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Beyond Black Panther

Meet 7 Black And Latinx Writers Working In Comics Today

Published June 21, 2018

Comics bring fictional characters to life through illustration and dialogue — but black characters, if included at all, have historically been portrayed as subservient, lazy, or dumb.

Now, some writers and illustrators of color are changing the narrative.

This year, Marvel Studios released Black Panther, a film from black writers Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole. The star-studded film is currently one of the 10 highest grossing films in history.

But black characters in lead roles have been few and far between. One of the first comics written by a black woman was Jackie Ormes' Torchy Brown in 1937. Ten years later, pioneering black journalist Orrin C. Evans published All-Negro Comics. In 1993, black creators founded Milestone Media, which created the Static Shock series.

As for Black Panther, he was created in 1966 by Jack Kirby — a white man. Black Panther's recent stories come from black writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates, Christopher Priest, and Roxane Gay.

Black Panther's buzz has left many fans wondering what other characters of color are in comics today.

WBEZ's Worldview hears from seven writers and illustrators of color:

Portrait of Mat Johnson

Meera Bowman Johnson

Mat Johnson

Mat Johnson is author of the new comic series Incognegro: Renaissance. First published in February, it features Zane Pinchback, a 1930s black newspaper reporter who uses his white-passing “superpower” to investigate lynchings in the South.

Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics

"Diving into the past, to me, feels like an urgent contemporary action because I live in a world that's heavily impacted by the past. So going and looking into the past explains how we got to this future."

Portrait of Felicia D. Henderson

Courtesy of Felicia D. Henderson

Felicia D. Henderson

Felicia D. Henderson is a screenwriter, television producer, music video director, and comic writer. She wrote the DC Comics series Teen Titans and the 2011 Static Shock Special. She has also written and produced for several popular TV series, including Marvel’s The Punisher on Netflix.

Teen Titans #75 (#76) © DC Comics:

"As a black woman, I'm interested in seeing people who look like me, and people who are diverse, and that's how I approach storytelling. But, I'm also interested in people who aren't like me: It's a learning experience."

Portrait of David F. Walker

Elijah Hasan

David F. Walker

David F. Walker has written for Marvel comics, including Luke Cage, Deadpool, Occupy Avengers, Power Man and Iron Fist, and Nighthawk. He has also written for DC Comics’ Cyborg, Boom! Studios’ Planet of the Apes comics, and Lion Forge’s Superb. One of Walker’s most notable efforts is the reboot of Ernest Tidyman’s character, Shaft.

Cover of Shaft Issue 1

Copyright Ernest Tidyman, courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment

"The first time I saw a black superhero … it was sort of like this whole new world had opened up to us — this whole realm of possibilities — that characters that looked like us and like our family members could actually be the good guys, could actually win the fight."

Portrait of Edgardo Miranda Rodriguez

Kyung Jeon Miranda

Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez

Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez is a “Nuyorican” (New York and Puerto Rican) writer and graphic designer. He created the Puerto Rican character La Borinqueñ a, an Afro-Boricua heroine featured in the new comic anthology Ricanstruction: Reminiscing and Rebuilding Puerto Rico.

Courtesy of Somos Arte, LLC

"I realized that [La Borinqueña] was the only character in the comic book industry that literally was a connection to the island of Puerto Rico; an organic, natural connection."

Portrait of Vita Ayala

Courtesy of Vita Ayala

Vita Ayala

Vita Ayala has written for DC Comics’ Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batman Beyond, and Suicide Squad. One of Ayala’s most recent works is The Wilds, published by Black Mask Studios. After Hurricane Maria, Ayala joined other Latino artists to create a comic anthology, Puerto Rico Strong, which traced the long history of Puerto Rican resistance from colonization.

By Natasha Alterici, courtesy of Black Mask Studios

"I write stories for past versions of myself. I write stories that would have been something that I wanted to see or needed to see."

Portrait of Nicholas Da Silva

Michelle Monreal

Nicholas Da Silva

Nicholas Da Silva is writer and creator of Dread & Alive, a Jamaican-inspired multimedia series of comic books, novels, and music. He also founded Irie Magazine and ZOOLOOK, a design studio and publishing company.

Cover of Dread and Alive

Courtesy of Nicholas Da Silva

"Everyone wants to create a hero, put him in spandex, and make him fly. When I was a kid, I remember drawing Drew sitting on a throne with lions above his head and wearing green spandex. Today, I laugh at it because I'm thinking there's no Rasta superhero that's gonna be wearing green spandex, flying around the city."

Portrait of Yona Harvey

Courtesy of Yona Harvey

Yona Harvey

Yona Harvey has written for Marvel’s World of Wakanda, contributing the origin story of the character Zenzi. She was also a writer for Black Panther and the Crew.

Cover of Black Panther

Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

"Black women are at the heart of my writing. That has always been the same, it never changes, and I don't think it ever will."