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Issaka Galadima and Frederick L. Jones chime in on CLOCK STRIKER

Updated: Apr 6

Interviews Editor, Andrew Irvin, is joined in the Yeti Cave by Issaka Galadima and Frederick L. Jones, creators of Clock Striker, one of the titles under production over at Saturday AM. Learn more below, and check out Vol. #1 now before Vol. 2 drops in September!

 

COMIC BOOK YETI: Issaka and Frederick, thanks for stopping by the Yeti Cave today! How are things in France and North Carolina, respectively?



ISSAKA GALADIMA: It's always a sunny day in the land of art and croissants, thanks for asking!


FREDERICK L. JONES: Not bad in Raleigh-Durham. Today, I was in a meeting to plan our 2024 SaturdayCon “con within a con” (part of the much bigger NC COMICON) for 11/9 and 11/10. So while it’s a rainy, sluggish day, I’m still busy planning things out for our little brand.



CBY: With volume #1 of Clock Striker out just over a year ago, and volume #2 on its way in September of this year, when did development begin? How much of the story was put together before Issaka joined as the artist, and how did the two of you meet?


IG: Oh, the Clock Striker journey started a while back. The story's heart was beating before I came onboard. Frederick and I met thanks to Whyt Manga.


FLJ: I created the concept and hired another artist to depict the character based on my original guidelines. It was really great, and when we teased it in our 24th issue of Saturday AM (during our second year), it was immediately popular. We then dropped the first short story in Issue 32 and the beginning of the series about a year later in Issue 54. 


So, the story and concept were already established, but the consistency of producing a Black female manga hero and truly fleshing out the world, the science behind it, and the style of action only happened when we relaunched with our true artist and partner, Issaka Galadima, for Issue 128/129. Aside from being an exceptional artist, Issaka brought authenticity to it as a Black man and as an engineer by trade.


I truly feel like Clock Striker really “came to life” once Issaka came aboard—roughly six years after I first conceived the character.



CBY: It sounds like it's been a long journey to get to this point! Can you both share a bit of what has inspired this title, from a narrative standpoint, Frederick, and the visual reference points, Issaka? I’m not able to keep up with the massive volume of manga out there, so which previous titles have fed into the tone and look of Clock Striker?



IG: My inspiration comes from the dynamic action of classic shonen manga—it's like a visual symphony that I can't get enough of! Artwise, I'd say that artists like Hiro Mashima, Masashi Kishimoto, and Yuki Tabata inspired me a lot. 


FLJ: When I started Saturday AM, the idea was to normalize diversity in manga—a popular art form with a significant support structure globally from Black and brown people, from Africa to India to Brazil.


Yet, the heroes and even side characters were rarely Black or brown, although there were plenty of white characters like Ed and Alphonse or even Naruto, who doesn’t just have blonde hair but pretty obvious blue eyes. Stylistically or not, the unintended consequence was that not only were Black people being harassed on social media for even cosplaying as their fave manga heroes, but young Black and brown creators were starting to verbalize that to create a manga starring a hero or heroine that looked like them was somehow wrong or forced.


This was not something I could just stand by and watch happen without pushing back.


Saturday AM’s first title was Massively Multiplayer World of Ghosts, which I created and starred a South Asian lead hero with strong influences from Hindu mythology. So when our first year of the Saturday AM magazine ended, I was a bit bummed that we had zero Black heroes despite our company being Black-owned. It was essential to show that you can have great manga stories with Black characters, and a Black female protagonist was as significant a departure from the norm as possible.



So, I looked at Black Girls Code for inspiration (i.e., we need more women and people of color to become engineers to meet the demand in America). I’ve always loved stories about steampunk or dieselpunk and felt that a story about a young girl who wanted to be an engineer, a ninja, or a pirate in that environment would be a very cool setup.


Entertainment like Naruto, Bioshock, Trigun, and even Batman & Robin contributed to the creation of Clock Striker.



CBY: So regarding Saturday AM - this is the first title I’ve covered from amongst the catalogue of comics. Frederick, as Founder, can you tell us a bit about how Clock Striker found its home amidst the titles? With the multiple titles you’ve been involved in, and the operational considerations of running Saturday AM, can you both share a bit about the process of putting together Clock Striker for publication through Saturday AM? 



IG: Well, it's pretty classic. Fred starts by thinking about the events of the chapters then we discuss it. Then he writes the script, which I adapt into a storyboard. And I finalize the page with the help of the artistic team (i.e., my assistants).


