It’s a brand spanking new edition of the Representation and Health 101 column! As with the past few weeks, today we’re changing things up. Instead of a character, we are going to discuss a series that addresses representation. What better way to discuss representation in a comic than speaking with its creators!
Kamikaze is a webcomic-turned-print about a young Black woman living in a post-post apocalyptic world and trying to make due with very little. She lives with her father, Toshi, and through a rather explosive happenstance, finds herself enmeshed in a world of intrigue, giving her the power to make a name for herself and change the world around her.
Kamikaze was created by Alan Tupper, Carrie Tupper, and Havana Nguyen in an attempt to tell a science-fiction story that broke the bounds of race and diversity in the genre. I got the chance to hash it out with them and hear their thoughts on diversity, but also what it means to deliberately approach representation in a comic. Without further ado, check out what they had to say!
Allen D. Thomas: First off, tell us about yourselves.
Alan Tupper: We’re team Kamikaze. We are a trio of creators based out of Atlanta. We work on a webcomic, which is a dustbowl cyperpunk story set two hundred years after a global pandemic. Really, it explores what would happen if the first superhero showed up after the world had already ended. We’ve been together as a trio for more or less the last four or five years, and the concept has been something that we have been developing, at last Carrie and I have been developing over the course of almost the better part of a decade. We’ve been running as a webcomic for two years now, and we just had our first print run come out for our first graphic novel. We’re very excited about that.
Carrie Tupper: I guess a little bit more about the team itself, we got together in what I believe was 2013/2014.
Havana Nguyen: It was 2012, actually.
CT: Sorry. I saw a Facebook memory today that was talking about what we were working on and it said 2013 and I was like ‘Whoa!’ So, it was 2012. Alan and I really started with the story concept when we were kicking the idea back and forth on car trips to North Carolina to visit my family. He’s from Maine, but I’m from North Carolina. Driving six hours means you get really bored, so we’d toss ideas back and forth together and see what stuck. Eventually we had a friend of ours who was a film director and writer, named Michael Harper. I was working on set for him and I did some work for him. As I was delivering that work, I struck the idea past him just to see what would happen and what he thought of it. He basically heard it, looked at me, and said, “If you don’t do something with this I will steal it shamelessly.” So, we sat down and worked stuff out and he suggested Havana to us. Havana started out as a coworker but became a very dear friend and partner now within our group. So, we are super happy to have her on board.
From there we started out the idea of working it as an animated series project. We talked to awesome people like [adult swim] and different producers, networks, executives. They loved what they saw, but they were basically like, “You’re not Batman, so we need to make sure that you have an audience.” What we really took from that was that we were risky, that the current entertainment industry right now is a very risk averse place. So, we decided that we weren’t going to wait around for somebody to give us permission to tell our own story. Then we decided, from there we’re just going to make this into a webcomic. So we created the entire first act of the first episode, which is Act Zero with Jackal, and that was all released at one go, 22 pages worth, and then we had no buffer. So, I really don’t suggest people do that with a webcomic. We’re still paying the price for that, but there you have it. That’s how we really began.
ADT: Havana, you want to add anything?
HN: Yeah. I guess another little tidbit about the team is that Carrie and Alan are animators by trade. They’re both art students who specialize in animation. I’m the only one on the team who does not have an art degree. My degree is actually in International Affairs, but I’ve always been such a passionate fan of animation. Meeting them, I think we immediately hit it off. I wasn’t used to being around other animation fans. I think our belief in animation as a medium and our love for animation helped drive that motivation at the very beginning to work on Kamikaze.
ADT: So the first major question then is why do you think this story is important?
AT: In addition to our philosophical belief that animation and comics as mediums are more than capable of being used as mediums to tell stories to emotionally grown up audiences, to tell rich stories not just Saturday morning fare or lowbrow. In addition to that, we really are very strong believers in doing what we can to help make diversity a big priority, especially when it comes to science fiction storytelling. There’s been an ongoing problem with there being a lack of visibility and diversity in science fiction, especially when it comes to women of color. We made a decision very early on that our protagonist, Markesha, was our protagonist and she is a woman of color and that, of almost anything else in the series, that was our non-negotiable. She had to remain a woman of color because we really, truly believe in providing that visibility and trying to tell a story which is not a White male. In fact, one of the reasons why we have Act Zero of our comic turn out the way we do is that we’re really just trying to bite that assumption in the ass and just throw it out the window and say, “Alright now. Let’s tell an actual story.”
