In an age where Brooklyn mocking has become its own art form — rather poorly achieved, most of the time — it’s rare to see something that depicts Brooklyn with any sincerity, let alone accuracy. But in what reads as a pretty meta twist, this new superhero comic book series by a 10-year-old in Bed-Stuy is here to save the day.
Jaden Anthony is the kid from Brooklyn behind Kid Brooklyn, a graphic novel series that follows Jaden & friends as they are given the power to save the planet from evil aliens (disguised as corporations, obv) and environmental crises. So what’s the real life story behind the Brooklyn superhero? We chatted with Jaden and his dad Joseph to find out.
“Jaden is the physical embodiment of the kid from Brooklyn, and Kid Brooklyn promotes the borough’s principles of diversity, creativity, learning, education and technology,” Joseph told Brokelyn. “It created a perfect storm for us, because not only is there a literal kid from Brooklyn behind this, but also it’s a means of writing Brooklyn in metaphor, to drive home ideologies that we think the rest of the world should adopt.”
Kid Brooklyn is currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter, hoping to raise $20,000 to cover publishing costs for the series’ first three volumes. Notwithstanding the geographic convenience of setting a superhero story in their hometown of Brooklyn, Jaden’s father told us they were keen to use this city as their comic book’s setting because of its diversity and positive values.
“As a Dad, growing up and living in Brooklyn for the last 20 years we’ve seen it change dramatically, from a place nobody wanted to live to a place that’s kind of the hottest in the world,” Joseph said. “And we attribute that to not only the diversity culturally but also the mentality that Brooklynites have, which [sets] an example that the rest of the world should follow: higher levels of acceptance and tolerance, an art scene, a cultural scene, a thriving business community, extremely modern and forward thinking.”
Jaden’s father has a background in ads and marketing, so after the two conceptualized the story together, Dad enlisted a close friend who used to draw for DC and Marvel in order to put it together. The project is now managed by Dennis Calero, an accredited illustrator in the comic book industry.
“It was important to identify the right illustration team,” Joseph explained. “We want this to have an indefinite lifespan. Kid Brooklyn: Genesis is gonna be the name of a three-book series. Kid Brooklyn: Chronicles will be the series that never ends.”
Each “chronicle” will revolve around a different environmental crisis, and will include tips on how to get involved on a local or grassroots level to prevent it.
“To us, we think that pollution of our oceans, we think that global warming is a very big issue,” Jaden said. “Overfishing, people are taking too much of fish and food, so when they need food, it’s gone already.”
His father added that “the Aliens [in the series], really, are us, are Mankind. We are taking for granted the natural resources. We also have an evil corporation [in the series] that’s almost a front for the aliens. Big business and all these Fortune 500 companies have to start exhibiting greater social responsibility.”
Other characters in the series are drawn similarly from real life, many of them superhero versions of Jaden’s friends at school.
“Not all of them are from my school,” Jaden clarified. “One of them was from my old school, from kindergarten. Casper is one of my friends from four years ago. Edward, he’s been my friend since kindergarten ’til now.”
Joseph explained that Jaden went from elementary school at P.S. 9 in Prospect Heights to a STEM-based private school in Red Hook, and that a lot of his friends from public school didn’t follow there.
“It was important [for us] to get him into STEM-based curriculum, but he’s close with all of those old friends,” he said.
The family’s real-life dog, Fulton, is also in the series. Named after Fulton Street, of course.
“This is probably one of the first comics books that have real spokespeople,” Joseph mused, referring not only to the resemblance Kid Brooklyn’s characters bear to their real-life doubles, but also to Jaden’s lifelong advocacy for environmental sustainability. It’s true that more often than not, the “spokespeople” for comic book series you see at Comic Cons and fan expos are simply the movie or TV cast members, or contracted illustrators whose social causes don’t necessarily figure into the series’ narratives.
Kid Brooklyn, on the other hand, is as close to the root as it gets. The Kickstarter page attributes the novel’s conscientious themes to Jaden’s positive worldview:
Jaden Anthony has always had a love for the world, a passion for education and a drive for change. When he was nine years old he decided to become a vegetarian after watching a documentary on the meat market enterprise, stating “It just isn’t right.” Born premature and under two lbs., sensitivity and empathy have been ingrained in Jaden his whole life and Jaden frequently references his desire to make the world better by helping children.
Kid Brooklyn also embraces the benefits of STEM education, which is one that integrates issues of sustainability and stewardship into its programming so as to inculcate environmental conscientiousness early on. Joseph feels that in contrast to the academic approach, Jaden’s Kid Brooklyn comic books are far more likely to resonate with kids his age.
“Given their access to the internet, they’re being exposed to these things whether we like it or not,” he told Brokelyn. “As a result, [schools] sometimes try to limit the consumption or not allow them to see some of these things. Comics are a bridge method, a way to use these comics to introduce young kids to environmental issues so it motivates them to adopt principles of sustainability that we want them to exhibit as they get older.”
Kid Brooklyn is almost halfway funded on Kickstarter, and you can get a better idea of the scope of Jaden’s imagination from the video above. The campaign has 20 days to go, and anything you can offer helps. Rewards begin at the $5 level (a thank you note) and go up incrementally in swag and recognition. $50 gets you an autographed copy of Genesis Vol. 1. A $1,000 donation earns you the title of “The Notorious K.I.D.,” and includes limited edition Kid Brooklyn clothing as well as a comic book likeness of you hand-drawn by one of the series’ illustrators.
Once funded, a portion of the book sales’ proceeds will go to environmental organizations and also toward a pilot program to get STEM education into public schools. The family plans to start with Brooklyn “in order to help move the needle,” then set their sights on other cities pending its success.
Of course, no portrait of Brooklyn can ever be painted without a mention of gentrification, the city’s greatest and most intractable social crisis that only seems to worsen as the days go by. Kid Brooklyn finds a creative way to address the issue: by including a character named Wallace, based on rapper Biggie Smalls.
“We know that there’s a new Brooklyn here, we know that through gentrification there’s a new people here,” Joseph said. “And there’s a lot of people who through that have been displaced. So we wanted to keep certain Brooklyn heroes alive. [Wallace] is not technically Christopher Wallace aka biggie smalls aka The Notorious B.I.G., but it’s about keeping memory of certain Brooklyn heroes [in Kid Brooklyn] as a way to pay respect to all the Brooklynites that have come before us, so they can see a reflection of themselves.”
Jaden put it another way: “Wallace is pretty much Biggie. We really love Biggie Smalls and his rap music, and what he has done for humanity.”
Sam’s no superhero, but she is on Twitter: @ahoysamantha