'Tales from the Heart of Africa: The Temporary Natives' (1990).

Seitu Hayden is an American cartoonist, storyboard artist and illustrator, based in Chicago, Illinois. An active member of Chicago's African American comix scene, he is known as the original artist of 'Tales from the Heart' (1987-1992), a comic book series about volunteer work in Central Africa, and as the illustrator of graphic biographies about Barack Obama and Malcolm X (2011).

Early life and career
He was born as William Eric Hayden in 1953 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where his interest in drawing came to blossom during his school years. Through his uncle he read Harvey Kurtzman humor magazines like Trump and Help, which were a major influence on his early art. Later on he was introduced to the underground scene through papers like the East Village Other and the Berkeley Barb. While in third grade, one of the stories he wrote and drew was noticed by the local newspaper, which encouraged his ambitions to become a professional artist. A couple of years later, he came in touch with the underground cartoonist Richard Green, better known under the pen name Grass Green. Green was impressed by the youngster's talent, and let him ink his 'Lost Family' comic strip (1969) for Frost Illustrated, a local weekly newspaper aimed at the African-American population.

Hayden had gotten interested in racial issues and black intellectual philosophy through the writings and novels of Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison and Harold Cruse, as well as the Black Panther Party newspaper. He had his first job in the Youth Division of the civil rights organization Urban League, through which he started making socially oriented cartoons, as well as an underground teenage paper called Where It's At. After graduating high school, Hayden left Fort Wayne to attend the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts in 1971. There he adopted the name "Seitu", which means "artist" in Swahili, and created a weekly comic strip called 'Waliku' for the Chicago Defender. It ran for three years. He completed his studies at Columbia College, and graduated with a B.A. in art in 1977. He had his first professional job with R.H. Donnelley, the publishers of the Yellow pages, where he did  illustration and paste-up work.

Commercial artist
Since the early 1980s, Hayden has made illustrations, storyboards, animatics, and concept designs for advertising and marketing purposes. He has been affiliated with agencies like Vince Cullers, Foote Cone and Belding (1983-1985), Ogilvy & Mather (1985-1990), J. Walter Thompson Chicago (1988-1992), Steve Edsey's studio, Leo Burnett (2003-2004) and Mundocom (2003-2011), while working on his own freelance projects on the side. He has done designs for clients like Coors, Pizza Hut, S.C. Johnson, Scholastic and the Warner Music Group, and notably made color illustrations for BET's 'Story Porch' shows (1993-1996), which promoted reading and literacy by having celebrities like Ruby Dee and Wynton Marsalis reading stories from a book.

In addition to his commercial work, Hayden has continued to work on his personal comix, which appeared in publications like Black Family magazine, The Black Collegian and Nightmoves, a bi-weekly Chicago area newspaper. In cooperation wtih several writers, he made a regular comics page about a beauty salon called 'Shoplife: A Salon Soap Opera' in ShopTalk, a trade journal for black hair stylists, produced by Soft Sheen during the 1980s and 1990s. In the early 1990s, Hayden was also the instigator behind 'Ain't That A Blip', a one-shot comic book, intended as a "Black MAD Magazine". It featured stories by Hayden himself, but also contributions by Pedro Bell and Grass Green. At the last moment, the investor backed out and the book was never officially printed or distributed. Only a few xerox-copied issues were printed by the artist himself. With Bell, Hayden has also worked on sleeve designs for funk records like 'Lifestyles Of The Roach And Famous' (1988) by Incorporated Thang Band and 'Dope Dogs' (1995) by Parliament, Funkadelic & The P-Funk All Stars.


'Tales from the Heart'.

Tales from the Heart
Within mainstream comics, Seitu Hayden is best remembered as the original artist of 'Tales from the Heart' (1987-1989), a comic book series about Minneapolis student Cathy Grant, who leaves home to become a volunteer with the Peace Corps in Central Africa. The stories follow Cathy as she gradually gets acquainted with the African landscapes, population and culture, while learning that volunteer work not always realizes permanent changes. Written by Cindy Goff and Rafael Nieves, the first two issues were published by Entropy Enterprises, after which Slave Labor Graphics released the next nine. Hayden illustrated issues one through six between 1987 and 1989; then Aldin Lee Baroza took over until 1994. Hayden returned to draw the one-shot spin-offs 'Tales from the Heart of Africa: The Temporary Natives' (1990) and 'A Tale From the Heart of Africa: Bloodlines' (1992), which were published in color by Marvel's Epic Comics imprint. Hayden, Goff and Nieves also contributed the comic story 'Mourning Son' to the humanitarian anthology project 'Strip AIDS U.S.A.' (Last Gasp, 1988).


'A Tale From the Heart of Africa: Bloodlines' (1992)

Graphic novel biographies
Seitu Hayden was furthermore the illustrator for the graphic novels 'Obama: The Historic Election of America's 44th President' (American Graphic, 2011), written by Agnieszka Biskup, and 'X: A Biography of Malcolm X' (2011), written by Jessica Gunderson, which both appeared in the 'American Graphic' collection of Capstone Press.

Saytoons
Active as a freelance illustrator under his own Saytoons banner since 2011, Seitu Hayden has also delved into the field of Printing On Demand. He designs personalized greeting cards, T-shirts and other products, which he sells through his shops on several online platforms.


From: 'Obama: The Historic Election of America's 44th President' (2011).

www.saytoons.com

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