Kevin Sacco’s Josephine (2017) is poignant and moving. Told only through sepia colored panels, without words, the semi-autobiographical Josephine centers on a seven year-old protagonist as he navigates Manhattan’s Upper West Side in the 1960s, guided in part by his Black caretaker, Josephine. Josephine is, as Sacco notes, a melding together “of my caretakers. . . Leonora, Cleo, Mildred, Louise, and Josephine.” Through Josephine, Sacco’s tale explores familial relationships and racial relations in America, specifically New York, during the 1950s and 1960s.
In his preface to the graphic novel Nat Turner, Kyle Baker talks about his reasons for wanting to tell Turner’s story through the medium of comics. He states hat “[c]omic books/graphic novels are a visual medium, so it’s important to choose a subject with opportunities for compelling graphics.” The story of Nat Turner’s rebellion in 1831 provides just that opportunity. More importantly, Baker wanted to fill in the historical gaps that appear about Turner, specifically imagining the historical incidents that led him to lead the rebellion. Baker, in this manner, seeks to do what multiple authors work to do, fill in the gaps. He begins his preface by noting the seemingly lack of information about Turner in history books, typically a paragraph, yet the continued reference to Turner as an inspiration and influence of activists such as Frederick Douglass, Maclom X, and Harriett Tubman.
My expectations going in to Mark Waid and J.G. Jones’ Strange Fruit were high. I expected to encounter, between the covers, a work that would explore “themes of racism, cultural legacy, and human nature.” Overall, I was a little underwhelmed, and I even questioned the purpose of the comic itself. If, as Waid and Jones argued, they wanted to present a text that examined issues of racism, I feel like they fall exceedingly short. In 2015, Waid stated that as “Southern natives who grew up during the Civil Rights wars … [Jones and I] both feel like we’ve got something personal to say about the racial clashes we saw and experienced first-hand as boys.” This statement does not seem too far-fetched or even negative; however, the execution of transforming this statement into a narrative that dives the depths of these issues leaves much to be desired.