A creative studio with roots in Beaverton is highlighting diverse characters, created by people of color, in a comic like no other.
Beaverton resident Brandon Dixon is the creator and writer for Swordsfall Studios, which created the world of Swordsfall, an Afropunk science fantasy universe. The world highlights Black characters and diversity, along with LGBTQ representation.
The studio recently released its first graphic novel from the Swordsfall universe, called "Drift of Dreams." It covers an exciting adventure about saving the dream world of Swordsfall from a dark and malevolent god.
"Writing it was really easy," Dixon remarked. "If anything, I had to figure out how to cut it back to deal with the number of pages that we had. It's not easy to add on another page of art as it is to add another page text."
The 187-page graphic novel features art from 10 artists of color.
Dixon says the novel is an emotional journey into the heart of what dreams mean to us. It's aimed at young adults looking for a diverse story that features fantasy characters of color and LGBTQ characters.
The world of Swordsfall puts diverse characters in stories where they usually aren't featured, said Dixon.
"There is an amazing range of Black characters that you can only get from having Black artists make them," he explained. "As for how the characters look, the artists have their way."
At Swordsfall Studios, most of the artists are Black women. Dixon says this is important because it's rare to find Black female characters that are drawn or written authentically, not stereotypes, in the science fiction and fantasy genres.
"I would not get that same kind of Black art from white artists, because they just do not live that life," he said.
The artists also spend a lot of time on the fashion aspect of their designs. Whether it be capes or jewelry, the comic shows intricate details to every character's outfit.
Black fashion is a billion-dollar industry, Dixon noted, but he has noticed that in popular culture, it's often the object of ridicule "until someone who is white and a celebrity wears it, and then it's some fashion trend."
Many members of Swordsfall Studios also identify as gay, queer or transgender, said Dixon. While Dixon's gender identity matches his sex assigned at birth, he wanted to reflect the diversity of his team in the Afropunk sci-fantasy universe.
"In 'Drift of Dreams,' the main character is nonbinary (and) referred to as 'they,'" he said. "I wanted everyone to feel they got representation, but I also wanted to do it in a way that's authentic."
In many comic books, they try to use people from the Black and gay community as "bullet points," added Dixon — more specifically, stating that a character is gay or Black right off the bat, instead of it simply being part of their overall self.
For those saying they wish to not have politics as part of their comic book experience, Dixon says there's more to representation than being a political act.
"If we have so many straight white male characters, they're already overrepresented," he pointed out. "It takes away nothing for me to make that character a woman instead."
As for how Swordfall Studios got started, Dixon said he had the idea for years, but there was one production that showed him an Afropunk sci-fantasy universe wasn't far from reach.
"After seeing 'Black Panther,' that really hit me in that there's a need for diverse characters and whatnot in media," he recalled, referring to the Marvel Studios superhero film released in 2018 that starred the late Chadwick Boseman.
Originally, Swordsfall Studios was born from a viral Kickstarter called "Welcome to Tikor: A Swordsfall Setting and Artbook," earning more than $125,000, according to the company.
After the success of the online fundraiser, Dixon quit his day job to give Swordsfall Studios his full attention. His next step was to make sure the idea could be profitable in the long term, which meant creating a website with a membership feature and an online store for fans.
Dixon hopes he can inspire other people of color in the Pacific Northwest to believe in their creativity and passions.
"I'd like to see more people of color shoot their shot," he said, "because there's a tendency to feel like if you're the only Black person around the area, then you have to keep your head down and not make too many waves. … People wouldn't expect something like this to come from someone who lives in Beaverton, so in a way, I kind of want to prove people wrong."
Dixon added, "You don't have to live in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and do this stuff. I know there has to be talented Black artists that live in white-majority towns or no-name towns that think they have to go somewhere to make it big."
Growing up, Dixon was into Marvel and DC Comics, but his favorite superhero was Batman. He remembers being fascinated by the character and looked at different graphic novels he had read growing up for inspiration while creating "Drift of Dreams."
When asked what he hopes for future generations of comic book readers, Dixon said, "I'd like to see them playing outside of the box more."
He remembers being told time and time again his idea wouldn't sell, but they simply never tried it.
"I want the next generation to just not care what people say," said Dixon. "If someone tells you that they tried it this way and that it doesn't work, then who cares? Try it your way. … I can see the next generation easily starting something that people thought wasn't possible before and be surprised that it actually is."
"Drift of Dreams" is available on Amazon and the Swordsfall store.
For more information, visit swordsfall.com.
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