The otherworldly cartoonist, Koriander Bullard (Maiden name Ake), was born on November 3rd, 1986 in Harvey, Illinois.
Her mother Manuela, a comic book collector, poet and avid wrestling fan, nurtured her first born with books and television, allowing the young girl to explore the world around her with very few limits.
Little Koriander, named after Starfire of DC's Teen Titans comic, thrived off of cartoons, and was often fascinated by documentaries about animation. She learned how to draw zoo animals long before she even knew how to spell her own name, and was writing her own bedtime stories by the time she was four.
Koriander's childhood however was filled with many twists and turns. Her grandmother often bickered with her parents over how Kori would be raised, and her father was very reluctant to allow Kori the many artistic freedoms her mother gave her. When her mother lost her younger sister in a miscarriage in the late 1980's, nether Kori's father nor grandmother offered any support. "It's one of my earlier memories." Says Kori. "Perhaps that's the reason why I'm so fanatical about those I care about. Once every other year, I have nightmares about my sister."
"When times were tough, Mama was really all I had to turn to." Recalls Kori. "Sometimes though, if Mama was really upset, we'd go visit my Great-Grandpa (Maternal Grandfather's father) and soon his brother and sister would come over, and we'd look through the family album, or talk about things. I miss those days."
Kori's father would constantly argue with her mother, and would even parade other women past mother and child.
"I often turned to cartoons and wrestling for comfort." Recalls the cartoonist. "There were times, that my father would make me angry, so for an hour here or there, I would drown out my frustrations with shows about superheroes or the ever sarcastic Bugs Bunny. It kept me sane."
Perhaps one of the biggest inspirations for Kori came with the birth of her younger brother, Orion in February of 1992. "From the moment I could talk, I kept telling my parents that I needed my baby brother. Nobody believed a word I said when I insisted that my little brother was coming along." Koriander recalls. To this day, the cartoonist looks after her brother, and credits him with her more innocent jokes.
When Kori was five, her father sent her screaming into the public school system, insistent that Kori renounce her "gypsy like" ways and become a "normal" little girl. Immediately, Kori found out that the "normal" way is not "her" way at all. This was also where she was formally introduced to the worst crime of humanity, racism.
Koriander was born of mixed race, and many of her teachers could not deal with it. Kori had to deal with teachers and faculty making racist jokes at Thanksgiving time about Native Americans, and was usually given low quality school supplies because of her "urban ethnicity".
"It was insane." The cartoonist says with a huff. "I was too light for some people, and too dark for everyone else. I had expected teasing and taunting from the other children, but my own teachers?"
Making matters worse was Kori's rapid growth. She would reach her adult height by the time she was 12 years old. "My mother had me tested for gigantism many times, because of how fast I grew. There were many times Mama would put me in a long t-shirt before bed, only to cut me out of it in the middle of the night, because I outgrew the collar in my sleep and was being choked." The teasing at school only got worse. "I was called green-bean, Gulliver, all sorts of names because of my tall, lanky frame. You would probably never guess that I'm just 5'4." She laughs.
When Kori was six years old, her father abruptly moved the family from Indiana to Virginia. "I was devastated." Says Koriander. "The first move wasn't really so bad, since I was only moving 10 minutes from my old home. But moving to Virginia? I was leaving my family in Chicagoland, almost everyone I ever knew at that point, to travel 1000 miles away, because my father wanted a promotion. I knew in my heart, a lot of my family I'd never see again."
Sadly, Koriander was right. Much of her closest family died long before the little cartoonist could ever come home. "It really makes me appreciate my surviving family more, even though I don't always get to see them. I have a big family, but it's not the same as having the ones I lost back again."
Kori lived near a military base on Virginia Beach for almost a full year. She was one of five children on her block, whose parents were NOT involved with either the Military or the Navy. Kori was often teased because of how much time she got to spend with her own mother, while the mothers of other children were either ensconced in the PTA full time, or training with the Navy. "I hated the teasing, but considering where I was at the time, there was little I could say. Not that I didn't try though." Kori says with a mischievous look. Still, the teasing about Kori's color and size only got worse, especially after her mother was kicked out of the PTA, after bringing in the "wrong" snacks for the Halloween party. "Oh geez, it was only Jell-O with upside down gummy fish in it. I liked Mama's Dead Fish Jell-O."
