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Like many nerds of color, Thomas “Detour” Evans longed to see more characters who look like him in sci-fi and superhero stories. So he created his own alternate universe: This month, the Denver artist will transform Five Points’ RedLine Contemporary Art Center into a Graceland-esque museum ostensibly erected in 2120 as a shrine to a diverse band of Evans’ invention. The show, entitled The 5Pointers, is an example of Afrofuturism, a philosophy employed in books, movies, and other art forms that depicts imaginary worlds through the lens of black culture, à la Black Panther. As the success of that movie suggests, the genre is gaining popularity—and not only in the Marvel Universe. A growing group of Denver avengers are weaving the African diaspora into their works. We unmask three of the heroes here.
R. Alan Brooks
Origin Story: Brooks’ father struggled to find his son stories that featured superheroes of color, leaving Brooks without a complexly drawn, magic-wielding, black lead character to admire.
Daring Deeds: In 2016, Brooks started Mother F**ker In A Cape, a podcast about alternative geekdom, and collaborated with
Denver musician Felix Ayodele on “Aliens,” a song about Brooks rescuing his girlfriend from intergalactic kidnappers. He published The Burning Metronome a year later. The graphic novel’s main character, an otherworldly being named Walter, possesses a black man and struggles with guilt and rage—becoming the complicated hero Brooks didn’t have as a kid. (A sequel is in the works.)
Origin Story: Novels by Octavia Butler, the author of Parable of the Sower and other beloved science fiction tomes, permanently altered the way Brown thought about diversity in literature. Now, Afrofuturism suffuses much of Brown’s poetry, which she pens when not teaching classes at Denver’s Lighthouse Writers Workshop.
Daring Deed: Brown’s 2018 autobiographical book of poems, love-mestiza, explores her black and Latina identity, often using time travel as a survival mechanism. In “Dreaming in Rhythm,” for example, she visits her future children. Imagining them benefiting from her struggles gives her hope.
Origin Story: Shortly after college, Heru began getting headaches caused by a benign brain tumor. He studied African history during his recovery from emergency surgery and created a tale of his own.
Daring Deed: That story is 2017’s Acid of the Godz, a three-part graphic novel series about a prince who’d rather explore than rule. His adventures are put on hold, however, when an unethical experiment mutates the prince’s uncle into a supervillain whose evil deeds could destroy Earth.