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Comics veteran Tim Fielder on Black Metropolis exhibit and being an ‘OG Afrofuturist’

One of the pioneers behind this year's Black Metropolis exhibit in New York shares his perspective on using his considerable talents to celebrate Afrofuturism.

By Brandon Bush
Tim Fielder Exhibition Credit

Black representation, Black expression, and the celebration of Blackness as a whole is taking center stage within the entertainment industry. More than that, it can be argued that visual and literary Afrofuturism has entered into an era of mainstream consumption and acknowledgment as part of this Black renaissance of sorts. Who better than Tim Fielder, who is an “OG Afrofuturist”, veteran illustrator, graphic novelist, and comics writer, to aid in furthering the legacy of visual Afrofuturism and pushing this new wave of Black storytelling? 

The last time SYFY WIRE spoke with Fielder, he was just coming off of the release of INFINITUM: An Afrofuturist Tale, which made him the first author to publish a fully rendered Afrofuturist graphic novel with an original story from a major publishing company. After more than a year since its release, it has been one hell of a ride, according to Fielder.

“It feels like we are in a sort of early, early stage of the mainstreaming of Afrofuturism,” Fielder stated. “So, I liken it to being a player of one of the early Hip Hop rappers in the early days of a movement.”

Now, in partnership with his own multimedia company, Dieselfunk Studios, and Carnegie Hall Citywide Festival in New York City, Fielder helped bring to life a two-month-long Black Metropolis exhibit, which displays “30 years of Afrofuturism, comics, music, decapitated chickens, heroes, villains, and negros”. Within this exhibit and throughout the festival itself, viewers and visitors get a first-hand look at some of Fielder’s greatest works and can attend workshops or seminars that cover visual and literary Afrofuturism and its cultural impact. 

Black Metropolis

Additionally, Afrofuturists and art lovers alike can get a look into the fantastical worlds and characters that we have grown to love throughout the more than 30-year career Fielder has built for himself. Not only is Black Metropolis a culmination of the love labor from a writer, artist, comics fan but also a monument representing the celebration of a movement that is solidifying its place in American culture and history.

“It appears that my place in the modality of Afrofuturism is kind of set now and I’m grateful for that,” Fielder said. “But I’m under no illusion that there’s some bad [meaning good], bad artists coming up, who are comic book artists. And they’re gonna blow my stuff out of the water, and I look forward to that because that means that what we have has legs and it can transcend.”

This transcendence rides on the coattails of Black artists like Joshua Swaby, Afua Richardson, Alitha Martinez, and Jamal Campbel, as well as highly-praised projects like BLACK IS KING (2020), Watchmen (2020), Children of Blood and Bone (2018) by Tomi Adeyemi, and MacArthur Genius and Ta-Nehisi Coate’s run on Marvel Comics’ Black Panther (2016). 

Fielder also reissued one of his most popular titles, Matty’s Rocket, in February 2022, as a part of the festivities. “I didn’t know if I was gonna do Matty’s Rocket again, but when the festival came up, I knew it was important that I have that reissue out,” Fielder explained. “I knew I wanted to reintroduce Matty to the audience while [Afrofuturism] is being absorbed and exposed by mainstream society which is what’s happening.” 

Matty’s reintroduction, while working on issues #2 and #3, and the exhibit, are all a part of giving himself the opportunity to curate his own story within the history of visual and literary Afrofuturism. As someone who has a long, influential (but fairly underappreciated career), Fielder getting to tell this story in Carnegie Hall, one of America’s most revered centers of entertainment and culture, makes evident the integration of Afrofuturism into American pop culture and subsequently backs up his moniker as an “OG Afrofuturist’ even more.

“Now that it’s up in such a public way, I realized, oh my god, my work is literally part of the building blocks of visual Afrofuturism,” Fielder told us. “It means that Tim Fielder and Dieselfunk Studios and, ultimately, Afrofuturism, now are part of American culture.”

He became overwhelmed with emotion as he said those words, which reflect the blood, sweat, tears, and – most importantly – love that he has abundantly poured into his own work, and by large, Afrofuturism itself. The cultural importance of Fielder’s legacy towards what he termed as “a societal movement” should not and cannot any longer be overlooked. With the Black Metropolis exhibit, the reissue of Matty’s Rocket, and even a new short film called PHLO, produced by Fielder and his twin brother, Jim, who also directed, Fielder’s creative genius and influence speaks for itself. It is about time that the flowers he deserves be given.

Visual and literary Afrofuturism as mediums for Black storytelling has come a long way within the last 40 years, with giants like Pedro Bell, Overton Lloyd, Octavia Butler, Samuel R. Delany, and Shusei Nagaoka to pave the way for Fielder. 

As it continues to evolve and more Afrofuturists emerge to push the boundaries, it is important that these figures be celebrated – and among those names should be Tim Fielder.

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