cover image It’s Life as I See It: Black Cartoonists in Chicago, 1940–1980

It’s Life as I See It: Black Cartoonists in Chicago, 1940–1980

Edited by Dan Nadel. New York Review Comics, $24.95 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-1-681375-61-8

Nine trailblazing Black indie cartoonists receive overdue laurels in Nadel’s handsome and immersive collection that frames Chicago as a Midwestern mecca for grassroots comics in the latter half of the 20th century. Leading the way was the Windy City’s Black-owned press, and Nadel (Art Out of Time) splendidly compiles signature strips from the Chicago Defender, Negro Digest, and other publications in this accompanying anthology to Chicago Comics: 1960 to Now, Nadel’s curated exhibit running at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The one-page profiles capture the enterprising spirit and creative aspirations of these underappreciated artists, while the reprinted panels showcase their craftiness and idiosyncratic perspectives. Jackie Ormes infused politically charged themes into humorous tales of domestic life, while Morrie Turner accepted a prompt from Charles Schulz to put forth a Peanuts-style exploration of Black youth in Dinky Fellas/Wee Pals. Jay Jackson employed angled figures and close-ups to create dramatic tension in Bungleton Green and the Mystic Commandos, a fantasy about a white man facing racism in a word of green people. Yaoundé Olu mixed science and wit to draw humor out of inanimate objects in her strips, while colleague Turtel Onli went full Afrofuturist in NOG, Protector of the Pyramids. Bookend essays from Charles Johnson and Ronald Wimberly are high points. This timely collection showcases a rich legacy. (June)