2022 marks the 75th anniversary of the release of All-Negro Comics #1, a landmark publication for the comic book industry — released almost two decades before Marvel debuted Black Panther in Fantastic Four #52. All-Negro Comics was the very first comic book anthology created by Black creators and featuring original Black characters. Never heard of it? Not many people have — but a new crowdfunding campaign aims to change that.
All-Negro Comics was the brainchild of Orrin Cromwell Evans, who became the first Black writer to cover general news for a mainstream newspaper in the US when he joined the staff of the Philadelphia Record in the early 1940s. When that paper folded in 1947, Evans went on to found his own publishing company, with one simple aim: to promote Black content by Black creators. As he wrote in the introduction to the first — and only — issue in the series, “All-Negro Comics will not only give Negro artists an opportunity gainfully to use their talents, but it will glorify Negro historical achievements.”
His ambition was grand, but he faced a prejudiced industry. Plans for a second issue of the series reportedly ran aground when racist competitors scuttled his ability to buy the paper to print the comic, and the title disappeared entirely. Evans eventually returned to newspaper journalism, and the comic became a little-remembered piece of history.
A new Kickstarter campaign aims to change that, by bringing the material back into print, alongside newly created material. The new hardcover edition will feature a digitally restored version of the 52-page All-Negro Comics #1 from 1947, as well as new supporting essays to provide context to the issue, and all-new material featuring characters from the original comic from creators including Deron Bennett, David Brothers, Jasmine Hatcher, Sharean Morishita, and Milestone Initiative graduate Zipporah B. Smith. The hardcover is expected to run 88 pages in length.
The project is headed up by former Marvel editor Chris Robinson, who created the Marvel’s Voices anthology series for the publisher back in 2019. In a statement supporting the campaign’s launch, Robinson said that he “became aware of this comic book as trivia,” adding, “When I dug further into the history, I was both inspired by the trailblazing work of Mr. Evans and company, but also depressed that this foundational document wasn't more well-known and readily available in any school library I'd ever been in.”
Other members of the team responsible for the book are illustrator Tony Washington, who’s worked on restoration of the issue, and Deron Bennet, a designer, letterer, and writer for companies including DC, Boom!, and Image Comics.
The All-Negro Comics campaign is live right now, with aim to have the issue in backers hands by spring next year. Go visit the campaign page to learn more.