CT: It’s kind of the idea that within the world and within the story that we’re trying to tell, the blonde, blue-eyed hero is not something that’s always going to work. Because real heroes come in every type of size, shape, color, whatever you want to choose. We really feel like, “You know what? It’s time for change,” and we really need more women out there and we need more women of color out there and that’s incredibly important.
ADT: I’m really glad you brought that up, because reading the prologue I was like, “Okay, there’s a White dude. I know it’s about a Black woman, so I’m going to sit tight.” It’s really cool to hear that was a deliberate choice, because part of me was like, “Okay, he’s helping to frame the story,” especially with how that prologue chapter ends. I think it’s amazing that you did that on purpose. Honestly, I don’t think a lot of creators are that deliberate with how they cast characters, who they cast them as, and how they function in the story.
CT: I really think the casting is incredibly important. Not only in character design, but in all sorts of areas. I grew up in a military base, and in growing up in a military base you are surrounded by diversity of all types. I remember being younger, and I’ve always been a very empathic person, so I could see how upsetting it was for the non-White women and girls around me to play on the playground and know they couldn’t play their favorite Disney princess because they’re Black, or the only person an Asian person could be was Mulan on the playground.
As we’ve grown up I feel like kids’ entertainment right now is pretty great. There’s a lot of awesome diversity, but I feel like for older audiences we’re still stuck in the 90s. So many people are so focused on giving great representation to kids that they completely forget about us as a adults, and that we as adults also need role models. We need role models that look like us from all different walks. That’s why I’m so passionate about making sure that our casting choices within Kamikaze and what they look like as characters. Inevitably, if we ever get into an animated series, something I’m going to be pushing very hard for is making sure that our cast is diverse. I’m passionate about that, as we go forward, we keep the diversity as real as we can.
ADT: I started watching Voltron: The Legendary Defender today, and in some ways your series reminds me of that, but it also reminds me that besides alien characters and besides two characters that look like they’re darker-skinned, there’s not really a whole lot of racial diversity there. So I appreciate that it shows up in your story in the way that it does.
HN: Oh yay! Good!
CT: Glad that it does that.
HN: That’s definitely one of the things that people not immediately, like when they see our banner at a convention, or even online, one of the first things they say is, “Wow your cast is very diverse,” which definitely encourages us and definitely makes me happy to hear.
CT: There was actually one convention, I don’t know if you got the chance to watch the Kickstarter video, I talk about it there, but it was a fairly big one and it was just before the convention opened. There was a young girl walking down the floor. She must have been in her late teens or early twenties, and she’s booking it down the floor, she’s got something to do. She glances at our sign and then stops in her tracks, dead in her tracks. She looks at the sign and looks at me and looks at the sign again and says to me, “Did you make this?” I said, “yeah, I’m one of the creators on this,” and she just bursts into tears, saying, “I’ve never seen anybody that was a hero that looked like me before.” To me, that’s just a huge thing. When stuff like that happens and people comment on the diversity, and how our work makes them feel validated as people? Not even as people, but they have somebody to look up to or they have a hero that looks like them, that’s important to me. I feel like when people talk about the diversity and how much they appreciate it, we’re doing our job.
ADT: Absolutely. I was thinking about this earlier. I don’t know if you saw, but there’s going to be a new series at Marvel called Mosaic that stars a Black man. I’m thinking, “Oh sweet, we have four Black men who are prominent characters in their title, we have one Black girl, Moon Girl, who represents age and race, and then Monica Rambeau is on the Ultimates, which is a major deal. But… That’s it…”
CT: Marvel has so many characters, but so few of them are women. To me, it’s amazing that there’s more Black men out there as protagonists within their own stories, but I get so frustrated when I’m looking at Marvel, and even DC, and I see they’re doing the barest minimum. It’s so frustrating. This is why I love the indie scene, because you get to see stuff like Faith, you get to see stuff like Kim&Kim, you get to see stuff like what we create (18:30-18:38), and it’s just so frustrating that they’re sitting on their thumbs basically saying how oh we have to think of the market and all that stuff and I’m like, “Guys, the market is there. They want to be represented, and people are getting really ticked off with you just reskinning characters.”
ADT: Absolutely. I’m glad you mention two series. Number one, Faith was amazing, and two, Kim&Kim. Mags on Twitter, she is so awesome and I love the passion that she puts into everything and I cannot wait to get my hands on that.
