Senior Boricua Correspondent Marco Lopez writes
As you all know the purpose of You’ve Never Heard Of… is to shine a spotlight on self-published creators who release their work in print or digital and creators who work for publishers that don’t rank in the top 10.
We’re in a golden age of comics right now and in an age of geek none of us could have ever imagined, but with the good comes the bad. As our geek news sites become more corporate they tend to focus less on comics and in some cases less on independent creators. Which is why this series was created. As you all know Bleeding Cool is a popular site and has never shied away from giving a soap box to those starting out and trying to carve a niche for themselves.
This time though we’re changing things up. Just slightly because today I am interviewing Johnny O’Bryant III an NBA player who recently signed with the Charlotte Hornets. Why am I interviewing him when this is a site about comics, films, television and video games? Are we covering sports now?
The reason I am interviewing Johnny is because starting this July he will be releasing the first issue (digitally) of Monthly Hype: the Urban Otaku magazine under his digital comic book label Noir Caesar. What’s Monthly Hype all about? Well, it’s basically akin to Shonen Jump or 2000 A.D. but the comics within lean more towards a manga style of art and include a multi-ethnic cast.
They’re also planning an animated web series based on one of their comics Primus 7 but let’s leave something to talk about in the interview.
Now on with the show.
Marco: So, tell us how this all came together? The digital magazine debuts in July of 2017. You’ve got a great line-up of books for the magazine some fantastic artists and a couple of writers and artists that I personally know are good at what they do. Take us back and draw us a picture.
Johnny: Noir Caesar has been a brainchild of mine for about 3 years now. The idea started when I was watching anime on a plane ride and thought to myself there isn’t a lot of diversity in anime or manga. I asked myself why haven’t more black creators tried to publish their own manga, and of course, at that time I didn’t know anything about publishing.
I started doing research and talking to some well-known artist I realized that it was a high demand for diversity in anime and manga. I went to the drawing boards with a few other business partners and we came out with Noir Caesar. We decided to go the publishing route because its way to get our stories and ideas out to our audience quicker through manga. I believe we will be the go-to place for those Otaku feeling unheard and unrepresented in manga and anime.
Marco: Now I know besides the magazine you also have an animated web series in development based on one of the titles Primus 7. What can the readers and future fans expect of that and where are you currently at with it and who’s the writer(s) and production group behind that?
Johnny: I started working on Primus 7 about two years ago, I can’t tell you how many times I changed the storyline and character descriptions until I felt they were just right. It’s something that I believe has never been done in the history of anime. If you mix today’s streetwear and hip-hop culture with an action-packed story you get Primus 7. These characters are ones that my generation and future generations will be able to relate to. George Watson has written the animated script a talented upcoming screenwriter based in Atlanta, Georgia. Adventurous Minds Studio oversees the production and as of now Primus 7 has no set release date.
Marco: I love that you’re simultaneously attempting animation alongside getting the comics out there. A lot of people would think that’s a bit much to take on when nothing has been released and proven to be successful. But that seems to be the state of the industry now. You can’t just be satisfied to put out comics as one form of entertainment generally feeds into another or helps boost another.
Was animation always the plan from the outset alongside the manga? Because above you mentioned that publishing comics was a way for you and your business partners to get the stories out there quicker.
And besides animation and comics are there any other media or merchandise plans? Such as video games or toys and other things?
Johnny: Actually, the first thing I wanted to do was create The Primus 7 animated show. This was before I found out the lengthy and expensive process behind animation. I decided the best thing to do was to publish Primus 7 as a manga and let it build a fan base before investing so much into animation. As far as merchandise goes there will be quite a few things available for Primus 7 once the manga is released.
Marco: Before we get into more detail about the comic and how Monthly Hype will work tell us a bit about you, Johnny. Specifically, your fandom for this. What made Johnny O’ Bryant III fall in love with comic books manga and anime and video games (if you play) and other areas of geek culture and what are you watching and reading right now that thrills you?
Johnny: Good Question. I started watching anime at about 10 years old. I remember getting off the bus after school and running home to catch Toonami weekday lineup of DBZ, Yu-Yu Hakusho, and Gundam Wing to name a few. The stories and the worlds just sucked me in and I guess I never stop exploring them. As of an adult, I still rewatch some of that classic anime when I can while checking out some of the newer ones as well. Some of my favorites of today would be One Punch Man, Mob Psycho 100, Attack on Titian, and Michiko & Hatchin. I also played a lot of video games as a kid but don’t really have much time to sit down and enjoy a good one these days.
Marco: Now let’s get back to the HYPE. Is this going to be a free digital magazine paid by website advertisement down the line? Something that fans will be paying for? Give us the low down on what the Monthly Hype magazine will entail and the content it will include and the content that will be available on the Noir Caesar site outside of the digital magazine.
Johnny: Monthly Hype will be available for only ninety-nine cents a month. We want Monthly Hype to be affordable to everyone around the world no matter the ﬁnancial bracket you fall under. The thing about Monthly Hype is that it literally represents those that feel unrepresented in manga. Our stories take place literally everywhere from the ghetto to outer space and everywhere in between. I believe once our audience reads the ﬁrst Issue, Noir Caesar will be a place they call home for quite some time. As far as content available on our website goes we have a lot of things from blogs, merchandise, and something called The JaxJax show.
Marco: So, besides the site and magazine details talk to us about the stories that fans will be able to read in the digital magazine. Give us a rundown of each title and what’s possibly in development for the future.
Johnny: The stories are incredible and well written. We will offer 7 different titles each covering a different genre. I don’t want to give away too much about our titles but two I really like are Playboy and XOGENASYS. Playboy is about the world’s most famous Gigolo and former US marine who is on the run after being framed for a crime against one of his most powerful clients. I think Playboy is a good mix of humor and action that will be fun for our reader. XOGENASYS, on the other hand, is the complete opposite it follows the story of a troubled teen Darius who keep falling victim to his surroundings. After one of his ﬁght videos goes viral Darius is offered the chance to compete as an XOGENASYS ﬁghter. This is one of those good underdog stories about overcoming obstacles and challenges. We have a lot of good stories but I will let you check those out on your own.
Marco: And finally talk to us about the crew behind Monthly Hype. Who they are and what they do and bring to the table. Because as we all know comic books are not a one man operation.
Johnny: We have about 8 total people working to make Monthly Hype a success. Our team of writers are good at what they do and I think you will be able to tell when you read some of the stories. We managed to bring some popular artists on board to draw these titles and I think the reader will appreciate the hard work put in by those artists.
Marco: All right Johnny that about wraps things up. I want to thank you for letting me interview and congratulate you on what you got going and wish you and your crew the best but before you go I want you to pimp your wares as I like to call this final portion. This is where you get to explain to the readership of Bleeding Cool why they should check out the website and your digital magazine and the animated series to come.
Johnny: If you are looking for a place that will constantly show you and represent in a way like never before then Noir Caesar is your home. We will look to create our own identity in the world of anime and manga that has never been done before.
And that’s all she wrote. I hope you all enjoyed reading this interview and if you want to keep up to date on what Noir Caesar and the crew are doing then follow them on Facebook Twitter and Instagram.
Until next time.
Marco Lopez is the co-owner of the website Atomic Rex Entertainment. Where you can find the ongoing weekly webcomic Massively Effective, that Marco describes as Bill and Ted in tights. Also, hosted on the site is Marco’s web strip series Orion’s Belt that follows an Afro-Latino family of adventurers in space. Marco has also written for Zenescope Entertainment and Lion Forge Comics.
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