by Latonya Pennington
While the image of a witch is synonymous with a woman with power, most depictions of witches in popular culture are of white cis-hetero women seen in shows like Charmed and Sabrina The Teenage Witch. Now, queer women of color are using comics and the archetype of the witch to empower themselves in an anthology called Power and Magic. Edited by Joamette Gil and published by Power and Magic Press, Power & Magic gives queer women of color the power to discover and accept themselves, find love, and survive difficult circumstances.
As soon as you look at the anthology’s cover, you can feel the magic pulsing within the pages. Illustrated by Ashe Samuels, the cover depicts three brown and black female witches summoning their power as creamy white liquid pours out of a basin. The women are gorgeous, resplendent in flowing robes of purple and pink, while their purple hair fans out behind them like curtains and clouds. When asked about the influences on the cover, Ash Samuels stated, “I grew up with very little representation in my fantasy, so I was pretty eager to depict black and brown women unapologetically beautiful and powerful. It was pretty much a dream commission, all around!”
When it comes to the content, it is as inclusive and varied as the anthology’s contributors. Not only are all of the contributors and characters queer women of color, but there is a spectrum of queerness that is rarely depicted in most media. There are gender fluid women of color, fat queer women of color, disabled queer women of color, and more. In fact, a comic titled, “Def Together” depicts disabled dark skinned women with nearly no speech bubbles. Told from the point of view of a deaf woman, the reader watches as she attends a school for witches and tries to get the attention of the blind female student she has a crush on. She is as awkward and amusing as anyone who has experienced a crush.
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Besides the representation, the comics also stands out by displaying an interpretation of magic and witchcraft that is based on practices, desires, and circumstances found in real life. One comic titled, “Your Heart Is An Apple” has queer magical fairy tale princesses who experience the ups and downs of dating, By retelling the traditional versions of princesses like Snow White and Ariel, the artist displays a creative take on fairy tales while giving queer women a happy ending.
Meanwhile, “Te Perdi” features the Santeria religion and the pantheon of gods known as the Orisha. In this comic, an Afro-Latinx woman attempts to use the magic of the Orisha to prevent her female partner from dying of cancer. Even though this is a somber story, it is still an honest depiction of love, faith, and loss that will probably help others dealing with similar circumstances. Furthermore, it shows that for some magic isn’t just fun and games, but also a spiritual belief that provides hope and comfort.
Incidentally, “Te Perdi” is one of a few comics that have content label for those who may be triggered. These comics depict darker subjects such as self-harm and suicidal ideation. While those experiencing these circumstances may want to avoid these comics, the magic in some of these comics make reading them worth it. A comic titled “Songbird For A Vulture” really relates to the shame and isolation some queer women of color deal with, but also shows the power of having a community to support you and bring you better days.
A final notable aspect of the comic is that all the comics are in black and white. Other than one or two speech bubbles you have to look closely at to read, the black-and-white hardly detracts from the amazing characters and storytelling. Instead, the black-and-white enhances the magic in the comics by making the characters stand out more. Adding color might have caused the reader to pay more attention to the background or some irrelevant detail. Instead, the reader experiences the power and magic of the characters and their stories, seeing queer women of color in all their multi-faceted glory.
Through fantasy and magic realism, queer women of color comic artists have claimed the witch archetype and used it to tell their own stories. By providing much needed representation for a spectrum of queer women of color, Power and Magic gives power to those who need it most and celebrates magical possibilities.
Latonya Pennington is a queer freelance writer and blerd. She specializes in pop culture and entertainment and has written for Superselected magazine, The Mary Sue, Black Girl Nerds, and more. When she isn’t freelancing, she can be found on Twitter, streaming shows, listening to music, reading, and writing poetry.