Analysis of Black Images in Comic Strips, 1915-1995

By White, Sylvia E.; Fuentez, Tania | Newspaper Research Journal, Spring 1997 | Go to article overview

Analysis of Black Images in Comic Strips, 1915-1995


White, Sylvia E., Fuentez, Tania, Newspaper Research Journal


Since the introduction of the Yellow Kid on Sunday, May 5, 1895,(1) America has seen itself reflected in the panels of newspaper comic strips. In the early days, comic strips often portrayed different races, ethnic groups and genders in a negatively stereotyped manner.(2) These comic strip images solidified a striking occurrence within the nation's psyche - the dichotomy between blacks and the rest of society.

Tempus Todd, one of the first newspaper comic strips to star an adult black(3) man, began in 1923. Cartoonist Octavus Roy Cohen wrote the all-black strip which featured Todd as a cab driver. Humor centered around Todd's encounters with his passengers. Cohen depicted the all- black cast of characters as individuals and avoided the traditional minstrel face (protruding white lips, bulging round eyes in a totally black face). His characters spoke in a stereotypical dialect ("Hol' on tight, folkses!").(4)

In an early integrated strip, Ken Kling added a wisecracking black stable boy to his Joe Quince strip and changed its name to Joe and Asbestos. The strip was about a gambler who bet on the horses. Asbestos was drawn in minstrel face. In 1928 a short-lived newspaper strip based on the Amos and Andy radio show appeared in the Chicago Daily News. The characters were drawn in minstrel face and the storylines were linked to the episode of the radio program to be broadcast that evening. These early strips typify the portrayal of African Americans in mainstream comic strips at that time.(5)

At their onset, black ethnic newspapers published comic strips featuring minority characters portrayed in a positive tone.(6) An example: Oliver Wendell Harrington's famous Bootsie character, first seen in Harrington's 1935 Dark Laughter comic strip, in the New York Amsterdam News.(7)

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, strips using race relations as a major theme for humor began to appear. Wee Pals, by Morrie Turner, and Quincy, by Ted Shearer, both featured an integrated group of children. Dateline Danger, by John Saunders and Alden McWilliams, was the first adventure strip to portray black and white characters on an equal basis (contrasting the more common white hero - black sidekick format). Friday Foster, by Jim Lawrence and Jorge Longaron, starred a young black woman who was the assistant to a white magazine photographer. This strip combined the adventure format with soap opera elements.(8)

In the 1980s, strips began to appear featuring black families. Jumpstart, by Robb Armstrong, stars a young married couple. Curtis, by Ray Billingsley, features the adventures of a school child.(9) The Griots, by Roland Laird, explores the generation gap between the publishers of an African American weekly newspaper and their less enlightened children.(10) Stephen Bentley's Herb and Jamal are business partners in a lunch counter. Where I'm Coming From, by Barbara Brandon, consists of a series of monologues and dialogues by a cast of black women. Today such strips as Curtis, Wee Pals and The Griots flourish in black ethnic newspapers and occasionally find their way into the mainstream press.(11) Integrated comic strips are more rare.(12)

Numerous books and studies have been done examining the image of blacks in film and television, but there is a paucity of research looking at their portrayal in the comics.

Newspaper comic strips show white readers images of themselves at work (Dilbert), at home (For Better or Worse), in the different stages of their lives (from Peanuts to Crankshaft). Black reader may have to look harder to see themselves reflected on the comics page.

Aimee Dorr, in an essay reviewing the possible socialization effects of television, suggested that the exclusion of a minority group from most programming communicates the message that that minority group is not a legitimate part of our society. Portrayals in limited roles and circumstances indicate a lack of relevance of the minority group to the larger society. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Analysis of Black Images in Comic Strips, 1915-1995
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.