The Glenwood school in Virginia Beach however did have a few people who noticed little Kori's talents. She was soon enrolled in the gifted program, and was attending classes at the Old Dominion University. "I had so much fun!" She smiles, recalling her college days. "I was on par, sometimes even smarter than my 18-22 year old peers, and my teacher there had the most brilliant discussions with me. He was the only one that didn't make fun of me for liking Power Rangers."
In 1994, Kori's father's company was bought out. He was then forced to move the family to New Jersey. Kori and her mother had picked out a lovely house near Parsippany, but as they returned one final time to pack their things and move, Manuela received a life changing phone call...
"The landlord gave away our new house from under us, to a single, Caucasian mother, as soon as we had boarded the plane back to Virginia." Huffs the cartoonist. When asked what had gone wrong, the would-be landlord replied that the "new" tenant's physical features better matched the neighborhood.
An emergency phone call was made. The Ake family's belongings were stuffed into a storage facility, and Kori would spend the next four months living in a hotel room in Wayne, New Jersey.
"Whenever I asked my dad about why we were cramped up at the Wayne Holiday Inn" Kori recalls. "He would tell me to be grateful, because it was a roof over my head. And even though the room service was non-existent, save but for two maids who spoke no English, he would always tell me how lucky I was, because most children never get to live in hotels. I didn't realize until I was 15 that I was homeless those four months."
Kori and Manuela often dragged Orion (then 2) on one house hunt after another. Many real estate agents would give up on Manuela after a while, figuring that she was "too urban" for specific neighborhoods. Finally, at the fourth month, an agent named Bea from the Prudential agency, found the family an apartment in Wharton.
"She was really our angel. I'm still very thankful Bea helped us move out of the hotel." Smiles Kori. "Even better, she found us the best landlord in the world!" Kori's apartment was a renovated barn, tucked behind the Sussex Meat Packing Company. She and her mother befriended owner Dirk and his kin, and to this day speak very highly of his garlic chicken and his cheddar bratwurst.
The move to Wharton would also see another life changing event for Kori. Her new school at first wouldn't let her enter the second grade, because they didn't accept her out of state paperwork. She would spend the last of the summer in a remedial class, redoing the first grade the "New Jersey" way.
"I thought I was having a nightmare." Recalls Koriander. "In one state, I was doing light college work, and was being labeled a smart kid. In the next state, I was suddenly deemed not good enough?"
But when she was at last allowed into the second grade, her life turned upside down.
Kori became the victim of bullying. It was no longer an issue of teasing and name-calling, however. "I was beaten, every day." She recalls. "I was the tallest girl in my class. I was also the smartest. And again my ethnicity was brought up." Worse still, her new teacher was not fully trained. "They let her teach because she was blonde. I was correcting her every other class, so now I was smarter than the teacher. I might as well have worn a bulls-eye at that point." Says Koriander.
Kori was reluctant to fight back, fearing that she would only stoop to her attackers' level. But in late Spring of 1995, Kori's health took a sudden turn.
"The fight started on the playground, and soon escalated to the parking lot, because I tried to run back to the school building for help." Kori recalls. One of the children had tripped her, and then a large number of children began beating her into the ground. She was left with her head propped, so that she was facing the school building's clock. One of the children teased that they wanted her to know how long it would take for anyone to find her.
It took 20 minutes.
"I had sand in one eye, my other eye was blacked out. Everything hurt and I couldn't move. After 20 minutes, the custodian came outside, but she hated me too, again because I am mixed race. She refused to reach down and help me back up."
"It took all my strength just to stand up. I hobbled over to the school building, threw up and passed out."
Initially the school nurse claimed that Kori only had a bump on the head and a black eye. But when the child complained that her head was pounding and she couldn't even keep water down, Manuela rushed Kori to the hospital. The prognosis was much worse than either of them realized.
Kori had suffered a grade 2 concussion and deep spinal bruising. Her injuries were so severe, she almost lost her kidney. The doctor at the local hospital told her mother she was lucky to be alive. "There was a footprint on my back from the boy who had been left back a few years. The doctor said that if he had kicked me just 2 centimeters the other way, I would have been paralyzed from the waist down."
