After a freak lightning storm, Jupiter wakes up with superpowers he uses to help rectify racial injustice and inequality.
Jupiter Invincible is a comic book that tells the story of an enslaved African-American teenager who possesses the power of immortality which he uses to assist Harriet Tubman in the smuggling of runaway slaves through the underground railroad. As if that weren’t interesting enough, the project uses AR technology to bring its pages to life with animation, real-life stories, and other interactive elements that pop right out of the pages.
The comic book, which made its debut during the Tribeca Film Festival & Schomburg in NYC, was penned by Pulitzer Prize Winner Yusef Komunyakaa with artwork by Ashley A. Wood. The AR content was created by Ram Devineni from Rattapallax. The story is set in Maryland right before the US Civil War and digs deep into the lives of enslaved African-Americans.
Jupiter, who was born into slavery, is a horse-breaker and coach driver at the plantation he lives on. One night during a freak electrical storm that seemed to come out of nowhere, Jupiter is struck by lightning and dies. It’s during this moment that Jupiter sees the faces of slaves before him and discovers his real purpose. When he awakes, he discovers that he now has the power of immortality and the scars on his body have become translucent. Knowing that he can’t be killed, Jupiter decides to use his powers to help others.
Can Jupiter’s new powers and wisdom be used to change the course of history to rectify racial injustice and inequality?
For Komunyakaa, the story and the character started with research at Hampton Plantation in Maryland and at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. Even though it’s a comic book, the story behind the character needed to be genuine and based on real events. Komunyakaa explored images of the South and its culture of Black resilience, as well as musical forms such as blues and jazz.
“I grew up in Bogalusa, Louisiana reading Dick Tracy, intrigued by his futuristic thingamajigs, and also Flash Gordon in his cool getup, but this is the first comic book I have written,” said Komunyakaa in an official press release. “I hope Jupiter Invincible renders a slanted gaze into that brutal institution where rather obscene wealth and privilege rose out of, and has been passed down generations.”
To bring Komunyakaa’s words to life, every page and panel of Jupiter Invincible is beautifully illustrated by Chicago-native Ashley A. Woods. For her, this is much more than a comic book. “As a Black woman working in the comic book industry, I never thought that my work would be tied to a series as profound as Jupiter Invincible; I am honored and grateful that I am able to contribute to the conversations about race in America.”
Once the writing and illustrations were completed, it was up to producer and AR designer Ram Devineni to bring the pages to life. In addition to injecting the project with AR animations, he also brought old photos back to life, much like the genealogy platform My Heritage did with their Deep Nostalgia app. Having faces move and blink as if they were alive helps readers develop a deeper connection with the story and history itself.
“When I was in school in New Jersey — slavery and narratives about African-Americans were never taught to me, the only time that I learned about Slavery was when my teacher showed us the TV mini-series Roots by Alex Haley. That was it, and it was never talked about or mentioned again. Americans are uncomfortable or do not know how to talk about Slavery which is one of the reasons its aftermath continues to effect us today,” said Devineni adding, “I believe bold new stories and narratives like Jupiter Invincible are needed to create a cultural shift and challenge perceptions about race in America. The comic book is designed for young people and we hope to get the comic book distributed for free in schools and libraries.”
Eric Battle, who has illustrated popular titles such as Spider-Man and The X-Men, served as the editor for Jupiter Invincible, and currently acts as curator, art director, and illustrator on a coffee table book for the Philadelphia Jazz Project and BLAM! Black Lives Always Mattered!: Hidden African American Philadelphians in the 20th Century, an original graphic novel for Temple University’s Charles L. Blockson Library.
Jupiter Invincible was developed at the Merriweather Art District in Maryland, funded by the US National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts, and created by New York-based media house and publisher, Rattapallax, which produced the popular AR comic book series, Priya’s Shakti, featuring India’s first female superhero hero and rape survivor. The comic book was named a “gender equality champion” by UN Women.
You can find more information on their website and on social media at @powerofjupiter.
Feature Image Credit: Rattapallax