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Manifesto Presents: Seven Pillars - An Interview with Nigel Clarke

In our inaugural edition of the Seven Pillars interview series, Chris “Preach”
sat down with Nigel Clarke, the man behind a newly published comic sure to
catch the eyes of avid readers everywhere, “Master Never and The Flow of
Both men(and natives of Cambria Heights, Queens, New York) spoke
freely about ‘Master Never’ and its inception on the eve of Mr. Clarke’s debut
at this year’s New York Comic Convention.

What were your inspirations behind the creation of ‘Master
Never and The Flow of Death?’

Nigel: Well, it wasn’t just one thing. There were several influences. One
major thing being the graffiti mural at Andrew Jackson(Campus Magnet)
High School. Graffiti back then when we were growing up wasn’t that
visible that far out into Queens.  And the message was so inspiring.
‘We can, because, we know we can.’ That stuck with me throughout
the years. In 2005, I was going through a few life changes,and
I wound up getting into photography and while looking for inspiration,
I decided to go back over to the school to check out that mural only to find
that it was gone. Man, that wounded me. I remember standing there for a
good ten minutes in shock. From that point on, I went and took pictures of
graffiti everywhere I could. I also dug deeper into the culture itself. I was
blessed to have the support of Meres One who embraced me immediately.
I also got to hit 5Pointz out in Long Island City which is the modern day
Writer’s Bench.

(Mural@Andrew Jackson High School, circa 1982. *props to The Queens Masterpiece*)

Another influence, which I know you know being from NYC, was kung fu movies. They
have been a major influence on me, particularly ‘The Last Dragon’. I remember watching
it with my dad and he used to say, ‘Something’s wrong. Here you’ve got a good-looking
Black martial artist with talent, Taimak…and you haven’t heard a thing about him since.’
So I wondered why that was, and why such a popular movie never had a sequel. So later
on that year, I tracked down the creator of ‘The Last Dragon’, Louis Venosta. Mind you,
I’m broke, living in a run-down apartment in East New York with roaches(laughs) but
when I met with him, the effect I got from the meeting was monumental. He was taken
by my interest. And this is when I knew that I needed to write my own story. At this time
too, I was doing a lot of shooting at night. Abandoned buildings, subway stations. I met
some folks on my travels and captured them as well. My classmates’ comments on my
photos planted another seed.

Preach:What led to ‘Master Never’ being a distributed comic book project instead of
the traditional format?

Nigel: In 2008, someone suggested I take the graphic novel I had written and make
it a comic. The traditional approach didn’t appeal to me. With my previous working
background in technology and observing the current way information is easily shared
on the Internet, that was a main influence. I tried different methods and then I learned
about The Sketchbook Project. I felt that approach would not only work, but make it
that more unique. I also got a chance to speak with Brandon Easton, who’s a well-known
figure in the comic book industry for some guidance. A key element was the fact that I
wanted good art, but not so good that it overpowered the story. I think that allowing
other folks to get involved, you also allowed for more bold and unique interpretations
of the story itself.

Preach:How did the mixtape come about and why did you feel that would be the best accompaniment to the project?

Nigel: The mixtape came about in two stages. I saw the story taking shape from an
audio perspective, walking around East New York 2 or 3 in the morning taking pics.
Crazy as that sounds. (laughs) I had my iPod on, and the music just made everything
more vivid. And when you view the mixtape, its place in modern culture, it has always
been a source of creative energy. It’s a vehicle for expression, a way for people to
break the paradigm of what people would get from a traditional album. The man behind
the mixtape, Henry Virgil felt as though he was being let in on a secret.

Preach: How did you link up with all of the contributing artists?

Nigel: I went to college websites, and I also got a chance to check out
different artists from various forums on the ‘Net. I wanted to have good
artists, but I wanted to make sure they also were committed to the spirit
and story of ‘Master Never’ to see it through to the end.

Preach: It’s very evident within ‘Master Never’, but can you detail
how much this project is inspired by hip hop?

Nigel: Hip Hop is very vital to ‘Master Never’. Hip Hop is a visual language
so of course it had to be a part of the story. Graffiti is the underlying
foundation for all four stories in the saga. ‘Flow of Death’ itself is a true
metaphor for rap music when you really think about it. The love in hip hop
is all throughout the story. It wouldn’t be ‘Master Never’ without hip hop
being a part of it.

Preach: Would you ever consider putting out the graphic novel in
the future?

Nigel: Well, I already had..I was selling it in Harlem in 2008 in a couple
of stores. The interaction I had shortly after with Shawn Prince led me
towards making it bigger. You know Harlem dudes are always about that
money man. (laughs) He was insistent. Because he really felt connected
to ‘Master Never’. I also had a hookup with someone who had a printing
connection. So I would contact them and get copies, and go from store
to store. It was a good introduction to the process. But the plan is to
release the stories in serial form, then release the complete graphic novel.

Preach: Lastly, what would be your advice to someone reading this
who is about to or is considering doing something like this?

Nigel: The advice I’d give, I’d suggest that you follow your heart. As long
as your aspirations are reasonable, then follow your heart. It is never easy.
A continuous journey. In addition, have your own definition of success.
Have a vision, stick with it. You can’t do everything by yourself. Keep a team
of POSITIVE individuals around you. Find inspiration by looking at others who
are successful. The journey that an independent book publisher takes is the
same journey shared by a singer, rapper, athlete or protagonist in your favorite film.

‘Master Never and The Flow of Death’ is available now. Please check out the website below:

You can also check out more of Nigel’s work here:


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