Dieselfunk Dispatch: John Jennings Talks Box of Bones and Making Monstrosities

Greetings, Dieselfunkateers! John Jennings, artist of the graphic novelization of Octavia Butler‘s Kindred (done with writer Damian Duffy), took a moment to chat with the Dispatch about the upcoming Box of Bones and to share a bit of Butler news. Box of Bones, co-created with Ayize Jama-Everett, is published by Rosarium Publishing.


Cover: Stacey Robinson

DD: What was your work process like to put together Box of Bones?

JJ: It was very organic. Ayize Jama-Everett is a generous collaborator and actually was very open to a great deal of my original ideas about the story.

Photo Credit: Ayize Jama-Everett

DD: What is the focus in the release and marketing of Box of Bones in the contemporary market?

JJ: We tried various modes of plotting and scripting. We tried full script method and the Marvel Method. The latter turns out to be the best method for us.

DD: Box of Bones will be featured at the upcoming 2018 San Diego Comic-Con. What’s the deal with that?

JJ: Currently we are releasing the individual chapters individually on Comixology, and they sort of serve as a way to promote the upcoming graphic novel which should be available next year. The Comic Arts Conference is an academic comics conference that happens in tandem with San Diego Comic-Con. My colleagues Ajani Brown and Stanford Carpenter submitted an abstract on Box of Bones and intersectional identity. The roundtable will look the origins of the book, it’s place in the continuum of contemporary horror comics, and the process we used to get the book done.

DD: The characters in The book are truly some of the most horrifying designs I’ve yet seen. What was the impetus for this visual direction?

JJ: So, first of all, I wanted to create “monsters” that were not from any traditional monster lore that we’ve seen in pop culture. I wanted to make characters that got to the heart of the horrors of certain aspects of the black American experience.

So, I based the characters on radicalized violence issues, black southern folklore, and highly distressed and hyperbolically remixed notions of blackface minstrelsy. I wanted them to be truly of the fears that black people faced in our country. I also wanted each to have a distinct name, and profile.

DD: That’s very much descriptive of the character called ‘The Burden”. How was that monstrosity designed?

JJ: The Burden is an avatar for slavery. Essentially it’s a sack similar to the ones that slaves dragged behind them in the cotton fields during slavery and later sharecropping and migrant working. The bag is not filled with cotton, though. It’s filled with arms and legs of slaves, and it’s always hungry. It represents the way that the slave body was bought and sold as a commodity and how the cruel systems of capitalism continually need to be fed. It crawls around like a giant inch worm, yet quickly, and it snatches arms and legs from people to replenish the ever present need for spare parts. It was the Burden of the black body to build this country with its labor.

DD: Final question. You are famous, along with Damian Duffy, for the adaptation of Octavia Butler’s Kindred. What’s next in your collaborations with Duffy?

JJ:  I can’t speak on it, but a major announcement is coming up at SDCC.

We shall await with labored breath.

Find the first chapter of Box of Bones on Comixology here and on the Rosarium store here.

Twitter: @JIJennings

IG: jijennings70

About Tim Fielder

Tim Fielder is a Lifelong Afrofuturist, Conceptual Designer, and Graphic Novelist. Author of Matty's Rocket and one half of The Dieselfunk Show.
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