About this project
Conceived by indie comic book and animation sister-team, Shawnee´ and Shawnelle Gibbs, "The Invention of E.J. Whitaker" is a 24-page comic book tale mixing elements of Adventure, Historical Fiction, and Steampunk to tell the story of one heroine's epic journey through the dicey cultural and gender land mines of the early 20th century to become a bonafide inventor.
At the turn of the century, in America’s great Industrial Age, Ada Turner is a brilliant and charming inventor with dozens of patents to prove it but she’s got one big strike against her: She’s a woman…and...well...she’s got more than a few strikes going on. So in an effort to have her work taken seriously, she comes up with her best invention yet: the pseudonym of "E.J. Whitaker"…
When "E.J's" patent for a wondrous flying machine begins garnering national attention, Ada finds herself relentlessly pursued by William, a mysterious young businessman and his colleague, Samuel. Ada must keep her identity and popular invention under wraps but can she, as more and more powerful people set sights on EJ Whitaker...? People with intentions to use the inventions for their own financial gain and cut Ada out of the picture.
The Invention of E.J. Whitaker is the kind of story that we've dreamed of seeing visualized since our teenage years gobbling up series after series by sci-fi novelists Octavia Butler and later Tananarive Due. It was in part developed because of our appreciation and passion for telling classic stories featuring smart, aspirational, and diverse female characters.
A recent Census Bureau report showed that Women remain significantly underrepresented in engineering and computer occupations, occupations that make up more than 80 percent of all STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) employment. Blacks and Hispanics have been consistently underrepresented in STEM employment. We believe stories like EJ Whitaker are key in creating heroes that spark the belief that we can continue breaking down the walls of centuries past. The need for stories from and for multi-cultural perspectives in the world of steampunk and sci fi adventure is a big reason why we chose to tell a story in the genre. With so much development in STEM and STEAM education, we’d love to contribute to the vast land of stories and myths that inspire young men and women from all walks of lives to continue dreaming, creating, and soaring in the 21st century and beyond.
Our goal is to create a first-run, 24-page issue of "The Invention of E.J. Whitaker" to begin the story of Ada Turner and her cohorts on a journey that will lead them around the world. We plan to raise $7,500 to help assist with art production, printing costs, limited edition prints and fundraising gifts for donors.
Our long-term goal is to make "The Invention of E.J. Whitaker" a 5-issue series, so that readers can continue the adventure as Ada runs into historical icons including Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla and more on a journey that follows our protagonist and her trusty team of thrill-seekers cross-country and around the world. Our current funding goal is to support the creation of the first issue of the E.J. Whitaker story, including art production and a small run of limited edition prints and fundraising gifts for our donors. But if we can exceed our goal, our stretch goal is to help fund the next 4 issues of the series, culminating in a gorgeous 120 + page, full-color graphic novel.
Crossing our 15k stretch goal will unlock a Second Digital Issue of the comic for EVERY BACKER and a nifty E.J. Whitaker lapel pin for every pledge $50 or greater!
THE ART OF E.J. WHITAKER
(Concept Art, Ada - Protagonist)
Our talented protagonist, Ada, is the inventor of many things including flying machines, functional household gadgets...and great aliases like "E.J. Whitaker," which Ada thought had a nice ring to it. Trying to maintain multiple identities proves tedious and dangerous for Ada, though, and that's when it's good to have a little help...
William - Is a sly, young New Orleans businessman with loose morals and sketchy origins but at his core, he's got a quick wit and good heart. Along with dreams of amassing a fortune through savvy business deals, William's heart is also set on Ada.
Dr. George Washington Carver - Professor of Botany & Agriculture at Tuskegee University, the school that Ada attends. He discovered Ada on his doorstep 19 years ago when she was only a few days old and became a surrogate Father to the orphaned child, but boy does he have his hands full now...
Samuel - is a soft-spoken young man who sticks to William like red beans to rice. The duo's intricate get-rich schemes have frequently found themselves at the wrong end of pistols, but they've managed to survive the turbulent with a smooth and cunning charm. Though the guys keep the origins of their relationship private, it is believed that the two are more related than they let on.
NEW CHARACTER ALERT: (ADDED MARCH 4TH, 2016)
MEET JESSIE, THE AUTOMATON!
(Mark Hernandez' "Jessie" character design - in progress)
We are thrilled to introduce Ada's little automaton, Jessie! EJ Whitaker may have been Ada's most notable invention, but Jessie is definitely her cutest! An Automaton--one of history's very first robots--is a moving mechanical device made to imitate the likeness of a human being. During the 18th century, these marvels began to pop up to the delight of people the world over.
Jessie is an extremely useful robot 1.0 whom Ada relies on frequently for technical (and sometimes emotional) support! Aside from being a useful little assistant, she's also a very good keeper of secrets, and central character to the story of the comic.
CHARACTER CONCEPT ART
The rest of the cast of E.J. Whitaker will include historical icons, college students, villains and tricksters. Here are just a handful of them, including a rendition of our beloved Samuel.
THE CO-STARS: THE INVENTIONS
E.J. Whitaker's inventions are like co-stars themselves, each is distinct and shows a side of Ada's personality. The flying machine is part air balloon, part modern 1901 marvel, while her souped-up "chopper" motorbike she uses to get around campus reflects the wild-child spirit that Ada tries to keep under wraps.
