Armchair BEA: Visual Expressions

By Peat Bakke [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

By Peat Bakke [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Comic books and I have been lifelong friends. One of my favorite things to do as a kid was visit the comic book shop. My mom would pack me and my brothers and sister into the car and trek from the suburbs to the city. The drive was about thirty minutes but in kid-time it took forever. 

Comic shops have a distinct smell–paper and ink and dust and lord knows what else–and Clint’s was no exception. It was jam-packed with what seemed like countless rows of comics and graphic novels, their vivid covers practically screaming take me home!  

Riverdale Squad

I remember reading Archie first. The gang’s adventures were fun and idyllic. The Archie-Betty-Veronica trinity was a perfect introduction to fictional love triangles and teen dating dynamics (although I’m still waiting on someone to bring Moose up on charges).

As a kid, I was shocked to learn the comic strip debuted in 1939 and my parents read it growing up too. That these characters have endured so long is somewhat miraculous. In recent years, Archie comics have explored interracial relationships, horror, marriage, homosexuality, and made more of an effort to reflect diversity, at least on the page.

 

TheNerdPatrol via flickr.com [Creative Commons License 2.0] https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

TheNerdPatrol via flickr.com [Creative Commons License 2.0] https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Songs in the Key of X

As I got older, I gravitated to superhero stories. My brother’s comics were the gateway: Superman, Batman (GOAT: Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns”), Silver Surfer, Moon Knight, and Spider-Man saw heavy rotation. But it was the X-Men, a group of powerful, young mutants despised for nothing more than breathing, that captured my heart and imagination. Their comics (and those of related properties like New Mutants and X-Factor) were multi-layered and captivating, occasionally allegorical, but most often putting it right out there: discrimination and fear of the unknown has devastating and catastrophic consequences. Christopher Claremont and Brent Eric Anderson’s “God Loves, Man Kills” is a revolutionary graphic novel game-changer, truly pushing the boundaries of that format.

X-Men comics also highlighted a diverse cohort of women, including my fave of all faves, Ororo Munroe, aka Storm. It was so meaningful for me to see a black woman in comics as respected and admired but also a fully-formed individual. Storm wasn’t window dressing or a magical negress helping men find their destiny. In fact, she was one of the strongest mutants in the Marvel Universe. Storm consistently challenged the status quo and for a time led the X-Men without her powers.

storm

Oh how I love thee.

 

The world of comics and graphic novels is much more immense than when I was a kid but no less fascinating. No longer just confined to major companies, indies and entrepreneurial individuals are claiming space and reshaping the genre, giving readers a dizzying array of options and more opportunity than ever before to see themselves reflected in the pages and to imagine themselves as content creators. Visual storytelling truly has no limits.

Armchair BEA: Introductions

 

One of my favorite armchair paintings: Marie-Guillemine Benoist , “Portrait d’une negresse”, Unknown via Wikimedia Commons.

While I debate attending Book Expo America 2016 in Chicago with the hope that it will be much less problematic by then (and catch that shade in the linked Publishers Weekly article about cities other than Chicago and New York City) I’m once again participating in Armchair BEA, the virtual hub for envious book bloggers everywhere. Today is all about letting y’all know a little bit more about me, so let’s get into it!

Why do you loving reading and blogging?

Reading is something I consistently rely on and always look forward to. No matter what’s happening in my life or where I am, books are there. Being able to escape into another world, even temporarily, is invaluable. Blogging is an excellent way to stay accountable as I develop as a writer. It’s also a place to gush about books I love, authors I’m crushing on, and what’s currently grinding my gears.

What is your theme song?

Parliament’s “Flashlight.” My parents played this one until the record went smooth. It bumped everywhere there was a mechanism to play music–from our basement during house parties to the ancient 8-track player in my father’s pickup truck. This song is my constant — the only thing that’s changed is how I listen to it. EVERYBODY’S GOT A LITTLE LIGHT UNDER THE SUN!

What does diversity mean to you?

More people like me writing more books about people like me and being agented by more people like me and those books being sold to publishers that employ more people like me and more people like me getting to read them.

What is the top book in your TBR pile?

Katherine Locke’s SECOND POSITION. If I meet my revision goals this week, I can dive on in. :D

Share your favorite blog post on your blog. (aka written by you!)

Diversity: The Neverending Story, in which I attempt to unpack my blinding, ass-clenching rage about racism in the publishing industry.

 

 

The D-List: May 18, 2015

The D-List

10 Writers of Color We Should All Be Reading (Because Toni Morrison Isn’t the Only POC Author In The Universe)

Whenever I’m talking about books with friends, I’m surprised by how most of them still primarily read books by white guys, often old, dead white guys. It turns out that most people’s familiarity with authors of color tends to end with their high school curriculum at worst, or, at best, at the not-terribly-diverse bestseller lists. Read more here.

The City Is a Crossroads: Daniel José Older on Protest Art and Urban Lit

When we’re in a time when we have to proclaim in the streets that Black Lives Matter, literature is one of the first places where we learn what matters and whose life matters and whose doesn’t. And literature has been saying for centuries that black lives don’t matter. By not publishing black authors, by not publishing books about black people, that’s become the message by default. Whiteness being the default has been the message. Read more here.

‘Nimona’ makes a girl in sensible armor the star

Stevenson remembers the first time she went to a comic book store. She tells NPR’s Audie Cornish that she was just 11 years old, ‘and there’s that Princess Leia cutout, in the metal bikini, and she had a sign taped over her belly button, advertising the deals of the day … you get a message from that, you know? You get a message very loud and clear, and no one was throwing rocks at me and saying, girls can’t shop here, get out of here. You just kind of know when you’re not supposed to be somewhere.’ Read more here.