I can clearly recall the very first moment that my love of comics and comic art coalesced into A Thing: Amazing Spider Man #316. This issue marked the return of Spider-Man’s nemesis Venom, but it was Todd McFarlane’s art that sealed the deal for me: his Spider-Man looked like a real dude in a weird costume, and he made Venom’s smile look absolutely predatory. That love continued upon seeing Jim Lee’s crisp lines and detailed character models in X-Men (Vol. 2) #1. I followed these two when they left Marvel for Image, where I collected entire volumes strictly to ogle the pencils, inks, and colors.
Despite my admiration, though, it wasn’t until I came across Denys Cowan’s spectacular work on Hardware that I knew that black people–and black artists in particular–could really, truly leave their mark on comics. Cowan’s art was unlike anything I’d ever seen. His pencils were frenetic, heavy and full of character. Curtis Metcalf’s face behind the Hardware mask resembled one of my cousins. I gobbled up all of Cowans’ work, and sought out other black artists, writers, and creators. My love for their work has burned to this day.
Count yourself lucky, dear reader, because I am going to share some of my love with you. Today, I’m going to run down a quick list of artists that you should be keeping track of, what work they’ve done, and where you can find them. For the sake of space, I won’t focus so much on historical artists–we’d be here all day! Anthologies like Damian Duffy’s Black Comix: African American Independent Comics, Art, and Culture, Sheena C. Howard’s and Ronald L. Jackson’s Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation, Deborah Elizabeth Whaley’s Black Women in Sequence: Re-inking Comics, Graphic Novels, and Anime, and Professor William H. Foster’s The Untold History of Black Comic Books do a fantastic job of highlighting the historical work of black comic writers and artists. Instead, I’ll highlight some contemporary artists and their work. You ready?
Ashley A. Woods got her start with her webcomic Millenia War (which, unfortunately, seems to have disappeared from the internet). She’s now the artist on one of my favorite comics at the moment: Niobe She is Life.
Brian Stelfreeze provided covers for DC Comics’ Batman: Shadow of the Bat, as well as pencil work and inks on hundreds of other titles, including Boom Studios’ Day Men, which is a must-read. He’s also working on Marvel’s new Black Panther title, which is being written by some guy named Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Micheline Hess is an artist and designer who is the talent behind Rosarium’s all ages title Malice in Ovenland.
Greene has done lots of work for Marvel, most recently on the new Power Man and Iron Fist title that’s set for release on February 17th.
Khary Randolph is an artist and animator who has worked on several TV shows, including Spider-Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Boondocks. He’s known in comics for his work on Image’s Tech Jacket and, most recently, DC’s We Are Robin.
Chuck Collins is a former bouncer, and creator of the action-comedy webcomic Bounce.
Now, of course, this isn’t every black comic book artist worth mentioning–not even close. My hope is that this will be a good primer for your own first steps into the work of black comic artists. If you’re looking for more, check out Black Comics Month and The Blerdgurl, two curators of black comics content across the web. And for those of you who stan for story, never fear! I dig great writers too, and I have a list of those coming soon.
Correction: This post originally attributed Taneka Stotts as the artist of Full Circle, which is incorrect. Stotts is the writer of Full Circle and Christianne Goudreau is the artist. Full Circle has been replaced by Mildred Louis’ Agents of the Realm.