Text: Rakhshan Abbasi Photo: Sebastian Jazdzewski
“You have to challenge yourself to do something different and to grow, because as human beings we are dynamic not static.” Josef Yohannes the man behind the popular comic book The Urban Legend, shared his experiences and future plans at the exclusive event this week at Sandnes Bibiliotek.
From education in political science and human rights to The Urban Legend, how did it happen…what ignited the creativity?
I always had a big dream about becoming the prime minister of Norway or a diplomat but the more I studied I realized that in politics you never speak your own mind. You always speak on behalf of the party, some legislation or some interest groups and I really can’t compromise my feeling and my thought. So I kind of moved away a little bit from that, and then all of a sudden the fate intervened and I ended up creating The Urban Legend.
Were you engaged in any other creative project before?
I was writing a lot of poetry from a very young age. Although there is a transition from writing poetry to writing stories but it is also very similar in a way. Creating your own universe, creating different characters making them exciting with the dialogue and everything I had no experience with that before. I was surely a little bit nervous when it first started, because I had no clue about developing a character; but it kinda came naturally so I went along with it.
Can you tell us about the creative process behind a comic book?
First I write the story and the scenes. I sit down and think what message I need to give out in the story and then I emphasize on the important points that need to be highlighted and I just kinda build a universe from that. It is very important for me to take chances and if it can work or not and then develop a character 360 degrees. So you really go on a journey while building a character. After the process of story writing my team takes it forward in to sketching and publishing.
Your experience while working on Malala fund?
It was fun, it was different. I was surprised when they got in touch with me and asked if I could do this page with 20th Century Fox and Malala.
It was a big task because she is such a big icon and she had just won the Nobel Peace Prize. It was very important for me not to put words in her mouth, like I was talking for her. It had to be natural and I thought it would be much more credible if she said her own words. So I took her quotes and put them in the story but this was really challenging. Though I like taking challenges but this was by far one of the biggest challenge as I had to fit everything in… Her message, her vision, her concept, her values; but in the end everyone liked it.
Any plans to make The Urban Legend film or series?
Yeah, that’s a dream. We are working towards it.
You are working on a documentary on Malcolm X, when is it launching?
The goal was to have it released last year but there was so much work with The Urban Legend, that I couldn’t manage to get it out there. We have started planning on the production of the documentary as I have a lot of exclusive content that has never been published before, and I’m really looking forward to show it to the whole world.
You recently launched a special edition on anti-bullying, how did you cope up with the problem when you were a child?
Bullying is a huge problem and we really need to look seriously at it. I know about it because when I was a kid I was bullied a lot myself, and it made me very insecure, very lonely, very doubtful of myself and I felt I had nobody that I could turn to. I really didn’t like that feeling and I can imagine what others go through. Teenage is a very critical age and it can easily take you in the wrong direction. So I decided to do to something that could make a difference. That’s why I came up with the edition to show the young generation the consequences of bullying.
Violence in cartoons and video games…your comments on that?
I don’t see my super hero using any violence, I see him using self-defense. You will never see him initiating any violence, you always see him defending someone else. When it is self-defense I don’t call it violence, because you are just protecting yourself and the people. But I think violence is not a good thing and it has a negative impact on today’s generation. These days there’s too much violence in music, in video games and in movies. I think you can tell a good story and make a valid point without showing violence in any medium.
When will we get to read The Urban Legend season 3?
Season 3 is coming in September/ October this year, and now we are digitalizing it also. In a couple of months, you will be able to read it on your phones and Ipads. We are also coming up with our web shop, where we will be selling our merchandise.
Ps. Tusen takk for et strålende arrangement på biblioteket, Josef! Lykke til videre med The Urban Legend. Vi venter på flere sesonger og håper du besøker oss igjen!