7+ Exciting Indie SFF Comics (& One Adorable Romance Graphic Novel) by Black Creators You Need to Read
Despite the pitiful pay (an industry issue) and uphill battles, Black creatives have always been an integral part of comics’ history. Since the ’30s–’50s, people like Blue Beetle creator Elmer Cecil Strong and Patty-Jo ‘n Ginger creator Jackie Ormes broke barriers and made space for Black stories. Then, in the ’60s and forward, we got iconic Black characters like Storm, Luke Cage, Nubia, and many more.
As an industry, comics continue to lag in on- and off-the-page representation. Instead of waiting for recognition, more artist and writers are doing it themselves because the internet has made publishing more accessible to marginalized creatives. With the advent of social media, online storefront resources, project crowdfunding websites, etc., more and more Black stories and creatives are publishing their own stories.
I wanted to share some comics, and one graphic novel, by indie publishers that Mary Sue readers will love in celebration of Black History Month. We’ve got queer love stories, sci-fi flight squads, and many superhero/villain family dramas.
While we love the Shuri (2018) and Nubia comics (both the Y.A. graphic novel and the currently ongoing Nubia & The Amazons), this list will stick to stories outside of D.C. and Marvel. Yes, Image is a big player in comics. However, I included those titles because many of those projects are funded independently, and creators retain rights.
Bitter Root (Image)
For those well-versed in indie comics, this supernatural fantasy may feel too obvious to include, but I’m doing it anyways. Set on the backdrop of the roaring ’20s, the Sangererye family specializes in curing those infected with hate. Following a terrible tragedy that leaves many family members dead, those left fight over whether or not curing hate or killing it is the best course of action. With a new breed of monsters out on the loose, the cousins must come together for the future of the human race.
David F. Walker and Chuck Brown write for Bitter Root, while Standford Greene is the head artist.
The Antagonist (GodHood Comics)
The Antagonist follows a family of (former) Black super villains mostly considered evil because they fight for Black people. They cause destruction and murder like the protagonists of many superhero teams (cough, cough MCU), but they aren’t given the stamp of approval by anyone because of their Blackness. People have compared this story’s complexity to something along the lines of The Boys meets The Sopranos meets Power. In addition to the first three issues, the Atlanta-based publisher GodHood Comics releases solo issues for characters like Mega Woman (Kiesha Carter).
The Antagonists creative team includes Tyler F. Martin (creator and writer), Felipe Dunbar (co-creator), Tyler F. Martin (editor), Kieran Jack (logo), Christian Docolomansky (letterer), and Giacomo Guida (artist). The issue-one cover artist is Kelechi Nwaogwugwu. Shout out to @FantasitcFrankey on TikTok, who introduced me to this comic.
Bingo Love (Image)
Spearheaded (on Kickstarter) and created by Tee Franklin (who just finished Harley Quinn: The Animated Series: The Eat. Bang! Kill. Tour), Bingo Love shares the decades-long love story between two Black women. After meeting at church bingo in 1963, Hazel and Mari fall in love at first sight. They are pulled apart by society and lose contact until they reunite in their 60s.
In addition to Franklin’s writing, the story team includes Jenn St-Onge (art), Joy San (colors), Cardinal Rae (letters), Erica Schultz (editing), Kevin Maher (logo), and Genevieve Ft (cover). Different editions of the 2018 graphic novel feature writers like Gabby Rivera, Alyssa Cole, Shawn Pryor, Gail Simone and Marguerite Bennett, and artists like Janice Chiang, Beverly Johnson, Paulina Ganucheau. Ariela Kristantina, and Vivian Ng.
Black, Black AF, and White (Black Mask Studios)
Okay, so this is technically three titles, but you should start with Black to get the central premise down. In the spirit of the 2020 Negro Solstice, Black asks the question, “What if only Black people could get superpowers?” After surviving being gunned down by the police, a young man learns that he is involved in the biggest lie in history. He must decide if it’s better to keep this secret or let the world know the truth.
While Black ponders this question, Black AF features stories of specific characters within Black like Eli Franklin and Anasi & Hoodrat. After the success of Black and Black AF, the creators continued the story with White. Written by Kwanza Osajyefo and co-created with (designer) Tim Smith III, Black includes creatives Jamal Igle (artist) and Khary Randolph (cover art.)
Prince of Cats (Image)
Set in ’80s NYC, this Romeo and Juliet retelling focuses on all of the story’s minor characters, especially Tybalt. The two-volume comic prominently features action-packed fight scenes of the underground dueling scene next to the unique music homages to hip-hop, punk, and disco.
Ronald Wimberly wrote and illustrated Prince of Cats.
Tuskegee Heirs: Flames of Destiny
Inspired by the real-life Red Tails of WWII, Tuskegee Heirs centers on a team of teenage pilots serving as Earth’s last line of defense against an oncoming alien invasion near the end of the 21st Century. Co-creator Marcus Williams’ goal was to make this sci-fi story exciting to younger generations as Voltron was to him as a kid.
Greg Burnham (writer and editor) and Williams (writer and illustrator) co-developed Tuskeegee Heirs: Flames of Destiny.
The Wilds (Black Mask Comics)
After a devastating plague sweeps across the U.S., survivors start to rebuild in new city-state-like communities. The story follows Daisy, a runner for mail, salvage, and people between the city-states. Runners provide safety and protection from the monsters brought on by the plague beyond the walls. Unphased and pretty acclimated to the new world, Daisy changes her tune when her lover, Heather, goes missing.
Joining creators Vita Ayala (writing) and Danny Lore (editing) are Emily Pearson (illustrator), Marrisa Louis (colorist), Stelladia (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer) and Nasha Alterici (cover art).
(images: Black Mask Comics, Image Comics, and GodHood Comics)
—The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]