Ronald Wimberly on 'Why LAAB Magazine?' (Exclusive Cover First Look!)

The is Comic Creators Speak, where I feature guest essays from comic creators that I admire - BC

The brilliant comic book creator, Ronald Wimberly, is crowdfunding a new magazine called LAAB. Here is a quick recap from the publisher of what LAAB is...

LAAB is a newspaper-format art magazine on identity in visual culture, created by Ronald Wimberly. It's filled with comics, articles, interviews, illustrations, criticism and design. The first issue, funding live on Kickstarter right now, focuses on the mythology of blackness, and the black body in science fiction. Kickstarter funding closes on Friday, Dec 1st.

They are so close to reaching their funding goal. You can click here to fund it (I'll share the link again at the end of the piece).

It sounded fascinating, so I thought I'd ask Ronald to share with us all some more thoughts about the magazine. At the end, we'll share an exclusive first look at one of the finished special covers for the magazine. The rest of this is all Ronald....

What is LAAB Magazine?

It's hard to explain. I’d rather not.

My earliest memories of comics are of my shoulders hunched, elbows pressed into the carpet, gaze cast downward and filled completely with the Washington Post’s Sunday Funnies. Newsprint has pores; it drinks in the ink, the color, the light. When the light heats the page you can smell the ink; it's alive. I’d save Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes for last. Sometimes I’d transfer the cartoons onto silly putty.

When I was still a teenager on holiday break from Pratt institute where I was majoring in Art Direction, I worked at Pearl paint on Rockville Pike in Maryland. I had been fired from a job at the Pratt art store after being falsely accused of stealing, so I decided to to start stealing for real. I stole Adbusters regularly. I found a critique of pop culture consumerism and an analysis of the language of manufactured desire.

I think the first time I heard the word Afro-pessimism is when I saw Frank Wilderson III speak at Columbia University. He lectured on the newly released Django Unchained, cross-referencing it with Lars Von Trier’s Manderlay.

My first girlfriend put me onto Image comics. She liked this magazine called Wildcats. I got her the first issue, drawn by Jae Lee. A short time after, in the passenger seat of a compact Nissan, I lost my virginity to her.

Jim Hanley’s was a comic book store on 34th street in the bottom of the Empire State Building. They had an arcade cabinet of Marvel vs Capcom in the back that me and my pal Julian would play. I’d check to see if they had any new Dave Cooper or Paul Pope. One day I found an issue of Giant Size THB, (or was it Buzz Buzz?). Inside I found Paul Pope’s essay on Hugo Pratt; a cartoonist I admired critically analyzing another artist’s formal practice. That was the first time I had heard of Hugo Pratt.

In Shimokitazawa, Tokyo, while a girlfriend got her straight Japanese hair “africanized” at a salon, I’d burn time cruising used book and record stores. The Japanese CD releases had so much extra material! I’d come home with tons of magazines and records I couldn’t get at home (Fruits Basket, IDEA, the RZA’s original score for Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog). Also, on Shibuya Loft’s bottom floor, I found an oversized book of avant garde theater posters. This is where I first found the works of Tadanori Yokoo and Hirano Kouga.

I want LAAB to be a place to read comics and think. I want LAAB to be sensual. I want it to provoke thought, but also swat a fly. Dead.

…or maybe wrap a trout.

Josh, one of the founders of Beehive, the publisher of LAAB, my foil and straight man, asked me to write a little something about LAAB. I hesitate to be too explicit here because… I feel art is a butterfly, when you pin its wings and put it in a box you have a sense of it, but you really aren’t seeing it as it is, alive. I only ever wanted to provoke thought; a butterfly flitting across a field of wildflowers, or dancing through midtown traffic to a terrace garden above. So if you really want to honor that, don’t read any further.

I read somewhere that some scientists believe the universe is mostly invisible dark matter. We can't see it, and don't fully understand it, but its presence might explain a lot of what’s going on in the universe. The theme of this first issue of LAAB is the dark matter that makes up society: identity. Class; race; gender; religion; sexuality – the countless badges and and markers we wear as we move through life. The ones that we choose and the ones that are chosen for us. The unspoken social power dynamics that underlie virtually every human interaction. The structures we navigate.

I'm the editor and the curator of LAAB. The first issue acknowledges my lens moving forward. It's about black identity. The mythology of blackness. The role of the black body in our cultural stories.

Ten years ago I drew a comic called Africa. Africa mapped themes in my life and identity onto a scene from Godard’s sci-fi detective film, Alphaville. It was a sort of narrative self portrait; an abstract meditation on my identity.

A detective walks into a hotel; it’s that simple.

I chose Africa as the title because, to me, for better or worse, Africa had always been an abstraction. As big as it was as an idea, as much as it loomed in my life, it remained a riddle. From Conrad to Fannon to Queen Latifah’s dashiki and gold medallion… And what was it that I carried in me that connected me to this word (a continent? An idea?)? Had it been placed on me? Was there any reality to it; if so, what was it? In the comic it would come to mean the world and its physics. A city full of abstractions pushing and pulling the characters. I decided that I would re-visit this world in LAAB.

In LAAB I’ve created and curated works that continue the dialogue with the work. I interview some of the most vital thinkers who are working hacking these mythologies. Artists, musicians and activists like Saul Williams, Alexandra Bell and Trenton Doyle Hancock. I create comics exploring these tangled themes of identity performance, construction and deconstruction. I critique artworks that are engaged with these ideas, like Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther, Kwanza Osajyefo’s Black, and Blade Runner.

I want to build a venue for artists and thinkers to explore these ideas and others with me.

Yes, That Fast & Furious Original Character Guest-Stars on Spy Racers

More in CBR Exclusives