In Black Mask's America's Sweetheart, The Strongest Person In The World Is A Brave Black Girl

Black Mask Studios' BLACK imagines a world in which black people and only black people begin to suddenly manifest super abilities, setting off a series of events that forces its characters and readers to reflect on the real-world anti-black racism that's alive and well in the US.

Image: Black Mask Studios

BLACK engages in some very heavy subject matter somewhat more catered to a mature audience, but Black Mask's new graphic novel America's Sweetheart is purposefully oriented more toward younger readers. Set in the same universe as BLACK, America's Sweetheart (written by BLACK co-creator Kwanza Osajyefo and illustrated by Jennifer Johnson) tells the story of Eli Franklin, a 15-year-old girl living in Montana who, soon after the events of BLACK, is revealed to be one of the most powerful people on the planet.

When a new, super-powered terrorist comes onto the scene, Eli decides to don an American-themed costume and adopt the superhero identity Good Girl in hopes of letting people know that just because a black person is powerful doesn't mean that others should be afraid of them.

In a statement, Black Mask co-founder Matt Pizzolo emphasised the necessity of creating characters like Eli who embody the ideas of "heroism, resistance, and self-sacrifice that look and feel like members of the world we live in today".

Said Pizzolo:

As superheroes continue to dominate pop culture the world over, so many of them reflect a bygone era. The creative teams behind America's Sweetheart and BLACK are crafting new additions to the pantheon of comic heroes that uniquely reflect the integrity and courage we'll all need in order to make our modern world a better, safer place for everyone.

America's Sweetheart will be produced by Black Mask's new Black AF studio, which is focused on building out BLACK's universe to tell a broader variety of stories. Get your first look at America's Sweetheart below and look for the book when it hits stores this November.


    it's a hilarious reverse take on reality where black people are disappointingly ordinary. you have bill o'reilly who wants you to think it's all GTA 'thugs', and then you have blacks going on about how amazing and powerful they are - then you think about it and actually in real life we're all just carbon aggregates who spent their first few years as grubs who couldn't wipe their own butts.

    "See, all empowered black people aren't scary."

    Holy flimsy strawman argument Batman!

      Other than that, awesome. Cool to see creators making new IP featuring the kinds of characters they want to see rather than trying to paste their desires over old worn out ones.

      I'm pretty sure that your quote is intended to be read as the perspective of a black teenager whose entire life has been effected by racism and a long history of negative portrayals of black people in the media, rather than any kind of 'argument' at all.

        I would argue there's no better time to be a black teenager consuming pop culture right now. Most of our pop idols are black, we have amazing creators like Donald Glover taking over multiple industries, and black culture is being embraced by younger generations non stop through meme culture.

        We hear about shooting of unarmed black people a lot these days, but we also hear about all sorts of crimes and disasters way more than we have ever before in history too. We're a more interconnected society now, news travels faster and further than it ever has before.

        The problem here is we're so busy trying to project the events of the past onto the youth of today that we're losing sight of what's actually happening around us. Telling everyone that things are the terrible, or the worst they've ever been, is hyperbolic fear mongering.

        In this specific case, when I read lines like that, I become aware of the writer behind them. It doesn't sound like the character talking, it sounds like a writer with an agenda trying to slip snarky political commentary into their work.

        If we're going to fight racism and beat a loud and annoying far right group of people who are fighting against the future, we can't just beat the arguments we're confident tackling. Don't reach for the easy wins, don't put words into your detractor's mouths, listen to what they're really saying and argue against that.

        Nobody has ever said "i'm scared of empowered black people." Nobody has ever thought that. They are busy thinking about themselves, their jobs, their values. To assume that's what they're thinking ignores the inherent narcissism of the under-educated and financially vulnerable.

          I disagree with a fair amount of what you wrote here - a lot of people do seem to be thinking "I'm scared of empowered black people," subconsciously at the very least.

          But this paragraph:

          "In this specific case, when I read lines like that, I become aware of the writer behind them. It doesn't sound like the character talking, it sounds like a writer with an agenda trying to slip snarky political commentary into their work."

          I tend to agree.

          An author's political leanings will always influence their work. And I also have nothing against art that is blatantly political. But I feel like this particular kind of writing can both make the art worse (because it's obtrusive) and make conveying your political point less effective than a more subtle approach. It makes readers who don't already agree with you close down and stop listening. "Show, don't tell," is important for many different reasons.

          Efficacy aside, having your characters directly parrot your own politics rather than showing your point through the story itself is bad writing. Granted, it seems like this story tries to do both, so I don't want to be too harsh here, but it's still a little grating.

            In regards to where we disagree, I feel like the quote "Never confuse ignorance for malice" applies to many of these situations.

            When it comes to Muslim refugees for example, the sort of people who would be upset about that are the ones who are thinking "Will my job be safe if desperate people from war-torn countries are coming here, happy to work for less?" Rather than "I don't want these people to be empowered." But we tend to apply these things to us personally "They don't want me as a Muslim to be happy because they are a bad person." rather than "It's not personal, they're scared and vulnerable and not educated enough to understand the full picture. They are just lashing out at the closest scapegoat."

            As for where we agree, you're definitely right. Show us an endearing, relatable character that uses their power for good and lines like that become redundant. But having someone just say it out loud is grating and weak writing.

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