A few months ago I wrote a piece on LGBTQ+ creators and their efforts to bring normal characters to comic books. Not “Normal characters” as in unremarkable, but characters that actually look and act like the readers. The same white, straight characters are starting to wear out, and we are finally entering an era of comic books (And entertainment as a whole) where diversity matters. Of course, it’s more than just queer creators bringing diversity to comic books. Black creators are breathing new life into fan-favorite superheroes while also bringing in unique creator-owned stories. Sanford Greene is one of the creators leading the way.
Sanford Greene is most known as the artist for Runaways, Power Man and Iron Fist, and Bitter Root. The superstar artist recently rose to prominence but has an origin story like the rest of us. I got a chance to talk to Sanford Greene at Dragon Con to learn more about the creator. “I watched cartoons on Saturday mornings and went to the local K-Mart. There were these spinner racks, and I saw books that looked like something on tv,” recalls Greene. The books that Greene was eyeing had Spider-Man and Superman on the covers. “I begged my mom to buy them and the addiction started from there.”
From that moment Greene would start drawing the things he saw in comics and created his own characters. Greene’s first published work was a newspaper strip for Dark Horse called Spyboy. Spyboy was a monthly series of strips in Dark Horse Extra. “It was pretty cool because I was fresh out of college. I still have some of the strips and I cringe when I look at them, said Greene with a laugh.
— Sanford Greene (@sanfordgreene) August 28, 2019
Working with David F. Walker and Chuck Brown on Bitter Root has lead to Greene appreciating his own work more. Greene is seeing his work featured more, like at the University of South Carolina’s Four Color Fantasies exhibit. It’s the little interactions that make working in comics worth it for Greene though. “Just meeting people and them sharing what my works with them. It’s kind of surreal because you are in the studio secluded, banging your head against the wall trying to figure it out. You’re not certain about these things and second-guessing everything. Then you put the work out and get that interaction from the fans and what it means to them. I’m just like wow, this is all worth it.”
I asked Greene if he had any fan interactions that really stood out to him. He told me a story about a mother and her 10-year-old son who traveled to see him at a convention after seeing an article. The mother expressed how grateful she was to Greene for giving her son something to latch on to. He had some struggles in school and having a creator that was a person of color for the young black child to see meant the world to her. Stories like these show why having diverse creators and characters mean so much to people.
Of course, books like Bitter Root are enjoyed by just about everyone, not just people of color. “At HeroesCon a gentleman came up to me and he didn’t look like someone who would read Bitter Root. He was a caucasian guy with a camouflaged hat with sleeves cut off. He kind of stood there and he looked at the book and looked at me. He said ‘You did this? I love it. My friends and I read this and we love it.’ Turns out there is a book club for truck drivers and they read Bitter Root,” Greene let out a laugh. “Isn’t that crazy? Stuff like that just shows me that if you are sincere with it and work hard you will have a connection with people.
When asked about what character he would love to draw next, Greene was quick to answer. “I’ve already worked on my dream character: I worked on Luke Cage,” said Greene. When I was a kid, that was one of the first characters I saw that looked like me. He’s one of the guys I saw in comics that made me feel like ‘That’s me.” Greene did mention that the would love to work on a Batman book one day.
Black characters are showing up on the big screen more often, so I asked Greene who he wants to see in theaters next. Legendary recently acquired the rights to Bitter Root, so Greene hopes that he will get to see his own characters on the big screen soon. When asked about casting ideas, Greene wasted no time saying that he would want to see Winston Duke in the film.
Before we wrapped up our chat, I asked Sanford Greene what he is currently reading. Unsurprisingly, he is reading House of X, just like the rest of us.
Sanford Greene is a talented artist who clearly has already made a significant impact on the lives of many. The work must be exhausting sometimes, but these fan interactions are absolutely worth it for the creator.