by Sheena C. Howard, from Fulcrum Publishing. Review copy provided by NetGalley.
I cannot express how needed and necessary this book is, and how much that will continue over the years. In addition to our shelves of graphic novels and rows of long boxes, most comic readers also have a sub section devoted to the history of the medium. Comics is still a niche interest and has come close to extinction numerous times. Fans already have a mindset that the creators and the history needs to be saved before it is lost. Well, get ready fan boys, because the creators and history of Black comics has been even more disrespected and slighted. This book is an eye opener for writers, artists, editors, and the characters they created. I’ve been reading and studying comics for over 30 years and most of this book was brand new information to me. I came out of this book with pages after pages of who and what I want to read next.
Creators that had to hide they are/were Black. Characters that were hugely popular but kept to the Black newspapers or not displayed on the magazine racks in the white part of town. I was amazed by how many of these stories have always been out there, have existed my entire life, but never crossed my path before. This isn’t discovering one new book, one new artist, this is like discovering an entire other planet worth of content.
By all means, buy this book, sit down and read every page. Don’t skim for what is familiar. I learned so much on every page and I would guarantee every other reader will have the same experience. The people I learned about and became the most interested in will not be the same for any other reader. Brandon Easton’s ShadowLaw. Orrin Cromwell Evans and All Negro Comics, the first comic written and drawn by Black artists in 1947. Bertram Fitzgerald and Golden Legacy comics, plus the tie-in with Coca-Cola. Vernon Grant’s A Monster is Loose in Tokyo, possibly the first American artist to use the Japanese manga style. Did you know Krazy Kat, one of the first comic strips to be taken as serious and intellectual – showing that this can be an art form – was created by a Black man, George Herriman.
Joseph Illidge and Solarman. Jay Jackson worked for the Chicago Defender, an African American newspaper, and helped preserve the history of Black cartoonists while looking through the Defender’s archives. John Jennings The Hole: Consumer Culture a scifi story about the buying and selling of a group’s culture. “Scifi” indeed.
Jackie Ormes’s Torchy! This is the biggest omission from popular culture. The first African American woman cartoonist. Successful strip. And so popular her work leads to the “first upscale African American doll, Patty-Jo in 1947.
If I keep going I’ll repeat the entire book. A book I will look at again and again. A book that will inspire many future pieces. A book that already has me digging through libraries and archives to find more works from the names mentioned within. It also makes me wonder what else is left unrecognized by white culture. LBGT, Asian, Hispanic, Native, and more and more.
This is more than an Encyclopedia. It’s a giant foundation upon which other works of research and inspired creations will be built.