The tragedy of one moment of police brutality was a wake-up call for many Americans – except the Black Americans who have experienced such treatment for generations in this country. Seeing our people try and come together to fight a pandemic to being ripped apart by an act of government sanctioned violence has galvanized our citizens and our humanity.
People are looking more to Black creators to learn more about what their experiences are like, to try and understand – even a little bit – what it’s like to be Black in America.
Rather than a normal review this week, I’m going to recommend a handful of Black writers and artists you can patronize. Some are friends, others are creators I have learned from, others are long-time members of the comics community, all are great choices for exploring the black community and their experiences.
We are still fighting Covid-19, but we must now find it in all of us to fight another virus that has been with us for far longer: racism. By reading works by the creators below, you are not only supporting some great people, you are also giving yourself the opportunity to open your world to voices and experiences you may not have been aware of before. And that’s the true benefit of diversity – learning and sharing experiences from others in order to enrich ourselves, making us better people, better Americans, and better human beings.
Jacques Nyemb is the writer and publisher of NOT SO SUPER PUBLISHING, an independent publisher of comics and children’s books covering a wide range of genres and audiences. Stories available include a superhero tale set in 1950s America when interracial marriage was illegal, food-based superheroes, and a storybook about a brave girl who takes on her the monster in her closet by herself. Nyemb is an enthusiastic writer with more stories to tell than time it seems. A new anthology is due soon, featuring art from a variety of artists*, featuring a Twilight Zone-like series of single-page stories. As of the writing of this article, Nyemb was offering a special DigiPak of every publication released through NSSP to date for just $10
Jamar Nicholas is an educator, graphic designer, and longtime writer and artist who is known for such notable works as Detective Boogaloo and Leon: Protector of the Playground. In 1995 Nicholas adapted Geoffrey Canada’s memoir Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun into an award-winning graphic novel. Released in 2017, Leon: Protector of the Playground has won several awards, including the Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics. Leon is a young hero with a lot of work to do to keep the school playground safe from villains like Broccoli Rob and Urine Nathan. You can learn more about Jamar and his works here, or support him directly via his Patreon page.
Jamal Igle stared drawing comics professionally right out of high school and – despite a brief break working in animation – hasn’t looked back. He has drawn such iconic characters as Nightwing, the New Warriors, G. I. Joe, Spider-Man, Green Lantern, and Superman. Igle’s rise to prominence was cemented with his work on Firestorm followed quickly by a fan-favorite run on Supergirl with writer Sterling Gates. His run on Supergirl is back in the public’s notice as it has been referenced for many key moments in the CW’s Supergirl television show. Igle has moved on to creator owned projects, including drawing BLACK for Black Mask Studios, and his own MOLLY DANGER comic series. He is currently working on a MOLLY DANGER sequel. You can find more about Igle’s work on his website.
Brian is a longtime comic artist, painter, and teacher, perhaps best known for a long run of covers for DC’s Batman Shadow of the Bat. Brian mostly works in paints, but his layouts and designs are always dynamic and rooted in a classic eye with an almost art deco style. One only needs to take a look at the length of the lines around his table at shows to know just how much he has influenced a generation of artists and readers. Most recently Stelfreeze worked with Ta-nehisi Coates in revitalizing Black Panther for Marvel Comics prior to the character’s introduction into the company’s cinematic universe. Stelfreeze’s designs were the basis for the film’s costume designs, which won an Oscar in 2019. Follow him on Twitter.
Julian Lytle is a longtime artist, blogger, podcaster, and cartoonist based in the Washington, DC area. He is also a respected scholar of comics history in the fandom community. He is often referred to by some (including Mister Miracle writer Tom King) as one of the most knowledgeable minds on Jack Kirby’s Fourth World. Lytle regularly writes about comics, films, and music for his blog, and talks about them for his Ignorant Bliss and Culture Trappin’ podcasts. When he isn’t studying comics and pop culture, he is influencing them with his artwork, including his webcomic Ants. You can find all of Julian’s work at his homepage.
Ta-Nehisi Coates is well known as a scholar and best-selling author, but not everyone is aware of his pop-culture gravitas. Several years ago, Marvel Comics approached the writer to revitalize one of their “second tier” characters, and Coates agreed. Joined by fan-favorite artist Brian Stelfreeze, the book was an immediate hit, and Black Panther was launched into must-read status. The success of the book cemented the need for him to be included in the growing MCU, based largely on Coates’ work on the character. Coates has since also written a long stint on another flagship Marvel book, Captain America, in a story than in many ways foretold our current situations. Coates is an important author to study regardless, but to do so through characters like T’Challa and Steve Rogers makes his work even more intriguing.
Shawn Pryor, once the president of a small comic book publishing company, now writes and self-publishes his own works. Like Nyemb, Pryor crafts stories that cross multiple genres and audiences. Pryor’s books include Kentucky Kaiju, a field guide to the monsters of Kentucky, FORCE, a sports drama about the difficulties of off-field life for elite athletes, and Cash & Carrie, an all ages series featuring a pair of junior high detectives in the mold of Encyclopedia Brown. Pryor is a natural storyteller, one especially aware of the importance of young audiences, and many of his works are age appropriate. His latest project, IGNITION, features a young woman on the rise in the racing circuit when a tragedy strikes. Will she risk everything to get back what she once had – and what she once wanted? Follow Pryor on Twitter for more.
Loading Snacks is a small group of Pop Culture fans based around Washington, DC that covers comics, gaming, movies, and wrestling. Hosts Gage, Jokes, and Sin cover these topics from your normal focus of fans with great enthusiasm. However, they also talk in depth about each subject from a focus of inclusion for Blacks and people of color, but also inclusion from them as well. Usually funny, often insightful, and never ones to shy away from difficult topics, Loading Snacks recognize the importance of popular culture in being a key bridge in bringing people together in finding common ground. Their name in part comes from a rather goofy series in which they sample – and grade – rather unique snacks such as soda flavored like mustard or mints that taste like bacon. Staples at conventions across the mid-Atlantic region, you can follow them via their YouTube channel.
Dwayne McDuffie passed tragically in 2011 during an operation, and left behind a legacy of amazing stories that elevated a medium. As one of the founders of Milesone, McDuffie created Static (better known as Static Shock) and Milestone, whom have since been featured in various DC comics. McDuffie had a tremendous run on Marvel’s long running Fantastic Four, and created the property Damage Control, recently added to the MCU in Spider-Man Homecoming. McDuffie is probably best known as one of the guiding forces behind the Justice League/Justice League Unlimited cartoon, having written, produced, or edited two-thirds of the series. His work on the series has been cited as an influence on many young creators today. McDuffie is remembered and honored today through two awards that bear his name, the Dwayne McDuffie Award for Kids’ Comics, given out at the Ann Arbor Comic Arts Festival, and the Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics, awarded annually by the Long Beach Comic Expo.
Check out the creators’ individual websites and your local comic shop for books by many of the creators above. A selection of their works is also available in a curated list via BOOKSHOP.ORG. The ICRVN is an affiliate of Bookshop.org and purchasing books via links from our page helps support the ICRVN and DFP.
*Full disclosure, I am one of the artists included in Jacques Nyemb’s upcoming anthology.