Recommend Good African-American Comics

I received a reader query that I thought raised an interesting topic:

Can you point me in the direction of any quality, independent comics that are about African-Americans, or at least have non-stereotyped African-American characters? I have just finished reading Best American Comics of 2007, and it seemed filled with self-pitying white, Jewish, or Asian upper-middle class hipsters. I want to give graphic novels a try, but I’d also like to see some characters I can identify with.

That’s a sensible request. I know I appreciate reading good comics that reflect my concerns and struggles. I haven’t read the anthology mentioned, but autobiographical comics, which I’ve heard it’s heavy on, do tend to reflect their protagonists, and there aren’t a lot of African-American creators I know of working in that genre.

An exception is Keith Knight, whose K Chronicles are autobio but quite funny without self-pity. You might also enjoy the works of Kyle Baker. His Baker family strips are like cartoons on paper, but he’s also done more serious work, like Nat Turner.

Moving away from humor, in 2007, Stagger Lee deservedly swept the Glyph Comic Awards, which recognize the best in black comic books and creators. It explores the story behind the song in a multi-layered historical tale. Another choice is Incognegro, a historical genre adventure I recently enjoyed reading.

For more information and recommendations, check out Rich Watson’s blog. He organizes the Glyphs and often features information on African-American comics.

Readers, do you have other suggestions?

19 Responses to “Recommend Good African-American Comics”

  1. John Says:

    I really loved Incognegro – I second that recommendation highly.

  2. Jason Michelitch Says:

    Percy Carey (MF Grimm)’s autobio comic (art by Roland Wimberly) SENTENCES was pretty good.

    I haven’t actually read it yet, but out of faith in both creators, Kyle Baker and Aaron MacGruder’s BIRTH OF A NATION may be worth a look.

    Straying a bit from the desired genre, I always thought Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons’ GIVE ME LIBERTY was terrific, and features possibly the best African-American Woman Adventure Hero of any medium.

  3. Johanna Says:

    You’ll have a hard time convincing me she beats Amanda (of and Gunn by Jimmie Robinson).

    Birth of a Nation disappointed me. I found it disjointed and not very effective as a comic – it was clearly a set of storyboards (as it was originally intended to be a film). Some neat concepts, though.

  4. Tara Tallan Says:

    I know webcomics aren’t your thing, Johanna, but Traci Spencer’s Compass over at GirlAMatic features one of the coolest black women I’ve read in a while. Not African-American, precisely, since she’s British, but I think it still qualifies. And with any luck– and lots of reader support– hopefully she’ll publish it soon!

  5. Julie Says:

    Wet Moon is a graphic novel series that has two really interesting african-american characters, Audrey and Mara. (Mara is one of my favorites in the
    whole series.)
    I don’t know how you would describe the books, as sort of a goth girl surreal soap opera? The art is beautiful, the only thing is Mara and Audrey’s story arcs don’t really heat up any until volume 3.

  6. Jim Kosmicki Says:

    Bluesman, soon to be collected into one volume by NBM, although the depiction of African-American itinerant musicians could possibly be seen as stereotypical by some.

  7. Johanna Says:

    I am also intrigued by Wet Moon, although I can’t explain it either.

  8. Anthony Says:

    If African-American superheroes are of any interest, maybe finding back issues of the 90s Milestone Comics line might be worthwhile? (Don’t recall if or how many of these were put into trade paperback collections…)

    For comic strips, I enjoyed MacGruder’s “Boondocks” (available in various compilations). African-Americans also play roles as suporting characters in various other comic strips (including Alison Bechdel’s “Dykes to Watch Out For”).

  9. Johanna Says:

    The only Milestone collections I know of were Icon, Static, and then the later Static Shock miniseries. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were all out of print at this point.

    At your blog, you asked about manga — the track record there is pretty bad. The only character I can think of is in Alice 19th, where a US postal worker is introduced late in the story as part of a group of worldwide helpers.

  10. Jim Kosmicki Says:

    Doesn’t Earthlight (right title?), a Tokyopop book written by Stuart Moore, have an African-American main character? I purchased the first two volumes from the recent Tokyopop clearance sale but haven’t had time to read them yet.

  11. Ali T. Kokmen Says:

    “At your blog, you asked about manga — the track record there is pretty bad.”

    At the risk of being (rightfully) accused of some shilling, I’m going to have to put in a word for ME & THE DEVIL BLUES by Akira Hiramoto, a new series that Del Rey Manga will publish in August.

    It’s a bona fide Japanese manga based on the story of Robert Johnson, the blues magician whose skill with a guitar caused some to think that he had sold his soul to the devil for his talent. ME & THE DEVIL BLUES poses the question: what if that story were true?

    I think that ME & THE DEVIL BLUES will challenge what many think of as manga–and what many who think of manga think of the general depiction of African-Americans in manga–so I’m eager to see what folks think about it. Keep an eye out for it, do…

  12. Johanna Says:

    Oh, yes, Earthlight is a good read and does qualify. (I didn’t think about the OEL titles.)

    Ali, thanks for letting us know! Sounds very intriguing.

  13. josh Says:

    the many adventures of miranda mercury, published by ASP.

  14. Sam Humphries Says:

    Stuck Rubber Baby fits the request and is an amazing book by any measure…

  15. ross Says:

    ross campbell here, the Wet Moon guy! thanks for the mention, you guys!

    anyway, my Tokyopop zombie book The Abandoned (which came out way back in 2006) features an african-american lead character. ;)

  16. Becky Says:

    There’s a webcomic that just came out called Animosity Sonata. It’s pretty good and filled with action.

  17. Johanna Says:

    You mean the one found here?

  18. Becky Says:


  19. Prosepunk Says:

    I always mention Berserk which is a manga whose beginning is also available as a short-lived anime series. Caska is dark though whether she is of African ancestry is still up for debate.




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