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Skankin' It With Unfiltered Bobby Joseph

Written by Greg Anderson-Elysee on Monday, June 06 2016 and posted in Features

Skankin' It With Unfiltered Bobby Joseph

UK Comic Creator, Bobby Joseph, stops by for his first US interview to talk about old school controversial Skank Magazine, his new work, and his hilarious hate for Black Wally West.

1918914 10153787871430126 5184901209859772099 nBobby Joseph is the founder of the cult, comic classics Skank Magazine and Black Eye. He is known as the Voice of Urban UK Comics Books. He has written for The Guardian, Vice.com, Loaded Magazine, The Voice newspaper, BBC1's Lenny in Pieces and Radio 4. His comic work was a prominent feature at the "Anarchy in the UK" comic exhibition at the world famous British Library in 2015. The piece, "Co-Co Nutts" was viewed by over 60,000 visitors last summer. He is also a vocal advocate for diversity in comic books and is credited on the BBC website as instrumental in featuring some of the "first comics by black creators featuring black characters." His first graphic novel Scotland Yardie will be released in August 2016 by Knockabout Comics and we'll be discussing it on his first U.S. interview here on The Griotvine!



GREG ANDERSON-ELYSEE: Mr. Bobby Joseph! Welcome to (Heard It Thru) The Griotvine. How are you today?

BOBBY JOSEPH: I'm well. Mustn't grumble. Life is good. Trying to figure out what I'm going to have for lunch. Decisions. Decisions!!

GREG: That is truly a tough decision. So you're here today to tell us aby3mgm0Hz2WZS4IPjE qtoyO7xHPUbnjw1gNrzLbIDiHvaKG7SqE7E8b A2PIBY7DesHQg0qNnizCJxznBs9cV1kWATIsNvgLGMAYvjYc3RtyYhEzjgaCWUCiKU68Ida6Bteout your book, SKANK: THE WORLD'S MOST DANGEROUS COMIC BOOK! What can you tell us about this book?

BOBBY: Well, first of all, to put the book in context: it's a hybrid kind of ride. It's a novel with the added bonus of having the never-before reprinted comic strips from Skank. A novel with comic strips? Surebloody! The novel part of the book is about the rise and fall of Skank Magazine. The story is about a bunch of young, Black teenagers, who wrote their own comic book but lost it through their own stupidity. For those that don't know, Skank Magazine was the very first, Black satirical comic book. It ran from 1994 - 1997 in good ole London, England. The book is my autobiography as it simultaneously deals with the loss of my daughter and my magazine, with the proceeds of the book going to the Meningitis Now charity. It has been described as a book about loss. That said, the book is the funniest thing you'll ever read! Or so I've been told! Ha!

GREG: Skank Magazine originally debuted over 20 years ago. What prompt the creation of this magazine and just how old were you and your partners when you created it?

BOBBY: A friend of mine knew Dotun Adebayo, from the X-Press, which was a Black book publisher in the 90s. We were introduced and I showed Dotun some of my comic strip ideas and he liked what he saw. At that point, I wasn't interested in doing superhero stuff; I was interested in doing characters that were entrenched in the Black community in the 90s - characters and personalities that I grew up with. Dotun REALLY liked that idea and under the X-Press' guidance, they gave me a magazine to edit, write, and put out. I was 20 years old and in charge of my own magazine, which is cool as I got chucked out of college the week before getting this gig. I then went out and recruited Black writers and artists - mostly graffiti artists roughly my age - and we went to work lampooning anything and everything we saw.


GREG: From what I understand, the magazine wasn't without its controversy. Can you tell us a little about the experience of publishing your work and getting the type of reactions you guys did?

BOBBY: Well, we were satirizing what we saw in the community on a daily basis. We also dealt with the racial attitudes from White people, police brutality. We satirized sexism, homophobia and celebrities in the Black community. In the beginning, people didn't know how to take us. Some people thought we were negatively stereotyping Black people - which at no point, we felt we were doing. What we did was positive! It was a Black comic published by a Black publisher, giving young Black comic creators an opportunity they wouldn't be getting anywhere else! Hell, I remember back in the day, we had people step to us on numerous occasions wanting to fight us over the comic stuff we produced! That said: it amuses me now that over time, Skank is fondly remembered as an UK comic book classic! Which is nice.

GREG: What about Skank Magazine did you feel made it so popular at the time and why was it problematic for certain others?

