Bio: Naji Abdullaah Perry (Lonnie Perry) is a comic book artist. He has written a number of paperback books for Islamic comic books and has also done animation for the comic books. He is working on a number of titles: HAQQ, Jinn Hunters, Rainbowman, and many others. Rainbowman can be seen on Arabicteacher.com. When Naji is not working on his comic book and art business, he is teaching and playing golf, and practicing Aikido martial arts.
Artist Website: http://www.haqqentertainment.com/
Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad: Can you tell me about your background and what made you become a comic book artist?
Naji Abdullaah Perry: I want to first tell you that since I was about 7 years old I wanted to paint and draw like my older sister at that time. I remember she told me no and to leave her paints alone. It was a paint by numbers art set. You look at the printed canvas board and follow the numbers with the paint numbers on the the paints. It was very simple and the finished work was great at the time I saw them. Now my oldest brother was studying to be a draftsman. I saw some of his work and I tried to copy his work. I spent a lot of time drawing because I wanted to out do my sister who would not let me use her paint set. As time moved on and I got older and more into drawing pictures and copying artwork the best way I could at the time, my mother bought me art supplies. Well that started me on my journey and I kept on trying to do a better job at drawing and learning more about art and drawing. Now during my early school years from about the 7th grade to high school, I was in a lot of drawing contest and Art shows. I remember getting awards for my art work. It change my life. When I was in the 8th grade, I was on the yearbook staff with the other kids working on the yearbook for the school. While at Vanguard Junior High school ,one of the school councilor ask me to put my cartoons in the school paper. I was so shocked and lost. I did not know what to do and I was scared. I just could not do it. I think I was too protective of my work at the time. After graduating from junior high school and going to Carson High School in California, I took a lot of drawing classes. I remember the art work that the school kept of my perspective work. I think they put it up in the library. After I graduated from high school, I worked in various jobs as most young kids do. One day I saw the light. I wanted to be a cartoonist. So I went to an art school in Hollywood, California called Hollywood Art Center. I studied cartooning and life drawing. I liked the live models coming in and having to draw them. I think it helped me focus on shapes and shading. While at this art school, I created some cartoon ideas. I saw from the other artist there that I had something different. All they wanted to do is copy life drawings and fruit and shapes. I wanted to create some character and give them life. This kept me working and loving what I did. Then one day I got really bold and took my work to Hana Barbara in Hollywood, California who is an animation business of some big titles like Scobby-do, The Jetsons and Fred Flinstone to name a few. I went there to sell them some of my cartoons but I ended up leaving there with an animation test. It was for Scobby-do Hyde Dog. I did not know about animation of a dog but I tried. After trying to do it, I could not do it. Not the way it looks on television. I returned the test and they told me to come back when you are ready. I never did. After that, I wanted to learn animation and art at Walt Disney’s art school. I was accepted but could not travel the distance at the school. But that did not stop me from trying to get my work published and studying animation. I kept creating more and more cartoon ideas and kept on trying to get published. One day I got an idea for a cartoon that was totally different from anybody in the market place. A dancing rainbow! Bang! It was a hit. I published it in a greeting card format. My greeting cards were a success. By word of mouth I sold many. Then I got bold and put them in a store called Fred Segal’s of Hollywood. This is a place where the stars of Hollywood shop. My line of cards were sold out completely. Even the faded ones in the window. This was so cool. Now I wanted to take it bigger and better so I went back to college to study business and marketing and animation. It was there in Los Angeles City College that I found out a lot about me and other artist. I learn to animate pretty good. I was noted for my abstract film animation. I only took classes that were going to help me in my art business. Now while there at Los Angeles City College, I stumbled on comic book artwork. I thought these people were pretty good and I saw the number of people who loved them. That many people like comics? Wow! I said to myself. An old Superman comic book from the early days sold for $600.00 today? Whoa! But I thought it was too tight for me. I wanted something loose and relaxed. Then after some time away from the artwork, I got another taste of reality. I saw that there was a need for more Islamic positive books and art work. I agreed to a contract with a Arabic language computer program maker to put my Mr.Rainbow in his program. Arabicteach.com is the website. Then sometime after that I went to my first Com-icon in Pennsylvania. It changed me. I wanted to do something for the Muslims and non-Muslims. I wanted to show people that Muslims are not what the media was showing on television all the time. Negative images. I can’t fix what I did not start. I can only tell the truth. So for the next 10 years I worked on HAQQ. I wanted to show a character like me wanting to be balanced and just and peaceful and protect his family. By doing this, it has made me a better person. I take my work more seriously now. Yes it’s a business but its one of learning and getting along with other people from all walks of life. I am studying lots of the things from anatomy, color harmony, inking,computer programs and so many other things. Until you can do better, you are going to have to wear a lot of hats. I do everything. From the mental idea to the final artwork and inking and computer work, it’s all on me. I’m the creator,producer,director and seller. You have got to learn how to manage yourself and time.
Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad: What kind of themes inform your work?
