Black comic book writers break through | The Color of Comics

For more than a century, comic books and graphic novels have been a platform for generations of young writers to share the depths of their creativity. But many young writers of color found that platform was harder to reach for quite some time.

"The general idea was that white guys wrote comics, Black guys and other people of color would draw them," writer and screenwriter Brandon Easton said, "because there's always been many, many Black and Latino and Asian illustrators for Marvel, DC, for everybody going back years."

Easton has written the DC titles Truth & Justice, Mr. Miracle, and Legends of the Dark Knight and has also written for TV shows, including Marvel's Agent Carter.

Joseph Illidge, the executive editor of veteran industry title Heavy Metal, said he always felt pressure to impress. 

"You always feel like your responsibility is to produce quality because if you don't, you will be used as the excuse for the system to say, 'Well, see — this is what happens when you give them opportunities,'" said Illidge, who is also a senior editor of content for all of DC's Batman titles. 

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Easton added that getting into the industry professionally was a challenge for him as well.

"The difference is, is that Black writers have a ridiculously high bar of entry into comics," Easton said. "Whereas many white, especially white male creators, could do very little and get handed major franchises."

And Easton and Illidge both agree that the unparalleled global success of the Marvel film Black Panther was a watershed moment for both the comic book industry and superhero film genres.

"Black Panther was the end of the Hollywood lie," Illidge said. "And the Hollywood lie was that films about Black people with Black leads could not succeed internationally."

Easton added that Black Panther proved that an audience is out there for such movies.

"Being a Marvel property helps but no one had to go see that movie," Easton said. "And they did in droves, repeatedly, globally."

And if the Black Panther movie caused the comic book industry to be "woke" regarding closing the color gap with hiring writers, illustrators, and executives of color, Easton and Illidge are among those watching to see just how long the industry stays awake.