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

Chicago Humanities Festival - Nonprofit Giving Platform | GiveGab

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 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 Feature Spotlight, Jaya's Pop Culture Minute-PCM

Jaya’s Pop Culture Minute

Let’s Talk About Invincible!!

Invincible is the new Amazon Prime video animated television series based on the comics written by Robert Kirkman and illustrated by Tyan Ottely. This first season took the internet by storm and with season two and three being shortly announced after the release of the first season. The bigger question I want to tackle is, why is it so good? What drew people to this seemingly regular animated show about superheroes?

The latter question is definitely answered in the first episode. After seeing “Omni Man” who we think is the regular good guy type, we see him brutally kill the “Guardians of the Globe,” or this universe’s version of the “Avengers/Justice League.”

With that huge scene being in the first episode it draws the viewer into the show even more. This is not your typical superhero animated show. The hero being the villain all along and revealed in the first episode gives the viewer a sense of something new that has not been done before. I know for me I always find the “superhero being the villain” trope very interesting. Something about things being not as they seem are very unpredictable and that’s what makes this show so unique and interesting. 

Along with an intriguing plot, the series also includes a star studded cast with Steven Yeun voicing “Mark”, Sandra Oh voicing “Debbie”, and J.K. Simmons voicing “Omni Man.” When it is all said and done, it’s really hard not to enjoy the show! If the first season taught us anything it is that anything can happen and I’m excited to see where they take Mark’s character in the future. I’m also excited to see what happens when Omni Man comes back.

Invincible character (voiced by Steven Yuen) Credit: Amazon Prime Studios
Lead character “Invincible” (voiced by Steven Yuen) from the animated series of the same name;
Photo Credit: Amazon Prime Studios

Posted in On The Radar

On The Radar-Upcoming Event

As I close out the Spring semester, I wanted to make sure I shared this upcoming event:

May 20th, 2021 (8pm/ET)Art Design Chicago Now Program/Terra Foundation for American Art presents, “The Past and Future of Comics”

Art by Bianca Xunise

The future of comic books belongs to Black women. In many cases drawing on Afrofuturism to tell their own stories, Black women comic book artists and writers are redefining the genre and innovating new ways to think about identity, race, and gender. Join Black future feminist and pop culture scholar Dr. Grace D. Gipson and Chicago cartoonist Bianca Xunise (Say Her Name) for a conversation about the history and future of comic books in Chicago and the real superheroes of the genre: Black women authors and illustrators, and their protagonists.

This program is free to all with registration. Registered guests will receive the link to watch via email in advance of the premiere. The event will premiere on YouTube on May 20th at 7pm/CT (8 pm/ET).

To register click here!!

Posted in On The Radar

On the Radar

Peep Game Comix and The Comic Book Shopping Experience present the 2021 ‘Black Comix Universe’ Virtual Comic Con

Two of my favorite things Black History and comics…And what better way to close out Black History Month than with a virtual comic con!! So as part of Black History Month, Peep Game Comix and The Comic Book Shopping Experience will be closing out with a 2-day virtual comic con, Black Comix Universe; the virtual comic con event will take place on Saturday, February 27 and Sunday, February 28!

The purpose of the event is to educate comic book fans about the amazing work and impact Black creators are having in the comic book industry. The 16 hour event will stream live on several platforms including: Youtube, Facebook, Twitch and others. ~Peep Game Comix

During these two eventful days there will be a host of panel presentations along with featured guests like Afua Richardson (Illustrator, Indie Publisher,Musician), John Jennings (Illustrator, Publisher), Tim Fielder (Illustrator, Author), Joseph Illidge (Editor, Writer), and more!!

This is a con you do not want to miss…I know I won’t!!

For more information about the Virtual Con and Peep Game Comix see here!!

