Friday, 29 August 2014

Boxiana Vol. 1 preview: The Original Johnson

Over the next few weeks, this blog will be featuring a series of exclusive previews of content from Boxiana: Volume 1, which will hopefully whet your appetite and persuade you to buy the full volume, which will be available as a paperback book (RRP £9.99) or ebook (RRP TBC).

Today I'm continuing the 'boxing comics' theme of several previous posts by presenting an extract from the third chapter of Boxiana Volume 1, written by Trevor Von Eeden which examines Trevor's motivation for the creation of his Jack Johnson graphic novel The Original Johnson.

Trevor's article is a heartfelt, provocative and fiercely intelligent analysis of American history, and Jack Johnson's significance within it. It's a unique and highly creative piece of writing which I absolutely adore, and hope you all will too!
To accompany this extract, Trevor has also kindly supplied Boxiana with some stunning scans of original artwork  from The Original Johnson, as well as some previously unseen examples 0f alternate artwork, including a fabulous cover concept which spins the cliché of the 'great white hope' into the 'great black hope'.

For more info on Trevor click here for Boxiana's interview with him and here for an extract from our article on boxing-themed comics.

As I publish further previews from the anthology in the coming weeks and days, hopefully you'll conclude that Boxiana: Volume 1 will be worth purchasing. If not, then at the very least I hope you enjoy the free sneak peeks and other blog posts!
Anyway, that's enough of the hard sell, here's the latest preview - which consists of the a 1,000 word passage of what is a 6,o00 word feature. Enjoy!

Boxiana: Volume 1 preview

Round 3

Renowned comic-book artist Trevor Von Eeden explains the philosophy and intentions behind his graphic novel masterpiece ‘The Original Johnson’, which tells the story of the pioneering heavyweight legend Jack Johnson …

Jack Johnson was the son of a slave - a man who had been reduced, in the country of his own birth, to the vile degradation of existing as a human being without humanity; a human being without freedom, individuality, dignity, hope - or originality. A human being without any form of reality, whatsoever. A human being with only a memory - of the painful, indisputable, irrefutable, irrevocable fact of his own individual existence, his own personal, inner reality - his own humanity. Living in a world dedicated to fear, hatred, hypocrisy, and above all - conformity. A world now and forever closed and opposed to the simple, self-evident fact of his own reality.

How does a human being not go mad, in a circumstance such as that? Is it possible? Was it possible to be a slave in Early America, and not go insane - eventually? Apparently, from the writings and testimonies of those fortunate few who managed to somehow survive the horrible institution, it was indeed possible. But, oh - what courage it must have taken! True freedom begins in the mind of the individual, and the man that Jack had as a role model in his father must have been a man of extraordinary courage, intelligence, and dignity, to have raised such a son. We’ll never know - but what we do know is that Jack made of himself a genuine hero, a legend - and a creature of inevitable myth. But as a real, live, flesh and blood person - with a childhood, thoughts, hopes, dreams, and fears, just like you and me - Jack has never been a part of the public consciousness. His legend has taken on a mythic status, as if he were a creature of fiction like John Henry, the black ‘steel-drivin’ man’ who died competing against a soulless machine in a contest of railroad track laying.

But Jack Johnson was REAL - and he didn’t die, nor lose, in a contest against the soulless machine that was the world of his day and time - he WON! And he thrived spectacularly, conquering that world single-handedly, again and again, until he chose to end the battle - on his terms. Unfortunately, for the past hundred years or so, his story has been almost exclusively told by the very same people whom he had conquered - and although the indisputable greatness of his unique and unprecedented achievements is such that no distortion of the actual facts of his accomplishments was possible - it was still indeed possible to present a partialized portrait of his personality, life, and character to the public in diluted and selectively constructed form enough to essentially trivialize, marginalize, vilify, and ‘niggerize’ this great man’s memory - especially in the minds of his own people. The simple (or simple-minded) reasoning behind that being so that no others of his ‘ilk’ (i.e: color) would be able to potentially follow in his footsteps, by figuring out exactly how and what he’d done, then doing it themselves. The ‘Great White Hope’ was that black people in America would never realize the potential inherent in their own humanity - period.

Jack Johnson’s entire life and being were a direct refutation and serious threat to that singularly cowardly and corrupt intention. So for the past century, Jack’s actual humanity has been either glossed over, or ignored. Unfathomable mystery became another part of his myth, and legend - he became an official global anomaly, instead of a man of courage who had conquered the forces of an inhuman evil, simply by standing up for his own humanity. What he’d done was extraordinary, no doubt - but absolutely far beyond the abilities of lesser mortals, like your average black American ...  There was nothing in Jack’s legend (as created and perpetuated for four score and twenty years and more, by the same racist culture he’d fought against all his life) that anyone could possibly identify with as a normal, black human being, and say, “Hey, I know how he did that - and I can do it too!” A big reason for that being, of course, that the racist reporters of his day actually didn’t know themselves how he’d done ‘it’ to begin with!

