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An Interview with a 14 year old trailblazing comic author

At 7 years old, Tate Ovbiagbonhia recognized the lack of diversity in comic books and wanted to do something about it. In February of 2019, he did. Tate published his first Cheetah Boy Comic which features a brown-skinned hero, officially becoming Canada’s youngest African Author. I met with Tate over zoom to discuss all things superheroes and get an inside look on the revolutionary behind Cheetah Boy. 

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

I’ve never been asked that question before, but I guess I would say to make a change because that is what I aspire to do. Not only in my community, but communities in general; kind of like starting something new, you know, starting a new wave of creations and inventions that just come to my mind. Just to do something that’s never been done before.

When and why did you decide to get involved with comic books? 

Well, it started when I was really young. I’ve always had a love for comic books as you could probably say most boys at [that] age [do]. So basically I started around when I was four years old and I read my first  comic book, a Superman comic book. I got it from my public library and that was when I really started loving [them]. Every time we had library day at school I would always choose a comic book. Because they’re just really interesting. Not just the story of the hero, but how they’re trying to save the day like they’re always trying to be the model citizen and they will try to do the right thing. That really got me captivated into the story of superheroes because they are good role models that people would want to look up to and try to become.

Do you think the covers drew you to them as well?

I know people say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but at that age of course the cover played a large role.   

Do you feel that your own experiences influence your writing?

Well I would say that most of it is fiction, but I do use a lot of references to my real world. For example,  when I actually designed Cheetah Boy, it was actually was supposed to look exactly like me. I thank the person who illustrated my book because she really did a good job in capturing the image. Overall, there were a lot of things that I took out from comic books that have already existed, but also things that came out from my real life to basically make my own book in my own different experience and represent it in a way that has never been represented before. So, I would say it’s a little bit of both.  

Is there a particular moment you can elaborate on?

Well the powers are obviously all fiction. But when it comes to my first book that I wrote, because I’ve already finished my second book, it was more to do with the environment and my family. I took certain things from the real world. I have a sister, I have a mom and dad. Basically, all of the characters were designed to [reflect] me but in a comic book version. So, that was basically the whole idea when I came up with the story of Cheetah Boy.

I go more in depth into my real life in the second volume with school and stuff like that, but obviously since [Cheetah Boy was] just the first book it was just like the introduction to the story.

Is Cheetah Boy more of a secret identity thing? Is there a small circle of people who know? 

 Right now it’s basically like a secret identity type of thing but you never know what will happen in the next volumes. There might be other people that find out throughout the story so you [just] have to see what happens.

Do you see Cheetah Boy being a part of the MCU or DC Extended Universe? 

Yeah I would say it’s kind of like its own independent [work].  I haven’t really thought about putting it into DC and Marvel personally. I’m a big fan of them, but I’ll say [Cheetah Boy] would go like more the Hellboy type of route like its own type of universe or like you said the the Sony type of universe like with its own storyboard. 

So you said you watched all the Marvel content. What was your favorite and least favorite project that they put out recently? 

I would say that my favorite this year would definitely be Loki (on Disney+).

And then for the movie, I think obviously it would be Spiderman. The new one with like Andrew Garfield and Tom Holland; all the Spidermen together. I feel like they’re probably setting up for Sony to have a new Spiderman universe as well to extend the Spider-verse. And then my least favorite I’m going to say was Eternals. I’m not gonna lie. I don’t really see how it fits in with the universe. It just felt so different [from] all the other pieces. And I’m not really sure where they are going to go [with it]? I know they had a post credit scene with the Black Knight. He would probably be a good character. But [overall] I didn’t really enjoy it that much. It was way too long for my liking.

You’ve previously mentioned that you created Cheetah Boy because your favourite animal was a Cheetah when you were younger. If you were to redo the comic today, would that still be your animal of choice? 

Absolutely. To this day, the cheetah is still my favorite animal. The design of it, you know, it just looks so different. I’m a Christian type of person, so the way God created [them] just looks really interesting. I know people like to use it for clothing as well. Which obviously looks really cool. It just looks like a very majestic type of animal. It has that type of vibe to it. And then also, how fast it runs. It always keeps on moving. It represents me in a way. I always like to move fast? I love running and stuff like that. 

What target audience is Cheetah Boy intended for? 

It’s kind of like for everyone, cause there’s not really an age range for comic books. Right? Like I started [reading them] when I was really young, but I have people in my family that are in their twenties that still read comics today. So, I would say that as long as you’re interested in comic books it’s for you. 

You mentioned earlier that you would describe yourself as a change maker, someone who makes a change, what would your advice be to someone who doesn’t know where to start, but does want to make a difference? 

Well, I’ll just say to just go, you know, just start it. If you keep on thinking about it and not get anything done, you’re not going to go anywhere. If somebody wants to make a change, they should just give it their all, like, just start with it. A lot of people, when they talk about these things, they wait and wait and wait 10, 20 years. Then the idea that they have for change is already taken by someone else. So, I would say that if you have the idea, try to go for your goals and reach [them]. That was something you were given for a reason, so there’s no need for you to be scared or even have doubts because if it fails, nothing is going to happen to you, even if it doesn’t do as well as you plan so you might as well just try.

That’s great advice. And I know you mentioned a second volume, but what’s next for cheetah boy? Like, are there going to be action figures Is it going to be like you to look, to make a screenplay of it just for television? Like what do you see in the future? 

Hopefully all of those things.  Those would definitely be my goals and my dreams. I already have a lot of stuff planned out for it. But obviously, it’s not gonna, you know, happen right away. It’s gonna take some time for it to reach that next level. So, I’m just going to keep on trying. I think [my books are] the first step that I have to reach and if lots of people from different parts of the world enjoy it, then hopefully it can go further into other things like, as you said, action figures and screenplays and stuff like that. 

How have people supported you through your journey? 

Just having a support system means the world to me. Even if [Cheetah Boy] doesn’t go as far as I hope for it to go, I know that even if I’m releasing this book, there are certain people that would be interested in reading it.

You can find out more about Tate and Cheetah Boy Comic by visiting his website and following @cheetahboycomic on Instagram. The first Cheetah Boy Comic issue is available for purchase on Amazon.

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