Dwayne McDuffie on Black Panther, 1992

Prior to working on my current book project, From Panels to Frames: Comic Art in Museums, I wrote an essay about the founding of the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco by Malcolm Whyte. The essay also covered the first 10 years or so of the museum's exhibition history while Whyte was still directly involved with the museum and its choice of exhibits. In 1992, they did 3 fascinating and well-received exhibits back to back: Broad Humor: Art of Women Cartoonists, Black Ink: African-American Cartoonist Showcase (toured), and Visions of the Floating World (manga & anime). 

After seeing the excellent Marvel film Black Panther this weekend, I was reminded of this essay Dwayne McDuffie (1962-2011) wrote for the Black Ink catalog about how much Black Panther meant to him. Here is the text of his essay:


“Our Heroes: African-American Artists and Images in the American Comic Book” by Dwayne McDuffie, originally published in the exhibition catalog Black Ink: African American Cartoonists Showcase, Cartoon Art Museum San Francisco, February 5 – May 16, 1992

Alan Thompkins interrupted my one-on-none backyard basketball game with some important news. “The Hulk is gonna fight Thor. It’s supposed to be out already.”

If Alan said so, it must be true. He knew more about comic books than anybody in the whole neighborhood. Even though my interest in the subject was a good less fanatical than Alan’s, this was definitely worth checking out. Much of our rapidly-dwindling summer vacation had been spent in heated arguments over who would emerge victorious from such a contest. I was quite certain the Incredible Hulk would have no problem waxing a little guy who wore a cape and feathers in his hat. Alan, however, favored Thor, citing the Asgardian’s mighty hammer and mystical control over the weather as decisive factors. Maybe so, but then, Alan also preferred Joe Frazier to Muhammad Ali.

In any case, the solution to our debate was suddenly at hand. Only one obstacle remained in our way. Lindsay Drugs, the “good comic store,” was over three miles from my house and I was expressly forbidden from going there. I concocted a clever story to cover my illicit tracks, “I’m going over to Alan’s, okay?”

Mom went for it.

Alan and I hopped on our bikes and made the long ride. It was 1973. We were both eleven years old.

We ran into the drug store and scanned the comic racks. The Hulk vs. Thor comic was nowhere to be found. We were greatly disappointed. Alan consoled himself with a bag of “Gold Rush” bubble gum. I had twenty cents burning a hole in my pocket and was determined to buy a comic book. I’m very glad I did.

The comic book was Jungle Action #7, featuring a superhero I’d never heard of called The Black Panther, but then, I’d never heard of the Black Panther political party either. And the irony of a black character being the lead in a book called Jungle Action escaped me completely. What didn’t escape me was the powerful sense of dignity that the characters in this book possessed. I was instantly and hopelessly hooked.

It wasn’t that The Black Panther was the first black character I’d seen in comics. Blacks had occasionally appeared in crowd scenes and as supporting characters long before (the Panther himself first appeared as a supporting character in The Fantastic Four). One black character even had his own book. Marvel’s Luke Cage, Hero for Hire had been running for over a year when I first discovered the Panther. But I never connected with Cage, a super-strong “angry black man” who wore chains around his waist, didn’t seem particularly bright, and spoke in a bizarre version of “street slang” that didn’t even remotely resemble the speech of any black people I knew. Spider-Man made sense to me. Cage? I just couldn’t relate.

In those days, when black people weren’t busy being angry, they appeared either as faithful sidekicks, or worse, helpless victims who begged the white superheroes to rescue them. The Black Panther was nobody’s sidekick and if there was any rescuing to do, he’d take care of it himself, thank you. Moreover, the Black Panther was king of a mythical African country where black people were visible in every position in society, soldier, doctor, philosopher, street sweeper, ambassador – suddenly everything was possible. In the space of 15 pages, black people moved from invisible to inevitable.

In 1972, there were very few black people involved in the creation of the black images that occasionally graced the pages of comic books. In those days we were dependant on white creators to represent us. As noted about, some of them did remarkably well. Most did not.

Today, the responsibility for African-American images lies with us. If there’s any rescuing to do, we’ll take care of it ourselves, thank you. As African-American artists enter the industry in ever-increasing numbers, our dependence on whites for how we are depicted diminishes accordingly. The relatively new phenomenon of creator-owned and self-published comics further consolidates our control over how we will be portrayed. Nor is our output limited merely to African-American images. We’ve demonstrated our ability to communicate artistically concerning the whole of human experience.

