Lathrup Village Man Partners With Artist to Relaunch Bestselling Black Comic Book ‘The Tribe’ – Macomb Daily

Lathrup Village Man Partners With Artist to Relaunch Bestselling Black Comic Book ‘The Tribe’ – Macomb Daily

Since 1993, “The Tribe” holds the record for the best-selling African-American comic book ever produced by an African-American creative team. (Photo courtesy of Todd C. Johnson)

More than 30 years after their debut, Lathrup Village resident Todd C. Johnson and former Detroiter Larry Stroman reunite in their own comic book called “The Tribe.”

Johnson (who once co-owned the Comics Café in Ferndale) and Stroman (who illustrated Marvel Comics’ “Uncanny X-Men,” “X-Factor” and “Ghost Rider”) reunited for the first time in 25 years at the Great Lakes Comic Convention at Macomb Community College in February. They announced that they would relaunch “The Tribe” this summer and that they will self-publish it. The series’ duration has not yet been announced.

“We want to release the first issue and then based on the fan response, decide whether it will be a one-shot, a miniseries or an ongoing issue,” said Johnson, the writer and co-creator, who is a former student at Cass Technical High School in Detroit.

“The Tribe” debuted in 1993 and ran for four issues. It was initially published by Image Comics (which was founded in 1992 by seven top Marvel artists who wanted to own their creations), with the next two issues published by Axis Comics and the final issue by Good Comics (both publishers are now defunct).

Despite a changing creative team and inconsistent publishing schedule, “The Tribe” No. 1 sold over 1 million copies and is the best-selling Black comic created by Black creators of all time.

“It’s an honor that this milestone still stands after three decades and that there are legions of fans who supported our actual purchase,” Johnson said. “We didn’t have any expectations. We just tried to have fun and do the best we could to do something that we could be proud of and that the fans would support. The totality of the sales was just a great byproduct of our efforts.”

Despite the album being only four songs long, “The Tribe” quickly gained a large following.

“We are fortunate. We are honored,” Johnson said.

“The Tribe” revolved around the adventures of a predominantly black team of superheroes in Brooklyn, New York, led by Blindspot, who can turn invisible. Their main villain was Lord Deus, who had connections to Europan, a corporate conglomerate of European and Japanese techno-pirates.

“’The Tribe’ was my breakthrough in comics. Larry was invited to publish a title by Image and he called me and asked if I would be interested in helping him come up with something and writing the title,” Johnson recalled. “It was a culmination of things we were talking about in comics that we liked … characters, situations, powers, etc.”

Johnson explained why he and Stroman stopped making “The Tribe” after four songs. His answer was “life.”

“We just didn’t fit into the Image dynamic and didn’t feel welcome there. The next two companies were just us trying to wear too many hats with no experience running a comic book company,” he said. “Larry had just gotten married and moved to California. I had two young kids. We were both tired of dealing with the resistance of the (comics) industry and navigating everything. We just weren’t interested and moved on to other individual endeavors.”

The new comic has a similar premise to the original series: the heroes are focused on protecting innocent people from a power-hungry corporation.

“There were so many directions and characters that were discussed but never fleshed out in our short run,” Johnson said.

It wasn’t hard at all for Johnson and Stroman to return to their creation. When asked why they decided to revive “The Tribe” after more than 30 years, Johnson replied, “Legacy. And just a drive to finish what we started.”