I wrote the following posts many moons ago and revisiting them it is easy to see that the primary emotions driving each are anger and disappointment. And though I still commit the cardinal sin of refusing to organize or edit my blog entries, I have become more adept at restraining my emotions via the written word. So it is not without a bit of amusement that I reread my former manifestos. How sarcastic! How indignant! I was ready to say goodbye to the comics community then, but I clearly did not. For though I, as a black person and as a woman, felt neglected, ridiculed, manipulated, I knew—wholeheartedly—that black women deserved a seat at the table. I knew that black women deserved to be seen and heard as they actually are sans parodies, sans whitewashing, sans strawmen for authors with axes to grind. And I was determined to be the most belligerent and obstinate of thorns until that happened. And if it didn’t happen? Well, I would walk away, burning and salting everything behind me.
In my posts I painted the comics community as an abusive suitor, taking funds, time, love, and providing only insults and neglect in return. And to be fair, I was not that far from the mark. Within the panels we were relegated to bystanders, and should we have by some sheer luck gained the admiration of the audience, our blackness was stripped from us to make us more palatable to white men or our femininity was taken to make us less threatening to female fandom. Behind the scenes we were occasionally seen but never heard, finishing pages for more prominent artists, eking out a modest living via card sets and pinups. I was irate that black creators had more agency in the 1940s via Negro newspapers and that black women were better represented artistically in the 1970s. With each decade that progressed we regressed, and something had to be done about it.
And something was done about it. We spoke, we posted, we wrote, we drew. And by we, I do not just mean the we of my sisters—though that contribution was vital—I mean the we of the entire comics community.
Things changed. In short time the abusive suitor became an attentive one. Varied depictions of black women flourished. Established black creators gained more notoriety and new creators arrived on the scene. Yes, it is far from perfect, Marvel employs no black writers and DC has only Selwyn Hinds to call its own, but things are improving considerably. It can be seen with each new Kickstarter, new creator, and new character.
Like a good lover, the community now gives and takes. It is no longer the wayward suitor of my previous posts. But sadly, I am no longer the woman who once wrote it. A community merits what it provides. When it provided derision and scorn, it received the same in kind from many via scathing blog posts and the occasional boycott. And now that it woos with a plethora of depictions, a platform, and employment? It is only fair that affections are returned via purchases, donations, contributions, and consideration. It is only right. And it is with shame and sadness that I admit that I do not have the funds, the time, or the skill to be one of the women this community demands and deserves.
In the days when the subset of black women in the comics community was miniscule, it was easy to corral each recurring character and creator in order to present them to potential audiences. A small number of purchases, a handful of emails, and one or two perusals of comic news sites was all that was necessary to amass the material required to post. Today, our depictions have developed far beyond what my wallet can contain and I alone can catalogue. I do not complain. This is a blessing. But it is a blessing that has highlighted my inadequacies. As I neglected the community to attend to personal matters, emails piled up. Comics sat on racks unpurchased. Posts to showcase fabulous creators and characters languished in queue—a matter that will be attended to very shortly. I became what I had once admonished, an inattentive lover, a harridan highlighting only faults. My suitor has outgrown me—and it is glorious to see. He has become worldly and eloquent, popular and prosperous. And worthy of one who can honor him, contribute to his success, and support him in his time of need. And so, with the most potent bittersweetness and the fiercest of pride—I let him go.