CT: Havana actually got a copy of it from HeroesCon this weekend, and she actually got to meet her.
HN: She was super cool.
CT: She is so cool. I was too shy to follow her on Twitter until this weekend, so I followed her and she’s just so amazing. Meeting her in person was great. She actually helped us, helped me personally, since I’ve been following her for so long, she’s really educated me in a lot of things that I’ve been working with in Kamikaze. A lot of her work, the things that she says, and the way that she not only educates people but does it in a way that is in your face but it’s got this kindness to it. I feel like that kind of realness I want to put into Kamikaze. I actually got the chance to show her the book and say, “You helped inspire this.” That was a moment.
ADT: I’m glad you brought that up, because my next question for you is how do you think your story is helpful to racially diverse readers?
CT: That’s a really good question, but I wouldn’t presume to say, or to speak for them.
ADT: That is an important consideration and that’s something that crossed my mind, too. What is it like to create a Black woman with no Black women in the crew but do it in a way that’s sensitive, real, and whole and shows her as a human rather than, like Havana said in the Kickstarter video, not some function of stereotype.
AT: I think it’s definitely an ongoing balance and it’s something we constantly struggle with because we, especially Carrie and I, recognize the fact that we are coming from a place of privilege. We’re coming from a place where even if we’re doing our job 100% correct, it’s still a secondhand perspective that we’re creating. We really do try, and Carrie tries exceptionally hard at this. As our lead writer, I really try to follow her example to really reach out, really listen to authentic experiences, really try to absorb and internalize the realities of women of color, of Black women. We’re really trying to find the way to speak to those truths as best as we can, even though we can never experience those things, and we’re really trying to do our best from there.
HN: I would add that Carrie and Alan have done a really good job. I feel like when artists or writers are not of color tackle a character from a different background, sometimes they can’t see past the race that the character represents. I think one of the things that’s helpful in the creative exercises for Kamikaze is that they treat Markesha as any other character, and I like that. It’s cool to see a Black woman as a protagonist, but really we are building Markesha’s character. People relate to a character’s motivations or fears, aspirations. We try to focus on the substance and not so much just focusing on her race, which I think makes a difference. Now on the flipside of that, we also don’t want to fall into the colorblind trap, where we’re completely ignoring the fact that she’s a Black character. That’s where listening to people, listening to other creators of color, and being receptive and flexible about feedback is really important to us. Any time we find ourselves becoming defensive, I think we do a good job checking each other on that, as well.
CT: I agree. The host of another podcast we listen to, Black Nerd Power, one of the hosts, her name is Malaika Salaam, has become a very dear friend of the group, when she first read Kamikaze she was under the impression that if you were White or somebody of a different race, you could not write from the perspective of another race. That was her flat-out belief as a Black woman. As we were at Momocon and we saw her, we got to talk with her and she told us point blank, I think it’s actually on one of the podcasts they have, we changed her mind. We were able to really dig down deep and make sure we respected, talked about, and represented the Black experience very well. But, that’s her opinion, I can’t say that for everyone. Hearing that was also very validating.
HN: That was probably the best compliment.
ADT: I think that’s vital though. Let’s take two examples: Nick Spencer writing Sam Wilson, there’s been some moments where he kind of gets it but he kind of doesn’t. There are these points where you can address racism, even in just a couple of panels, but it’s picked up and dropped immediately. Compare that to David Walker on Nighthawk. He’s stellar on that series. Then you bring in other creators, in my mind ‘Creators I Trust,’ like Gail Simone, Kate Leth, Kelly Thompson. I know there have been issues down the road, particularly with Jem issue 12, but all of these creators, tending to not be White cisgender-heterosexual men, they are sensitive and they’re the people that I would trust to tell my own story because they listen and they take critique. Sometimes it is defensive on the front end, but they do a great job of addressing a lot of different people within the context of the things that they create.
CT: I think that’s one of our big things. We take feedback very seriously. Even during our recent Kickstarter campaign, we noticed some people talking about the fact that we are a team of two White folks and an Asian, but we don’t have any Black women on our team. That’s something that definitely bothers us. We realize that, and we hate it. It hurts to be called out on because we’ve been working so hard to do such a good job, but they still have a point. It’s something that in the future we want to do, but we don’t want to do it just because someone pointed it out. We’re not wanting to stoop to tokenism to do all that stuff. It’s a complex thing.
