Tony Weaver Jr. (@tonyweaverjr) is an award-winning storyteller known for sharing his love for anime and manga on TikTok. He is the creator of The UnCommons (an award-winning webcomic series), the founder of Weird Enough Productions (a national nonprofit), and was the first comic writer to be selected for Forbes 30 Under 30. We caught up with Tony to learn more about his career as a creator, and what he hopes to take on next!
What does it mean to you to be part of the Black community?
Being a part of the Black Community means having the privilege to stand on the shoulders of multiple generations of cultural innovators. Whether it’s Black writers that inspire my work, like James Baldwin, August Wilson, and N.K. Jemisin. Or, my parents, who both came from poverty, and worked to create a foundation for me to build on. Every step that I take is a part of a long path that was established long before I came along. For generations, the Black community has been a bastion of creativity, love, and perseverance. Being a part of that legacy means I get to follow in those footsteps, and carry the torch further for those that will come behind me.
How has the TikTok community inspired you?
The largest inspirational insight TikTok has given me is that my story matters. Before I joined the app, I was driving myself crazy trying to get somebody, anybody, to care about my stories. I believe representation matters, but at every turn I had people telling me that it didn’t. It made me feel like I was the only person who knew how powerful stories are, and how important they were to helping people realize how powerful they could be. However, the community I found on TikTok instantly surrounded me with support. I found like-minded creators, and nerds just like me, that were excited not just for my stories, but for me as a person. On TikTok I found inspiration to unapologetically share my stories, and be my true self. I found courage to just be… Tony.
My username is a representation of this. It’s just my name, but that is important because for the longest time, I was afraid to be myself. With so many of my hobbies and things I liked, I would adopt usernames where nobody would feasibly be able to know that it was me. But me picking my username and having it be my actual name was a step towards embracing who I am in a way that I can't hide. It's a really simple thing, but it was a leap for me.
What do you want people to take away from the stories you share? How do you want them to think and feel after they experience your content?
As a writer and creator, I try to create worlds where every person can find their place. I think the world that we live in has the potential to be an amazing one, but in many scenarios, it's not very kind. And despite all the possibility, there is for us to have this amazing world, a lot of people's lived experiences don’t reflect that. It's my goal that when you read something that I wrote, or when you watch something that I made, you feel that embrace, and that moment where you can relate and just be yourself. I hope that my content is a warm embrace for people and gives them a little bit of a break from all the things that the world can throw at them.
What are some of your passions on and off of TikTok?
Outside of my obvious love for writing and anime, I love collecting sneakers, figurines, and playing video games. For Christmas, I collaborated with my followers to donate toys and figurines to young people in foster care. And I’m really excited about TikTok’s upcoming game streaming tools for creators!
How would you like to grow in entertainment? What do you see as your career trajectory on and off of TikTok?
Up until now, I’ve made a name for myself as a writer. In 2020, I signed a two book deal with MacMillan Publishing for my first series, Weirdo, a middle grade graphic novel series chronicling my youth experiences with depression and suicide. My deal made me the first Black Male Author to publish a graphic novel with the publisher since the year I was born. For me, growth means adapting my growing slate of writing projects into animated series, television shows, and films. Just like Issa Rae and Donald Glover, I would like to land an overall deal at a major streaming platform and make my ideas the next major IP franchises that become household names.
On TikTok, my goal is to be an inspiring and accessible example for every young person that has a story they want to tell. I’d like to be known as “everyone’s nerdy older brother.” I want to be a quirky motivational force that helps young people find the light in dark times, and encourages them to use their stories to change the world just like I aim to do.
What advice would you give to an emerging animator or creator that you know wants to do what you're doing one day?
My largest piece of advice to anybody that wants to tell a story is to think about how you want people to feel when they engage with your work. How do you want someone to feel when the credits roll on your movie? How do you want someone to feel when they close the last page of your book? Because everything that you're doing is ultimately moving towards that feeling. And if you don't know what that is, you're going to lose your way, but if you keep that in the forefront of your mind as you're making and creating, it can really help, especially in those moments you experience setbacks or writer's block. If you chase that feeling, I think what you end up making is going to be something that's true to you.