I’m starting to understand why there aren’t many Black female superheroes or comic book characters. The obstacles a creator has to face in presenting a Black woman in a solo book can be frustrating and even overwhelming at times.
As a creator of Black female superheroines like Isis and E’steem, I’ve run into so a lot of resistance. And sadly, most of it comes from Black people.
One of the big challenges I run into is when some Black people try to turn things regarding Black female superheroines into a lightskin/darkskin debate. Instead of judging characters like Isis by the content of their character they only look at the color of their skin. And they use skintone as an excuse to not read any of the material I’m presenting to them. For them a character like Isis or E’steem just isn’t “Black” even though they’re created by a Black man and are rooted in African-American history and culture.
However, a Black character like Storm and Black Panther created by Jewish and White men are considered “Black” by those same Black masses.
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After telling me that Isis isn’t “Black” these same people launch into shaming tactics and ad-hominem attacks telling me that I’m colorstruck. Some will even go on to say I prefer light-skinned women in real life. A few will tell me I even hate Black women.
Even though the White haired blue-eyed Storm doesn’t look anything like any of the Sistas on the block. Nor does she act like them.
Because many never give Isis a chance they never get past the surface to learn about the substance of the character. If they stayed to read the stories, they’d come to understand that Isis’ golden skintone is supposed to symbolize or reflect on her Heliopolitan heritage. In Ancient Egypt and Nubia statues of the gods were made of gold and adorned with precious stones to show how much they valued their relationship with the gods.
Moreover, Isis’ golden skintone is to add a little diversity to the ranks of Black heroines. In comics and fantasy Black comes in more than one shade and that’s not really reflected in genre fiction and comics. Almost every Black character is the same shade of brown. And when it comes to the genre someone needs to make the statement that we all don’t look alike.
And if they stayed to read the stories they’d find that the goddess next door is a lot like them and has their experience in her adventures. I make every effort to incorporate not just Heliopolitan mythology into the Isis series but African-American history and Black culture into the stories. Much of what’s unique about being a Black woman is featured in every Isis series story, and many miss out on some great stories because they judge the character based on a skintone instead of judging the content on its merits.
A few Black people I’ve encountered who don’t “get” fantasy try to project their reality into the life of the character. Many Black people just can’t allow themselves to suspend their disbelief about a Black female heroine existing. Instead of just reading the story and enjoying it as is, they start trying to pick apart the concept. Saying this wouldn’t happen. Or that wouldn’t happen. Some even start getting angry and start talking about what they’d do in a particular situation.
Some will tell me that Isis can’t be the daughter of Osiris. However, these same Black people will go out and buy Monster High Dolls for their kids and have no problem believing it’s actually biologically possible for undead creatures like vampires and dead beings like mummies can have daughters like Draculaura and Cleo De Nile. Again, because Monster High comes from a White Corporation, Black people have no problem accepting the concepts as believable in the realm of reality.
However, these same Black people will have a problem accepting a concept of Osiris having a daughter. Or that Osiris’ daughter would identify as a Black woman. A few would even dare to call her a White woman based on an image.
Even though in the first Isis story she clearly says that the people with skin her color and hair her texture were Negroes. Even though she says in Chapter 15 of the first Isis story that she experienced racism and White Supremacy first hand in the 1800s’ during her travels in the North, had her home in the South burned to the ground by the Ku Klux Klan and even witnessed her husband being lynched and saw her son murdered before her very eyes before these same urban terrorists before they tried to rape her.
If that’s not Black enough for some of these Negroes I don’t know what would be considered “Black” for them.
What I’ve run into with Isis with some Black people regarding Isis and E’steem are the clearest cases of cognitive distortion I’ve ever seen. Because the concepts are coming from a Black man they have a hard time believing it.
Because Isis is a Black heroine not sanctioned by the White liberal mainstream media many Black people just have a problem dealing with the ideas presented to them. For many Black folks, unless a White liberal in mainstream media approves of a Black concept it’s not safe for some “Black” people to embrace.
Another challenge I run into is Black people trying to project their values on the characters. With the E’steem series some will complain about E’steem still having a demonic visage.
However, these same people will have no problem embracing a White demonic character such as a Ghost Rider, the Demon Etrigan, or Chaos! Comics Purgatori. And most people of all races will embrace Todd McFarlane’s Spawn without thinking twice about it.
On E’steem some will say I’m trying to promote Satanism. Others will say that I’m trying to promote devil worship.
When it’s not any of those things. E’steem was inspired by my love of Salli Richardson Whitfield’s acting. Back in 1995 when I was watching Gargoyles, I learned she was the first Black woman to land a lead in a Disney project. Inspired, I wanted to create a character that I believed would show her acting range. With bad guys being more memorable than heroes in Disney movies, I thought E’steem could be on the same level as the Ursulas and Malefecents. Besides, what better villain to take on a Heliopolitan goddess than a she-demon?
As the character evolved, she became her own person. And as she changed I tried to give readers a more balanced picture of the character to make her a bit more multidimensional than your standard Disney villain. That was one of the reasons I brought the character into The Temptation of John Haynes and put her through her own character transformation arc.
What’s even sadder is that many of these same people will get upset about E’steem becoming a Christian at the end of The Temptation of John Haynes and grouse about her still having her demon powers a the conclusion of the story. Not understanding that I’m crafting a second character transformation arc, where the character changes and grows over time, they insist that the character turn into some Maude Flanders type character who bullies and shames people into seeing the same light she’s discovered.
What’s even stranger is that these same Black people will look at a White character such as a John Constantine who deals in occult, magic, demons and religion like E’steem does and praises him as a complex multidimensional character. And they’ll have no problem embracing a White woman like Zatanna who also uses magic and deals with the same issues E’steem faces in her adventures.
When it comes to Black male heroes I don’t see half the obstacles I’ve run into with trying to create Black female superheroines. With a Black male character, readers will embrace them without question. However, when it comes to creating a Black female heroines, I’m finding there’s a huge wall that I’ve had to climb to try to reach readers of color to show them what the sistas have to offer them.
Black women are strong and courageous. And we rarely see that strength of character and courage depicted in the pages of comic books and fantasy fiction. Over the past few years I’ve been trying to balance that picture out by presenting those stories of strength and courage in the Isis and E’steem series.
I’d like to think Black women could do better than being a supporting character like Storm, Rocket or Misty Knight or an ancillary character like Bumblebee or Vixen. I’d like to believe that a Black heroine had the richness and complexity to carry her own book the way Isis and E’steem do and tell their own stories about being a Black heroine the way Isis and E’steem do right now. I’d like to believe that little girls can imagine themselves as goddesses and see themselves as taking the lead in their own world than being in the background of someone elses’. That’s how I imagined the world over 15 years ago when I created Isis and E’steem, but I don’t know if any other Black people share my vision for the future.
I believe there is an audience for a Black heroine in comic books and the fantasy genres. And that’s why I’ll keep persevering in the face of all the obstacles in front of me. The more I struggle, the more progress I believe I’ll make.
To get readers into the adventures of Black heroines, I’m offering the Isis/E’steem crossover on Kindle Unlimited and in paperback this summer. In both stories readers will see what makes Black heroines great and what makes their stories distinct. And I’m planning a major story in the Isis series that will be completely immersive in Black culture and the Black experience. Something I think will get readers to think about what’s truly distinct about the experiences of Black women in genre fiction and comics.