Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 2nd 2015 Contents A27
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Cory Thomas, Trinidad s most successful comic book
illustrator, is talking to the T&T Guardian from his home
in Atlanta, Georgia. It s a city that has become a vibrant
hub of cool America with its hip hop scene producing
artists like 2 Chainz, the New York Times calling it "hip-
hop s centre of gravity" and the notorious reality TV
show Love and Hip Hop bringing lots of attention to a
city rapidly expanding and subsuming the suburban
But Thomas doesn t see much of that.
"They call it Black Hollywood, but I m mostly home so
I don t really know," he chuckles. "It s the best of both
worlds I guess---a combination of metropolitan cities like
New York with a southern, slower pace."
Does he miss out on seeing the grit and glamour because
he s chained to his desk drawing comic strips?
"It s a combination of that and me just being a homebody,"
he laughs again.
His soft-spoken shyness is precisely what one would
expect of someone immersed in the world of comics. While
the term comic book nerd doesn t exactly apply to Thomas,
he certainly gives the impression of happily retreating into
the fantasy cartoon world that his characters occupy.
He s produced a rich range of characters to occupy those
His piece de resistance, Watch Your Head, ran for ten
years in US newspapers, farmed out via syndication com-
panies. Now he s taken the series online on his own Web
site where the strips appear twice a week, along with a
full archive of the originals.
Watch Your Head is the tale of five young college students
("composite characters" of his friends) at a historically
black university, and their awkward negotiations with
becoming young adults on campus. The three boys and
two girls---of black, white, mixed and Latino ethnicities---
get themselves tied up in failed romantic situations, pratfalls,
misunderstandings and hopelessly calamitous attempts at
student social life.
One of the main characters from the original strip is
clearly part autobiographical---his name is Cory: "a hyper-
exaggerated nerdy version of me"---a big-hearted young
man who finds himself perpetually besotted with girls just
out of his in bigger, cooler guy s arms at the school dance.
More recently, Thomas has linked up with bestselling
novelist, James Patterson, and has illustrated his children s
book Public School Superhero.
This is Patterson s new direction after selling over 300
million thrillers and romantic novels for adults and breaking
the world record for becoming the first writer to sell over
one million e-books.
Thomas doesn t visit Trinidad that often; he s not the
perennial Carnivalist. All that exhibitionism just isn t his
idea of a good time. And he doesn t appear to have any
plans to move back any time soon. He seems happy to
become a permanent part of T&T s drip feed brain drain
though he seems surprised to be told he has an American
"It s half and half really," he protests. "See when I go
back home, surrounded by everybody, then my natural
Trinidadian accent comes out."
His move to Atlanta---whose Caribbean community,
and indeed food, can be found in a neighbouring suburb
city called Stone Mountain---happened when he got accept-
ed on a postgraduate degree course in illustration and
graphic design at Savanna College of Art and Design (Scad).
After he d completed his undergraduate degree in mechanical
engineering from Howard University in Washington DC
in 2001 he realised that his childhood dream of drawing
comic strips was something his talent could turn into a
reality. The engineering had been intended for a career
in oil and gas, but he was already betrothed to the
drawing pen and the artists sketchpad.
Back in Trinidad in his school days, Thomas
father, a policeman, would come home after long
shifts with comic books for the young Thomas
to read. He used these as inspiration to imitate
the styles and make his own comic creations
for his friends in class at Presentation College,
Batman is his favourite comic series, but
his days of collecting back issues are over
now; his mum cleared out his old copies
a long time ago but he still finds himself
poring over the online forums and message
boards like an obsessive.
"I m not really sentimental about that
[physical] stuff," he says of his now
departed collection. "If I want to read
or buy something I ll get a digital copy.
There s a comic store five minutes from
my house but I ve never even been
there. I just download them and delete
them when I m done with them."
Another statistic of the digital revo-
lution, Thomas is completely bought into
the technological age (although he
does hang on to music tapes and
CDs from the 90s). DC and Mar-
vel copies have online versions
and subscriptions, he says. You
can even access them for free if
you know where to look, like all
illegal file sharing piracy.
"Growing up in Trinidad we
had all the American stuff and
all the best of the European like
Tintin and Asterix.
American actor Matt Dillon put a rare
star-powered spotlight on Myanmar's
long-persecuted Rohingya Muslims, visit-
ing a hot, squalid camp for tens of thou-
sands displaced by violence and a port
that has been one of the main launching
pads for their exodus by sea.
It was "heartbreaking," he said after
meeting a young man with a raw, open leg
wound from a road accident and no means
to treat it.
Mothers carrying babies with clear signs
of malnutrition stood listlessly outside row
after row of identical bamboo huts, tod-
dlers playing nearby in the chalky white
"No one should have to live like this,
people are really suffering," said Dillon, one
of the first celebrities to get a look at what
life is like for Rohingya in the western
state of Rakhine. "They are being stran-
gled slowly, they have no hope for the fu-
ture and nowhere to go."
Though Rohingya have been victims of
state-sponsored discrimination for
decades, conditions started deteriorating
three years ago after the predominantly
Buddhist country of 50 million began its
bumpy transition from a half-century of
dictatorship to democracy.
Dillon said he decided to come to Myan-
mar following a desperate, urgent appeal
by Rohingya activist Thun Khin just over a
month ago. (AP)
Actor Matt Dillon puts rare celebrity spotlight on Rohingya
lost in comics Thomas doesn't visit Trinidad
that often; he's not the
perennial Carnivalist. All that
exhibitionism just isn't his
idea of a good time. And he
doesn't appear to have any
plans to move back any time
soon. He seems happy to
become a permanent part of
T&T's drip feed brain drain
though he seems surprised to
be told he has an American
Cory Thomas, Trinidad's
most successful comic
CONTINUES ON PAGE A28
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