INTERVIEW/REVIEW: Anansi Makes His Milestone Comics Debut In This Dream Team-Up Story
“In that universe, and in a world where stories are important, because of who reads them and who makes them and the power they have to kind of reverberate through our lives, you insert Anansi into that, who is a storyteller by nature… this is a dude who needs you to listen.”
Evan Narcisse, along with Milestone Initiative artist Charles Stewart III, break down the debut of Static Shock character, Anansi, in Static-Team Up: Anansi #1. Available June 13, 2023.
Set prior to the current running Shadows of Dakota, this one-shot sees Anansi tracking a mystical problem in Ghana to the Static-patrolled streets of Dakota City. Anansi’s visuals are incredibly bright and all-encompassing, a contrast to Static’s more grounded abilities.
“What is magic but a story told to reorder the world?”- Anansi
Vanessa: Obviously a lot of us grew up with Static. So it’s cool to see Anansi come up. This is his debut in the comics. How did he make the leap? Who made the decision? How did that come about?
Evan: I think it all started with a sketch from Nikolas Draper-Ivey, who’s been the artist on the Static reboot for the new Milestone 2022 version. I think he sketched Anansi and put it on his Instagram, if I remember correctly, and people kind of went up for it and were really amazed by it. And I could be getting it wrong. I wish Marquis was on the line. I think Reginald Hudlin saw it. He was like, hey, why don’t we bring this version into the new Milestone universe? I think everything started there. Then I got a call, probably around the same time that Charles got a call about this project. And we’re off to the races.
Vanessa: Diving into a little bit more of Static’s powers versus Anansi’s powers, and how Virgil even called it out, I’m out of my element here, this is not what I’m about. How do you balance out their powers? The mystical versus the more tech-focused?
Evan: Static is in that lineage of science heroes, right? Or you know, he is very empirical and stuff you can see, you know, touch, smell, taste, right? The material world is where he does all his stuff. We all know, if you’re familiar with the expanded version of Static’s power set, homie can throw down, with the fundamental forces of nature at his command, once he gets older and starts to figure stuff out.
Evan: It’s things that can be measured empirically and tested. Whereas, Anansi tells a story, and can open up a portal across the world. This is Static’s freshman year of super-heroing, right? He’s not ready to just take things in stride like that. He needs a little moment to adjust and I felt it was very right, hopefully, it felt like an honest moment on the page. A lot of that is the direct result of the work that Charles puts in with his facial expressions and whatnot.
The stark contrast between Static’s abilities and Anansi’s storytelling-centric powers are cleverly penciled by Charles, who’s beyond ecstatic to be a part of the Milestone family. (He’s one of 24 participants of last year’s Milestone Initiative, interviews here with some other cohorts.)
Anansi appears on the page, larger than life, speaking in poems, with a sexy, updated outfit. His powers are very spider-themed, but in a unique, ethereal way that doesn’t invoke That Other Spider-Person.
Vanessa: Charles, I especially love the way you laid out the way he uses his abilities. When he’s like poking people. I don’t know, it looks like he’s like poking their minds, but he’s reading their story or pulling from their stories or whatever. That’s cool. It’s dope. I’m not explaining it properly. How did you get the idea to lay it out the way it was?
Charles: Evan did an amazing job when it came to descriptive things because like, as an artist, I just want to know what we’re gonna put on the page and what I can evoke to make it better, but he was very descriptive. So I’m thinking this, we don’t want things to suddenly reference too much of Spider-Man, but we do want it to be in an arachnid theme of a character that has web abilities, but this specific work has to do with the ethereal sense. That’s up my alley. I love high conceptual stuff. Okay, bet, let’s make that happen visually. That’s what really influenced me in the design.
Charles: I was also referencing animated shorts of African folklore. I specifically remember that in grade school, I would have not known about this story of Anansi or that African folklore if it wasn’t for the animation.
Charles: [About Anansi’s outfit] I wanted to see what that design was originally, to give myself a pure dive into the original aesthetics. It’s actually a really baller suit. I think the only things I tweaked here and there. I definitely want his hat to be a little flatter versus the Louisianian top hat. How the spider symbol looks, if he flips backwards or upside down, we’re gonna see his back, how does that design wrap around? I thought it would be cool to really weave textile, African aesthetics into the design. I liked the idea of his belt having an African weave as well. The one thing that I really put some effort in because I thought it was really cool: his staff. I think the original design for the staff was pretty cool, but it’s basically a stick. When I was looking it up, I’ve seen a lot of African sculpted staffs. They’re beautiful and ornate. He’s gonna have a weapon, it’s got to look more than just a stick. It’s got to be something that looks beautiful, looks hand-carved, with an African aesthetic.
Evan: [About the way Anansi speaks] I wanted to kind of impart a sense of timelessness to his dialogue, not leaning super heavy on contemporary colloquialism. What’s informing all of those decisions and thoughts was a sense of grandiosity, I wanted to imbue the character with ‘this is a dude who needs you to listen.’
Storytelling and the power it has is woven throughout the story via Anansi’s ability to tap into anyone’s story, villains performing dark magic with historical traumas, and the brief but impactful significance of the Juneteenth celebration.
Evan: That kind of thematic through line was very intentional.The emergence of Bang Babies is a new chapter in the existence of humanity on Earth. In that universe, and in a world where stories are important, because of who reads them and who makes them and the power they have to kind of reverberate through our lives. You insert Anansi into that who is a storyteller by nature, that part was really easy scaffolding to kind of avail myself.
Charles: [About the Juneteenth pages] I wanted to encapsulate everything that’s Black culture, and that’s like too much to do, we only had a couple of pages, but it’s everything: your uncle, your aunties, grills and cook outs. You see barbecues in the background and see people throwing up black fists, they do fist bumps, laughing and very cheerful, it’s very reminiscent of everything as a Black person in those environments and experiences. I wanted to depict that visually. I really hope that you know, people who read this will really get that as soon as they see that page. Like, I’ve seen this, this is literally me, I’ve been to these events.
This new generation of Milestone creators vary vastly from one another, but the thing they have in common is how passionate they are about the new version of the Dakota universe.
Evan: This new iteration of the Dakotaverse is still really fresh and young. The way I kind of approached the story was wanting to expand the possibility space of what’s out there. We’re seeing some old characters get reinvented thanks to Charles’s great visuals and design sense. We’re seeing characters from different iterations of Static’s history being kind of introduced.
Static-Team Up: Anansi #1 is a heartfelt, poignant team-up with dynamic art featuring a fan favorite character and does him justice. The camaraderie between Static and Anansi feels genuinely constructed even with the limited pages.
Rating: 5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
In a story set before the events of Static: Shadows of Dakota, the Static Shock animated series fan-favorite African superhero Anansi pays a visit to Dakota City, investigating a supernatural disturbance…but he’s going to need Static’s help to explore the occult side of the Milestone Universe!