Have you heard that living legend, Kola Boof is taking on the world of comic books? Check out this interview:
Interview with Kola Boof by Adrienne Gravish
Kola, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Book 1 and Book 2 of Volcano Woman!
Because I am familiar with your books, I already knew Volcano Woman would have multiple layers to the story, identities and lessons in who Nessa and Piru are…and who they are not.
Everybody in the book (so far) has a secret life! I loved that there are witches, animalistic and galactic (supernatural) ancestors at the ready to teach, create, destroy or erase memories! And everybody is being surveilled. Everybody. (This really is not much different than life right now in 2017 on this earth.)
What made you decide to write a comic book?
Since childhood I’ve wanted to see a Black woman superhero that I could relate to. Because I’m a literary novelist and because of financing, I never thought I would be able to actually do a comic book. But I was on Twitter one day, a group of Black women
including myself were discussing how we love comics but felt under-represented and out of the blue, this Southern White Woman friend of mine—who I thought lived in a trailer park—pops up and offers to back me financially and give me total control over my own comic book. I initially thought she was cat-fishing me. But I received a check from her for $30,000 and now here we are. The way VOLCANO WOMAN came into being was literally that magical.
I know your hands have been in multiple pots as a writer. I know you are very outspoken, and that this comes from a space of passionate love and concern for the survival and wellbeing of Blackness.
Definitely. VOLCANO WOMAN is truly a ‘blackety-black’ comic book. It’s not just about Nessa Tyler (a.k.a. Volcano Woman), but an entire family who is being targeted by this rogue government agent, Barney Frost. It was important to me that the story be set in Philadelphia and focus on a Black American family, because I was adopted and raised by a Black American family. I wanted issues surrounding dark skin, nappy hair and black love to be at the forefront of the storyline. And I wanted it all to be directly connected to this family’s unknown ancestors in the Volcano in Sudan, where I am from. I wanted this family to tap into Nilotic Mythology and grow powerful from that.
I notice that Volcano Woman begins with a child Nessa Tyler being recorded on camera. If she and everyone are dead, then who is she speaking to? Who is recording her? Who is she warning?
Nessa is speaking as the angel and fertility goddess that she has become, Volcano Woman. She and her brother Piru died, because Barney Frost of the NSS threw them in a volcano in Sudan, but they’re back alive now telling the story in reverse.
Explain the significance of Volcano Woman’s magic earrings?
Well as you know…in the Black community, when a Black woman is about to fight she will say, “Don’t make me take off my earrings!” So with Volcano Woman, it’s literally a true threat! Each of her earrings is inhabited by an ancient Goddess (NoorPani-Patra and Baast). If Volcano Woman is getting beaten badly by a foe, she takes off her earrings and throws them into they air…which awakens NoorPani-Patra and Baast to come and fight for her. It’s my favorite story arch out of all of them.
I noticed that Book 2 ends with a child birthed from Nessa and Book 1 begins with a child Nessa. Am I correct to assume that Book 3 will show us what is up GranGran and Carolee’s sleeves after everything they learned during their stay at the Bloodsworth mansion? There is no way that GranGran is not planning something for her grandbabies while she smokes her Newports. There is no way Carolee is just absorbing everything. My gut says she’s creating something for the benefit of her children. I look forward to book 3.
Yes, people should order Book 3 now because Nessa Tyler gives birth to the demon she slew in Book 2. That demon, ‘The Nameless Daughter of Phumkut’–Phumkut being Satan—is now a 14 year old girl named Winter who has no memory that she was a demon. This is going to be very interesting, because in order for Volcano Woman to gain her full powers, she must redeem and change the heart of this child from demonic to loving and protective of the community. As you know…one of Volcano Woman’s chief powers as a Fertility Goddess is the ability to turn Adults back into infants, thus forcing them to start over and become better people.
I really love how the illustrations show what Carolee is signing. They were so clear! Crystal Crossley’s illustrations are awesome!
I did not hire Crystal Crossley, but I told our publisher, Russell Wilson, that we needed our Artwork vision to be led by a Black American woman. He was the one who found Crystal, who is Black American and speaks Japanese…she was a teenager at that time who referred to herself as a “Nerd.” She was kind of reluctant to take such a huge lead position, it intimidated her. But she has come through like a champ! She’s like my daughter now! We’re so close.
