We missed this last week; thanks to Dave Tozin for alerting me to it today.
In short, Russell Simmons is planning to launch an animated superhero serial online, based on a comic book from RavenHammer Comics called The Harlem Shadow, created by Brian Williams and Christian Colbert, which he plans to officially reveal at this October’s New York Comic-Con.
He's already tapped Common to voice the title role.
Here's RavenHammer's description of the comic:
Born at the tail end of the Harlem Renaissance, The Harlem Shadow is the first official Black paranormal crime-fighter that hit the streets of New York around 1929-1930. He was known for his scary appearance, his vicious hand to hand combat skills and his mastery of two lethal revolvers, used to maim and disarm his enemies but never kill. In 1950 as a result of the Black Mask Act…Harlem Shadow was hunted down by New York City Police, lynch mob style, and unmasked. His name was Linden Somerset, a school teacher and librarian, and he served a twenty year jail sentence at Alcatraz Island. This is his story.
This isn't a comic book that I'm familiar with (I initially thought it was in reference to Claude McKay's 1920s poetry collection, Harlem Shadows), but the premise is certainly intriguing.
If you've read any issues from the series, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.
The completed series is expected to air on Simmons' new YouTube channel, All Def Digital.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Simmons had this to say about the project:
“The Harlem Shadow not only brings to life the rich culture, art, fashion, music and creativity of the Harlem Renaissance through the first black superhero of the era – but it also exposes the same grittiness and glamour that heavily influences the modern-day hip-hop community... The Harlem Renaissance scene set the style with the music clubs, cars, all of it from that era – and the fashion, absolutely.”
He also shares his intent to bring some much-needed diversity to the world of superheroes on-screen.
“There has been a lack of cultural diversity in the world of animated heroes... but we’re about to change that.”
Long term, the belief is that the series can have a live beyond YouTube, meaning, film, TV, merchandising, and more.
David Uslan is executive producing what he describes as "Jazz Age urban-crime storytelling," making comparisons to the film noir aesthetics of Batman: The Animated Series.
No ETA on when we can expect the series to officially debut, although audiences will get some early looks at the series by the end of this year, after New York Comic-Con.