How a Military B.R.A.T. TCK, A CCK and multi-racial Domestic TCK are Changing the Face of Hidden Identity.
Just by the nature of who they are, culturally fluid people break barriers. Christopher Ikpoh, Steffon Thomas and Jojo Santiago-Febo are no exception. Together, they make up The Creative Extreme (TCE)–an entertainment company specializing in content creation for digital and print comics, television, film, literature, advertising and merchandising.
Formed by Ikpoh and Thomas, they began with Project 365–a massive creative vision to release one new original comic book-style character every. Single. Day. Throughout 2016. Each character biography would include a fully-developed origin story, original imagery and unique powers. When all was complete, they finished the year with an integrated, multi-layered universe spanning more than 600 characters. Though they are the visionaries of the universe, the project takes shape with its artist, animator, editor, design and administrative partners. They even work with translators to create fresh, one-of-a-kind multilingual content. All told, TCE talent has worked with industry heavy-hitters including Marvel and DC Comics, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, A&E and more.
The beginning of their story, however, began when Ikpoh and Thomas played basketball together in Undergrad. The towering Ikpoh with a Nigerian father steeped in the tradition of his homeland, a mother whose English and Irish descendants were some of the first to settle Chicagoland, and a German grandmother at home–attended three different schools in the American Midwest including Ohio, Michigan and Indiana. Thomas, born and raised in the melting pot of The Bronx in New York City, had a little fluidity in his home as well–his parents moved to New York in their teen years from the American South. Currently married to a woman from Ghana, he often jokes “I have no country,” focusing on his desire to truly know from whence he came.
The budding creators knew they wanted to create something big, something unique, something that made a difference in the world, so it was a no-brainer that their backgrounds stood front and center as the idea took fold.
“We wanted more people on screen or at the forefront of big projects, big films that we could relate to. So naturally when we sat down and wanted to do our own thing, we wanted to be more inclusive of not just more brown faces. We wanted to also have representation for [as many] different ethnicities and culturalbackgrounds that we could,” said Ikpoh.
Diversity is definitely one of our pillars and then bringing forth original stories also allowed us to mold the characters, their backgrounds, their histories, their origin stories. We decided to go more of the historical route and the culturally accurate route, we wanted the characters to represent these cultures and these ethnicities as true as we could make them and then put an original foundation on it so we weren’t just ripping off of other types of characters that were already done, and really digging into history. There’s so many stories and so many things that happened since the dawn of time that really allowed us to have a plethora of ideas and events and people to base our characters off of,” he explained.
Creating the depth and breadth of character stories and showing faces different from the norm intrigued Santiago-Febo, who met the two at a Con event when the line to meet Dick Van Dyke was exceedingly long. A native Puerto Rican with Tiano Indian, Puerto Rican and Italian roots, Santiago-Febo spent much of her childhood in Germany after her Father joined the Army. She spoke German until her return to New Jersey at age 11, making the switch because no one spoke the language when she arrived in the U.S. “It was one of the most amazing childhoods ever,” she marveled. “My childhood was like a fairytale… The winters were beautiful. I got to travel all around Europe. I got to walk around tulips; I saw how cheese was made – the opportunities were awesome–I really, really appreciate it now.” While Ikpoh and Thomas are the behind-the-scenes vision, Santiago-Febo assists with outreach when the team promotes at shows.
The team’s ambition is to be on the same level as Marvel and DC, and also to work with them to add dimension to their field-of-play. “We believe we have something the world needs to see – something the world wants, whether we become a huge company that makes movies or not,” chimed Thomas. He added, “Along with representation, we’re trying to get messages out there. The best stories are stories that give somebody something to talk about, something to consider, something to reconsider, something to contextualize. Going forward, we’re figuring out what each character represents for the world and the voice we’re trying to add to the voices that are already out there.”
To find out more about The Creative Extreme and project 365, visit their website.