I’ve always been the type of person to support those who are doing something AGAINST the grain. I actually pride myself in giving my money to those whose craft stands out ABOVE the crowd. Years ago, i was introduced to my brody, Anthony Piper. I was an immediate fan from the start. Not only was his art uniquely his own, but so were the subjects. Anthony also was very social and outspoken, but in a friendly and jokingly way. Then comes TRILL LEAGUE. Ant went from a brotha who was known in the industry for his work quality, to overnight being a person who was now EMULATED. Trill League quickly gained an international following, all due from everyone doing fan art for it. The fan art is so cold sometimes, that it gets confusing on what is official and what is not, lol. EVERYONE was drawing Sparrow (formally known as Trill Robin), Wondeisha, Black Mayne, Super Natural, and others. Every single social media outlet, you will find hundreds of fans using the hashtag #TrillLeague. Many of the newer fans don’t even know where the character originated from, nor the artist’s PREVIOUS work.
… Let that end today.
Anthony “Black Ant” Piper
I am currently Lead Character Designer at ADHD and a Freelance Illustrator
BOOKS/ SERIES you’ve created and/or worked on::
I’ve worked on a few series including Route #3 and Blaze Brothers. I’ve also done work on both the Axe Cop and Major Lazer Animated Series. As far as my own series, I am currently working on Trill League. I’m also well known for doing album covers.
What was your favorite comic book series as a child, and did it influence your art into adulthood?::
My favorite comic series I would have to say was Uncanny X-Men during Joe Madureira’s run on it. I was already a huge fan of the X-Men, but I think thats what really sparked my interest to get into comic illustration.
How in Heru’s name did you come up with the idea of starting Trill League?::
LOL. Honestly, its just something that grew out of a sketch. I was waiting for a client of mine to come through for a project (which they didn’t) and I was like “I guess I got some free time”, so I decided to draw a black version of Robin, but just doing some crazy stuff that black kids from the Chi do. We dance a lot in Chicago! I decided to post in online, and people just started to share and reblog it like crazy. I guess that was the genesis of it, because that prompted me to start flipping more characters.
I thought the new name, SPARROW, to be khemetic GENIUS, lol. Was it a struggle for you to come up with character shifts after you formalized the project? For instance, the name switches, apparel, etc?::
Not really. I think the only one I was struggling with was Sparrow, and only because everyone was referring to him as “Trill Robin”. I didn’t know if people would like the shift, but in order to own the project, I had to make some major changes. The apparel changes were really easy since I’ve always wanted to bring a sense of urban culture into anything I created, so going with just capes and tights wasn’t going to cut it.
As you remember last year, for whatever reason, you were surprised that Trill League blew up so hard. How did that make you feel knowing that people ALL OVER THE WORLD were doing fan art for YOUR project, that wasn’t even officially a project yet?::
That, honestly, was the greatest feeling in the world! To know that other artists, your peers, like your idea that much to draw. I know how it is to have that urge to draw a particular character after watching a new cartoon series or reading a comic, so to know others were sparked to draw their versions of the Trill League characters was crazy! I also loved the fact that people were adding their own ideas into the character. I think that what makes Trill League so dope. We all know people like this.
Your KickStarter crowdfunding campaign got 100% funded in less than 24 hours. MASSIVE congrats to you for that. I am so proud of you, brody. With that being said, do you find it intimidating to live up to people’s expectations at all on what they think the project should/ should not be?::
Yea, THAT surprised me! If you asked a lot of people in my inner circle….I was nervous about launching the KickStarter. I just didn’t know if people would really get behind it like that. I was deeply humbled by that. The funny thing is, I’m not really intimidated. And I say “funny thing” because somewhere in the back of my head, I would think I should be. LOL. The reason is because I’m confident people will really feel the new content. I’ve been saving so much of the good stuff for the actual story. For instance, the Purple Freeze (Prince) vs Swift (Michael Jackson) fight scene….that’s going to be EPIC. I think people just expect me to continue what I’ve been doing with this property.
Trill League from the GATE was over and beyond controversial. Sometimes, it can even be a bit too much for me PERSONALLY, lol. Ant… You hit them HARD, lol. With that being said, what i love about it is that it DOES make me feel uncomfortable at times.::
I think some of the best experiences in life are the ones that make you uncomfortable. As a result, naturally you’ll come to either make a change in yourself or love yourself even more through acceptance. I know Trill League touches on what many would consider “stereotypes” and I’ve received a lot of flack from it. But the thing is, these people exist! These people are my friends, my family, people I’ve grown up around and I love them. I find what we call “ghetto” chicks to be some of the funniest people out there, cause they don’t give a damn what you think about them and I love that. For people to be themselves without worrying about what others think is a great thing. And we need to acknowledge that these personality types exist across all cultures and nationalities, not just the black community. I’ll never shy away from who I am as a black man, raised in the inner city. I bring all those experiences growing up into what I am creating.
