Comics & Graphic Novels Literature Scholarship

Introducing Megascope: a Diverse Line of Graphic Novels Curated by John Jennings

There are some people who like comics. There are others who love them. Then, there are those who live and breathe comics. Not as a way to keep copyrights up-to-date for further cinematic use, but who see the comic form as important; as a worthy and necessary part of our collective artistic and cultural life. Professor, scholar, and creator, John Ira Jennings, embodies the latter.

John Jennings

You may know Professor Jennings from his (and Dr. Damian Duffy’s) graphic adaptations of Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred and Parable of the Sower, The Black Comix Arts Festival, UC Riverside, or the Schomburg’s Black Comic Book Festival. You can now know him as the head curator for the MEGASCOPE line of books from Abrams ComicArts.

This is a game-changer for comics. Instead of going to the well to recruit the usual comic writers and artists, Jennings has curated creators from all over the creative spectrum to give us stories that don’t fall into the regular four-color, whiz-bang, underwear on the outside rote super heroics. Read the announcement. Peep the forthcoming titles. Support this effort. Everyone is always screaming for representation and diversity in comics — here it is. In all of its amazingly curated glory.

A pdf version of the following announcement can be found here.

MEGASCOPE LAUNCHES HIGHLY ANTICIPATED FIRST PUBLISHING LIST FROM CURATOR JOHN JENNINGS

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The official Megascope logo and advisory board, featuring celebrated voices in the academic and literary world, is also established.

New York, NY – February 2020 – The celebrated imprint Abrams ComicArts is launching its first publishing list from Megascope, the new line of graphic novels curated by John Jennings. Jennings is an award-winning and New York Times bestselling comics creator and illustrator of graphic novel adaptations of Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred and Parable of the Sower. Megascope was first announced in 2018, and the inaugural publishing list will have two titles: After the Rain (October 27, 2020; Hardcover) by Nnedi Okorafor, adapted by John Jennings and illustrated by David Brame, and The Heavy (January 19, 2021; Hardcover) by Shawn Martinbrough.

“When W.E.B. DuBois created the idea of the megascope in the short story The Princess Steel (1909), I wonder if he would ever have dreamed that he was giving us a gift of not just one future but myriad futures. The megascope functions as a lens through which so many unheard voices can be heard. I am so honored and excited to present this first slate of books that we have lovingly curated. It’s a very robust, diverse, extraordinary collection of narratives that, I hope, will foster conversation, celebration, and connection,” says Jennings. “The book is an empathy machine and Abrams has dedicated so much of its existence to making cutting-edge, well-designed, beautiful books for everyone. I am humbled by the talent and dedication that Abrams ComicArts has poured into this line of books. My hope is that our audience will see themselves and their commonalities with others in these graphic messages from the minds and hands of some of the most amazing creators working in graphic fiction today.”

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After the Rain is a graphic novel adaptation of award-winning author Nnedi Okorafor’s short story “On the Road,” a supernatural drama that takes place in a small Nigerian town during a violent storm. Okorafor ranks among the most acclaimed speculative-fiction authors currently writing — she is the recipient of the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, and Locus Awards. John Jennings and David Brame’s graphic novel collaboration uses bold art and colors to powerfully tell this tale of African diaspora, identity, and destiny, bringing the story to life for Okorafor fans and new readers alike.

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In The Heavy, acclaimed writer-illustrator Shawn Martinbrough tells the hard-hitting story of Charles “Dukes” Duchamps, a New York-based debt collector with a love for jazz and a loss that has haunted him for years. Martinbrough is a critically acclaimed creator whose projects for DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Dark Horse Comics, and Image Comics include Batman: Detective Comics, Luke Cage Noir, Black Panther, Hellboy, and Thief of Thieves. Martinbrough has also co-created characters featured in the films Deadpool and Justice League. The Heavy is an original contemporary noir-themed graphic novel about rivals, revenge, and redemption.

