Discovering Independent Comics
I am still learning my way around the current landscape of the comic industry and one thing seems missing to me, the presence of black characters and black creators. Granted, I know a small portion of all there is, so there may be vast armies of both that I have yet to discover. Early indications don’t support that, at least no in the mainstream.
A quick side point, I know that the proper term is African American, but there seems to be a dearth African Africans or African Europeans as well, both as creators and characters – especially heroes. So, for simplicity, I am not so politically correct. Hopefully I don’t offend too many.
Recently I spent a weekend at Wizard World Chicago, the comic con in the Windy City. One of the striking features of this event was the large proportion of independent creators in Artists Alley that were black. The underground appears to be abounding in black comic creators and black characters.
I took the time to hang out with a few of them, to get to know what they were creating and why. Brian Williams proved the most fascinating to me and his superhero Lucius Hammer really caught my attention. The first full issue is yet to come but his rough cut preview impressed me. Great art and astounding writing filled the pages.
Intriguingly, both the origin tale of Lucius and the letter from Williams at the end address the absence of or at least the limited presence of black superheroes.
Williams raves about his discovery of Luke Cage, aka Powerman of the Marvel Universe, when he was child and how that shaped his love for comics, his hope for comics and his desire to create comics. I too remember Luke Cage from my early days reading comics. He was one of the reasons that I kept reading. He truly was one of the coolest characters, both as a hero and a person to grace the pages of comics in my formative years.
While speaking with Williams, I remembered an interview with Whoopi Goldberg in the movie “Finding Debra Winger” (well worth the rental fee if you haven’t seen it yet; seriously, as soon as you finish reading this, go watch it.) She talks about seeing Star Trek on TV when she was young and telling her mom to come see this black lady (Lt. Uhura) on the show “and she’s not even anybody’s maid.” The striking inspiration of that character in her life moved me. Artists and writers have the opportunity to inspire even if they aren’t creating high art. Williams’ love for Luke Cage echoes the power of art to change lives.
That makes me even more desirous for there to be greater diversity of characters and creators. Who knows who will be inspired next? Who knows what will be the revelation or inspiration to some kid that they have a shot at something more than what they see in front of them.
And by the way, tell your local purveyor of comics that they need to get copies of Lucius Hammer on the shelves.