When you think about Black History Month, thoughts of Harriet Tubman, W.E.B. Du Bois, Malcolm X, Frederick Douglas and other great historic figures often come to mind. You may even recall more recent prominent figures like Oprah or Barack Obama. These are all amazing people with tremendous stories that add great value to the collective story of Black history. These legends are significant icons in the trajectory of people, things and events that makes up our journey to present day.
Want to know another significant aspect of our history? The representation of powerful black figures in books and the media. The presence of Black figures in the media give Black children and adults something to relate to, something to believe in, and something relevant to use an escape from their everyday lives.
With that said, this month we’re looking at the history of representation of Black excellence and general badass-ness in–that’s right you guessed it–comic books.
For the last 3 years, Brandon Blackmon, self-professed blerd (read: black nerd), has done a roll call of dope black comic book characters for each day of Black History Month. This year, he’s at it again, and he’s kind enough to share this dopeness via Young, Black&. So stay tuned and get ready for Black Superhero Month, and learn more about Brandon and his love of comic books from the Q&A below.
When did you get into comic books?
I started reading comics when I was in 3rd Grade. I remember this because my mom had gotten me my first subscription to DC Comics. I remember taking each new comic to school and showing them off to a few of my classmates. The first series I ever started reading was Superboy. At the time, I thought it was amazing; I started the series when Superboy was traveling through different dimensions and meeting different versions of himself. I thought that was wild. Prior to this, I was already watching cartoons like X-Men, Spider-Man, and Batman: The Animated Series but, for me, there was something different about reading an actual comic book. Honestly, I can’t put my finger on what makes comic books so poignant for me but I do know I’ve loved the medium ever since.
What’s your absolute favorite comic and why?
I’ve read so many great comics over the years! Gun to my head? I’ll have to go with Fables– a story that takes classic fairy tale characters, like Cinderella and the Big Bad Wolf, and throw them into the heart of New York City after being exiled from their homelands. I love this series because it ties into my love for classic fairy tales while providing it’s own twist on the characters and their origins. It’s so well written, vibrant, and engaging. I highly recommend it.
“Black people read comic books?” Do you ever get this reaction to your love of comic books? And if so, why do you think that’s the attitude when it comes to Black people and comic books?
Haha! Yes! I used to get this reaction a lot growing up back home. The only people I knew that loved to talk comics were my older cousins- and they lived in Chicago so those conversations were few and far in-between. Up until college, I was pretty hard-pressed to find another Black kid that enjoyed superheroes as much as I did.
While I can only speculate the reason why Black people and comics isn’t seen as going hand and hand, I do believe a part of it is the lack of representation within the medium. The predominant population you will find adorning the covers of comic books are usually heterosexual, cis, White, males. Which is really ridiculous when you think about it. In fantasy worlds, where anything is possible, why aren’t there more characters of color doing these fantastical things and going on these amazing adventures? When characters that look like you and I can’t even get representation in a genre where the only limitation is the imagination, why would we become heavily invested in it? Thankfully though, this is changing. Almost everyday, new African and African American characters are being created and put to the forefront of their own stories and older characters that have been around since the ‘60s are finally getting their due. The best part about this, in my opinion, is that these characters aren’t just being created; they’re being created by people who look like US! And that’s pretty stellar.
Do you use any online resources to stay up to date on new comic book releases, particularly as it relates to those with black characters? If so, mind sharing?
Oh, definitely! One of the best sites to use to keep tabs on Black characters that are making their debut or are finally getting their own series is Tumblr. Personally, my favorite Tumblr blog is superheroesincolor.tumblr.com. They don’t just highlight Black characters but they also highlight Black authors and authors of color that are contributing to the genre of science fiction and fantasy.
Other great sources I frequent are:
Brandon Blackmon was born and raised in Clinton, NC. After high school, he attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; graduating with a bachelor’s in psychology. He attended Pfeiffer University where he received a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and is currently a licensed marriage and family therapist. Brandon is a proud blerd (Black nerd) and a firm advocate and believer that representation matters in all forms of media.