CONCEPT PAGE ART
E.J. Whitaker's flying machine takes flight....
THE GIBBS SISTERS: WRITERS / CREATORS
The Gibbs Sisters are a writing duo with a passion for telling unconventional and timeless stories about multi-faceted characters. Shawnee and Shawnelle grew up in Oakland, California writing and illustrating hand-made comic strips which they sold for a quarter around their grade school. Later inspired by literary and animation heroes including sci-fi novelist, Octavia E. Butler, and cartoonists Morrie Turner, Aaron McGruder and Craig McCracken, the sisters began creating Flash cartoons and animation while undergrads at San Francisco State University and wrote and independently produced short films including the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame inductee, “Ravishing Raspberry,” the sci-fi animated web series’ “Adopted By Aliens” and later the comedic series “Old Ladies Driving.” Their Tribeca-funded directorial short animation “Sule and the Case of the Tiny Sparks” was cited as a highlight of the New York Kids Fest by the New York Times. The sisters’ work in comics continued with their comedic time travel Young Adult series, "Fashion Forward," which began as a popular online webcomic and made its comic book series debut on Comixology in 2015. The series was hailed as “one charming comic book adventure” by Brian Cronin of Comic Book Resources and declared ‘Witty, fun and upbeat’ by Girls Read Comics.
The sisters have also written the graphic stories “Good Mourning, Jacob” and “Tati” for Graham Cracker’s Comics Ladies Night Anthology. The Gibbs Sisters’ storytelling abilities are multi-platformed, and in addition to weaving tales for comics and animation, they’ve crafted stories for non fiction programming for networks including BET, NBC, ABC, Food Network, Discovery Channel and National Geographic. The sisters are 2011 fellows of the Guys Hanks and Marvin Miller Screenwriting Fellowship at the University of Southern California and are members of the Writers Guild of America, Organization of Black Screenwriters and Women in Animation.
MARK HERNANDEZ: PENCILER / INKER
Mark holds a BFA in Animation and Entertainment Art from Cal State Fullerton. His experience as an art professional has ranged from Dreamworks Animation to freelance illustration for books and political cartoons. "I strive to put quality into whatever I create." Mark Hernandez and the Gibbs Sisters' previous collaborations included "Sule and the Case of the Tiny Sparks," where Mark served as Storyboard Artist for the animated short. He also created key concept art for E.J. Whitaker including the project's Kickstarter image. His line and figure work absolutely encompasses the era and romanticism of the story and he is an invaluable member of the project.
HASANI MCINTOSH: COLORIST
Hasani has worked as a digital artist for Disney Animation and Disney Consumer Products. He's also served as a researcher for the University of Florida’s Digital Worlds Institute contributing to educational gaming projects as Art Director. A native of California, Hasani graduated from San Jose State University with a B.F.A. in Animation. He then went on to achieve a M.S. in Digital Arts and Sciences from New York University. Hasani and The Gibbs Sisters collaborated previously when he worked as Background Artist for the award-winning short film "Sule and the Case of the Tiny Sparks." He also designed backgrounds with the Gibbs Sisters for an animated segment of the Comedic Sketch show "Purple Stuff TV." The sisters are honored to work with such a MONSTER talent from their homeland of the San Francisco Bay Area. #DoItForTheYay
EARL WOMACK: COVER ARTIST
Inspired by Highlight magazine, Saturday mornings, and the unknown extreme sport Cloud Hunting, ACTIVITI 8's U U R L is among Connecticut's stable of skilled artist, executing illustrations with a focus on story first. Adept in both traditional and digital techniques, his work captures a awesome amount of motion and energy. We met East Coast-based Earl Womack at Long Beach Comic-Con and have been Team UURL GREYY ever since. When Earl surprised us with BOMB fan art for our then-online comic web series, Fashion Forward, we knew we shared some sort of six-legged spirit animal. Earl created the fun horse & carriage scene for E.J. Whitaker and solidified himself as our cover artist.
STARLINE HODGE: E.J. WHITAKER EMBLEM DESIGNER
Starline Hodge was born and raised in Miami, FL, but currently lives in Los Angeles. She earned a BA in Digital Arts and Sciences at the University of Florida, where she learned that she likes to make cool drawings and graphics all day. She's currently a Graphic Designer for Discovery Digital Media LA, for the DeFranco Creative Division. She's also a renowned comic book artist and dynamo creator of the popular online webcomic series, Candi Comics. Starline and The Gibbs Sisters previously collaborated when she created the eye-catching logo for their comic book series "Fashion Forward," where Starline also served as colorist and graphic designer.
HOW YOUR MONEY WILL BE USED
AND THE REWARDS ARE...
And lots more rewards. See the sidebar to the right for details!
We're honored to have had "The Invention of E.J. Whitaker" featured on the following sites:
To our mom, Patricia, for everything. To Christopher Alexander (video editor), Taiwo Heard (music), Sean Kennedy (consultant), our amazing art team, and all our family, friends and contributors for all of your support!
Risks and challenges
We know from experience that taking on a comic book is no easy task. But we've worked to make sure that with a well thought-out 8-month project timeline, a comfortable page schedule for our artists, a feasible budget and a deadline-savvy team that we've previously collaborated with in place, "The Invention of E.J. Whitaker" will make its goal of a December 2016 debut.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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