ADT: It is. As you pointed out, people liking it or not liking it, that’s one perspective out of many. At the end of the day, your task is to tell a story that casts people in a diverse way that makes them real. I do have another question about representation: how do you address queer representation within the context of Kamikaze?
HN: I think right now, we’re conscious of that. It’s coming later in the series, but right now we don’t really have a lot of romantic interest among the characters. At least not in a traditional way.
AT: There’s subtext.
HN: Yeah, we don’t really have any pairings that happen right off the bat. I don’t think it’s something we’ve been super conscious of. Not that we don’t want to be involved with that, but right now, storywise, I’m not sure there’s a place.
AT: Right now, there’s an awful lot of running and explosions, and very tense professional conversations going on. The story probably hasn’t quite pivoted to that point. Although, we helped address it in Midnight Run, which was a spin-off comic that Dan Jolley, a veteran DC/Marvel writer wrote and Jim L. Jones, a recent SCAD graduate, and Lisa Kirk, a phenomenal watercolor artist and comic colorist, did. It’s a spin-off comic set in the same world as ours, but fast-forwarded in the story. We touch on a little bit of those themes and more or less tip the hand that Markesha is definitely on the Kinsey scale, not on a polar end.
CT: I will also say that it’s something we’re very highly aware of. We’ve been doing research for the characters, and some of them do fall in different areas of the Kinsey scale, Markesha being one of them. As Havana and Alan were saying, we’re so early in the story it’s hard to get any of that stuff in without it coming off disingenuous or forced.
AT: It’s definitely not us saying that you can’t have a story that leads with that, but where we started with Kamikaze didn’t create a natural place for it to be inserted in as a sort of first and foremost element.
CT: But it’s something that we’re definitely aware of and it will definitely be showing up further down the line. It’s something that I’m also very adamant and active about right now in not only educating myself, but making sure and encouraging the rest of the team to educate themselves on. Not only from their own personal Kinsey scale perspective, but also from the perspective of other people. I spend a lot of time researching and just sitting down, shutting the hell up, and listening. I’m a storyteller, but I love to hear other people’s stories, and I feel like their stories matter and they need to be written. Again, that’s one of the reasons I’m so gung ho for things like Kim&Kim. That’s a very roundabout way of doing it, but it’s going to show up, I promise, but we have to get through the mainline stuff.
ADT: I appreciate that you’re willing to be deliberate about it and that it’s not an act of erasure and that you’re willing to listen. I think that’s one of the biggest challenges in relating to some of the Big Two creators. They hear that and they’re like, “Well, you know, I don’t want to pander to people,” or, “I don’t want to get it wrong.” I’m like, I understand where you’re coming from but it’s necessary, and if nothing else think about where you could put the story deliberately.
CT: I actually wrote an entire piece on Latinegro.com for a friend, Anthony Ortero, who just released an awesome book called Isabelle. His first book was Hanging Upside Down. He wanted to do a guest blog post, so I wrote this entire article about how diversity isn’t pandering. So many people get the idea that there’s a Black Power Girl, obviously that’s pandering. To me it’s like, if you’re going to sit there and say that any inclusion of diversity is pandering, I’m going to have a problem with you. You can’t sit there and say, “Oh, it’s pandering to put these types of people out there,” when the only type of people that are showing up and that we’re okay with are White people.
Who’s really pandering at that point? You’re going to sit there and say that all of these crazy movies are only for White people? You’re going to sit there and say this Black person, these Black people being cast as another person is a huge deal and pandering to that audience? It doesn’t work like that. I get the frustration with the Rainbow Coalition thing, and I definitely understand how you can be frustrated with the idea of it’s just a cardboard cut-out of diversity. But when you’re actually doing real, diverse storytelling, it is not pandering, it is the path to better storytelling, and people forget that constantly. It’s so frustrating to me.
HN: I will add also that I think it can be kind of hard to understand why it’s important. I remember growing up I loved watching cartoons and movies and reflecting back I can see the impact of only seeing White characters on tv, especially as a girl growing up. In a subtle, or maybe not so subtle, way it solidifies what is ‘normal’ or what is ‘beautiful’ or what is ‘acceptable’ into this very narrow box. You never see this diversity out there in media. I think it can be very detrimental. For example, when I was five, I was told by my kindergarten teacher we were all supposed to draw family portraits. The family that I drew was my mom, my dad, they both had black hair, they obviously looked Asian, I have a little brother, I drew him, he had black hair. Then, there was this girl standing in this family portrait with blonde hair and blue eyes. The teacher asked, “Oh, who’s that?” and I started crying, like, “That’s me!”
