Smash Pages Q&A: James Otis Smith

The creator of ‘Black Heroes of the Wild West’ discusses the book, which is out now from Toon Books.

James Otis Smith made a splash in 2019 with two books. Gang of Fools, which came out from Lion Forge, was a webcomic about a dystopian future, gentrification, the mob and more. The other book was Showtime at the Apollo: The Epic Tale of Harlem’s Legendary Theater, a nonfiction book from Abrams. The two were radically different books but showed an artist who was able to work in different styles and approaches, as skillful at tackling fiction as nonfiction, conveying lots of information in dynamic ways. 

His new book, which is out now from Toon Books, is Black Heroes of the Wild West. The book looks at three real life figures from the Old West, each of whom was unique and stood out – then and now. But more than simply being fascinating, interesting people, they complicate our understanding of the Old West and how the West was settled. Black people were ignored when the history was written, erased when fiction and myths were crafted, and sometimes redlined and banned from towns and even entire states. Black Heroes of the Wild West is an important glimpse of what’s been lost and ignored.

Smith was kind enough to answer a few questions about the book, which is an artistically masterful work, and what he wants to do next.

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