Where I'm Coming From
"A treasure of a collection, one to be savored. And one that should become an instant classic."
Barbara Brandon-Croft was the first Black woman to be published by a major syndicate, her cartoons appearing nationally for decades. Her characters and their cutting words are as relevant today as when they first appeared in the 1990s. Through a series of talking heads, she introduces a wide cast of Black women, from Cheryl, described as "loud-mouthed, sharp-tongued, cynical, wisecracking, sarcastic, and abrasive;" to Sonya, a "true stand-by-your-man kind of woman." In between, there's Judy, Lekesia, and Monica, among others, all with vibrant voices and funny insights into their lives and the community around them. Naturally there's plenty of political and cultural humor, but more than that, there's deep compassion for the kind of humor Black women need to cope with their daily reality.
A typical strip of two women talking might read:
"You're not getting any younger, Alisha. It's time you found a man. What about a Rod? He's not so bad."
"I need a little more than 'not so bad.'"
"What do you want? A saint?"
"Well, it'll take an extraordinary man to beat what I have now."
"Really? And exactly what do you have now?"
You can almost hear the rimshot with the punchline. The pacing, the timing, are that pitch perfect. Other strips are sharp jabs:
"A New Jersey judge has decided that a 16-year-old who filmed himself assaulting a girl deserves leniency because he comes from a 'good family.' I suppose he's being groomed to become a supreme court justice."
The comics alone are enough reason to buy the book, but the essay at the back of the book by Rebecca Wanzo, “Syndicated Sisterhood,” adds even more. Wanzo does a brilliant job of providing the historical and visual context for this impressive body of work:
"Brandon-Croft's choice to only represent hands and forearms in addition to the face also plays with conventional representations of African American women. By keeping the hands and forearms she signals cultural specificity, but she also does not graphically replicate the kinds of gestures that are often presented as stereotypes—like snapped fingers, a palm in the air, or a chastising finger. Caricature has often been used as a weapon against African Americans, but Brandon-Croft, like some other Black cartoonists, makes use of the caricature to create a more expansive representation of Black identity."
This is a treasure of a collection, one to be savored. And one that should become an instant classic.