Chris Walker: ‘Comics is the Next Big Storytelling Medium of Hip Hop as a Culture’6 min read
What do you do when you’ve worked for the likes of Marvel and DC Comics, illustrated Ghostface Killa’s novel, ‘Cell Block Z’ and worked with creative brands such as McDonald’s, Honda, Citibank and adidas? If you’re Chris Walker, you create a company to create diverse comic books for an urban minded consumer, Urbanime.
Chris is currently launching his new digital comic, Relic, which tells the story of two African-American brothers who develop supernatural powers and illustrates a struggle of the lust for more power as the battle between good and evil lurks.
While steadily building his empire, Chris was able to take some time to talk to us about his future plans, how his upbringing prepared him for what’s to come next and how comics are the next successful aspect in The Business of Hip-Hop.
1. Who is Chris Walker and why should we be excited about him and his work?
Chris Walker is a Creativepreneur and you should be excited to work with him because he’s changing the way comic books are viewed in America. I like to call it being ‘icomiclast.’
2. You are launching a new company, URBANIME. What is the company about and the focus? What can we expect?
The focus of Urbanime is to create diverse comic books for an urban minded consumer. Coming from the culture, we believe digital graphic novels are an incredible way to express the breadth of urban culture. Everything from music, to fashion, to design, as well as the passion and drive of the creators and the communities which helped to mold them, fill the pages of the projects we embrace.
Our focus is to tell stories that take the culture, be it characters, storylines, even how we dress, talk, and interact and throw those into fantastic narratives to show how that mixes things up! Or even throw those scenarios into familiar settings!
It totally redefines questions like- What is a hero? How do they go about their journey? What is their story? When you change up the perspective you get something new and bold, that’s also familiar in some ways and exciting.
So our goal is to create unique stories, heroes, and worlds which explore the sensibilities of urban culture through these exciting narratives.
3. Will you name some of the artists you’ve worked with and some of the companies that have had the honor of working with you?
I’ve worked with Diddy, KRS-One, DJ Green Lantern (I designed his logo) D-12, Redman, Taylor Bennett, DJ Honda, Dj Krush, Towa Tei, Ghostface Killa (Cellblock Z), Redman, OC, Micheal B. Jordan, Keith Powell, Kevin Powell (produced an animated pilot).
Companies- Sony, Adidas, Honda, MillerCoors, McDonald’s, Axe, American Heart Association, Dos Equis, McDonald’s, TJ Max, 1800 Contacts, Dove, Degree, Dove Men, Citibank, Polly Pocket, Transformers, Spider-Man, Batman, the X-Men, Superman, Green Lantern, Thundercats, Sony, Marvel, DC, Fox.
4. How did your upbringing prepare you for your current career?
I grew up in North Carolina so I have the patience of a southerner. It’s helped because I like to go and activate. That upbringing has helped me have perspective.
It also taught me about people. My family, especially my mom and dad are people oriented. They explained people and how we express ourselves and interact with society.
My mom was into psychology in college and my dad always asked me to have a plan for my plan. That helped me as an entrepreneur to problem solve and think things through from different angles.
5. What do you envision for The Business of Hip-Hop through your creative eyes and entrepreneurial spirit?
Hip Hop is still in its infancy- both sonically and culturally. Who knows what the future will hold. Ten years ago we could have never imagined the diversity of the genre now- Chance to Yachtu to J Cole and Kendrick.
I think the business side will become even more entrepreneurial and driven by changes in technology and cultural trends. The share economy created Spotify. Diddy, Russell, and Jay created running your own business and rolling with your squad to do so.
One thing that hasn’t been tapped to its full potential is the storytelling aspect of Hip Hop. And in that way I think comics is the next big storytelling medium of Hip Hop as a culture. Comics are one of the greatest storytelling mediums invented and has the power to lift these amazing stories of the culture and give them a new expression.
6. How has your work experience as a creative director in the advertising industry, benefitted your artistic views and plans?
I stepped into advertising because I saw a shift in the market. I was writing and producing web series and working on concepts for TV and Film.
It was right around the time the digital upfronts started to happen where advertisers were buying ad space with online programming. I saw a shift that was happening in culture.
Advertisers who have always paid for and backed entertainment were looking at a new space- Digtal. Which meant there was a changing of the guard and a chance to get ahead of it.
I wanted to pitch brands and sponsors and new advertising would show me how to do so. I’ve learned how brands work on campaigns, develop ideas, and work with content and media.
I have also learned how advertising structures concepts and ideas. I’m a fan of process and am always collecting ideas on how to fine tune the creative process and make it work for you as a creative person. Advertising is the business of managing the creative process so it’s helped me tremendously there as well.
7. Give us an insight into your first comic, Relic.
Relic is the story of two brothers whose lives fall apart on a magical amulet that gives them abilities. It’s a coming of age story, as magic is making its way back to our reality and the brothers are pulled apart by the different sides as one becomes good and one evil.
It’s a story of brothers and family, about staying together while also being true to yourself and your goals. All the while there are others dictating who they should be and want use their abilities for their own gain.
So for anyone coming from our cultural backgrounds it has many layers- the storyline and the story of these to brothers, plus a commentary on our role in society and how others view us.
8. As far as creativity in these current times, how has social media helped in keeping up with modern technology?
Social Media is a great way to get inspiration and references.
In the past artist and creators, especially commercial artists, would have file cabinets and storage rooms full of reference materials. Everything from cars to animals to people posing.
Or art references where you would have liked to use their influence in your work. Now everything is online. Right at your fingertips.
There’s also the commodore that comes with sharing work online. You meet incredible artists and creatives across the globe and you’re all inspired by one another’s work.
9. What advice would you give anyone who wants to give entrepreneurship a go?
Study business and go work for someone who is doing what you’d like to do. Business is hard work and it doesn’t hurt to study others who’ve mastered it. That said, also pursue your passion and your vision. Don’t let anyone take you off your goal but also be flexible. Your goal could grow or take a different shape over time. It sounds so contradictory on the surface but it’s true. You’ll know on the inside if you’re doing it (any of the above) for the right reasons.