Black women comic creators represent a dual minority, and they are seeking greater visibility through a Kickstarter that ends on Wednesday and is still a few thousand short of its modest $20,000 goal.
Being Black and female in a white, male-dominated industry is already a challenge but these creators are also working in horror comics, a genre and medium that still do not get the respect they deserve.
"Shook Volume Two: Songs of the Dark Sirens" is the follow up to "Shook! A Black Horror Anthology" that launched a successful Kickstarter last year and will arrive on shelves in January. The first collection drew inspiration from the old EC Comics and will include work by David Walker ("Bitter Root," "Black Panther Party"), John Jennings ("Kindred," "The Blacker the Ink"), and Rodney Barnes ("Killadelphia").
London-based Colleen Douglas is editing volume two of the horror anthology collection.
"'Shook! A Black Horror Anthology' was a collaboration between Second Sight Publishing and John Jennings Studios," Douglas explained. "Basically these chaps had gotten together and said, 'We are from the South and we want to write some Southern Gothic horror.' It was a great success and to that end they then wanted to do a 'Volume Two' but on this occasion to take it from a female storytelling perspective and what women would see in terms of what is horror, what it means for them, and how they perceive it in their own types of stories."
Douglas has been working in comics for almost a decade. She distinctly remembers that her love for comics began as an 8-year-old child in Guyana when she found just a few pages of Marvel's "Silver Surfer" lining a basket of her grandmother's groceries.
"Where I'm from, people don't actually value comics in the same way. They're very practical about what to do with a comic book. It's just paper with colors on it. We're going to use it to line cake containers, really practical things that comics have no business being in," Douglas recalled. "And the first one that I found was the Silver Surfer, and he's my favorite forever. He's the Marvel character to me that embodies the ultimate of everything that humanity could aspire to. The thing that struck me the first time was seeing a man who was completely silver on a surfboard in space. And you're thinking, that's impossible! But how awesome is it? So after that moment, yeah, comics had me."
Her story proves the power that even just a few comic images can have. Those images that she found under a pile of potatoes and had to carefully clean in order to read set her on a career path. Now she is hoping to make a historic impact with the comic anthology "Shook Volume Two."
"We are in the middle of making history as we speak right now because it's something that has not been done before," Douglas said. "It's kind of paving the way for future possibilities, for storytelling from a Black perspective, Black women telling horror stories. And that's what makes it so difficult. You're pioneering. You're basically paving the road for the rest of the cars to follow."
The first Kickstarter for volume one launched after the pandemic and while Black Lives Matter was still on people's minds. Both factors probably helped the project get fully funded ahead of deadline. But the Kickstarter for volume two is having a more difficult time getting backers. Part of the reason may be that people are being asked to support causes related to violence and fighting in both the Ukraine and Middle East.
But uplifting underrepresented voices within a creative format is also an important cause. Black creators are often drawing on real-world horrors to fuel their fantastical tales and to make social commentary or just to open people's eyes to a different point of view.
"Living in a modern society that we have right now, it is impossible to not have that layer somewhere in there, whether it's subconscious or an actual sort of full frontal point of view. It's going to be there in some element or another," Douglas said. "You would think that because of its unique perspective, it would garner interest and it would have the backing that you'd expect from not just our own sort of society, but in general."
Second Sight Publishing has once again gathered an award-winning team of Black comic writers and artists for its follow up volume of "Shook."
The talent includes: artist Alitha Martinez ("Iron Man," "Voltron Defender of the Universe," "Bat Girl," "World of Wakanda"), writer Collen Douglas ("Silk Cotton," "Vic Argas: Species Negotiator," "Cthulhu Invades Wonderland"), artist Julie Anderson ("Spirit’s Destiny," "Tides In Time"), writer-artist Micheline Hess ("Diary of a Mad, Black, Werewolf," "Malice in Overland"), writer Rebecca Wanzo ("The Content of Our Caricature: African American Comic Art and Political Belonging," "The Suffering Will Not Be Televised: African American Women and Sentimental Political Storytelling"), and writer-artist Raeghan Buchanan ("The Secret History of Black Punk").
"Shook! A Black Horror Anthology" was picked up by Dark Horse Comics. That publisher might pick up volume two as well but at this point "Songs of the Dark Sirens" needs the Kickstarter to be fully funded in order to guarantee its publication.
Douglas is determined to see the collection published but without the Kickstarter funds it will face a more challenging path to publication.
"The hope is that we would do it because it's such an important project and it's a very important book," Douglas said. "It carries a great deal of weight and importance for the people who are involved in it because it's the first time that you will have Black women coming together on an anthology and writing stories that are from a horror perspective, and I think that's an important thing. And I think the funding matters. It gives you the self-esteem to continue, actually as well, because there's nothing more enthusiastic and wonderful in seeing that you've achieved something and there were people who believed in your ability to achieve it and backed you to that end."
As someone who loves horror and appreciates the power comics can have, I hope that the project gets funded and that I will soon have two volumes of "Shook" on my shelf. And wouldn't it be amazing for a young Black girl to find pages of a comic created by someone who looks like her and might have experiences that speak even more directly to her than a silver figure flying through space on a surfboard.