~Dr. G

Posted in Feature Spotlight

Feature Spotlight

“The only way you really see change is by helping create it.” ~Lena Waithe

Today’s post is all about creating that change through featuring up and coming talent, especially young Black talent! Just in the same way that many of my teachers and mentors guided and assisted in my journey, it is my duty to do the same. If it was not for my community, I would not be the person I am today. I remember back in high school I use to tell myself, whenever I got the opportunity to reach back and guide the next future leaders I would jump at the opportunity. Thus, it is very important to guide and recognize, but also create a space and a platform to feature these talents.

So it is with great excitement that I am able to share with you the newest member to the Black Future Feminist team, Jaya Robinson! Jaya is a sophomore in high school, a published author, and a budding pop culture commentator!! Plus, like me she is also a fan of comic books and film!!

And on a monthly basis, Black Future Feminist followers will get to check out featured pop culture commentary on a variety of Blockbuster films, new television series, comic books, manga, and so much more. Today’s featured content, takes a look at the 2008 Marvel Comics action film, Iron Man starring Robert Downey Jr. and its overall impact on pop culture.

Iron Man and Its Impact on Pop Culture” ~Jaya Robinson

Like many people, 2008’s Iron Man was my first introduction to big popular comic book movies. Before that time, there were superhero movies such as the Warner Bros. Batman film franchise, (Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, and George Clooney), and even before that the Superman movie franchise, however no movie franchise was what Marvel was bound to become. Prior to Iron Man, only a selected few (mainly comic book fans/readers) knew about the “Iron Man” character. Even those who were familiar with from the comics, they did not necessarily relate to the character. However, this movie created a lane that made it possible to relate to Tony Stark. It made an otherwise un-relatable billionaire, playboy philanthropist…human. Iron Man, as a film, not only launched Marvel Comics into mainstream media and pop culture, but it also changed how superheroes were approached in blockbuster movies. Additionally, Iron Man played a fundamental role in the launching other comic book movies and future blockbusters. Without Iron Man, current comic book based movies would not be the same. Iron Man humanized the characters it brought from the page and showed them in a way audiences had never seen before. It is important to note, that superheroes have always been an important part of pop culture. Before there were superhero TV shows, we had comic books. As an added bonus, what made this movie so special was that they were able to take inspiration directly from the pages of the comic book that people grew up with and transform it to the big screen. 

Now what made this movie so different from other comic book movies of the time was its realness and grit. This movie did not shy away from Tony Stark’s flaws (such as his struggle with alcohol addiction), but embraced them and showed them in a new light. Iron Man not only reached people who enjoyed comic books, but also people who just enjoyed movies. 

Iron Man bridged the gap between the comic book genre and the regular film genre. It is one of the reasons why Iron Man was so good for the time. The cinematography as well as the plot and storyline proved to be good enough to break the label of being a stereotypical “comic book” movie. In some cases, comic book movies focused on the superhero and not the character itself. Iron Man moved away from that formula and essentially laid the groundwork for future comic book movies. It essentially became the blueprint. This movie sparked the start of not only the Marvel franchise, but other comic book movies outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Iron Man, as a film, also played a role in signaling other comic books to move into the mainstream media. One might also argue that it sparked an added interest in comic books, in general. Because of its commercial success, people began to take an active interest in Tony Stark’s complete background and origin.

All in all, Marvel would set its wheels in motion with the Iron Man film while making a further mark in the comic book medium and securing a place within pop culture. In the end, Iron Man proved skeptics wrong, and showed how superhero movies did not always have to be a superhero vs. alien threat, but could also be superhero vs. self. Iron Man showed that superhero movies can incorporate an intimate and relatable narrative, because at the end of the day Iron Man is still a man behind all of the armor.

Image result for iron man
Tony Stark as “Iron Man”
Posted in Resources

Let’s Talk About Race-Black Lives Matter

Previously Posted on Happy Mama Happy Mini (June 2020)

Over the past few months, we have been struggling through a global pandemic—one that has disproportionately affected Black and Brown communities—while also trying to find some sense of comfort and happiness. However, we as country and even the world have recently witnessed a national outpouring of anger, frustration, passion, and protests in response to the ongoing pain of racial injustice and police brutality. With the recent national attention regarding the killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd, it is essential to create dialogues about these events and how we make meaning of them to invest in a better society. 

