Black women deserve fantasies
Reviewing the works of four great Black women
“Black Panther” is getting a redo. Before the blockbuster movies, Black Panther started as a comic book by Stan Lee. Its next run will be helmed by Eve L. Ewing, a sociologist from Chicago who wrote Iron Heart, the story of Riri Williams.
Iron Heart is unique in that centers a brilliant Black scientist whose intelligence matches that of Black Panther’s Shuri. When they team up in Wakanda Forever, they complement each other’s brilliance. Following the success of “Iron Heart,” Ewing will take the reigns on “Black Panther,” the comic. She is just the second woman Marvel has commissioned to offer her perspective on Black Panther.
The first was Flossmoor, Illinois native Nnedi Okorafor. In 2018, she penned “Long Live The King,” a graphic novel based on the Marvel comic. This novel led to two more books in the series: “Wakanda Forever” and “Shuri.”
To write these novels, Okorafor pulled from Ta’Nehisi Coates’ run on Black Panther, much of which we saw in the movie Wakanda Forever. Really, Black women made the movie what it is. With the costume designs of Ruth E. Carter and star-studded performances from Angela Bassett and Letitia Wright, it grossed over $800 million in the box office.
Okorafor did not just lend her talents to Black Panther. She is also the author of Binti, an Africanfuturist series following protagonist Binti on her journey as she tries to broker peace between warring supernatural communities.
Like Black Panther, this novel explores a futurist aesthetic through the lens of science fiction and the unknown. However, the legacies of Africanfuturism and Afrofuturism extend beyond the worlds of Binti and Black Panther.
Afrofuturism can be traced back to Octavia E. Butler, who gave us Kindred. This story follows Dana as she gets pulled into the past by Rufus, the son of a slave master.
Through some supernatural connection, Rufus calls upon Dana any time he is in trouble, oftentimes putting her in harm’s way. Through determination and the support of her husband, Dana breaks the bond between her and Rufus.
Recently, this book was adapted into the FX series of the same title, and it is praised for the way it handled Black womanhood and Afrofuturism. Okorafor calls the book “immersive” and “relatable” in her introduction to the graphic novel.
Originally published in 1979, Butler and her contemporaries would set a precedent for a future of fantasy as told by Black women. In 2020, Kalynn Bayron published Cinderella is Dead, a fantasy novel that gives a dark spin to a classic tale.
In the novel, protagonist Sophia must resist the rule of a tyrant. Set 200 years after the death of Cinderella, the story takes place in Lille, a territory within the larger country of Mersailles. In Lille, King Manford rules with an iron fist.
Yearly, he hosts an annual ball so that girls ages 16-18 can be matched with a suitor. Sophia, who has feelings for her best friend Erin, wants to find a way for them to be together. Throughout the novel, she treks an impossible journey that helps her find love and freedom.
This queer romance flips a popular trope and centers the voice of an adolescent Black girl hoping to find herself. Whether in Wakanda, Butler’s twisted universe or Lille, Black women are at the forefront of these fantasy novels.
While they navigate grief and trauma, they each provide guidance to Black women navigating grief and trauma in the real world.