GHETTO BROTHER Review Round-Up: “A Comic Origin Story, One About a True Superhero”

 

Ghetto Brother is the true story of Benjy Melendez, son of Puerto-Rican immigrants, who founded, at the end of the 1960s, the notorious Ghetto Brothers gang. From the seemingly bombed-out ravages of his neighborhood, wracked by drugs, poverty, and violence, he managed to extract an incredibly positive energy from this riot ridden era: his multiracial gang promoted peace rather than violence. After initiating a gang truce, the Ghetto Brothers held weekly concerts on the streets or in abandoned buildings, which fostered the emergence of hip-hop. Melendez also began to reclaim his Jewish roots after learning about his family’s dramatic crypto-Jewish background.

Here’s what the critics are saying:

Ghetto Brother is a brisk, compact work highlighting an overlooked, yet pivotal, part of the history of both a genre and a city.”

Rolling Stone

 

“Absorbing—a true testament to the power of faith in goodwill.”

 

“A  gripping story that feels like a history lesson but a lot more than that.”

 

“A fascinating, largely unknown story that’s told in a compelling, unexpected way.”

 

“Matter-of-fact and informative.”

 

“Written by Julian Voloj and illustrated by Claudia Ahlering, Ghetto Brother resists tropes that are common in comics and biographical storytelling for a first person visually guided narrative that gives a personal account of seeing the world change in real time…The universe is cyclical but in hip hop, it starts with Benjy Melendez. Ghetto Brother is it’s comic origin story, one about a true superhero that continues to replay itself, from the inception point to infinity.”

 

 

“An unusual piece of literature in that a medium usually reserved for fantastical tales and superheroes is now being used as a vehicle for the telling of a true story.”

 

“This wonderful book shows us that Jews come in a wide variety of ethnicities.”

GHETTO BROTHER meets ROLLING STONE

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Today, ROLLING STONE featured GHETTO BROTHER- our new graphic novel written by Julian Voloj with art by Claudia Ahlering. The graphic novel profiles Benjy Melendez, leader of the Ghetto Brothers who united the gangs of New York in the historic Hoe Avenue Peace  Summit.

In the Rolling Stone article , “New Graphic Novel Details How NYC Gangs’ Treaty Formed Hip-Hop,” reviewer Jason Newman details the work of Melendez, not just as presented in the graphic novel, but his influence in the hip-hop community.

Even if you have read GHETTO BROTHER, the article will serve as a good companion piece to the graphic novel.

Read the full article here.

Previews and ordering information are available on our website.

Ghetto Brother meets Ghetto Klown

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Benjy and I had a great time at the Book Con. So many people came over and wanted to hear Benjy’s story and get their copy of Ghetto Brother signed (for pictures from the event, visit our Facebook page.) A “nice young lady” (Benjy’s words) introduced herself as Sara and said she wanted to get a copy signed for her friend John. Well, John, that was John Leguizamo, known for “Ghetto Klown” (on HBO, on Broadway, and soon as a graphic novel) — and Sara was the great comedian Sara Benincasa.

So Benjy and I had a brief conversation with John — and guess what, he not only loved the book, but he also heard about the story of the Hoe Avenue Peace Meeting before. We can only say, thank you, Sara.

 

Ghetto Brother Returns to the Bronx

GHETTO BROTHER

The Latino in Comics exhibit was earlier today and Terry and I were on hand to hear Julian Voloj and Benjy Melendez speak about NBM’s GHETTO BROTHER. The Poe Park Visitor Hall was filled on this brisk winter day to celebrate comics, the Latino community, and the Bronx as a whole.

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GHETTO BROTHER art by Claudia Ahlering

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The crowd gathered to hear Julian and Benjy discuss Ghetto Brother, both on and off the page.

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Melendez(center) and Voloj(right), behind them: Melendez in his days leading the Ghetto Brothers gang.

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Benjy Melendez(center) recalled his time in and out of gangs

Ghetto Brother goes onsale in May. For previews and more, visit our website.

Helping the Community

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When people think about gangs in the Bronx, they think about violence. But the young kids involved with the Ghetto Brothers were not the savages the media presented, but young citizens who tried to better their community.

Bill Leicht, according to Benjy Melendez “the oldest Ghetto Brother”, has continued his path as a social worker and is until today involved in various projects including Peace Dojo, the Tricorner Peace Council, and Urban Visions. For Bill, showing youth alternatives to violence is a continuation of the work he did back in the day with the Ghetto Brothers.

