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Lecture / Discussion  |  John Jennings on Steel Hard Skin: Politics of the Black Body in American Comics and Sequential Art

Saturday, November 10, 2012, 2–4 pm

Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Auditorium  

Like all images that are generated in American popular culture, the “super hero” genre has a history of influences that have shaped and molded the genre over its nearly 80-year history. Another commonality, unfortunately, is that equity in representation has been problematic since the beginning of this misunderstood mode of narration. The first images of black people in comics were highly influenced by the images found in blackface minstrelsy and films of the time. This presentation will analyze the commonalities between the fictionalized qualities around the impenetrable nature of black skin (as perpetuated during slavery in the United States) and the stereotypes of the hard black body in the depictions of black superheroes.

John Jennings is an Associate Professor of Visual Studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo. His research and teaching focus on the analysis, explication and disruption of African American stereotypes in popular visual media. He is an accomplished designer, curator, illustrator, cartoonist, and award-winning graphic novelist. He is also co-author of the graphic novel The Hole: Consumer Culture, and co-curator of Out of Sequence: Underrepresented Voices in American Comics.