I started drawing in the margins of my notebooks during junior high school--in my early teens. I did it to alleviate the boredom of having to sit through lessons that were being gone over and over again, for the benefit of the slower students (nothing wrong with that, by the way--everyone deserves the right to understand what they're being taught, and at their own pace).
The first things I recall drawing were faces and hands, which--along with feet--are the most difficult things to draw accurately.
My best friend at the time, Al Simonson, who'd introduced me to comics thru his vast collection, encouraged me to send some work in to DC Comics for a professional evaluation. They were interested enough to ask me to "drop by, if I was ever in the neighborhood"--which I did. Upon seeing the color of my skin, the editors decided to have me design and draw their first ever black super-hero to have his own title, BLACK LIGHTNING. My career in comics was less a decision I'd made than it was an offer made to me--which, of course, I took.
About three years into my career, at about the age of 20, I started to feel that I'd only gotten the job because of my skin color--a notion which displeased me greatly. So I dedicated myself, wholeheartedly, to developing my Art to a point where it would be so good, that it wouldn't matter what color I was. I sat down and wrote a five-page "mission statement" (now lost)--writing out for myself in detail exactly what I wanted to create--the kind of style I thought would express myself most effectively, while also telling a story in the most dramatic way possible. I wrote everything down that I could think of--the details, form, and purpose of the style of art that I'd wanted to create.
Out of these two long years of serious effort, I created the art style seen in the BATMAN ANNUAL #8.
After this, I felt that I'd finally earned the position I'd been given--that of being a professional comic book artist. I couldn't control how others saw me--as a "black" artist, instead of what I was, simply an artist--but I no longer had any insecurities, as far as the quality of my work was concerned. What I've done, everyone can do--if they open their minds to the possibilities that lie inherent in themselves--as opposed to defining, and limiting themselves by the perceptions of others.
In comics, my favorite super-heroes were Curt Swan's Superman, and Legion of Super-Heroes, Spider-Man, Daredevil, The FF, Thor--and any, and everything, by Jack Kirby--The King!
I do not gravitate towards street-level characters. Just the opposite--I like heroes/people with a sense of intelligence, and integrity.
I don't particularly like "street-level" characters, but that's what I'd been assigned, because of the color of my skin, and the ingrained stereotypical thinking of editors in charge. Batman, btw, is more of a hi-tech, "James Bond" type of character, than anything having to do with "the streets"--he also happens to be my all-time favorite super hero.
All of the characters I've drawn have been assigned to me. My choices, preferences, or "design", had nothing to do with it.
Batman, however, IS my favorite--because he has no super-powers. He became an entity feared by his enemies, and respected by his fellow, godlike super-powered heroes--simply by force of his own will, and physical and mental efforts. To me, Batman has always been a symbol of how much one man can achieve--since he created himself, single-handedly, through phenomenal dedication, and intense effort. BATMAN has always represented Man at his best, to me. And always will.
In life, my favorite hero as a kid, was Fred Astaire. One of the hardest working, and greatest artists in the history of show business. A true professional, and a consumate, phenomenally original, and highly gifted artist.
Later in my life, I discovered Bruce Lee in ENTER THE DRAGON--and he became the greatest source of inspiration to me in my early teenage years--and still is, to this day.
In the early '80's I discovered the work of Ayn Rand, upon reading THE FOUNTAINHEAD. That book was the single most influential factor in my development as an independent, original artist. I recommend it highly to anyone interested in pursuing a career in art--or in simply becoming an artist.
Finally--Prince (whom I first saw in "Purple Rain") has also been a huge inspiration to me, in pursuing my own personal goals in life, as well as art. As an artist, I strive to inspire others through the process of my own creative self-expression. Art is simply a communication of the human spirit, to one's fellow human beings. There's no finer, or better way to be, in life--for me.
Art is a process of self-discovery, self-knowledge, and self-expression. The more industrious and enlightened one's mind is, the greater, and more effectively expressive one's art will be. This applies to everyone--but first, you must choose to live according to what you truly know, through honest personal experience, rather than what you've been told!
Other people cannot live your life, nor know your own, private, innermost thoughts and feelings--and that's what art is based on. It takes a great deal of courage to do this, but the rewards and satisfactions are greater still.