Looking back it’s kind of a funny story but it’s also kind of messed up because I wanted to be ‘normal,’ I wanted to be considered pretty. I thought that was the only way to be either of those things. Even when they came out with an Asian Barbie at some point in the 90s, and when my mom said, “Oh, let’s get this one for you,” and I violently threw that doll across the aisle and I did not want that one. I wanted one of the ‘normal’ ones. Again, I think people underestimate how important it is to have diversity out there in media, because it affects your perception of what’s ‘normal’ or ‘acceptable’ or ‘desirable.’ I’m not saying I have to have a strong Asian protagonist. Any diversity would have mitigated that problem growing up.
ADT: Havana, I’m really happy you said that because one of the things that stood out to me when I was watching the Kickstarter video was Carrie, you almost made me cry when you said everyone deserves a hero that looks like them and you were about to cry, too. That was powerful for me because being Black and gay, I never got that. I loved Static when I was little because he looks like me and I love John Stewart Green Lantern because he looks like me, but I never had anybody to fully address all of me. So, Carrie, I’d like to start with you. Was that a personal moment for you?
CT: Yes, it was a personal moment for me. Though I will admit I get emotional very easily and I hate it. That clip almost didn’t make it into the film because I didn’t want to be the next fat White girl crying on the Internet. I didn’t want to be that White Tears meme. That’s what I was worried about. I’m really glad that it resonated with so many people because, yes, I get caught up in my feelings when it comes to that stuff.
HN: Yes. Carrie is very passionate about that space. I think a lot of the people that saw the video, I felt like that part resonated with them for sure. Amongst the three of us, I think Carrie is the heart of the team. She really thinks of the characters she cares about. She always checks me and Alan by making sure we are conscious of those issues and those problems. If there’s an idea that any of us bring up that could be problematic, she is good at playing Devil’s Advocate. She helps us see it from different angles. She’s such a vital part of the team because of that.
CT: There was a point when we were filming that and I burst into tears over it. There’s this quiet hush in Alan and Havana and our video guy, Trevor. Behind the camera they’re looking at me like, “Oh my god she’s crying,” and I’m sitting there frustrated because I’m crying like, “Why the fuck am I crying?” You expect yourself to be able to hold yourself to a certain level and keep your feelings in check, but I wasn’t able to in that moment and it frustrated me. But, I’m glad you felt a connection there because I was so worried people would find it disingenuous.
ADT: Oh my god, no. You mention Faith earlier. That’s super powerful. So many of us have so few people that look like us. The fact that there’s at least something out there that we can connect to is absolutely amazing. Well, I also wanted to ask Havana and Alan, how did you relate to that part of the Kickstarter video with Carrie?
HN: It was very surprising when it happened at the time. It was totally unscripted. I had never personally heard that story about the woman who came by at the convention. Again, I love Carrie for how passionately she feels about this and how open she’s been to educating herself. She’s taught me and opened my eyes. Sometimes we have debates. We don’t agree on everything, but she always brings up really good points and interesting perspectives because she spends so much time learning about other perspectives.
AT: I have to ditto Havana. It meant a lot to me. It was a very moving moment for me. I hadn’t heard that story. Carrie had kept that to herself, and it was really touching to hear it. It’s really been an honor to follow in her footsteps when it comes to championing diversity. While I might have been the person who had the first doodle of Markesha for Kamikaze, I have to give Carrie a lion’s share of the credit for pushing to make sure she developed into a fully authentic, fully authentic character.
ADT: In the framing for the column, I approach it from my education and expertise as a counseling psychologist. One of the biggest questions I’ve had for you is if a therapist wanted to use Kamikaze with one of their clients, how or in what way would you recommend them use it? How would you think that it could be helpful in a therapeutic context?
CT: It’s really awesome you ask this question, because we were all at HeroesCon recently. Allen, have you ever heard of the group called ShrinkTank?
