Given a choice between reading a literacy classic and a contemporary fiction book, most of us, including me, would probably choose the contemporary book. But, if I had the choice between reading a classic in text format versus a comics format, depending on what it is, I’d choose the graphics format.
That’s just what you can do right after Christmas when African-American Classics: Graphic Classics Volume 22 comes out, featuring some of America’s best works by Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and others. Contemporary black illustrators like Kyle Baker, Shepherd Hendrix and Jeremy Love have contributed their talent to this collection that showcases classic stories and poems adapted by award-winning black writers like Alex Simmons and Mat Johnson. Many of these illustrators and writers have received Glyph Awards. These awards celebrate outstanding comics made by, for, and about people of color.
This upcoming book made me curious about the representation of African-Americans in comics. Comics should reflect today’s racial and cultural diversity, so I decided to see if that was true. The representation of African-Americans in graphic novels for teens runs the gambit from:
- Bessie Coleman: Daring Stunt Pilot by Trina Robbins (2007)
- Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography by Andrew Helfer (2006)
- I See the Promised Land: A Life of Martin Luther King Jr. by Arthur Flowers and Manu Chitrakar, illustrated by Guglielmo Rossi (2010)
- BAM! The 44th President: A Graphic Novel by Kyle Baker (2010)
GRITTY TRUE-TO-LIFE FICTIONAL OR NON-FICTIONAL STORIES
- Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri, illustrated by Randy DuBurke (2010): Based on true story of an 11-year-old African-American gang member from Chicago who shot a 14-year-old girl and then was shot to death by his own gang. (2011 Great Graphic Novels for Teens)
- Little Rock Nine by Marshall Poe, illustrated by Ellen Lindner (2008)
- A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld (2009): 2010 Great Graphic Novels for Teens
- Pitch Black: Don’t Be Skerd by Youme Landowne and Anthony Horton (2008): 2009 Top Teen Graphic Novels for Teens
- Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun: A Personal History of Violence (2010) by Jamar Nicholas, from Geoffrey Canada’s memoir that described how Canada learned to survive on the violent streets of the South Bronx. 2011 Great Graphic Novels for Teens
- Moped Army by Paul Sizer (2005): In 2277, a girl named Simone is caught between her rich entitlement culture friends in the upper city and the gangs of moped riders who roam and patrol the lower city. 2007 Great Graphic Novels for Teens