Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Since 1991, I have adapted two short Zora Neale Hurston comedy plays into comics form. My objective: to create credible black caricatures evoking a time period when few were doing so. The humor is of a very broad kind, and give the impression of having been written "off the cuff"; in no way can they be considered major works. Readers are sometimes disappointed that they don't have the depth of  her major novels like THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD.

The dialogue and interactions between characters are objected to by some as being on the same undignified level as AMOS 'N' ANDY.
Hurston's characters speak in heavy dialects of her native South, and use phrases that are at once elegant and absurd.  But her intention was to satirize her surroundings with a comic heart.

Doing black comedies is an endeavor that unsettles both black & white creators. How to caricature without being insulting? The answer may be to view the characters as human beings with recognizable traits and follies on a level everyone can relate to, not other-world beings derived  from  (white) theatre and film. Characters who have social and survival concerns, not ones limited to shallow minstrel or rap culture bearings. The old you 'n' me. There is a level of real-world observation, warmth and savvy in Hurston's writings which transcend the minstrel tradition.

A white cartoon feature producer asked me how one does black characters "without being racist". I say, forget everything you already "know" and view with your own eyeballs instead.

Above panels from FILLING STATION, from AFRICAN AMERICAN CLASSICS, from Eureka Productions.

Panels from POKER! from the anthology THE GRAPHIC CANON Volume 3, from Seven Stories Press.
I'd like to take this time to recommend Paul F. Etcheverry's extensive blog of film and cartoon, WAY TOO DAMN LAZY TO WRITE A BLOG. Thanks for the plug, Paul! http://psychotronicpaul.blogspot.com
Today's cartoon: a 1933 Pooch the Pup from Walter Lantz. Pooch and his ladyfriend are harassed by a whip-wielding lumberjack. Strange humor 'neath the tall timber. You may not believe what you're seeing, but there it is!
Best of Wishes,

No comments: