'Kofi' to the rescue – DeKalb comic book writer creates characters that look like him
Most superheroes are known for fighting crime, but one DeKalb comic book writer crafted a character that stands against another widespread issue.
Eric Sheffield is the creator of EDJ Comics. His comics are available digitally and will soon be available in book form. His first story “Kofi” does have a physical copy. The story begins with a Black Los Angeles family getting ready for their day. The father is asked to go pick up some things from the grocery store. While there, he is shot and killed by a white police officer. The reason -- he fits the description. And this is where Kofi steps in. This superhero saves the lives of Black people who are racially profiled.
“And so, you know, he reaches out his hand over the guy,” Sheffield said, “his hand starts to glow, and the guy comes back to life. And one of the scenes in the comic, I really liked this, I said, 'well, he's just been shot. How do I depict him coming back to life, you know, the bullets just don't disappear?'”
One of Kofi’s superpowers is talking to his ancestors. These predecessors give him insight on who to save. Sheffield said the ancestor approach came to him while he was visiting a friend who was half white and half Japanese. He remembered his friend’s father sharing pictures of his lineage. Sheffield said as a Black man in America, he doesn’t have that type of history at his fingertips.
“So, in creating the character, I wanted to create someone that could be the bridge to the ancestors that were connected to, that we don't get to see,” he explained. “But you know, we like to, we feel that they're watching over us.”
Sheffield's interests in comic books started when he was five. Batman was his first comic book. He said he started creating his own characters after that. Notable ones were Glue man and Snakeman.
“Glue man was just like, he was just like a guy that, uh, you know, as a kid, I'm like, ‘oh, he got dipped in radioactive glue in a factory,’ you know. So, he was able to throw like glue balls and change his size,” he described. “Actually, it was kind of a lot like that clay face character and Batman.”
Snakeman, he said, was just a dude with a snake head.
Sheffield said he’s not much of an artist, so he solicited the help of Willi Roberts to help with his Kofi comic book. He said he wanted to work with someone who could depict the story even if the words were missing.
Sheffield has other comics that cover a range of scenarios. “Return to Sender” is a horror story about a couple with marital issues. He said this idea came from a writing course.
Sheffield said although the focus is on Black heroes, he does have diversity in his overall character pool.
He’s a Navy veteran and he said this background exposed him to different types of people. He said visiting different countries inspired many unique stories.
“I have a span of characters,” he said. “I have Asian characters. I have characters are from India, you know, so it's not like, it's just like this one story where's you know, yeah, for Kofi, you'll see a focus on Black characters, but there's not an exclusion.”
However, he said it is important for Black children to see characters that look like them.
“I think it changes more when you have kids,” he said. “And like, you know, when you have a son, it's like, you understand more the fact that it's very important for them to be able to see themselves when they see movies and stuff like that.”
Sheffield has other projects on the horizon. He is working on a comic book that is inspired by his sister and plans on creating books that spawn from characters in his current collections.
Sheffield wants to expand his scope by birthing something else from his books – he wants to create animated movies.
“I've already imagined, like, who could play them. And you know, yeah, there's one character and then in the second one, ‘Assassin's Cadence.’ You know, if anyone ever listens to this in the future, which I'm pretty sure they will, Omari Hardwick, he's one of the main characters.”
Well, that’s Sheffield’s hope -- and who knows, it may just come true. As for now, he said he will keep writing comic books that represent the world he sees around him and specifically Black people.
- Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.