Are you psyched for the Afrofuturistic vision of Black Panther? This month We Want Comics – our monthly suggestion for licensed comics – highlights the similarly unique world of R&B artist Janelle Monáe, who has crafted a sci-fi universe in her lyrics that could be glorious on the printed page. Cue the playlist:
Monáe’s EP Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase), and her two subsequent LPs, The ArchAndroid and The Electric Lady, comprise the first five “suites” of her planned seven-part epic Metropolis, which tells the story of her alter-ego Cindi Mayweather. Mayweather (registry no. 57821), is an android from the titular future city, who is marked for “disassembly” after falling in love with a human. Going on the run, she eventually learns that she is the Electric Lady, who is prophesied to reconcile both species, and to stop the Great Divide, the evil time traveling secret society who have suppressed love and freedom through the ages.
It’s a weird and wonderful world Monáe created, with references to elves, dwarves, aliens and zombies, and like all the best science fiction, it has strong political undertones. In a 2013 interview with the International Business Times, Monáe acknowledged:
“[W]hen I speak about the android, it’s the other. And I think, again, you can parallel that to the gay community, to the black community, to women — we have so many things in common, and we sometimes don’t know it when we allow small things to get in the way. So this music is meant to inspire and bring wings to those who are weak and grace to those when they are strong.”
For a full dive into Monáe’s imagination, we heavily recommend Transchordian and Eruditorum‘s articles on the universe she has crafted in her work, including liner notes, concert pamphlets and artwork. All in all however, it’s a pretty fragmented way to tell a story, which is why we’d love to read Metropolis as a comic book series.
Ideally, Monáe should co-write the project, but she’s busy between acting roles, art projects, managing Wondaland Records, and her next album, so the most we can hope for is her blessing, and for as much of her lyrics to be adapted into the narration as possible. We think Vita Ayala, who has written for various DC anthologies, and the upcoming Black Mask Studios series “The Wilds,” would be a suitable choice for an adaptation, as they are non-binary, and would probably have the most insight into the subtext of Cindi Mayweather.
It may be unfair to expect a new writer to devote so much time to a licensed comic though, so our second choice would be Lion Forge’s senior editor Joseph P. Illidge, who has placed a great emphasis on telling stories with underrepresented people, and placing overlooked talent on books. Artists who could excel with this story include Afua Richardson (“Genius”); Ashley A. Woods (“Niobe,” “Tomb Raider: The Survivor’s Crusade”); and Brian Stelfreeze (whose “Black Panther” run heavily influenced the movie). It would be great if Sam Spratt, who painted the cover for The Electric Lady, got to collaborate as a colorist, unless his aesthetic jarred too heavily with the penciler’s work of course.
So what do you think? Should “Janelle Monáe’s Metropolis” be a series of original graphic novels or monthly comics? Or would doing a book before she finishes the last two suites be a bad idea? Which creators of color would you like to see more of on major comics? And are there other concept albums you would like adapted as comic books?