Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Continuing our series of Street Team interviews, BSH.com is pleased to present 5 Questions With Mase! With a distinctive and awe-inspiring art style, Urban Shogun creator James Mason is definitely a force to be reckoned with, read on for break down of his thoughts on a number of subjects!
1) For people who may not be familiar with you, could you please give us a quick introduction?
I’m Mase, a comic artist and writer based in Atlanta, Georgia - I produce the independent comic series “Urban Shogun.” I’m also the lead digital artist for the Street Team video game and colorist for the Street Team comic. In my normal life I’m a husband, father of two, and an Interface Designer for mobile phone applications.
2) Could you give us the lowdown of Urban Shogun? The book seems to impart many Eastern philosophies in an almost scholarly manner- could you tell us a bit about that?
I’m glad you noticed. I figured out in my late teens that “popular” black culture – what you see on MTV, BET, and hear on the big radio stations – has little to do with actual Black culture and has nothing to do with personal development. Most mainstream rappers skillfully pretend to live a certain way to craft a certain image, but following that lifestyle only leads to the poor house or the big house. Martial arts – where the focus is on higher ideals such as discipline, respect and hard work – is a great antidote to that.
Most of my comics are short on story and focus on the fighting aspects of martial arts, so I also add relevant quotes and sayings between chapters to cover the mental and spiritual sides. These quotes range from ancient Chinese philosophy to lines from a Lauren Hill record. The main point is to get people thinking and viewing their world from a different perspective. The idea that you can protect yourself and gain respect without using a gun is the most important point I’m trying to get across – the trick is to do so without it being preachy.
3) How did the Street Team video game come about? What can we expect with that?
Shawn Alleyne, Stanley Weaver, Joe Currie, Charlie Fab and I were already talking about doing a big team up project together with our respective independent characters. Samuel Gordon – another blacksuperhero.com member – approached us with the idea of the game. He had the programming skill but needed original content. It was tough learning how to animate for a video game, but all of the hard work payed off and the game looks and plays great. We also created an amazing comic that works as a great lead in to the game. We accomplished a lot with a very small team of people, and the response to both the game and the comic has really been incredible.
4) Urban Shogun started out as a webcomic. What inspired you to go that route and what are your feelings on webcomics in general? Do you think webcomics are a viable avenue for aspiring black creators to pursue?
Yeah man, waaaayyyy back in 2001 I think. Back when I started, webcomics were a rarity. It originally came out of necessity – I was writing, drawing and coloring it myself, so I had to keep the stories shorter then a standard comic would be. Also, my earlier stuff wasn’t quite good enough for print yet, so I decided that it was better to put it out on the web for free than to invest a lot of money with printing and distribution. Back then, distribution for an independent comic was very expensive, so I would print, fold and staple my own mini-comics to sell at comic conventions and in local comic book stores.
Webcomics are a great way to get started, build a following and see if your concept has legs. Readers (me included) expect webcomics to be free, so I view them as a jumping off point to getting published, although that will most likely change in the coming years as print distribution adjusts to the younger generations who never grew up with magazines or newspapers.
5) On a somewhat related note, from your background, your proficiency with digital coloring techniques and some of the innovations you used on the Urban Shogun webcomic site, you seem to be a very tech savvy guy. Do you think technology can be used to help independent comic creators/publishers, and black comic creators in particular, bridge the gap to help level the playing field so to speak between them and larger mainstream publishers and if so, how?
Technology has certainly been a big help. When I first started out, I was thrilled by the fact that my website had the same amount of pixels as Marvel.com. At a comic convention my table might be hidden in the shadow of a giant Wolverine statue or maybe way in the back next to the bathrooms, but on a computer screen we were equals.
Ironically, now that I’m a bit better and have more content to show, I’m taking a tech-leap backwards as I transition from online-only back to print publishing. Technology remains a great equalizer, but it’s also a double-edged sword – it’s easier to get media out but it’s harder to get money in, as the internet is free by nature. The comic industry is inevitably going to feel the same effects that have almost crippled the newspaper industry – people still read the news, they just aren’t buying a paper. I think that the iPad (and similar tablets) could really help comics. I’d love to see comics up on iTunes – spending 99 cents on a comic book just as you would a song seems reasonable to me. Plus, comics look GREAT on an iPad – better than on paper, in my opinion. If their system was a bit more open I’d be all over it.
Thank you for your time Mase, it's been a pleasure. Do you have any final thoughts you would like to leave our readers?
Thanks Will. I’m currently finishing up the first new Urban Shogun book in years – it will be a detailed guide of all of the characters. It will be ready for Onyxcon in Atlanta on August 18th – look out for it! It will eventually be available on Indyplanet.com, where you can already find the Urban Shogun and Street Team books.
You can also check out the Urban Shogun facebook page (facebook.com/urbanshoguncomics) for all of the latest happenings. Later!
William Satterwhite is the creator of the superhero webcomic Stealth and a freelance designer, internet consultant and illustrator living in Douglasville, Ga. His professional website can be found at www.williamsatterwhite.info. You can follow William on Facebook at http://facebook.com/williamsatterwhite or Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/w_satterwhite.