With the flurry of media available these days, it is not often that you get the idea to curl up with a good comic book when you need to be entertained. But according to one female African-American comic book editor, if you gave comics a try, not only may you find a new hobby, you might find someone inside who looks just like you thanks to Black comic pioneers like herself and others.
Comic book creator Cheryl Lynn Eaton is an African-American woman who founded the Ormes Society to support and connect African-American women who create comics and to promote diversity within the industry and among fans. Eaton says that she hopes the society will help introduce comics to a new community of fans that can appreciate the diverse stories of Black comic creators.
“I find it so frustrating that I come from a family of readers and yet I am the only woman who reads comics,” Eaton said in an interview with CNN. “I think the best way to attract Black women as consumers is to eradicate the myth that comics are for men and solely involve superheroes.”
Eaton named her organization after legendary Black cartoonist Jackie Ormes. Ormes’s groundbreaking work was published widely in daily newspapers from 1937 to 1956 and included intelligent and sophisticated Black female characters in defiance of the prevalent racism of the times.
Women as a whole have long felt shut out of the male-dominated comic industry. Earlier this year, a group of women started an online petition, requesting that comic giant DC Comics hire more women; lamenting the fact that only two women were hired for spots at the 50 new books published by the company.
Eaton says that although interest in creating stories featuring Black women has increased in recent years, more exposure to Black characters is needed for more writers to “cast” Black females as the stars of their creations.
“A strong writer is capable of handling intriguing characters of any background. It is simply a matter of finding writers with an interest in Black female characters,” Eaton said. “That said, I have definitely noticed a rise in ethnic and racial diversity where comic characters are concerned.”
According to Eaton, organizations like hers and others that are similar, “help to dispel the cookie-cutter stereotype surrounding female readers. We read and create everything. I think all of the sites involved are saying the same thing: We don't look the same, we don't create the same work, we don't read the same comics, but we'd all like to be respected, please.”
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