There isn’t a week that goes by that I’m not asked some version of the following questions: “How do you know about all this comic book stuff?” It is usually followed up by: “There is so much out there. How do you know if it is any good?”

Instead of rehashing here my plea for people to take risks on art and culture, I’ve decided to be more proactive.

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From time to time I will present profiles of people who I think are doing excellent work in the geekspace. Some folks you may be familiar with. Others may be brand new to you, and this only bolsters my belief that you should always take a risk on artistic and cultural consumption and participation.

Here is my first profile installment: Oakland’s Own Roy Miles, Jr.

I met Roy Miles Jr., aka The Ghetto Geppetto, at a comic shop in Oakland, CA eleven or twelve years ago. Out of all the times I shopped at this store, I’d never seen another black person. There we were, two black men in the same comic shop, both of us buying outside of the Big Two publishers, digging deep in the culture crates. Was this a mirage? Some cruel hoax engineered by Negro Candid Camera? Mind you, this was well before the rise of the Blerd and the ascendancy of the AfroGeek. I asked myself: Is he #TeamBlackWeirdness, like me?

I struck up a conversation and we’ve been friends (and infrequent collaborators) since that day.

To say Roy is an artist is an understatement. I could easily list the things he does, and it would still not do him, or his enormous talent, the justice they both deserve.

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People who infuse their artistic works with their culture fascinate me. Roy is a hip-hop head, and his work announces just how much this culture means to him. Whether its him being among the first wave of Americans to get into the hip-hop vinyl art/toy market or directing videos for true rap underground heroes, his work is fresh. He’s meticulous and exacting.

Poet and professor Dr. Tara Betts presented something that really struck me:

If you are a teaching artist, encourage your students to think about ethics and craft above rock stardom. The last one is selfish unless you use it wisely.

Roy could easily be a rock star in any of the worlds he operates in. He could mass-produce and license his creations and create an empire. But Roy holds himself to an ethical standard: His work must always uplift the culture, never be detrimental to it. And if you decide to explore more of his work, you’ll get a feeling for this. Nothing is wasted or thought of as trivial. If a line is here and a curve is there, it is intended. If he takes time out to explain a color way, it is because he believes the lesson is worth teaching.

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Aside from being the multi-hyphenate art-Jedi that he is, he is also a father. Roy is equally concerned about the art children experience as he is with what he creates for adults. Our forthcoming children’s book, his various toy lines, and his clothing speak to fun, exploration, adventure, and excitement. As a parent, I can get behind his.

Enough of my blathering. Please click on the links posted throughout and explore the world of the Ghetto Geppetto.

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