Manhattan art exhibit highlights work of black and brown comic artists

Now on display at The Society of Illustrators is "The Artists' Experience: From Brotherman to Batman," an exhibit that celebrates the work of artists of color in the comics and graphic novels industry.

"It's really important to showcase the contributions that African-Americans have given to the comic book industry because we've been around for a long, long time. So this exhibit was a great opportunity to really give them a showcase, to let people know that there are people that look like them to draw comic books as well," said Shawn Martinbrough, the exhibits' co-curator.

The Upper East Side exhibit goes beyond the pages of the books and into the thought processes of the artists and how their own life experiences come through in their drawings.  

For Boston native Khary Randolph, the exhibit is about representation. 

RELATED: Mattel releases Tina Turner Barbie doll to celebrate singer’s hit song ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It’

 "It's representing people who aren't necessarily represented in the media that I see now. So I'm creating things that I feel like, haven't been shown or shown in a specific light. So I'm trying to show those things from my point of view, from people I've seen in my life," Randolph said.

While the work of only 16 artists is highlighted, the exhibit does cast a light on an industry still struggling to make room for minorities in terms of race and gender, although strides are being made.

When DC Comics was looking to update the character of "Nubia" -- DC's first black female superhero, introduced back in 1973 as Wonder Woman's darker-skinned fraternal twin sister, Alitha Martinez was an artist they contacted.

"Nubia has been around for 50 years and they gave me free rein to design her as I saw fit when they relaunched her, which is very, very new for me.  Because that's like I usually have to draw what's already there, already presented. But to get to go in and change her hair texture, to make it more like women of today," Martinez said.

Atlanta-based artist Marcus Williams also drew a variant on "Nubia." 

"I wanted to make it more contemporary, something a little bit more polished and up-to-date and modern and that was my take. So I gave her dreads, this cool new breastplate, a lot of cool things about it and I just wanted to show melanin. This beautiful black Amazonian woman and how amazing black women are in just one image," Williams said.

But for writer and co-curator Karama Horne it's the impact the exhibit is having that makes her smile.  

"Seeing kids come in here, really really makes me excited. It's amazing to see young artists who come through the museum and see this and say wait these are black people? I can do this? That is really, that is what makes my heart sing. It really makes me happy," Horne said.

"The Artists' Experience: From Brotherman to Batman" runs through October 29 at The Society of Illustrators.