Today, on the Comics Empower Project, Bill Campbell shares his personal story!
I am far from alone when I say that, growing up, comic books provided a much-needed escape. Being raised in an all-white community in the United States during the 1970s and ‘80s, I often felt like I was imprisoned in the “Land of Can’t.” It seemed that people spent a lot of time telling me all the things I can’t do: you can’t live in this neighborhood; you can’t go to this school; you can’t do well in school; you can’t go to college; you can’t be a writer…
Fortunately, those words never really took. My mother would never let them. Also, I had comic books. The Falcon, the Black Panther, Luke Cage. Comic books never inspired me to want to fly or lead a technologically-advanced African nation (though impervious skin may have been nice). But I did love the escape—the chance to explore a world, ever so briefly, where fantastical things such as flying were possible, a world where the Land of Can’t could never be found on the map.
This escape, however, was not just imaginary; it was also physical. I started writing and drawing at an early age. Just before high school, my mother enrolled me in a teen program at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. This didn’t lead to my becoming a visual artist. It did, however, expand my world dramatically. I met other aspiring artists, I met other blerds (black nerds), and comic book geeks.
In other words, I found a new home, filled with fellow travelers. These new friends helped develop a belief within myself that anything was possible, and it’s been a creative life for me ever since. While I have spent the majority of my creative life writing science fiction, I have recently returned to my childhood dream of producing comics. I owe comics everything—they set me on my life’s path, expanded my horizons, and provided my exit visa out of the Land of Can’t. I haven’t been back since.
Bill was raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Bill Campbell now resides with his family in Washington, DC. He’s the author of three novels (including Sunshine Patriots and Koontown Killing Kaper). Along with Edward Austin Hall, he co-edited Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond. He started Rosarium Publishing in 2013. www.rosariumpublishing.com
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