The comic book industry has historically been dominated by white cartoon artists and therefore white characters. But today, there is a growing black comic book industry. The first black comic book, All-Negro Comics, was published in 1947 by the first black cartoon artist, Orrin C. Evans, who hoped his venture would create an opportunity for other black cartoon artists to utilize their talent.
Unfortunately, only one issue was printed, and Evans was virtually banned from the comic book industry by prominent main stream publishers. The controversy over black characters in comics continued.
Black characters in comic books were often marginalized sidekicks, and rife with stereotypes. In 1965 Dell Comics released the first black comic book series featuring a black character, Lobo, a western hero. It wasn’t well received, and only ran for two issues before it was canceled. Bundles of comics that had been sent out to distributors came back unopened.
In 1966 DC comics created the first black superhero Black Panther, which appeared in the 52nd issue of Fantastic Four. This character fared better among fans and continues to be popular today, with ongoing rumored talks amongst industry insiders of a much anticipated Black Panther movie.
As the growing interest in black comic books continues in the U.S., the art form has spanned worldwide with comics from international artists. Kenyan born musical performer, and 2010 NAACP Image Award recipient, Sila, dubbed “Africa’s James Brown” has released a comic book entitled SuperAfrican. From refugee camps to diamond minds, SuperAfrican, written by Eric K. Arnold, is a young African superhero that fights against societal and ecological crimes.
Sila wanted to create a comic book that reflected his experiences, adventures and environments of his native Africa, and a superhero that addressed the issues of African children. “My hope is that it can inspire young kids in Africa to learn to how to be resilient and become better human beings,” Sila explained. Combining his passion for music, Sila has released an accompanying CD of the same name that serves as a soundtrack to the comic book that includes R&B, soul, funk and American pop influences, and features contributions from musicians including, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Jazz Mafia and Sting.
Net proceeds from comic book sales go to benefit the nonprofit, OneMama, an organization that maintains a “self-sustaining medical clinic that promotes safe birthing environments, family and financial planning, and trade (craft and agricultural) education in Kirindi, Uganda”.
If you’d like to win a copy of the comic book and CD, leave a comment about how you feel about black comic books, or the idea of SuperAfrican! Winners will be selected April 21st!
To find out more about Sila and this project, go to Superafrican.com If you’d like to go ahead and order your own copy of the SuperAfrican comic book and CD, click here!