CT: It’s a collective of psychologists that have a podcast, a blog, an article series, and all that stuff. They’re actually psychologists that use comics to help kids, and their patients in general, deal with either their mental illnesses or the struggles they’re having. They actually use Batman to help kids or their patients understand parental loss. A lot of these kids have Asperger’s, one of them works with Asperger’s, and they say, “Look, every superhero has a weakness. Your brain works in wonderful ways no one else can work in, but this part of your brain is your weakness and this is why we have things that can help you. You’re not broken, you’re not awful; you’re a superhero and you have to keep your weaknesses in check.” It was so insane to sit there and listen to what they had to say and it was so eye-opening. It made me wonder. This question is so cool, because it made me wonder how to go from that, how psychologists might use it. Frankly, I’m not sure I’m educated enough on psychology to answer that.
HN: I know that when we interviewed on Black Nerd Power, the moment that Malaika connected with was seeing Markesha carry the burden of being the breadwinner of the family on her shoulders. She only has one parent. Her parent, Toshi, is blind. She at least perceives that he can’t fully take care of himself. He is aging, so Markesha’s stepped up to the plate to take care of him. Markesha is also very isolated. Unlike a lot of other heroes, who tend to be outgoing and righteous, Markesha keeps to herself, sometimes to the detriment of herself. She really doesn’t have anyone to support her. She is supporting Toshi. I think Toshi is the one source of any sort of emotional support for Markesha. I think from a therapeutic standpoint, I can see how it might be useful to someone who does feel constantly isolated, who doesn’t really have that emotional or full parental support, but who also is forced into this role of becoming the caretaker or the breadwinner of her household.
ADT: Honestly that’s, within a health context of any sort, something that happens to a lot of Black people and particularly Black women. We’re getting to a point where later generations have higher education, and Black women are a huge part of that. What that also means is that they’re the ones who are often more equipped, education wise or skills wise to take care of ailing family members. Then, you compare that with issues within the healthcare field with Black people not getting the same amount of information about things like end of life care and not having the same resources for it. That’s a powerful testament to something that people live with right now, and I’ve seen some of them.
HN: That’s really fascinating.
CT: From a psychologist’s perspective, is there anything you personally thought you could use for that? I’m very curious about that.
ADT: Honestly, yes. So, one big thing is how Markesha moves around in the world and how she interacts with people. She’s very gruff on the outside and she has this hard veneer because she needs it. She lives in a world where a lot of people don’t have resources and she’s one of them, but she’s also trying to assert herself and say, “No, I can do this. Why are you trying to rob me of this opportunity.” That’s something that so many Black women face for a lot of reasons, and they have to manage themselves in incredibly energy intensive ways in professional and corporate fields. Black people in general as well, even though that dynamic is a little bit different even when you look at men or Black trans and non-binary people. How she’s trying to make things happen for herself and how she has dreams and how she feels she has to put them on hold to just survive. That’s an incredible story that is still happening to this day in people who are really young, who are in their early 20s and trying to get through school. I think that particular aspect is incredibly vital in telling someone’s story and helping them have a source of catharsis.
HN: I also feel like Markesha is not lazy. She’s obviously a hard worker. She picks up extra shifts, but at the end of the day she struggles to make ends meet regardless. I think there are so many people out there struggling now. You can do all the right things. You can work hard, you can do all the right things to try to get ahead, and sometimes that doesn’t work out. I think the story, or at least the character Markesha can be helpful to at least relate to to those who feel like they’re constantly falling behind.
CT: I will say that’s something somebody was mentioning to me. I can’t remember who was saying it to me, but they were saying that they read our work and looked at Markesha and they said, “There’s no way anyone who wasn’t a millennial could write this.” From their perspective, they were basically saying Markesha’s the perfect example of a millennial. You’re going out into the world where you’re expected to do all these different things, and you’re holding yourself to that perspective, but it’s like the floor keeps falling out from under you. That’s something that Markesha’s constantly dealing with. You’ve got bosses, even in real life, and I’ve had this happen: Oh, you’re a millennial, so we don’t have to pay you that much or oh, you’re a millennial so you’re not as educated as you think you are. It’s not necessarily ageism so much as they expect this aura of, they use this a lot, entitled. They always expect us to feel entitled but they don’t realize how hard we work and how passionate we are.
HN: I think that always people talk about millennials in the workforce. They don’t use this word, but it almost seems like we’re disposable. Markesha, even Franco in one scene, he has so many guys working for him she’s not anyone special, even though she’s clearly special, these free-running skills, that help her do her job, but to him she’s disposable. She’s just another kid on his team.
