Gather around everyone! Here we meet the man with the plan. The man with more power in his fists than Saitama himself and the bald head to go along with it. Meet Saturday AM’s CEO, Frederick L. Jones. If you don’t know who he is, you will very shortly. Frederick sat down with Wendy Browne, publisher of Women Write About Comics to discuss the phenomenon that is Saturday AM let’s dive into it.
Have you ever wondered why diversity is so important to Saturday AM? Our CEO explains:
“Our creators are from various parts of the world, and one of the joys I have are the conversations we have in small groups where I get to learn more about their lives and their cultures. I’m a naturally curious person, and while I’ve been privileged to travel around the world a bit, I never tire of learning more about this beautiful world and the people who inhabit it. People who love to rail against diversity always try to suggest that story matters more than diversity, and my argument is that diversity creates stories.
After all, what is Spiderman if not Batman if he were young and broke? Stan Lee has said in several past interviews that Marvel Comics was superheroes (à la DC Comics) but instead with heroes who were flawed “like us.” Some of my favorite manga go off the beaten path, like Vinland Saga by Makoto Yumimura, a manga about the Viking era (and a surprising ode to pacifism, as opposed to the warmongering of the era).
I’ve told this story before, but one of my artists, Whyt Manga, is becoming one of the most popular indie manga creators in the world, and he’s much younger than me. When I first met him, I was amazed at how flawless this kid’s manga art style was! He got every nuance of the manga look right and also had expert skills in character design, backgrounds, crosshatching, and so forth, that many artists struggle with for years.
I mean to this day when I show his work to someone new, or even a comic book professional like Sanford Greene, they marvel at how young he is, and/or they can’t believe he isn’t Japanese. On the other hand, I was surprised that as a POC there were hardly any characters of color in his work, Apple Black. I kept thinking that someone with this level of skill could have a massive impact on representation and inspiration for all young artists, but especially young artists of color who still may not know how many of us are actually regular contributors to comics. Anyway, when I asked him why he didn’t have more black people in his work, he replied that he “didn’t want it to seem forced.
That was a real wake-up call for me! This guy is smart, talented, and educated, and yet the result of what he was seeing made him question whether something different could even exist. To be clear, he is not the only artist I’ve seen who had this mentality, nor is it just a black and brown thing. The significance of manga and anime’s impact on young people in general, and especially on young people of color, really started to weigh on me. Black and brown fans are some of the largest growth metrics of anime and manga, yet their aesthetic isn’t featured in Japanese or even Asian comics 99% of the time, and to see us as heroes, love interests, or complex, interesting characters seemed unlikely, undesirable, or forced.
I cannot accept that thinking, whether it’s Hollywood, video games, or anime and manga.
Likewise, the narrative that diversity is being “forced” and isn’t really wanted by consumers was surprisingly pervasive when we started. However, many people may not know that Saturday AM predates the Black Panther movie and was teased or launched around the times of Miles Morales and Ms. Marvel (Khamala Khan’s first comic book appearances), and thus we were quite aware of the desire that existed for more multicultural characters.
I remember the media reporting on the “outrage” that a black Captain America, a female Thor, and so on, was causing. Yet, years later, Disney+ is spending hundreds of millions on those very characters. Clearly, they have a similar opinion and data as we do regarding the profitability of diverse heroes and series.
So, as for why it’s important to me: I think showcasing diversity in all forms of entertainment is the right thing to do—ethically, morally, and financially.”
Give our CEO a round of applause and some Jerry-curl juice because this man has the spunk the comic industry needs!
I hope you all have your wallets and purses open because our books will be coming to a store near you!
To read the rest of this interview click here: https://womenwriteaboutcomics.com/2022/02/interview-frederick-l-jones-on-the-thriving-diversity-of-saturday-am/