These are the Astonishing Tales of
I'm Gonna Make It after All
In Charlie J. Eskew's Tales of the Astonishing Black Spark, a young man feeling trapped in his Midwestern hometown is endowed with brand-new superhero powers in the aftermath of a lightning strike. It seems all his problems are solved - until he discovers that the new powers have a price tag he may not be able to afford.
With a month to go before Tales of the Astonishing Black Spark comes to newsstands (and book retailers) near you, we sat down with author Charlie J. Eskew to talk about Spark, comic books, and more.
Let’s start off by telling our readers what Tales of the Astonishing Black Spark is all about.
Tales of the Astonishing Black Spark is the story of Donald McDougal, a mild mannered, not so mildly neurotic nerd from Ohio who is struck by lightning, and is granted superpowers. It’s a celebration of all those things in pop culture and fiction that discuss a morally uncompromised heroism without the means of achieving it. Donald in this book is learning what the truth is of acquiring a superhuman ability, or talent, giving him a platform he never expected to have. His challenge in that is how best to utilize it to not only survive, but thrive in the way that he’d been promised by being one of the smart ones. I think more than anything though it is a story about compromise, about apathy, about tokenism, about the Kryptonite that comes in a form not so supernatural for marginalized individuals.
Oh! It’s also about punching people in the snoot.
Fans of superhero comics and other superhero media will probably see a lot of familiar elements in Spark. What are some of the superhero stories that influenced you between your childhood and now?
I would most immediately point toward Spider-Man, sans clones and six arms and that really weird anti-smoking PSA issue. Specifically though the Maximum Carnage run is where I fell in love with the character. Anytime I think of it I remember a panel where he webs up his broken ribs and against everything pushes through to do what he knows he can.
There are of course others, Kyle Rayner, the Emerald Dawn story line of Green Lantern when he picks up the mantel. I want to say here its tied to the notion of picking up power after heroes have become something less than admirable, but mostly it’s the idea of a struggling artist getting cosmic abilities that resonated with me.
Of course, with a bullet, Milestone Media, and Static more specifically. The history of their work in bringing narratives to audiences who were often left silent in the 90’s will always be at the heart of what I wanted to do with Spark.
There are others of course, but I hope casual and more comic-centric readers will pick up on those as they read.
Speaking of influences… Every writer has books and authors who’ve influenced them and their writing style. What are a few of yours?
Well as I’m sure every writer probably responds there are too many to go into without bullet points. Regarding Spark my biggest influences are writers such as Ralph Ellison, Kurt Vonnegut, Mat Johnson, Dwayne McDuffie and George Schuyler.
While Spark deals with a lot of heavy topics—politics, racial tension and microaggressions, disillusionment—it’s an incredibly funny satire. How did you approach balancing the serious and lighthearted elements of the novel?
Thank you so much for saying that! I feel that in some ways the two go hand in hand. Satire is all about bringing absurdity to light, but while satire can sometimes pick at wounds a little too fresh I also find parody to be a salve. While I wanted to discuss issues surrounding race and identity, and how having tangible power doesn’t necessarily exclude you from facing these issues, I also wanted something that people could enjoy in its honesty and humor.
Charlie J. Eskew is a writer from Columbus, Ohio. He is a professional comic book shop lurker and tenured Black dude in America. Please satisfy your unnatural obsession with him via Twitter @CJEskew or his website, www.askeweskew.com.