Yesterday, we featured Jermaine Dickerson of the BLKBOARD podcast so of course we have to also feature his co-host Mike Tré Randall!
Midwest BSFA: I listened to the BLKBOARD podcast long before being on it and your friendship with Jermaine shines through. How do you describe your dynamic with your co-host?
Randall: Like Batman and Superman, in the most simplest of terms. I like to think while we’re on the same side of most issues and topics, we have our own perspectives that compliment each other. He’s bright, earnest, trying to be the best that he can be and sees the world through the lens of optimism. I’m the more grounded, slightly less forgiving, darker individual. I think this creates a nice balance and it makes up for the fact that we hardly ever debate about anything. We typically share the same views, but present them differently.
Midwest BSFA: How does the design element of BLKBOARD fit with the nerdier topics you discuss?
Randall: Well, design is all around us. Even with the nerdiest things there is an element of design, and that’s where we come in. I think we set ourselves apart from most other platforms in that we make our professional knowledge a big part of what we do. So if a new logo drops for a movie, or a show, or a movie releases some promotional posters, we’ll be there to break down what makes those things succeed or fail from our perspective as actual designers. And this was crucial for us because black graphic designers are tremendously underrepresented. Most graphic designers people can name from the top of their head are white men, and maybe a couple of white women. So this is a good way for us to engage with the blerd community, but also connect with all kinds of people who aspire to enter the field of graphic design and illustration and show them “hey, we exist, and we do cool work.”
Midwest BSFA: We met you guys last September in Detroit when Midwest BSFA had a table at MECCACon, which focuses mostly on independent comics. How did you get into comics?
Randall: My first exposure to comics weren’t actually comic books, it was the Spider-Man animated series from the early 90’s (which is how I got introduced to my favorite superhero of all time). Where I grew up, right outside of the Detroit, there weren’t any comic book stores, but you could pick up a few if they were on sale at a Borders or Barnes & Noble somewhere. The first comic book I ever got, I couldn’t have been any older than 6 or 7, actually came with a Spider-Man action figure my mother got me. This was an issue featuring the Silver Sable, and I have it stored somewhere in a frame to protect it. But growing up, I got a few books here and there on occasion. It wasn’t until I went to college in Ypsilanti, MI that I found some decent comic book stores and my collection skyrocketed.
Midwest BSFA: Do you prefer mainstream or indie comics?
Randall: Indie comics all the way. While I do love some mainstream runs and there are stories I’m willing to support, I’ll always give the win to Indie comics because the creativity and the representation is incredible. Mainstream comics are starting to get into the trend of showing what REAL people look like, but Indie comics have been doing it forever. Marginalized groups are coming together and putting themselves in the spotlight and creating stories I can automatically relate to. Books like Concrete Park and The Wicked + The Divine both have my undivided attention at the moment.
Midwest BSFA: What’s your favorite speculative fiction story featuring a person of color?
Randall: So I just mentioned The Wicked + The Divine and I think that takes the cake in terms of modern stories. Of the past I’ll give it to Carmen Jones (if movies count). But yeah, I love The Wicked + The Divine because it creates a concept of ancient gods on monsters existing as regular-looking people who re-incarnate every something years. But the beauty of it is so many of these characters look like me, or the people I know or people I’ve seen. This book told me that a character who looked like me could unapologetically be the god of weather and storms. Oh, and the art is incredible. I’m a guy who loves bright colors, and this book delivers.
Midwest BSFA: With podcasts like yours and other outlets run by people of color (like Black Girl Nerds and FanBros), do you think it’s easier to be a black fan of speculative fiction, comics and such nowadays?
Randall: Yes, most definitely. People seem to not want to admit this, but being a black nerd in the era I grew up in, (late ’90s, early 2000s) meant being treated somewhat terribly by my peers. It wasn’t all bad, but it was hard to openly express interest in nerdy things without getting rudely whispered about or regarded as somehow lesser. But now, black nerds are EVERYWHERE embracing what they like and providing safe spaces for their peers. Black Girl Nerds was an inspiration to us (Blkboard) because they were one of the first blerd outlets we encountered after college. Not to mention the valuable discussions that come out of the community in regards to these topics because of our co-existence. It’s much, much easier these days.
Midwest BSFA: Have you decided on your steampunk outfit for Motor City Steam Con yet? 🙂
Randall: Actually, yes, and I’ll tell you more about that later.
Midwest BSFA: Anything else you want our readers to know?
Randall: I’m also a writer, going through the process of putting some final touches on my first novel before sending it off for formal editing. I can’t say much more about it, but stay on the lookout.
You can follow Mike on Twitter (@MikeTalksTrash) and check out some of his design work at www.michaeltredesign.com. Also, follow him on Twitch.Tv at MTR_The_Titan to watch him play video games in the name of truth, justice, and Blkboard!