The writing team of twin sisters Shawneé and Shawnelle Gibbs, also known as the Gibbs Sisters, have quietly built a brand telling stories with magic, humor and heart over the last decade. They’ve been the creative force behind scripts for major entertainment titans such as Warner Bros. Animation and Marvel Comics. But their success has not come without its challenges.
As little girls, they grew up drawing and writing stories in their hometown of Oakland, Calif., which led to a fascination with comic strips and animated stories. But when they left college to find careers as storytellers, they faced several early roadblocks.
“An executive at a major children’s network told us the company didn’t make stories with black girl protagonists. He literally told us to our face that the company made cartoons for 10-year-old white boys. That meant diverse kids — especially black girls — were being unserved. It’s something we knew inherently, but that reality was still tough to hear,” said Shawneé.
“We were nearly crushed, but it was one of many similar meetings we had in our careers. Those kinds of interactions can really knock the wind out of you. But we were determined to share stories about our protagonists who include girls and people of color, at the center of epic adventures,” said Shawnelle.
So, the sisters began building a name in indie comics with a comedic, sci-fi time travel adventure, “Fashion Forward,” and successfully kick-started an African American steampunk comic, “The Invention of E.J. Whitaker.” Not long after, the comics and animation industry began to take notice.
The writing team since has penned projects for Dreamworks Animation (“Not Quite Narwhal”), Cartoon Network (“Jessica’s Big Little World”), HBO Max (“Little Ellen”), Mattel (“Barbie: It Takes Two” and “Barbie: Mermaid Power”), and many others.
Now the Gibbs Sisters have entered the world of traditional publishing with their next project – the release of their first graphic novel, “Ghost Roast,” with HarperCollins Publishers/Versify, due early next year.
“Ghost Roast” delves quite comically and compellingly into the paranormal world of teen Chelsea Grant whose unique perspective is in direct opposition to that of her ghost hunter father – while he uses DIY tactics to identify the presence of supernatural beings, she can actually see them.
Illustrated by Emily Cannon, the coming-of-age story includes historical fiction, racial identity, income inequality, family conflict, peer pressure and more. Pre-order “Ghost Roast” at https://www.harpercollins.com/products/ghost-roast-shawnee-gibbsshawnelle-gibbs.
“We’re thankful to know that stories we tell have value for audiences and the marketplace. Whether we’re telling stories for comics, graphic novels or animation, we pour a little of ourselves into each, and our goal is always to inspire,” Shawneé said.
“We always tell young – and older storytellers alike – that wherever they are in their careers, holding fast to their creative vision is what’s most important,” Shawnelle said.
For more information about the Gibbs Sisters, visit gibbssisters.com.