home. Kepler 456b represents my home in the story. There is a way African countries are portrayed in the media, and I wanted to show the opposite and impose the “WHAT IF” question, What if Congo was a well developed country, with amazing technology and resources that could help its people but also include problems that actually affects its people.   With this I wanted to be honest with myself but also introduce the afro-futurism to the story. 

*

Q) There are real & familiar landmarks in Beats of War, but how many of the characters are based o real people? 

80% of all characters are based on real people, and that way I wanted to stay connected to the story. 

*

*

Q) How important was it for you to get the balance right between important social messaging and comic-book entertainment?

The balance is always key in all stories. For me, I asked myself so many questions before I created the comic. Why am I creating this, is it something different? Is it passing on the right message, Am I connected to the story and am I entertaining and inspiring people.  The world has changed a lot and there is so much going on. I felt like if I could create a small story to spark conversation, inspire and also cover the history of places I call home, I would feel happy that my contribution to the world is paramount even though it’s like a drop in the ocean. Doing it through comics is my childhood dream come true. And that keeps me so excited

*

Q) What has been the feedback of the comic so far? 

The feedback from the Scottish public has been amazing. At the start people were a bit skeptical and unusual about it, because you know if there is something new, people are not sure about it. When I shared a few copies out for free and told people my story and why I created it, a lot of people fell in love with it. Even Scottish people living abroad said, after reading it, it made them miss their home. It has sold over 5000 copies both digital and hard copies. I still know there is a big audience there that I can reach.

*

*

Q) What can you tell us about the plot of Beats of war – part 2? 

Issue 2 captures the relationship between ET and his friends ,an awkward ET family reunion, and we will explore the Razor gang story. That’s all I can say, but it is going to be an epic and action-packed story.

*

*

THE REVIEW BIT

*

Beats of War quite simply is a joy. Etienne & Gary Chudleigh‘s writing is of such a quality that from the onset the reader is transported with consummate ease from the protagonist’s home planet to a new city on a new world where a new life with unfamiliar challenges await. The dialogue is consistently crisp and engaging whilst the narrative effortlessly carries the reader along with the rest of the thoroughly fleshed-out characters which includes a protagonist who is realistically portrayed. All too often the temptation seems to be to seemingly purposely create a dislikable protagonist, but not this time. The narrative throughout is fluid and sparkling with the inclusion of some familiar Glaswegian dialect.

*

*

Of course, for any comic book to succeed it cannot rely solely on the writing if the artwork lacks in quality. Thankfully it doesn’t need to because Beats of War is genuinely beautiful to look at. Not only are the characters lovingly featured but the colours and textures provide a layer upon layer of richness and depth that serve to make this world famous city as rich and authentic as possible. Being set in Glasgow means that this is a familiar yet at times complex world filled with equally familiar and complex characters, all of which is skilfully brought to life by the delightful artwork. Messrs Ben Wilsonham (art) and Rob Jones (Letters) deserve all the plaudits that will head their way.

*

It doesn’t take much of an expert to realise that I would highly recommend Beats of War. If you like a fantasy comic that is entertaining, but also with a strong emotional and contemporary narrative and all wrapped up in enthralling textured artwork, then this is the one for you.

*

You can find out more about Etienne and his body of work at his website RIGHT HERE

*

*

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *