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Monday, August 18, 2014

The Isis Series and The Lightskin/Darkskin Issue, and Dysfunctional Color Struck Negroes

Sometimes the ignorance of people is an opportunity to teach. A couple of weeks ago, On seeing the cover for Isis: Wrath of the Cybergoddess paperback, family members told me that the characters on the cover weren’t “Black” and began to go into the old lightskin/darkskin argument instead of looking at the content of the story.

 Now every other African-American fantasy group, Black book group, nonblack book group and comic book group on Facebook I’m on has told me they clearly see how Isis is Black. Many more have praised the cover by Bill Walko and it’s gotten dozens of likes on social media. Not a single person has gone into a lightskin/darksin argument when I present any Isis Series cover to them. They simply enjoy the stories.

I don’t want this lightskin/darkskin issue to take away from readers’ enjoyment of Isis character or the Isis series stories.  Nor do I want it to poison the perceptions of brothers and sisters regarding the character. So I’m going to take the time to clarify things about the Isis series and the character of Isis.

Everything I do with the Isis series is based on years of research. I took a year of trips to the library to research Osirian legend and Egyptian mythology before writing a single word of the first Isis story back in 1999. And I did two more years of research on Egyptian mythology, Egyptian History, Nubian history, and Black history before I typed out the first draft of the manuscript back in 2001. And I did even more research on those subjects and even the old Filmation Isis TV series before publishing the first book in 2002.

Isis is the daughter of Osiris because I wanted to make a statement about the relationship between Egypt and Nubia. Isis is Horus’ sister to symbolize how she came from Nubia, Egypt’s sister nation. At one time Egypt and Nubia were like the United States and Canada, they shared a trade border, shared the same culture and even worshipped the same gods. There were numerous temples to Ra, Isis, Horus and Osiris in Nubia just like there were in Egypt.

Isis’ character design was based on the Egyptian and Nubian myths themselves, and pictures and statues I saw depicting the goddess. Isis’ golden skin tone is based on Egyptian/Nubian Mythology. In ancient times statues of the gods were made of gold. Gold was a precious metal and esteemed the high value of the gods Egyptians and Nubians worshipped.

The brown color I use for Isis is meant to symbolize her golden skin tone and distinguish her as a goddess. I was trying to get as close to the hieroglyphs I studied as possible.

Isis’ Auburn/Chestnut brown hair is based on what I read about the Egyptian god Seth. Seth is depicted in numerous versions of the Osirian legend as having red hair. The way I saw it the red hair gene would have to be within the Heliopolitan bloodline. Plus it was a way to make the character stand out and look distinct.

I also gave Isis the chestnut/Auburn Hair color because many Ancient Egyptians in ancient times dyed their hair and wigs red with henna. During ancient times women would color their hair and wigs this color during holidays and other celebrations. I even believe it was a fashion trend in one era.

In addition, Isis was also given Chestnut/Auburn hair to make her look distinct from the brunette Queen Isis and her brunette sister E’steem.  At the time I was planning Isis it was meant to be a comic book. And if one looks at the Golden and Silver Age Wonder Woman and her Mother Queen Hippolotiya they’ll notice Princess Diana is a brunette while her mother Queen Hippolyotia is a blonde. This was done so that the characters would be easy to distinguish when they were drawn together in a comic panel.

In real life, I’ve seen many Black women with the same hair color Isis has in my drawings. And when one looks at a color photo of Malcolm X they’ll see he has reddish/auburn hair. That’s the same hair color Isis would have in real life.  And NO ONE was BLACKER than Malcolm X.

I want everyone to know Isis is a BLACK woman. In my eyes the Egyptians were BLACK. The Nubians were BLACK. And I designed the character so BLACK people could trace their history and heritage back to Ancient Egypt and Ancient Nubia.

When Isis talks about emigrating to America in the first Isis book, she says that the people who had skin her color and hair her texture were Negroes. Black people come in a variety of shades of brown and have various hair textures. And I make a point of showing a variety of skintones and hair textures in all my stories.

Isis’ backstory is rooted heavily in Black history. When Isis recounts her past in Isis: Death of a Theta, and Edna Flowers talks about Isis’ previous alias Andrea Thomas Robinson in The Thetas, she talks about a Black woman who taught her how to overcome Jim Crow racism.

Isis’ experiences with racism in the 19th and 20th century in the first Isis book were based on real Black women like Sojurner Truth and Harriet Tubman. She is a teacher because I was inspired by the historical contributions of Great Black female American educators such as Ida B. Wells and Mary Mcleod Bethune. She is the Matriarch of the Theta Sorority to show the roots of Black history in our Black fraternal organizations and the direct impact the Black woman has as the teacher of culture to women in those social organizations.

 With Isis I wanted to show the richness of Black culture Black women have and what’s beautiful about being a Black woman inside and out. I didn’t just want her to be a superhero. I wanted her to be a social crusader to showcase the role Black women had in Black society throughout history.

Being raised in traditional Nubian, Egyptian and Black culture Isis practices concepts such as group economics, and has a clear understanding of what her Black female identity is. In designing Isis personality and “voice” I studied great Black women such as the late Corretta Scott King, Betty Shabazz, Lena Horne, Rosa Parks, and Ruby Dee in her conceptualization, and contemporary sistas such as Tia Mowry, and Salli-Richardson Whitfield.

Isis is a supporter of Civil Rights and a social crusader who teaches her Theta Sisters the importance of keeping Black wealth in Black hands. Again, the character was created as a hero who understands of how the Black woman is the teacher of culture to Black women and children. These were social concepts that were taught in Black communities before the encroachment of White feminism on the Black community, and the establishment of the Matriarchal welfare state in the 1970s.

And when Isis lived in America in the early 19th Century, She was married to a college educated Black man, Joe Robinson. She and her husband gave up a comfortable life in Boston to help teach the newly freed slaves in the South the skills they’d need to have a better life during Reconstruction. And in 1883 she watched her husband get lynched and saw her son murdered in front of her by Klansmen.

In the first Isis book I clearly make the point that In AmeriKKKA no one cared that Isis was a goddess. For all her golden skin and chestnut hair, all those White racists saw was a nigger bitch. Someone to rape after they killed her family. 

And in Isis: Trial of the Goddess I make the point that her mind was so corrupted by the hatred of White Supremacy and Racism she experienced that Ra and the elder gods had no choice but to imprison her on the Island of Solitude. It’s only when she gets her mind right that she’s allowed to return to the world in 1900.

I make every effort to make almost every Isis series story feature some reference to Black culture or Black history. For example when I write books like Isis: The Beauty Myth I make every effort to include Black-owned institutions such as Ebony Fashion Fair, and present fictional Black-owned businesses such as Sepia Cosmetics, which are based on real-world Black owned-businesses like Ebony Fashion Fair.

When I created Isis back in 1998-1999, I wanted to give little Black girls their own heroine. Someone who looked like them, had their struggles, and dealt with their issues. Whenever I watched TV shows like Jem and movies like Clueless, the Black female character was always the furthest in the background. Or in shows like She-Ra and GIJOE she was nonexistent. And I wrote this series of books so she could stand up front and be featured as the main character. With Isis I wanted little Black girls to understand what’s great about being a Black woman.

Doing further research into Black superheroines I was deeply disappointed by the few Black female superheroes and even more disappointed by their lack of depth and backstory. Storm was powerful but just a chocolate fantasy for White men. Vixen just…drifted. Bumblebee was a footnote in Titans history. Monica Rambeau was here then…forgotten. Rocket had all her promise destroyed by single motherhood in the second issue of Icon. Most Black females in comics were never given their own series, their own archenemies, their own storylines or a chance to shine. 

I sought to rectify that with Isis. I wanted to put a Black woman up front show what made a sista had in the Black community. Isis is a hero not because she’s a princess and a goddess, she’s a hero because she’s a friend to Black people who seeks to teach them life lessons as she overcomes the challenges put in front of her.   

My original plan was for Isis to be a comic book. Unfortunately, the comic book industry collapsed six years before her creation. So I went the YA fiction route. However, my love for comic books is deeply rooted in Isis and the Isis series. 

As a comic fan, I make a quiet homage to Filmation and DC Comics a by giving her second alias the name Andrea Thomas Robinson in Isis: Death of a Theta, a reference to the comic book and TV version of Isis played by White actress Joanna Cameron. Ironically, Andrea Thomas Robinson dies in December 1973, a few years BEFORE the Joanna Cameron Isis TV series goes to air.

Unfortunately, all of those concepts and ideas are lost on some shallow dysfunctional color-struck Negroes who judge my books by their covers. For them Isis is just light-skinned. And a few not “Black” enough to be considered “Black”.

What many of these dysfunctional color-struck Negroes don’t understand is that Black is Black whether you are light-skinned or dark-skinned. And Black is who you are on the inside. It’s the content of your character that makes you Black, not the color of your skin.  

Again, I don’t want my work poisoned by the dysfunctional lightskin/darksin issues some Black people have. My mission as a writer and a publisher is to create positive fiction that inspires and uplifts Black people. My ultimate goal with the Isis series is to give Black girls their heroine, someone they can relate to and identify with. Someone who makes them proud of their culture, their history and their heritage. Someone who makes them proud of their skintone and hair texture. Someone who deals with their issues in her adventures.

In a world filled with hypersexualized images of Black women such as Beyonce, Rihanna, and shows like Scandal, racist movies like Monster’s Ball and Precious, disgusting Twerk videos, fight videos broadcast on World Star Hip Hop, street lit and erotica where Black women call themselves bitches and whores, the images of Black women in media being presented to Black girls is one that is increasingly negative, and incredibly self-destructive. My goal with the Isis character and the Isis series was to create a heroine who was rooted in Egyptian mythology and Black history for Black girls and Black women see as a role model.

Writing and publishing the Isis series books means a lot to me. When publishing houses wouldn’t consider my work, I published the first Isis book in 2002 with $200 of the last $600 in my personal savings at the time.  And even though I’ve been out of work for so long, I’ve been investing my own dwindling savings in writing and publishing these books for the last five years.

Because the protecting and uplifting the image of Black people means that much to me.

That cover for Isis: Wrath of the Cybergoddess my own family members said wasn’t black enough for them? I paid for that with my own money. I spent the last 60 days selling action figures, toy catalogs and collectibles from my own personal collection on eBay when my Kickstarter failed. I make those sacrifices because I want to make sure that Black people have an alternative to the minstrels and Jezebels currently bombarding Black people and Black children in the media.

I make every effort to improve the quality of SJS DIRECT publications because I want Brothers and sistas to have the very best. I want everyone to know I’m making every effort to respond to customer complaints such as the covers. For me it’s not about the color of the character’s skin. It’s about the quality of the content and the content of the character. I’d rather publish a book featuring a golden skinned goddess with her own chestunut hair than one featuring a weave wearing brown skinned baby mama, a caramel skinned side piece, or a dark-skinned hood rat.


  1. If you watch Hidden Colors 2, Dr. Umar Johnson mentions that the hieroglyphs were lightened in order to throw people off from the dark complexion of the ancient Kemetians.

  2. Also the noses were broken off to hide their African features.