I was inspired by a lot of influences to create this single image for Isis: Imitation of Life. The 1934 film Imitation of Life, Pulp fiction characters like Doc Savage’s cousin Pat Savage and historical images I studied of Black life and Black culture in the 1930s.
The story I’m trying to tell with this concept piece is one about Isis and the conflict between the two worlds she lives in. The contrasting Black and white bagckgrounds evoques the art deco of the 1930s, the time where the story is set. This is the time of Jim Crow in the South, racial discrimination in the North, and the Spectre of Red Communism hovering over Black America. On the White side is Isis in her guise as Spelman College Professor Andrea Thomas Robinson wearing traditional 1930s fingerwaves, and red make-up and a white and blue suit to symbolize who she has to be in Black America. While on the Black side Isis is wearing her traditional New Heliopolitan kilt, blouse, ankh pendant and bracers and natural hair, symbolizing who she is on the inside. One could say this is who she is under her clothes, a goddess and a hero out to help those in need.
The question I try to answer in this story is: Can the goddess really call herself Black? Or is she mocking Black people in America by trying to live an imitation of their lives by walking among them?
Isis: Imitation of Life is one of the darkest stories in the Isis series. In this one I explore racism, intra-racism, race and identity in 1930s America. A lot of heavy subject matter for a fantasy story, but I believe these issues need to be examined and discussed more by people regardless of race.
I spent close to a year and a half doing research for this book. Watching movies that explored the lightskin/darkskin issue like Pinky and Imitation of Life, studying the history of race in America in the 1930s, lynching in the 1930s and studying pulp fiction and the paradigm for pulp fiction for the story model.
In addition to telling a story about race and identity in America I wanted to make a commentary about Black superheroes in the age of Pulp Ficiton and the Golden age of comic books. If one looks at history in the 1930s the age of Doc Savage, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman they’ll see there were no Black superheroes having fantastic adventures back then. And the main reason why there were no Black pulp adventures in the 1930 or Black superheroes in the 1930s was simple: There were no Black magazine publishers in the 1930s. The first Black magazines like Ebony didn’t hit newsstands until 1945.
And when White publishers like Street & Smith, Timely and National Periodical Publications were publishing Doc Savage, Marvel Comics and Superman and Batman in the 1930s they oftentimes didn’t feature Black characters in their stories. Outside of Coons like Whitewash Jones in the Young Allies and Slow Motion Jones in Whizzer strips most readers didn’t see many Negro faces in comic books or pulp fiction.
And with no Black publishers in business there was no one out there to tell our stories in the genre. With Isis: Imitation of Life I wanted to tell a pulp style story of what heroes like Isis were doing back then to fight the good fight against Jim Crow and racism in America. And show a balanced humanized image of the Black people who lived during that time while doing it.
With the pages laid out and the book in the middle of its third and final draft I’m planning to have Isis: Imitation of Life out around April-June 2016. And I’d love to put a professional cover on the book. And I can only get the funds to pay for it with your help. So I’m asking everyone to donate to the Kickstarter coming this January!