I have loved the art and storytelling of comic books since I was a kid. The bigger than life characters, settings and action capture my imagination and immerse me in worlds filled with the strange and fantastic. Unfortunately, the stories that feature someone who looks like me or shares any of my experiences are few and far between. What is heartening is that writers and artists of color are not only producing great stories with dynamic characters and stories, but they also speak to the human condition and the dark realities we face as people of color in this country.
So here are five comic book series that I enjoy not only for their characters and stories, but also for how they reflect the reality of blackness in this world.
Image Comics/ Skybound
Created by Khary Randolph and Brandon Thomas
Set in the present, Excellence tells the story of a world where magic exists and is wielded by a secret society of black wizards called the Aegis. With almost limitless power granted to them, they are only allowed to use it to better the lives of those deemed worthy by their unseen masters, not themselves. Spencer Dales is preparing to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a powerful wizard, but his questioning of the edicts of the Aegis and his contempt for a broken system the only serves a select few will put him at odds with the powerful forces that surround him. But all of them underestimate how powerful Spenser is becoming and the strength of his resolve.
A powerful, beautifully illustrated series that showcases one man’s struggle to challenge and change the system he was born into at the cost of the privilege and power it afforded him.
Created by David F Walker, Chuck Brown and Sanford Greene
For ages, the Sangerye family has protected the world from monsters. But when a series of tragedies tears the family apart, the rise of a new threat will bring the once great family together again to save both Harlem and the world.
Set in New York during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s, Bitter Root doesn’t shy away from showcasing both the beauty of black society during that time, but also the real life forces responsible for its tragedy. Bitter Root shows the power of the black family and its enduring strength.
DC Comics/ DC’s Young Animal
Created by N.K Jemisin and Jamal Campbell
My favorite superhero has always been Green Lantern. Growing up, John Stewart was one of the first heroes of color who’s comics I picked up because I loved the fact that he wasn’t born with power, but granted power based on his inner strength and character.
Far Sector tells the story of Green Lantern Sojourner “Jo” Mullein. New to the corps, Lantern Mullein is sent to the other side of the universe to protect the City Enduring, a society of 20 billion people who for over 500 years have been at peace due to the systemic suppresion of emotions. When the first murder in centuries occurs, Mullein will find herself facing a society ready to go to war with itself and the powers that be.
Far Sector tackles issues of power, privilege, police brutality and the unchecked power of the government against its people. What makes the story more powerful is Mullein’s own experiences as a former police officer and her regrets about not speaking up when she witnesses brutality from her partner.
Storyline by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Daniel Acuna
Traditionally, T’Challa has had to contend with threats to Wakanda as its king. In the recent storyline from Coates and Acuna, T’Challa is stripped of his crown and his memory and thrust into an intergalactic empire modeled after his home. T’Challa must fight his way from being a slave to a resistance fighter in this series while Shuri faces the responsibility of leadership in her brother’s absence.
Taking Black Panther away from the trappings of his role and his power showcases the strength of the character and also shows the reader that any government can become tyrannical in service of its own power.
Black Mask Studios
Created by Kwanza Osajyefo, Tim Smith and Jamal Igle
After surviving being shot and killed by police, Kareem Jenkins wakes up to discover that he has superpowers. Not only does he discover he has powers, but that he is not the only one. In a world where he is hated and feared for what he is, Kareem will discover that not only do superpowers exist, but the only people who develop them are all black. He will discover that he has become part of one of the biggest lies in history and will have to decide whether to keep hiding or bring the truth to light.
Not only is the premise of Black brave in its depiction of a world where only black people can develop superpowers, but it is also revolutionary in its commentary on race, identity, police brutality, social injustice and more.
There are black writers and artists producing amazing, timely and entertaining work in comics. their voices deserve to be heard and their work read for a new perspective on themes in comics that we all enjoy. Here are a few of the ones that I enjoy, let me know which stories speak to you.