ITGS: The Urban 30’s C Lorenzo Johnston

Over the next month I’m excited to bring you a series of EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWS with the creative minds of the superhero blog The Urban 30. Currently starting their 6th season, you can read their adventures every weekday at urban3zero.com, as well as videos and motion comics from ThreeZeroMedia.

So I encourage you to check out the website and follow along with the team and their adventures, but I also want to show everybody the writers behind the characters. So join me in welcoming the founder of The Urban 30, Mr. C Lorenzo Johnston.

Art by Stanley Obende

SupaScoot: What inspired the creation of the Urban 30?

C Lorenzo Johnston: I feel really bad saying it, but I needed a reason to start writing again. The idea of blog fiction was calling to me, so I combined it with my love for comics. Over time, I kept getting ideas. Before I knew it, The Urban 30 was less than a hobby.

With the obvious lack of prominent black heroes in the mainstream comic world (with the exception of a few, the Milestone universe being the prime example) was that a goal you set out to change with the Urban 30?

It wasn’t my intent to make any change. It was only my intent to write a great blog fiction story. However, I do notice when comic book readers point out the lack of prominent black heroes and villains. Further, controversy over casting black characters with white actors and white characters with black actors make me hopeful that stories like the ones on the Urban 30 can become mainstream – creating more diversity in comics.

Art by Samax Amen

Can you tell us a little bit about your character, Sonus?

Sonus is an all-around playful guy. He enjoys being a superhero and loves the attention that he can get from it. Though he doesn’t always show it, he is very protective of those around him and wants to be better than he is at being a hero. However, he does have a very thick pride that may lead to wrong choices.

Sonus definitely has a personality that is very easy to like and relate to. Did you model that after anybody? Maybe Sonus is a bit of a self portrait?

There are a few qualities in Sonus that I pulled from myself. It wasn’t intentional, it just sort of happened that way. I like to laugh and I work hard and taking things light and not allowing stress to be a factor in my life. Sonus does a much better job than I do (smile).

You also write the character of Spire, who is kind of the flip sode of the coin when compared to Sonus. Can you tell us a little bit about the current Mayor of DC?

Art by Samax Amen

Spire is pretty much a hard ass. He believes things should be done by the books. Spire is not concerned with your feelings or how much you hate him. He is always focused on the goal and he takes the Burden of making the difficult decisions to save as many lives as possible. Spire laughs less and doesn’t hang around for the friendly conversation. But, he is a good friend to those who know him and even when you don’t know it, he has your best interests in mind. But he is not afraid to call your bluff, or point out a shortcoming in another character.

What kind of writing challenges do you find when writing two completely different characters, not to mention all the side characters and villains?

Art by Christopher Brown

Sometimes it gets difficult to figure out how a character should react. With Sonus and Spire, the choice seems easy. I usually align Sonus and Spire with Hitman. That reminds me that we have three degrees of heroes. Spire doesn’t laugh much, but follows the rules. Sonus laughs a lot and loves to bend the rules. Hitman doesn’t laugh at all and shatters the rules. Now, I don’t write the Hitman character, but in the story, these three are childhood friends. So, they share a lot of commonalities. When I put them together in my mind, it’s easy to know who would do what in a situation.

On the other hand, other characters can get tough. Since we call it the Urban 30, it seemed natural that there should be 30 members on the team. Sometimes, I have no idea what the personalities should be. I do my best to identify what makes them different from others – from being a simple bookworm to being a womanizer with restraining orders.

Do you have a favorite moment from the previous seasons of the Urban 30?

Art by Christopher Brown

I have quite a few favorite moments, actually. One in specific would be our first “Freak of the Week”. It was a series of posts, where we passed the story to the next hero like a baton in a relay race. It really brought out the creativity in each writer who was a part of it. Since then, I’ve been in love with the potential of “Freak of the Week” and look forward to more.

Now, what’s the deal with ThreeZeroMedia? We’ve seen a few videos about the Urban 30 during our Urban 30 Weekly Update, but it seems like there may be bigger ambitions behind it. Care to elaborate?

I’m always trying to find a way to grow the Urban 30 concept and bring attention to the site and its writers. Three Zero Media just turned out to be one of those roads being used.

Art by Michael Christopher

Here’s the big one. Has the Urban 30 achieved some of the goals you set out for it at the beginning, and what future goals do you hope to reach? I’m thinking major motion picture, but that’s just me.

Yes. Believe it or not, my biggest goal was to have at least five writers to collaborate with. Once we reached that number, our goal was to make the writers more diverse. Reaching these ideals has been a huge accomplishment for me. I think it means a lot when some dedicate their talent to your concept.

In the future, I’m considering one or two more writers. But mostly, I’m making plans to increase visibility of the site. That will include more U30 videos that will highlight more characters. And if by chance, I can bring the Urban 30 to you in an animated movie or live action, you can believe I’ll be pushing it 200 percent!

Final ‘question’. You have the floor. Anything you want to plug personally while I have you here?

Just for everyone to please visit the site and comment on the adventures. We’ve got a creative team. Also, check out our videos. Even though we do not have a dedicated U30 artist, we’ll still find a way to bring you more from the team. Thanks!

Thanks to you, Renzo, for taking the time to sit down and talk with us. Now, you heard him, go check out urban3zero.com and enjoy, then come back here for another installment of Inside the Grizzly Studio where we will continue to talk to the various writers of The Urban 30.

And you can check out the previous Inside the Grizzly Studio’s here!

Pictures © 2011 by The Urban 30. All rights reserved.

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