In addition to the first list of books, Megascope has also revealed its new logo and its official advisory board. The board members are some the most celebrated scholars and comics professionals in media, literature, comics studies, and other related fields. The advisory board’s duties are to help recommend relevant narratives for adaptation, help design educational supplements, recommend new comics creators, and to make sure the Megascope line stays true to standards of appropriate representation of ideas and characters relative to the parameters of the graphic novels.

Megascope Advisory Board:

  • Frederick Luis Aldama , PhD — The Ohio State University and SOL-CON
  • Kinitra Brooks, PhD — Michigan State University
  • Stanford Carpenter, PhD — Black & Brown Comix Arts Festival and Pocket Con
  • Julian Chambliss, PhD — Michigan State University
  • JC Cloutier, PhD — University of Pennsylvania
  • Rachelle Cruz — University of California, Riverside
  • Damian Duffy, PhD — University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Henry  Louis Gates Jr., PhD — Harvard University
  • Frances Gateward, PhD — California State University, Northridge
  • Jonathan Gray, PhD — John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  • Fox Harrell , PhD — Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Kathleen McClancy, PhD — Texas State University and Comic Arts Conference Organizer
  • Susana Morris , PhD — Georgia Tech
  • Adilifu Nama, PhD — Loyola Marymount University
  • Ricardo Padilla — Latino Comics Expo and SOL-CON
  • Darieck Scott, PhD — University of California, Berkeley
  • Matt Silady — California College of the Arts, Director of MFA in Comics
  • Sherryl Vint, PhD — University of California, Riverside
  • Rebecca Wanzo, PhD — Washington University in St. Louis
  • Deborah Whaley, PhD — University of Iowa
  • Qiana Whitted, PhD — University of South Carolina
  • Daniel Yezbick  PhD — St. Louis Community College

In keeping with the mission to publish books that visualize new diverse narratives through the comics medium, forthcoming titles from the Megascope list include:

  • Black Star by Eric Glover, illustrated by Arielle Jovellanos
  • Blak Kube by Ytasha Womack, illustrated by Tanna Tucker
  • The Count by Ayize Jama Everett, illustrated by Tristan Roach
  • Dark Fear: Dedicated to Emmett Till by Christopher Benson, illustrated by Eric Battle
  • Death’s Day by Daniel José Older and Baba Malik Duncan, illustrated by Chuck “Dragonblack” Collins
  • The Eight-Fold Path by Steven Barnes and Charles Johnson, illustrated by Bryan Christopher Moss
  • The Keeper by Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes, illustrated by Marco Finnegan
  • The Resurrectionists by Ho Che Anderson, illustrated by Jeremy Love

ABOUT THE CURATOR

John Jennings is professor of media and cultural studies at the University of California, Riverside, and was previously a 2016 Nasir Jones Hiphop Fellow with the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University. His work centers around intersectional narratives regarding identity politics and popular media. He is the cofounder/organizer of numerous comics festivals around the country (including the Schomburg Center’s Annual Black Comic Book Festival in Harlem) and has been involved in many critically acclaimed and award-winning books as illustrator, editor, and writer, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation (with Damian Duffy), the Eisner Award–winning academic anthology The Blacker the Ink: Constructions of Black Identity in Comics and Sequential Art, and, most recently, Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation. Jennings lives in Riverside, California.

Founded in 1949, ABRAMS was the first company in the United States to specialize in publishing art and illustrated books. The company continues to publish critically acclaimed and bestselling works in the areas of art, photography, cooking, craft, comics, interior and garden design, entertainment, fashion, and popular culture as well as narrative non-fiction and new works of fiction for adults; children’s books ranging from middle grade to young adult fiction to picture books to board books. ABRAMS creates and distributes brilliantly designed books with the highest production values under the following imprints: Abrams; Abrams ComicArts; Abrams Image; Abrams Press; The Overlook Press; Abrams Books for Young Readers; Amulet Books; Abrams Appleseed; and a gift and stationery line, Abrams Noterie. ABRAMS also distributes books for 5 Continents Editions, Booth-Clibborn Editions, Cameron + Company, Alain Ducasse Édition, Getty Publications, Ludion, The Museum of Modern Art, Obvious

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