BOBBY: When we came out, the UK press went slightly nuts over us. The fans loved us. Mainstream press thought we were a menace. Which in some ways, we were!! We were loud-mouthed rude boys, who didn't care who we offended, and that's why people from the streets loved us! We were real. We were raw. We didn't give a fuck!

GREG: When you look back at Skank, is there anything you wish you've done differently?

BOBBY: Nah. I don't regret anything I've done. You live. You learn. You move on!

GREG: Moving on a bit then, given the loss of your magazine and the unfortunate loss of your daughter, how do you balance a book with so much comedy, which is already being stated as your funniest book yet, while having such serious subject matters such as the loss of your daughter?

daughterfatherBOBBY: The Skank book was a tough ordeal for me. I didn't know if I could do it. However, I set my rules. I was going to do a tender story that dealt with tragic loss. But yet, I wanted it to be the funniest book I ever wrote. A strange combination, right? Though, my daughter's death was the worst thing I had ever experienced, parts of the ordeal was sheer farce.

I used my humor to tell the tale. Just to be clear. This is not a book where I am mocking my daughter's death. I would never do that. She was my world. My book looks at death, the process of grief, how it touches us, and how we, as people, deal with it.

GREG: I'm sure it was a very difficult process.

BOBBY: It was hard to write about my daughter's death. I had to relive that pain. I couldn't fake that feeling. It emotionally drained me.

GREG: Despite that, what would you say was the most rewarding part of it?

BOBBY: The most rewarding? I did it. I finished it. It was a cathartic experience. I am in a better place with regards to my daughter's death. I also came to terms with losing my comic. This book, in a way, is a love letter to my twenties. Hopefully, people can get on aboard and enjoy the ride!

GREG: Did you get any sort of nostalgic feelings of maybe wanting to do something like Skank Magazine again in the future, to push and showcase other Black creators for their works and pieces in an anthology mag?


BOBBY: Surebloody! Skank is now held up as a cult classic by the establishment. It also reminds me when I was a tad too rebellious. To do it again? I'm not sure... Maybe the right anthology project will come along from the right publisher. Who knows? Let's see. I'm not holding my breath, as I am quite content with what I achieved with Skank.

GREG: How long have you actually been working on this book exactly?

BOBBY: I started in 2012. I finished early 2015, and then spent a year having it edited. The Scotland Yardie graphic novel was an easier writing experience. It's very much a prime example of my brand of satirical slapstick comic book stuff that I am known for. I'm just glad Scotland Yardie and Skank are both done. The last thing I did was my Black Eye comic back in 2003. That was 13 years ago. Then in the space of four months I drop two books. Ha. Typical me!! Hopefully, it was worth the wait.

SYCOV V6 Last oneGREG: Well you might as well tell us about Scotland Yardie while you're at it!

BOBBY: Scotland Yardie is the first UK Black, Urban graphic novel. Scotland Yardie is a fully painted graphic novel written by myself and illustrated by Joseph Samuels. Its published by the UK's biggest independent comic book publishers, Knockabout Comics. They are the UK publisher of Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and his brilliant forthcoming novel Jerusalem. They have published loads of stuff. Hell, they have even published Robert Crumb and the absolutely sublime Gilbert Shelton.

The general premise of my graphic novel is that Jamaica's most feared policeman, a ganja smoking, no-nonsense bad bwoy cop that breaks all the rules comes over to England to dish out his own harsh sense of justice to the criminals of London. It is a Black Lethal Weapon type of comic strip. It's a satirical piece about cultural clashes and police brutality in the UK. It's a very topical graphic novel and I am very proud of it.

GREG: (Laughs) That sounds like a lot of fun. Did Scotland Yardie start off as a character from one of your Skank strips? Where did the premise for this character come from and what makes you think he may resonate with some audiences?

BOBBY: Yes he did. He was probably one the most popular comic strips to ever appear in Skank. As for his creation, I always wanted to do a kind of crazy urban cop type of thang. I think people in general always tend to gravitate to that Dirty Harry/Judge Dredd type of character. If the protagonist breaks all the rules, and kicks ass then people are bang into him or her! Scotland Yardie was interesting for me as a writer as I've never used the character in a longer narrative. Yes, he had a fan-base. But a lot of his original comic strips were one-paged gags in Skank. Could Scotland Yardie carry a graphic novel across those skinny, rude bwoy shoulders of his? Once I had the story of meth-induced chicken - a riff/spoof on Breaking Bad - and a straight-laced, almost Uncle Tom type, partner in crime/foil, then the story came together quite nicely. I'm happy with it.

