Sometimes, you dream of something. Stars aligned and it comes true. I’ve always wanted to bridge two worlds I love: hip-hop/r&b music and comics. For a long time, I’ve been toying with the idea of doing comics loosely based on artists I truly admire. Maybe I’ll do it one day (I have plans). But in the meantime, I started this creator-owned series, ONE-HIT WONDER (from Image comics in case you forgotten).
In issue #2, the character of Terrell Woods is based on Minneapolis-based rapper Carnage the Executioner. I’ve known Terrell for years and we became good friends. He was always interested in animation and comics. His name is borrowed from a famous Spider-Man enemy and his songs sometimes contains nods to comics and cartoons (like a Transformers theme sample or references to the Wonder Twins).
But that wasn’t enough for me.
I’ve been following the rise of a musical genius for more than a decade. I think I heard his name for the first time in 2004. In America, most people don’t know Ryan Leslie because he never had a #1 hit under his name, but his signature and talent is everywhere. And he’s been busy crafting hits for the best.
He worked for P.Diddy, Mary J.Blige, Ne-Yo, Fabolous, New Edition, LLCoolJ and many more. Oh, of course, he released 5 solo albums and successfully launched Cassie’s career with the #1 hit record “Me&U” in 2006.
But if it was only a fan’s dream to have R-Les (that’s one of his nicknames) in my comic book, that would just be of very little interest. I also admire Ryan for his vision. For his actions. For his incredible will to stand as an artist and being fiercely independent. After releasing two albums at Universal Records, he went independent. And he claims (and I believe him) that he’s been more successful since then. The man had a plan (he graduated from Harvard for a reason). And man… I loved his plan.
In 2013, he gave a speech at the IdeaLab (a think tank for dotcoms among others) and shared his vision (here: https://vimeo.com/77127998).
For him, the music industry has to change. And the change can only come from the artists AND the audience. Together.
Ryan isn’t bluffing. He gives everyone his personal email. His phone number appears on screen at every one of his shows. He had a team develop an app just for him to be in touch with all his fans, all over the world. He’s going where he’s wanted the most. There’s no executive, no label, no publicity manager between him and the audience. He’s REAL And that is just awesome. I was watching that and I told myself: “this is what we need in the comic book industry, he’s one of us”.
So I wrote Ryan a long email to tell him he gave me a lot to think about and that I hope I can help do what he did for music in my own world. But that wasn’t enough. Ryan Leslie IS a character. And I couldn’t help but offering him to be a part of our comic book universe, to become a character. Because both of us are independents, it had to be easy and it was. He was very opened to that idea and approved the little teaser I’m sharing now with you on the spot (art is by Stephen Thompson).
Of course, it took me more than I expected to deliver the work. One-Hit Wonder#5 took ages to complete for various reason that I’ll disclose some other time. BUT, now we’re very proud of having Ryan Leslie appearing in the book as the Black Mozart (one of his other aliases).
If you’re already a Ryan Leslie fan, One-Hit Wonder#5 will make you happy. If you don’t know about Ryan Leslie’s music, go NOW to : www.renegadesnyc.com and see for yourself. Ryan has a new album coming up. He’s also on Deezer and Spotify and many other platforms.
I can’t thank Ryan Leslie enough for letting me making him part of One-Hit Wonder. And who knows? If the experience is successful enough… Why not doing a Black Mozart original series?! What do you think?
One-Hit Wonder#5 will be in out on April 8th, 2015 in comic shops everywhere and on Comixology!