“At some point, kids are taught ‘OK, now you’ve got to work … playtime is over’ — for me it never ended,” said Sebastian A. Jones, creator of Stranger Comics and keynote speaker at Florida A&M University’s Spring Literary Forum earlier this month.
Jones, 45, has never let his inner child’s imagination die.
“I think if you can deal with your imagination it helps you deal with reality,” said Jones.
Monique Thomas, the administrative assistant from the Writing Resource Center, found Jones inspirational.
“My biggest takeaway (from Jones’ speech) was, if you can dream it and you can articulate it, you can execute it,” she said.
Jones, who looks like he could be John Mayer’s bi-racial brother, is from a Surrey County south of London. Surrey had little diversity and Jones had difficulty meeting people who could relate to him on a cultural level.
“In the early days, maybe subconsciously (my imagination) was a coping mechanism for fighting, bullying, feeling a bit different or whatever coupled with being young and wanting to explore,” said Jones.
It was in his youth that he created a character called Niobe. He was heavily into the fantasy genre and he made her in his own likeness. He wanted to put all his insecurities and fears on her shoulders.
“I think I romanticized about her making me better as a young boy," said Jones. "She grew and my ideas of her grew as I got older."
Jones says all of who he is is reflected in Niobe and they both, in particular, wrestle with having to feel like they’ve got to do the right thing for the world and simultaneously wanting to hide.
The Niobe series has been a huge success and has now become a cult classic for his company.
“(I’m) Inspired that he understands the significance of identity and representation more than anything else, that’s what moved me,” said Professor Natalie King-Pedroso about Jones.
Before the creation of Stranger Comics, he ran a record label in California for about a decade. He was able to corner a niche market by finding artists who were sampled in popular songs at the time that people wouldn’t know of and putting them in a compilation album.
“(I) put together what was regarded at the time as kind of the leading audio encyclopedia of black American music,” said Jones. “ So if you wanted to buy something in Delta blues, swing, funk, stanky funk that the hip-hop cats in the ’90s were sampling, you would buy one of my albums and you would discover (where the original song is from).
“So you as a fan could listen and go like ‘I always wanted to know what that song (was)’ then you (would) start going on your journey — so I like seed planting.”
Jones is sort of a renaissance man; he enjoys several different genres of music and multiple forms of art.
“I’m a hardcore stanky funk, late ‘60s, early ’70s (and) 90s hip hop (fan), I’m an old school kind of guy,” said Jones. “Music is everything who I am. I think music and the arts, in general, has to make you want to fight, make love, fall in love, cry, evoke a real raw emotion otherwise it’s just there to make a dollar and manipulate.”
Jones not only has a funky taste in music, but he also has got some funkadelic moves.
“I do like to dance, I like to dance like James Brown, I used to dance a lot, I used to like to get in the circle and go in and (dance), I liked to breakdance, that was my religion,” said Jones.
Jones also mixes his love for music with his passion for comics, naming some of his comics after certain songs.
You might be wondering how Jones created a whole fantasy world in his mind. Especially in the age of social media, where people are so invested in celebrities’ lives and the latest trend/fad. Jones prefers to keep his social media usage to a minimum. He believes that is the key to being successful in your craft and not being distracted by other worldly things.
“I think spending time enough away from stuff, just away from a computer, going to the forest and just being alone (helps clear my mind),” said Jones. “And then when I’m not (doing that), being inspired by much better writers than I could ever wish to be, reading their books, reading their works and discovering new smells, new foods, new sounds, just always (being in) subconscious discovery mode — I find myself marching to some wacky drum.”
Jones’ ultimate goal is for the Niobe series to have a global presence through expanding to multi-media platforms such as movies, television, toys, and video games.