When I talk about “Our Heroes,” I don’t mean The Black Panther, Brotherman, and Deathlok. Our Heroes are the growing numbers of African-American comic book creators who, each in their own way, open our eyes to the multiplicity of the African-American experience.

Our Heroes appearing in the Black Ink exhibit include: [inset images: Gil Ashby (The Laziest Secretary in the World, Hellraiser); Reggie Byers (Robotech, Shuriken, Jam Quacky); Denys Cowan (Deathlok, Punisher: War Zone, Batman, The Question, Prince, The Spook); Michael Davis-Lawerence (ETC, The Freedom Project, Shado); Matt Baker (Hooks Devlin); Grass Green (The Devil You Say); Shepherd Hendrix (Mile Up, Swamp Thing); Seitu Hayden (Tales from the Heart, the Marion Berry Game); Roland Laird (MC Squared); Milton Knight (Slug ‘n Ginger, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles);  Turtel Onli (NOG, Future Funk); David, Guy, and Jason Sims (Brotherman); Dwayne Turner (Black Panther).]

The Black Ink exhibit barely skims the surface of the deep pool of African-American talent in the comic industry today. The artists who are included represent merely a small sampling of the staggering breadth and ability of African-American contributors to the form.

~ Dwayne McDuffie writes the adventures of the African-American superheroes Deathlok and Captain Marvel, as well as Double Dragon, Back to the Future, Damage Control, The Demon, and Ultra Man. In the fall of 1973, he and Alan finally got their hands on a copy of the Hulk vs. Thor comic book. It was a tie. ~


Black Ink also toured to the San Francisco International Airport (93), and to the International Museum of Cartoon Art in Florida (94). In the catalog, the title is Black Ink: Black Cartoonist Showcase, for the Florida show this was changed to Black Ink: African-American Cartoonist Showcase. I do not know which title SFO used. This catalog had no formal checklist. Artists included are: Ollie Harrington; Chester Commodore;  Leslie Rodgers; Fred B. Watson; Bobby Thomas; E. Simms Campbell; Tom Feelings; Morrie Turner; Brumsic Brandon Jr.;  Seitu Hayden; Yaounde Olu; Ray Billingsley; Steven Bentley; Robb Armstrong; Barbara Brandon; Hazel Henigan; Greg Harris; Darnell Towns; Rick Rogers; Jonathan Smith; Walt Carr; Len Bethel; Al Dree; Ron “Stozo” Edwards; Prof. I.B. Gitten’ Downe; Edwina Owens; Pedro Bell; Overton Lloyd; Cortez McCoy; Gil Ashby;  Reggie Byers; Denys Cowan; Michael Davis-Lawrence; Matt Baker; Grass Green; Shepherd Hendrix; Roland Laird; Elihu Bey; Milton Knight; Turtel Onli; David & Jason Sims; Dwayne Turner; Craig Rex Perry; Leo Sullivan; Louis Scarborough Jr.; Byron Vaughns; Leonard Robinson; Jackie Ormes (who had a special spotlight section).

Art Spiegelman's Co-Mix in Toronto

In support of my upcoming book From Panels to Frames: Comic Art in Museums, I'm posting some exhibition photos and checklists as additional reference material.

To flesh out my interview with Art Spiegelman, I've assembled photos I took of his retrospective exhibition Co-Mix at the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto) in January of 2015. I apologize for the quality of these shots, they were intended only to document the show. There is also a rough floor plan. They are posted in order as I walked through the galleries.

Carol Tyler's Pages & Progress

In my upcoming book, From Panels to Frames: Comics Art and Museums, I am including an interview with Carol Tyler about the very tactile, personal art installations she created based on her multi-Eisner nominated You’ll Never Know graphic novel trilogy, and Soldier’s Heart - the Campaign to Understand My WWII Veteran Father: a Daughter’s Memoir (Fantagraphics), the 2015 book that collects them all together. Her quest to make sense of life’s challenges and her family relationships (parents, husband, and daughter) is both intensely personal and universal for anyone that has ever tried to figure out a difficult relationship. 

Here I am collecting Carol's video, exhibition photos, and other information about her exhibitions. Pages and Progress (video and slides below) was presented at the  University of Cincinnati at DAAP Galleries, Meyers Gallery, February-March, 2016).

