Between the years of 1889 and 1918, over 2,000 black people were murdered by lynching mobs across America. By the time the 1930’s came around, a lynching was not considered newsworthy. Except to one person. Who was this person brave enough to report these mobs killing black folks when he himself was black? Find out in the special 10th-anniversary edition of Incognegro.
The Black Boy Who Looked White
In Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece’s remastered edition of Incognegro, we follow a black news reporter by the name of Zane Pinchback. Based on the former head of the NAACP, Walter White, we follow Zane as he goes “incognegro” to investigate lynchings and expose those involved in newspapers across New York City.
How could a black news reporter make publications in white newspapers? He disguises himself as a white man of course. Having been born with a light complexion, this gave him the advantage to blend in with a white crowd unsuspectedly as he happily took the names and faces of anyone involved. Once safely back in Harlem, he reported the events in the local paper and exposed those involved.
Just when he thinks he’s done risking his life on the field, his boss shows him where he should take his next story. The information he was given leads him to Tupelo, Mississippi where a black man was arrested for killing a white woman. As the mobs began to form outside of the sheriff’s office, Zane accepts the challenge to free the suspected murderer. This was not just any wrongly accused black person to him; this was his brother.
As the town becomes impatient, Zane starts running out of time to find the real killer. Will he be able to find the real murderer in time? Will he be able to keep his racial identity a secret? Join Zane as all these questions are answered in Incognegro.
A Different Perspective
While the story told about Zane Pinchback is fictional, its bases are that of reality. While reading this comic book, I felt I was learning something new about these events. I never knew about these reporters who risked their lives to show the world the people involved in the lynchings of black populations. It’s obvious throughout the comic that the creator was not afraid to write about such violence or themes. This story is a breath of fresh air for it addresses the subject of race directly.
The plot of the comic is strong and far from boring. With every turn of the page, you’re left wondering what will happen next. While the comic itself is that of a mystery, it has its fair share of darker and lighter themes. The jokes added in help the reader relieve some of the tension the story may bring while the heavier themes remind the reader that this comic is not a comedy.
This story is meant to give perspective on a world many of us might not understand or enjoy talking about. Today, this comic is important to bring to light, addressing what many may think is not important. This comic more than a story, it’s a teacher.
The art in this comic is beautiful – even in black and white. In this new edition of the comic, the use of grays adds to the story, making it seem even more beautiful. The use of black placement also tells its own tale and helps the story along. The artist was not afraid to illustrate a darker scene with a lot of black placement which shows his skill and ability to still make the image understandable.
There are parts within the comic where I had to stop and look at the character carefully to comprehend who it was, but very rarely did it happen. The art style chosen is one the reader must get used to reading to differentiate characters at a distance. As the comic continues, it becomes easier as the artist seems to adjust to drawing the same characters several times.
The full-page illustrations throughout the book add to the suspense felt when reading this comic. Not only are they beautifully drawn, the attention to detail is amazing. There is not one location anywhere on a full-page illustration where it looks like the artist slacked off or quickly sketched in something. There is as much work put into the background as the characters.
Incognegro: Just a Lecture or More Than an Experience?
All in all, I would highly recommend this comic book to anyone who enjoys history or anyone looking for something different. This book not only addresses racism directly, but it also shows parts of history you might not have learned in history class.
Incognegro is a must read for any comic book fan in this era. Get your copy of Incognegro online or wherever comic books are sold. If you want to read more comic reviews by fans for fans, click here. Finally, I will leave you with a question to think on as you read this amazing story: