First and foremost, I am an artist. Comics are my medium. With that being said, there have been many artists that I looked up to, admired, envied, and had been intimidated by. In other words, I have learned to be a better comic book creator by observing and studying how they have approached the craft of comics. This is a list of some of my favorite Black comic book artists. If your favorite artist isn’t on this list, make your own.
Part 1 focused on my early influences of the 80s and the 90s before I stepped my toe into this raging ocean called comics. Part 2 focused on the artists whose work pushed me to be a better creator as I began my career in comics. In Part 3, I want shed some light on some of the artists who have come up in the Black Comix world that keep me on my toes.
Let’s get into it…
JAMAL YASEEM IGLE & RAY ANTHONY-HEIGHT
Jamal Yaseem Igle is another artist whose work I first discovered through Alex Simmons‘ Blackjack series. From the beginning, I was amazed by his solid storytelling and “neo-classic” comic book style. In my opinion, he is a modern heir to the seminal Superman artist of the late 60s and 70s, Curt Swan. That comparison is further warranted by Igle’s stint on Supergirl with Sterling Gates, creating a classic iteration of the character, which has spilled over into her show on the CW. Both are comic book illustrators of the highest order with a command of anatomy that many other creators are still trying to get to.
Since then, Jamal has been focusing more on indie titles like the revolutionary Black, The Wrong Earth for Ahoy Comics and his own creation Molly Danger. If you want to know how to do comics right, Jamal’s work is the perfect start to your education.
Ray Anthony-Height has a style made for all-ages comics. That is not to say that his work is juvenile, but that it has a playful animated bounce that appeals to fans of multiple generations. I first discovered his work via IndyPlanet when his book Midnight Tiger caught my eye.
Suddenly, Ray was everywhere creating work for Marvel on titles like X-Men, Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur as well as Superb for Lion Forge. And, for a while, my beloved Midnight Tiger fell by the wayside as Ray was living the life of a freelance artist. When he announced that he was bringing back the character, I rejoiced…
In 2019, I was at a convention in Chicago and Ray was one of the attendees. He was selling his original pages, which were on 8.5″ X 11″ copier paper! The brother was drawing final print size the whole damn time with, what? A .02 mechanical pencil? You fiend! How dare you be that precise and awesome all at once? Balderdash, I say… Balderdash!
MICHELINE HESS & TONY PURYEAR
One positive aspect of Facebook is the opportunity to connect with other members of your tribe.
Thanks to John Jennings and Damian Duffy‘s Black Comix, a solid community of Black creators was formed. It was the sweetest breath of fresh air. We finally knew that we weren’t alone in our respective bubbles. It was like the movie Highlander without the taking of heads. There no longer had to be “only one.” We we everywhere.
Micheline Hess is another alumni of Milestone Media acting as a colorist working on titles like Static, Icon and (one of my favorite titles) Shadow Cabinet. But, I didn’t know Micheline until I began the 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape anthology series. Her book Malice In Ovenland was exactly what the anthology needed to offset the more standard superhero fare. Her whimsical style was a needed respite from ninjas on motorcycles and dusty shootouts in Western taverns.
But then, she goes and flips the script! Micheline uses that same child-friendly style to the revolutionary Diary of a Mad Black Werewolf, a womanist tale of the ultimate revenge against the twin demons of racism and sexism. Steeped in African iconography, she just decides to pop this thing out during the 2019 Inktober challenge and we were bugging! So glad that she turned that therapeutic art exercise into a graphic novel… Cheers to you, my sister!
Truth be told, I low-key envy Tony Puryear a little bit.
I mean, how could you not? He’s the first African American to write a summer blockbuster. Any body here of a little film called Eraser starring some dude… I think his name is Arnold Schwarzenegger? He married my mid-20s crush Erika Alexander, you know, Maxine Shaw: Attorney At Law, of Living Single. On top of that, those two made a comic book together, a multi-cultural, dystopian sci-fi epic called Concrete Park. It’s the artwork of Concrete Park that really stokes that little envy gremlin of mine.
Tony’s art reminds me of Los Bros Hernandez, creators of the indie classic Love and Rockets, in the best way possible. His economy of line, use of expression and application of visual cinematic knowledge continues to blow me away. In addition, he is a fantastic graphic designer using the tool of visual communication in his scathing Gangkstas series lambasting this current administration that festers in the White House. Yes, I tip my hat to you, sir. Keep feeding my envy.
SHAWN ALLEYNE & CHUCK “DRAGONBLACK” COLLINS
Ok. Now this is the part where people might get mad with me. There are so many great artists out there that I want to give love to, but I limited myself to 29 artists to focus on for this series and I know I had to leave some people out. To those of y’all who may feel a certain way about this, let it be known that it was only because of space that you were not included, nothing personal. If you’re still mad at me after that… Well I can’t do nothing for you, mayne…
Shawn Alleyne was another artist I discovered through being associated with Black Comix. Born in Barbados now residing in Philadelphia, Shawn’s work is… How shall I call it… Sexy A.F. His figures are long and sinewy bursting with a sensual energy that exists in his lovingly-rendered linework. He doesn’t do too much interior work, but his covers for books like The Almighty Street Team and his pin-up work taking his own unique spin on existing properties fro the “Corporate Two” are absolutely stunning.
Shawn Alleyne is Black Love incense walking. His work is sure to make even the hardest of the hard swoon. But, for real bruh, I need a comic book from you with the quickness…
Keep, keep bouncing…
When Bounce first appeared, I was completely blown away by this mash-up of science fiction, political comedy, social commentary, Afrofuturistic fantasy and pure nerdom based on the real life adventures of Chuck Collins as a bouncer. Characters like the aforementioned Bouncer, his best friend Yemaya and the rest of the crew became some of my new best comic friends. As the strip has gone on, the proud Haitian Collins has incorporated more of his animation background into the strip making Bounce a companion of Black satire to works like The Boondocks (comic strip and animated series) and the Black Dynamite cartoon.
