Photos Courtesy of Alonzo Washington Kansas City native Alonzo Washington is a true African American hero. Washington has been a community activist since high school. His Omega7 Tip Line Mobile and blog have provided tips to helped local authorities solve missing person’s cases and other crimes. He created and self published the Omega 7 comic series, the first and largest African American comic book to deal with social issues. The 44 year old husband and father of six have been featured in Black Enterprise, People Weekly, The Washington Post, as well as on CNN. Most recently he made the Grio.com’s 100: History Makers in the Making list. PrideIndex.com spoke with Washington on his activism, life and the legacy of Omega Man.
PRIDEINDEX: While looking at Omega7.com I noticed that you resemble Omega Man. Are you him?
Alonzo Washington: That’s not intentional. When I first created Omega Man I was a skinny kid and did not look anything like him. I did not look like any of the other images I put out either. As I got older and began to hit my thirties I started to get into shape. I had grown ass sons and had to be able to handle them so I worked out. (LAUGHS) Being that I am an activist and fight crime and help to locate missing persons I guess Omega Man is a part of me. Omega Man was born out of my activism. My activism was born out of wanting to make a difference.
PI: How long have you been doing comic books?
AW: For 19 years.
PI: Are your comics based on family members?
AW: Some of the characters have the exact same names as my kids. Omega Man’s secret identity is Kamaal; my son’s name is Kamaal Milik. The character Darkforce’s secret identity is Malcolm Shabazz; my son’s name is Malcolm. Original Woman is based off my wife. My two sons produced comic books of their own called Omega Boy and Mighty Boy. One of them is a diabetes awareness comic book. Comic books run deep in my family line.
PI: Are the two little guys on your website your sons?
AW: Yes. They were little kids when they started. Kamaal is now 18 years old and Malcolm is 16. Their comic book was supposed to be a onetime thing but it raised so much awareness about Type 1 Diabetes it continued. When they were little they always wanted to do a comic book but I told them to wait until they were a little older. Unfortunately Kamaal was diagnosed with diabetes so he and his brother were looking to simplify those complicated medical pamphlets and decided to do their own comic book to raise awareness about the disease. When their first comic book “OMEGA BOY vs. DOCTOR DIABETES” came out it gained national and international attention. It made the cover of a magazine in Beijing, China. I am so proud of them!
PI: Is “OMEGA BOY vs. DOCTOR DIABETES” only found in doctor’s offices?
AW: The best way to find their magazine is to visit my website Omega7.com.
PI: Does your comics speak only to health and wellness issues?
AW: We speak to that and social issues on every level from racism, gang violence and gay bashing. We have a vigilante hero that battles corrupt police officers and politicians. We talk about controversial issues everywhere. We have a comic book that talked corrupt police officers who were running around and beating up gay people. We deal with almost every issue that is not dealt with in traditional comic books. We were the first to deal with these issues and noticed these issues were making their way into traditional comic books. There’s a scene in one of our books where a priest was just about to molest a child when one of our characters came in and stopped it. We address different kinds of social and controversial issues. It’s all designed to make you think.
PI: It’s outstanding that you’re thinking about the future and getting your family involved to continue your comic’s legacy.
AW: I want take Omega Man on another level, on the big screen. The main reason I have not done any movies, although I have been approached, is because when it comes to the African American image there are some Hollywood producers who portray us as the buffoon. I want to bring Omega Man to a bigger audience but it should come out as a solid piece of activism uplifting the community, and a positive, socially conscious body of work. Just like Superman had the theme of “truth, justice, and the American way,” and Spiderman’s theme of “with great power comes great responsibly,” we want Omega to have strong a moralistic image of truth, justice and the African American way. It has to be positive, it has to be right, and if I don’t see it through, my kids are going to make it happen one day.
PI: Why did you decide to self publish rather than publish under the DC or Marvel Comics banner?
AW: Most comic book publishers are not into producing stories with African American characters. If there were a black character, he/she was going to be doing what the white characters told them to do or they were simply going to be dark painted characters. They could possibly be stereotypical characters like a Luke Cage, or the typical ex-con, ex-athlete or something all together negative. I decided to self publish because I knew most publishers would not produce the kind of stuff I was trying to do. As I read books on the subject I learned that publishing was more about having the money to print a finished product so I saved my money to have a down payment to produce my work on my own.
PI: How did you get into the action figure business?
AW: I had my comic book universe of characters ready and thought about ways to make action figures but I knew they were too expensive to make. One day just by happenstance someone in the import export business emailed me with a way to get them made so I saved my money and did it. Once I had the action figures worked to get them into retail outlets like Toys R’ Us and Wal-mart. Although they’re very expensive to make, they’re highly profitable, right now I am actually sold out of them except for the Omega Man bubbleheads. I would like to go in the other direction and bring my characters to the big screen, animation and video games. I have already done the T-shirts and action figures.
I’ve started my comic book company backwards. I started from the grassroots level and created an icon without the complementary cartoon, movie or video game. These are the things that promote or sell your characters. I have been successful without having those things in place but if I am able to obtain those mass marketing items then I would be more successful.
PI: You have a photo of your mother on the website. What did she say about your comic? Did she ever suggest that you make a super mom?
AW: (LAUGHS) My mother and my great aunt were both inspirations to me. My mother pushed comic books on me as a way to get me to read and stay out of trouble. She was one of my role models that kept me off the streets. My Original Woman character pays homage to my mother and my wife. Original Woman is an ebony princess that embodies the beauty of black women. She’s an independent woman that does not have a male character telling her what to do; she has a mind of her own. I was born through a legacy of strong African American women, Original Woman embodies them.
PI: Have you considered writing a comic strip?
AW: I was approached but nothing really ever became of it, if I was given the opportunity maybe that could change; as long as we could keep it conscious or relevant. It would be interested to create a gay super hero to touch on what’s going on with teen suicide.
PI: You’re a public speaker, Right? How could someone get in touch with you to speak at their event?
AW: That gets back to my activism. I am open to organizations that want me to come and speak to youth or their church event, college or university. The comic books were kind of born out of that. That’s how Omega 7 started; schools would call me up to come and speak at their kids so one day I decided to make a comic book to address some of the issues kids were having. It was supposed to be a onetime thing but as Omega 7 gained national attention I decided to continue the successful series. Instead of just talking about social issues to kids I developed characters and a full storyline they could relate to.
PI: Name some of your favorite comic book characters.
AW: Batman is one of my favorites because he makes you think to yourself, “if I had the money and time to travel all over the world to learn martial arts, special skills and to make gadgets would I become a superhero?” Probably yes!
Batman is special because he really doesn’t have a power. He’s calculating; he uses his mind to outsmart folks.
PI: What’s next?
AW: I am going to continue to look at getting my comics books into the mainstream. Right now I have a producer who is trying to shop around a movie about my life. I really want to see my comic books go to that other level. I’ve done clocks, poster, trading cards and action figures. I want to see the Omega 7 universe come together like the X-man series or others on film.
My comic books were something others told me that I could not do. I wish that I were a young artist publishing my own comic books like my sons were. I recall when I was young and expressed an interest in drawing I was discouraged by my teachers and so my passions were smashed by folks who were supposed to inspire me. I’m not supposed to exist just like the characters I’ve created. In the end I would tell young people don’t put limitations on yourself and let others rob you of something that God has put inside you.