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Top Five Fridays: Black comic book writers

Top Five Fridays: Black comic book writers

by: Ayanda Sishi - 9 November 2018

Here is a look at some of the top black comic book writers you should know about.

Comic characters are bigger than life. Through graphic novels, we are able to escape the confines of our surroundings and escape to the city of Attilan or the bustling futuristic metropolis of Wakanda. The writers of graphic novels and comic books hold a special place in our hearts for dreaming up these characters that we hold dear. However, with characters like Batman, Superman and Spider-man have in common is that they represent a fraction of what society looks like. Representation matters.

For people of colour (POC), seeing themselves represented in comic books and mainstream media boosts a child’s’ self-esteem. Characters such as Static Shock, Black Lightning and Black Panther are held to high esteem because these characters are a good representation of black people. This is why black comic book writers are important. They are the ones that tell our stories that resonate within us as black youth navigating the world. With that being said, here is a look at some of the top five leading black comic book writers that you should know about.

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No. 5 Erika Alexander

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If you are a child of the nineties you might have known this great graphic novel writer from her acting career in comedy sitcoms such as The Cosby Show and Living Single. Her career path has changed since then and she is now the award-winning creator and writer of the graphic novel Concrete Park. This comic book is about a troubled young outcast from Earth who awakens to find herself in Scare City. A world that is grappling with gang war. This story echoed a lot of issues among young black youth in the United States of America as they deal with gang wars and what comes with that life. Erika Alexander will also be teaming up with the legend Joss Whedon to write about the fan favourite character Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in a new graphic novel coming soon.

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No. 4 Ta-Nehisi Coates

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This author is no stranger to the limelight. Not only is he a comic book writer, but he also is a journalist, educator and author of his memoir The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons. His political and cultural commentary has placed Coates at the forefront of conversations that affect black people in America. His ability to move in the spaces where is it forbidden to speak of the plight of black people has put him in the front lines of the black zeitgeist.

This award-winning author is an avid comic book reader so it is no surprise that Marvel came knocking on his door to add his skilled penmanship to one of their most beloved characters Black Panther. Knowing the importance of this character among black people, the comic book issues of Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet was the most exhilarating run of Black Panther. Coates had the ability to highlight the duality of the main character T’Challa being both king and a black superhero. As black people, we always exist in dual worlds: the world we live in, our shared reality; and the world created by so-called superior races, where we need to learn how to move and exist within those frameworks. Coates beautifully illustrates that in Black Panther.

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No. 3 Dwayne Mcduffie

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There has never been a more influential comic book writer than Dwayne Mcduffie. He is the creator of one of the most beloved black comic book characters, Virgil Ovid Hawkins, who was otherwise known as Static Shock. He has also written and produced for DC’s Justice League Unlimited. The importance of Static Shock is not lost on the lovers of black comic book characters. Black nerds were able to relate to the events of Static Shock. The animated show and the graphic novel did not shy away from talking about issues that affected black youth. From Virgil learning that one of his friends’ fathers was a racist to speaking of issues of poverty and teen homelessness. Gun violence was also addressed in Static Shock when one of the characters in the animated shows carried a gun to school. Dwayne Mcduffie inspired a generation of writers to not be afraid to highlight the plight of black youth in the graphic novel genre and to represent us accurately.

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No. 2 Nnedi Okorafor

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Nnedi Okorafor is a Nigerian-American writer of fantasy and science fiction for both children and adults. This Hugo award-winning writer has had her short stories published in numerous magazines in the United States of America. She has published successful novels as well. Her novels The Shadow Speaker and her children’s book Long Juju Man were successful in their own right. Her most notable success to date has been her Binti trilogy. This award-winning trilogy was published in 2017 and won the Nebula award as well as the Hugo award for the second time.

One of her short stories, Who Fears Death, will be adapted for television by HBO and will be produced by the legendary science fiction writer George R R Martin. With her experience in writing science fiction, it is for this very reason that Marvel has chosen her to write the next installment of Black Panther. With Ta-nehisi Coates writing the next instalment of Captain America, Okorafor will add her talents to the character of Shuri, T’Challa’s younger and capable sister. Shuri is a young black scientist and one of the greatest minds to exist in the Marvel universe. The Binti writer is the only author who is capable of adding a voice to the character of Shuri as she has to make a choice of taking the place as the rightful Queen of Wakanda or staying in her science laboratory where she has always thought belonged.

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No. 1 Mohale Mashigo

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Mohale Mashigo is basically the best to ever to it here in South Africa. If you are not familiar with her work please do yourselves a favour and check it out. She is a multi-disciplinary storyteller who loves exploring the unknown. Her debut novel The Yearning earned her critical acclaim as a writer and the YA novel Beyond the River solidified that claim.

She believes that is it important for us all to see ourselves on TV and books saying “it’s so important to see yourself in the world. It’s easy to take for granted that people who look like you have always been heroes, villains, stars or models. I want little girls (like me) to know that they are worth imagining and writing stories about. It’s affirming – especially in a world that is quite happy to make us secondary characters or people.” Her work not only resonates in the hearts of all young black women but also in the hearts of those of us that love the South African comic book Kwezi. Kwezi is a comic book that is illustrated by the award-winning artist Loyiso Mkize and written by the fabulous Mashigo. Kwezi is about a nineteen year old city boy who discovers that he has superpowers. Kwezi is the hero that we all needed. He is from a place that we are all familiar with, he has the same struggles that South Africans can relate to. Kwezi is the embodiment of what a South African comic book character would be like.

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These authors are incredibly important to the black nerd culture around the world. They are able to write about our experiences and place our youth at the forefront of issues that relate to us. We need people who look like us to tell our stories. For a while, the history of some of these characters has not been to the benefit of the culture until black writers stood up and started creating for us and telling our stories too. If you know of any other writer we should be aware of tweet us @Livemag.