Black writer promotes diversity in the comic book industry

By Sierra Porter

Lack of Black representation in the comic book world is what writer Devyn Nicole is attempting to remedy with her comic “Zara: The Beginning.” Under her comic book production company, Heroic Icon Entertainment, the Los Angeles-based writer is fighting to add more color and diversity into an industry that has been lacking for decades.

“The lack of both female and male heroes of color, in general, is astonishing, especially in this day and age,” Nicole said.” I can probably count the number of Black superheroes on one hand.”

While multiple Black characters have made their stamp in comic books since the 1960s, most of them have never reached the heights of Storm from the “X-Men” series or the infamous Black Panther.

Furthermore, there aren’t too many Black writers who exclusively write comics, like Felicia Henderson (“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Family Matters,” “Sister, Sister”), who not only wrote and produced several Black television shows but also wrote on “Teen Titans” and “Static Shock” for DC Comics.

However, Black writers like Christopher Priest and Wayne McDuffie have been very instrumental in the comic book industry since the 80s; not only writing for major companies like Marvel and DC Comics but also producing Black characters to comics and television.

While Nicole says she was never into comic books growing up, her desire to create a series based around a Black female superhero came after she left her film program in Florida; and came back home to Charlotte, NC to write a drama series.

“When I got the thought to create Zara, it was very random. The thought would never go away. It took about four months to get to it,” Nicole said.

(Photo: Courtesy Devyn Nicole)
(Photo: Courtesy Devyn Nicole)

It took six years and ten drafts for Nicole to produced the final draft of “Zara: The Beginning.”

Most people outside of comic book enthusiasts generally think of Marvel considering comics. The billion dollar company is known for producing most of the superheroes who have been cast in multiple cartoons and mass produced as action figure sales throughout the years.

The comic book industry alone raked in $1.03 billion back in 2017, according to Black Enterprise.

More recently, the hysteria over their character’s more contemporary films is a driving force for box offices internationally.

For these reasons, Marvel was ground-zero for Nicole when started her research on producing a comic book. She says that most of her research was done on Spiderman and Black Panther.

“That was my go-to,” Nicole said. “I went back when they first started their series years ago to see how they developed their characters, their storylines, the timing, and the action clips.”

The result of her efforts was Zara, a Black girl who battles foster care on Planet Nasser. Nicole says that she wanted Zara to be a woman who appears to be helping the Black community.

“Imagery is very important,” Nicole said. For us as Black kids or women of color, or people of a color period, to turn on the TV and see people who look like themselves.”

“I wanted to create her to not only be relatable as far as the storyline, but as of her appearance, my hair is totally like hers, and my skin is brown like hers.”

However, Nicole had to invest a lot of money into her idea, which included covering the costs of artists and animators. She says that she had to pay $200 each time a change had to made to Zara.

“I lost thousands of dollars trying to create her, but I kept pushing, kept getting new artists, and kept moving forward,” Nicole said.

She premiered the first issue of “Zara: The Beginning” at the VIEW conference in Turin, Italy and has sold over 400 copies in New York, California, and Arizona.

The positive responses pushed Nicole to expand from just creating comics to teaching children in elementary schools how to do the same; helping them to create their own reality.

Earlier this, she launched “Everybody Can Be A Hero” tour, which traveled through several states including Florida and her hometown North Carolina.

“I feel that it’s essential to target younger children because if they can get that now, there’s no telling what they will become when they grow older,” Nicole said.

“I am a black woman and in honestly a white male industry, so I have to come in, and I have to own it,” Nicole said.

This article originally appeared in the Atlanta Voice

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