Many shows by artists known for comics have become “museumified,” with everything perfectly framed and starkly presented in the Alfred Barr/Museum of Modern Art tradition. Tyler’s installations are very different, distinctly apart from the antiseptic feeling of the white cube. Her graphic style, crammed with detail and drawn in a limited palette of warm tones, is reflected in the design of the exhibition. She invites us in to look at the flotsam of her life and art. Her down to Earth mid-western quality is reflected in a room of drawings fluttering gently on a clothesline, and a second gallery filled with objects like her father’s woodworking tools, toys, memorabilia, and other props that Tyler crafted herself as signs of her process and emotional state. 

In the photos below, you can see some of these handmade props, such as the “table of tears” (a table covered with glass fragments wet with “tears” from a tube feeder on the wall) and the “egometer” where Tyler’s own face appears and disappears like a window shade. There are also self-portraits and thorn sculptures from a later show, Cincinnati Five.

"American Cartooning" Artist List

In support of my new book From Panels to Frames: Comics Art in Museums (coming out in 2018), I'm going to be posting some checklists and exhibition photos. The first of these is the artist list for the 1951 show American Cartooning, exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY) May 11 - June 10. 

The show brochure includes a paragraph about the show's purpose: "This exhibition was planned, in cooperation with the National Cartoonists' Society, to illustrate the art of the American professional cartoonist in our time. Members of the Society, together with other cartoonists, were invited to submit several original drawings to a committee of selection composed of representatives of the Metropolitan Museum and the Society. Those drawings were chosen which, in the opinion of the committee, best represented each artist's work, and at the same time provided a broad picture of contemporary cartooning in this country."

 I have not found many photos of this show. Here, for scholarly purposes only, is a clipping from the Colorado Springs (CO) Free Press, showing the Mondrian style grid display. Otto Soglow was the Chair of the NCS committee that organized the exhibit.

I have not found many photos of this show. Here, for scholarly purposes only, is a clipping from the Colorado Springs (CO) Free Press, showing the Mondrian style grid display. Otto Soglow was the Chair of the NCS committee that organized the exhibit.

The NCS wanted to include at least one piece from all members who submitted work, plus some classics (such as McCay, Herriman) and a few drawings from the Met's collection. The drawings, over 200 of them, were displayed unframed, lined up in a grid inspired by Mondrian (a concept mentioned in NCS correspondence). The exhibit followed the nation-wide publicity the NCS received during the US Saving Bond Tour in 1949, a multi-city cross-country tour for the US Treasury Department that kicked off with NCS members sketching President Truman at the White House and included a touring exhibition on comics history that started at the Library of Congress.

The Met show was planned to run over the summer but was cut short by a large remodeling project at the museum. My book includes details of the many reviews, which were mixed (the NCS wanted a neutral representation of everyone's work and the critics wanted the Met's curators to take more of a hand in the selection), info about how this show came together, and its effect on future exhibitions of comic art.


