I loved comic books growing up, so I broke into writing for Marvel Comics and DC Comics. I have written for characters like Batman, Superman, Thor, Spiderman, Ironman. They even allowed me to create my own character called the Blue Marvel, which I actually created when I was a kid, at least in part. The Blue Marvel character asked the question, “What if Superman were black in the early 1960s, and how would the world react to him?” I brought that character to Marvel Comics, and now the Blue Marvel has become an Avenger, which is pretty cool.
TR: What was the inspiration behind taking a universal character like Frankenstein, which many are familiar with, and creating a storyline that is not just a story about a monster?
KG: When you start looking at monsters, I look past what they were originally intended to be. Frankenstein is basically the story of Prometheus, but there’s another story there. Because here you have a character, Adam, the monster, who is a creature created by man, who was created by God. He was angry at Victor Frankenstein because he didn’t do for him what God did for his creation. Adam was not taught right from wrong, morality from immorality, and is alone. So what I think happens with these stories is that you use them as metaphors for the larger human condition.
Frankenstein could be a metaphor for abandonment or wanting to be accepted based on who you are, or not liking who you are and wanting to change. How do you do that if you have no viable moral compass? So I take these concepts, these aspects of these characters, and kind of turn them upside down on their ears so we can really get into seeing what they’re about. I want to see that conflict, but expand it.
And that’s how you start creating races of these kinds of creatures. It asks the questions: Are you man? Are you monster? Or are you somehow both? I think, a lot of times, metaphorically speaking … sometimes as black Americans living in this country, there’s who you know you are, but who you’re perceived to be based upon how we look, based upon our size, the timbre of our voice, things like that. And so it’s one of these things that you have to struggle with. You define who you are, and not the outside world. So with Frankenstein, it was no different. And … that way I was able to identify with the character and build upon that vast universe around him.
TR: Do you feel that being African American has an effect on the stories you tell or the approach you take to the metaphors or stories you focus on?
KG: Being a black man, it never leaves you. But in terms of viewing the world a certain way, when you’re talking about monsters and you’re talking about the metaphors you try to create, as black Americans, you ofttimes stand apart. And you have to look at things from the inside out or the outside in. And that can really play an important factor.
I mean, for me, when I walk through the doors … I am already an anomaly. Because here I’m working in a genre that, you know, black Americans don’t typically engage themselves in. And then you look at my background and people are like, “OK, wait a minute!” … People are flabbergasted, because my background is microbiology, or a hard science, and now I work in something speculative. And that can really mess with people’s head: “Why would you do this?”
And I’ve had brothers come up to me and say, “Hey! We don’t do things like that. What made you think of this?” But actually, it’s a metaphor for the struggle a lot of times. And so, in terms of the role race plays, it does and it doesn’t. Because we are much more than just this.
TR: In your opinion, why are there not more African Americans contributing and participating in the genre of sci-fi as creators, actors or writers?