Manuela made the decision to homeschool Kori, as she had planned from the beginning. It was a grueling process to get through the legal mess that existed at the time for homeschooling parents, but one Manuela doesn't regret.
Her parents often fought over this, and Kori once again threw herself into cartoons and wrestling. "Back then, Mama and I stayed up late so we could watch ECW." Kori smiles. "ECW was comprised of misfit wrestlers, who found it hard to get through regular life. Watching guys like Raven and Tommy Dreamer, showed me that I can be a misfit, I can be society's little outcast, and I can STILL be somebody. Those ECW guys made everything Okay. That's really all I wanted back then, was for everything in my life to be okay."
Another thing she would watch was Sailormoon. "My mother is responsible for getting me involved with Sailormoon." Says Kori, flashing her Sailor Chibi Moon Plushy. "It was a series about a princess, who spends more time saving the prince than the other way around, but at the same time Sailormoon doesn't cram "Girl Power" down my throat, and the main character is klutzy, someone I could relate to." The cult classic anime from Japan, opened Kori's eyes to a new art form.
In 1996, Kori and family were moved to a gated community, on a golf course in Reading, Pennsylvania. The Flying Hills board would spend the next three years making life miserable for the family. "The day we moved in, my dad stormed inside the house, furious. Our neighbor had asked him how much he wanted for the domestic. He screamed : That's no domestic, THAT'S MY WIFE. It was one of the only times he stood up for Mama." Remembers Kori. Her elder neighbors hounded her parents, but surprisingly enough, their children stood up for she and her mother. "We had W.A.S.P.s and Neo-Nazi's on our block." Reveals Kori with a surprisingly blank face. "Oddly enough, it was the Neo-Nazi's that looked out for me, and eventually they stopped being racist. All they cared about was skateboarding. It was their W.A.S.P. parents I had to fear."
1996 was also the year that Kori would find her calling in life. Until this time, Kori had dreamed of going into politics as the first female, mixed race president. But after watching the '96 primaries, Kori's political dreams were halted. "In order to be a good politician, you have to learn to stab people in the back. You also have to learn to live without your friends and family." Says Koriander. "I couldn't do that. At the time there were very few politicians who could make time for their children. I didn't want to alienate my family for my career."
Kori had started making small flip books and cartoon strips for her own amusement. "There was one day." Says Kori. "I had showed Orion a cartoon I drew. He laughed for hours at the little cartoon, and then announced that forevermore, I am his cartoonist. I thought that was a very big word for a four year old to know."
But it wound up being the right word. Kori was her happiest drawing, so right away she started studying the works of Charles Schultz, Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, and Bill Watterson. Over the next few years, she would make time to study the biographies of many more cartoonists, at last happy she had found her dream.
Also of inspiration was a little known video game, titled Bomberman Hero. "In the game, you play as Bomberman White (I nicknamed him Shiro.), and you have to save Princess Millian." Says Kori, showing the booklet for the N64 game. "Her eyes were what got me. She has that beautiful anime style, prevalent in many games of that genre, but at the same time, her design is so simple. It was practicing drawing her eyes that led me to the main style I have today."
Koriander still missed Chicagoland, but after three years in Reading, she had just about given up hope that she'd ever see her beloved hometown again. And that's when it happened.
Manuela received a phone call from their landlord, Fran. Fran had just sold her house, and wanted to move into her favorite property. Kori's.
"When it happened, we were poor, and totally unprepared for another move." Recalls Kori. "But it turned out to be a blessing, disguised as a crisis." Manuela finally put her foot down. The family was moving home.
Kori was now 12 years old, and considered herself big enough to help her mother pack up their entire three story house into two trucks. Her mother at first insisted that Kori stay out of "adult matters" but since Kori was already overcompensating for her father's reluctant laziness about the house, Manuela conceded. "My father always pretends that as long as he goes to his little job, bosses his co-workers into doing his labor for him, and then come home with a paycheck that he's automatically "dad of the century" Snorts Kori. "He's never really cared about my brother and I, so whenever Mama would go out to pay bills or get groceries, I was always second in command. For a while, my parents called me "Mom junior" because I spent more time raising my brother than our own father did."