Here are the 239 artists, in alphabetical order as published in the Met's brochure: Jay Allan; F. O. Alexander; Clarence C. Allen; Colin Allen; Carl Anderson; Alfred Andriola; Emidio (Mike) Angelo; Gus Arriola; Edd Ashe, Jr. - Mickey Bach; Ray W. Bailey; Perry Barlow; James D. Barstow; C.D. Batchelor; Frank H. Beck; Janice Berenstain; Stanley Berenstain; Walter Berndt; Michael Berry; Jame T. (Jim) Berryman; Jim Bettersworth; Charles B. Biro; Daniel Bishop; Wally Bishop; Merrill Blosser; Henry Boltinoff; Wayne D. Boring; Dave Breger; Morrie Brickman; Clare Briggs; Bo Brown; Ernie Bushmiller - Milton Caniff; Irwin Caplin; Al Capp; Mel Casson; Sam Cobean; Roland Rae Coe; Fred Cooper; Gibson M. (Gib) Crockett; Percy Crosby; Herbert E. Crowley; Matt Curzon; Otho Cushing - Gregory D'Alessio (NCS Secretary); Phil Davis; Chon Day' Abner Dean; Billy de Beck; William de la Torre; Harry Arthur Devlin; Anthony Louis (Tony) Di Preta; Walt Disney; Walt Ditzen; Ed Dodd; T. T. (Tad) Dorgan; Stephen Anthony Douglas; Daniel B. Dowling; Frances (Edwina) Dumm; Courtney Dunkel; Bob Dunn; Bill Dyer - Carl Ed; Gus Edson; L.G. Edwards; Will Eisner; Lee Elias; Frank Engli; Eric Ericson; Ray Stevens, Sr. - Jo Fisher; Dudley Fisher; Hammond E (Ham) Fisher; Daniel Robert Fitzpatrick; Don Flowers; Frank Fogarty; Vic Forsythe; Harold R. Foster; Gil Fox; Ving Fuller - Tom Gill; Frank Godwin; Reuben Lucius (Rube) Goldberg (Past President/NCS committee member); Ray Gotto; Chester Gould; Mel Graff; William Karr (Bill) Graham; Harold Gray; Milt Gross; Chad Grothkopf; Carl Grubert - Harry Hanan; Lou Hanlon; Fred Harman; Irwin Hasen; Jimmy Hatlo; George Herriman; Ned Hilton; Burne Hogarth; Bill Holman; Hugh M. Hutton - Jay Irving - Burris Jenkins, Jr.; Ferd Johnson; Roy B. Justus - Bob Kane; Al Kaufman; Jeff Keate; Reamer Keller; Ted Key; Frank O. King; Rollin Kirby; Ken Kling; Karl Kae Knecht; Clayton Knight; A. Kovarkey; Robert (Bob Kay) Kuwahara - Clyde Lamb; Fred Lasswell; George Lichty; Marty Links; Tom Little; Scott Long; Martin Lowenstein; Gustav Lundberg - H. A. Mac Gill; Stan Mac Govern; Bill Mac Lean; Neyer Mael; Gus Mager; Reg Manning; Jack Markow; Ernest Marquez; Charles E. (Cem) Martin; Fran Matera; Rex Maxon; Winsor McCay; Darrell McClure; Wilson McCoy; MC Cuthcheon; Elmer R. Messner; McGowan Miller; Tarpe Mills; R. B. Modell; Bob Montana; Edward MdDowell (Ed) Moore; John (Milt) Morris; Carl Louis Mortison; Zack Mosley; Willard Mullin - Fed Neher; John Norment; Paul Norris; Irving Novick - Robert Stanley (Bob) Oksner; F. Opper; R. F. Outcault; William Overgard; Frank Owen - Grover Page; Gladys Parker; David (Pascal) Pascolsca; Russell Patterson; Bill Pause; John Pierotti; Alfred John Plastino; Al Posen; T. E. Powers; Garrett Price - Connie Rasinski; Hal Rasmusson; Alex Raymond (NCS President); Gardner Rea; Rranciscc Xavier (FOXO) Reardon; Ed Reed; Paul Reinman; Laurence (Larry) Reynolds; Mischa Richter; Frank Robbins; Carl Rose; Hy Rosen; Michael J. (Mike) Roy; John Arthur Ruge; D. D. Russell; Rod Ruth - Jose Luis Slinas; William Sandeson; Leonard Sansone; Robert D. Scholnki;  Lew Sayre Schwartz; Fred O. Seibel' Irma Selz; Claude Shafter; George Shellhase; Barbara Shermund; Vaughn Shoemaker; Erle B. Slack; Dorman H. Smith; George Smith; Otto Soglow (committe chair); Howard Spraber; AndrewSprague; John Spranger; Stanley Stamaty; Russell Stamm; Ralph Stein; Cliff Sterrett; J. Striebel; T. S. Sullivant; V. A. Svoboda; Swinnerton - Hilda Terry; Paul H. Terry; Barney Tobey; Buford Tune; Leslie Turner - Philip Albert (Flip) Uzanas - Charles A. Voight - Mort Walker; Dow Walling; Jerry Walter; Linda Walter; L. D. Warren; Coulton Waugh; Morris Weiss (Wes Morse); Peter Wells; Elmer Wexler; Bert Whitman; Frank H. Willard; J. R. Williams; Dick Wingert; Basil Wolverton; George Wunder - Richard Yardley; Chic Young - Bill Zaboly; Eugene (Zim) Zimmerman.

Two articles in Fall/Winter 2016 IJOCA

Two articles I finished last year have been published in the Fall/Winter 2016 issue of the International Journal of Comic Art: "A Collaborative Journey: Malcolm Wyte, Troubador Press, and the Founding of the Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco," and "How the French Kickstarted the Acceptance of Comics as an Art Form: the Books and Exhibitions of Maurice Horn" (pages 61-155) The IJOCA does not publish articles on-line. They are posted on Academia.edu, and IJOCA articles sometimes appear in the JSTOR database.

