There’s been a lot of tweeting and tumblring about the need for more diversity in comics. And now YOU can make comics more diverse! Here is a chance to actually support a project by African-American creators that deals frankly with racial issues from a non-white perspective. BLACK is a new kickstarter for a graphic novel written by Kwanza Osajyefo (aka Kwanza Johnson)and Tim Smith III with art by Jamal Igle with additional art by Khary Randolph. Former Vertigo editor Sarah Litt will oversee the production. (PR: Kwanza revealed first word of this project in our annual Creators survey! That’s why you gotta read the whole thing!)
The story is high concept: what if only black people could become superheroes? Let your mind wander over that. The Kickstarter seeks $29,999 to pay for creation of the book, and has raised $7,201 in a morning, so it’s well on its way. I just supported it for the Black Power level, and I hope you will support this at a level you can afford. The social media campaigns promoting greater awareness of race problems in comics movies and everywhere else have done a great job of getting people talking about these issues but unless you support projects like this with actual cash money, it will all remain theoretical.
“With BLACK, we’re looking to tell a great story, but we’re also purposefully challenging the pop culture status quo, which is dominated by a White male aesthetic,” says BLACK co-creator Osajyefo in a statement. “BLACK tackles the very real and palpable issue of race, which is at the forefront in America and around the world. We are trying to confront the issue of race head-on by creating a world in which only Black people are superheroes — and the BLACK superhero trope isn’t subtly cast under a label of mutant, inhuman, or meta-whatever. It is also both thrilling and liberating to create the superheroes we’ve always wanted to see — and, frankly, be — outside of the entrenched publishing system.”
“Sometimes a project comes along and you realize you need to be a part of it. As soon as I saw what Kwanza and Tim had in mind, I knew I had to be involved. I’ve known all of the people involved for years, know how professional they are,” says Jamal Igle. “I’m all about unique twists and BLACK certainly fits the bill. It’s going to be a fun ride.”
“BLACK is a story that has come at an important moment in comic book culture. This is a book that brings a contemporary message of identity into a world where anything can happen. A world where creative writing and imaginative visuals can show an alternative to what you would normally see in mainstream books today,” says Tim Smith III.
BLACK will be published as six monthly issues starting in mid-2016, with a collected edition toward the end of the year. There are many perksw for supporters, including: original BLACK character art; original BLACK cover art; a cameo of your likeness drawn into BLACK; a commission sketch of your choice from Tim Smith III or Jamal Igle; an original interior page from BLACK by Jamal Igle; an illustrated card set of the 6 BLACK main characters: Kareem Jenkins, Juncture, Theodore Mann, Agent Adams, Agent Washington, and O; your name in the credits page; an online portfolio review of your art, story, or comic by members of the BLACK creative team; a set of three buttons, three stickers, or 1 die cut skin featuring original BLACK art; and signed copies of BLACK.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.