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THE BE-BOP BARBARIANS

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THE BE-BOP BARBARIANS

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Highly Recommended. By Gary Phillips. Art by Dale Berry. In the turbulent era of late 1950s Manhattan—with jazz, the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement, and the Red Scare as the volatile ingredients—three groundbreaking black cartoonists defy convention and pay the price. This is a fictionalized graphic novel based on three very real, ground-breaking black comics artists: Matt Baker, Jackie Ormes and Oliver Harrington. Cliff Murphy (Baker) is matinee idol handsome, a light-skinned, straight-haired black man and a comics artist known for his glamour girl art. He’s black uptown and white downtown, and he has an eye for the ladies, and they for him—including his boss’ wife, who knows Cliff’s creation, the Phantom Avenger, is about to be stolen from him. Adult themes, nudity. Mature Readers.

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In the turbulent era of late 1950s Manhattan—with jazz, the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement, and the Red Scare as the volatile ingredients—three groundbreaking black cartoonists defy convention and pay the price. This is a fictionalized graphic novel based on three very real, ground-breaking black comics artists: Matt Baker, Jackie Ormes and Oliver Harrington. Cliff Murphy (Baker) is matinee idol handsome, a light-skinned, straight-haired black man and a comics artist known for his glamour girl art. He’s black uptown and white downtown, and he has an eye for the ladies, and they for him—including his boss’ wife, who knows Cliff’s creation, the Phantom Avenger, is about to be stolen from him. Adult themes, nudity.

Stephaney “Stef” Rawls (Ormes) has her own relatively successful romance-adventure strip for the largest black newspaper, but she still has to work brutal hours as a maid to make ends meet. But when she gets a lucrative offer to write and draw a “Negroes must reject agitation” flyer for the FBI, can she pass up the opportunity?

Then there’s Oliver “Ollie” Jefferson (Harrington), a decorated Korean War vet who writes and draws editorial cartoons under the pseudonym Attucks, for the daily Red newspaper The Struggle. But when a cop beats him down while walking his pregnant Korean wife-to-be home one night, the easy-going Ollie becomes a symbol of oppression and the streets threaten to explode, whether he wants the role or not.

These three friends will be tested and tried, will work in solidarity, and, just maybe, betray each other, in this explosive graphic novel—with prose by crime fiction author Gary Phillips and images by acclaimed artist-writer Dale Berry. I'm just halfway through so far but thoroughly enjoying it. The artwork is bold and handsome, often with very fine design work, all enhanced by the excellent colorist Justin Birch.

The introduction by Gary Philips talks about comics from the perspective of a black fan and how important Lee and Kirby's Black Panther was to colored kids in 1965. But he would quickly learn about these other three creators, and how they found predjudice each in their own way.

Baker of course we all know well. Often billed as the first black comic artist, which is not true--E.C. Stoner was--Baker began his career in 1944 at the Iger shop, went on to draw the first graphic novel (It Rhymes with Lust), co-create the sexiest heroine of the 1940s (Phantom Lady) and single-handedly made the St. John romance comics the best ever, right up to today. He is currently one of the most highly collected golden age artists. He is the subject of a top-notch full biography from TwoMorrows.

Ormes began her strip Torchy Brown in 1938. She was the first African-American artist to haave her own strip and is in the Will Eisner Hall of Fame.

Harrington produced an observational humor strip called Bootsie, covered WWII in Europe and North Africa in words and picturs for the black press, wrote and drew the Aviation-themed adventure strip Jive Grey, and produced hard-hitting editorial caartoons for the communist Daily Worker. Langston Hughes called him America's most popular black cartoonist and a first-rate satirist.

Additional Information

Additional Information

Item Code BEBOPH
Publisher Pegasus
Publish Date 2019
ISBN 9781681777764
Adult Rating Mature Readers
Binding Hard Cover - No Dustjacket
Dimensions 9x11
# Pages 112pg
Color Partial Color
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