I've bugged you guys before with my love of David Willis, a dude unafraid to confront sexism, racism, and homophobia (queerism? I dunno, I'm getting sick of the "fear" part of homophobia) but today I wanted to share another webcomic artist that I LURV. (This might become a semi-regular feature.)
Magnolia Porter has written a couple of ongoing comics at this point. One of my favorites is called Bobwhite, it's about three friends (all women, all drastically different physically and mentally) in college together. The women go through relationships and breakups and school worries and job worries and it feels so real, you end up really sucked in. Bobwhite wrapped up a few years ago after three years of multiple updates a week, and it's really, really great. She also wrote Good Crook which is about a small time crook and his drive to be good for his daughter; much shorter, but packs an emotional punch.
Her current project is called Monster Pulse, and for those of us that grew up with Digimon and Pokemon, it's just...perfect. The basic idea is that there's a corporation that's uncovered some crazy science that makes part of your body turn into a monster! The four main characters are all at that teen cusp where they're just starting to like people and wonder if they're too old to go trick-or-treating. There's a heart monster and an eyeball monster and a hair monster that you can ride like Falcor! Two of the characters (one main and one who's secondary but repeatedly around) are POC, there's discussions of the "right" way to be a girl (hint: there isn't one) and disability and family and sorrow, all in a story that's sweet and kind and lovely, without shunning violence and fear. Very Maurice Sendak. The expression work is just killer.
Today on her Tumblr, she was asked a question: "violet* is a lot lighter-skinned than wes**. is she mixed race?"
hmm, i don't know! both of her parents are black but maybe in her ancestry??
i'm just gonna be real with y'all: i'm super white and i get worried a lot about how i draw black people. I don't want to do it insensitively, nor do I want to rely on stereotypes, nor do I want to fall into the trap of drawing a bunch of white people and coloring some of them brown, etc. i think of west as having a darker skin tone and i did that mainly because I like how it looks for him, but also because I was reading stuff about how like… lighter skin tone is considered "better" or "prettier", and I wanted to go against that?? but then I think: it's not as though lighter-skinned black people are "less black" or something, and I don't want to perpetuate that, either… I apologize if I'm saying anything insensitive or boneheaded, by the way, just trying to be honest about my thought process.
I debated a lot on Violet's skin tone. I thought about making her darker, like West, because she is supposed to be an attractive character and I didn't want to perpetuate the disgusting idea that darker skin= less attractive. But I always like my characters to have different skin tones from each other, even if they are both white or both black or whatever. Julie and Bina are both white but Bina has a more rosy flushed skin tone, whereas Julie is pale and slightly olive like me. I decided on a lighter skin tone for Violet for a sort of personal reason: I remembered a girl in high school who was black but very light, and how often she got teased for that by other black kids, called "house slave" and things like that. She brushed it off as friendly teasing, but she told me once that it really bothered her. So the idea of giving Violet a darker skin tone simply because I was afraid she wouldn't be considered "really black" otherwise bothered me too…
The comic is really great, but part of why I love Magnolia is that she really thinks about what she's doing and why. She wants a kid-friendly story that doesn't mince words or treat the reader like a kid. She's super talented and also really nice, and I love following her in part because she's obsessed with Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro and will put pictures of the two of them up on her Tumblr with captions like "Look at the babies!" It's adorable. Check her stuff out.