He also be dropping a lot of Orishas in his strip, too. I love the spiritual connection his work and mine have in common. Luckily, Chuck has collected a bunch of his strips in a volume called BOUNCE! First Round of Shots. You need to step up to the bar and order one.
JASON REEVES & MARCUS WILLIAMS
He’s a hustler. He’s a curmudgeon. He’s got beef with Luke Cage and How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way (seriously, what did Marvel do to you?). But Jason Reeves is one of the coldest artists in the game today.
The visionary behind 133Art, illustration studio and printing company, Reeves came to my attention through his creation, One Nation. Since then, his work has graced such projects as the animated series T.A.S.K. and the book Kid Carvers. His rendition of M.E.C.C.A. Con founder Maia Crown Williams graces the cover of 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape’s first volume.
What does Jason’s work bring to the table? Power. His characters are confident and strong evoking the inner majesty we all hope to one day possess…
But real talk? Just let the beef go, fam. Let it go…
Marcus Williams stays drawing.
Every week, he pops out a new series of images. From his latest, Ebony Images to his annual gender-bending Swaptober series to his fan fiction mash-ups of properties like Black Panther and the Thundercats, Williams’ work sparks the imagination and is an undisputed favorite among many Black comic book fans. With his partner-in-crime Greg Burnham, he co-created the superlative Tuskegee Heirs, a futuristic take on the Tuskegee Airmen and Japanese Mecha anime.
Williams’ work is everything a Black comic book fan wants. It references popular culture and has that animated style that people can immediately glob onto. It’s colorful, bombastic and joyful. He’s the “People’s Champ” of comic book artists and it’s easy to see why.
AFUA RICHARDSON & ASHLEY A. WOODS
I love seeing the rise of the Black woman in comics.
I’m not talking about characters, I’m talking about creators. I could write a whole articles about these amazing writers and artists, but I’m going to focus on the two women whose work always has me doing double-takes.
African-Native American Afua Richardson is a vocalist, performer, songwriter, voice actor, activist, cosplayer and one hell of an illustrator. She is truly a Jane of all Trades, multi-talented and multi-dimensional. I first discovered her on Facebook, unaware of her early work under the moniker Lakota Sioux. She then went on to illustrate Top Cow‘s unexpected and underrated Genius written by Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman. It was her illustrations of mermaids though that caught my attention.
I was utterly captivated by her use of Adobe Illustrator (one of my preferred artistic weapons of choice) to create such organic work that completely hid the digital tools she uses to create. Her “analog” work takes on the flavor of fine fashion illustration, a style that I’ve always loved since my mother would force me to hang out at JoAnn Fabrics on Sundays after church (hey, my mom was into sewing like I was into comics).
Afua has since become an artist in demand, creating covers and interiors for titles like Marvel‘s World of Wakanda, X-Men ’92, DC‘s All-Star Batman, Humanoids‘ Omni and more. And yeah, she’s a media darling which is cool because she totally deserves all of the accolades.
I think of Ashley A. Woods as my little sister.
Keep in mind, I do have a little sister, and she and Ashley share many of the same qualities. They are both sweet and kind, beautiful, intelligent, strong and hella talented.
Ashley graduated from the Chicago campus of the Illinois Institute of Art where I taught at the Schaumburg campus for 11 years. She put herself on by writing and illustrating Millenia War, which showcased her love of anime and video games. She blew up illustrating Stranger Comics‘ Niobe: She Is Life. Ashley stays hustling like a true Chicagoan becoming an artist-in-demand working on titles like Tomb Raider for Top Cow, Boom Studios‘ Ladycastle and has broken into the cinematic realm creating work for Jordan Peele’s Get Out and the upcoming Lovecraft Country.
Ashley’s work has developed this lovely “broken line” quality which has an almost etherial sensuality. She is also unashamed in exploring the feminine power in her work…
Two words: Cammy Cakes. If you’re an Ashley A. Woods fan, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
I’m super-proud of how far you’ve come in a short time, sis. I can’t wait to see how far you will go.
Do not let Uko Smith’s gentle demeanor and warm smile fool you. That dude is a cot damn artistic bully. He is the Deebo of comics riding around on that little-ass bike, wearing the chain that your grandmama gave you. Gaaahhh! It’s so disgusting how good this dude is! I don’t even wanna give him his props like that!
But, he is that good. He’s been that good ever since I met him years ago. He’s been that good with the sexy, flexy-ass art style which graces his own creation Bombshell with bodybuilder Colette Nelson. He’s bullied companies like DC, Marvel, Heavy Metal, White Wolf Publishing and others into giving him work.
Whatever. I’m just putting it out there that I’m not scared of you, Uko! You ain’t all that! You ain’t gonna do nothing to me…
Wait, he’s behind me right now, isn’t he?
So there it is. 29 Black comic book artists that I admire. And, I only scratched the surface. There are some many more people out there doing the damn thing like Quinn McGowan (Master of the One-Finger Technique), Anthony Piper, Julie Anderson, Sean Hill, Alitha Martinez, N. Steven Harris, Eric Battle, George Gant and so many more. And don’t get me started on the writers! Clawd hammercy! I would need to launch a series of books in order to give proper respect to them all…
Oh, wait… I do have a series of books for that purpose. Check out the 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape anthology series, the perfect sampler to discover the amazing world of Black Comix and their creators.
Until next Black Future Month, get familiar.