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Diverse Heroes Matter: 'The Legend of the Mantamaji' Comes To Life

As an African American producer, Eric Dean Seaton challenges racial and gendered stereotypes in the Legend of the Mantamaji.
Page Head Art
Page Head ArtThe Legend of the Mantamaji / Eric Dean Seaton

Heroism is a concern for others in need and a behavior that impacts a community. But what is it that actually makes a person a hero?

Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, the television director with credits ranging from Undateable to That’s So Raven to Living Single, Eric Dean Seaton was an avid comic book reader and realized that most books he read lack diversity. “As I read the books, I realized most of the heroes did not look like me and never have I really seen people of color as heroes,” Seaton told NBCBLK.

As an African American producer, Seaton challenges racial and gendered stereotypes in his first graphic novel series Legend of the Mantamaji, a story about Elijah Alexander, a cocky assistant district attorney in New York who learns he is the last of the mystical Mantamaji knights who once protected mankind. When an ancient evil is reborn, Elijah becomes responsible for protecting the future as he turns his back on his career and passion.

The live action film, based on the graphic novel, premiered in Los Angeles last night and was released online today.

Black people survive in the future, people of color can save the world, and diverse heroes matter.

“Before Elijah becomes the superhero, he overcame a great deal of hardships throughout his life, which is why his personality becomes so cocky as a district attorney,” said Seaton.

But this character soon changes as time swings by and he is the last one to save humanity from disastrous acts. Seaton explains that the character Elijah and his girlfriend Detective Sydney Spencer are both lost souls. Elijah grew up poor and always on the move with his mother, while Sydney was raised as a foster child on the streets of New York.

“What makes them so interesting is that we have two strong characters and they won’t trust each other to tell each other the truth about their lives, and if they were sit down and talk, you would see two characters that are totally linked,” said the director.

With a thrilling plot and a diverse cast of characters, Seaton strives to change the attitude toward and perception of African Americans. “You’re looking at somebody as the hero with a different skin color, and subliminally if you like it, you might actually see people in those positions and it won’t be so shocking,” Seaton continued.

When asked who his own superheroes were, Seaton first cited his mother as well as filmmakers Shonda Rhimes, Spike Lee, and Tyler Perry.

“What makes a person a hero is one who can stand up at the end of the day, not half way through the day, and say what is right,” Seaton said.

He makes it clear in his work, that a hero is a hero, and a person’s color does not make them any more or less of a hero. “My aim is to open people’s mind as to who can be heroes. What does it say when the majority of heroes are only white men? Black people survive in the future, people of color can save the world, diverse heroes matter.”

The Legend of the Mantamaji live action short can be watched here.