Drew McIntosh is not your regular super hero.
Dread & Alive
Up until this week, Pound’s “Politics & Bullshit” mandate didn’t usually include comic book reviews—parallels between rappers and superheroes notwithstanding—but Dread & Alive is a likkle bit different than your average graphic novel.
Created by self-proclaimed comic geek and reggae lover Nicholas Da Silva, D&A follows the heroic exploits of Maroon descendant Drew McIntosh as he fights appropriately modern incarnations of evil.
Each issue of the eye-opening comic comes with an accompanying reggae soundtrack that is strong enough to stand on its own. (Volume five includes: Buju, Cocoa Tea, Natural Blacks, Beenie Man, Dubmatix, Mr.Vegas and, personal fave, Jahdan Blakkamoore).
Having spent time in the Jamaican mountains in the Maroon village of Accompong, I was pretty amazed to see a comic book that features a protagonist who descended from the little known, but inspirational freedom fighters. The Maroons were African slaves brought to Jamaica who escaped to the hills and successfully fought off the Spanish and British slave masters. To this day, their land remains sovereign and they do not pay taxes to the Jamaican government. It’s a legacy that Drew does proud. In volume four of D&A our dreaded hero battles Gryphon; a “ghost-like individual” that kills endangered species in the Serengeti to sell on the black market. For real? What am I going to find out next? That Drew is a vegetarian that eats strictly ital food and starts each day with a fat spliff? (“Yes” to the ital, says Da Silva and “for now, it’s a secret” to the ganja).
Read what else the D&A creator told us about the boundary-pushing comic book.
Pound: What was the inspiration to create Dread & Alive?
ND: The inspiration came from having the best mentor and hero in my father. He was a dreamer just like me. As a kid, I was blessed to have the opportunity to literally travel around the world as well as live outside the United States. Our travels opened my eyes and ears to the sights and sounds of different cultures. My dad was also supportive of my love for the arts (drawing and music) and encouraged me to pursue my dreams.
Pound: Why did you choose Jamaica? And further, the Maroons?
ND: Being a Bob Marley fan, I knew I wanted to do a comic book story that had a hero centered around or influenced by reggae music. So I began researching the origins of reggae music, which led me to Jamaica. I then researched the history of Jamaica and was introduced to the Maroons. Their story immediately touched me. I needed to know more! You see in high school, I studied and excelled in American and World History however I never heard about the Maroons in the textbooks I read. So you can imagine how I felt when I discovered that the Maroons were in fact runaway slaves that escaped into the Cockpit Country and fought the British to maintain their freedom.
Pound: Did you feel there was a void that needed to be filled in the comic world?
ND: I did and I still do. I would like to see more comic books that feature characters of colors that are not based on stereotypes. There are a few comics out there now where the creators have actually done some incredible work to explore history to develop their characters and storylines. I love that! That’s what comic books are all about.
Pound: You obviously aim to include historic and relevant issues into story. What are your thoughts about using the arts as a tool to achieve social change, to educate and inspire the masses?
ND: I think art can be a powerful conduit to educate the masses about social change. In publishing Dread & Alive in comic book format, I could have put Drew McIntosh in a fictional storyline that was out of this world but I decided against it. Instead, I wanted to create stories where Drew confronted the types of villains that actually exist on our planet today. By doing this, I feel that I can help shed light on the different injustices that are taking place on our earth and hopefully help make a change for the better.
Pound: And is that one of the goals of Dread & Alive? I mean, most regular Americans don’t know anything about the Maroons…
ND: It is. I grew up studying American and World history and never heard of the Maroons. It wasn’t until after a stint in college where I discovered the Jamaican Maroons while researching Jamaica’s history and became inspired by their story. Here’s a group of runaway slaves who decided to fight the British to protect their freedom instead of being enslaved again. And guess what? They succeeded. Their story needs to be told.
Pound: How did the music component come about? I've personally never seen a comic book with a musical soundtrack.
ND: Music has always been a source of inspiration for my creativity. In developing Dread & Alive, I immersed myself with lots of reggae and African music daily. I would always start my day off by putting music on. My playlists included music from Bob Marley, Angelique Kidjo, Geoffrey Oryema, Black Uhuru, Third World and Steel Pulse. Their music was conscious and uplifting. I also listened to other artists outside of the reggae community: Kitaro, Front 242 and Seal.
I believe that adding music to comics can actually enhance the storytelling experience. Like a soundtrack or a score to a movie, the music sets the theme of the story. Through music, the reader can understand who the character really is, what the character stands for, where the character comes from and what is going through the character's mind.
To be able to work with Soul of the Lion and connect with the current group of artists appearing on the Lost Tapes series has been very inspiring and uplifting for me. When I first began dreaming of Dread & Alive, these artists weren’t around but their forefathers were—Bob Marley, Black Uhuru, Steel Pulse and Third World to name a few. The torch has been passed to them and they are letting that light shine brightly! It’s an honor to be able to work with them as I bring the story of Dread & Alive to the world.
Pound: Any word of hitting the big screen?
ND: That’s my current plan right now. I’ve had several inquiries regarding taking the series to film (feature film) and television as an animated series. It will happen because we’ve got to fulfill the book, So Jah Seh!
Volume 5 comes out February 5th. Go to www.dreadandalive.com to order your copy today!