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With the fourth issue of Karma Coated Chocolate Fist on the drawing board, comic-book artist A. Thomas Crawley says he’s using the medium to focus his anger and translate his ideas into stories for the younger brother he never had.
“I publish my work under the name Mayungabrotha Ink, because if I had a little brother, these are the comics I would want him to read,” says Crawley, who has also used his small-press comics imprint to publish sociopolitical “activity books” like The Difinit!vity Book. “I wanted to do something with no superheroes, something that wasn’t totally vacuous and full of violence, to just tell the stories that are on my mind,” he says.
The newsprint comic features thick-lined black-and-white art with a cartoonish, graffiti-style flair. Part ‘zine and part graphic novel, Karma Coated Chocolate Fist weaves forced-rhyme poetry and winding abstract story lines with detailed panel art and visual gags. The first three issues don’t share plot lines or even characters, but the distinct style of Crawley’s literary drawings and social commentary stand in for continuity. It’s a do-it-yourself comic book with the combined aesthetic of hiphop and punk rock.
“To me, comics are one of the highest, most complex ways of communicating,” says Crawley. As a kid, he got hooked on superhero strips and comics like Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes; he now blends graphic novels into his regular reading schedule. “Comics can be very spontaneous and funny, but they can also be serious literature. I enjoy art and I enjoy reading novels, and I try to make my comics a little of both. To me, comic books are everyday culture.”
Crawley studied graphic design at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and worked as a graphic designer for several years, but says his comic doesn’t display much of his official training.
“At school, the art students didn’t consider graphic designers artists, and neither group thought much of comic bookswhich I think is a real miss,” says Crawley. “At work, I had a really stifling creative director. In some ways, the comic is kind of a reaction to that.” He currently works as a letter spacer in a sign shop: “There’s something to be said for the Zen of low typography.”
Echoing the sentiment of many ‘zine publishers and small-press comic-book artists, Crawley says his artwork is a labor of love. The self-published comic is printed by the Small Publishers Co-op in Sarasota, Fla., and is distributed by ‘zine distributors Mind Over Matter and Tree of Knowledge. Each issue of Karma Coated Chocolate Fist features guest art by other locals: Ryan Nelson and Al Leger have contributed so far, and the forthcoming issue will be a split release with Brian Greene’s literary ‘zine Dodobobo. Depending on the delivery method, Crawley charges between 25 cents and a dollar for copies of his comic.
“I’m kind of just winging it,” says Crawley. “I’d really like to get good and do something big. I figure if I draw enough and write enough, one day I’ll actually be good.”Colin Bane
Karma Coated Chocolate Fist is available at DCCD in Adams Morgan. Contact A. Thomas Crawley, Mayungabrotha Ink, 1309 Kenyon St. NW, Washington, DC 20010.