About two weeks ago the great Taylor Network mogul asked me to do a piece for Black History month. Unfortunately for me it was midterms time in the Ware household, which means all three of us were buried under an avalanche of homework. I just now unburied myself enough to take a minute to type this at 11:35 pm on February 26th. However, I have something to say about the state of comics, during this month of celebrating my history so hopefully this will make it under the wire. I came into comics during a wonderful time to be a little brown kid who loved super heroes. I am a kid of the 90’s when there were black superheroes everywhere. Not just stereotypical eye rolling superheroes, but well written, fully developed black characters, and they were selling. When lil’ pre teen Farah walked into her local comic shop she saw Spawn, Voodoo, Storm, Bishop, Static, Steel, Blood Syndicate, Icon, Battalion, John Stewart, and host of other phenomenal characters who looked like me and my friends. In particular was the Milestone line, which I devoured, because it was the first time I realized black people wrote and drew comics. The joy that being able to see diverse representations of my people on the comic book page brought me was immeasurable. I spent hours drawing Brickhouse, my favorite character, on the front of all of my binders. All through the nineties and the early 2000’s I consumed any good black, comic book characters like candy. It was so good to be able to choose good characters, and not just take whatever character someone decided to make black for the sake of diversity.
Then life got in the way, I became a parent, and the comic book money dried up. I did not get back into comics until four years ago, and I was in for a nasty shock. Most of the black characters I knew and loved were gone. Many of the artists and writers had left of faded into obscurity. The characters that were left were shuffled to the back, or mishandled in way that made fandom frustrating. Flash forward to now, with the entire ruckus over race and gender swapped characters. The 13 year old Farah is very happy to see an afro puff rockin’ Power Girl, a Storm book, Falcon as Captain America, a Black Panther coming to the big screen, and the return of Milestone characters. However the adult me is more leery. I bought into idea before of comics acknowledging that 45 year old white mean are not their only audience, and diversifying their characters. Somehow, along the way the industry got scared and ran back to what they knew. Now twenty years later in my classroom I hear little black boys thrilled over Falcon’s appearance in the latest Captain America movie, and I smile. But at the same time I hear them say until him they didn’t know a superhero could be black, and I struggle. Should a child born 20’s later than me be having the same revelation I did? With all the progress that was made in the 1990’s with comic books and cartoons Static Shock , shouldn’t a child born in 2003 just have grown up with black superheroes always being around? When I hear people complain about the changing the race of characters I can’t help but think about those little brown boys running around with wings, and think “ I don’t care how representation happens, as long as we catch up to where we were 20 years ago.