Philadelphia has a vibrant local comic book scene and artist Jamar Nicholas is an integral piece of that community.
Nicholas’ adaptation and illustration of FIST STICK KNIFE GUN, Geoffrey Canada’s memoir on young adult violence, has won many awards and is taught in schools around the country. Nicholas himself is an educator, teaching at local colleges.
We talked with Jamar about his newest projects, his geek obsessions, and Philly of course. Read on!
Tell me about your most recent projects, the webcomic DETECTIVE BOOGALOO: HIP HOP COP and the comic adaptation of Geoffrey Canada’s FIST STICK KNIFE GUN.
My webcomic, DETECTIVE BOOGAOO: HIP HOP COP was a weekly comic strip I began eons ago in 2002 (That’s 40 years ago in internet-time) for filmmaker Kevin Smith, on his site MoviePoopShoot.com, famous for being the website from Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, but so many people actually tried to visit the site online, that Kevin made a real place.
The quick and dirty elevator pitch is: break-dancing Detective gets superpowers, – fights super villain rappers. It goes deeper than that, but that’s usually all I need to get a raised eyebrow. Boogaloo is my love-letter to Hip Hop, and is at its’ core the ages-old Cain and Abel story, with a rap wallpaper. In 2006 I moved the strip to www.detectiveboogaloo.com but has been on ice for a few years. I plan on bringing it back with new content in late spring of this year.
FIST STICK KNIFE GUN was an amazing story by educator Geoffrey Canada that I had the pleasure of adapting and illustrating into a graphic novel, shining a light on Canada’s childhood in the South Bronx in the fifties, growing up and being trained to survive in the streets of a violent city – where that fight begins on your front stoop, against the kids on his block.
I like to call this project ‘The Secret Life of Boys’, who are taught at an early age that to exist outside of the sanctuary of home, you must fight. The problem is, that societal violence is at a point now where young men don’t fight anymore, they solve their problems with guns. It won several awards in 2011, and was also on the YALSA Great Graphics for Teens book list, as well as being taught in several schools and universities in the classroom.
I also have a podcast about being a professional comics artist called COMIC BOOK DINER, which I host with my two virtual studio partners John Gallagher and Rich Faber. I also do product reviews and interviews for DRAW! Magazine.
Beyond that, I’m also a professor at Moore College of Art and more recently had my second term teaching Writing for Comic Books at Drexel University. I spin a lot of plates on tiny, tiny sticks!
You seem to embrace the Internet as another outlet for your comics. What are your thoughts on digital comics as a medium?
I think digital comics are a great additional portal to have people quickly see a creator’s work without cost. I think in the future, possibly now, you are introduced to artists’ work by what you see on the web, which if you really really enjoy it, will unlock the option of purchase later. It explains the model of web cartoonists who ‘give away’ their work for free and still have readers buy print versions of the same comics – It certainly wouldn’t work in reverse.
In 2013 as a cartoonist, you have no excuse not to have work out in the public eye; there are no roadblocks in the way to your potential audience when you can put your stuff on the web for (almost) free.
I totally agree! What else do you have coming up in 2013?
I have a new full-color, all ages graphic novel coming out this year called LEON: PROTECTOR OF THE PLAYGROUND, which is the story of a kid superhero who protects his school from kid supervillains, bullies and rogue hall monitors. It’s a fun, great project that was funded via Kickstarter and now is being realized.
I also have an ongoing, very cool webcomic/story project called THE ADVENTURES OF PRINCESS ADELE, which I help by contributing art to, but was created and made amazing by Martha Cornog and Timothy Perper. It’s an awesome hybrid adventure about a young princess who decides to run away from her duties as a princess and become a motorcycle courier. I have more work in the wings with that this year.
I will also be contributing colors to a new comic created and written by my friend Anthony ”Kingdom James” Ruttgaizer called THE F1RST HERO, with art by superstar Valentine De Landro. It’s being published by those geniuses over at Action Lab Comics and I’m very excited to be a part of it.
2013 is going to be a busy year for you. What are some of your geeky interests?
Comics, obviously, but what really floats my geek boat are video games – I’m a dyed in the wool Old School gamer. My first console system was a Sears Telegames Video Arcade (Atari 2600 – this was one of the first models before they called it the ‘2600’) for Christmas 1977. Since then I have been in love with video games and now years later enjoy reading about the game industry and new games, but don’t really have the time to play them.
My favorite magazine is RETRO GAMER, an oversized UK magazine that talks about classic games and the people that made them. They just had an article on RENEGADE, a beat-‘em-up that was my jam back in the day, which was the prequel to DOUBLE DRAGON-my favorite arcade game of all time. I also enjoy my old Gameboy Advance SP (With Brighter Screen!) that I keep at arms’ reach at all times for some quick rounds of DOUBLE DRAGON ADVANCE.
I’m also a big fan of Pro Wrestling, but don’t really talk about it, since it’s hard to find people who aren’t insane to discuss it with. I went to see ECW matches under I-95 more times than I can remember when it was still active in the 90’s.
What is your favorite old school console?
That has to be the Sega Genesis – I brought a Genesis during the 16-bit war, and wound up with a Super Nintendo later on. Nothing’s better than my dear, dear friends Gunstar Heroes, Earthworm Jim, Road Rash II and NHL 96′ (Watch me make Gretzky’s head bleed!).
Haha, awesome! What are some of your favorite places in Philly?
My favorite bar in the city is my best buddy Charlie Colazzo’s place, THE INSTITUTE BAR (12th and Green)
Best brunch spot is Sam’s Morning Glory Diner in South Philly (10 th & Fitzwater)
I have also logged in a lot of time at the Trolley Stop Café in East Falls (The Bathey).
Also I have to give a shout-out to the lunch trucks at Drexel!
Fave lunch truck at Drexel?
Spot Burger – the best burger I’ve ever gotten from a kitchen on wheels.
Thanks for chatting with us Jamar!