PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — An event highlighting the history of black female comic book superheroes was held at the National Liberty Museum this weekend, as part of the museum’s Black History Month programming.
Ariell Johnson, owner of Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse in Kensington, said comics are a great way to get kids reading.
“The cool thing about comics is that it’s sequential art,” she explained. “So in addition to being able to read and understand the words, you also have to pay attention to the pictures, because part of the story is told there and I think it teaches children to process different types of information.”
Amalgam is the first black woman-owned comic book store on the East Coast. During the museum’s “Beyond Wakanda” event, she gave a presentation on the history of black superheroines.
“Yes, these black comic characters do exist, but how were they portrayed?” she asked, adding that it’s not enough to have black female characters. The comic world needs black female creators.
“When we talk about being more representative and seeing more black creators, black faces in comics, I always feel like that tends to bias men,” she said.
“Like how often Storm [of the X-Men] is naked in the comics – like being covered by a cloud or whatever. Although she is a black woman, all the hands that went into her creation were white men and it is written for white men.”
Photo creditHadas Kuznits/KYW Newsradio
Franchesca Williams, who was visiting the museum with her 6-year-old daughter, agreed: “Especially like watching Batman, you know Gotham, where it’s just like, ‘OK, say it without saying it. It’s the ghetto, it’s the Hood and the only superhero is like a rich white man playing dress up.”
Williams said she sees in her daughter why representation matters.
“Now she wants to read comics and she’s only interested in heroes who look like her, and I’ve noticed since finding them on her own, her reading and speaking has skyrocketed,” said she declared.
“My daughter’s favorite hero right now is Miles Morales. [the newest Spider-Man], and she sees scenes like the one where he interacts with his parents and this is his house! This is what his house looks like.”