Nubia: Real One artist Robyn Smith ’17

An essential superhero story for this moment.” –Kirkus Starred Review

Robyn Smith ’17 is the artist for a new DC project Nubia: Real One. Nubia is as strong and fast as her twin sister Wonder Woman. Though Nubia first appeared in 1973, she has appeared in only a handful of issues. This new story, written by young adult (YA) author L. L. McKinney, is set while Nubia is in high school. Though she has powers similar to her famous sister, the world has no problem telling her that she’s no Wonder Woman. But when Nubia’s best friend, Quisha, is threatened by a boy who thinks he owns the town, Nubia will risk it all––her safety, her home, and her crush on that cute kid in English class––to become the hero society tells her she isn’t.

“As an Afro-Caribbean artist, I’ve always strived to center the Black community in the comics I make, so being hired to illustrate Nubia was a dream. When I heard L. L. McKinney was the writer, I was even more excited. Working together has been great, especially since our artistic objectives seem to be the same: all Black everything.”

—Robyn Smith on working on Nubia

Praise for Nubia:

  • Nubia: A Real One (fantastic name, btw) puts this character in the hands of two Black women who center Black characters in their stories.”—Tai Gooden on The Nerdist
  • “Speaking of the power of sisterhood, it must be noted that the creative team behind this project consists of a holy trifecta of black girl magic.”—Tonja Renée Stidhum on The Root

Robyn is a Jamaican cartoonist, currently based in New York City. She is best known for her minicomic The Saddest Angriest Black Girl in Town and for illustrating Jamila Rowser’s comic Wash Day. Robyn gave the following interview with Angela Boyle ’16.

How did you connect with LL McKinney?

DC editor Sara Miller was actually the one to reach out to me. I didn’t even know who the writer was when I first sent in my samples. Sara asked if I would be interested to try out for this job, and of course I jumped at the opportunity. She had found me through most of my work on Instagram and Twitter.

How did the process go to get this book through DC?

First Sara had explained to me the new concept for Nubia. About how she was getting a whole new story and I was asked to send in concept art, a sketch of what I thought Nubia would look like in this new universe. After having that sketch approved, I moved on to the next step which was testing how well I could work within a deadline. One of the things Sara made clear from the start is that I’d have to keep up with a very tight schedule of approx. Four or five pages a week (pencils & inks). I got a two-page sample of the script and sent in the layouts (thumbnails), got the notes, and went to work on fully rendering the two pages. 

I put my whole heart into those two pages. I don’t think I’ve worked harder on anything ever! I wanted the job so badly. I anxiously waited for a little over two months to hear back. When I finally heard back, I remember seeing only the beginning of the email, “Dear Robyn, Apologies…,” and my heart SANK. But, of course, I read a little more and I had actually gotten the job! Sara was just apologizing for the late response.

What has been your process working with LL McKinney and a large publisher versus your work with Jamila Rowser and editor JA Micheline?

It’s been radically different but only in that there are many more steps of communication involved. While working on Nubia, I had to consider all the different steps / team members involved in putting together the book versus working with Jamila Rowser, the creator of Wash Day, who would just tell me her vision. My job was the same, but I was aware of how my work for DC would end up representing this large publisher, versus the more intimate relationship I’ve developed with Jamila and now having a very good understanding of how our artistic goals intersect. I enjoyed both experiences although both were so different.

How has your work practice changed working on a full-length graphic novel as opposed to a mini-comic?

Oh man, I feel like it took me too long to change any of my previous work practices. It took me months to realize that I was actually working harder and not smarter. I had a bad habit of just working nonstop, no breaks, no stretching, til I finished a comic. I had successfully tricked myself into thinking it was a sustainable practice for making mini-comics, so naturally, I thought I could trick my body the same way for this 180-page book. I WAS WRONG. After a lot of back pain and sleepless nights, I made more of an effort to stick to a schedule that allowed me more time for rest. 

“What makes me extra excited about this Nubia graphic novel is that no one can say she’s a new character being added in for diversity points (which is always a crappy argument anyway).”—Princess Weekes on The Mary Sue

Order Nubia Now!

Page from Nubia: Real One, illustrated by Robyn Smith

Tags: , , ,