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In honor of Black History Month 2021, SYFY and Tongal, a global community of content creators, invited six Black animators and filmmakers to create video shorts that represent their experiences through the lens of science fiction and fantasy.
Starting Feb. 1, these six shorts will premiere on the SYFY network and be posted on SYFY’s Instagram and Twitter handles throughout the month — and beyond. To further celebrate these original shorts, SYFY WIRE got in touch with the creators in order to break down their work and take a closer look at what inspires them. First up is Branick Green, creator of "Lady Kia: The Power Within," which follows a masked superhero squaring off against a kaiju-sized monster rampaging a metropolis.
Tell us about yourself!
My name is Branick Green, born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. I am a working traditional animator and cartoonist trying to make it a full-time career. I just love to draw and create meaningful stories for people of all ages to enjoy. This is the job I would love to do for the rest of my life.
Tell us about your piece, "Lady Kia: The Power Within." What inspired you and what does it mean to you?
This is a story about a young superhero in the making, who’s in a tough battle against a monster. But she remembers the hopeful message from her mother to not give up. The key to overcoming a new challenge is to at least try and give it your all.
What about this piece makes it a reflection of yourself and your love of genre?
My own mother has always boosted my confidence whenever I felt down or scared. The coming-of-age stories are definitely one of my favorites. Just seeing the character go through so many trials and tribulations to get to his or her goal is very inspiring.
What and/or who inspired you to become an artist?
It’s difficult to narrow it down but, here it goes! In my high school years, I had many mentors who helped me with my art and career goals. One of my mentors was a gentleman named Mr. Scott Steward who taught business classes. His lessons were very valuable to my growth as an artist in terms of checks and balances. Then my art teacher Mr. Turtel Onli who is a great fine artist and comic book creator. He showed me how to create my own comic books and characters.
What do you love about genre? Tell us about some of your favorite works and why you love them. (Meaning: Please feel free to gush about your fandom and your nerdiest loves.)
I am a big fan of the action, adventure, and cartoony styles of genre, all animated of course. Looney Tunes... original Ninja Turtles... the hand-drawn Disney movies, anime, and even stop motion. I just love animation, but video games have also been a big influence in my art. Particularly the Nintendo series Super Mario — [it] was one of my all-time big favorites from childhood and even now. The art style of that world and characters is just so charming and fun to look at, which I think was one of the keys as to why the Mario series and many other Nintendo games are so successful. I think all of that kind of fused into my own work, that child-like innocence and look. Also, the Mario games are really, really fun to play!
When was the first time you remember seeing Black representation in the fantasy/sci-fi genre space? Was it a show or movie? A specific creator?
During my last years of college, I discovered a man named Lesean Thomas, a Black creative from New York who started working in animation at a studio in South Korea. His dedication and determination to his craft are nothing but inspiring for someone who came from rough beginnings. He always said things in interviews like, "You cannot be scared in this business. You must have courage in order to succeed and take teachings from your animation mentors seriously." His work ethic is what kept me going after college and beyond.
What still needs to happen to make you feel as though Black experiences and stories are truly represented in genre?
There are so many Black creatives with so many great stories yet to be told. I believe the door has to be opened for more Black creatives to tell our stories properly. Growing up in the Black community, I realized there's a treasure trove of stories that don't deal with the same drugs, crime-infested, gang-life images that mainstream [media] usually post. When we showcase our work, audiences from all over would be able to understand the Black community better.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
To me, it’s a chance for reflection and memory. To the pioneers who paved the way for people in my generation and beyond to have the opportunity to walk freely with our heads held high. It’s a celebration of our cultural [place] within American society because it is also American history. To celebrate and encourage present and future pioneers as well. To be proud of our heritage and be a positive light for the world.
Watch "Lady Kia: The Power Within" below and find more of Branick Green's work on YouTube and Twitter. Check out his and other creators' shorts on the SYFY network and on our YouTube as they premiere throughout Black History Month.