The Geekiary is turning six this year! To celebrate, we’re highlighting some of our favorite things. Today, we’re talking about six creators of color you might not have heard of- and why you should go fix that right now.
I have to start with this: it feels weird that in 2019 we need to highlight creators of color specifically. The truth is, we do still need to highlight and promote them. Pop culture likes to act like it’s progressive while still hitting milestones like “first black woman to direct a Star Trek pilot” (the amazing Hanelle Culpepper) because that has literally never happened before. It’s even still controversial for a celebrity to ask for diversity in their press tours.
We have come a long way, but there’s still so much more to do. If you want to get started- while still having fun online- check your social media to make sure your following list is as diverse as we want comics to be. You probably already know people like Roxanne Gay and Ta-Nahisi Coates, but here are some creators of color you might not have run across yet.
Jen Wang: Cartoonist, Illustrator, and Author
As an illustrator Jen Wang did the art for Cory Doctorow’s “coming of internet age” graphic novel In Real Life. She’s written for Lumberjanes and the Adventure Time comics. You’ve probably seen the viral posts about her original story The Prince and the Dressmaker which revolves around a prince who has a fashionable secret and his best friend who has put her dreams on pause to help him. Stargazing, coming in September, is about the friendship between two young Chinese girls.
Jen has a very rare talent. I’m not talking about her art (though it does make me smile every time I see it). Her talent is that she can tackle weighty issues with charm, humor, and levity without downplaying their importance. Most people who try this come off as preachy or go too far the other direction, making it a joke. Jen manages to walk the line between those extremes.
Plus, her work is just plain fun. Isn’t that the mark of a great creator?
Treat yourself to a follow and add some beautiful, thoughtful content to your feed.
Tee Franklin: Comic author and acitivist
Miz Tee Franklin’s 80 page love story Bingo Love was funded in just 5 days on Kickstarter. It’s a sometimes painful, always honest account of two women and the love they finally have the chance to acknowledge after a lifetime of denial. Tee is also the author of the horror comic miniseries Jook Joint and contributed to Love Is Love (the graphic novel which was a fundraiser for those affected by the Pulse tragedy).
Besides her work, Tee Franklin is probably best known for her activism for inclusivity in comics. She’s a queer, disabled comic author who has been outspoken about the inequalities in the comic world. The first time I met her was at a convention panel on disability representation in comics. Although she was a named panel member, I watched convention staff scramble to find a way for her to get her scooter up to the panel stage very shortly before the listed start time. This is a depressingly common theme for scooter- and wheelchair-bound talent.
In fact, Tee once left a BookCon panel when she arrived to find no ramp and no way to get a ramp. The moderator asked the other talent to sit on the stage near her scooter (and to be fair they were all game). Instead Tee used the opportunity to educate the audience and staff about accessibility before taking her leave. It was a power move that caused enough ripples in the community to make accessibility a higher priority for convention organizers- though there’s still a long way to go.
Her interest goes beyond vocal activism, though. She started her own publishing company, Inclusive Press, to publish work by other marginalized writers. Follow Tee Franklin for awesome comic recommendations, pointed critiques of convention policies, and a solid education in disability issues in the comics arena.
Ramon Gil: Comic writer, producer, graphic designer, and convention organizer
Ramon Gil is the creator of Scifies, The Men from DARPA, The Hard Code and Senturies. He’s been a credited cartoonist since the age of ten (and he likes to joke that he’s still waiting to get paid for it). Over the years he’s worked with The Nerdist, Bleeding Cool, CCN, Dynamite Comics, Atlas Unleashed, Vortex, and Comics Experience, and is a Creator’s Workshop member. He also teaches at SUNY Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.
Ramon took a break from creating comics to go work in the mundane world, but he was pulled back in. He also tried to help others live their comic dreams and promote underrepresented creators whenever possible. His Scifies Anthology was (as far as he knows) the first comic published in the USA with an entirely Filipino and Filipino American production team (and starring FilAm characters).
Last year Ramon ran the first Diversity Comic Con at the college where he teaches. First year conventions are notoriously difficult, but DivCon managed to pull an impressive group of panelists (including Vivek J. Tiwary and Trevon von Eeden), score some favorable press, and draw a big enough crowd that the 2019 DivCon is already being planned. In short, he used his connections at the school to create an event aimed at nurturing a diversity-oriented mindset in the next generation of creators. It’s the kind of event that can easily grow past its origins into a cultural mainstay.
