Saturday, April 26, 2008

Steel Driving Man

GT addressed the subject of illustrated representations of African-Americans the other day, primarily in the negative context of Jim Crow. In the field of comics, African-Americans got the jungle treatment through the early decades, then in the civil rights era began to show up as superheroes (see Black Panther in the Fantastic Four series). Comics of blacks by blacks have sometimes elaborated the superhero scheme.

Dmitri Jackson, a student in my senior seminar in cinematic stories (a course devoted to individual projects in screen-delivered narratives or the graphic novel) took a different tack. Dmitri selected the story of John Henry, the legendary steel driving man, as his subject. He identified the obvious man vs. machine aspects of the story, but also a racial subtext of black labor and white industrialism in the late 19th century, when the story takes place. The project was a big success--Dmitri covered a lot of ground. His page designs, storyboards and finish art all made big strides. The final book is really great.

I am posting some pages from the book for your enjoyment. If you'd like to secure a copy of the book, contact Dmitri directly at

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