You Need to Read Living Heroes, Free for a Limited Time
On February 2, 2022, writer Stephanie Williams announced that her fan-made comic Living Heroes would be free online for Black History Month. I’m not sure if that means just until March 1 or what, but this is urgent, so I need to give you the details. A play on the mid-’90s Black sitcom Living Single, Living Heroes is a roughly 30-page story following many iconic Black Marvel superheroes.
Initially a Kickstarter project that met its goal in under 48 hours, the comic by Williams, Erin O’Neill Jones (artist), and Christina Poag (colorist) came to fruition in 2020 and shipped at the end of the year. They also send out bailiff Deadpool stickers and “I’m the captain now” merch referencing Captain Phillips and Falcon entering the role of Captain America.
In the announcement thread, Williams shared some panels of the heroes lamenting that they’re only called on to be the token Black person on a team “unless T’Challa is in town or it’s February.”
In addition to the representation of Black life, women’s friendships, and Storm’s dynamic couplings, the comic has various nods to important Black media. Yes, there’s Living Single, but also Black magazines like Ebony and Jet. The three Black woman leads get their “Beauty of the Week” cover page.
Due to various factors, I never grew up watching Living Single—even as reruns. However, its development laid the groundwork for other successful shows like Friends (which came out a year later) and Girlfriends. Living Single follows six Black twenty-somethings living in a Brooklyn apartment, starring Kim Coles, Erika Alexander, John Henton, Terrence C. Carson, Kim Fields, and Queen Latifah. Even with limited knowledge of the premise, Living Heroes was still a hilarious read. Like Living Single, it centers on the women’s friendships and living situations.
The group’s eldest (and wisest) is Storm (a.k.a. Ororo Munroe), who lives with the Lady of Light herself, Monica Rambeau—although she goes by many, many names. The first page features bionic baddie Misty Knight moving in because her last roommate flamed out. (That’s a hint right there.) Jennifer Walters (a.k.a. She-Hulk) basically lives there because she’s always eating their food and enjoys their company. Because—unlike her cousin Bruce—she’s always green, Walters serves as their resident white woman of color.
As heroines who do on-the-call jobs, a lot of the fun stuff within the short comic shows them hanging out in the apartment between fighting gigs. They vent about the job and their co-workers, watch daytime court shows and get into entanglements. If you’ve spent any time with these characters, you’ll love the references, jokes, and nods. (Disney+, Netflix, and Fox Studios have released shows/movies with all of these characters except Walters—so far.) I knew the least about Misty Knight and still loved her so much.
The best part about this comic was the cozy feeling at the end. I smiled basically the whole time and laughed out loud more than once. The second time I read it, I knew more about the side characters and could spot the little details in the scene. Also, the cameos are impeccable. They begin strong with Vishawn and Deadpool at Power Couples’ Court and maintain that fun momentum. I can’t say more than that because I don’t want to spoil it!
Because of the familiarity with many of the characters, the sitcom setup (sans the laugh track), and unapologetic Blackness threaded throughout, it feels like we’re just dropped into their lives. The worst part came after page 28, when I realized the story was over. Even that was quickly “forgiven” when you see the beauty shop poster on the back page.
Where’s Issue 2 of Living Heroes?
While this comic was better than anything we could’ve ever asked for, there’s no news on another one. However, the Living Heroes team left a “thank you” note calling this comic “season one,” so the door is not closed per se. After reading Living Heroes, consider buying a digital or physical copy from Williams’ Ko-Fi. Don’t be like me, though, and get so excited that you order your physical copy with a big tip only to realize that there is more merch.
Also, check out all the artists’ and writers’ latest projects. Poag is currently publishing her indie comic Ashes and Coffee Stains on Webtoons. The story follows a wealthy influencer trying to make friends at a food service job. O’Neill and Williams have several works together under But What If Though out on Webtoons. They’re in the same vein as Living Heroes. I’m most excited for O’Neill’s 2024 graphic novel collab with romance and thriller writer Alyssa Cole for Reject Squad.
The success of Living Heroes has caught the attention of Marvel (and likely DC). Williams’ final update on the Kickstarter announced that Marvel saw Living Heroes and invited her to write a short story for Marvel’s Voices: Legacy for February 2021. In addition to Williams (writing Rambeau), other writers included Nnedi Okorafor (Venom), Ho Che Anderson (Luke Cage), and Tochi Onyebuchi (Domino). The current run of Nubia and the Amazons is co-written by Willians and Vita Alaya. Issue six releases March 8, 2022.
(images: Stephanie Williams, Christina Poag, and Erin O’Neill Jones)
—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]