It doesn’t get more real than Back of the Yards, on the South Side of Chicago, when you’re growing up as a teen. It’s where fantasy and the power of story can build resilience, foster healing and lead to greater understanding. Based on the stories and experiences of real urban youth, Made Collaborative and the Made Collaborative Scholarship Fund present Back of the Yards, a story of gritty truth that’s beyond your wildest dreams.
A fictionalized version of the real Back of the Yards neighborhood serves as setting for the eponymous comic book series. Likewise, the stories and the characters themselves are based on the real lives and musings of Chicago youth. These stories were first conceived by students attending an after school arts program. They were collected by our main man, Jimmy Briseno, during Made Collaborative’s first round of urban outreach to inner-city schools. Jimmy had the bright idea to elevate these kids’ ideas in a way that few had contemplated before. By bringing professional comics artists and writers into the creative process, Jimmy hoped to validate the kids’ stories and experiences by weaving them together as the narrative threads of a real comic book series.
The result is a collaborative effort between artists and youth. It is the stuff of Back of the Yards’ first story arc: “Just Dreamin’.” But how, exactly, do kids’ ideas become comics pages? Read on.
A Prologue to the Comic … What’s in a Dream?
Below you will find a hypderdoc Google Slide that provides information on the background development of the Back of the Yards comic series, as well as an overview of the main comic characters and participating artists. But first, because context matters for any collaboration, we start with a quick prologue to peek into the early origins of this comic project …
When skimming through Issuu documents like the one immediately below on this website, it might be helpful to enter the “Fullscreen” option by clicking on the square brackets in the lower right hand version of the window screen above (as illustrated below for your reference). And once you are done reading this Issue document, just hit your “escape” key to return to this webpage.
From Comic Concept to Reality … a presentation by Len Kody
So, after months of initial scripting, concept illustrations and planning, we had hit a bit of an impasse. At the time, we knew that we had at least three primary storylines to work with based on the original in-person youth collaborations. And we also know that mystery of dreams was something all the initial participating youth had identified as a theme within their respective story lines. But we we struggling on how to best connect each of those primary storylines into one common comic story arc.
And it was at that time that I engaged a guy a few others had recommended I reached out to when they heard about this project. He was a teacher in Chicago at the time (later moving to L.A.), who also happened to have a journalism background. And, I was told, he was passionate about comics and had written a few original storylines with other creators. His name was Len Kody. And rather than try to speak for Len, here’s a presentation from him (below) on just how the makings of this modest comic project eventually would become a reality …
So, to put a final bow on this background section before we dive into Issue #1 below, here’s a quick video we put together back in the day when we first decided to develop this collaborative comic-based project. The video is old now, but we thought we’d present it anyway to the extent you wanted a quick visual glimpse into those early in-person collaborations.
The first issue of the Back of the Yards comic series was originally published in 2018. Within the issues we are introduced to main characters Andre Davis, Tamia Parker, Russell Patterson and his cousin Draymond, and the Elders. And it is within this issue that Andre has an encounter that sets the foundation for this first part of this comic story.
Introducing Issue #1
Within the hypderdoc below, we present you with additional background production information as well as a synopsis of the first issue storyline. And after reading this helpful background, if you’d like to read the full issue of Issue #1, just scroll further down below!
And if you want read Issue #1 … here it is!
So, would you like to collaborate with us on future issues of this comic series? What better way to start then to read the issue for free! Here it is for your reading pleasure, and be sure to expand to full screen (lower right hand corner within the window below) for the best reading experience …