Arts and Entertainment

Cartoonists

Who was the first black cartoonist to deal with social issues through comic books?

In 1992, Alonzo Lavert Washington (1967–) created the first black comic book to deal with social issues and established the largest black comic book publishing firm. Born in Kansas City, Kansas, he studied at Kansas City Community College, Pioneer Community College, and Kansas City Media Project Communications. He developed an interest in comic books while growing up in the inner city; however, he was unable to relate to the characters. Whenever black characters appeared in books, they were either criminals or athletes, or they played a subordinate role to white characters. Washington first created his own black superheroes by painting the white action figures black and giving them Afro hairstyles. He later began to produce comics of his own—all dealing with social issues—and sold them to his classmates. In 1992 Washington promoted his first comic, “Original Man,” by targeting churches, bookstores, and organizations in the community; he collected $1,000 in advance orders. That printing quickly sold out, prompting him to print ten thousand more. He made $30,000 in sales from his first issue.

By 1998 the firm Omega 7, which Washington founded, had become the largest black-owned comic-book company in the nation. Washington created a cast of action figure characters that included, among others, Omega Man, Lady Ace, and Original Woman, all with black features. His company was the first to offer black action figures on the market. He secured a deal with Toys “R” Us to distribute his toy characters, but generally marketed them in minority areas.



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