6.Page6-page-001GREG: Let's talk a little bit about diversity in comics. What was the state of diversity in comics in the UK when you started Skank?

BOBBY: Fuck all, really. When we breezed into the comic field back in 1994. It was just me and the Skank Crew.

GREG: How is the state of diversity now in the UK? I'm not too familiar with that side of the pond in terms of this topic. Has it improved much?

BOBBY: It's still me and the damn Skank Crew! What the fuck? The mainstream UK comic scene does not care about diversity in comics. It's so small and backwards here man. To the point, where we have to create our own scene. We're still twenty years behind the states! We don't have the equivalent of a Marvel, DC or even an Image Comics over here.

GREG: From what I understand, you're quite the advocate when it comes to such matters, yes?

BOBBY: Yeah I am. I think I was one of the first that kicked up noise about the lack of diversity in comics. I wrote an article about the new Wally West and then everyone lost their fucking minds! For me, the newly revamped character of Wally came across as dated stereotype of young, disgruntled black teenager. I think he did graffiti, wore a hoodie, and had a chip on his shoulder! The storyline seemed to me geared so the great "White" Barry Allen could save Wally from the life of turmoil from those terrible, awful urban ghettos. Which was, ummm... interesting!

I tore up that issue of Flash and threw it in the bin! I think I uttered "motherfuck this shit!" (Laughs) I told my son about the new Wally. He couldn't stop laughing. He particularly found it funny that Wally West said "chump." He said to me. "Dad, did the writer get dialogue tips from Mister T?" I shrugged my shoulders and then ripped the shit out of the "new Wally West" in that article. I put across the valid argument that we needed better representation by hiring more Black writers in comics. From that, I had Black comic creators giving me props via twitter and such.

Nowadays, I've kind of stepped back a little from the diversity thang, as others have stepped up to the plate. What I do find interesting is the amount of White people writing articles, bitching about the lack of diversity in comics. (Laughs)

GREG: Well damn about your disdain for the Nu52 Wally! (Laughs) Have you watched the Flash TV show, especially concerning their portrayal of Wally on it this recent season?

BOBBY: Yeah. Fuck him. I hate him! (Laughs) I'm glad they bought back the other one in Rebirth! I am a bit behind on The Flash TV show. I've only recently just started the 2nd series. So I can't judge it as yet. Is TV Wally crap? I hope not – as that would be quite horrible for the actor. I've enjoyed the TV stuff. I'm intrigued that the DC TV universe is doing numerous crossovers with other series. Which, as a fan I'm really loving! That said, I am STILL waiting for the ultimate crossover... Diggle and Joe from The Flash (or "Street Joe" if he's wearing his beanie hat). These two are quite possibly, my favorite characters in the DC TV universe. Yup. They may have slightly crossed paths, but... dang!! It wasn't enough!! We need a crossover special that deals with these two legends.

Why? Well, for starters... Diggle doesn't even need arrows like that wuss Oliver. He can disarm any baddie by crossing his arms dismissively! That's the mark of true hero: confident arm crossing! And Joe? Well, he's in touch with his feelings! This man can well up and cry at a drop of the hat. Everything makes that man bawl. Remember when Gorilla Grodd came for him? He cried harder than Michael Jackson at the end of the "she's out of my life" track. So come on DC, pull your finger out and do it! Hook up a Diggle/Joe crossover!! We need this! I NEED THIS!


GREG: Man, you got my dying right now as we wrap this. (Laughs) Thanks for stopping by, Bobby. It was an absolute pleasure! Any final words before we exit?

BOBBY: Yeah. Why is The Black Panther called the Black Panther? Call me crazy, but shouldn't he just be called Panther? After all, we don't have The Red Strawberry! Also Black Goliath? Hmmm...


All Scotland Yardie art drawn by Joseph Samuels.

Be sure to check out and order Scotland Yardie HERE, scheduled for release on August 18, 2016.

Order Skank: The World's Most Dangerous Comic Book HERE.


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About the Author - Greg Anderson-Elysee

Gregory Anderson-Elysee is a Brooklyn born and based filmmaker (director and editor), playwright, comic book writer, model, and part time actor. He was one of the first writers and interviewers of The Outhouse. He is the writer and creator of the upcoming book Is'nana the Were-Spider. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

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