Thanks to the following people who shared their stories with me: Maurice Horn, Brian Walker, Rick Marcshall, Denis Kitchen, Paul Gravett, Art Spiegelman, Carol Tilley, Trina Robbins, and Steve Leialoha. Malcolm Whyte, Jenny Robb, Andrew Farago, and Mark Bode. Also, thanks to Brian, Randy Duncan, Matt Smith, and Marc Greenberg for their advice throughout these projects. 

The article about Maurice Horn, French scholarship, his publications, and the 1967 exhibition at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs will be the topic of my upcoming presentations at WonderCon and the Popular Culture Association's National Convention.

 cover of the Fall/Winter 2016 issue of the IJOCA.

cover of the Fall/Winter 2016 issue of the IJOCA.

Conference schedule 2017

After a hiatus, I've scheduled speaking slots a few upcoming conferences:

San Diego Comics Fest, Feb 17-19. Print Magazine's Michael Dooley and I will talk about the art of Will Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman, and Jules Feiffer, particularly about the way that exhibitions of their original art keep their legacy alive with fans old and new.

Comic Arts Conference at WonderCon (Anaheim, CA), March 31-April 2. 50th Anniversary of the Bande Dessinee et Figuration (1967) Exhibition at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris. 

Popular Culture Association National Conference (San Diego, CA), April 11-15. 50th Anniversary of the Bande Dessinee et Figuration (1967) Exhibition at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris. 

Comic Arts Conference at San Diego Comic-Con International, July 20-23. Exhibitions of Will Eisner and Jack Kirby.

"From Panels to Frames: Comic Art in Museums"

I'm happy to announce that I will be editing a collection of essays, comics, reviews, and other materials about comic art in museums for the University Press of Mississippi. My UPM editor, Vijay Shah said "Museums, exhibitions, and exhibition catalogs have played a great part in the development of comics scholarship. By bringing this "low art" into the presence of "high art," a good deal has been learned about both. This matter has hardly been studied at all, and a good many people involved in it have been overlooked or forgotten."

 Cover art illustration by Will Eisner. Originally created for the Museum of Cartoon Art.

Cover art illustration by Will Eisner. Originally created for the Museum of Cartoon Art.

So far, contributors include: Brian Walker, Dr. Thomas Inge, Benoit Crucifix, Jaqueline Berndt, Michael Dooley, Charles Hatfield, Diana Green, Trina Robbins, Karen Green Jonah Kinigstein, Denis Kitchen, Leslie Jones, Kenneth Baker, John Lent, and Mark Badger. Interviews with artists Gary Panter, Art Spiegelman, and Carol Tyler will be included. More to come.

If all goes as planned, publication is expected spring 2018. Thanks to Brian Walker, Denis Kitchen and Carl Gropper for allowing me to use this perfect Will Eisner illustration for my cover.

Margaret Harrison: #4 on Artlyst's Top Feminist Artist List

Several recent articles about Margaret Harrison and "On Reflection: the Art of Margaret Harrison" in the media:

Artlyst's "Top 10 Feminist Artists" : http://www.artlyst.com/top10/feminist-artists

Michael Dooley of Print Magazine on my book "On Reflection": "As police once forced Harrison’s gallery owner to remove her paintings, the book’s author, Kim Munson, had been forced by Apple not long ago to remove “objectionable” cartoons from an underground comix history iPhone app she’d produced [story here]. This and other commonalities, such as a shared passion for workers’ rights, make Munson’s accompanying commentary and interviews with the artist empathetic and engaging as well as informative." See the rest of the article here: http://www.printmag.com/illustration/graphic-novels-superhero-feminist-artist/  

Dooley's article was also picked up by Heidi McDonald on The Beat (http://www.comicsbeat.com/kibbles-n-bits-11116-96-comics-artists-draw-david-bowie/).

Margaret Harrison. You Looking at Me?, 2013. Watercolour on paper, 28 x 19 1/4 in each. Photograph: Casey Dorobek, courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York.

Studio International: Informative interview with Anna McNay about Margaret and her retrospective show at mima. http://www.studiointernational.com/index.php/margaret-harrison-interview-accumulations-middlesbrough-institute-of-modern-art