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Saturday, March 8, 2008

What Do You Mean They're Not Superheroes?: Incognegro

Written by: Mat Johnson
Art by: Warren Pleece

Comics are a great form of escapism and provide great, imaginative stories that feature breathtaking art, awe inspiring characters, cinematic action and heroic characters. Most of them just happen to wear spandex costumes and have secret identities. So most of the time reading comics leaves you with a smile on your face and something to think about for 5 minutes.
However, sometimes you read a comic that makes you proud to be associated with the industry. Be it creator, retailer, customer, artist, truck driver, distributor, writer, columnist,reviewer, clerk, casual fan ... Sometimes a book just makes you sit up and take notice of the wonderful things you can do with this medium. Maus, Fax from Sarajevo, Last Day in Vietnam, Contract With God, Another Chance to Get it Right, and few others. Sometimes comics just floor you. Add to the list: Incognegro. Written by relative comics newcomer Mat Johnson (Hellblazer: Papa Midnight) Incognegro is a story that delves into an embarassing time in our history as Americans. It is all in the opening lines:
"Between 1889 and 1918, 2,522 negroes were murdered by lynch mobs in America. That we know of.
"Now, since the beginning of the '30s, most of the white papers don't even consider it news."

That's something to think about.


Take a second to think about it.

Now that you are awash with the uncomfortable feelings that most humans would be shake it off. Incognegro isn't a story to make us all feel bad for what happened, it's, instead, a story of a hero. A hero with a secret identity and a disguise and everything. Zane Pinchback is "Incognegro" light skinned African American journalist who can pass as white and does so to get all the information he can on these lynchings to see justice done. And he is a hero. This is a story of Zane's efforts to rescue his darker complected twin brother from being framed for the murder of a white woman in the deep south.
Mat Johnson has penned a really brilliant script that sets you through the paces of a brutal murder and the cover-up that follows. Here Johnson has also created really dense characters who have just as many features as they have flaws, truly three dimensional characters. Partnered with Johnson is comics Veteran Warren Pleece who creates characters just as multi-dimensional as his counterpart. In a book that is full of just plain old people, devoid of familiar costumes to designate who is who Pleece makes each character incredibly unique.
This is a book we should all be proud of and is, as well, a book we should all, each and everyone of us, own. I have mine.

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