Challenging the dominant culture: intent vs. interpretation with Ronald Wimberly


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On this episode of The Autonomous Creative, I sit down for a super fun conversation with Ronald Wimberly. Ronald is best known for his graphic novel Prince of Cats, which is currently being developed as a film by Legendary Entertainment. His other works include a giant tabloid journal and art magazine on identity and visual culture, LAAB, Sentences: The Life of MF Grimm, Black History In Its Own Words, and his critically acclaimed webcomic, Gratuitous Ninja (which is currently being Kickstarted and published by Beehive Books as a 600-page accordion-folded concertina!).

I first met Ronald Wimberly in 2007, and shortly after we came together to work on my book, Trish Trash. We have had many long, in depth conversations over the years, and I can always count on them turning out hilarious, challenging, and never boring.

This one is no exception.

We explore some of Ronald’s most popular work and its influences, including other artists, cultures, and his personal identity. Ronald compares the many references in his work to sampling, and explains why he believes it leads to deeper, more engaging art.

We also discuss the discrepancies between the artist’s intent, and the audience’s interpretation. How much does it actually matter? Is it better, healthier even, to look away?

More from the episode...

  • Ronald breaks down some of the references in his graphic novel, Prince of Cats, which he describes as the B-side to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
  • “One of the lessons about being an artist that I've learned over these years is you put stuff out, you mean things, sometimes it's inconsequential to what people get from it” — Why Ronald thinks focusing too heavily on how his work is perceived is unhealthy.
  • Ronald reminiscences on New York in the 80’s, newsstands, and being introduced to the world of comics.
  • We discuss the early influences on Ronald’s work, such as Japanese pop culture and Jordan Crane’s Non, and examine the value of tracing these influences.
  • Ronald talks about meeting fellow comic, Evan Dorkin, author of Milk & Cheese, and the joke it took him ten years to understand.
  • “You and the world that you live in has created this.” — How dominant culture and aesthetics feed into each other, from hex codes to Marvel movies.
  • What does Ronald mean when he talks about “doing the least possible reproduction of pernicious ideas that are embedded in aesthetics”?
  • “I always liked the collector cards from Marvel more than the comics...It’s an exploded world.” — How does building context enrich a work of art?
  • Ronald explains the intention behind his tabloid newspaper, LAAB, and how it compares to work he’s done in the past.

More from Ronald Wimberly

Ronald Wimberly is a comic artist best known for Black History In Its Own Words and Prince of Cats, an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet set in NYC in the 80s, which he's now developing as a film with Legendary Entertainment. He's got several other major projects in the works as well, like his giant tabloid journal and art magazine on identity and visual culture, LAAB, plus more comics and more movies.

Guy is BUSY.

Ronald and I even collaborated once on a comic called "The Beautiful Ones", and he was my inspiration for a well-loved blog post about whether it's a "HELL YEAH" or no.

Connect with Ronald Wimberly



Additional links

“Lighten Up”

“Being-in-the-Room Privilege: Elite Capture and Epistemic Deference” - Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò

“Deep Fried Frenz” by MF DOOM

GRATUITOUS NINJA: A Stealth Epic by Ronald Wimberly - Kickstarter campaign

GratNin on WEBTOON

Beehive Books

LAAB Magazine - Digital edition via Beehive Books

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