How did Crystal and you collaborate in illustrating Carolee signing? Were there Deaf people and/or CODAS involved in consulting on how to show Carolee communicating in sign?
Crystal did all of that. She consulted with Black Deaf women in the Los Angeles area and they would SKYPE with her…showing her the hand motions. To the best of her ability, she captured small bits that would indicate the actual dialogue.
Will we see Piru and Nessa sign to their mother more? There’s a unique dynamic between CODAS (children of Deaf adults) where a lot of the time they are protective of their Deaf parents.
Yes. Everyone at the Bloodworth Mansion will be signing regularly. We wanted to normalize that as part of every day life. We want to take the mystery and fear out of it and just make it as normal as wearing an Afro in our community. That was my whole reason for making their mother a Deaf woman.
PIRU, the brother of Nessa Tyler, is Gay. He’s really the first regularly featured Black Gay male in comic books. How is the audience reacting to that?
We had a lot of backlash unfortunately. But in real life, my own brother is Gay and I always create characters in my novels and television scripts that represent my Gay brother. So no matter how many people don’t like it….PIRU is here to stay. He’s a brilliant Scientist and he’s also a Fertility God. In BOOK 3, his storyline really takes off. His relationships with his mother Carolee and with Gran-Gran are going to take some surprising twists. Carolee who loves and accepts her son unconditionally, doesn’t quite approve of his dating choices. And Gran-Gran has a touch of homophobia.
I love the wars! I love how your comic book centers Black women from all walks of life. I love that Nessa shared what she learned from Black women whose life played out in public. Did you write this comic book after planning the storylines or does the story evolve as you write?
Book 1 was planned out. But since then, the characters constantly surprise me with new details, new movements. The story guides me now, I really don’t know everything that is going to happen. It’s very fun to write it. But it’s also frustrating because our budget only allows us to do so many pages in each issue. Each of the characters has a huge back story that needs to be fleshed out. Carolee, who is deaf and is the mother of the two main Superheroes, especially has an interesting trajectory, because I don’t want her to just be “DEAF” and that’s it….no, she has vitality and romances and lots of juicy secrets that will later tie everything together about why her children were targeted by these government Scientists. Carolee has no idea about her own powers and that is going to be a fascinating revelation connected to Outer Space.
I loved that Nessa’s discovery of her own divinity was triggered by fire. Fire feeds passion. Was she having orgasms when she realized her divine self as Volcano Woman?
The volcano in Sudan is described several times as a vagina giving new life and conquering male aggression, so yes, that could definitely be part of the many powers Goddess Eset and Goddess Buk are sharing with Nessa Tyler as she becomes Volcano Woman.
It is 2017 and we are living in very strange times. During this current political climate, it can become easy for us to drown in fear and despair. We have multiple forces that want us to feel this way. Fear and despair can dampen our passion for ourselves, our survival, and our ability to create. Volcano Woman is a beautiful, thought-provoking, at times hilarious layered love story that centers Black women. Thank you for that.
Coming from you, Adrienne…that’s a huge compliment. You have a very critical eye and you don’t suffer nonsense lightly, so I’m absolutely thrilled that you see how special and how needed VOLCANO WOMAN is. I pray that readers will help us keep it in print. It really deserves to exist and be appreciated. More than anything it deserves to evolve and grow!
I suspect there is a lot more to GranGran and Carolee when it comes to how they fight back and how they protect each other as well as Piru and Nessa. I am so looking forward to reading Book 3 next!
Well you know me….so you know that’s definitely true.
It was interesting to see how calm Carolee was during a pretty traumatic chaotic events in the city of Philadelphia, losing her children, only to be told they are alive and being brought to them by an odd White Woman stranger named Helena Bloodsworth. My gut tells me that there is more to her calmness than what we see in books 1 and 2. I can’t wait to see how that develops in book 3!
Carolee has very dark secrets from her ‘young hottie’ days that are about to change the entire dynamic of everyone’s lives. We have to establish the main superheroes and get readers hooked into them first. Nessa and Piru are the leads. They have to become familiar to readers first. But as the story progresses, every character in this book has a fascinating compelling story to tell. I encourage comic book fans to get into the story now, at the beginning, so they’ll be up to speed when things get more and more tenuous. Book 1 through 3 are in print now. But whatever happens….I can promise the readers it’s going to be fun, fun, fun! And hella interesting!
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