Black people don’t have super powers…but what if they did?
BLACK, an independent comic created by Kwanza Osajyefo, Tim Smith 3, Jamal Igle, Khary Randolph and Sarah Litt will answer that question. Funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign, the comic may be an entertaining read for non-Black readers, but was a labor of love, joy and pain for the creators.
“It’s cathartic to take ownership of this narrative even though it sometimes deals with painful issues of the black experience,” says Osajyefo. “It’s not an objective or empathetic exercise; this is our story, our pain, our joy, and our hope.”
Cover illustrator Khary Randolph echoes those sentiments, calling BLACK the “hardest thing I’ve ever worked on.”
“This isn’t just another job,” he added. “Every cover of BLACK feels heavy and weighted, like there is a responsibility to both catch your eye and tell the truth. And the truth is usually not pretty nor fun. I spend a lot of time researching and referencing these covers and some of that stuff can be hard to look at. The covers take longer than normal covers I draw because I put a lot more emotional resonance into them.”
BLACK drops us into the world of inner-city teenager Kareem Jenkins. What follows is a tale of Black resistance by Black protagonists.
With the recent murders of law enforcement officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, BLACK’s story could be labeled “anti-police.” The creators are unfazed by that possibility.
“People will find any reason to act in a negative fashion,” said Smith, BLACK’s co-creator and designer. “If someone has a problem with fictional characters that happen to be Black people with powers, [then] they have deeper issues at work.”
It’s impossible to look at BLACK as just another comic with a Black lead character. It’s not the first comic book to do this — Marvel Comics has Spider-Man, Luke Cage, and Nighthawk. What makes BLACK different is that they are tackling contemporary issues in a world where only Black people have super powers. Black people, and Black people alone, are the heroes we’ve been waiting for.
To that end, it’s also important to remember that BLACK is a sci-fi take inspired by real events. While it may give inspiration for readers to fight for equality, one of BLACK’s broader goals is to kick down the doors that have prevented a diverse range of comic book heroes.
One thing BLACK has managed to maintain in the run up to its release is an heir of mystery. While there is a general idea of the plot, not much information is available about its leading characters.
“I want readers to see that heroes can come in any color,” said Smith. “I want non-readers of comics or those that mostly read the typical mainstream titles, to consider alternative ideas and stories. This is not just a comic for Black people; it’s a comic for everyone.”
“How we see the world and others is very powerful and unique, so I want the characters in BLACK to reflect the diverse perspectives we have.” adds co-creator and industry veteran Kwanza Osajyefo.
Like Smith, Osajyefo, wants BLACK to be one of the best comic titles around Ask him about diversity in the comic book industry and he won’t bite his tongue.
“Marvel’s working real hard to make Black faces their poster children for diversity,” he said. “They cast a long shadow, so I guess that what I’d really want people to do is lend their copies of BLACK to friends and family. I don’t need to send out press releases about second printings or talk to sites about how one of the characters in BLACK is the smartest. I want BLACK to mean more than a sound bite or good PR.”
With timely subject matter and compelling characters, BLACK is well positioned to be much more than good PR or a talking point on comic diversity. It stands to add to the growing body of literature, music and other media brilliantly capturing the moments of a movement where our new Black heroes appeared on blocks across America.
And inside the pages of our comics.
BLACK will be released in comic book stores and digital outlets in September.