Comic book artist explores Kemetic mysteries
By Steve Furay
Special to the Michigan Citizen
“The Dreadlocks I created is really a symbol,” says Detroit artist and writer Andre Batts, sitting in front of pages of rough art sketches for his latest story creation. “And that symbol does not symbolize just the growth of the hair but of the mind and the body and the spirit.”
Through the pages of his comic books and graphic novels, Batts has created superhero characters unique in the comic book industry. The character Dreadlocks, like the other heroes developed by his company Urban Style Comics, is African American, a rarity on shelves where comic books are sold.
Dreadlocks, Batts’ most popular character, got new life when the new animated “Dreadlocks” short film premiered at September’s Motor City Black Age Comic Convention, an event he helped establish in Detroit. A blind, wandering mystic from Detroit, Dreadlocks is able to summon great powers to overcome mythical foes.
“He’s going through changes that’s going to get him to that point when he’s elevated enough to understand who he actually is,” says Batts. “He is a blind superhero, I created like that because I didn’t want him to encounter all the things in the world, because things we see in the world can actually blind us.
“But he can sense the evil and the vibrations that come from individuals he encounters, whether good or bad. He knows what type of actions to take with every encounter.”
Dreadlocks was created as a way for Batts to express his knowledge of ancient Egyptian texts and sciences. He is the writer for all of his creations, though no longer the illustrator, as he has built a team of artists who contribute to the vision of Urban Style Comics. In the smaller industry of Black comics, he describes Urban Style Comics as having the stature of a company like Marvel, due to his creativity and consistency over the years.
Drawing from the Kemetic Mystery Schools, Batts describes Dreadlocks as one who is responsible for bringing Ma’at, a system of universal order, justice and righteousness, to the modern people of his ancient lost tribe.
“With me being learned in the Kemetic (or Egyptian) mysteries,” says Batts, “I figured I would add a lot of that into the character, based on the fact a lot of the Egyptian mysteries are really an art that no one even knows about for the most part. It’s really lost.”
At the time he created “Dreadlocks,” Batts was studying books by authors like Dr. John Henrik Clarke, Dr. Yosef Ben Jochannan and Anthony Browder, learning about African traditions and how they can be applied in modern society.
“In reading those books, there was a lot I was learning, thinking about this culture over here and that culture there and how powerful it was.”
He came to realize ancient mythologies have been inspiration for many of the most popular comic book characters, and Batts felt entitled to the same influence. His other titles, “Black Watch” and “Jihad A.D.” were created in the same spirit as “Dreadlocks.”
“You look at stories like Superman, with Jor-El (Superman’s father) and the baby, that’s kind of like the story of Moses,” he says. “These stories have been established long before Bible stories, but they’re more mythological in the sense of the universe and the way the universe operates.”
He explains that creating Black characters with this Kemetic knowledge comes from growing up when most of the most popular comic characters did not have African features.
“It makes sense to draw all characters, because we are in a multicultural society,” he says, “but when you’re doing a story like Dreadlocks, the hero has to have my features. Because I created it and therefore it should look like me.
“I look at the industry itself, people who created Marvel and DC Comic books, most of their characters, I’ll say 90 percent are Caucasian, five percent maybe of an alien race from outer space, and then one percent may look like me.”
Batts explains he worked to establish the Motor City Black Age Comic Convention, which took place September 28 at YouthVille Detroit, to help inspire future comic artists and readers.
“I created that as a venue for people of color to be able to share their work,” says Batts, “and not only that people of color being able to see this work, because they’re not going to see it in the stores, in the specialty shops.”
Batts hopes Dreadlocks will inspire others to study ancient Egyptian knowledge and learn about traditions that were nearly lost.
Batts believes the comic book is the perfect vessel for distributing his knowledge. Exposure to his books “allows someone else to open up and research this information that I may have put out, to see if they can get a better understanding of who they are and where they came from,” he says.
Dreadlocks and other titles from Urban Style Comics can be ordered at www.UrbanStyleComics.com.