DJ Strickland has an amazing story to tell.
The 13-year-old is the creator of “Tech Boy,” his very own comic book in response to the lack of diversity he noticed while reading his favorite comic books.
“I used to believe that you had to be a certain age, like an adult, to go and follow your dreams and do the things that you really wanted to do,” he told Al Roker for the 3rd hour of TODAY. “But now I know that that’s really not true.”
DJ, who said he likes Marvel and legendary comic book creator Stan Lee, was unhappy with the representation among superheroes in the books he read, so he decided to write his own comic, taking a cue from one of the most famous Black superheroes of them all.
“I was inspired by Chadwick Boseman and his role as Black Panther,” he said.
DJ’s mother, Sharron Prather, jumped on to support her son’s endeavor, saying he was too focused on “Tech Boy” to give up on it.
“At first, I was just like, ‘Um, oh, that’s a great idea.’ And then he just kept (saying), ‘I really want to do this. I really want to do this,’” she said.
DJ and his mom hired an illustrator and editor with a government stimulus check they received during the pandemic, and “Tech Boy” sprung to life faster than a speeding bullet (OK, maybe not that fast).
“In the book, Tech Boy’s made by this mysterious scientist,” DJ said. “His superpower is to control technology to defeat villains or anyone who tries to oppose him.”
DJ said there’s a lot of himself in the character.
“Tech Boy’s design was inspired off of myself,” he said. “He has locks just like me, his skin color’s like me. And I’m into technology. It was almost directly inspired by me.”
DJ did have some obstacles to overcome in bringing “Tech Boy” to life. He said he was bullied, which took a toll on him, and his mother said it was vital the two of them continued to keep open the lines of communication.
“When you start noticing behavior changes, talk to them,” she said. “We’re very open. We talk to each other about everything.”
DJ is still hard at work, too. He’s created Team Tech Boy LLC, which has won over investors like Mastercard and sold hundreds of copies of the comic, while also giving others away to students.
When “Tech Boy” was finally published, DJ was gratified to see his effort pay off.
“It was unbelievable, knowing that that was my creation. I did it, it was finally there,” he said.
And while “Tech Boy” is his baby, he knows he’d be nowhere without his mother.
“I always say this — she’s a superhero,” he said. “One of my goals is to retire her one day.”