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African American Women Take On The Comic Book Industry (Jackie Ormes Lives On)

by Tambay A. Obenson
December 1, 2011 8:37 PM
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Any black women comic book creators/illustrators reading S&A? If so, let me know!

A snippet from a recent CNN profile:

Cheryl Lynn Eaton is a comics and graphic novel fan who fell in love with the medium in childhood, courtesy of Archie and the X-Men. She knows plenty about comic books and their history, writes commentary about them and even produced her own webcomic, “Simulated Life.” You might say geekery is in her genes, as Eaton credits her dad for her love of science fiction. Eaton, an African-American comic book creator from Edison, New Jersey, became fed up with the lack of diversity within the comic book publishing industry and the creative communities she encountered. In 2007, that frustration led her to found the Ormes Society, an organization dedicated to supporting African-American women who create comics, and promoting diversity within the industry and among fans.

I wanted to use the organization as a way to fend off creative isolation and to build a support network of like-minded individuals,” said Eaton, who is an editor for an academic press. The society is named for the late pioneering artist Jackie Ormes (1911-1985), who was America’s first black female professional cartoonist. Members include webcomic creators Charlie Trotman (“Templar, Arizona”) and Carol Burrell (“SPQR Blues”), and comics illustrators Afua Richardson (Top Cow’sGenius”) and Alitha Martinez, who began her career at Marvel and now publishes her own series, “Yume and Ever.”

Read the rest HERE.

The photo above is of Jackie Ormes by the way - born Zelda Mavin Jackson.

After further digging, I learned that Ormes was devoted to leftist causes in her time - 1911 to 1985. The F.B.I. is said to have had a 287-page file on her, thanks in part to her sometimes politically pointed comics/cartoons, in which she touched on issues like racial segregation, cold war politics, educational equality, the atom bomb, environmental pollution, among other pressing issues of her times. Her most popular comic characters were Torchy Brown (image below), Candy, and Patty-Jo 'n' Ginger, which were all featured in newspapers, and spawned other products, including a black doll with her own stylish collection.

Ormes was also a socialite, and member of Chicago's black elite; hobnobbing with the powerful of the day, politicians and entertainers.

A biopic or documentary on her life is in order, me thinks. While we wait for that to happen, a biopic in book form does exist; penned by Nancy Goldstein, the 2008 book is titled There is a Jackie Ormes: The First African American Woman Cartoonist, and you can pick up a copy on right now (click HERE).

Also found this very brief profile on YouTube:

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  • Larry | December 14, 2011 2:40 PMReply

    This is very interesting, I've heard a little about this lady before, but this is the most information I have seen. For all of you interested in African-American cartoonist Google "E. Sims Campbell"
    he was one of the great ones also. As a cartoonist I've been interested in this history.

  • Steve Broome | December 4, 2011 1:23 PMReply

    Interesting, never heard of her before I'll have to dig up some info.

  • Aminah | December 2, 2011 12:55 PMReply

    Yes...I am an African-American illustrator who follows S&A religiously...Would love more info for networking....

  • Micah | December 6, 2011 8:29 AM

    I'm right there with you on that one my friend.

  • Tamara | December 2, 2011 9:07 AMReply

    I've read of her before. Very interesting. Very cool. I'll have to watch the video later.

  • Tom Pomplun | December 2, 2011 1:04 AMReply

    You asked about "Any black women comic book creators/illustrators reading S&A". Several black women artists appear in our new volume, African-American Classics; Afua Richardson, Arie Monroe and Leilani Hickerson.

  • Micah | December 6, 2011 8:31 AM

    Tom thanks for putting this up here. I actually excited to more about women of color in comics. I think they would definitely help with creating well rounded female characters in comics.

  • Afrostyling | December 1, 2011 9:00 PMReply

    Wow, never knew of her. I do want to write a graphic novel or two someday but tis something i have always put on the back burner. Her biography is definitely going on my to buy list.

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