Animation Guild

Summer 2019

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"I like my business to be as shiny as I am," she laughs. For this project, Stotts gathered 32 artists and writers from around the globe and gave them a space to express their individuality. The content was speculative fiction based purely on the imagination with a collective theme of fire. "Fire can mean so many things," she says. "I felt angry by how dismissed we were in the comics community. I felt passion in making space and showcasing other creators of color. I felt this intimate attachment to this project." Stotts contributed a story to the anthology (which won the 2018 Eisner award) called "Pass the Fire," that combines Greek mythology with current technology and is set in a virtual reality world. "I wanted to have a lot of fun with a black female lead in a science fiction story," she adds. Breaking new ground seems to be part of Stotts' DNA. She has carved her own path in life and the journey towards a career in animation has been unpredictable. Born in Inglewood, Stotts spent her formative years in Phoenix, AZ. In her late teens, she started performing slam poetry and for the next six years she competed at a national level. After a short stint at college, she decided it wasn't for her. "I wanted to get to work," she says. At the age of 22, she learned to code, moved to Portland on a whim, and found work as a video game debugger. Three years later, she met her wife, Christina McKenzie. During her time in Portland, Stotts started creating comics but she also wanted to address a lack of opportunities for queer- identifying and minority artists in the industry. Stotts and McKenize launched a Kickstarter campaign to address this issue and raised $80,000 to publish an anthology focused on science fiction and fantasy genres. At the time, Stotts felt that there weren't any LGBTQ+ science fiction or fantasy comics. "For the ones that did exist," she says, "all of the queer characters were usually used as comedic relief, or they were murdered. Fridged, as we like to call it." The ensuing book—Beyond: the Queer Sci-Fi & Fantasy Anthology—was honored with a Lambda Award in 2015. She pauses to clarify her use of the word "queer": "Queer is something that people choose to identify as—not something that should ever be labeled to someone." "Just knowing that people not only wanted this content but wanted to share their identities through stories…it was amazing. I'm sometimes at a loss for words, because I can't really explain what it's like to have your life change overnight, but that's essentially what happened to me," she says. Five years after Beyond was published, Stotts got an unexpected call from her agent: A showrunner from Cartoon Network wanted to meet with her at Comic-Con in San Diego and the two hit it off. After she received her offer and start date, she and her wife spent a week packing up their house and headed down to Los Angeles in a 27-foot Penske truck to begin a new creative chapter. For the last year she has worked on an unannounced project for Cartoon Network and also written seven episodes for Craig of the Creek. F R A M E X F R A M E SITTING ACROSS THE TABLE FROM WRITER TANEKA STOTTS I'M IMMEDIATELY CHARMED BY HER EBULLIENCE. SHE HANDS ME A COMIC ANTHOLOGY SHOWCASING CREATORS OF COLOR THAT SHE EDITED AND PUBLISHED TITLED ELEMENTS: FIRE, AND I'M DRAWN TO THE DYNAMIC COVER ILLUSTRATION AND BOLD GOLD LETTERING. 12 KEYFRAME

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