News about the premier academic journal devoted to all aspects of cartooning and comics -- the International Journal of Comic Art (ISSN 1531-6793) published and edited by John Lent.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Book Review: All-Negro Comics (the 75th Anniversary Edition)

 reviewed by Cord Scott, UMGC Okinawa

Chris Robinson, editor.  All-Negro Comics (the 75th Anniversary Edition)., 2023.  $33.95 (hardcover). ISBN 979-8-218-13590-4. < >

For many comic books of the Golden Era of the 1940s, the stories and artwork have a certain lack of quality to modern readers.  The stories seem formulaic at times, the artwork adequate but limited in originality or detail, and stereotypes are often utilized to simplify the stories for the readers or just because they are part of the common visual vernacular.  It is not surprising that All-Negro Comics at first glance might seem of little overall impact.  In terms of business success, it was true. But historically, this could not be further from the truth.  This comic, originally produced in 1947, might not have had a lasting impact for the average (white) comic book reader, but when analyzed against the history of the era as well as that of the comic book industry, this Anniversary Edition allows a much fuller picture of its long-term impact. The purpose of the comic was, as journalist and the original editor Orrin Evans wrote, to “tell, teach and tribute” a mission this reprint edition continues. The reprint project, funded on Kickstarter <> raised over $35,000 from 656 people to bring the comic back into print, with copies given to several school and public libraries. The Kickstarter page also has more details on the restoration work done on the comic book scans.

The book is structured in three sections.  The first 50 pages are the original All-Negro Comics number one.  The stories as they appeared in the comic included “Ace Harlem,” a detective (written by Orrin Evans and inked by John Terrell); “Dew Dillies” written by Cooper about how semi-mythical entities act and interact; “Ezekiel's Story,” a two-page essay; “Lion Man” by George Evans where a scientist/hero strives to keep uranium safe for the UN from unscrupulous villains, “Hep Chicks on Parade”; “Lil Eggie”; and “Sugarfoot and Snakeoil” by Cravat, in which two travelling men look to gain a meal and a place to rest.

The second part of the book consists of brief essays on the impact of the comic on the African-American community in more recent years.  In the first essay, Qiana Whitted noted the significance of a comic book written, illustrated and meant for an African-American audience in an era where legal segregation was still the norm.  Many of the artists came from the Philadelphia School of Art and had had interactions with Evans previously.  Whitted also noted the history of African American centered comic strips from “Sonny Boy San” in the Pittsburgh Courier, and “Bungleton Green” from the Chicago Defender.  While newspapers may not have the same significance in the era of the internet, in the 1940s they were fundamental in providing news and entertainment centered towards an underserved segregated community across the country.  Unfortunately, Evans’ bold idea never made it past the first issue.  David Brothers stated in his essay “Hip Hop and Comic books was my Genesis” that the idea of African-American characters, especially those not merely as sidekicks or stereotypes, was fundamental in his own creative path.  Shawn Pryor’s essay “Finding My Path” states that racism still exists in the comic book industry despite the progress made, albeit now in the form of monetary compensation, and unstated continuing policy from an earlier era of editors which rarely hired black creators.

The third section of the book starts on page 66, and features new storylines created from the original characters.  Ace Harlem now struggles to deal with the issue of “white benefactors” who see themselves as betters for helping those less fortunate, while attempting to camouflage their own racism.  The new Lion Man story features issues of stereotypes and propaganda that dominated so many of the early comics and twists it to work for the character.  His faithful sidekick/ward Bubba still remains, but is not so much a hinderance but a imp working for Lion Man’s interests.  The essay in this later section is “Nana’s memory quilt” by Samantha Guzman.  The story discusses both the inevitability of death, but also how items such as quilts can help to preserve not only memories but also family history.  This later aspect is one that has traditionally been overlooked when dealing with cultures with written, as opposed to oral or pictorial histories.  Finally, the last significant story featuring the Dew Dillies centers on “Platypus and the Swan.”  The moral of the story is that both animals swim and have significance in the world despite their perceived aesthetic qualities.

As with any review of Golden age comics, there are aspects that still stand out for their inappropriateness.  While Whitted noted that Evans was trying to balance stereotypes with strong characters who were equals in the comic book world, there was still a considerable amount of sexism, be it from calling a female character “sugar” or “honey” to the original Sugarfoot’s object of desire, Ample Mae, and her well-proportioned and commented-upon figure.  The concept of taking the original comic and creating new stories was interesting.  It showed the impact of the original as a springboard to the present.  One of the areas that could have been expanded would be the history of the creators, and their backgrounds and other works.

In all, the book is a starting point for a research area that is significant, but not well-developed. One could then also at the impact of newspaper artists and their contributions to beyond comics.  Did any of the artists have connection to Army newspapers such as the Blue Helmet or the Buffalo, both of which catered to (segregated) Army units during World War II?  Or the black superhero artists of the 1970s-1980s? This book, as with so many others, offers a good reference point, but is not the whole story.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

IJOCA 25:2 Delayed

IJOCA 25:2 Delayed


IJOCA has prided itself for coming out within due seasons, but, unfortunately, that will not be the case with 25:2,

This issue is delayed, because.

1.             It is our silver anniversary issue, and to celebrate the occasion, we are including celebratory drawings and statements that have been (and still are) arriving.

2.             This issue includes a thorough index of all 25 years' contents, which took large amounts of time compiling, proofing, and putting into final form.

3.             The editing of the articles is taking up much time because of grammatical, typographical, and factual errors that needed remedying.

Please accept our apologies and bear with us.


John A. Lent