Your partnership with fellow artist Marcus Williams made my heart cheer. He not only has done severely cold fan art for Trill League, but he has also created NEW characters as well. Being a natural sista, you KNOW It fell in love with SUPER NATURAL. What I really look forward to is you not being as friendly with HER character, lol. I don’t think people realize that she is JUST as much a parody as WONDEISHA, lol::
Yea, a lot of people like Super Natural. She received a lot of love. And I think another female character was needed in the cast as well. I know sistas like that, and I love their energy and intelligence. But the thing about Trill League is I find the humor in these people with these different personalities and ethos, so I definitely will not be going easy on her. LOL. She won’t be as easily made fun of as Wondeisha, just because any situation I put her in I can find a funny angle on how she would react. Super Natural on the other hand, I’ve found a lil’ difficult to write for. I think her angle will be more so how other characters react to her philosophies, which is often the case when you don’t follow the status quo.
Have the pseudo conscious people come after your head yet? I know how my comrades can be at time, lol. I will apologize on their behalf, if necessary, loooools::
LOL. Some have. I know we all have different ideals of the content we should put out that represents us. I’ve come to expect Trill League will not win over everyone. But what in life ever has? There will always be differences in opinions about anything that exist.
What made you move to to California? Was it worth it for you in the long run? It certainly SEEMS to be.::
As some know, right after Trill League was created, I started working with ADHD for the new Major Lazer series as a Character Designer. Thats all thanks to the homie Damil Bryant, a director at the studio, who reached out to me and helped me get that position, which I’m madly appreciative of. I was working remotely from Chicago still, but the studio liked my work to the point where they offered me the Lead Character Designer position on Season 2 of Axe Cop. That required me to move since I had to work in studio with the other team members. It was definitely worth the move. I think getting out of your comfort zone causes tremendous growth, which it has. Not only artistically and professionally, but but it has helped me personally as well.
Let’s talk BLAZE BROTHERS. How did you get involved with that project? The covers are outstanding. I’m in love with every single one, as is my sun.::
Ha! That was an experience for me. When I had first started networking on social media, I started following the Blaze Brothers page. One of the creators, Vernon Whitlock, contacted me and wanted me to do some work for him. At the time, it was the highest I had ever been offered to do commission work, so I naturally took the job. LOL. But with that came high expectation for the work I would deliver. It was a test, because I had never done work on that caliber before. From my anatomy to my coloring style, I had to learn a lot. It was a very frustrating experience, since they wanted a very clean, realistic, polished product to represent their series, which wasn’t what I was known for. But it taught me a lot and definitely changed my art style for the better.
Will you be doing any further work on their series?::
There’s a possibility in the future I may. They have other projects they are currently working on though.
Many call you “AntBoy”, while others know you as “BlackAnt”. I personally call you brody, lol. Is there a story behind that, or just professional growth?::
Antboy was a name I created in high school, so thats always stuck with me. I created Black Ant because I wanted to have some type of superhero name to represent myself as an artist. I was just joking around when I called myself that online, but it just stuck. Some of my friends, who I’m met through networking call me “Black”. I’m like “you know my name is Anthony, right”, and they’re just like “nah, your name is Black”. LOL.
What was your favorite cover art/project that you created for a different artist/company?::
Hmmm, I think my favorite has to be the 6th cover to the Blaze Brothers series. I’m in love with that cover because I’m just surprised at how good it turned out. The funny thing is I don’t even want to draw like that anymore, but it just looks insanely professional. I look at that cover like “damn, I actually did that”.
How did you get into doing album covers? Is it quicker income for you?::
I got into the album and mixtape cover game when I initially did some work for a Chicago lyricist named Kenlo Kenlo. He reached out to me do some work for his “Sleeping Giant” mixtape, and after he dropped it, a lot of Chicago MCs were showing me love, like MPulse, Clark Airlines and Nomad Misfit. That just became my thing after awhile. I was the mixtape cover guy.
Do you feel the need to build your own comic community, or make it to mainstream?::
I would love to make my series mainstream. I don’t ignore the economics of being able to create art, and my ultimate goal is to build a studio, so I can help other creative entities put out their projects under a mantle that will be recognized for great quality content. I hope Trill League can become the genesis of the goal.
Do you think that black Indie is on the rise as far as being more publicly known?::
I think “black” in general is on the rise. Look at how many black characters are being introduced or being put into a lead role in comics. Look at how many hip hop albums are in the Top 10 Billboard list. Look at how many black series are receiving high ratings. Naturally, comics will follow the trend as well.
Do you partake in the digital vs paper beef? Or are you neutral like Switzerland? Lol::
I don’t really care. Good art is good art. Every artist has their preference.
Do you feel that predominantly black comic book conventions are a good thing for YOU? Why or why not?::
Of course. A lot of stuff that I create comes from my experience growing up as a black kid in Chicago. While art is universal, my art (I feel) resonates with a lot my people, so to be able to engage with my community is always a good thing for me.
