Posted in A Professor's Thoughts..., Feature Spotlight

Chicago Humanities Festival Feature Q&A: “Dr. Grace D. Gipson’s Favorite Comic Book Characters”*

So your girl got a chance to share a few of her comic book faves with the Chicago Humanities Festival! Always love the chance to geek out and share!! Check it out below!!

*Original Post Feature from the Chicago Humanities Festival

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In May 2021 Black future feminist and pop culture scholar Dr. Grace D. Gipson was joined at Chicago Humanities Festival (CHF) by Bianca Xunise (Say Her Name) for a conversation about the past and future of comics.

After the program, we spoke to Dr. Gipson about some of her favorite comic book series, characters, and authors.

CHF: In your CHF program, you mentioned comic books and characters (like Dark Horse’s Martha Washington, who grew up in Chicago). Can you talk a little bit more about the history and significance of some of your favorite series, characters, and authors?

1) Storm (X-Men, Marvel Comics)

Gipson: When it comes to selecting my favorite comic book characters, I have a pretty solid line-up. While my introduction into comics was through the funny papers, there would be one character that truly drew me into the genre: Marvel Comics’s Storm from the X-Men.

As a Black woman who not only served as a leader of the X-Men, but also a goddess that controlled the weather elements, Storm as a fictional character provided an example of progressive representation and a fantastical escape.

Her presence in the comic book world made a significant impression on me as a young, Black girl from the Midwest. I was able to see myself, at the center and not on the fringes, within this popular medium that had been dominated primarily by white and male characters. Storm also opened the door for me to discover more Black female characters, as well as Black female comic book writers and artists.

2) Martha Washington (Dark Horse Comics)

Gipson: Another character who would have a significant impact on me personally and professionally is that of Dark Horse Comics’s Martha Washington. Created in the early 1990s, Martha Washington resonated with me in a very close way, considering her character was based in Chicago, IL. As a Champaign, IL native her story literally and figuratively felt close to home.

Martha Washington’s narrative as explored through The Life and Times of Martha Washington in the Twenty-First Century comic book series sought to showcase a “regular” relatable character that, despite her circumstances, becomes a heroine for her local community and ultimately the world.

Set in the urban space of the Cabrini-Green projects, Martha Washington’s beginnings (which are told in the first issue Give Me Liberty) explore, from a dystopian perspective, a current and relevant story of public housing, crime, poverty, Black youth, adulthood, womanhood, and even patriotism. Uniquely, her story offers a rare opportunity to explore American patriotism from a Black woman’s point of view. This is especially noteworthy considering the lack of Black female leads in comics, during the 1990s.

When it comes to comics, one can never underestimate the power of a diverse story and the impact it can have on all types of readers. These next two characters not only contribute diverse storylines but also have the impact of reaching a young audience. When looking at the landscape of comic book characters, most of them are adults, so it is refreshing to see a Black female youth presence.

3) Raquel “Rocket” Ervin (Milestone Comics)

Gipson: Raquel “Rocket” Ervin from Milestone Comics (a Black publishing company) is one of the earliest examples of a Black teen character that I have encountered. Also, Rocket’s storyline is one of the first comics to deal with complex and practical issues such as teen pregnancy, balancing motherhood, Black mentorship, and community access. And it was done in a way that avoided stereotypes, while providing hope.

As a character influenced by notable figures like Toni Morrison and W.E.B. Du Bois, Rocket provides an existing reality and a story of dedication and perseverance. Although she is deemed as a superhero, for Rocket her true superpower and strength is her ability to inspire.

4) RiRi “Ironheart” Williams (Marvel Comics)

Gipson: Another character that humanizes the Black girl experience is that of Marvel Comics RiRi “Ironheart” Williams. Through RiRi/Ironheart, as a fictional character, she personifies what it means to be a young, gifted, Black teen in today’s society. Her character also shares another look into the STEM world by encouraging Black girls to embrace one’s giftedness and intelligence.

This is a comic that I wish existed when I was a teenager, but nonetheless grateful that young Black girls and the world are able to appreciate it now. What is also significant about the Ironheart story is that it is written by a Black woman and Chicago-native, Eve L. Ewing, this is key as most stories in past comic book history have been written and drawn by white men (thankfully there is a growing landscape of representation).

To know that I am represented on the page and behind the panel inspires and further confirms that Black women and girls deserve to take up space in this popular medium. Ultimately, both Rocket and Ironheart are perfect examples of how comics can rewrite the script regarding Black girlhood and the importance of why “Representation Matters!!”

