Miles Asberry-Wallace, a seventh-grader at Andersen United Middle School in Minneapolis, may be among Minnesota's youngest published authors.
At 13, the south Minneapolis teenager has written and illustrated a new comic book, "Kings of Quests: A Tale of Bros," that recounts the adventure of four Black teenagers who meet in a forest. It's magical and humorous with some rich colors that add to the fun. It debuted last week at an event at Strive Bookstore, a Black-owned bookshop on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis that features books by Black authors and other authors of color.
"I enjoy making comic books; you can get your ideas out there," said Miles, who has been creating comic books since he was 5 years old, printing them on a copier and selling them to his friends at a dollar apiece. This, however, is his first published work.
His mother is Tracine Asberry, a former Minneapolis middle school teacher who served on the Minneapolis School Board. She is executive director of St. Paul Youth Services (SPYS), a nonprofit that promotes "rewriting the rules of youth engagement." SPYS sponsored last week's program which will be aired on a podcast, "Rewriting the Rules," to be posted on its website in a couple of weeks.
"It is a beautiful thing to see young people shine, to see them in their sweet spot," she said of Miles and his new comic book.
Miles said he told his mother about his idea for the comic book when he was accompanying her as she drove to her hairdresser. She approached the Office of Black Student Achievement at Minneapolis Public Schools, which offers micro-grants to assist Black students in their personal growth, leadership and educational pursuits. They made an award of $1,000 that was used for book design and printing as well as to pay mentors for Miles as he developed his story and artwork.
"The mentor helped me to write the plot, but I did it myself," Miles said. "He would give me homework."
Miles worked on the project for about eight months, creating the comic book on an iPad. Mary Taris, owner of Strive, said the bookshop assisted Miles in self-publishing the comic book.
When the newly printed comic book arrived at their house last week, "I was speechless," Miles said. "Everything turned out so good. I looked at all the pages — wow, all the hard work was definitely worth it."
The comic book tells the tale of Mike, a skinny, happy teenager with one eye, whose favorite activity is playing "Pooter Shooter," a make-believe computer game. In the forest, he meets David, a 15-year-old who is "a braniac in science" and Nathan, also 15, who loves movies and popcorn. They find Dylan, also 15, who is "super-duper confident," and incidentally likes sautéed broccoli. Dylan, sitting on a tree trunk with a sword, tells the others he is training to become a king.
"Mike, Nathan and David gasp and say: 'We want to be kings, too,'" Miles explained. He said that each of the boys represents him in some way.
Once they meet up, "the Bros" encounter various challenges and learn about themselves, each other and their families, Miles said. "I hope you can learn that all Black boys and men are all kings," he said. He added that sequels will be forthcoming.
Asked about career objectives, Miles said he hopes to play professional basketball with either the Detroit Pistons or the Los Angeles Clippers and swim in the Olympics.
"Another one of my goals," he said, "is to get my comic book on the New York Times bestseller list."