Oak Parker brings Afrofuturism to comic book readers

First comic by OPRF graduate draws on African myth

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TIMOTHY INKLEBARGER and CORA BAKER

Long before moviegoers packed the theaters to make Marvel's Black Panther one of the highest grossing films of all time, Oak Parker Merrick Moore-Fields was making plans for his own comic book in the "Afrofuturism" genre.

Now the Oak Park and River Forest High School graduate has made his dreams from childhood a reality with the release of his comic, The Pit Fighters.

Moore-Fields, who wrote the book, was about six months away from assembling his team of artists when he saw the film, which took the big screen by storm in January 2018.

"I was just grinning in the theater the entire time," he said in a recent interview.

While the Black Panther comic books were a big inspiration for him as a young comic book enthusiast — Moore-Fields, 26, started planning his comic book in middle school — he said he saw the film as "opening the door for Afrofuturism."

"It was for a mainstream audience and showed that this is a genre that is basically untouched and has been for many years — and it's profitable and tells an interesting story," he said. "This is like a Renaissance is about to happen."

Moore-Fields, who works as a graphic designer at a picture frame company in Elmhurst, had assembled his team by November of 2018 and just completed The Pit Fighters within the last month.

He launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to pay for the project, describing the process as "stressful and exhilarating."

The Pit Fighters story is based on a West African myth but is part of a larger universe that he plans to explore in future books.

The story centers on three women who are in a fighting tournament for a cash prize. The goal: to raise money to get one of their nephews out of prison. Meanwhile, they work to stop a "cosmic horror" that aims to stop them.

Moore-Fields said he's loved comics since he was a kid — action comics as well as graphic novels like Art Spiegelman's Maus, Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, and Alan Moore's Watchmen.

But as a kid, he rarely saw comic book characters that looked like him. "Since I was little I always wondered why people who looked like me weren't main characters or had stories to tell," he said.

Ultimately, he learned of myriad African myths that were never taught in school and dug in.

"I realized … I need to use [these stories]," he said. "Basically, I would always tell myself, you're not crazy; these stories exist and need to be told — they're not nothing."

Moore-Fields said he checked out every book at Oak Park Public Library about African myths and got to work.

The Pit Fighters is currently available on Moore-Fields' website https://www.calamityness.com. But the creator said he also plans to take his work to the Chicago-based comicon C2E2, New York Comicon and some smaller expos.

He hopes to make the book available on comixology.com and at local comic book stores.

"This comic is my dream," he said.

tim@oakpark.com

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Chijioke Ezem  

Posted: May 15th, 2019 1:28 AM

This is incredible and so inspiring bro. Really proud to know you're doing what you love and being recognized for it!

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