11 Black comics writers to read, from DC to Marvel and beyond

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Ironheart (Cover image via Marvel)

Eve Ewing

For many, academia and popular culture are dramatically opposed to one another. You can’t be a “serious” thinker, the idea goes, if you’re also a fan of superheroes and big, flashy comic book stories. Or, if you’re on the other side of things, you can’t possibly understand the world of comics conventions and fandom if you’re a stuffy academic locked away in an ivory tower.

Of course, we are collectively learning that this isn’t necessarily so. You can be a comic fan who is more than capable of talking about the far-reaching social and intellectual aspects of comics (and, believe me, those aspects are definitely there). On the flip side, you can be an academic who can engage in meaningful, real-world ways with comics, just as Eve Ewing does.

Dr. Ewing is currently an assistant professor at the University of Chicago, where she teaches in the School of Social Service Administration. Her academic work focuses on school closures, especially in the Chicago area.

In comics, Ewing emerged as a new but formidable writer on Marvel’s Ironheart series, starting in November 2018. Ironheart is Riri Williams, a young Black woman and engineering student who first made it onto comics pages in 2016. Riri makes it to MIT, where she builds a supersuit of her own. She does some light superhero-ing, including preventing two criminals from escaping a prison, which then brings her to the attention of Tony Stark.

At one point in her character history, Riri took over for Iron Man while Tony Stark was in a coma. He got better, but Ironheart had already made her mark on the comics world. It’s worth noting that Ewing’s run is the first time Riri has been written by a Black woman.

Ewing is not shying away from the realities of being Black in spaces that weren’t constructed with people of color in mind. “One thing I’ve had to wrestle with is that if you’re a Black woman at a place like MIT… the social environment was kind of constructed without you in mind, and these institutions ask you to make a lot of compromises that you have to navigate,” she told Marvel. “That’s definitely something Riri will be dealing with.”