Magazine article The New Crisis

Integrating Gotham City

Magazine article The New Crisis

Integrating Gotham City

Article excerpt

Generations of youth grew up devouring Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman comic books. But until recent years, comic enthusiasts would have been hard-pressed to find a non-white superhero whose many adventures and caped crusades could occupy an entire Saturday afternoon. Racially diverse superheroes simply didn't exist.

Alex Simmons, an African American comic series writer, intends to change that. He has created a new character, Orpheus, the first African American superhero to work alongside Batman. Orpheus will debut in August in a five-part Batman comic book miniseries entitled "Batman: Orpheus Rising."

"In this series, a plot is unleashed on Gotham City involving different ethnic groups as well as the police," says Simmons, who lives in Bronx, NX "The mob activity is heightened and it brings the city to a boil and somebody really wants this to happen." Simmons is keeping that somebody a secret, along with the other details of the story.

"Orpheus is not just a face of color, he's an interesting guy and an inspirational character," says Michael Wright, a DC Comics associate editor. "His background propels him to want to do something positive. I believe people will be interested in his adventures." Orpheus joins one other minority superhero in the Batman series, Batgirl, who is part Asian.

These are heady times for Simmons, 48, who read comics everyday while growing up in the '60s. "It was the equivalent of a newspaper to me. I read the comic books because I enjoyed reading adventure - it allowed me to go places I didn't know existed."

Simmons has been spinning adventures since he was very young, engaging his neighbors in countless yarns and writing short stories since elementary school in New York City. "Anybody I could shackle to a chair, I made them listen to me," he says.

DC Comics approached Simmons last April, asking him to write the new twist to the Batman lore. The comic book company offered him the opportunity to pen the Orpheus sequence because its editors were intrigued by his long-running, self-pubfished Blackjack graphic novel and adventure series.

Simmons created the adventures of Blackjack comic series in 1984. In the 1930s tales, Blackjack is a handsome soldier of fortune in his late twenties who goes by the name Arron Day. A world traveler following in the footsteps of his father, Blackjack is forced to battle past hurts and the racial intolerance of the times. He's trained in various fighting styles and defeats many of his opponents both physically and intellectually.

Simmons' Blackjack graphic novel Blood & Honor is set in Tokyo, Japan, in 1935. …

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