Nicholas Publishes First Graphic Novel

By Purnell T. Cropper | September 24, 2010

By Marykate Torley ’11

Jamar Nicholas, Arcadia’s Art Gallery Assistant, keeps busy on and off campus. He published his first graphic novel, Fist Stick Knife Gun, and was featured in Black Comix: African American Independent Comics, Art and Culture, a coffee table book that showcases the work of more than 40 African American comic book artists and illustrators. He sat down with the Bulletin to talk about his career and recent successes.

Nicholas is a very busy man, evident by the fifth time our interview was interrupted. “I wear a lot of different hats around here,” he said. In addition to working in the Art Gallery, he’s a Model Coordinator, overseer of work study students, and the art department office receptionist—and that is just at Arcadia!

Outside of the University, Nicholas teaches at Moore College of Art in Philadelphia, on top of his successful comic and graphic novel career. Most notably, the Sept. 14, 2010 release of Fist Stick Knife Gun. A graphic adaptation of the novel Fist Stick Knife Gun, by Geoffrey Canada, the novel is about Canada’s childhood in the south Bronx where as Nicholas put it, “People solved problems with an unwritten code of violence.”

Nicholas first heard of the project through an e-mail, but dismissed it until the editor of Beacon Press contacted him in the spring of 2008. Interested in a proposal for Fist Stick Knife Gun, Nicholas had to write up a business strategy, which included recommendations and artwork. Canada loved the work Nicholas sent in and hired him immediately, as his goal was “to get his book into a new generation’s hands.”

Whittling down 25 chapters of prose to 10 chapters of sequential art proved to be a long process, but Nicholas made a timeline of the important events that took place in the novel from when Canada was 4 years old until he left for college. Altogether the book has about 120 pages of comics, and is the first graphic novel to be distributed by Beacon Press through Random House.

Nicholas also was invited by the authors of Black Comix to be a part of the project. The book was released in July, and Nicholas is most proud of how far the book has gone; there is a copy in the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University library in South Africa.

It’s hard to believe that Nicholas could be doing anything else in his spare time, but he also runs a weekly podcast, Comic Book Diner, with his friends Rich Faber and John Gallagher. All three have known each other for more than 10 years, and enjoy doing the podcasts because, “We like to pass on knowledge and run our mouths talking shop. Listen to us if you’re interested in learning about comics and the industry.”

Another project Nicholas is involved with is the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention (ECBACC), which showcases the work of African American comic book illustrators. “There is a stigma against Black characters in comics, and we work to show people of color in a positive light,” he says.

A precursor to the ECBACC convention, there is a presentation of the Glyph Comic awards, which recognize the best in comics made by, for, or about African Americans. Nicholas has been the host of the awards show for the last four years, and is seen as the face of the show. “Comics are a small industry, but we try to celebrate achievements in the field.”

Promotion for Fist Stick Knife Gun will be starting soon. The release of the novel coincides with a new project from Geoffrey Canada, the documentary Waiting for Superman, which offers an in-depth look into America’s failing education system. Nicholas is looking forward to promoting, but with his already busy schedule he might have to take a nod from his comics and gain some super powers.