Comics / Spotlight / Black Astronaut

Black Images in the Comics: a Visual History

By Leroy Douresseaux
September 1, 2003 - 15:08

Coming in at the size of 6" x 6" with 264 pages, comics scholar Fredrick Strömberg's new book, Black Images in the Comics: A Visual History should be way too small to do its subject, the depiction of Black people in comic strips and comic books, justice, but surprisingly, that's not the case. Not appointing blame for horribly racists and bigoted images in comics, Strömberg simply surveys a broad range of visual depictions of blacks with images taken from over 100 comic strips, comic books, and graphic novels from the early 19th century to as recent as Aaron McGruder's Boondocks and Ho Che's Anderson's King.

A Scandinavian and an editor for one of the world's oldest magazines about comics, Bild & Bubbla, Strömberg examines comics from the U.S. and from as far away as the Middle East and Japan. The book showcases typically racist imagery from early comic strips such as Moon Mullins and The Katzenjammer Kids: stereotypical black characters from famous strips including Gasoline Alley and Mickey Mouse: classic coon/piccaninny characters drawn by such comics luminaries as Carl Barks, R. Crumb, and Will Eisner: and positive Black images in superhero comics like Green Lantern, Spawn, and Uncanny X-Men.

Of the comics presented herein, Mr. Strömberg examines each with a single image or group of images and a short essay in which Strömberg discusses each image and its social, cultural, and historical context. Part history text and part academic study, Black Images in Comics is like a breezy afternoon lecture with a slide show presentation. People who love comics as a medium of artistic expression and who want to study it shouldn't miss this book. That it also has a foreword by Dr. Charles Johnson, (a 1990 National Book Award winner for his searing novel Middle Passage) who drops the gauntlet on racist images in comics, is an extra worth the price of admission.

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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