Black Images in the Comics

Overview

Endlessly browsable illustrated journey through comics' history of radical portrayals both good and bad, now in softcover.This book spotlights over 100 comic strips, comic books, and graphic novels to feature black characters from all over the world over the last century, and the result is a fascinating journey to, if not enlightenment, then at least away from the horrendous caricatures of yore.The book begins with the habitually appalling images of blacks as ignorant “coons” in the earliest syndicated strips ...

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Overview

Endlessly browsable illustrated journey through comics' history of radical portrayals both good and bad, now in softcover.This book spotlights over 100 comic strips, comic books, and graphic novels to feature black characters from all over the world over the last century, and the result is a fascinating journey to, if not enlightenment, then at least away from the horrendous caricatures of yore.The book begins with the habitually appalling images of blacks as ignorant “coons” in the earliest syndicated strips (Happy Hooligan, Moon Mullins, and The Katzenjammer Kids); continues with the almost-quaint colonialist images of the often-suppressed Tintin album Tintin in the Congo and such ambiguous figures as Mandrake the Magician’s “noble savage” assistant Lothar in the ’30s (not to mention Torchy Brown, the first syndicated black character), moving on to such oddities as the offensive Ebony character in Will Eisner’s otherwise classic The Spirit from the ’40s and ’50s.We then continue into the often earnest attempts at ’60s integration in such strips as Peanuts (and comic books such as the Fantastic Four), as well as the first wave of “black strips” like Wee Pals, juxtaposed with the shocking satire of underground comics such as R. Crumb’s incendiary Angefood McSpade. Also investigated is the increased use of blacks in super-hero comic books as well as syndicated strips. Black Images in the Comics wraps up from the ’80s to now, with the increased visibility of blacks, often in works actually produced by blacks, all the way to the South African strip Madam & Eve, Aaron McGruder’s pointed daily The Boondocks, and more — including over a dozen new entries added to the out-of-print hardcover edition.Each strip, comic, or graphic novel is spotlighted via a compact but instructive 200-word essay and a representative illustration. The book is augmented by a context-setting introduction, an extensive source list and bibliography, and a foreword by Charles R. Johnson, the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation fellowship and winner of the National Book Award for his 1990 novel Middle Passage.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist
“As this small but potent book shows, African Americans didn't fare any better in the comics medium than elsewhere in popular culture. Strömberg’s compact cultural critique encapsulates each of about 100 black comics characters in a brief, single-page essay and a full-page illustration...”
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Noble savage, Uncle Tom, Mammy-these are just three of the stereotypical images of African Americans that Stromberg examines in this insightful book. The author tends to allow the artwork to speak for itself; his commentary primarily provides historical and cultural context and, in general, does not set out to impart a specific agenda. A single illustration appears opposite commentary that provides editorial context. The images are drawn primarily from the daily strips of newspapers, although a few notable exceptions like the X-Men and R. Crumb's Angelfood McSpade come from comic books. The collection opens with an unsigned political cartoon from 19th-century England that displays some of the horrendous treatment black slaves endured. It moves along chronologically to icons from the 1930s like Otto Messmer's Felix the Cat to contemporary strips like Aaron McGruder's The Boondocks. Lesser-known works from around the world are also included. Stromberg is startlingly objective in his comments on the images and their cultural significance. Only a handful of artists cause him to step outside this editorial objectivity and praise them for their work. These few include Charles Schulz (Peanuts) and Berkeley Breathed (Bloom County, The Outland), who, in the author's perspective, ignored the stereotype and created strong, memorable characters that happened to be black. The book presents a unique look at the evolution of comics, but it also proves comics to be an effective and sobering lens for viewing the history of racism toward blacks.-Matthew L. Moffett, Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781606995624
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
  • Publication date: 7/10/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,017,164
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 5.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Fredrik Strömberg was born in 1968 in the South of Sweden. He is the editor of Bild & Bubbla, Scandinavia’s largest magazine about comics, writes regularly about comics, heads a school for comic artists and sits on the editorial board for the International Journal of Comics Art. He lives in Sweden.

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