Set in the fictitious African nation of Wakanda, the six volumes of the Black Panther comic book weave plots that are faithful to superhero tropes and aware of Black nationalist discourses. The storylines focus on deterring white dominance, tribal warfare, and mineral exploitation. Creating characters conscious of the threats to their autonomy is an opportunity to reframe the “Black power” trope. This photo essay explores how iterations of raced and gendered figures in mainstream and independent comics are used to mediate and meditate on certain social anxieties. The images and their associated captions explore how Afrofuturism in “Black” comics not only provides illustrative cases of actual Black social life and political crossings engaged with cultural Black archives, but stimulates complex engagements with Black feminist thought in order to advance the liberation struggles of mutant, racialized, and gendered bodies seeking empowerment and social justice.
“Black” Comics as a Cultural Archive of Black Life in America
Cathy Thomas is a PhD candidate in literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her research and writing focus on the Caribbean diaspora, experimental writing, and Black feminist thought. She is specifically interested in Caribbean carnival; she has investigated the interrelationships at play between gender, race, sexuality, and genre, and undertaken various analyses of leisure, labor, literature, and performance, to examine the emotional and financial commitments of this ephemeral ritualistic space. She takes similar intersectional approaches to comics and action figures. Her research has been published in a chapter in Articulating the Action Figure: Essays on Toys and Their Messages (McFarland, 2017).
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Cathy Thomas; “Black” Comics as a Cultural Archive of Black Life in America. Feminist Media Histories 1 July 2018; 4 (3): 49–95. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2018.4.3.49
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