Do you think that sexism exists in comic book industry? (I will ask this every week, America, so deal with it, lol)::
I know this is an important subject to you, sis. LOL. And I feel if its something that has to be asked, most likely it exists. I believe it does though. Comics have always been a male dominated field, but that is definitely starting to change. Comic books, as a medium, are starting to diversify, so we’re seeing a lot of new things taking place.
What do you feel needs to be changed in order for the advancement of women in your industry?::
Nothing. Its going to naturally happen. Its taking its course. When you see talent like Ashley Woods, Afua Richardson, and Babs Tarr putting out dope work, people have no choice but to take notice.
Out of all of your projects, which was the most difficult and why?::
Definitely Blaze Brothers. LIke I stated earlier, that project tested my artistic skills since I had to really get out of my comfort zone to create to movie poster style comic covers.
Who are your favorite musicians of any genre to listen to while working?::
I’m all over the place when it comes to my music, but anything produced by Timbaland I’m all over. If people only knew how much music inspires everything I create artistically….
If there was a #TrillLeague character based in Detroit, who would they be?::
The Hustler! Cause cats from Detroit know how to grind!
If Anthony Piper could have a two hour discussion today with the late Dwayne McDuffie, what would you all be talking about?::
Building! Thats all I’m about now. I want to build something for our people. Through social media, I’ve been introduced to so many other black creatives and that opened my eyes to just how many of us were out there. Growing up, I wasn’t surrounded by many people who had the same interests as me. I mean, yea, you always had your boys who played video games and cartoons, but I never knew many who were passionate about creating those things as well. But there aren’t a lot of opportunities for us to put our content out there and get it in the hands of the masses. The industry is yearning for something new, and we need creators from different backgrounds in order to do so. Dwayne McDuffie was able to do that and I believe I have many ideas on how to continue that trend.
Many people absolutely LOVE your work. Many people also use Trill League as a way of talking shit on facebook when they don’t have anything of substance or relevance to talk about. However, you handle the negativity VERY well, lol. But does it ever get to you deep down, or does it blow right past you?::
I always take note of the negative stuff that’s being said concerning Trill League. And believe me…I think on it for a while in order to distinguish if it’s a legitimate issue I need to address and if it aligns with my philosophies. It has gotten to me a few times, because I admit, in the beginning, a lot of people were cheering me on and I had never really ran into any criticism. Now as a creator, I had to learn to deal with it.
Ok, less serious stuff- if you could have ANNNNY two characters be your homies in REAL time, who would they be and WHY?::
Iron Man and Batman. You know those loans you need to get from your homies from time to time? They wouldn’t trip if I was late paying them back.
This isn’t a question, I just want you to know you changed my life, and I’m forever in your debt. The day you posted that picture of red velvet Oreos? You broke the Internet. I searched high and low for them. When I bought them? Slow tears.::
LMAO! I’m done with this interview Maia. Those Red Velvet Oreos weren’t all that. I’m waiting for them to drop those S’mores ones though.
Are there any new or upcoming projects/events you’re brainstorming?::
I’ve got plenty of project that are just in queue for the time being. Trill League has all my attention right now.
Where can we find you online? Links, Handles, Hashtags, Bribes::
Right now I’m mostly active on Facebook: Anthony Piper or Trill League fan page. Then there’s my official portfolio website: www.anthonypiper.com. Thats where you can find some examples of my work or contact me through email. I also have a twitter, but I don’t use it too often. People mostly use the hashtag #TrillLeague on there to find some of my work as well as fan art.
Any last thoughts, screams, rants, praises, etc?::
Yea, I want to say thank you to everyone who has not only supported this project, but my career as an artist as well. Through out this journey, I have been influenced by many other artists and creators such as Martheus and Janet Wade, Baba Dawub Anyabwile, Ashley Woods, etc. These are people who showed me that its possible to put out your own work and create a quality product for fans. The professional support artists Damil Bryant and LeSean Thomas has changed my life though in ways I couldn’t even begin to speak on. So I’m grateful for them as well. And of course, you as well Maia, for staying on my ass these past 3 years and just being a supporter of the entire black movement. I’m appreciative to everyone who has helped me get to where I am not, and I have every intention of building for others with the support I’ve been given.
MECCAcon Weekly is a weekly series of features, interviews, and highlights, all focused around comics and art, mainly centered around the AFRIKAAN diaspora community. We focus on the upliftment and advancement of arts thru various mediums. #MECCAconWeekly can also be found on our sister site, DARK MATTERS.
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“BLOOM WHERE YOU’RE PLANTED” …This is my motto. Whatever environment you come from, whatever your surroundings or financial circumstance, there is ALWAYS room to grow, flourish, and BLOOM.
Maia Williams, also known as “Crown”, is executive assistant to many different businesses, artists, and events in the Metro Detroit area. Crown is also CEO and founder of