We had the good fortune of connecting with Khalid Johnson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Khalid, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I saw a lack of authentic representation in comics and wanted to bring more of that into the comics industry. I generally focus on superheroes and creating underrepresented characters that aren’t limited in the scope of the problems they face. So often, we see Black characters specifically where they or their villains are relegated to stereotypes. I want to create stories that spotlight the marginalized and the disenfranchised and empower them. I was inspired by Dwayne McDuffie to create stories and characters that felt authentic, that didn’t feel confined to cliched and stereotypical representation.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m a cartoonist, and I primarily do superhero comics though my most recent project is a more dystopian sci-fi style work called “Stay Woke” and I’m incredibly proud of it and excited for people to read it. I aim to create authentic representation within comics and I distribute all of my projects for free on my website so they are easily accessible. I got where I am professionally through a lot of practice, a lot of mistakes, and a lot of late nights. It has never been easy especially doing the art and writing by myself but, I don’t do this because I want it to be easy; I love comics and I feel I have something worth sharing. Through this journey, I have learned to embrace the process and that includes making mistakes and learning from them, learning how to be more efficient, opening up to feedback and revising work. I feel that readers are able to visibly track my progress and be on this comics journey with me, and there’s no barrier for entry because I distribute the work for free because I want people to be able to engage with me and my work and the stories that I am telling.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If I had a friend visiting hopefully we’re not in the middle of a global pandemic. In that event, we’d go to My Parents’ Basement and Criminal Records to get comics. Keeping with the comics aesthetic, we’d probably get Savage Pizza. There’s also a taco spot that I love in Decatur, K BBQ Taco, and I try to get all my friends to go. We’d have to get Slutty Vegan before they left. We’d hang out at Decatur Square, Atlantic Station and segue that into a trip to SCAD because that’s where I’m enrolled for grad school. I love the growing convention scene in Atlanta; Dragon Con has gotten huge, Momo Con is always fun, and I really enjoyed Atlanta Comic Con so I’d check those out. The High is great and I saw a piece of art there that has stuck with me and was darn-near life changing (Arthur Jafa’s “Love is the message, the message is death”). Until the pandemic, me and my family would do a yearly trip to the King Center (typically during the Summer) and considering his legacy and the history of him being here, it’s a place that people should see.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
One of my biggest inspirations is Dwayne McDuffie. Reading his work on Icon was game changing. I wouldn’t be where I am without the support of my family, encouragement from my mom, and all the time I spent as a kid drawing from X-Men and Spider-Man comics with my dad. I started out on this venture with friends from high school and they helped shape some of the characters in my stories and I make sure to credit them in the pages. As I’ve improved, I am appreciative of the professors and teachers that have shaped me and my work up to this point and the friends and colleagues that I probably annoy with my work.