“Black Female Characters, Artists Fight for Place in Comic Book World”

“Ashley A. Woods has a drawn out workday.

“I haven’t done anything for myself in weeks,” said the 30-year-old Chatham resident. “It’s 18-hour days right now. All I do is draw. And I do research when I’m eating.”

The artist illustrates “Niobe: She Is Life,” the comic book series written by Sebastian A. Jones and outspoken teen actress Amandla Stenberg. The four-issue Stranger Comics book is a rarity — in that it’s a nationally-distributed comic featuring a black female character, written and drawn by black women.

Woods also is working with New Arab Media, based in Amman, Jordan, and Copenhagen, on a post-apocalyptic book featuring a female Saudi heroine, Latifa. It’s a gig that has her regularly up at 4 a.m., drawing and prepping for Skype meetings with co-workers with a nine-hour time difference.

But Woods isn’t complaining. She’s giddy about the opportunities she’s seeing in an industry dominated by older white men.

There’s a lack of black female creators in mainstream comics where five companies — Marvel, DC, Image, IDW Publishing and Dark Horse — make up the bulk of the sales. However, more of them are being heard through web and independent publishing often funded through crowdsourcing.

“Most of your black women creators, you’re going to find doing web comics more so than a book that you can pick up in your local comic book store,” said Tee Franklin (a.k.a. Miz Caramel Vixen), who last year created the #BlackComicsMonth Twitter hashtag and website to spotlight black comic writers and artists. “You can’t let anybody tell you you can’t do your own story. Just do it yourself. That’s where a lot of people of color are going.”

Woods started by independently producing her own action fantasy book, “Millennia War,” and getting it in local stores as an 18-year-old. But work wasn’t coming after she’d graduated from the International Academy of Design and Technology in 2007, and she ended up taking menial jobs (she distributed beer samples at events) before deciding to leverage contacts she’d made on the comic-con exhibit circuit and at local gatherings of industry professionals.

One had offered her a chance to work with him on a Batman comic. She was intimidated and didn’t follow up. Still, in 2015, he offered her another project, this one with Marvel, due out in October…”



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