Jack succeeded in his battle against Racism simply because he, himself, was not a racist - how can one really expect people born and raised in an overtly, proudly racist country like early America to understand, much less accept that fact? A man ahead of his time is always just that … In the hands of his enemies, Jack’s very greatness became the means of his diminishment, especially in the minds of the people he truly represented - the oppressed, underprivileged, ignored, and downtrodden - in any society. The poor, huddled masses, as some call them ...  But some truths remain alive in memory, despite every effort to erase, bury, or modify them, and Jack Johnson represented - and will always represent - HUMAN FREEDOM. The only way to defeat racism is with humanity, and Jack lived, exemplified, and applied that doctrine to every facet of his life and personality. It showed in his genial, generous, good-natured character, and was the reason the man enjoyed his life to its zenith. He was free of anyone else’s definition of himself but his own. Jack’s clearly stated p.o.v. on Racism was: “I treat people as if race doesn’t exist” - this profoundly revealing statement is not one of denial, but of dismissal - of the inherently divisive, bogus, and cowardly tenet of Racism itself. But no one of his time understood what he meant, and here in the 21st Century, we’re only now beginning to catch up to this extraordinary man’s exemplarily original - and TRUE - point of view.

How did Jack do it? How did he conquer an entire racist world? How did he create and live a life that no-one else had ever even conceived of before - and enjoy the minutes, hours, days, and years of a life spent right in the midst of his enemies? Easy … he loved his fellow man - and was completely free of their own, self-inflicted fears.


TREVOR VON EEDEN was born on July 24th, 1959, in Georgetown, Guyana (formerly British Guiana) - the only English speaking country in South America. He came to America with his family in 1970. In 1976, at age 17, he became DC Comics’ first black artist - and the youngest they'd ever hired. His first assignment was to co-create their first original black superhero, Black Lightning (the black GL knock-off, John Stewart, had debuted shortly before.) BL is still alive and well in the DC Comics Universe. Over the years, Trevor has also received favorable acclaim for his work on Powerman/ Ironfist #56-59 (1979); The Batman Annual #8 (1982); The Green Arrow mini-series (1983); the cult favorite, Thriller (1983-85); The Black Canary mini-series and subsequent regular series (1990-1993) and Legends of The Dark Knight #149-153 (2001) - his last work for DC Comics, to date. His first self-written/drawn graphic novel The Original Johnson, the story of Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion of the world, was released in December 2009 to generally positive acclaim from fans and critics alike. A quote from the New York Times Book Review graces both covers of the two volume paperback set. Trevor is currently at work on his second book, The Story of HERU: The First Hero, and resides in the Gun Hill Road section of the Upper Bronx. He is single, lives alone, and enjoys his own company quite a bit. When it comes to sex, he likes women - but infinitely prefers them to be smart, rather than dumb. A good wife would be helpful - but not mandatory - for achieving happiness and peace of mind in life. He has no major complaints nor regrets to report.
Boxiana: Volume 1 will be available through Troubador PublishingAmazon in the UKAmazon in the USA and all good traditional and online booksellers.

Further exclusive previews of Volume 1 content, as well as further information about Boxiana's contributors will feature on the Boxiana blog in the coming weeks.

Boxiana: Volume 1 is an anthology of never before published boxing writing and takes an in-depth look at the sport’s past, present and future. Original, startling and thought-provoking, Boxiana examines pugilistic themes, characters and issues ranging from the personal to the universal, combining exclusive interview material with meticulous research. The book’s fresh approach will both intrigue and delight all serious followers of boxing.

Featured in Volume 1: comic book legend Trevor Von Eeden analyses the significance of Jack Johnson; Mario Mungia tries his hand at amateur boxing; Ben Williams uncovers his grandfather’s bareknuckle boxing career; Matthew Ogborn considers the issues boxers face on retirement; James Hernandez catches up with Jon Thaxton; rising light heavyweight Chris Hobbs recounts his life in the military and the ring; Rowland Stone recalls a heady night in 1992; Corey Quincy attempts to solve the Wladimir Klitschko conundrum and Luke G. Williams examines the meteoric rise of Deontay Wilder and the under-rated career of Chris Byrd. 

No other boxing anthology can match Boxiana’s eclectic range of subject matter, or its in-depth examination of issues and characters from boxing’s past, present and future.
Luke G. Williams

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