Naji Abdullaah Perry: If you look at my work, you will find me telling you the same thing over and over again but in a different ways. Do good. Forbid evil. Worship your creator. That’s it. All my work is the same way. I may show you what it’s like not to have faith in your life and to have faith in your life. What it feel like when you do good and you want nothing in return. It doesn’t matter what faith you are. If you do these things, you are going to be a good person that people will want to sit and talk to you.Well in my mind but we have to start somewhere.
Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad: What are the comic books influences on your work?
Naji Abdullaah Perry: I really don’t read comic books. Not like those fans who read them daily and weekly. I try to look at the artwork. The artist that I have noticed and been around has been Morrie Tuner of WE PALS. He doesn’t do comic books but I think he has taught people a lot about getting along with other people from different walks of life. I sat in his studio and watched him over a couple of days and how he worked and managed himself. I like the works of Jim Lee from batman, Todd McFarlane from Spawn, Will Eisner from the The Spirit and his graphic novel A Contract with God to name a few.
Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad: Do you think that there is a great lack of interest among the Muslim community with respect to comic books and science fiction?
Naji Abdullaah Perry: I don’t think there is a great lack of interest among the Muslim community from what I have seen. I think it’s who you talk to. The young Muslim girls and boys love it. The older Muslims see it for the younger kids. They don’t take the comic books seriously. I think once they see the graphic novels and what they can do for you, it will change them. As you know the graphic novels are for the older reader who is more exposed to more things than the younger reader about the world. What we need to to as artist and animators is to get people back to reading more of topics that will help you in your life. I know I would want to look at what my son or daughter is reading. Muslims are watching what is happening with their children. Parents don’t what their son or daughter reading things that are bad for their children. Muslim parents wants them reading things that are teaching thing that will help them grown and be balanced Muslims and non-Muslims for that fact. Muslims want to live a peaceful life and they want their children to show tolerance and friendship with other people and religions. We as Muslim artist have a big job. Keep it Halal and entertaining.
Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad: Is it the case that Muslims and Arabs are type case in comics?
Naji Abdullaah Perry: Yes! why you may ask? Who is the creator of that comic book and what are they trying to say? Who are the writers and artist? Well that’s why I am doing all I can to put us out there. What did it for me is when I read about a Muslim superhero woman called Dust. She’s a X-Mutant. When she uses her powers to defend herself by turning into dust, she has to have someone give her kimar from behind a tree in order not to see her nudity. You can read it for yourself. It’s in print. The more Muslim writers and artist out there it will all change. Who will take the challenge? The rewards are great! The fact that X-Mutant Dust is out there is a start. Let’s finish it and bring the Muslim hero to the main focus with a good plan. Do good. Forbid Evil. Worship your creator. Let the people fall in love with him or her. Let them see the truth.
Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad: What current and future projects are you working on?
Naji Abdullaah Perry: Right now it’s HAQQ comic books. HAQQ meaning truth in english. HAQQ comic book is about a baby separated from his parent and found by an Islamic Superhero’s automaton. It’s really a love story. For 25 years the computers trained and took care of Nasar who his HAQQ. Bayt City is a city that has three living areas: Skyline,Underground and Street Level. It took a computer virus to bring things to light for Nasar. He finds out that his real parents are living and set out to find them while fighting crime in all the levels of the city. He as a cast of criminal to deal with and a friendly supporter as well young and old alike. I am doing it all myself. It’s a lot of work but I like it. I’m doing the animation too. By going on my website you can get a sample of the artwork.The future projects are just as important as HAQQ. JINN HUNTERS. A team of highly trained mix of faiths people hunting down people who have been taken over by the JINN. Their job is easy right! NO. You’ve got to get the people back to their families with killing them or hurting them. Now getting the JINN out of the body is the tricky part. I have started the comic books on Jinn Hunters. The paperback book is finished and waiting for editing. Rainbow Man. A comic book about a happy go luck rainbow who has an endless supply of wealth and want to share it with everyone but not everybody is good for the money. The Black Sword. It a comic book about a Muslim worrier who receives a special metal sword from outer space. It will only work with the true in heart and deen. Superhero Cars. This is an animation project that will be big. I am writing for television release. I have started the rough animation designs. I like what I see and other Muslims like it too. I have some children books and other titles coming. I am looking for artist and writer who will work on a contract for hire bases.
Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad: Any advice for young Muslims who may be interested in this area?
Naji Abdullaah Perry: Learn from the people before you. Study them. What did they do and how did they do it. Look at the market place and see what you can do to make it better. See where you can make a difference. Who can you help? Know what you are doing. If you want to be an artist or comic book artist or script writer be the best out there. Plan for it. Put your time into it. The most important thing that will help you is being positive . If you start something, please finished to the end. As always ask your creator for help and wait but still strive. If its for you, it will happen. I always tell people what helped me. I read a lot. If i am going to do something and I am not sure about it, stop and read about it so you will know. There is never failure only results. In this business you need to stay positive. This book will help: The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz, PhD. You can go on-line or to your local book store they will have it. I tell people all the time: Don’t worry about the money. Put service first and the money will follow. Peace. Read magazines in your field of interest. Draw magazine, Sketch magazine, Artist Magazine, and etc.