I’m not an avid comic book reader but I do have a series or two that I follow. My husband on the other hand is a reader and collector. He was 10 years old when he brought his first comic book. It was 50 cents at the time. He doesn’t remember the name of the book. What he does remember, is his mother throwing out three boxes of comics because she thought they were unsanitary and would draw insects into his room. (LOL! Man that old school mentality.) Sadly, he had over 300 of them. (Such a waste, SIGH…)
Through the years he amassed a pretty impressive batch of high-end books. Among them are The X-Men, Amazing Spiderman, Wolverine and The Incredible Hulk. Before we were married, he would visit Midtown Comics (NY) every week. Something major was always coming out. (I was somewhat guilty of that too. (Totally loved Michael Turner’s Fathom series; still do!) I think my hubby was a bad influence on me.J) Of course, as life intervened, the visits grew less frequent.
Recently, he started to rebuild his collection. In addition to the regulars listed above, he made it a point to start collecting comics that featured black characters (superheroes, supervillains, a president etc.) such as:
Fantastic Four #52, First Appearance of the Black Panther
(King of Wakanda, Africa)
Hero for Hire #1, First Appearance of Luke Cage
Green Lantern #87, First Appearance of a black Green Lantern
Captain America #117, First Appearance of The Falcon
Iron Man #282, First Appearance of War Machine (Jim Rhodes)
X-Factor #6, First Appearance of Apocalypse (Origins in Egypt)
Amazing Spiderman #583, First Appearance of
As I “gingerly” reviewed my hubby’s collection, a question came to mind. ‘With all the issues that are currently going on with multicultural literature, how was the comic book industry affected by multiculturalism in the past?’
From what I have come across so far, superhero comics also endured a number of challenges and obstacles. Black characters were often stereotyped and placed in jungle or ghetto environments or placed in the role of sidekicks. Not to mention being portrayed as poor and uneducated; with negative physical characteristics. A lot of this also rolled over into the very cartoons I watched as a child. Disney and Looney Tunes were influenced by this in their early years.
There was a battle to remove those stereotypes by portraying black characters in positions of authority. Such as Marvel’s, Black Panther listed above and DC Comics’ first black superheroes Tyroc in 1976 and Black Lightning in 1977. (He was an Olympic athlete turned inner-city school teacher.) Or better yet The X-Men’s Storm (Ororo Munroe), first black female comic book character (debuted in 1975; she becomes the leader of the X-Men in Uncanny X-Men #201 in 1986). One of my favorites J
Dwayne McDuffie, (February 20, 1962 – February 21, 2011) founder of Milestone Media “the industry’s most successful minority-owned-and-operated comic company,” (As described by The Plain Dealer of Cleveland in 2000) said in a New York Times interview in 1993:
“You only had two types of characters available for children.” [When he was growing up.] “You had the stupid angry brute and the he’s-smart-but-he’s-black characters.”… “There was no diversity and almost no accuracy among the characters of color at all.”
It is not surprising to see that no matter the form of literature, there has always been an issue with the portrayal of people of color. How long will this continue? Only God has an answer for that.
Unfortunately, not everyone understands that talent has no color. Your ability to create prose or give a story life through art has nothing to do with your culture, race or background. Talent is a calling and a blessing; a way of self-expression that has been employed for hundreds of years.
Are you an illustrator or perhaps a double-threat (an illustrator and a writer), who has worked on a multicultural piece of literature? Whether it is a children’s book, comic book etc., I would love to hear about your experiences. Continue the good fight!
Mari e laipe and See you soon!