February 27th, 2008

The Zombie

Your African American Cartoonist of The...HEY!

February 26 -  Hi-ho.  Howzit going?  I'm still poking along with commissioned stuff, but I wanted to take a break to talk a little more about this month's "...Of The Day" theme, African American Cartoonists.  The problem is that, like most comics and cartooning fans, I don't really know all that much about them as a group.  I'm fairly familiar with a handful of these artists, and very familiar with a couple, but, for the most part, I have no significant conception of them as a group.  And that's the way it should be.  Look, as far as I'm concerned, cartoonists of color are basically just cartoonists.  Yes, some have remarkable stories, some worked during darker times, and a handful are/were inspirational figures (Jackie Ormes comes to mind), but, beyond all of that, they're cartoonists.  As I mentioned a few nights ago, some of what originally attracted me to the idea of a career in comics was that the artwork was alive, and that it lived on beyond its creators.  Another aspect was that the work speaks for itself, allowing the artists to remain as anonymous as they'd like.  For better or worse, when I read a comic book or comic strip, I care about the story and the art, not the skin hue of the creator.  I'm not denying that there may be something special about African American cartoonists as a segment of the cartoonist population, but I also believe that it's not exactly shameful that I've personally never felt that their heritage was as central to their contributions as were their talents.  As possible exceptions, I'd admit that those who plied their pens during eras where only the "Black Press" would hire them have an extra measure of my respect, but, for the most part, I choose to judge these artists not by the color of their skin but by the content of their cartoon characters.  Today's African American cartoonists can (literally) draw from a deep well of shared history, which has the power to inform, inspire, and influence their work, but I hope that they are not defined by that legacy as much as they are empowered by it.  Of course, what do I know?  My own heritage runs the gamut from British, Irish and German to Cherokee and even African American as well, but I've never been particularly in touch with any of it.  Oh, on rare occassion, I'll imagine how my unflattering features or collection of colloquialisms may have been passed down to me from my ancestors, but mostly I've felt like Generic American, Version 4.5.  In fact, it has only just now hit me that technically, in spite of appearances, I am also an African American cartoonist!  Wow!  Well...that certainly gives me something to think about as I get back to work.  Before I go, though, here's your African American Cartoonist of The Day - Clint C. Wilson, Sr.!