Keeping it Trill….A Conversation with Anthony Piper.
I never heard of Trill League…As a matter of fact…I never knew Trill League existed until I saw the Complex article that showed how awesome Trill League was. This prompted me to purchase the digital copy of the Black Book and I was immediately hooked. The artwork was superb with the color and shading and the illustrator of the comic made “Sparrow” cool as hell. This comic was so hilarious; I then decided to interview the artist behind it. I introduce to you readers the all-around cool as hell person of the graphic novel Trill League, Anthony Piper.
Anthony (Ant) Piper was born in Chicago, Illinois. A self-taught artist, his art showed promise; “Since I was born, I was always into creating stuff. Whether it was drawing, carving wood, sculpting, making T-shirts. I always had this ability where I always wanted to create”, Anthony says. Anthony’s abilities were the result of being raised in a single parent household. As Ant puts it, “Being an only child in the 80’s, the gang violence was up there, so my mom, who worried about me wouldn’t let me play outside that much, so I had to entertain myself. I started creating things, I would play video games, watch cartoons, so I kind of got immersed in it”.
I definitely feel Ant on this point. Currently, Chicago is ranked as one of the major cities in the United States with the highest rates of crime. In 2016 alone, Newsweek reported that as of November 2016, the Homicide rate exceeded 700. To date Chicago has a new moniker, “Chi-raq”, which is a play on words combining the city of Chicago with the country of Iraq in which the United States went to with from 2003- 2011). Rather than get involved in the street life, he became immersed in those fictional worlds of comics, video games and cartoons; learning the art craft and as he puts it, “from grade school to high school I would always get inspired by the art. It’s a part of who I am”.
Around 6 years of age, Ant’s immersion into the comic book universe came from his grandmother; “When we traveled to Georgia, my grandmother would stop at local gas stations and buy me comics, when gas stations sold comics and my first comic was X-Men. I didn’t know what I was reading at the time, but I saw the art and it was ‘dope’. I fully got involved when I could buy comics in high school and I continued to read X-Men because of the popularity from the X-Men cartoons. They were super-hot from the 90’s Cartoon and the arcade game Marvel vs. Capcom 2”, Ant says. Ant mentions one of the greatest video games in gaming history: Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Considered to be one of the greatest video games ever made, Ant’s influences are definitely seen as I view his website (see below) and see how his artwork is a combination of well drawned shadowing, muscularity and emotional facial features. Although Ant doesn’t consider himself a comic book connoisseur, he owes his comic art influences to the one and only Joe Madureira; “Back in High school, when I was collecting X-Men, I was only collecting them because Joe Madureira was drawing them. I really liked his art style because it had that perfect balance of modern mixed with that western style, so I was really getting into it based off of him. He was the only reason I started to continue to collect X-Men and when they moved him off of X-Men, that’s when I stopped collecting X-Men”, Ant says.
The inspiration for people to pursue a career in the comic book industry is an enigma. Consisting of writers, illustrators, and editors, people who are inspired to work in the industry obtain their inspiration from many sources. In the case of Anthony Piper, Joe Madureira was his muse for entering the industry.
Comic Book Industry
Breaking into the comic book industry can be tough especially if you’re a person of color. Wired expressed in their article, Its Time to Get Real About Racial Diversity in Comics; “While there are certainly more minority creators earning bylines than there were a decade ago, the editors and creators of mainstream comics remain overwhelmingly Caucasian”.
Ant, despite this growing concern, found a way to break through those barriers and enter the pages of Marvel as an illustrator and writer. “I work for Marvel as a ‘work for hire’, so I’m not a contract employee. I’ll just do certain projects for them such as illustrating a full comic book or a cover”, Ant says. For those who may not be familiar with his work, his name has been associated with the following: X-Men Gold # 5 – Cover B Variant, UNCANNY X-MEN (2016-2017) Annual #1, Invincible Iron Man Volume 3 #2 - (Riri Williams), Axe Cop (Lead Character Designer), and Major Lazer (Character Layout Artist). Ant’s resume has made him a sought after artist in the industry, especially with Marvel. “My favorite was the Domino short in the Uncanny X-men Annual #1. “The type of writing I want to build my career on was that. Marvel liked the story so much, they want me to do another one”, Ant says.
As Ant describes, the creation of Trill League was based on a happy accident, “If anybody follows me on social media, I’m known as a jokester, I joke around a lot and its a huge part of my persona. I came up with Trill League because I like to make people laugh. I was playing around and when I first created Trill Robin (known as Sparrow), people liked the design, people liked what he was doing; I had him doing the “NeNe”. At the time, people liked him because I was interjecting him with what was going on on social media,” Ant says. The popularity of Trill Robin was so phenomenal that Ant was inspired to create Trill League. “I sat and put a lot of work into it asking myself, ‘what would be appropriate for this character?’, If this person is a new age black person, what would this person be doing? What would fit? This is the result of my life being a jokester”, Ant states.
Reading the first story of Trill Robin “The Switch Up”, I was immediately hooked. Stated earlier how Ant is known as a jokester, The Switch Up discusses how D’Shaun was replaced by “Blackmayne” (another character in the series) by the one and only Chris Brown. After laughing my way through this comic (yes, it is that funny!!!), the ultimate showdown begins between D’Shaun and Chris Breezy. Not revealing too much, D’Shaun channels his martial arts training and clobbers Chris Breezy by using his special finishing move….It is then that D’Shaun evolves from Trill Robin to become the one and only…Sparrow!!!
The Fate of Trill League
Self taught and self motivated, Ant’s ability was based on the studying of various artists. Currently, he is in California, writing stories, drawing and pitching Trill League to media outlets such as Cartoon Network, Fox FX and various premium cable channels. His determination is relentless and as he is living his dream as he breaks through barriers in the comic book industry. Still dedicated to the future, he still takes the time to give advice to up and coming young comic artists in the industry:
“I would say that the one thing people should know is that you really have to want to do the art thing; like its something you have to live, eat, breathe, sleep because it takes a lot. I would say its not like being a regular worker, where you work for eight to ten hours a day and live your life and do whatever. You have to be working 24 hours.
Art is something where you must always stay learning. You have to stay learning more then anything. You have to be perceptive of everything around you. Colors, anatomy, movements, it takes so much and to be efficient in your field, you have to push yourself to keep learning. You just can’t draw what it is you want to draw; you have to push yourself, you have to learn how to personify people in multiple environments. You have to learn how to apply colors…it takes a lot!”
Trill League is truly something that I wish I had growing up. With its Humor and artwork that reflects various situations of the “hood”, Trill League is a comic that focuses on current pop culture trends. I salute you Anthony Piper for keeping it Trill.
For more information on Ant Piper just click here--> Trill