What Can Comic Book Heroes Teach Us About Black History?


Once a topic is decided on, the visual editor Marcelle Hopkins and the photo editor Amanda Webster collaborate to give the story a unique visual treatment.

“We’re aiming to explore the depth and breadth of the Black experience with images that aren’t often seen in the Black history lessons we were taught in school,” Ms. Hopkins said. By telling these stories with archival video, illustrations, 3-D modeling or virtual events, she added, “these narratives feel current and relevant to our lives today.”

The superhero package, which was published online Friday and appears in Sunday’s Arts & Leisure print section, features four stories, including an introduction by Ms. Chambers that imagines Blackness as a superpower. It touches on the rumor that Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. served as the inspiration for Magneto and Professor X in the X-Men comics, the “Harriet Tubman: Demon Slayer” books and Allison Hargreeves’s civil rights story arc in the second season of Netflix’s “The Umbrella Academy.”

The package also includes an article by Mr. Gustines about the possibility of a new Black Superman film, and essays by the critic and comic book writer Evan Narcisse and the sociologist Eve Ewing, in which they discuss the politics of scripting superhero stories as Black creators.

The writers Ms. Chambers recruited represent her larger goal for Black History, Continued, which is to tap both talent from within The Times and visionary voices outside it. She said she was also interested in engaging with the topics covered in the series off the page, by way of virtual and live events.

The first Black History, Continued event, which is tied to the superhero story package, was prerecorded and will stream on YouTube on April 27. (Readers interested in tuning in are encouraged to R.S.V.P. online). It features a reading by the poet Nikki Giovanni and a conversation between the Times correspondent John Eligon and young activists. Ms. Chambers also hosts a panel discussion with the writer N.K. Jemisin, the illustrator Peter Ramsey and the singer Estelle about how creators learn to dream.

“All three of them talked about what it means to be a Black creative and how long and hard the road is,” said Ms. Chambers. “You get this incredible success and creativity, but also the realness of the challenges of trying to do what they do as Black people.”



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