FLJ: Sure! As I said, Saturday AM is a Black-owned company that normalizes diversity in manga. Clock Striker is uniquely a Saturday AM title, in that it’s the first Black female lead heroine in shonen manga ever. It’s also one of our most popular series and best-selling titles, and it has racked up some great reviews and award nominations. So, it’s something I definitely take a great deal of pride in and spend a comparable amount of time working on, as it’s a core part of our business.


My schedule has always been crazy, but after a decade in corporate America, I’m big on meetings and team dynamics. Essentially, I start the week with a meeting with Issaka, and we plan out Clock Striker work for the week, be it scripts, plot concerns, dialogue, or marketing.



After that, I will focus on our core business from new business dealings, sales, deadlines, invoices, etc. Likewise, I set aside time for one-on-ones with creators and individual meetings with our partners across Sandisk, Quarto, Atsuko, and more.


Building a team is important, though, and one of my most critical weekly tasks. If it wasn’t for folks like Austin, Joshua, Jackie, Demetrene, and others, I would be overwhelmed. Trust me—I did it for years by myself (with Raymond Brown, another co-founder), and thus I can tell you—our team is not just essential, but they are amazing!



CBY:  It's good to get a better sense of the team that makes it all come together. How does the digital format for Saturday AM differ from other publishing models? You’ve got Saturday AM, Saturday PM, and Saturday Brunch magazine - I know they’re geared towards different audiences and follow the weekly Shonen publication format. You’ve also got graphic novel collections with expanded offerings for each title - how does this differ from other digital platforms such as Webtoons, and what advantages or disadvantages have you realized over traditional print media (beyond the reduced cost of delivering hard copies to readers)?



IG: I'd say digital is becoming the new cool kid—flexible and fast. But it's like comparing streaming services to traditional TV. For me, each has its charm.


FLJ: To be clear, I was sold on digital from the get-go! I was a former executive in the video game industry. I spent a chunk of my time running the hard goods lines at Blockbuster Inc. for the video game category in stores nationwide. So inventory management, returns, reserves, vendors, and MDF/CO-OP were valuable skills I learned, but had no intention of rushing back into that when I started Saturday AM.


When we launched, it just so happened to coincide with the American launch of Webtoon and the broader adoption of social media platforms. Thus, being digital was a core part of our initial global growth strategy. I mean, digital is far easier to gain an audience with (although it’s not hard to lose them due to the fickle nature of online readers), marketing is more effective, and the costs are lower, so eventual print productions become less of a financial risk.



Saturday AM was always positioned as a global Shonen Jump; thus, we’ve never viewed ourselves as similar to Webtoon. For one thing, the magazine format is part of the DNA of manga. The idea is that in one issue, lots of stories vie for the reader’s attention, which is read first and remembered/cherished until the next chapter within the next issue.


Webtoon has amazing stories and do a fantastic job of attracting female readers and artists, but for us, the manga atmosphere and page layouts are our first love. While we will work in the vertical scroll format in the near future, we’ll always continue to push the manga format.



CBY: I like the structure that you've provided in comparison to the vertical scroll, which seems to lack the same sort of bounded narrative (like the difference between eating a full meal, or continually snacking on hors d'oeuvres). We’re coming up on the conclusion of March right now, and Saturday AM has run March Art Madness in previous years. Can you talk a bit about what sort of material catches your attention, Frederick, and what helps set each title apart in a visual sense. What does Clock Striker offer that you might not see in the other titles on the site?



IG: This question is more for Fred, so I’ll let him handle this.



FLJ: Well, to be clear, our annual art contest, March Art Madness, will return. We’ve had to postpone it two years in a row now due to our workload, but we still do our annual manga submission event, #summerofmanga. That’s how we discover great talent, after all!


When we started, I had a simple rule: any creator shouldn’t have to compete inside of Saturday AM over similar material. For example, in Japan, it’s not uncommon to see a bunch of Exorcist or Yokai-based stories in manga magazines. In Jump, you had JJK, Demon Slayer, and others at various times. As the online and indie manga space was so raw and new when we started, we needed to support creators by allowing them time to flourish, finding the rhythm for their stories without competing with a fellow creator over a similar storyline or setting.


Likewise, I was adamant that we never appropriate Japanese culture and instead should strive to appreciate Japanese manga by exploring authenticity. So, it’s less interesting to me to see a spikey-haired Japanese-style protagonist from a non-Japanese artist, and it’s more interesting to see a unique character with a diverse background or cultural origin. If you’re not Japanese but manga inspires you to visit Japan and learn more about their culture, then I believe it should be the same if the characters and settings are from India, Africa, Latin America, etc.


