Mt. Airy comic writer Maurice Robert Mander.

by Len Lear

We all know that musicians and other performers have been devastated by the pandemic, but so have authors of new books, who have had to cancel book signings, tours and convention presentations to promote their books.
One of those is Maurice Robert Mander, 50, a Mt. Airy resident for the last 20 years and the publisher of “Surian Seed” (“The Hunters and the Hunted” is the latest comic book in the “Surian Seed” series), the first action comic whose heroes were all educated at historically black colleges and universities. (Sur is a fictional planet, and some characters in the book are found to have “Surian genetics.”)

“The Coronavirus outbreak cost me my first big event of the year and as of now, who knows how long this situation will last? I was about to do a large event in Jersey on March 21, but it was cancelled. I also now believe the Comic-Con in Philly June 19-21 will be cancelled, too. So now I’m about to go online and try to conduct pre-sales for my new book.”

It’s a bad break for Mander, who had high hopes for pushing the comic genre.

“All too often,” Mander told us in an interview, “African American superheroes were portrayed as sidekicks, almost as fillers for the narrative. I wanted a book that allowed all characters to thrive based on their contribution.

“In ‘Surian Seed,’ every character is vital, and the city is just as important as the people who live there. It took me 10 years to create the ‘Surian Seed’ universe and six years later to complete the action comic.

“I never promote my book as a black comic. It has heroes of different ethnicities and experiences, and some aren’t even human. Conceptually, I always wanted to merge martial arts, sci-fi and the supernatural together.”

How has the original “Surian Seed” been doing in the three years since it was published?

“It’s been awesome. I’ve been in the ‘lab’ writing my next story,” Mander said. “I’m finally done, and those who have read it have enjoyed it. It’s going to press in May. Hopefully this epidemic won’t slow the process, but I think that’s wishful thinking.”

Considering that the 2018 film “Black Panther” was the highest-grossing superhero movie in history, earning over $1.34 billion, according to Wikipedia, is there a chance that a movie company would be interested in filming Mander’s black superhero concept?”

“Now that’s funny you should ask,” he replied. “Just yesterday, I got a phone call from a gentleman who is expected to become president of an entertainment/film company with a huge budget. He notified me that once he accepts his post, my project is first on deck. He said he’s had his eyes on my work for four years. He tried to get Disney on board, but that’s been slow.”

After graduating from Trenton Central High School, Mander earned a degree in History from Morehouse College in 1991 and a master’s degree in African American History from Morgan State University in 1996.

For his books, Mander does simple illustrations, and an artist named Matt Seel does the actual illustrations. But Mander conceptualized and wrote the “Surian Seed” books and came up with the characters.

Mander sells out at comic book conventions (they are held annually at 21 cities in the U.S. and many foreign countries, but of course, not during the pandemic), which he generously credits to “the incredible” illustrations of Matt Seel and Profiles Studios in Chestnut Hill.

“Using Giclee printing really makes my art stand out,” Mander said. “At the Baltimore Comic Con, a family purchased my entire collection. I will always use Profiles Studios. I learned a lot about art there free of charge. They’re the reason my art sells so well at Comic-Cons.”
Mander has also engaged in philanthropic endeavors for years. He has partnered with Johnson House during many Thanksgivings to give away food to needy families. And his former students and their parents at Eastern University Academy Charter School in East Falls, where he taught (the school closed last year), donated over $5000 in food and toys over three years to the Gesu School in North Philadelphia. Mander now teaches 7th and 8th grade history at Sankofa Freedom Academy Charter School in Kensington.

For more information, visit forestoftherain.net or email surianseedcomics@gmail.com Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com

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