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Andre Batts: Detroit's Black Comic Book Pioneer

By Xaiver JonesTelegram Media Specialist 

Andre Batts: Detroit's Black Comic Book Pioneer

Series: Black History Makers | Story 1

February 29, 2024

Andre Batts spots a haircut at a show to conceal his secret identity

Media representation has plagued the black community since before the invention of the television and movie camera. The community has been depicted as lazy, ugly, violent, and all around degenerates. This has been executed for propaganda and entertainment for entities who never tried to understand the experiences of African Americans. Over the years, artists from the community have tried their best to even the playing field.

For decades, Andre Batts has cultivated his own field. The 1980s were a pivotal period for blacks, media, and the country itself. Andre noticed that the stories he read in comics didn't reflect him or his environment. He read comics from Image, DC, and Marvel. Big companies who were barely scratching the surface with fair representation. While also taking in music and books that he found more relatable.

This blend of broadcasting brought Andre to create his own brand. Urban Style Comics. His creation was fueled by his research, and catered to people who share his image. Urban Style Comics has been around the world, produced many titles, teams, and heroes. Including Blackwatch, Queen Nubia, and Jihad A.D. But Andre decided to make the character, Dreadlocks, the star of the show.

Dreadlocks is the Urban Style Comics iteration of Superman. He is a strong black man with a fierce sense of responsibility and justice. He is a blind man. Who is guided by the power of his ancestors, and navigates the world and its people by the vibrations they radiate. Dreadlocks is inspired by Andre's investigation of ancient Kemet, and has served efficiently as a franchise player. Andre's shelves are filled with Dreadlocks material. People of all shades and ages enjoy clothes, comic books, and even action figures that bolster his hero's likeness.

Andre is a classic artist and entrepreneur. During his starting run. Before the age of GPS, internet, and social media. He took Urban Style Comics on many road trips. He would set up shop in markets across the country to sell his product. Most of the time being the only black man, and comic book artist in the venue. That never intimidated him. He used that niche to build his audience, and mailing list. The era of internet and social media didn't force Andre to operate any differently than before. He used it as a resource to build his brand and keep track of his audience. He made sure to never get dragged into the ego battle that has swept away millions of creatives over the years.

2024 is treating Andre well. He continues to spread his brand and show his face where it matters. He even plans on releasing a video game based on his works, titled A Man Name Lucas a.k.a. Jihad A.D. 2166. He has been a mentor to many over the years, and sometimes lends his talents to art workshops across the city. With the goal of nurturing the next generation of comic book creators. This year, on June 8th. He is hosting his 13th annual Motor City Black Age of Comics & Manga Convention. The event serves as a dedicated space where black creatives can showcase their work. The function has food, educational seminars, musical performances, and special guests who have worked all over the comic book and entertainment industry.

The Telegram Newspaper is using Black History Month to celebrate Andre Batts for his contributions and commitment to telling the stories of the people who look like him. You can find Dreadlocks, and his multiple titles at urbanstylecomics.com, and you can contact him directly at urbanstylecomics@gmail.com.

Xavier Jones - Where did you get your start into art and comics?

Andre Batts - Growing up there were moments where I ran with rough crowds. I transferred schools and started to focus a little more. I would draw to pass the time, but nothing serious. I ended up going to the Navy. I had a healthy regiment of reading. Comic books included. I noticed that there were not too many characters that looked like me. I infused all the media that I took in and applied it to my own vision.

Xavier Jones - What was the inspiration that sparked your vision?

Andre Batts - Of course I was reading the popular comics that were being published at the time. Spiderman, Doctor Strange, the ones everyone still loves to this day. I was reading things like the Autobiography of Malcolm X, history, and religion books. I was also listening to alot of reggae and conscious hip-hop. The X Clan had a lot of music that pushed me.

Xavier Jones - Was Dreadlocks the first character you created for Urban Style Comics?

Andre Batts - I started out with several characters. I came out with a group called Blackwatch. The name stemmed from the X Clan. They had an organization that had the same name. Blackwatch was a superhero based team, and Dreadlocks was a part of that. He was the character that I liked to draw the most. The big companies thrived off of a flagship character. Out of the entire Blackwatch team, I decided to utilize Dreadlocks as a flagship for Urban Style Comics.

Xavier Jones - How has independent comic book publishing changed from when you started to now?


Dreadlocks stands proudly as he fights for peace and justice

Andre Batts - When I first started it was all word of mouth. I was selling books out of the back of my car. Black expos were a new thing, and I traveled to catch as many as I can. There I would build a mailing list. The internet changed things. I got to make an email list, which was easier when you mastered it. I've had the same website since the mid 90's. The internet allowed me access to more people to place my product in front of. It even allowed me to check in and network with other creators.

Xavier Jones - Do you have any advice for people looking to make a name for themselves in the comic book industry?

Andre Batts - I recommend individuals stay true to their craft! Stay focused on the story, that focus will help you create something strong. That makes it the narrative you want it to be, and you can be proud of the work you produce. Don't be ashamed to let others critique your work. Constructive criticism does wonders for an artist. Lastly, find your market, and tap into it relentlessly. There are more people on your radar than you will ever realize.


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