An interview with Turner Lange of “The Adventures of Wally Fresh”
June 05, 2015 at 5:30 am
Unfortunately, we all know there aren’t many Black superhero comics. Sidekicks? Maybe — but few heroes, especially in recent years. It almost feels like characters such as Black Panther and Static Shock might be a thing of the past, save for Miles Morales in Ultimate Spider-Man. Finally, we have a new name to add to our list — Wally Fresh. Comic writer and illustartionist Turner Lange recently released his first full-length comic The Adventures of Wally Fresh. It follows Wally Fresh, everyday superhero and all-around regular Black guy, his hilarious sidekick Barry and neighbor Valerie as they find their way into crazy misadventures around New York City. Blavity caught up with Lange to get some insight on the new comic (both written and drawn by him ) and what it’s like tackling diversity in this field.
What is “The Adventures of Wally Fresh”?
The Adventures of Wally Fresh is an ongoing serial that utilizes elements of popular culture, mythology, ethnicity/diversity, action and comedy as a means of expressing itself. After the current economic fallout now known as “the great recession” left Wally out of work, he has been struggling to make his rent. In an effort to make ends meet, he is forced to take on a new roommate in the form of Barry (a spirit animal from the spirit world). Now together with their next door neighbor Valerie, the three manage to get into just about any trouble they can find.
Tell us a little about Wally Fresh and his best friend Barry?
Wally Fresh is a young layabout living in Brooklyn. Slightly high-strung and always the worry-wart, he is constantly the subject of Valerie and Barry’s practical jokes. His character in the series acts as a straight man to the antics of Valerie and Barry, but deep down he remains a sweet, innocent character who will always rise to the occasion and accomplish the task at hand no matter how high the stakes (though he’ll most certainly complain as he does it).
What would you say are some of your goals for the comic?
The goal of the book is to create new and interesting stories that feature people of color as the main protagonists. I am trying to push the book into territory that is seldom seen with comic books/graphic novels, let alone people of color in comics. I try to capture stories and moments that feel real to the audience and characters. The goal is to take the audience on a ride they’ve never been on before, seeing characters act and react to situations much in the way we all would. I try to make it a conscious choice to feature heroes and heroines that are ethnically diverse but to also not belittle this idea by labeling them with names like “Black” this or “Black “ that. Alot of times, particularly in superhero books, people of color are always saddled with these names that are slightly on the nose while also simultaneously lacking the complexity to truly reflect the people they are supposed to represent. My mantra when creating the book is not so much that Wally Fresh is a “Black hero” but he is a hero who happens to be “Black.”
How did you gravitate to comic writing and illustrating?
My background is in illustration and animation. I have always been drawn to art even as a young child. For me doing these books is an opportunity to express myself and give shape to ideas and theories I have as a storyteller.
What is your process? How do you balance being both writer and illustrator?
Typically each story starts from a kernel of an idea, meaning I’ll sometimes start with a thesis such as “Wally learns the act of selflessness,” meaning that at the heart of the story Wally must learn what it means to be a selfless person. From there I kinda explore these ideas and then begin to connect the dots in terms of experiences I’ve had or stories I’ve heard or read that kind of reflect that. I’ll then combine these ideas with themes and motifs that help to support this thesis. from there I’ll write the script, laying down the story beats in broad strokes. Simultaneously while I am forming the story in broad strokes, I begin the design process, exploring the same ideas as visual development. Music is always a big influence and a lot of times when designing characters, I will look at musicians style and attitude that I think reflects the ideas I am trying to get across. For example, with the character Valerie I try to make her design reflect the influences that I think she would have if she were real, like to me she’s the kind of girl who has posters of Joan Jett and Sheila E on her wall, so her fashion sense, her look and attitude try to filter all that in. Once the characters and environments are designed, I’ll then rough out the book in thumbnail form, using the script as more or less a guide. I try not to hammer too much detail into the script as the thumbnail process is where a lot of the character action and humor comes to life. A lot of times, I’ll find moments while thumbnailing that aren’t necessarily in the script, but they again support the main idea and add drama to the characters and situations.
How do you handle being a Black male in a predominantly White field?
Well, it’s always kind of the elephant in the room, but I always rely on the idea that if you make something undeniably great it really won’t matter. In the end I think the work should truly speak for itself.
What is your favorite cartoon or comic of the moment and why?
Right now I am reading a lot of Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido’s Blacksad. Another great book I found while traveling was Jazz Maynard by Raul and Roger. Some artists and writers that I think are really doing some amazing work are Ted Lange with his book Warp Zone, John Christmas’ Sheltered, Ron Wimberly’s Prince of Cats and Kenny Keil’s Rhyme Travelers. Those guys I think are really trying to push the art form in a way that shatters the barriers in terms of what people think sequential art can or cannot be, as well as creating interesting stories that resonate.
#BlerdAlert! If you’re a fan of Black art and comics (which we all are, obviously!) and solidly hilarious stories, you should most definitely check out The Adventures of Wally Fresh by Turner Lange. You can purchase the comic and catch up with all things Turner and Wally Fresh at:
Online shop: http://www.indyplanet.com/front/brand/TurnerLange/
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