I don’t know if it is the perpetual commentary of the digi-verse that there are no African American or Black comic book heroes in existence or having songstress Phyllis Hyman playing in the background but wherever the muse is rising from I have to address that opaque point of view.
I just read the article on the blogsite Black Like Moi titled Netflix to Bring Us A Black Superhero: It’s About Time. It took me a while to get through the body of the article as the title alone stymied my desire to continue. As the haunting melodies of Ms. Hyman rose and fell in the background, my mind began to spin as I could only imagine the corporate heads of Netflix making the conscious decisions to bring a heroic image to their African American consumers because they have heard their cries over (lo) these many years. The vote was taken in the boardroom, and the Chairman announced, It’s about time! The title of the article conjures the iconic image many have come to know as the Benevolent Master. The one who holds you in bondage, racking your body and soul with pain day in and day out but perhaps on Sunday or Christmas, drops you a warm piece of cornbread with a lil’ honey. It’s about time? What makes this term apropos is that the title sends a strong message that someone other than ourselves will deliver to us cultural icons of heroism as we are either incapable of developing our own or the mythos of strength and courage from our perspectives do not exist. Enough about the title, you get the point.
I took a deep breath and launched into the article. The next mental roadblock came after the description of the hero du jour–Sweet Christmas–Luke Cage (insert your commentary here). The following statement made me wish for a little Patti LaBelle to hold me together. “Luke Cage is a Black superhero, one of the very few Black superheroes around in the comic world.” I would have given the author a pass if I had interpreted his statement to only include Black superheroes in mainstream comic magazines (Marvel, DC, Dark Horse…you know the gang). If that were so, the author would be preachin’ the choir! (Halle Berry!…oops…I meant hallelujah!) It is no secret that Heroes of the darker-hue, minus those from strange distant worlds, are extremely limited. My challenge to the author is the use of the phraseology: in the comic world. Once the world became the landscape, it would be a case of negligence if I didn’t blow away the clouds of the uninformed and illuminate a number of the multitude of Black heroes which exist…all over the world (if one can claim geographical domination, I can too).
As presented in Sociology 101, we first have to come to an operational definition or simply put, get on the same (comic book) page. Understand this, because something isn’t popular or not mainstreamed, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Brotherman has been around since 1989. I know because I wrote it and my brother Dawud Anyabwile drew it. And why do I start with Brotherman…it’s what I know best. Now if we go further, the works of Nightjak by Eric Battle, Blokhedz by Street Legends Ink, the Artesia series by Mark Smylie, Miranda Mercury by Brandon Thomas, and how about Jaycen Wise by Richard Tyler. There are many more, but I guarantee I would do a disservice in leaving somebody out. So, I would ask the author and those who constantly repeat the tired and well-worn wording of no Black heroes to contact (or better yet) attend events such as the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention (ECBACC), converse with the Black Science Fiction Society, check out the Motor City Black Age of Comics Convention, or make a date for the Onyxcon. There are so many more of those as well…so gas up the hooptie and hit the road.
By the third paragraph, I realized I was a victim of bait and switch as the article moved away faster than a speeding bullet from Luke Cage and landed safely to discuss Marvel, Disney and the promotion of the usual suspects of Thor, Iron Man, Daredevil, and others. Honestly, I am not as hopeful as this author in that it’s about time but in truth, again, it’s a case of not this time.
As the music gets slower and slower in the background, I am going to wrap this up. I can only say that not only should we stop waiting for Netflix or Disney or Nickelodeon or some other major media outlet to give, give, give us our images, we have to stop (as Mars said in She Gotta Have It) crying please-baby-baby-please, show us our heroes…show us ourselves. We are at a point in time where as a people here in this great land of ours in 2015 we will have an estimated annual buying power of 1.1 trillion dollars (with a T). That’s a lot of potential societal and cultural impact. Additionally, the tools to create, display, and promote our images sit literally in our laps; they’re in our backpacks, they’re in our school’s computer labs, heck, they’re on our handheld devices (that’s smartphones for the uninformed). They’re out there, and we have access to them. There was a day we wished our celebrities and superstars would fund the projects that would bring pride and meaning to our lives, to our children, and to our future. Well, we can still use them, but we have to be ready to move without them. Have you checked YouTube lately?
Truth is there have been thousands of Superman and Superman related books, shows, movies, and other materials since 1938. The same goes for Batman. Running a close second are the Iron Mans, Spidermans, Avengers, etc. You can’t turn on the television, stop in a bookstore, or go to the theaters and not experience the mainstream image of hyper-masculinity, heroism, and goodliness. In essence (and I don’t mean the magazine for today’s Black woman), there’s nothing wrong with that or those images. The pitiful pathology comes in sitting back and waiting ever so patiently for someone to bring a Black Panther to the screen in his full right and glory, or the Falcon, or a Black Green Lantern (oh, he is Black? My bad–must’ve seen the wrong movie) to the public. If you decide you still want to wait you’d better have a good seat cushion. (Note: Look out hipster, Black Panther’s gonna get ya!)
Let’s stop waiting for (fill in the blank) to bring us a Black superhero…or just a hero…or even just an image our children would want to emulate in school or dress up as for Halloween or present their words of wisdom at wedding toasts. It’s about time that we create, develop, distribute, and critically examine our images. It’s okay that the author of the article didn’t know what else was out there, but a couple of search engine clicks will bring the world to him (or her)…but allow me to help out. Here’s the link to the Africomics.com site. It’s like a free museum…come on in and enjoy. It’s about time!
Guy A. Sims is the head writer of the Brotherman: Dictator of Discipline comic book series and the Brotherman graphic novel, Revelation, and the novella crime series, The Cold Hard Cases of Duke Denim, and the author of the novel Living Just A Little.
Tweet me tonight – @guysims6