A brief worry about race and character design.

This article about how Schulz added a black character to Peanuts has me thinking. I can sympathize with his fear of Doing It Horribly Wrong; I’m slowly dealing with a little of that myself as I work on finalizing designs for Drowning City.

See, while it started out being set in a generic city vaguely inspired by New Orleans, over the years it has firmly become a story set in New Orleans. And one thing about New Orleans is that its population is slightly less than 2/3 black.

As a white cartoonist, this is dangerous fucking territory. There is this fear that the slightest misstep will end up being racist, and that I’ll look like Hank Ketcham doing his first attempt to stick a black kid into Dennis the Menace (see the Schulz article). Or like Alan Moore defending his use of a “gollywog” in later League of Extraordinary Gentlemen stories. It’s way too tempting to just say “fuck it” and whitewash the whole cast… except then it sure as hell isn’t set in the city I come from.

As I think about that fear, it is painfully obvious that the right way to handle this is to pass my designs past some actual people of African ancestry. So. Who’s following me that’s in that category? And is willing to check out some of my designs as they come together for various roles and tell me if I come off looking like some fucked-up racist cracker or not? Especially with the protagonist being a white girl, and some of her adversaries being black. Shaky fucking ground, that. And I know it.

And of course part of this is also to do my damn research and draw off of some photos instead of just doodling out stuff from my head like I’ve been doing so far. I think that’s pretty much at the top of the agenda for the next time I work on Drowning City stuff.

Anyway. Time to go find some food for my food-hole.

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