'Not So Super Publishing' Founder Jacques Nyemb makes comic and children's book gold out of everyday Black heroes. (Image via Not So Super Publishing; Photo by Carolyn Scott) A Superhero in the Flesh
'Not So Super Publishing' Founder Jacques Nyemb makes comic and children's book gold out of everyday Black heroes. (Image via Not So Super Publishing; Photo by Carolyn Scott)

How Black Lives Matter and being a dad influenced Jacques Nyemb’s ‘Not So Super Publishing’ company.

Last summer, the intersection of the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing Black Lives Matter movement created a call to highlight Black art and Black-owned small businesses. 

Jacques Nyemb, who sells comics and children’s books as founder of North Carolina-based Not So Super Publishing Company, benefited from the attention initially. 

“I had an increase in visibility and growth, which was fantastic,” said Nyemb, who lives in Fayetteville and works in Durham. “But it was a weird moment…where you are grieving, and you’re bothered with where society is. … It was an emotional moment for me.”

Not So Super is also the name of one of Nyemb’s comic books. It’s a fresh look on the superhero genre—a story about a Black, mild-mannered, professional who gets superpowers and is inconvenienced by them at every turn.

Not So Super Publishing
Durham’s Jacques Nyemb shows off his comic creations to his biggest fans, his two daughters.

Nyemb, a husband and father of two, says he prides himself on creating relatable characters that face the same struggles and fears as the average person. 

“I felt like everyone was talking about superheroes being super and amazing and magnificent. I wanted to focus on humanity and being a person in this world and trying to survive it.”

‘Not So Super Publishing’ Founder Jacques Nyemb

But as protests for racial equality waned, so did the demand for Not So Super. 

“Everything died down,” said Nyemb. “I didn’t receive the same emails, I didn’t receive the same attention or view of my work, which was kind of sad.” 

Sitting down with Cardinal & Pine, Nyemb told us about his creative process and surviving as an independent publisher during the pandemic. 

C&P: What inspired you to begin storytelling? 

Nyemb: Storytelling has always been in my heart, I’ve always wanted to create all age stories, because I always feel like there is something about creating something that everyone can gain something from and I always enjoy those types of content. So that’s where I wanted to dip my toe in and that’s where I am now.

C&P: Your “Not So Super” comic focuses on a lot of the inconveniences that the main character faces while having super powers. Why did you choose that narrative? 

Nyemb: I felt like everyone was talking about superheroes being super and amazing and magnificent. I wanted to focus on humanity and being a person in this world and trying to survive it.

Not So Super Publishing
Durham’s Jacques Nyemb, founder of Not So Super Publishing, shows off his wares. (Image via Nyemb)

As a Black creator, I also wanted (the main character) to be Black, because I felt like seeing a vulnerable character that is trying to figure his way around with superpowers. And even with superpowers still having problems and figuring out how to survive with them. I like stories that are rooted in being a human and dealing with human emotions and being a person in this world. 

C&P: How does Black history inspire you in your work?

Nyemb: I like learning about Black history because there’s a lot of historical things that are ignored. We talk about Harriet Tubman, but we do not delve deeper into her life and the things that she went through and how heroic it is. I like digging a little deeper when it comes to Frederick Douglass, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., or Malcolm X. 

I like history in that context, even American history in a context of just understanding how things are the way they are. I have a better understanding of the human perspective of things, and what makes people do what they do, and I think it creates compelling storytelling. 

C&P: How did the pandemic personally affect you?

Nyemb: In terms of revenue, the majority came from going to a lot of local North Carolina conventions. Now, because of the pandemic, a lot of those have been canceled. But one of the bright things that has come from it is I’ve always wanted to work on e-commerce. Social media has been very helpful to me in terms of sharing (my work) with the public online. 

(I have) customers that have been loyal to me for a very long time. I’ve been able to be honest and put the cards on the table and say right now things are rough and I need your help. And people have been coming through and helping in that manner. 

It’s hard as an independent publisher to be in a vacuum. But I think more people have been paying attention to me now that I’m online and speaking socially than they did when I went to each individual convention. It’s a double-edged sword and I’m just adapting to it. 

A Hero At Home
Not So Super Publishing Founder Jacques Nyemb at home with his daughters. (Image via Jacques Nyemb)

C&P: In what ways can everyone do more to nurture and amplify Black creators throughout the year?

Nyemb: We are constantly ignored through the majority of the year. Only when something bad occurs is when our work is used as a moment to share and I feel like what we all need to do is support underrepresented people. 

Whether it is in our and in the work that we do in the initiatives that we have, think about Black creators and find ways to put them in spaces we don’t see a lot of Black creators in. I find myself having to fight very hard to get people to look at my work because I am not speaking to themes that people are looking for. I feel like we all need to be evenly given the opportunity to tell the stories that we want to tell even if it doesn’t fit within the mainstream idea of what a Black creator should create. 

As a creator, I try to uplift Black voices that I work with, I seek out the voices that I want to display. So it’s not just an expectation for others, but an expectation that I have for myself as a publishing company.