This book spotlights over 100 comic strips, comic books, and graphic novels
to feature black characters from all over the world over the last century, and the
result is a fascinating journey to, if not enlightenment, then at least away from
the horrendous caricatures of yore.
The book begins with the habitually appalling images of blacks as ignorant
“coons” in the earliest syndicated strips (Happy Hooligan, Moon Mullins, and The
Katzenjammer Kids); continues with the almost-quaint colonialist images of the often-suppressed Tintin album Tintin
in the Congo and such ambiguous figures as Mandrake the Magician’s “noble savage” assistant Lothar in the ’30s (not to
mention Torchy Brown, the first syndicated black character), moving on to such oddities as the offensive Ebony character
in Will Eisner’s otherwise classic The Spirit from the ’40s and ’50s.
We then continue into the often earnest attempts at ’60s integration in such strips as Peanuts (and comic books such as
the Fantastic Four), as well as the first wave of “black strips” like Wee Pals, juxtaposed with the shocking satire of underground comics such as R. Crumb’s incendiary Angefood McSpade. Also investigated is the increased use of blacks in
super-hero comic books as well as syndicated strips. Black Images in the Comics wraps up from the ’80s to now, with the
increased visibility of blacks, often in works actually produced by blacks, all the way to the South African strip Madam
& Eve, Aaron McGruder’s pointed daily The Boondocks, and more — including over a dozen new entries added to the
out-of-print hardcover edition.
Each strip, comic, or graphic novel is spotlighted via a compact but instructive 200-word essay and a representative
illustration. The book is augmented by a context-setting introduction, an extensive source list and bibliography, and a
foreword by Charles R. Johnson, the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation fellowship and winner of the National Book
Award for his 1990 novel Middle Passage.
“The book presents a unique look at the evolution of
comics, but it also proves comics to be an effective and
sobering lens for viewing the history of racism toward
blacks.” – School Library Journal
“As this small but potent book shows, African Americans
didn’t fare any better in the comics medium than elsewhere
in popular culture. Strömberg’s compact cultural critique
encapsulates each of about 100 black comics characters
in a brief, single-page essay and a full-page illustration...”