by Chanelle Adams
This April, comic book and cartoon heroes of color are soaking up the mainstream spotlight. Most notably, the long awaited Black Panther, authored by Ta-Nehisi Coates, came out April 6th. And the week before, we experienced an entire day of fanaticism when PowerpuffYourself.com gave us eight different skin tone options to bring Powerpuff Girls of color into the city of Townsville for the first time ever.
These incremental changes in the amount of representation we are receiving in mainstream media right now are no coincidence. Mainstream media is scrambling to try to meet the standards of audiences like us, who want more than just cis hetero white actors and storylines. For decades, there have been studies showing how severely unrepresented marginalized identities are in the media, but with more recent Twitter campaigns like #OscarsSoWhite and #GayMediaSoWhite gaining attention, it is beginning to feel like these real issues of representation within mainstream media are finally starting to be addressed.
Comics, like most mainstream fiction, have also always lacked representation of folks who stray from the societal norms of being white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied, and gender-conforming. The fact that so many folks are left out of fictional worlds boils down to more than just casting and funding; it’s a serious lack of support for creators with marginalized identities and little imagination on the part of major industry.
But, as I’m sure you know, queer and trans organizers of color have always been looking to the revolutionary potentials of creativity and imagination to remedy (or at least escape) the evils in this messy world we call home. The popularity of anthologies like Octavia’s Brood (at least amongst our circles) are a testament to the permanent role that speculative fiction literary heroes of color play in the revolutionary tradition.
There are so many queer and/or trans folks of color actively working to increase representation in their work through webcomics, illustrations and more! Support the work they do, and we might just begin to see a world together in which we all are free.
Here are 11 PoC comic artists you should know:
Ashanti Fortson is a queer, brown cartoonist and illustrator with a passion for telling the kind, diverse stories they rarely got to see while growing up. They are fascinated by outer space, both as a scientific field and as a setting for fantastical stories, and they are currently working on a space fantasy webcomic called Galanthus. They also enjoy knitting and cooking, and are based in Baltimore, MD. Their pronouns are either they/them or she/her.
You can view Ashanti’s work here.
Ethan is a self-taught illustrator and comic artist living and working in Austin, TX. They’ve worked hand-in-hand with Strong Families, Black Lives Matter, and Culture Strike to create visual noise and draw attention to relevant social topics affecting the intersections of Black womanhood in the queer and trans communities. Ethan is a geeky guy who loves to read comics, play video games and kick flip for social justice. They enjoy long walks on the beach, piña coladas and clichés.
Alexandria Araiza was born in San Antonio, TX. Now and days he just goes by Alex D. Araiza, though he hopes to keep his name Alexandria even when he transitions. His freelance and personal projects usually involve three subjects: horror, family, and cats, and combos of all three. He really enjoys tackling the concept of fear and love with a sense of surrealness and humor.
Visit Alex’s work here.
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Joamette Gil is a queer Afro-Cuban cartoonist, online curator, and publisher from the Miami diaspora. Her comics teach intersectional feminism and self-care; explore her own life experiences; and transport readers into fantasy worlds where queer people of color are always the heroes. As a curator and publisher, she manages free comics education resources and works exclusively with creators from the margins to bring their comics to as wide an audience as possible.
You can find all Joamette’s work and social media stuff at joamettegil.com.
Elisha Lim takes great pleasure in creatively portraying the beauty, dignity and power of being neither straight, nor white, nor cis-gendered. They also successfully advocated for Canadian gay media to adopt the gender neutral pronoun ‘they’. Their comics include the Bitch Magazine acclaimed “Sissy Calendar”, The Illustrated Gentleman, and most notably – 100 Crushes, a graphic novel that came out on Koyama Press in 2014.
Elish’s work is on their website.
Aatmaja Pandya is a cartoonist and illustrator from New York. She graduated from the School of Visual Arts in 2014 with a BFA Illustration degree. Her current project is Travelogue, a fantasy “diary” comic with a focus on worldbuilding. She likes drawing comics about wizards and video games and surly teens.
You can view Aatmaja’s work here.
Bishakh’s work investigates the intersection between image and text, figure and architecture, architecture and landscape. They are inspired by the grammar of comics and graphic novels, in aid of exploring themes of gender and sexuality, memory and urbanism, love and loss. They have just recently co-authored and illustrated The Prefab Bath: An Architectural History, published by McFarland Press.Bishakh’s work will appear in the forthcoming anthology of queer paranormal romance comics, The Other Side.
You can view Bishakh’s work here.
Taneka Stotts is a queer little tumbleweed that stopped rolling somewhere in Portland, OR. After spending quite a few years as a spoken word artist, she shifted her focus to comics which she has admired and loved since she was a little kid. Taneka writes the webcomic “Full Circle” and the minicomic “Love & Sprockets.” She has edited a few comics anthologies including most recently the “Beyond: The Queer Sci-Fi and Fantasy Comic Anthology” (now nominated for a Lambda Literacy Award) and currently working on “Elements” a comics anthology by creators of color with Shing Yin Khor.
You can visit Taneka’s website here.
Knaishia Grover is a 26 year old, black, non-binary and bisexual artist. Knaishia has wanted to work on comics since six years old. They consider comics to be one of the greatest blends of visual art and written storytelling. Their greatest ambition is to have a large readership and eventually put one of their creations to print. Knaishia’s current project is Blessings, which is a long form fantasy comic starring QTPoC.
You can follow Knaisha on Twitter.
Bekky Shin, who also goes by the name Sunmi online, is a Korean-American illustrator and cartoonist from the Bay Area of California, currently studying at the Maryland Institute College of Art. They are a pretty ordinary human bean with a ridiculous heart and jumbled mind, who wants to write and illustrate stories that would give their younger, queer self the comfort they never had. Feel free to contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Bekky’s work is on their website.
Kez aka Mister Loki is a gay trans comic artist who currently lives in Los Angeles, CA after graduating with a Bachelors of Science in Nursing at UCLA. He works as a pediatric oncology bone marrow transplant nurse and spends the rest of his time working on independent comics. The comics he writes focus on increasing LGBTQ and racial representation across a variety of genres.
You can check out Kez’s work here.
Chanelle Adams is Managing Editor at BGD. Chanelle escapes the day-to-day by imagining better worlds. She published her feminist utopian vision this fall with The Feminist Press. You can follow her on Twitter @nellienooks.
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