|Superb issue #1 and scholar Sheena C. Howard|
It's not every day that an African American scholar shifts from writing books and articles to writing comic books. So of course, I took notice when it was announced that scholar Sheena C. Howard would be co-writing the comic book Superb. The first issue was released July 19.
I was first introduced to Howard's work through Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation (2013), which she co-edited with Ronald Jackson. She and I have both studied and written about Aaron McGruder's comic strip, The Boondocks. Howard is the editor of the forthcoming, Encyclopedia of Black Comics.
For Superb, Howard teams up with veteran writer David F. Walker, who has written various other comic books, including Shaft, Power Man and Iron Fist, Nighthawk, and Luke Cage. Superb is penciled by Ray-Anthony Height, inked by Le Beau L. Underwood, lettered by Tom Napolitano, and colored by Veronica Gandini. The comic book is part of a larger series known as the Catalyst Prime Universe, edited by Joseph Illidge and published by Lion Forge Comics. In addition to Superb, the Catalyst Prime Universe consists of Noble and Accell, as well as the forthcoming Incidentals, Astonisher, K.I.N.O., and Summit.
Superb is set in Youngstown, Ohio, which has become, in the comic book, a closely watched place as the aftermath of a meteor shower prompted mysterious powers in some teenagers. The protagonists for the narrative are Kayla Tate, a black girl, and Jonah Watkins, a white boy who has Down syndrome.
A year ago, Marvel announced that Roxane Gay and poet Yona Harvey would co-write a Black Panther series with Ta-Nehisi Coates. Those series -- Black Panther: World of Wakanda and Black Panther and the Crew -- have since been canceled, but not before generating more conversation about the importance of having more black women writers in comics.
In an interview about her work with the comic book, Howard said that she would try pushing "for aesthetics of Black female characters that are not of the 'male gaze.'" She also noted that "I am attuned to the gendered nature of the comics industry, so I remain hyper vigilant and aware of this aspect of working within a male-dominated arena." I'm looking forward to seeing how Howard's knowledge, interests, and awareness translate into what we'll see with Superb.
• A Notebook on comic books