Mitchell draws his story for upcoming graphic novel

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Heather McClelland /
Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND --
Antoine Mitchell hangs an exhibit of his conceptual art for his upcoming comic book, Sankofa's Eymbrace, at Jones Creek Regional Branch Library recently.

This is the story of the Sankofa child, whose Nia, or purpose, is to provide balance for the world of ImBalynce.

Those who live in this world have heard the story, but many dismiss it as a myth.

Stories of good and evil, a savior’s battle with a destructor, have been floating around since before The Shattering nearly 3,000 years ago. That was when the ancient land known as Ngona-Kuu was shattered, creating two separate continents from one.

So came the prophecy of the Sankofa child, whose balance would save this world, and the Yurugu child, who would destroy it.

And so begins Antoine Mitchell’s story of Sankofa’s Eymbrace, which involves more than words.

Mitchell is a Baton Rouge artist who many times works under the nickname, “Ghost.” His subjects primarily focus on African themes and the black experience portrayed in minute detail through graphite and color pencil.

His pieces usually are large, and they toured East Baton Rouge libraries during the summer of 2010.

But his artwork has taken a different turn. Mitchell is a fan of author J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. He also harbors a love for the Star Wars film series, The X Men films and comics and the Final Fantasy video games.

It’s a love he developed in childhood, when traveling with his mother from his small hometown of Norwood down the road to the bigger city of Baker. Baker had a small mall at the time, which housed a comic book shop. Mitchell would walk in and buy the latest issues mapping out new adventures of his favorite superheroes. They were worlds he loved; worlds he still loves.

This makes creating Sankofa’s Eymbrace all the more fun.

Because now he’s creating a fantasy world filled with his own heroes. And, of course, villains.

After all, there would be no conflict without villains. And without conflict, there would be no story, a story that Mitchell introduced to prospective readers through an exhibit of his characters in April at the Jones Creek Regional Branch Library.

This is why Mitchell’s story is more than words. It also incorporates artwork, for in the end, Sankofa’s Eymbrace will be a graphic novel. The exhibit simply was a sneak peek into Mitchell’s world. Each of his characters is fully drawn, accompanied by complete descriptions.

Each has a distinct personality and physical characteristics. And each has a purpose.

Still, Mitchell doesn’t want to give too much away all at once.

So, when looking at his exhibit, viewers knew the Sankofa child would have a purpose, or Nia.

“I incorporated words from the principles of Kwanzaa,” Mitchell said. “Nia is the principle of discovering purpose.”

He paused. He couldn’t help laughing.

“You know, I love The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit,” Mitchell said. “But I used to tell people, ‘I love these stories, but I’m frustrated, because there aren’t any black characters in them.’ They used to say, ‘Well, Antoine, write your own.’”

Mitchell’s friends weren’t being harsh; they were serious. They knew Mitchell loved comic books. They also knew he was an artist.

And they knew he was more than capable of creating his own world of fantasy, where a young thief named Aybel Sundiata becomes the protector of Assata Mwokozi. She’s a beautiful and mysterious young woman he’s known only in his dreams.

But now she stands before him, and it’s through her that he discovers the secret behind ImBalynce but also his own Nia.

Could Assata be the Sankofa child? Maybe.

For now, Mitchell portrays her standing face to face with Aybel, both holding hands as they stare into one another’s eyes.

Yes, this is as much a love story as it is an adventure. And who knows? Movie fans may one day see it play out on a big screen.

But that’s getting a little too far ahead of Mitchell’s plans. He’s drawn all of the characters and placed them in digital settings. Now he’s creating the world of ImBalynce, and he’s continuously developing the story.

Those wanting to learn more can visit Mitchell’s website at http://www.poeartry.net. In the meantime, he has an unrelated exhibit called Wife Queen, which is showing through Friday, May 31, at the Scotlandville Branch Library.

Mitchell’s wife, Erica, was the inspiration for this exhibit. He never refers to her as his wife but his wife queen.

And his wife queen has been the biggest supporter of his work.

“She’s completely honest,” Mitchell said.

He lets out another laugh.

“She’s very honest,” he added. “She tells me what will work and what won’t. And she’s so excited about this project, but she doesn’t want me to give away too much of the story too early.”

Erica Mitchell is right. Mitchell shouldn’t reveal too much to his future readers. There has to be an element of surprise, and besides, mystery always stirs curiosity.

Just as it did at Jones Creek Library. Patrons stopped to look at the framed pictures of Mitchell’s characters during the exhibit, moving from one image to the next while reading the descriptions.

And now they’re visiting his website, asking when they will be able to read more.

“The emblem I use for this story is two swans,” Mitchell said.

“I put that up first, and people started asking me, ‘Antoine, what is that?’ They were so curious — they really wanted to know. I’m trying to decide if I want to search for a publisher or publish this, myself.”

Either way, the Sankofa child’s story will be told, and Mitchell’s fantasy will come alive.