All-Negro Comics #1 (June 1947). Cover artist unknown. Clockwise from top left: Lion Man, Snake Oil, Sugarfoot, Bubba, Ace Harlem. Center: The Little Dew Dillies
|Publisher||All-Negro Comics, Inc.|
|Number of issues||1|
|Main character(s)||Ace Harlem
George J. Evans Jr.
All-Negro Comics, published in 1947, was a single-issue, small-press American comic book that represents the first known comics magazine written and drawn solely by African-American writers and artists.
African-American journalist Orrin Cromwell Evans (born 1902, Steelton, Pennsylvania; died 1971) was "the first black writer to cover general assignments for a mainstream white newspaper in the United States" when he joined the staff of the Philadelphia Record. After the paper's closing, shortly after World War II, Evans partnered with former Record editor Harry T. Saylor, Record sports editor Bill Driscoll and two others to found the Philadelphia publishing company All-Negro Comics, Inc., with himself as president. In mid-1947, the company published the only known issue of All-Negro Comics, a 48-page, standard-sized comic book with a typical glossy color cover and newsprint interior. It was copyrighted July 15, 1947, with a June 1947 issue date. Unlike other comic books of the time, it sold for 15 cents rather than 10 cents.
As writer Tom Christopher described, Evans
...co-created the features in the comic along with the artists, who included his brother, George J. Evans Jr.; two other Philadelphia cartoonists, one of whom was John Terrell, the other named Cooper; and a Baltimore artist who signed his work Cravat. The cartoonists probably wrote their own scripts, and there was further editorial input by Bill Driscoll.
The comic's press run and distribution are unknown, and as one cultural historian notes of the era, "[W]hile there were a few heroic images of blacks created by blacks, such as the Jive Gray comic strip and All-Negro Comics, these images did not circulate outside of pre-civil rights segregated black communities." The Official Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, a standard reference, considers the single issue "rare" and notes, "Seldom found in fine or mint condition; many copies have brown pages."
Time magazine in 1947 called All-Negro Comics "the first to be drawn by Negro artists and peopled entirely by Negro characters." In describing lead feature "Ace Harlem", it said, "The villains were a couple of zoot-suited, jive-talking Negro muggers, whose presence in anyone else's comics might have brought up complaints of racial 'distortion.' Since it was all in the family, Evans thought no Negro readers would mind."
- One-page introductory editorial, "All-Negro Comics: Presenting Another First in Negro History"
- "Ace Harlem", a private detective feature drawn by John Terrell
- "The Little Dew Dillies", a children's feature starring cherub-like creatures only babies can see and talk to, drawn by Cooper
- "Ezekiel's Manhunt", a two-page boy's-adventure text story
- "Lion Man", starring a college-educated African American sent by the United Nations on a mission to a uranium deposit on Africa's Gold Coast, where he adopted the mischievous orphan Bubba. Drawn by George J. Evans, Jr. (no relation to the Caucasian comic-book and comic-strip artist George Evans). One modern-day writer said Lion Man "wore the obligatory leotard costume of the comic hero", though the comic's cover and interior pages depict him in loin cloth.
- "Hep Chicks on Parade", spot-illustration gags with highly stylized women wearing exaggerated fashions, signed "Len"
- "Lil' Eggie", by Terrell, about henpecked husband Egbert and his wife
- "Sugarfoot", a humor feature, drawn by Cravat, starring traveling musicians Sugarfoot and Snake Oil, who try to woo a farmer's daughter. Evans' editorial said the feature's creators hoped "to recapture the almost lost humor of the loveable wandering Negro minstrel of the past."
- "Remember — Crime Doesn't Pay, Kids!", a one-page public service announcement and next-issue promo, with Ace Harlem
- "The Press: Ace Harlem to the Rescue". Time. July 14, 1947. Archived from the original on February 3, 2011. Retrieved July 1, 2011.
- Christopher, Tom (2002). "Orrin C. Evans and the story of All-Negro Comics". TomChristopher.com. Archived from the original on March 7, 2009. Retrieved July 1, 2011. Reprinted from Comics Buyer's Guide February 28, 1997, pp. 32, 34, 37-38. Article includes reprinted editorial page "All-Negro Comics: Presenting Another First in Negro History" from All-Negro Comics #1
- All-Negro Comics #1 at the Grand Comics Database
- Catalog of Copyright Entries. Third Series: 1947, Library of Congress, Copyright Office, p. 10
- Christopher spells the artist's surname "Terrell" throughout, except for one instance in which he spells it "Terrill"
- Carpenter, Stanford W. "Imagining Just Them, Just Us, or a Just Society: Creating Black Characters for the Justice Society of America Comic Book", Chapter 14 in Agorsah, E. Kofi, and G. Tucker Childs, Africa and the African Diaspora: Cultural Adaptation and Resistance (AuthorHouse, 2005), ISBN 978-1-4208-2760-6
- Overstreet, Robert M. (2007). "All-Negro Comics". The Official Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide 37 (Gemstone Publishing / House of Collectibles). p. 411. ISBN 978-0-375-72108-3.
- "1st African-American Published Comic - All Negro #1- (1947) Comes to Auction". Metropolis Collectibles Inc. / ComicConnect Corp. press release via BlackRadioNetwork.com. February 2009. Archived from the original on July 2, 2011. Retrieved July 1, 2011.
- Cripps, Thomas. Making Movies Black: The Hollywood Message Movie from World War II to the Civil Rights Era , (Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 154. ISBN 978-0-19-507669-1
- "First African-American Comic Book on Auction". Associated Press via MSNBC.com. March 10, 2009. Archived from the original on July 2, 2011. Retrieved July 1, 2011.
- Carter, Jason R. (undated). "Lion Man". BlackSuperhero.com. Retrieved July 1, 2011.
- Shaw, Scott (February 25, 2007). "All-Negro Comics, No. 1". Oddball Comics (column) #1148. Archived from the original on May 20, 2007. Retrieved July 1, 2011.