Shero Comics kicks off Black History Month with the arrival of a new shero.
A new Shero arrives to the growing Shero Universe built by female-centered multimedia company Shero Comics. Young Grandmaster Choi, a prequel to their award-winning Rayven Choi graphic novel series, launched with a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign on February 1, kicking off Black History Month.
The series tells the story of Rayven Johnson, a six-year-old African American army brat sent to South Korea after losing both parents. Rayven is adopted by her father's best friend and KATUSA solider Don Choi, and his baker wife, Mai. In Korea, Rayven is faced with making new friends and learning a new culture and language, all while dealing with the grief from losing her parents. Rayven also faces a bully, who oddly helps her find her fighting spirit in Hapkido, and eventually becomes her best friend.
Shero Comics, led by multi-hyphenate Shequeta L. Smith, started out with the goal of raising $5,000 to help complete the first book in the series. In exchange for the support, contributors can score cool physical perks such as buttons, stickers, and embroidered martial arts belts, as well as digital perks such as animated gifs of Rayven's Hapkido moves.
"Twenty-three years ago, after a study abroad trip to South Korea, I returned to America with a deep respect for Korean culture and with this character, Rayven Choi, playing in my head,” Smith said. “In the graphic novel, you see her stepping into her power as an adult, but in this series, we get to see the source of where that power originates.”
Smith is launching the Young Grandmaster Choi book series with the plan of eventually adapting it into an animated series. As a former educator-turned comic book CEO, Smith is well aware of the lack of original Black female characters in comics and animation, which is why she founded Shero Comics. Young Grandmaster Choi seeks to bridge that gap with manga-style artwork and inspiring stories that empower young women and girls.
The campaign for Young Grandmaster Choi launched on Kickstarter on February 1, and has surpassed the $5,000 goal. The campaign gained the coveted "Projects We Love" designation from Kickstarter several days before the campaign launched, and it got a repost on social media from the CEO of Kickstarter. Smith is hoping that news of this inspirational project will reach more people, especially women and girls. With 88 backers, and currently standing at 113% of their original $5,000 goal.
"I'm excited that our backers can see the vision for this project and understand the importance of a Black woman being in the driver's seat, for a change, when telling the story of a Black female protagonist," Smith said. “The comic book industry is very male-dominated, so I'm thankful for the backers who see value in women in comics, and hope that an even bigger audience shows up to back our newest Shero before the campaign ends."
The Shero universe that Smith created is centered around Rayven Choi, with spinoff comics about characters within the Rayven Choi storyline. The success of the “Rayven Choi” series led Smith to create SheroCon in 2019. The inaugural woman-led comic book convention was held at the Westfield Culver City mall (affectionately known as the Fox Hills Mall by locals), with a follow up convention in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancelation of the 2021 convention, but Smith plans to continue in 2023.
SheroCon attracts more than 4,000 attendees and featured multiple stages, panel discussions, makeup artists, and gives women a place to sell their comic books.
“People were really into having space for women,” Smith said.
A comic book convention that has a Black woman as the featured character is extremely important because it allows Black girls to dress up like characters who look like them.
The Kickstarter campaign for Young Grandmaster Choi can be found at http://bit.ly/3QQv6t9 and ends at 11:59 pm on Wednesday, March 8, 2023, which happens to be International Women's Day. For more information on Shero Comics, you can visit their website to join their Shero newsletter or follow them on social media for updates. www.sherocomics.com.