Tales from Hi De Ho

By Mauricio Machuca

It’s a story that has become all too common in news reports lately – another young, unarmed, black man gets gunned down by police. Except, instead of the protests, teeth gnashing and indifference that usually follows these stories, the young man comes back to life.

Indeed, his story only begins with his death and is propelled forward by his rebirth. Black #1 envisions a world where a small portion of the population has begun manifesting super powers. And of those, every individual is Black.

This is the brave new world that you find yourself immersed in within the first few pages of the new offering from creators Kwanza Osajyefo and Jamal Igle, published by Black Mask Studios. Initially offered through Kickstarter, the campaign saw the book’s goal of just under $30,000 funded three times over. After six months of production the first issue hit stands this Wednesday. And at a print run of 20,000 – the issue has already sold out at the publisher level.

first issue presents our protagonist, Kareem, having to deal with whether he should keep his powers secret or if he should reveal them to the world. Indeed, hiding a vital aspect of your being that lives within your own DNA mirrors the same choice that many Black people around the world have faced: Pass as White or champion your Black heritage. Kareem can choose to remain just another Black face in the world, or he can embrace being superpowered.

My hunch is that it will be the latter. That type of pronouncement will reverberate across society in a way that’s all too easy to imagine. We currently live in a world where, too often, police shoot for fear that a Black man has a weapon. What happens in a world where a Black man IS a weapon? Saying that “Black” will prove to be provocative is an understatement to say the least.

“Black” stands in stark contrast to the last major attempt at telling Black Superhero stories. Started in 1993, Milestone comics was started by a group of African-American writers and artists, as a line that would tell the stories of new superheroes of color. While the issues could sometimes deal with issues of the day, they followed typical superhero arcs – The genius scientist, the super alien, the boy vigilante, the criminal turned do-gooder.

“Black”, conversely, does not seek to make the next Black Superman. This is a story that is firmly planted in our world, where Black people lose their lives at the hands of police for things that often elicit patience and understanding when the suspect is White. There are no capes, and in spite of its art style and subject matter, everything is not as simple as Black and White.

However, you would be grossly misinformed if you believe that this series is “For Black people only”. If you’re an inhabitant of this country, you’re experiencing a level of racial tension that hasn’t been seen since the L.A. Riots – Regardless of the color of your skin, you’re a part of our unfolding national story on race and you have access to the experiences of the Black community in a way you never had before, from videos to articles delivered directly to your phone and now, yes, even comic books.

“Black” is on stands now – expect it to sell out almost immediately. Make sure to put your name down at your local comic book shop for a second print.