Diversity appeals to me, as it is more faithful to the power of manga. Clock Striker stands out for that very reason. Cast’s ethnicity, ownership of the cultural understanding of being a Black woman in a diverse world, and her desire to be something (a SMITH, or Engineer-Warrior) that she is routinely told is not a position young Black girls can attain, feels true to life, similar to traditional shonen manga with young underdogs, and at the same time is different from the standard male characters we usually see.


I’d love to see more horror stories, romances, thrillers, kid-friendly titles, and mecha titles from Saturday AM. We get so many action series that something different, with compelling character design and art will always stand out to me.



CBY: To expand upon that point, I know a key goal of Saturday AM is to inject much-needed diversity into the manga medium. Cast, the young protagonist of Clock Striker is a female BIPOC character, and other titles such as Soul Beat or Apple Black break with the standard tropes of manga in both visual and thematic manners. Can you detail how Clock Striker and the other titles have been selected for development? What happens at Saturday AM to prioritize the development/acquisition of titles for release?



IG: Ah! Once again, this question is best answered by Fred.



FLJ: Well, I believe it is important to state that we don’t select any title due to diversity alone. While diversity should and often does inspire great stories—without both compelling concepts and characters, it’s nothing. You could replace Dante from Soul Beat, Sano from Apple Black, and/or Cast from Clock Striker, and still get a thrilling series without the unique nuances that come from those fresh cultural perspectives.


Like the best Japanese manga companies, editorial plays a big role in our titles. When the creator pitches a work, we determine if it feels organic and fresh. In online manga, it’s common to see young amateur artists model their ideas a little too closely to their inspirations, like Chainsaw Man, Dragonball, Attack on Titan, etc. Much of this stems from their uploading content with zero editorial or professional review. While some companies may be okay with that, Saturday AM truly wants to deliver the sort of heroes and concepts that feel iconic. 


So, we’ll review a pitch from character design to setting, concept to initial story arc, and then evaluate it against the market (i.e., comparative titles) and existing Saturday AM titles. If we feel there is promise, we’ll assign an editor and provide a true strategy and unvarnished view of the possibilities of the series’ success. For example, our approach to manga means that we must tamp down expectations that success will be the same as in Japan. This is a logic young artists have online, based on zero facts. Sadly, it’s not even remotely similar, so creators working on dozens of pages a month to mimic the weekly release schedule in Japan are chasing something more difficult than they may think.


Instead, we position them to work within a reasonable scenario, with proper pacing and a target audience they can aim for. Build strong original characters, concepts that feel intriguing, and storytelling that hits the pacing of manga with fewer pages. The goal is to publish something that stands out and gives the creator a solid chance to succeed with their creator-owned work.



CBY: That all certainly seems like a measured, methodical approach.  Clock Striker Vol. 2 is on the way, with a release date scheduled for September. From what I’ve read, this won’t be the end of the story - what sort of arc do you have in mind in terms of the total scope of the tale beyond what you’ve covered thus far? Do you have an ultimate ending planned, or have you created a world in which there are more avenues you’d like to explore with the characters?



IG: HA! Another one for Fred.


CBY: Sorry, Issaka! I've dived into some more narrative and organizational territory, and it looks like Fred gets to give us a greater glimpse at the master plan.


FLJ: I’m happy to report that Clock Striker will run for quite a while. Again, that’s not our goal because we have it in our heads to tell a long story. The series was designed to do so only if the sales justified it. Fortunately, people have fallen in love with the main character, Cast, and the mysteries of her post-technology, dieselpunk world, and we’ve begun to explore the series with maximum potential.


As I indicated, the Saturday AM way of making manga is understanding that we are not releasing content every week. Our digital magazines (Saturday AM, Saturday BRUNCH, and Saturday PM) release new chapters for every issue, but those issues come out bi-weekly or quarterly.


Clock Striker, Volume 1 covered three arcs, with the Origin arc covering Cast’s meeting with her mentor Ms. Clock; the Undiscovered Country arc covering the exploration of this post-world war; and then the Demon Bandits arc covering the first major enemy for Cast and Ms. Clock.


For Volume 2, we pick up immediately from Volume 1 and get into a life-or-death struggle with a king and his technology-anachronistic kingdom. This antagonist and his people’s lifestyle have a strange power that explores the gig economy and points to a larger storyline.


Likewise, we will meet more STRIKERS like Cast and even more SMITHS like Ms. Clock, which will present large challenges to our leading ladies.


There are some big plans to explore the world and characters and touch on major shonen manga tropes, and I can say that we’re excited about the future!



