An email about a new book, Black Women in Sequence: Re-inking Comics, Graphic Novels, and Anime by Deborah Elizabeth Whaley took me on quite a journey of discovery this morning, leading me to the latest dates of a Funk-inspired animation exhibition currently touring the United States and reading up on Friday Foster, the first mainstream syndicated comic strip to feature a Black woman in the lead role, co-created by James Bond newspaper strip writer Jim Lawrence and Spanish artist Jorge Longarón.
Deborah Whaley is an artist, curator, writer, and Associate Professor of American Studies and African American Studies at the University of Iowa and her book, Black Women in Sequence has been getting some very positive reviews.
Published by University of Washington Press, the book explores graphic novel production and comic book fandom, looking in particular at African, African American, and multi-ethnic women as deployed in television, film, animation, gaming, and print representations of comic book and graphic novel characters.
Black Women in Sequence takes readers on a fascinating search for women of African descent in comics subculture. From the 1971 appearance of the Skywald Publications character “The Butterfly” in Hell-Rider #1 – the first Black female superheroine in a comic book – to contemporary comic books, graphic novels, film, manga, and video gaming, a growing number of Black women are becoming producers, viewers, and subjects of sequential art.
The first detailed investigation of Black women’s participation in comic art, Black Women in Sequence examines the representation, production, and transnational circulation of women of African descent in the sequential art world. In this groundbreaking study, which includes interviews with artists and writers, Deborah Whaley suggests that the treatment of the Black female subject in sequential art says much about the place of people of African descent in national ideology in the United States and abroad.
In addition to her many academic achievements, Doctor Whaley has published original art, poetry, as well as articles on social movements, popular culture, sequential art, documentary photography, and film. She has been a Resident Visiting Scholar at the Center for Cultural Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and was a recipient of a grant from the Monroe Trotter Institute for Black Culture for her research on responses to 9/11 in Black expressive art and in the public sphere.
Reading about this book led me to tracking down more on the Friday Foster strip who features on the book’s cover and finding some cracking examples of this ground-breaking strip on The Museum Of UnCut Funk!, and, in turn, the discovery of the The Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution Firsts Panel Exhibition which focuses on the timeline of key animation character first appearances and the historic significance of these appearances during the late 1960s / 1970s.
The traveling exhibition is the work of Loreen Williamson and Pamela Thomas at the The Museum Of UnCut Funk!, the planet’s first virtual museum dedicated to the celebration and preservation of the funk – an online showcase for original animation cels, posters, storyboards and other objects celebrating black culture of the 1970s and its standard-bearers.
The Friday Foster comic strip debuted on 18th January 1970 and ran until 1974 and was the first mainstream syndicated comic strip to feature a Black woman in the lead role. Prior to this, other than a handful of broadly stereotyped caricatures from the industry’s very early days and a few series aimed solely at Black newspapers, no American comic strip had ever borne the name of a Black lead character.
Friday Foster was a former fashion model who became an assistant to a world-famous photographer, and the strip was about her comings and goings in the modelling and magazine / publishing worlds.
The strip was created by writer Jim Lawrence, illustrated by artist Jorje Longaron (Jordi Longarón), and syndicated by The Chicago Tribune Syndicate to 25 newspapers across the country.
The strip spawned a comic book, a movie starring Pam Grier and, in 2009, a doll collection created by Robert Tonner, all noted here on the Museum of Uncut Funk web site.
Black Women in Sequence: Re-inking Comics, Graphic Novels, and Anime
ISBN 9780295994956: Hardback
Released: 9th October 2015ISBN 9780295994963: Paperback
Release Date: 9th October 2015
• The The Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution Firsts Panel Exhibition next features from 1st February – 31st March 2016 at Purdue University Black Cultural Center – West Lafayette, Indiana. You can learn more about the Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution Firsts Panel Exhibition and see pictures by clicking here.
If you are a museum and would like receive more information about the Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution Firsts Panel Exhibition please contact the Curator Sista ToFunky.
Friday Foster © 2015 Tribune Media Services Inc.