Marcus Williams and Greg Burnham's Tuskegee Heirs: Flames of Destiny is a story set 80 years in the future where wars are fought with the sort of giant battle mechs reminiscent of anime classics like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gundam, and Voltron. Unlike the mechs in those series, though, Tuskegee's are fully automated and human piloting is strictly forbidden.
At the series' start, a group of young, would-be aviators are in the midst of secretly learning to pilot mechs when humanity is suddenly thrust into a new kind of war with the very same, sentient war machines that were originally created to protect them. Left with no choice, the pilots-in-training take refuge at the historic airfield once used by the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.
The original Tuskegee Airmen were a group of black fighter and bomber pilots who, because of Jim Crow laws and racial segregation, were kept separate from fighting with the rest of the Air Force during WWII.
"The concept was: 'What if we take the Tuskegee Airmen and just make it a young cast and put all the history?" Williams explained in the initial Kickstarter video for the project. "The wonderful work ethic, problem solving, and mentality against the world and really empower to watch young kids and watch them be excited."
Within seven hours of its Kickstarter launch, Tuskegee Heirs blew past its initial $10,000 funding goal and within just under a month, the project's raised just under $60,000 with a few hours left to go.
The initial outpouring of support, Burnham and Williams explained to Comics Alliance, made them realize just what sort of impact Tuskegee Heirs could have both for kids and adults.
"I had a major epiphany today because we were meeting with an app game developer, and just explaining some of the stuff, and it made me just think we’ve been working towards the same goal for so long," Burnham explained. "You look at history books that they’re giving to kids and it’s always that we started from being slaves."
He continued: "They never talk about how Sudan has more pyramids than Egypt does. There’s all kind of stuff that we can really get into in the world that we’re creating that will cause you to fact check that."
Despite rampant racism and the institutional inequality that came along with being a black person in the military during the mid-20th century, the 332nd Fighter Group (the Tuskegee Airmen's formal designation) went down in history as being some of the most skilled and accomplished pilots fighting during the war.
By the War's end, it was calculated that only 27 bombers were lost that were escorted by the Tuskegee Airmen. The average number of bombers lost by other all-white Fighter Groups of comparable size was 46.
It's facts like those that Burnham says he wants to infuse into Tuskegee Heirs.
"I hope that people become immersed in this world that we’re creating," he said. "I’m hoping that when they open up the book that they get that feel, because the way that we’re writing and the illustrations and everything, I personally want to be there."