Celebrating Black Creators: Odunze Oguoguo

All great things must come to an end everyone! We wanted to end our CBC segement with Apple Black creator Odunze Oguguo! If you haven’t heard of Whyt Manga then do you really know Saturday AM?

Lets roll the tape!

Saturday AM: How has your experience as a Black creator influenced your creative process and the themes you explore in your work?

Whyt: Now, I always look to be more inclusive and representative in my work because its absence in the content I consumed growing up affected me. I used to think that part of what made manga authentic was seeing very little or no characters that looked like me, and that was reflected in my early works. In reality, manga and all kinds of sequential art can be whatever you want, so the lack of representation in the characters, worlds, and ideas negatively affected my creativity and originality, preventing me from exploring ideas beyond what I wrongly thought would feel authentic. Creating work that is rich in diversity is a great way to show the world that you truly have the freedom to create anything, and anything can feel and actually be authentic. Being Nigerian, I incorporate into my work some of my culture and other ideas from different cultures that interest me.

Saturday AM: Can you share a specific moment or experience where your identity as a Black creator intersected with challenges or obstacles within your industry?

Whyt: I make comics influenced by many Japanese styles of making comics, and being black and making manga is usually challenged online by those who believe that because I’m not Japanese, I’m not allowed to make the work I make the way I make it. Even though those who challenge my work aren’t Japanese themselves, often, they come across as people who want to challenge me just because I’m black, and it’s reflected in the messages I get. I’ve even received banana emojis. Luckily, I do believe this is the minority, as most of the feedback I receive is largely pleasant and welcoming. I posted a tweet about my manga, Apple Black, with my black female character, Opal, on the cover, and a Twitter user chose to troll me by whitewashing the character on the cover, insinuating she would look better white. I also received a few comments telling me never to call my manga a manga because I’m not Japanese; these are arguments never levied at non-Japanese creators published in Japan and are never by Japanese people. These users were almost all either just trolls, racists, or racist trolls, all poor options.

 

 

Saturday AM: In what ways do you navigate the complexities of diversity and representation in your creative projects?

Whyt: I try to do extensive research on whatever I display in my work to respect what I’m trying to represent and keep the authenticity of my story alive and well. I aim to add diversity in the kinds of ways where readers can see themselves in the heroes, worlds, and ideas I create.

Saturday AM: How do you address or challenge stereotypes and misconceptions about Black creators and their work?

Whyt: I address it by just doing good work and telling exciting stories. Critics often say that our works mainly focus on being black and lacking substance, and so on. I don’t let those bother me, being they aren’t true. Most of these critics will always criticize; it doesn’t matter what you do. I always remember that I don’t need any validation from them. They are really just a loud, super minority because those who pay attention and are accurate to the content can see that the story is paramount. Diversity is often a vehicle for more interesting perspectives, which assist the story. Thankfully, my books have been well-received critically and commercially by the vast majority of readers.

Saturday AM: Have you encountered instances of racism or discrimination in your career, and if so, how have you responded or overcome them?

 

Whyt: Depending on how blatant, I call it out and try to set an example. Luckily, I don’t recall many direct instances except some online abuse, as I referenced earlier. Banana emojis, maliciously race-swapping my characters and art, etc. I never let it bother me much or derail my goals. The best response sometimes is none because, in most cases, their intent is to get your attention and derail your focus. Being an online creator, one must develop a thick skin, or get easily distracted.

Saturday AM: What aspirations or goals do you have for yourself and the broader Black creative community regarding representation and recognition within your industry?

Whyt: One goal would be for Saturday AM to garner huge successes, creating more opportunities for black creatives to be authentic, share new ideas, and bring forth their unique experiences. This would lend more legitimacy to black creators and more within the network or networks alike, allowing us to explore spaces most privileged creators occupy.

Saturday AM: Being a part of the comic book industry, has it been everything you thought it was? Are there some things you enjoy and some things you wish you could change?

Whyt: Honestly, it’s what I thought: challenging and not so rewarding, at least not in the beginning. I wish there were easier ways to break into the industry, hence why Saturday AM exists and grows. It would be beneficial to have a similar apparatus like they do in Japan, that generates a lot of hard-working creators with unique ideas, with big opportunities awaiting them on a regular basis. I’ve always loved to tell fun stories, especially the kinds I’d love to hear, so that part never gets old. Interacting with readers who’ve enjoyed the work is also always a plus, especially when I’ve influenced their lives in positive way. That never gets old.

Saturday AM: How do you use your platform and voice as a Black creator to advocate for social justice and equity in your field and beyond?

Whyt Manga: I believe I advocate in my stories and also with my art. I’m very proud of the illustrations I’ve done by Martin Luther King Day and for the Black lives matter movement in protest towards police brutality.

Saturday AM: Can you give advice to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

Whyt: Just start! look to grow, be honest with your abilities, work hard, smart and consistently preparing for luck when it arrives. If you are good and working hard, luck will come, you just need to be ready to take advantage of it and Just start.

A classic for the masses! Thanks everyone, see yall soon!

CHECK OUT WHYT MANGA’S SERIES APPLE BLACK AVAILABLE NOW!

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