As stated by Black feminist and civil rights activist Audre Lorde, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” Thus, as we continue to have discussion in our schools, churches, community events, and our homes it is important that we engage in these differences, while simultaneously equipping ourselves and others. Having the knowledge can lead to fruitful conversation and some sort of change. 

This knowledge can be found in a variety of resources, tools, books, films/documentaries, and community efforts. 

Below you will see a guide that seeks to equip us with the knowledge in hopes to bring about change: 

Multimedia

Graphic Novels/YA/Children’s Books

  • Dear Martin (2017) ~Nic Stone
  • The Poet X (2018) ~Elizabeth Acevedo
  • Bayou (2009) ~Jeremy Love
  • Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice (2018) ~Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins,and Ann Hazzard
  • Saturday (2019) ~Oge Mara
  • The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist (2017) ~Cynthia Levinson
  • Each Kindness (2012) ~Jacqueline Woodson
  • “Resist: 35 Profiles of Ordinary People Who Rose Up Against Tyranny and Injustice” (2018) ~Veronica Chambers
  • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You (2020) ~Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi
  • Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation (2020) ~Damian Duffy & John Jennings
  • March [Trilogy] (2016) ~John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell
  • The Hate U Give (2017) ~Angie Thomas
  • ‘Still I Rise: A Graphic History of African Americans’ ~Roland Laird w/Taneshia Nash
  • Skin Like Mine (2016) ~LaTashia M. Perry
  • I Am Enough (2018) ~Grace Byers
  • Hair Love (2019) ~Matthew Cherry
  • Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History (2017) & Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History (2019) ~Vashti Harrison

Films/Documentaries

  • I Am Not Your Negro (2016)
  • Race (2016)
  • Do the Right Thing (1989)
  • Fruitvale Station (2013)
  • If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
  • Selma (2014)
  • The Hate You Give (2018)
  • Pariah (2011)
  • Get Out (2017)
  • Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland (2018)
  • Dear White People [Film (2014) & Netflix series (2017-2021)]
  • 13th (2016) [Netflix]
  • When They See Us (2019) [Netflix]
  • Seven Seconds (2018) [Netflix]
  • Time: The Kalief Browder Story [Netflix]
  • See You Yesterday (2019) [Netflix]

Books

  • White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide (2016) ~Carol Anderson
  • How to Be An Antiracist (2019) ~Ibram X. Kendi
  • Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools (2018) ~Monique Morris
  • From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation (2016) ~Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
  • Between the World and Me (2015) ~Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • So you want talk about race (2019) ~Ijeoma Oluo
  • White Fragility: Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism (2018) ~Robin Diangelo
  • Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race (2017) ~Beverly D. Tatum
  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the age of Colorblindness (2020) ~Michelle Alexander
  • Parable of the Sower (1993) ~Octavia E. Butler  
  • ‘Choke Hold’: Policing Black Men (2018) ~Paul Butler
  • Citizen: An American Lyric (2014) ~Claudia Rankine
  • Bad Feminist (2014 ) ~Roxane Gay
  • Heavy: An American Memoir (2019) ~Kiese Laymon
  • Racism Without Racists: Color-blind racism and the persistence of Racial Inequality in America (2017) ~Eduardo Bonilla-Silva
  • The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America (2018) ~Richard Rothstein
  • No Ashes in the Fire (2019) ~Darnell L. Moore
  • ‘When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir’ (2020) ~Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele
  • ‘Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower’ (2019) ~Brittney Cooper
  • ‘Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism’ (2018) ~Safiya Umoja Noble

This is not an end all, be all list, but meant to ignite and continue dialogues that can be difficult, but are very necessary. Hopefully, this list will also lead to the creation of building other resource guides that can be used in the fight against anti-Blackness and anti-racism. 

“We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.” ~Ella Baker