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How to tell black stories without making them “Black Stories,” and other stories

9 Dec

By Ayo

Marginalized people, as subjects and as audiences to art and cultural products, are under multiple pressures: erasure of our very existence from popular imagination, whitewashing of history and whitewashing of our oppression, backgrounding (placing marginalized people in non-active, almost decorative roles as figures in the background).

Number one: stories about anthropomorphic animals are at best a stopgap when it comes to representing differing racial groups and at worst they are an actual impediment to imparting compassion and empathy for other humans to the readers.

I do not necessarily oppose stories about animals. I support these stories as a form of resistance against the cultural juggernaut which is white supremacy, manifested in art as euro-primacy. What I absolutely do not support is the practice on relying exclusively on animal-characters as a method of avoidance. I roundly reject the idea that animals must be presented as characters for the benefit of a society that refuses to see people of color as viable subjects worthy of interest.

Number two: nonfiction is a trap. A particularly insidious thing that happens in the trends surrounding storytelling about people of color and other marginalized people is that the stories most often featuring marginalized people tend to be historical narratives, or the related genre, fiction centered around the specific oppression faced by the marginalized community in question.

These stories are important. They are vitally important. Biographies, histories, historical fiction, culturally-specific folklore, fiction derived from specific oppressions that marginalized people face: all of these are important stories to tell. We can never afford to lose track of history and lived experience. The trouble is that for marginalized people, these are not presented as some of the stories, but rather the only stories relevant to marginalized communities and peoples. An association begins to build where people start to link nonwhite characters and nonwhite people with suffering and struggle alone. Focusing on fact and history alone denies people their humanity in the eyes of a society. Instead, people become reduced to moral lessons, teachable moments and in the process, people lose perception that marginalized peoples exist as fully-dimensional human beings.

Number three: backgrounding. This tendency must be rejected on an individual story basis and condemned on a systemic basis. We cannot continue to condone the practice of simply placing some brown people into non-essential roles and claiming that a work depicts a diverse reality. That is not reality. People do not exist exclusively in support of white people nor do people exist exclusively to stand behind white people.

Number four: stories happen to everyone. White people are not the only people who have adventures.

~Ayo, out~

So I got to thinking about them X-Men…

3 Jun

…and to me, if you ask me personally, if X-Men is a metaphor for racism, I tell you always “no.” Is the X-Men a metaphor for homophobia and I insist “no.”

If X-Men is analogous to ANYthing in reality, it is a metaphor for the entitlement to private gun ownership.

-Ayo2014

comic books vs picture books

4 Feb

by Ayo

Picture book illustration uses a lot of the same elements as cartooning (both forms are Sequential Art) but it sure doesn’t feel like comics when you look at it and read it.

The visual continuity from image to image is tighter in the comics mode of storytelling, keeping the reader immersed in the world of the story while picture book illustration, even the most densely-detailed sort, keeps the reader at arm’s distance, each illustration acting as a visual anchor while the reader imagines the full scope of the scenario.

The two forms represent different aspects to imagination. Picture books encourage readers to visualize scenes based on the anchor points that have been provided. Comics encourage readers to explicitly empathize with the specific details as they unfold.

Interesting differences.

Eight is Enough

10 Aug

Read comics every day! Let’s go!

Continue reading

Twenty-six hours in Angoulême

28 Jul

By Ayo

Darkness (published as “Noirness”)
By -Boulet-
Published in 2013 by AdHouse
Read the story on -Boulet-‘s website!

The protagonist of -Boulet-‘s comic “Darkness” has roommate trouble. We’ve all been there, protagonist-man. It’s about perception and compatibility.

Continue reading

Fade in

28 Jul

By Ayo

Last Train To Old Town
Chapter One
By Kenan Rubenstein
lasttraintooldtown.com
underthehaystack.net

Kids can be jerks to nerds but it’s refreshing that Last Train To Old Town‘s nerd is kind of a jerk as well.
Continue reading

Anonymous question to me: “how do you feel about webcomics?”

24 Jul

By Ayo

Answering questions on Tumblr, an anonymous asked me:
“How do you feel about webcomics”

So I responded:

Glad you asked.

I’m a hip hop guy, for twenty years. I’ve been into hip hop since The Big Kids came to the playground with a boom box and a tape of Onyx and Dr. Dre. It would not be accurate to say that I “live” hip hop but it informed many of my values and a lot of my ideas about how art and commerce work.

The thing about music in general and hip hop in particular is that they give that stuff to people for free. Before anybody asks you for money, they’ve given you their art with no money asked. Buying an album or paying for a live show feels like a transactional formality by the time it occurs. Back when I was in high school, mixtapes used to cost money. In this day and age, mixtapes are free. It’s just an economic thing. We have computers. Mixtapes can afford to be free now. So they are.

Meanwhile. Comics in the 1990s: Bone, Scud the Disposable Assassin, Hepcats, et cetera. The lasting image that holds in my mid is Rob Schrab (Scud) hunched over his kitchen table, both drawing the comic and figuring out how to pay for it. And likely, how to convince people like you and me to part with $2.99 for an issue. Yeah, comics still cost $2.99 back in 1997 but that was worth a lot more back then.

The point that I’m getting at (and this is how I tell stories in real life) is that when webcomics began to rise up and become a part of people’s daily lives, we see people being better able to expose themselves to the artform. The medium of comics became something that wasn’t restricted by parting customers from their money nor was it bound by readers’ access to specialty stores. Webcomics made comics truly free.

The thing that bothers me and I’m including myself heavily in this since I haven’t worked a webcomic since 2010 or so: rappers put stuff out. Rappers put lots of material out and it isn’t even album stuff. Rappers will make multiple mixtapes and follow them with official albums which represent more material. Not all of the material is exclusive, but enough of it is. People remain engaged with the artist on a continual basis. For that reason, I aspire to the model of webcomics which allows one comic to be seen in public and generate interest in an artist while that artist works behind the scenes on other comics. I call the latter “black comics.” Mostly unseen, until they need to be seen.

Personally, if I were to return to webcomics, I would prefer to use them as a more freewheeling, disposable free thing that causes me as little stress as possible, while concentrating my more detailed labor on projects that I would sell.

Mixtapes versus albums.

@darrylayo

[Feel free to ask me anything, via my Tumblr Ask Box!]

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