UNC alum delivers various heroes in graphic novel series

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Frederick L. Jones has long been a champion of diversity and representation.

As a student at UNC Chapel Hill in 1992, he fought for a Black Student Union. In 1995, he participated in the Million Man March.

Today, at 49, Jones brings that same passion to the world of graphic novels.

This summer, his publishing house, Saturday AM, will release four new titles – “Apple Black”, “Hammer”, “Saigami” and “Oblivion Rogue” – each telling a story that highlights characters of color or characters. LGBTQ.

“I felt a commitment to making sure our representation and our stories weren’t lost,” Jones told QCity Metro.

Jones’ entry into the market comes at a time when the popularity of graphic novels has seen explosive growth across all genres.

According to a research firmworldwide comic book sales exceeded $3.8 billion in 2020. This figure is expected to reach $4.69 billion by 2026.

Jones grew up being a fan of Jack Kirby, the famous comic book writer and artist who helped create some of Marvel and DC Comics’ most popular characters. Later, he became a fan of the Japanese genre known as manga.

It was in the mid-1980s, when a Japanese-American friend introduced him to “Shonen Jump,” a hit Japanese manga from the 1960s. The characters, illustrations, and storytelling struck a chord with him.

Jones’ love for the medium was further heightened when he traveled to Japan as an exchange student, aged 15.

Being in Japan, he said, broadened his thinking about the graphic art form, Japanese culture and its people. But back home, he says, the industry hasn’t evolved.

“I always saw the same things as a kid,” Jones said.

In 2013, he launched Saturday AM, determined to create a diverse and inclusive lineup of comic book characters.

“I didn’t see anyone who looked like me, and it started to weigh on me a bit,” he recalls.

Jones said Saturday AM publishes writers who understand racial experiences and feature LGBTQ+ characters in their stories. These characters, he says, live on every continent except Antarctica.

Jones said he wants readers to be “inspired, excited and thrilled” when they meet these characters.

“We all try to create content that everyone can enjoy,” he said.

Saturday AM has two additional brands: Saturday Brunch, which caters to a female audience, and Saturday PM, which offers content and themes for a mature audience.

Jones recalled a letter he received from a boy in South Africa who said he was delighted to find comic book characters who looked like him and lived similar lives to his.

“The power of representation is very, very important…more than people give it credit for,” Jones says.

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