James Church: Immortal Dark Manga and Mental Health
“I am deeply invested in blackness and I’m deeply invested in mental health—specifically as it relates to generational trauma.” — James Church
I first met James Church (who is also known as Enoch the Poet) when I was working on a series for OC87 Recovery Diaries about The Healing Verse Poetry Line (1-855-763-6792), a toll-free telephone line that offers callers a 90-second poem and a moment of pause in our busy days to help us center, contemplate and think just a bit differently about the grind of everyday. I loved meeting him and was deeply moved by his poem, Fractal (mom), and his commitment to mental health.
I was delighted to learn that James is also the creative mind behind Immortal Dark, a fantastic Black supernatural martial arts manga that blends two of James’ lifetime passions – Japanese manga and mental health. I was even more excited when James and Senior Editor Tommy Horsey agreed to be interviewed about their creation in front of a green screen, so we could immerse them in their manga world.
Immortal Dark is an action-packed deep dive into the mental health of young martial artist Nico Savage. It is a tale of vengeance centered around the process of healing and the importance of breaking cycles of generational trauma.
“Whatever I do creatively, it’s all about focusing on generational trauma, how to cope with that, how to identify it, how to navigate it, so on and so forth,” says James about his motivation to make Immortal Dark.
All of the action in the series takes place on the continent known as Jura, a predominantly black continent that is split into eight different countries. Says Church, “Jura is a world that I created that’s populated with a large variety of different black identities, characters who engage and interact in different ways from different cultures, with different modes of expression, different gender identities, different sexualities, all coming together in in this one story to showcase a lot of the ways in which mental health can manifest within our bodies, based on our life experiences and the traumas that we go through.”
James/Enoch is a poet, author, publisher, trauma-informed teaching artist and manga writer born and raised on the Northside of Wilmington, DE. His work examines the process of healing and the ways that trauma and mental health move through a family, as well as the outside forces that affect or have affected these developments. As a mental health advocate and someone living with bipolar disorder, his work examines the process of healing and the ways that trauma and mental health move through a family, as well as the outside forces that affect or have affected these developments.
We spent a great day in the studio with this creative team, unpacking the forces for good behind their remarkable manga series. I hope you enjoy meeting James, Tommy and some of the inhabitants of Jura—including Nico, River, Emanu, Shula, Anoki—as much as I did.