CBY: I'm sure readers will be glad to hear there's no shortage of adventures in store. Turning some attention back towards Issaka, Saturday AM has assembled a team of creators from all over the world. What sort of coordination and effort goes into keeping everything up and running beyond the individual title collaborations on titles such as Clock Striker? With various social media updates and populating the main site itself, is there anyone you’d like to shout out as part of the process of bringing these manga titles to life on a consistent schedule? 



IG: It’s like a 24/7 global manga-making party—lots of late-night chats with the art team and coffee! But also a lot of fun. Big shoutout to our editorial and design team; they're the unsung heroes that make sure the books hit the mark every time!


FLJ: Oh, man! Building a team is easily one of the more daunting aspects of running Saturday AM. It’s less sexy, and for many young people, it seems irrelevant (i.e. social media will drive my book sales…I don’t need a strategy). Truthfully, we’ve seen many groups get inspired by us or even become petulant and combative over our success. While they’ll tweet, lie, make videos, and try to build an army on Discord to lash out at Black-owned companies, or our even commitment to diversity (something we’ve seen quite a bit in politics), the thing I never see them address is our teamwork.


And that, to me, is missing the forest for the trees.


So, we have at least two weekly group meetings to run through our social media work, marketing plans, app uploads, editorial, and special projects.


Likewise, individual groups will hold meetings independently to set deadlines, receive updates, coordinate assets, and manage expectations. We update social media daily.


As I said earlier, I did this alone for years—I couldn’t do this alone now.



CBY: You mentioned some of the team members earlier, and it's good to know you've been building a well-oiled machine to keep up the publication pace. I also know you’ve run Saturday Con, a virtual convention event in the past - what sort of dates should we put down in our calendar for our readers to find opportunities to meet up and engage with you two and the broader Saturday AM creator community? You mentioned some prospective November dates at the start?



IG: Oh, I'm not quite sure of the exact dates yet, but keep an eye on our social channels—we'll be announcing them soon and would love to see you there!


FLJ: It’s always a tad difficult to judge that as we’re a small company and thus have more flexibility and fewer resources.


We tend to loosely plan opportunities and then focus on those we can make happen as we get closer to the date. It’s not exactly awe-inspiring, but it’s the reality of small business.


As for now, we’re definitely locked into the American Library Association, C2E2, and TCAF, and then SDCC, NYCC, and ANIMENYC are on the horizon.


As for SaturdayCON, we did do an in-person event last year to kick off our tenth anniversary and flew in many of our folks from around the world: New Zealand, Denmark, France, United Kingdom, and more. For a few of our folks, it was their first time in America. This year we will do a second SaturdayCON in-person event in conjunction with NC COMICCON.


As for VirtualCons, we’ll always be open to those. This year alone Whyt Manga participated in the Virtuous Con and I was a guest at Black Comix Universe BCU 2.0 chat.


 

CBY: Glad we've got some events for readers to put on their calendars! I’m sure you’re always keeping an eye out for new manga-inspired comics to bring into the fold, but beyond the purview of Saturday AM, what other comics, films, music, art, literature, and other creative work has been inspiring you lately? What should our readers check out once they’ve got Clock Striker in their back pocket through the Saturday AM digital app?


 

IG: I think this is more for Fred!


FLJ: Wow! There are too many good titles out there. I’m a big fan of Kowloon Generic Romance (Yen Press), The Fable (Kodansha), Smoking Behind the Supermarket with You (Square Enix), Fist of the North Star re-issue (Viz Media), and more!


When it comes to music and film, I tend to love EDM, R&B, and J-pop, as well as anime films, sci-fi films, and TV shows like The Bear on FX.


My inspiration can come from anywhere, but ultimately I think building a healthy creative palette is like bodybuilding…you’ve got to expose your creative juices to lots of different forms of entertainment. Whether you like Country music or not (for example), try and engage with it. It might offer you some new perspectives.


As for Clock Striker — I hope people have the physical book! And I hope they preorder Volume 2! And lastly, if they enjoy Clock Striker, then they should try our other titles, like Massively Multiplayer World of Ghosts, Gunhild, Apple Black, Hammer, Titan King, Underground, Soul Beat, and more!


There’s something for everyone!



CBY: Issaka and Frederick, thank you for joining us today - if you’ve got social media, publication, and portfolio links you’d like to share, please let our readers know here!



IG: Thanks for having us! Absolutely, you can catch my latest works and updates on Instagram @gladiskstudio. Can’t wait to connect with everyone!


FLJ: Please support Saturday AM at @saturday_am on Instagram and X, saturdayam on Facebook and YouTube, and social platforms to come soon!


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