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

9 of 12

Kwanza Osajyefo

Even though there have been great strides for representation in the comics world, the harsh truth is that there is still significant and institutionalized racism built into many parts of the industry. And it’s not just small, independent presses or lingering attitudes perpetuated by long-time editors. There are still racial divides in big companies and throughout editorial departments. Just ask Kwanza Osajyefo.

Osajyefo (also sometimes credited as Kwanza Johnson) started out as an intern at Marvel, one of the biggest comics companies around. He quickly noticed the disparities in who was hired and where they were assigned. That is, he saw that many of the editors, who were some of the most influential people in the company, were white men.

Eventually, Osajyefo left Marvel with mixed feelings. He felt disillusioned about much of the big name comics industries, but his work in Marvel’s digital department showed him new and more diverse ways people could engage with comics. He also remembered his childhood experiences reading work by fellow Black comics writers, especially Dwayne McDuffie.

That digital work helped draw him back to big comics companies, this time Zuda Comics, the webcomics imprint of DC Comics that ran from 2007 until 2010. Osajyefo, who served as the DC Comics Online Editor for the imprint, called it “six proud years of my life.” As editor, he specifically sought out people of color and women for the site.

Osajyefo eventually released his own comics series, also funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign. That series, Black, takes on some of the most traumatic issues in American culture today, including police violence against Black people. Yet, Black presents a major twist. In this world, a small percentage of the population has superhuman abilities. All of those people are also Black.

Kareem Jenkins discovers he’s part of that group when he survives a hail of police bullets. That’s only the beginning of his story, however, as he must learn how to deal with a continually unfolding series of secrets and dangers that lies ahead.