Although his social media presence isn’t the usual kind of comic professional blog (because he wears so many hats) it’s still both fun and informative. He won’t spam your feed- but what he does post is always worth a click-through.
Nnedi Okorafor: Author and professor
Nnedi Okorafor is a Nigerian-American sci-fi and fantasy author. She’s written for both adults and children, with her best known works including The Binti Trilogy, Akata Warrior, and a Black Panther story arc. There might be a literary award she hasn’t at least been nominated for below the Nobel, but we can’t think of one. She’s won or been nominated for the British Science Fiction Association Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Hugo, the Nebula, the Africana Book Award… the list goes on for actual pages, and some of them she’s gotten twice.
Nnedi is the perfect example of why we need diversity in fiction. Her Akata series has been compared to Harry Potter but is miles beyond the ten billion semi-successful series put out to capture the same interest groups. She (and writers like her) is what we need- different voices, different interpretations of traditional story arcs, something to give the tired tropes a makeover. We actually get young black girls as superheroes, and not in the narrow ways they’re often slotted into in Western fiction. They’re strong and complicated and glorious. Her work would be amazing on the screen… in fact one of her novels was optioned by HBO in 2017.
When you read her work, though, you’re not going to be thinking, “Wow this is great representation, I am really being educated.” She wins a lot of awards because she’s a great writer, and her work is something you’re going to remember for a long time.
Follow Nnedi to get smart commentary (she does have a PhD) and a million additions to your reading list.
MariNaomi: Artist, Author, and Educator
MariNaomi has been making comics since 1997. Her most recent graphic novel is Losing The Girl, a young adult story about four teenagers dealing with the unexplained disappearance of a classmate (who may have been abducted by aliens, or may not have). She has had work appear in over sixty publications as well as major cultural institutions like the Smithsonian, the De Young Museum, the Cartoon Art Museum, the Asian Art Museum, and the Japanese American Museum.
What people are talking about lately are two possibly ground-breaking projects of MariNaomi’s. She is the founder of both the Queer Cartoonists Database and the Cartoonists of Color Database. One of the most common problems editors run into when trying to promote diversity is finding talent. They’re often overwhelmed with submissions, and it’s easier to just work with people whose work they know. As a side effect, marginalized cartoonists wind up not getting as many new gigs because their names aren’t known.
The Databases offer a way for those in charge to change that. Visitors can browse the database, filter by nearly a dozen factors (including skillset and location), find creators for specific projects (always nice to see Korean cartoonists on Korean stories), or just visit to check out the ever-changing featured artists.
MariNaomi is still an artist, and if you follow her you’re going to find a lot of really fun drawing videos, snarky comics, and links to her current projects.
Frederick Luis Aldama: Comic Educator and Speaker
Frederick Luis Aldama is also known as Professor LatinX (get it? Because… yeah, you get it). He’s an Arts and Humanities Distinguished Professor of English and University Distinguished Scholar at The Ohio State University, where he studies (and teaches) Latinx pop culture. That’s a huge understatement, actually. He also writes A LOT ( 36 books! 36!) and educates about diversity in comics. He has won dozens of awards internationally, including an Eisner for his book Latinx Superheroes in Mainstream Comics. When he has time, he travels to do educational speaking about comics because his life is just that cool.
We put Professor LatinX on this list because we love his take on Latinx comic and pop culture. It’s both smart and light-hearted, the kind of thing you can read for fun but also feel virtuous about. Check out the Professor LatinX site to explore that side.
You can also follow him to get updates on his latest work. You’ll want those- he is VERY PROLIFIC and you might miss something cool otherwise.
Is there a creator you’d like to add to our list? Let us know in the comments section, and don’t forget to check out our other Geekiary Anniversary posts:
- Day One: WonderCon
- Day Two: 2 Sequels That Were Better Than The Original
- Day Three: 3 Upcoming Website Projects
- Day Four: 4 Happy Netflix Shows To Silence The Screaming Void
- Day Five: Five Tropes We Hope End Soon
Khai is a writer, anthropologist, and games enthusiast. She is co-editor (alongside Alex DeCampi) of and contributor to “True War Stories”, a comic anthology published by Z2 Comics. When she’s not writing or creating games, Khai likes to run more tabletop RPGs than one person should reasonably juggle.
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