Manuela scored the cheapest house in the Illinois suburbs. At $950 a month. No other landlord would even deal with Manuela, who was doing her business with them via former classmates' cell phones. The family could not afford $950 every month, but somehow made do.
"We spent three solid days on the road, only to wind up in a shack." Says Kori, coldly. For the next seven years, the family would be crammed into a one bedroom shack. It was falling apart, and the landlord hounded the Akes for more money. "There were days we had to choose between food and water. We had a lot of hungry days those seven years." Recalls the cartoonist. But her unsafe new home in a shady neighborhood was the least of her problems.
In the summer of 1999, Orion had started swelling in his knees and ankles. Pediatricians at first ignored his cries of pain, calling him a "crybaby". But one afternoon, he collapsed.
"I was out at the time." Begins Kori. "Mama said he was running back and forth, and then suddenly he fell down, screaming that his knees wouldn't work anymore." Orion was rushed to Children's Memorial in Oak Park.
"I was a nervous wreck." Recalls Kori. "The first thing the doctor says is "Oh? He's got puffy knees? Meh. It could be AIDS. It could be Lupus. Maybe Cancer. I don't know. You know he could die if it is, right? Sit tight lemme test him." He said all of this like he was running down a grocery list" The family sat with bated breath for 18 hours. Finally, a nurse came in to turn out the lights on their room. "Oh you're still here? He's got arthritis. Take two of these and call me in the morning." Is how the nurse broke the news that Orion had Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis.
"That's it?? Is all my brother could say. He was more upset that the doctor had scared us all out of our wits than the fact that he has JRA." Remembers Kori. Orion would undergo extreme tests and experimental drugs, before finally being accepted at Shriner's Hospital in Oak Park. "The people at Shriner's helped my brother walk again. I'm forever grateful to them for giving my brother back his childhood."
Kori's teen years were filled with bitter arguments with her father. "When I was almost 10, I had started my first website. He hacked me. A year later I started a second page. He hacked that too. He broke every computer I ever got my hands on, and then had the nerve to tell ME that I should respect him for that, because I have no right to have ANY emotions towards my computers, files or any other inanimate belonging I have. To this day, we don't have a relationship, and when you ask him why, he says it's all my fault and Mama's fault for letting me get ideas from reading her books."
Kori had started hunting for work before she was even old enough to drive. But with the horrible economy started by then President Bush, Kori would have to endure poverty throughout her teens. She spent many days reading books of all sizes, determined to find a way out.
"I finished the last textbook in the house when I was 17." Says Kori. "I thought this was the day I had graduated High School. But then when I was finished gloating, my mother corrected me. I had read my last High School book at age 14. The remaining three years I was doing college work."
But finishing school early did nothing to raise Kori's status in the community, or her family. "From the time I was six, I just wanted to go home." Sighs Kori. "But when I got home, the surviving family I had didn't really want much to do with me anymore, because I had been gone for so long. In my teens, I always heard about how great all my cousins were, how awesome their schools were, but nobody cared about my school achievements, because I was homeschooled and therefore an outcast. I can't remember being so lonely outside of that time." But her loneliness would soon change...
In the early days of 2005, Kori first heard about an upstart Indy promotion called Ring of Honor. "I remember an interview Mick Foley did, where he said how he adored this little place called ROH." Having previously met Mick back in the summer of 2001, Kori was wise enough to look into what Mick had said. A date was set for Chicago Ridge, February 26th, 2005. Manuela ventured forth to the Frontier Fieldhouse, to see about the show. She returned with tickets and a flyer, announcing that Bobby "The Brain" Heenan would be making an appearance.
Kori's very first time attending a live wrestling show, would go on to change the course of her life for the better. "I can't believe how many people I can honestly say I knew before they were household names." She says with color splashing her cheeks. "Little kids at the store often talk about C.M. Punk and Samoa Joe. You should see their faces when I tell them that I've met them."
C.M. Punk is of course a large influence in Kori's household. "When my brother was nine, our dad got drunk and tried getting Orion to drink too. Orion refused, saying that he hated the smell, and he wanted to live a clean life." Recalls Kori. "My dad, and soon his side of the family laughed at Orion, telling him that real men hold their liquor. Two weeks later, we saw C.M. Punk on TV on an Indy taping called MLW (Major League Wrestling). When Orion saw that Punk was a Straight-Edge wrestler from Chicago, it gave him the courage to stay clean. Years later, when we were at our first ROH taping, he got a chance to meet Punk while Punk was getting ready to face Jimmy Rave. Orion was so stoked. Not only did he meet someone who gave him a voice, he also got to swap beard tips."
