On a Wednesday a few weeks ago, I went to my local comic shop to grab my pick list. There’s a young Black fella setting up a table in one corner.
Me: Whacha doin?
Him: Setting up to sell my comic.
Me: *new comics senses tinglin* OH REEEAAAALLLYYYY? Tell me all about it?!?
And that’s how I met Kevin Betou and bought his self-published comic Blackman. He’d printed 150 copies and he sold them all out *that day*. Kevin is a senior at the arts high school and is ready to step out in the comics world and make his mark. I wanted to share his enthusiasm and love of the craft with all of you. We talk about his influences and his future goals. Look out for his next piece, he’s only going up from here.
Black Nerd Problems: What/who would you call your primary artistic influence?
Kevin Betou: I wouldn’t say I have one primary artistic influence, I just kind of soak it all in like an oversized sponge, haha. If I did have to choose a few though, they would probably be Sean Gordon Murphy, he works on Tokyo Ghost and his inking skills are insane! Also Ryan Ottley and Greg Capullo! All those guys are awesome! Oh and Jimmie Robinson! I met him at a signing and he gave me tons of tips and support, he works on a comic called Power Lines. If you like Blackman then you’ll definitely like Power Lines, haha. (Interviewer’s note: I have read Power Lines and it is goooooood.)
BNP: What comics inspire you to create?
KB: Definitely the current Spider-Man — Miles Morales. Seeing a Black character that I could relate to in a comic made me want to also make a character like that. I’ve been reading comics since I was around six, and Miles Morales is the first character I really related to, which also got me thinking about the lack of diversity within comic books. Call me crazy but it shouldn’t take a kid 16 years to find a relatable character.
KB: Drawing! Drawing is one hundred percent, undoubtedly, my strong suit, haha. Writing engaging and deep stories is pretty tough and I have mad respect for writers! I will whole-heartedly pursue drawing. I plan on attending Savannah College of Art and Design and majoring in Sequential Art!
BNP: If you could do a collaboration with any other comic artist or writer out right now, who would it be and why?
KB: Oh that’s a tough one haha, jeez these are some great questions. I would choose the writer John Hickman (writer for East of West a staff favorite). His writing is extremely poetic in my opinion and I’m sure we’d make a great comic, also I’d have John Rauch do the colors. I’m pretty garbage at coloring and I’m sure I could learn a ton of things from him! Man now I want to make a comic with them, haha.
BNP: We met here in Oakland, CA. How does the city play a role in your work? Is Oakland to South City as New York City is to Gotham?
KB: Oakland plays a huge role. I’ve been here since I was six and it’s where I learned most if not all of my drawing skills. I go to school at Oakland School of the Arts and without its amazing instructors I would definitely NOT be drawing! On comparing Oakland and South City to Metropolis and Gotham, that’s really awesome, I never thought of that! Honestly, I made South City pretty hastily, I wanted to focus on Blackman and the different characters that lived within South City instead of the city itself, though I will go more in depth with the city in later issues!
BNP: How did you come to have your signing/release party at Cape & Cowl Comics when we met? How’d you set that up?
KB: I actually have an internship at Cape & Cowl Comics so the owner (Eitan) knew I was working on a series and wanted to help promote the book with a signing. When he first told me about it I thought he was joking, like who would come to a random high school senior’s book signing? Then a whole ton of people showed up and it sold out in an hour or so! It was really an amazing experience and I’m super thankful for it!
Having an internship at Cape & Cowl I get to be in a place surrounded by thousands of comics and draw influence from them. Eitan and all the employees (Tyler and Fernando) are super knowledgeable and give me tons of recommendations on comics so I always have something to look forward to reading!
BNP: What challenges did you face producing the comic? How long did it take?
KB: Where do I start? Some challenges include my lack of Photoshop skills and having to learn as I draw, not knowing anything about the printing process. I’ve been drawing comics since I was about 6, but Blackman is the first one I’ve actually gone through the whole printing and selling process with so it’s like my first born, haha. Oh and the super tight deadline. I finished Blackman in about a month, pulling a few all-nighters along the way, haha, it was definitely all worth it though!
BNP: What’s the one thing you’d want someone who found your art on the Internet to know about you?
KB: I would want them to know I really like dogs, just kidding (well, I do really like dogs but that’s off topic haha). I’d want them to know that I’m just a normal kid who was blessed enough to have an awesome opportunity to go through with this book. Through making Blackman I realized that a lot of what keeps me from accomplishing things is myself (and it only took me 18 years to figure that out haha).
BNP: What’s your next big thing and where can we find it?
KB: I plan on continuing Blackman for a while. I know a few people that really enjoy Blackman and if it makes those few happy to read it then it makes me happy to make it! I love seeing others enjoy comic books (especially when it’s my book). I’m looking at a few digital outlets for Blackman but for the meantime your best bet would be Cape & Cowl Comics on 1601 Clay Street in Oakland!