Sunday, May 06, 2018

POB #10: All-Negro Comics

Prior to 1966, comic books were mostly segregated. Actually, they weren't really segregated, black people just didn't have their own comic books. Any African American characters that existed were usually sidekicks or even tertiary characters used for comedy. They were also one giant stereotype, being caricatures of the most "humorous" parts of African Americans. In the 1940s, a few publishers tried creating comics specifically for the African American audience but most were still written and/or drawn by white men and if they were drawn by black people, it was not advertised as such.

All-Negro Comics was founded and published by Orrin C. Evans. Evans was a newspaper reporter, the only African American on staff at the Philadelphia Record. He wrote about segregation in the armed forces and was kicked out of a Charles Lindbergh press conference because of his color. In 1947, Evans tried his hand at a comic book written and drawn completely by African Americans. It was a bold endeavor and, as far as historians can tell, All-Negro Comics was distributed outside Philadelphia although the book is considered pretty rare.

All-Negro Comics also introduced the very first black superhero, Lion Man, created by Orrin and his brother George. Marvel's Black Panther, considered the first black superhero, was introduced in 1966. Evans had plans to publish a second issue but was unable to acquire the newsprint that he needed, probably due to discrimination. Evans returned to journalism, his writing appearing in numerous African American journals and magazines. Evans passed away in 1971.