Starting in 2005, Koriander has made it a point to befriend wrestlers from all walks of life. "My favorite thing to tell them... is thank you." She says. "They take away the pain, they make me happy. Those guys put their bodies on the line so that their fans can be happy. They're some of my favorite people to draw."
Kori has also been rescued by wrestlers. "My first show, Bryan Danielson and Homicide took their fight to the crowd." Kori recalls. "There were too many people gunning in my direction, I was nearly trampled. But just in the nick of time, a young boy swooped in and saved me. I had no clue at the time that he was a student at the ROH school. All I knew was that this kid named Bobby Dempsey saved my life. Nowadays he's talked about in Pro Wrestling Illustrated!"
Kori's honor has also been protected. "There was one show, where KENTA-san had beaten Bryan (Danielson) in a match. After the show, I was talking to Bryan, when suddenly KENTA-san walked by. He made a comment. I couldn't hear what he said over the crowd, but Bryan could. He whipped around, threw his arm over me and yelled "NUH-UH!! She's NOT that kind of girl! You leave this girl alone, her mom plays with (Samoa) JOE!!" Kenta turned pale, and Bryan made sure I was safe." Though the cartoonist insists that KENTA was more than likely just joking.
2005 also saw the debut of Kori's third website, Moon Sisters. "At the time, most US Sailormoon fans really hadn't seen all of the anime, nor had they seen the whole manga. Thereâ€™s one character in particular that I adore, Kousagi Tsukino, who is Chibiusa's baby sister." Kori says. "I really wanted to devote a new website to the children of Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask, since at the time, there really wasn't much for Kousagi out there."
For years, Kori had signed up for Sailormoon sites, under the popular moniker "Sailor Earth" But after many death threats from men and women in their late 40's who also wanted to be Sailor Earth, Kori was scared into a corner. Nonetheless, she was determined to do this website.
Adding to her stress was a week long visit from her verbally abusive grandmother. "I love her dearly, but she criticizes my every move." Groans Kori. "My dad also needed my computer, having purposely breaking his own machine. My dad and grandmother have never gotten along, and always force Mama to pick sides. I was babysitting four children at this point, and only ONE of them was a true minor." Choosing to view her home life as just a test, Kori made her decision. "My schedule was simple. Wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning, spend a little time with Mama and my grandmother until they leave for my grandmother's legal appointment, get my dad out of the house, tape morning cartoons for Orion, work on Moon Sisters until 10:30, eat breakfast, do house chores, spend more time with my grandmother, help Orion with his studies, eat lunch, work on Moon Sisters again, referee the daily fight between the three adult toddlers, try and survive supper, squeeze in time for wrestling, referee the nightly fight between Mama and my grandmother, console my brother, squeeze in a little time with him, take a shower, and go to bed around 2:30. I probably spent less than five hours total sleeping that week."
Despite the hardships, Kori (Now known as Codename Sailor Earth) launched Moon Sisters on February 18th, 2005.
2006 would see another life changing event. On April 1st, Kori would meet one of her best friends, a wrestler turned director named Jason Saint. "We met at an ROH show, one night before WrestleMania." Recalls Kori. "We watched Pelle Premeau go head to head with Derrick Dempsey. Jason was like "THIS IS THE BEST MATCH EVER" and I was like "Settle down, itâ€™s only the pre-show." The next day, he went to WrestleMania, while I was reading the text transcripts. My first email to him read "OKAY! We have half naked McMahon, Spirit Squad, HBK, Shane O'Mac and a ladder, GO!" We've been best friends ever since." Saint has since gone on to produce several independent movies.
2006 also saw an increase in the family's revenue. They could now afford to purchase a home. However, it would take the family six months before finally landing a home in Indiana.
"We had one shyster after another." Recalls Kori. "So many of the homes should be torn down due to the decay, my current home is even questionable."