5) Torchy Brown (created by Jackie Ormes)

Gipson: Lastly, I felt it was important to not just recognize the importance of some of my favorite characters, but also one of my favorite writers/artists. Before there was even a Storm, Martha Washington, Rocket, or Ironheart there was a Black female lead named Torchy Brown created by cartoonist and writer Jackie Ormes. Similar to the Martha Washington character, Jackie Ormes legacy and work would find a home in Chicago.

As the first Black female cartoonist, Ormes was instrumental in resetting the standard in cartooning and comic strips. She did this by creating her own lane of telling stories that primarily featured Black voices, while also challenging the stereotypes and caricatures often presented in mainstream press. With readers from coast-to-coast, Ormes used her comic strip series and panels to discuss unapologetic commentary on such issues as racism, labor and taxes, U.S. Foreign policy, violence against women, unfair housing, segregated schools, and environmental injustice. She was able to use her talents to not only inform but also showcase (while entertain), in full color, the existence of intelligent, stylish and fashionable Black characters (particularly Black women). With Chicago as an honorary character, much of Ormes cartoon and comic strip work mirrored her real life as she was a community advocate and mentor, fundraiser, and trendsetter.

(Snapshot of a few of my faves!! Image Credit: Grace D. Gipson)

To check out the full feature, see here!!

Posted in On the Desk..., On The Radar

Marvel Studios Television and Film Line-up 2021-203

Who is still on a high from that Loki season finale and the Black Widow movie?!! I know I am and definitely looking forward to seeing what comes next!!

Well I got a little info on what is coming up next out of Marvel Studios (film and television), check it out below:

TV Series

  • What If…? [Disney+] (August 11, 2021)
  • Hawkeye [Disney+] (Late 2021)
  • Ms. Marvel [Disney+] (Late 2021)
  • Moon Knight [Disney+] (2022)
  • She-Hulk [Disney+] (2022)
  • Secret Invasion [Disney+] (2022)
  • The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special [Disney+] (Holiday 2022)
  • I Am Groot [Disney+]
  • Ironheart [Disney+]
  • Armor Wars [Disney+]
  • Untitled Wakanda Series [Disney+]
  • Okoye Spinoff [Disney+]
  • Echo Spinoff [Disney+]

Movies

  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (In theaters September 3rd, 2021)
  • Eternals (In theaters November 5th, 2021)
  • Spider-Man: No Way Home (In theaters December 17th, 2021)
  • Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madness (In theaters March 25th, 2022)
  • Thor: Love and Thunder (In theaters May 6th, 2022)
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (In theaters July 8th, 2022)
  • The Marvels/Captain Marvel 2 (In theaters November 11th, 2022)
  • Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania (In theaters February 17th, 2023)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (In theaters May 5th, 2023)

Looks like there is going to be a lot of interweaving of the MCU films and television shows, which should make things very interesting!! Definitely no shortage of engaging content for the next couple of years!!

Mark your calendars!!

Posted in On The Radar

Calling All Comic Book Creatives and Fans!! “2021 WinC Creative Conference”

Check out this great professional networking opportunity, put on by the Women in Comics Collective International (WinC), to connect with like-minded folks in the comic book community.

The event will take place Thursday July 22nd, 2021 at 12:00 PM/ET!! See more about the event below:

“WinC Creative”, aka WCC, is our new virtual professional event experience! The conference serves to support the professional comic book community with programming directly addressing their needs via professional, educational & wellness workshops!

This one day conference will serve to support the professional comic book community with programming directly addressing their needs via:
  • Professional development panel(s)
  • An industry symposium
  • Wellness workshops

WCC will also have vendors, courtesy of our new “Artist Alley 365” (Debuting in July!) Admission will be Free for WinC members and $3-$6 for non-members.

For more information on Women in Comics Collective International (WinC) and to purchase tickets* see here!!

*All Attendees will receive a Virtual Swag Bag to download Books, Discount Services and More!

Posted in Monthly Book Recommendations, Resources

Dr. G’s-July Book Recommendations

This month we are reflecting and celebrating Black girl and woman experiences!! We got a nice mix of novels, memoirs, and Black literature to keep you engaged and entertained!

Check out this month’s selections and pre-order and/or head on over to your nearest bookstore!!

  • Luster A Novel ~Raven Leilani
  • Carefree Black Girls: A Celebration of Black Women in Pop Culture ~Zeba Blay
  • On Girlhood: 15 Stories from the Well-Read Black Girl Library ~Glory Edim
  • Leaving Breezy Street: A Memoir ~Brenda Myers-Powell w/April Reynolds
  • The Poison Heart ~Kalynn Bayron

Remember you can always go back and check out the previous month’s recommendations in the “Resource” section of the website!!

Till next month!!

~Dr. G

Posted in On The Radar

Re-Opening of Broadway with a Fresh New Line-up!!

