The First Black-Owned Comic Book Publisher: All-Negro Comics

1 Posted by - October 7, 2018 - BLACK ART & LITERATURE, History, LATEST POSTS

All-Negro Comics was a Black-owned, Black-drawn, and Black-written comic book publisher that, unfortunately, ran for only one issue of All-Negro Comics in the summer of 1947. The company was formed during the end of the Golden Age of Comics.

The Golden Age of Comics

At the time, the major publishers were DC, Timely (which would become Atlas Comics in 1950 then Marvel in 1961), Fawcett Comics, Dell Comics, MLJ Comics (which would become Archie Comics a year later), Harvey Comics, and Quality. The bulk of those publishers would fall either before the end of the Golden Age (late 1930s-1950) or at the start of the Silver Age (1956-1978).

Being a post-World War II period, most publishers’ bread and butter were still superheroes, westerns, and horror. Other genres were similar to westerns and horror in the form of anthologies. The pulpier genres are fondly remembered, but for the most part didn’t last into the Silver Age.

Some characters were repurposed in the superhero mix either in the next generation or much later on, while others from defunct companies were scooped up by the current major companies.

The Start

Orrin Cromwell Evans was a journalist with the distinction of being the first Black writer for mainstream American white newspapers. He spent his time with the Philadelphia Record and would establish All-Negro Comics in June after the newspaper folded. Artists on board included his brother George J. Evans Jr. who drew “Lion Man and Bubba”, John Terrell who drew “Ace Harlem”, Len, Cooper, and Cravat.

Selling for 15-cents instead of the usual 10-cents, the goal of the “Ace Harlem” and “Lion Man” stories were to provide positive heroes. “The Little Dew Dillies” was geared towards smaller children and the other features such as “Lil’ Eggie”, “Hep Chicks on Parade”, and “Sugarfoot” were comedy stories.

The Sole Issue

All-Negro Comics was an anthology. You had the pulpy Ace Harlem. He was a straight forward and impossibly hardboiled detective. In his story he speedily—by today and most comic book standards—investigates the murder of a BBQ joint owner at the hands of two hep-cat robbers. The story ends with Ace being quick and side-stepping one robber’s charge, allowing him to fall over the edge of a faulty staircase and hang himself on a pipe with a chain.

Lion Man, the superhero of the comic had a few proto-Black Panther tropes. The main character is a quick thinking, college educated, athletic young man tasked by the U.N. with protecting a mountain. You might ask “What’s so special about this mountain?” It had the world’s largest supply of URANIUM underneath it. Enough to make all of the bombs.

Now you might ask, “And they left this one man to guard this mountain? Does he have powers?” To the first half of the question, yes – yes they did. To the second half, he has no powers whatsoever. I’d say Lion Man is basically The Phantom without a mask and no actual weapons that he carries around.

This doesn’t stop him from preventing two White poachers/opportunists from trying to get to the mountain—with none of the tools required to mine even a smidgen of uranium.

For the time, the artwork in these two stories was solid and the stories were fast-paced. The rest of the comic was comedic which, personally, isn’t really my thing.

His Demise

Evans looked to print a second issue, but was unable to do so. It’s believed that he was iced out of printers by Fawcett Comics and other White-operated companies. This was probably done to get rid of actual competition as they began to make comics featuring Black characters.

There could have also been muscle from the Comic Book Authority as well. Even if All-Negro Comics were largely in line with the Authority content-wise. It’s unknown why Evans didn’t attempt to move the stories to newspapers. They had the power to make publishers miserable and end runs with its rules. While comic strip distributors could’ve also iced Evans out, luckily there were the Black publications that wanted him also.

However, in the end, what could’ve been with All-Negro Comics simply ended.

M. Swift primarily writes on moments and important figures in Black history for Your Black World. He also writes heavily on wrestling, comics, gaming, and Black sci-fi and fantasy.

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