After the grueling move, Kori briefly landed a job, advising teachers and selling school supplies. "I sincerely hate most public school teachers." Kori jokes. "So many of them would come up to me, asking if I sold anything easier than flash cards. At times, I wanted to paint "REMEDIAL" over the words "School Stuff" because of the insanity of it all." Kori would often walk home with migraines, something she had suffered since childhood, which was now getting worse. "I really did try to give it my all. I was getting rave reviews from my employer, so I thought I could make it work."
All that changed when Kori started being stalked. A man in his early 50's began shoplifting at her store, and leaving adult products for her while she was at lunch. "I told my boss what was going on. She told me to keep letting him in, and that maybe he'd apologize and return the goods he stole." Hoping for an answer, Kori turned to her best friend, Jason. "Jason told me to quit before something ugly happens." She recalls. "Jason told me that if I didn't get out, this man would only come more often. I was risking being raped or murdered. When he said that, it brought me back down to planet Earth in a hurry. My mother helped me pen a resignation letter, and I quit the very next day."
On the day she picked up her final check, Kori was harassed by a co-worker, who screamed how "unfair" it was that Kori had quit, dumping her work on other co-workers. "I was even told by these people that stalkers aren't bad people, and maybe I should have tried harder to befriend mine." Her former employers were convinced that by cutting Kori's "high cost" of $6.75 an hour, that they could better invest company finances for a bigger venture. They went out of business just months after Kori's release.
The economy once more snuck up on Kori. Over the course of the next 3 years, Kori would hand in her application to hundreds of employers. Out of each hundred, 55 would go out of business.
"After I was turned down for the fifth time at McDonald's" Kori chuckles. "I took it as a sign. So I decided to start getting serious about cartooning." Koriander credits her friends with inspiring her to never give up on her dream, and her mother for supplying her with what she needed, even at the expense of her own enjoyment.
"Indy wrestling is the backbone of professional wrestling. Without them, there are no stars. It's something we need to preserve." Says Kori. A majority of her work is based on Independent wrestlers. She's also a well known animator on YouTube (under the Codename Sailor Earth moniker) and tags her closest friends in her cartoons on MySpace. "I figure if I'm going to draw specific wrestlers, they should be the first to know." She says, smiling.
And draw she does. In the fall of 2008, she began posting cartoons of her favorite wrestlers on YouTube, then on MySpace in 2009.
"I've titled my series ChairshotZ." She says, reaching for a sketch. "Most wrestling cartoons are drawn with exaggerated features, and oftentimes people look down on wrestlers. It's movies like 2009's The Wrestler that paint a dim portrait of the sport. I'd like to show the lighter side of it. The warmth I feel. It's my way of giving back to the sport that made everything okay for me as a child."
While she takes inspiration from all over the Independent scene, several key wrestlers are credited for keeping her dream alive. "The first two wrestlers to encourage my artwork have been Colt (Cabana) and Bryan (Danielson) those two didn't give up on me. And after them has come the support of most of Pro Wrestling Respect, ROH and even friends from DragonGate and a few branches from the NWA."
In 2013, she moved to London, Kentucky. On September 27th, 2014, she married her best friend of five years, John Bullard, who himself has been a wrestler, promoter and musician. "John has always been my most supportive companion." Starts Koriander. "He's been with me through thick and thin. Without him, I don't think I'd be here talking to you at all. he is my rock."
When she's not providing social commentary on her blog, Koriander is often found playing video games or tending to her websites. Once every so often, she attends independent wrestling events. She often updates her beloved wrestlers, and loves to share jokes with them. And aside from her wrestling themed cartoon, Koriander is also working on a children's book, and several adult manuscripts, one of which will be a detailed account of her life. "It is my dream to be a world beloved and well paid cartoonist." She says as she whips out her pen and paper.
"I hope to achieve that status very soon."
In April of 2015, Koriander published her first book, "Wrestling Between Ake and Bullard" which goes through her early works, from the time she was Koriander Ake, until she became Koriander Bullard. The book is available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle. The 60 page, full color art book, is the world's very first Wrestling-Cartoon art book to ever be published on CreateSpace.
From 2010 to 2014, she was a constant target for internet hate, and survived several hackings, doxxings and public shaming. Never backing down, she continues to live her life head strong, and wishes to inspire others to never back down. Her story is available on The UnSlut Project.