ADT: If anybody thinks millennials are disposable, then they need to work in an environment with Google Docs because I don’t have an IT background or computer science, but I am the resident technology expert.
CT: Right! Like we’re ‘disposable’ or ‘entitled’ until you need some help with computers.
HN: Or an older coworker might do something in the most roundabout, tedious way and a millennial is going to know the tools to do it more efficiently. I don’t think a lot of people realize that. I feel like all the negative stereotypes of millennials are not traits of a generation. They’re traits of youth, like being naïve, being rash or reckless, or being stupid. That’s not a generation thing, that’s a youth thing. I hate that millennials as a generation get stigmatized because of that, even though baby boomers when they were teenagers or in their early 20s I’m sure they were just as stupid. I’ll get off my soapbox.
ADT: This could be an entirely other interview. As we’re getting closer to wrapping up, one thing I did want to ask, and you touched on this a little bit, was: what do you envision for the future of Kamikaze in terms of its story but also in terms of how it approaches representation?
AT: I feel like, and Carrie feel free to chime in on this, we want to keep working on improving our ability to get as close to authentic stories as possible. We want to, as the occasion permits us, to expand and diversify the team so it’s not just our voices so we can get more creators’ voices in here, with more perspectives, more authentic perspectives in many cases. We have a lot of the story itself plotted out. We know the general direction of where we want to go, and I’m really excited that as we continue along this path we start bringing in more voices and see how that can flesh itself out in new ways and really enrich itself moving forward. Whether that makes it something that happens on an animated series, like we really wanted to get to, or if it remains in comics, or if it morphs into some other medium completely. I’m really excited about the potential of this enriching itself in the voices that are being brought in to help tell it, enriching the story moving forward.
ADT: I think that touches on what you said earlier in regards to my question about queer characters and that, yes, you could lead in with it, but you also recognize that it needed to be deliberate, it needed to be done with care. That’s something I recognize, too. If you make a story and it’s in a rainbow the entire time, I’m completely fine with that, but I appreciate that you are looking forward and you’re trying to find a way to work these people in in a way that is organic and that doesn’t betray who we are as people. So it’s really awesome to hear that you’re thinking ahead and you know you’re going to work this stuff in. You’re being very methodical and approaching the story with care and deliberation.
HN: Our top priority is always story and weaving it into the story in a natural way. I think that’s what people are going to resonate and relate to.
ADT: Is there anything else you want to add to this conversation?
AT: Only that it’s been really a privilege to be on this interview. Thank you so much for including us in it.
HN: And very unique questions, I really enjoyed that.
CT: I really love it when people get the chance to read what we’ve written because they always have much better questions. It means a lot that you care about not only doing a good job with our project but to read it and have awesome questions.
This interview was a different exploration of what makes a character or series helpful in terms of representation, with nuance from the creators themselves. Kamikaze is a story that hits at the heart of many of us, whether people or women of color, or being millennials. It is a growing story that looks at life in a way that speaks to our own struggles. Sitting with Carrie, Havana, and Alan, was enlightening in that they knew the strengths and limitations of their story and are endeavoring to constantly improve. This team speaks to the process of representation and what it means to be deliberate about it, rather than dismissive of it. The care and love they put into Markesha and Kamikaze reveals that, even if a group isn’t present in a story, there’s a world of difference when you start considering how to add them into your world with some modicum of authenticity and respect. I implore other creators to do this as well, to continue to challenge themselves and grow, so that more people can see themselves in your characters.
Through this interview and our brief discussion afterwards, Team Kamikaze definitely wanted to shine light on other titles with diverse characters. Check out Mildred Louis’ Agents of the Realm, which recently finished a successful Kickstarter campaign, Lumberjanes by Shannon Watters, Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Maara Laiho, and Aubrey Aiese, Another Castle by Andrew Wheeler, Paulina Ganucheau, and Jenny Vy Tran, and Zodiac Starforce by Kevin Panetta and Paulina Ganucheau.
You can find Kamikaze on Tapastic and the Team’s website. Be on the lookout for the print copies via the Team Kamikaze website! They recently completed a successful Kickstarter, the video of which you can find here, and once the donaters get their copies, Kamikaze will be available to the public. You can find Carrie on Twitter at @mermaidshells and the comic on Twitter at @kamikazecomic, Tumblr at Kamikaze Animated, and Facebook at Kamikaze Animated.