Comics and the Black Diaspora: New film may dispel stereotypes

Gregg Reese | 3/8/2018, 2:30 p.m.

The start of this new literary pastime enabled the fourth grader to raise his reading level from the second grade to the eighth within the span of a year.

Davis pursued his artistic muse at New York’s High School for Art and Design, then Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute. Once out, he combined a free lance career with teaching, along the way guiding or mentoring future talents like artist N. Steven Harris, author/Illustrator Shawn Martinbrough, and Aaron McGruder of “The Boondocks” comic and TV series fame. Enjoying a lucrative advertising career, he worked his way back to the comics of his youth via work on DC’s Piranha Press and Marvel’s Epic imprint, both geared towards adults. Later, he along with Denys Cowan, Derek T. Dingle, and the late Dwayne McDuffie entered into a partnership with DC to launch the first comics venue marketed specifically for a minority readership, Milestone Comics.

Published under the mantle of DC, it was initially a success, but creative and financial differences led to the dissolve of the imprint.

Davis continued his successful run with collaboration with Motown animation and film, Viacom, and Magic Johnson. In the works is a launch with Wayne Brady and Karen Hunter of an entity called Level Next to create stories by and for people of color.

Marvel also introduced an addition to their best selling Avengers series, a king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda called T'Challa aka the superhero, the “Black Panther.” The Black Panther eventually gained his on self tilted comic, and married a member of the X-Men, African sorceresses named Ororo Munroe, aka “Storm” in May 1975.

Adilifu Nama, a Cleveland native, moved west to Hawthrone at the age 9, and also became engrossed in the comic medium. Like Davis, he was a fan of the Black Panther and “Captain America,” but also Marvel characters like the Falcon and Luke Cage. The transition into high school and its various social “clichés” gave way to basketball and the hip-hop culture.

Rites of Passage

Moving on to college at Cal State Long Beach, Nama’s tastes transitioned to science fiction and the writings of Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov. While enjoyable, his main gripe with this genre was the failure to identify,( i.e. one did not see one’s self in these books or films). Cris crossing the coasts for graduate school, first at Howard University, and then back home to USC, he set his sights on a doctrine mixing film, race, and media in general. In following these pursuits, he had an epiphany of sorts with the release of “The Matrix” circa 1999.

For Nama, this was the “…first Black science fiction film,” in that it spoke to him personally. The characters of Neo (Keanu Reeves), Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), and Oracle (Gloria Foster) infused his career as a scholar on the college level, first at Cal State Northridge, and now at Loyola Marymount University where he is a professor of African American Studies. A successful author, his bibliography includes “Black Space: Imagining Race in Science Fiction Film,” the first book to look at science fiction in terms of addressing the implications of racial discourse.