When United States-based illustrator and comic book artist Shawn Alleyne stepped back on home soil and came across the local talent, his life changed. You see, he left Barbados as a boy and had not been back in almost two decades.
Alleyne invited EASY to Harmony Hall, Christ Church, where he was staying until his flight back to the United States.
“I was born here, but left in 1993 for Philadelphia and only returned in 2012. Back in 1993 comics were only seen as a hobby and people told me to be an architect but I remember going to school and realising that wasn’t me,” he said.
Alleyne said he and his father butted heads over his decision, with dad insisting that he get a real job and start paying bills.
“I started working and making money but I kept drawing on the side. Years later I realised I wanted to draw seriously,” he said.
It was then the artist started to pursue his dream full-time, driving a further wedge between him and his father, but there was no stopping this train.
“In 2005 my life changed after I went to ECBACC [the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention] featuring comics created by black people reflecting black people. Before I was only drawing Asians and Whites as that was what I was seeing, but they said, ‘where were the black characters?’ and that opened my eyes,” he said.
From there, hard work and perseverance earned Alleyne a spot with Street Team Studios and the now defunct TheBlackSuperhero.com. His success continued to grow as he got signed to a major company in Japan, and he has has a video game and also a movie in the works.
“We all had urban vigilante type characters and I did a terrible sketch with all our guys as a team but people loved it and a video game developer said he wanted to make a game from it. I contacted the guys and we created the game Street Team: Reign Of The Iron Dragon, which can be downloaded online. It was all so successful we got signed to a company in Japan, now working on a comic book and we are also working on a live action movie which will star Harry Lennix,” he said.
Alleyne was on track for success but he was missing something he did not even know was absent, something which only fell into place following a talk with his mother.
“In 2012 my mother said there was a comic convention in Barbados and I saw an interview with [local artist] Matthew Clarke online so I contacted him. He then put me on to Omar Kennedy, who in turn brought me on as a guest.
“That was my first time back and my first thought was, ‘Why did it take me so long?’ My life changed again, seeing these Caribbean characters. I also met my girlfriend here that year, so it was a pivotal time.
“The local talent is astounding but I want to see it get out there more. I’m thinking about moving back home. Some say it will be hard here but I see the talent and I want to get involved. I’ve started the Xion network for comic book fans and artists and we have already had two get-togethers and we will have one every month to encourage and support anyone interested in the industry,” he said.
Alleyne had turned another chapter in his life and had even begun to get along with his father, who had moved back to Barbados years ago, something he said he was glad for in light of the tragedy which happened shortly after.
“My art started to help me and my dad to mend fences. At first he was not supportive but when he came to see my art that year, he was so proud, telling people I got the gift from him. The very next year he was killed in a hit and run by St Leonard’s School, so now everything I do I dedicate to him,” he said.
The talented illustrator said he was so moved by his trip back home that he was now changing his main character to suit a Caribbean theme.
“My character is called Black Aizan but I plan to have him pass on his mantle to a woman of Barbadian heritage. Aizan is tied to African folklore and is a power passed through generations, giving you strength, speed and an ancestral memory, but it eventually drives you crazy, so my character has to pass it on to someone new and she has abilities which it is hoped would stem the madness.,” he said.
Alleyne is back in the US after taking part in last month’s Animekon. He said he is coming back next year.
“Next year I plan to shut down Animekon with Aizan – I love the guys here but they’re competition now so I’m putting them on notice,” he said. (CA)