Fanfic sometimes gets a bad rap, but when one artist's favorite characters didn't look or talk like him, he turned the format into a means of empowerment—taking their stories into his own hands. Illustrator Markus Prime, who's new book Black Renditions of Universal Heroes (B.R.U.H) dropped on April 1, is one example of the phenomenon.
"B.R.U.H. is a collection of images where I take well known superheroes and reimagine them as black women to explore the idea that representation matters." Prime tells The Creators Project. He began by drawing icons of his childhood, such as the saiyans of Dragon Ball Z, with dark skin and kinky hair. The reimaginings caught on in Tumblr and Facebook art communities five years ago, cementing Prime's decision to pursue illustration full-time.
His career exploded with a similarly reimagined rendition of a Texas police officer's headline-making encounter with African-American 12-year-old girl Dajerria Becton. After video of the officer brutally subduing the girl went viral, Prime reversed the situation, imagining a world in which Becton was able to have the upper hand. "I tend to stay away from political work, but I think people truly understood where I was coming from. We all felt the same way: a feeling of anger and sadness."
B.R.U.H is the flipside of fan fiction's power. Rather than taking a terrible event and protesting in anger, he remixes things he loves to make them more relatable. "A 'Universal Hero' has universal appeal, meaning he or she crosses social barriers and speaks to people across all races and backgrounds," Prime says. His renditions don't replace these heroes, but suggest different series' in which the Powerpuff Girls fight both monsters and black stereotypes, where Batwoman knows what it's like to face discrimination for the color of her skin, and where Finn from Adventure Time removes the bear hat to reveal long, unwieldy black curls. "People respond with excitement, being able to identify with a character they grew up watching," says Prime. "The images allow the reader to create their own narratives and stories. It lets their imaginations race."
Check out some samples from B.R.U.H., available now, below.