February is Black History Month and 1First Comics would like to observe it by celebrating some of the creators we have been privileged to work with. First up is ORLANDO HARDING, the creator and writer of the best-selling series RRH and the brand new paranatural action thriller NIGHT STALKER!
Black History Month Interview with Orlando Harding
1FIRST COMICS: What was the first comic that you created? When was it published?
ORLANDO: The first comic I created was titled: Pariah. It was my first self-published creative work and still has an impact on all my stories today. It was published waaay back in April of 2006. It got pretty good reviews except one, where the reviewer ripped me a new one and said that “he just didn’t get it”. It’s where Night Stalker made her debut. I have come such a long way from back then. It was my first inspiration that spawned my passion to continue to try and create cool characters and tell my own stories. There is nothing like a labor of love and a creator than seeing the final product in their hands. When I received my first print of Pariah, I was just floored and knew that the books would still be around in someone’s garage or closet long after I was dead and gone. My hope was that fifty or a hundred years from now that someone would open the book and wonder who Orlando Harding was.
1FIRST COMICS: Comics are an extremely broad and unpredictable medium and can make the reader laugh, cry, or gasp. With so many possibilities of outcome between the creator and reader, what do you hope the reader will take away from your work?
ORLANDO: Unpredictability. I really strive to create comics where the reader won’t know exactly what was going to happen on the next page. I couldn’t stand reading books (or viewing movies) where you know how the story would end in the first few pages or scenes. I try to keep the reader off balance and coming back for more because they have no idea as to what’s on the next page.
1FIRST COMICS: Of everything you have written for comics, what page or sequence do you feel best exemplifies your work?
ORLANDO: The first two pages of Night Stalker and the first 2 pages of RRH. I start both books mid story and then explain how it got to that point. In Night Stalker Dyana is chained and beaten. My motive is for the reader to wonder how she got that way. In RRH, Sydney is all beaten up and begging for it to stop. I hoped this would intrigue the reader and keep them turning pages to see what journey the characters went on to arrive there.
1FIRST COMICS: From RRH to Night Stalker, your leads are typically strong female characters. What draws you to that?
ORLANDO: There are very few books out there with strong women of color as the lead character
1FIRST COMICS: In RRH, there is a bit of an undercurrent of misogyny in the story as personified by The Big Bad Wolf (not his actual name, but we’re trying not to give anything away). You are one of the least hateful people we know, so how did you make such a thoroughly distasteful yet compelling nemesis for Sydney?
ORLANDO: Thank you for that compliment! I wanted to pretend the characters were real and if I was him what I would likely do or be compelled to do considering the history behind what he has been forced to endure through no fault of his own. I’m actually working towards people having compassion for Ag and understanding his point of view and why he is so driven at destroying Sydney and her family.
1FIRST COMICS: Your latest title, NIGHT STALKER, follows the adventures of an infernal bounty hunter as she tracks down escapees from Hell. Was your intention to depict the rough men (or in this case, women) ready to do violence that we may sleep peaceably in our beds or is this a tale of redemption?
ORLANDO: No, not really. There are real horrors in our world, and she is just a symbol of the forces of good willing to do battle to prevent us from exposure from those that would do us harm. Looking at the news every night helps me understand the evil in the shadows and in our faces. It’s penetrated all levels of our world lying in wait to devour us if allowed. It’s people like her that are dedicated to do battle with those that would harm us. We call them police, social workers, and doctors.
1FIRST COMICS: But is she a “good guy”? After all, Night Stalker had to do something to wind up downstairs in the first place, right?
ORLANDO: Believe it or not, she did nothing to wind up there. She was chosen. This will be revealed.
1FIRST COMICS: In RRH, Sydney’s family is a great source of strength for her. In Night Stalker, the titular character’s main weakness is that she’s alone. The theme of family and community seems to be very strong in your work. Is this something you were trying to comment on or are we reading too much into this?
ORLANDO: I’ve lived in both worlds. When I was alone, I had to fend for myself when no one else would and that strengthened my independence. Now that I have a family, there is nothing better than the people that love me having my back. I’ve experienced both these worlds and both of them have helped shape and prepare me.
1FIRST COMICS: A lot of people don’t understand that a comic book writer, if we were to use movie terms, is or can be the writer, director, editor, choreographer, and/or producer all wrapped into one. When you write your comics, how in depth do you get with your descriptions of the action and setting? Do you get down to the smallest detail like Stanley Kubrick or do you leave your artists a lot of room to exercise their artistic impulses?
ORLANDO: I go full script! Down to the smallest detail if I can remember it. However, I’m not a controller. It doesn’t have to be my way all the time and am open to different perspectives. No ego here. If you come up with something better that will make the book look better, I am open to it. Just as long as it doesn’t’ interfere with the story. My artists have that range. Of course, I get the final say, but am in no way a dictator. The artists with my books have cool ideas when it comes to the panels and layout. I have no problems with making changes if it enhances the scene.
1FIRST COMICS: Comic books are a medium that can and do cover many genres. There are comedic comic books, dramatic ones, action-adventure, romance, etc. Is there any genre you’ve been meaning to explore, but haven’t yet? Or conversely, is there a genre you wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole?
ORLANDO: I would probably do anything. Each medium has its own challenges and rewards, and I would absolutely be open to any of them if given the opportunity.
We would like to thank Mr. Harding for his valuable time in answering our questions. We also thank you for your time as well. Please check back this month as we will be posting more interviews in honor of Black History month.