BLIND SPOT in Black History Month

Afro Super Heroes Can Fill Black Pride Gap

By Thomas L Blair 29 October 2016 ©

Courtesy Jon Daniel
Courtesy Jon Daniel

Comics with a Black Perspective are valuable additions to Black History. They promote reading through pictures and make kids smarter. And can’t be beat for pride-inducing social commentaries. Our expert review tells you why. Here’s  Part One.

Afro Super Heroes are on the rise in the Black World — USA, Caribbean, Latin America and Africa. Everywhere, comic images in strip cartoons add “our own national cultures, needs and identity”.

This identity factor is nothing new. White American comic book super heroes have mirrored their ethnic and nation’s image of itself since World War II. Fearless Superman fought Japanese saboteurs in the 1940s. Batman fought crime in Metropolis, the mythical US city. Barbie-doll-like Wonder Woman saved her tribe of Amazons from the villainess Strife, who sowed confusion and collective murder among them.

Invincible Afro Super Heroes pose a new demand for “our own heroes with our own cultural identity”. This emphasis on indigenous Black action makes Black comics a prime form of social commentary. Here are some of the most exciting examples I have discovered, and presented by topics and global spread.

Black Action Heroes in the United States of America

Creative designer Jon Daniel’s Afro Supa® Hero chronicles the surge of African American comics (1). They deeply influenced his development as a Black child in Britain, he said. “It should appeal to everyone who dares to use comics to make a difference in the lives of children” he believes. His exhibition has informed and entertained kids and adults at the International Slavery Museum, Liverpool. (2)

Over in Chicago, there’s another avid fan of black-themed comics, but the artist Kerry James Marshall creates them too. His “Rythm Mastr” (1999-present), is a truth-telling saga of life in Bronzeville, Chicago’s “Black Metropolis”.

His Black superheroes go into action armed with the wisdom of the Yoruba gods and a skilful use of Black vernacular English. Bold in conception and execution, Marshall says “I’m trying to produce an epic story of every aspect of people’s lives, from romance to gang violence to poverty to cultural identity”.

Furthermore, Marshall says “All these things have to be wrapped up in a story with black kids at the center …. So at every level of human interaction, they are participating rather than seeing the reflection of what other people are doing.” (3)

Orpheus by comic writer Alex Simmons sends the same powerful message. His Black super hero is the first to work alongside Batman to rid Gotham City of crime and violence. (4)

Countering Racial Stereotypes in Latin America

Many Latin American comic books now reflect the changing political awakening of significant Black populations. They show an acceptance of strong Black images. Moreover, they counter racial stereotypes in the mainstream comic’s media. (5)

Popular Education Trinidad and Toronto

Brown skin, dreadlocked, and local lingo speaking super heroes will soon be hitting store shelves in Toronto, a West Indian enclave in Canada.

A Trinidadian creation, Milky Juice is a “dougla” fusion of African and Indian descent. The heroes reflect the tensions and triumphs of this multi-ethnic nation. Fans hail the female heroine , Jennifer Izengaard, whose ample body type reflects  “what most women in the real world look like, unlike the usual Wonder Woman pinup”, said authors. (6)

Discovering Cultural Heritage Senegal

Afro-super hero comics in Senegal guide schoolchildren through their oral heritage and traditional knowledge. Three pupils Ismail, Dior and Fabrice and their uncle visit natural and cultural sites across the country. (6) Senegal has a library of comic books and graphic novels that is unique. Young readers browse for hard to find, low-cost masterpieces. (7)

Entertaining Black History Nigeria

Nigerian youth are turning to comic books as inexpensive and easily accessible entertainment. Moreover, publishers are fighting to get their attention.

Kids and adults love “Africa’s Avengers” with Guardian Prime. He’s a 25-year old fashion designer by day who uses his extraordinary strength to fight for a better Nigeria. Hilda Avonomemi Moses, a woman from a remote village in Edo state works super-miracles with the spirits. Marcus Chigozie, a privileged but angry teenager moves to trouble spots at supersonic speeds. (8)

Inspiring Children’s Creativity South Africa

Black South African comics opt for “Ordinary super heroes” to encourage participation in the multi-racial nation. Check out ‘Kwezi’, the new comic book series which is getting rave reviews over in South Africa and now world wide. Created by acclaimed artist Loyiso Mkize, 19 year old Kwezi, a typical South African youngster – immersed in popular youth culture – connects with develops a connection with his traditional roots. Teams of authors and artists visit schools, run workshops, and help students create their own comic book cartoons and stories. (9)

Hero comic book publishers are going global too. And Black Super Heroes will be seen as normal soon. Part Two follows shortly

 Online Works cited

  1. Cover Image: Afro Supa® Star Twins © Jon Daniel. Afro Supa® is a registered trademark owned by Jon Daniel. All Rights Reserved. See excerpts at http://afrosupastore.bigcartel.com/product/afro-supa-hero-a6-pocket-book 
  2. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-36284740
  3. https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-how-kerry-james-marshall-became-a-superhero-for-chicago-s-housing-projects
  4. https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=1EIEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA55&lpg=PA55&dq=opponents+of+black+comics&source=bl&ots=_3QbXnOHYn&sig=jYOdW7FE9ROAmN–xtJQ1be2bC4&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi81JbfooDQAhWhK8AKHT-gCxAQ6AEITjAI#v=onepage&q=opponents%20of%20black%20comics&f=false
  5. https://www.wikiwand.com/en/List_of_Latino_superheroes
  6. http://sharenews.com/comic-book-to-feature-caribbean-characters-and-themes/
  7. unesco.org/new/en/…/discovering_sengals_cultural_heritage/
  8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIek5ujPYog
  9. https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=culture+and+comics&oq=culture+and+comics&aqs=chrome..69i57.9006j0j9&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8#q=west+african+comics
  10. https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=culture+and+comics&oq=culture+and+comics&aqs=chrome..69i57.9006j0j9&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8#q=west+african+comics

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