In an email he writes to me:

For decades I’ve been saying I am continuing my work – as a Ghetto Brother. You are the first to take that seriously. The problem is prejudice. We all know youth gangs are — criminals — so society looks at us and our organizations with fear, loathing, and total inability to hear the message. That is bad for the street and it is bad for “society.” The work that you, Henry  Chalfant, Rita Fecher, Jeff Chang, Luis Barrios, David Brotherton and a very few others have created opens eyes, ears and hearts; very much it is needed and very much it is worth your effort. Thank you!
 
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Bill Leicht, the ‘oldest Ghetto Brother’ portrayed by Julian Voloj (2011)

Bronx Documentary Center

Last Saturday, the Bronx Documentary Center had a screening of “Flyin’ Cut Sleeves” with director Henry Chalfant. The documentary was source material for the graphic novel “Ghetto Brother“.

Prior to the screening, director Henry Chalfant talked about his first encounter with Benjamin Melendez and how Benjy connected him to his former teacher Rita Fecher. You can see his intro here.

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Benjy Melendez presented Henry Chalfant with a copy of Ghetto Brother. More pictures from the event can be found here.

Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month. A good timing to introduce Claudia Ahlering, the artist behind “Ghetto Brother.” The German artist is based in Hamburg where she is currently collaborating with Julian Voloj on a new project. Visit her website for more information.

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Claudia Aherling in her studio with pages from Ghetto Brother.

Benjamin Melendez visits NBM

Earlier this week, Benjamin Melendez, the protagonist in the upcoming graphic novel “Ghetto Brother” visited NBM.

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Benjy is very excited that his life story is now going to reach a wide audience, telling the story of the Hoe Avenue Peace Meeting and how young people decided to go a non-violent path instead of seeking revenge and continuing the circle of violence.

Terry Nantier presented Benjy with an advance reading copy of the book. The official book presentation will take place in April during this year’s MoCCA Festival.

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NBM in April: Ghetto Brother

April will be a big month for NBM! We are releasing GHETTO BROTHER- Warrior to Peacemaker, by Julian Voloj and Claudia Ahlering. Ghetto Brother tells the story of Benjy Melendez who brought a truce to the gangs of New York in the 70s.

GHETTO BROTHER

GHETTO BROTHER- Warrior to Peacemaker
Julian Voloj, Claudia Ahlering
Introduction by Jeff Chang, author of “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation”
An engrossing and counter view of one of the most dangerous elements of American urban history, this graphic novel tells the true story of Benjy Melendez, a Bronx legend, son of Puerto-Rican immigrants, who founded, at the end of the 1960s, the notorious Ghetto Brothers gang. From the seemingly bombed-out ravages of his neighborhood, wracked by drugs, poverty, and violence, he managed to extract an incredibly positive energy from this riot ridden era: his multiracial gang promoted peace rather than violence. After initiating a gang truce, the Ghetto Brothers held weekly concerts on the streets or in abandoned buildings, which fostered the emergence of hip-hop. Melendez also began to reclaim his Jewish roots after learning about his family’s dramatic crypto-Jewish background.
6×9, 128pp., black and white paperback: $12.99;
ISBN 9781561639489
Diamond Order Code: FEB151507
For previews and more, visit our website.

On a similar note, available now is Ryan Inzana’s JOHNNY JIHAD. Publisher’s Weekly called the book “starkly engaging and powerful. A bold fictional investigation into the roots of political fanaticism.”

JOHNNY JIHAD
Ryan Inzana
John Sendel is a typical disillusioned teenager. The kind that snap and would start shooting at their school. He is part of a generation reared by television in the nineties with absentee or loveless parents, cynical, and willing to wield the impetuousness of youth in a self-destructive manner. But Johnny stumbles onto fundamentalist Islam through his friend Salim, and finds a new outlet to channel his rebellious angst. He cannot but admire these people with an actual purpose in life and something to believe in. The facets of Johnny’s humdrum existence in suburbia begin to fade, his life now has a purpose: jihad. However, the deeper he gets enmeshed, the more frightening the road becomes with no possibility of return. When the CIA gets hold of him, things take an ugly turn. Based on true facts of training camps run in the U.S. and inspired by the stories of John Walker Lindh and others… Chillingly real and hotly topical.
6×9, 96pp., B&W trade pb.: $9.95
ISBN 9781561633531
Diamond Order Code: STAR18763
For more information and previews, click here.

Head over to your favorite comic book store now to place your order in February’s Diamond Previews magazine!

Big in Germany

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Did you know that this year there will be Ghetto Brother editions published in Brazil, France, Germany, and Spain? Don’t worry, you can get yours here at NBM. But it’s interesting what others think about this truly American tale. In Germany, “puls” named the graphic novel best new release in the category ‘non fiction’. Very honored.