The curtains will rise again, this Fall, as Broadway theaters will be opening its doors after being shutdown for a year and half due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A select new group of plays have been scheduled to premiere through the rest of this year!! But there is more….all seven plays on the fall line-up are by Black playwriters!! Theaters biggest stage will highlight a wide variety of stories including family comedy, drama, hope, survival, and much more! Check out the full line-up below:

  • Pass Over: Setting the tone and beginning the season is playwright Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu’s three-person play Pass Over directed by Danya Taymor.

A riff on Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’ following two black men killing time on a street corner when a white man enters their space.

  • Chicken & Biscuits: Hitting the Broadway stage for the time, Douglas Lyons new play will also feature the youngest Black director in Broadway’s 250+ year history, 27-year-old Zhailon Levingston

The Jenkins family is coming together to celebrate the life of their father — hopefully without killing each other. But any hopes for a peaceful reunion unravel when a family secret shows up at the funeral.

  • Lackawanna Blues: Tony Award winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson writes, directs, and performs his solo play in which he “embodies more than 20 vibrant characters, creating a richly textured reminiscence that’s inspiring, uplifting and right at home on Broadway.”

Time: 1956. Place: Lackawanna, NY. Would-be philosophers, petty hustlers, lost souls, and abandoned lovers all find refuge, comfort and nourishment at 32 Wasson Avenue, a boarding house where the landlady, Miss Rachel – “Nanny” – rules with the embracing spirit of both earth mother and drill sergeant.

  • Thoughts of a Colored Man: With an ALL-STAR cast ensemble (Dyllón Burnside, Bryan Terrell Clark, Da’vinchi, Luke James, Forrest Mcclendon, Tristan “Mack” Wilds and Keith David), playwright Keenan Scott II and director Steve H. Broadnax III brings to the stage “a mosaic of the inner lives of Black men and heralds the arrival of an essential new voice to the American theater.”

Over the course of a single day in the pulsing heart of Brooklyn, the hopes, sorrows, fears, and joys of seven men reverberate far beyond the barbershops and basketball courts of their community. Vulnerable and vibrant, raw and alive — these are the Thoughts of a Color Man.

  • Trouble in Mind: Originally produced off-Broadway in 1955, a Broadway transfer of the play was announced in 1957, but the production never happened. The acclaimed play from Alice Childress makes its Broadway debut with director Charles Wright-Randolph at the helm.

Wiletta Mayer, an African American actress of a certain age, has spent her career playing stereotypes, trapped on a merry-go-round of mammies, maids, and other menials. The curtain rises on the first day of rehearsal for Chaos in Belleville, a Broadway-bound play that tackles the harsh truths of racism in America. But when those truths spill out of the play and into the rehearsal hall, will Wiletta’s insistence on her dignity cost her the work she desperately needs?

  • Clyde’s: A new play from two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage and director Kate Whoriskey that explores second-chances, reclamation, and what it means to dream.

A truck stop sandwich shop offers its formerly incarcerated kitchen staff a shot at redemption. Even as the shop’s callous owner tries to keep them under her thumb, the staff members are given purpose and permission to dream by their shared quest to create the perfect sandwich.

  • Skeleton Crew: Written by Dominique Morisseau and directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Skeleton Crew navigates power dynamics and the power of decision-making.

A makeshift family of workers at the last exporting auto plant in the city navigate the possibility of foreclosure. Power dynamics shift and they are pushed to the limits of survival. The final play of Dominique Morisseau’s Detroit trilogy.

Nothing like seeing Black voices and stories take center stage. As noted by Broadway Black founder Drew Shade,

Seven Black shows coming to Broadway — it’s unprecedented. It’s what we would like to see, especially after the racial reckoning we’ve had in this society over the past year, and more specifically in the theater industry. But we also have to be realistic about the placement of the shows. We have to be realistic about what this may mean for Black artists going forward.

This fall theater season is going to be FIRE!! And I look forward to catching a few of these shows in the coming months!!

Posted in New Trailer Alerts!!

Weekly Trailer Alerts!!

Got a nice little mix of drama and comedy for you this week with a splash of animation and action!! Take a look and see below:

Turner & Hooch (Streaming on Disney+ July 21st)

Masters of the Universe: Revelation Part 1 (Streaming on Netflix July 23rd)

Marvel Studios’ What If…? (Series streaming on Disney+ August 11th)

Season 1-The Chair (Series streaming on Netflix August 20th)

Posted in New Trailer Alerts!!

Weekly Trailer Alerts!!

Another great day to roll out some new trailers!! Today’s line-up is mostly thrillers, horror, suspense with a splash of music!! Enjoy and check them out below:

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (In theaters July 16th)

Beckett (Streaming on Netflix August 4th)

Don’t Breathe 2 (In theaters August 13th)

Tick,Tick …Boom! (Streaming on Netflix this Fall 2021)

Posted in A Professor's Thoughts...

