Arts & Culture
3:50 pm
Tue August 5, 2014

[VIDEO] 'Superman Doesn't Come To Brooklyn' - He Created NC's First Black Superhero

Howard Craft, creator of the Jade City Pharaoh
Howard Craft, creator of the Jade City Pharaoh
Credit Carol Jackson

Howard Craft created The Jade City Pharaoh. The superhero guards Concrete Falls, a place not unlike Durham, North Carolina.  The Jade City Pharaoh has been the subject of a stage play, a comic book, and a series of WUNC radio shorts.

The Jade City Pharaoh is one of the few African American superheroes in the world, and he's the only one to have his own radio show.

WUNC's Carol Jackson interviewed Howard Craft and other members of the cast and crew for this feature:

The series stars veteran actor Mike Wiley.

Mike Wiley
Mike Wiley
Credit still from video

"I heard it was an African American superhero [and I said to myself] I'd like to see what that's like," Wiley said. "And then I got a copy of the script and I was like 'I've got to be on this! This is me, this is something I've got to be involved in.'"

Howard Craft writes and directs the episodes.

Craft says that many of the early African American superheroes in comic book history had brown skin, but there was a problem. None of the stories were written by African Americans, so they didn't go very deep. Many of the characters premiered in the 1970s, and the language was cliche.

"Because they came out in that period, in the 70's, it's jive, but they didn't have some of the complexity or depth of some of [their traditional superhero] counterparts," Craft said.

Howard Craft has worked very hard to make the characters in Jade City have strength and depth. He writes scenarios that are taught and tense.

"I recently saw a [photo] on Facebook that said 'Superman doesn't come to Brooklyn,'" Craft chuckles. "Herald Jones and Jade City, it comes out of the African American community and the African American community is a character within the drama, though it's universal. It has all the elements of any superhero show."

WUNC's Frank Stasio is executive producer of the radio series. He says Jade City mirrors Durham.

"Jade City is Durham. It's this gritty, working-class, factory town that has a history. And the people in it care," Stasio said.

Howard Craft is currently writing a new season of Jade City Pharaoh episodes.