The fourth annual Maui Comic Con is upon us and one of the featured guests is a local hero in the most profound sense. Maui native Noble Richardson has created eye-catching, emotionally stirring murals in Wailuku and Kahului. His art, in addition to being beautiful and rich in detail, often interweaves Hawaiian history and culture. Richardson, who teaches at Wailuku Elementary, is a fine artist who works in oil painting. His work can be found at Nobleisms.com. Ahead of his Comic Con appearance, he spoke with MauiTime about his origin story and influences.
Barry Wurst: Please tell me a little about yourself, your background, and where you grew up.
Noble Richardson: Well… I am born and raised here in Wailuku, Maui, and that’s important to me in regard to the course of my artistic career. I did begin my adulthood in Las Vegas and spent 13 years navigating the anatomy of nearly every aspect of the night industry before moving home to focus on my artwork.
BW: Who are some of the artists who influenced you and people in your life who encouraged you to follow your art?
NR: Art exists in my everyday living, and each time I setup for certain approaches, I still recall the words spoken by a few instructors. My family is my biggest encouragement, and music is the rhythm that will initiate the creative process.
BW: Which comic book artists and graphic novels were you hooked on as a young man?
NR: Through Maui Comic Con and everyone involved in helping it become what it is today, I’m beginning to learn the names of the artists behind my childhood art inspiration. Alika Seki has been that guy who has had the biggest hand in offering today’s youth the same opportunity I had when I was a kid
Like most kids, I was in love with the art and characters. Spiderman, Wolverine and the X-Men saga, and Tim Burton’s Batman were huge influences for me… It was the first time Batman wore a black suit, it was my first time in front of a big screen, and I saw it on the opening day at the Old Kahului Shopping Center Theater. Before going into the theater, I was standing next to my dad in a line that snaked around the building. I saw another boy holding an all-black suited Batman toy he got from the comic shop near the Wailuku Bridge.
Although I wasn’t able to get that same toy, I did learn about the comic shop, and after frequent visits, my imagination began to take major flight. Comics weren’t new to me, but all over the walls were drawings from other kids, and all I could think was, ‘Wow, I didn’t know a lot of people could draw.’ It pushed me to draw many images from my own comics. And 30 years later, I have one of my art pieces in the Maui Comics and Collectable shop at the Queen Kaahumanu Center.
BW: What are your thoughts on Maui Comic Con? Have you been to other comic cons (like San Diego Comic Con) before, as a guest or a patron?
NR: It was definitely a thought to attend the beginning days of the SDCC, however, I never committed. I think the one held here at UH Maui has been more than amazing. Maui’s youth has the opportunity to meet the artists that create a lot of what we like to play, read, and watch. The workshops and live art are what I see as a major influence for many students I teach at Wailuku Elementary. It also opens up opportunities to local Hawai‘i entrepreneurs and, with the warmest welcome of aloha, it’s been the first organization I dealt with that shows equal respect for local vendors as they do for comic book legends.
BW: What inspired you to become a teacher?
NR: May Day, an out of place shipping container, alumni pride, a principal who didn’t profile me, my niece and nephew, and my wife all aligned into an offer I decided to try. Basically, I offered to paint a mural on the Wailuku Elementary shipping container that sits on the May Day field.
Aside from agreeing to a mural, Principal Stanich offered me a part-time position to teach art to the students. My wife talked me into trying something that has positively changed my life forever. Part of that inspiration comes from my firsthand experience with art when I attended Wailuku Elementary School, as well as the guidance I received from Mrs. Sato at HP Baldwin High School.
BW: What do you hope to express with your art?
NR: My real answer is too complex for me to answer comfortably, however, it’s also simple. In Hawai‘i, we have many avenues of knowledge that tell the same stories in slightly different ways. It’s not about who is wrong or who is right, and the origin of that mana‘o is spread around and adapted through translation. I am simply sharing what I learn through everyday interactions.
I don’t spend time telling the interconnected web of ‘ike that has come my way, because that is best reserved for face to face interactions. Many times, my art is a collection of storytelling that I tell with my own choice of imagery, that can best describe the message I’m currently engulfed in. I think people born and raised in Hawai‘i obtain a type of humanity different from the outside world, and I enjoy creating artwork that may or may not appeal to locals or visitors. What I am certain about is that I strive at creating unique work that illustrates my love for Hawai‘i, and if the viewer connects with it, I am extremely honored. And if they wish to hear more about my thoughts behind it, I’m excited to engage.
Maui Comic Con happens October 26 and 27 at UH Maui College. In addition to Richardson, guests include Eric Powell (creator of “The Goon”), Marvel Comics legend Carl Potts, Disney comic book illustrator James Silvani, and animation storyboard artist Keith Tucker. There’s also a keiki, adult, and group cosplay costume contest. Admission is FREE! Visit Mauicomiccon.com for details.
Photos by June K. Harper; Maui Comic Con Poster courtesy Maui Comic Con