The South really does have something to say folks…

The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse “is an immersive multimedia art exhibition that traces 100 years of African American cultural influence and artistic expression.” This statement really does sum up so eloquently what visitors will see and hear when visiting this exhibition at the VMFA.

So upon walking through the doors, I am greeted with smiles and hello’s by a few VMFA workers, I pick up a brochure and I immediately see a thing of beauty… SLAB, 2021 (1990 Cadillac Brougham d’Elegance with custom accessories) [see below]…before you even walk into the actual exhibition one has to take a drive-by (rather walk-by lol) this classic vehicle, which in many ways sets the tone.

(“SLAB, 2021”-By: Richard FIEND Jones [aka International Jones] at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond, VA, Picture Courtesy of Grace D. Gipson)

This clean ride brings some joy into my heart and definitely made me smile. But what would come next stops me in my tracks. In the distance, I hear this faint but “chill up your spine” sound reminiscent of “Strange Fruit” sung by Billie Holiday. And as i get closer of course my ears do not deceive me at all, it’s this one lyric “Black bodies swingin’ in the southern breeze” on loop… One moment you hear and see Billie Holiday and then the next you hear and see Jill Scott, while simultaneously you see this video of a little Black girl on a swing enjoying the simple pleasures in life! I was like WOW, I’m just getting started and they GOT me!!

The Dirty South in so many ways is about identity, preservation, labor, expression, pain, joy, faith, tradition, and so much more. There were many moments when I would either get goosebumps or this tingle of my spine ( a couple of times I felt both) after hearing a jarring sonic sound, or gazing at an image that left me speechless. With each room I never knew what to expect, which made the exhibition like this exploratory adventure. But it was also like a Southern scavenger hunt, where I had this internal list of artists and themes that I knew I would have to find. Some of these artists/creatives that I would find included Bisa Butler, Romare Bearden, Kara Walker, Nick Cave, Clementine Hunter, Fahamu Pecou, Sun Ra, Deborah Roberts, among many others!!

(A collage of various works [Fahamu Pecou, Kara Walker, Renee Stout, Clementine Hunter and Bisa Butler] that are part of “The Dirty South…” exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond, VA, Picture Courtesy of Grace D. Gipson)

The Southern Black experience and culture was truly present so much so that I definitely had a few out of body moments where my spirit momentarily left, eventually making its way back to my body. So often the south gets placed into a singular box, but this exhibition made it very clear that is definitely not the case. As I always say #RepresentationMatters and that message was loud and clearly (literally and figuratively)!! Your thinking of the South will definitely be transformed. Blackness is unapologetically centered, but is enhanced by a spiritual conjuring, the regional inclusions, the Black queer voice, the labor, the children, the sonic vibrations, and the persistence of Black folks from the past all the way to the future!! So many stories, so many voices, so many points of view, just so much to take in…this was a time where I welcomed the feeling of being overwhelmed….My cup runneth over!!

Another moment worth mentioning that really made a huge impact was the way in which children were represented. I appreciated that not only did I see the pain and trauma, but also the way in which many of the images of the children were so innocent, simple and carefree. Some of the photographs like the one below took me back to my childhood days of going to church with mama and grandma and dozing off into a brief slumber on their lap, or flipping through the hymnals and singing along with the choir….ohhhh the memories.

(Top-“Ali and Quentin in Church” [1988]; Bottom l-r- “Ali” and “Ali and Quentin on Avenue S” [1988] By: Marilyn Nance at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond, VA, Picture Courtesy of Grace D. Gipson)

Nothing was off limits in The Dirty South, trust you will get it all and some!! Valerie Cassel Oliver, who serves as the exhibition curator creates a playing field that hits several home runs!! You will leave having many definitions of what the south represents. And without spoiling the last feature of the exhibition, I will say this just make sure you are prepared for every emotion to seep out of your body, just make sure to release and let it go…

Mississippi, Georgia (Atlanta), Alabama, Tennessee (Memphis), Texas (Houston), Louisiana (New Orleans), Florida (Miami) even parts of Africa and the galaxy have space in the The Dirty South exhibition. So if you have a chance, or you will be in the Richmond area it would be worth your while to stop by and check out this amazing aesthetic, cultural, and sonic experience!!

(“Strange Fruit” [1989] By: David Hammons at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, VA, Picture Courtesy of Grace D. Gipson)
(“DJ Screw in Heaven 2 [2016] By: El Franco Lee II at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Richmond, VA, Picture Courtesy of Grace D. Gipson)

The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse will be at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts through September 6th, 2021.

#VMFADirtySouth

~Dr. G “An Honorary Southerner”