[*This interview took place this past weekend at New York Comic Con 2018!]
Tito W. James: What is the premise of Bitter Root?
David Walker: It’s about a family of monster hunters that takes place during the Harlem Renaissance in 1924. The monsters in this world are people whose souls have been infected by hate, racism and oppression. It’s the idea that essentially America was founded by people who’s souls were infected. This lead to the genocide of the Native Americans, the enslavement of millions of Africans, and even after slavery has ended these issues persist.
Now this monster hunter family can cure people who’ve been infected with hate. But there’s a split within the family after all these years. Some family members argue “What’s the point of curing all these people? We should just kill them.”
So there are multiple conflicts going on. We have our heroes battling monsters, but they are also at an ideological war within themselves. You have the family members in Harlem curing the infected, and you have family members in Mississippi cutting people’s heads off.
This plays with the dichotomy of that time period where black people in Harlem were creating, art, music and academic studies, while only a few miles south, black people were being lynched.
TWJ: How does the premise tie into the title, Bitter Root?
DW: The title has multiple meanings. In a literal sense there is a root from specific plant that is used to create a serum which is used to help purify the soul. But the root itself has a very bitter taste. Then we are also dealing with “bitter roots” in a metaphorical sense, with the racism and oppression that this nation was built upon. So the title has multiple meanings.
TWJ: In terms of artistic influences, what are you pulling from?
Sanford Greene: Honestly I pull a lot from some of the old comic strip artists like Milton Caniff, Alex Raymond and Al Williamson. There are a lot of great artists today. But they’re influenced only by artists from ten of fifteen years ago. We see a lot of the same things, so I wanted to go back even further. Go back to the roots of comics and bring out the life and energy within the brushwork. I look back at those classic artists but also mix in urban fashion and music.
TWJ: Is this family the only people who can fight monsters?
DW: This isn’t really a spoiler, but at a certain point our characters visit China Town where they meet a family of Chinese immigrants who are battling their own monsters. There’s a whole network all over the world of these people.
I’d like to thank David Walker and Sanford Green for taking the time for this interview. Look for Bitter Root in comic book stores on November 14.