Prof. Jonathan Gayles’ documentary Shaft or Sidney Poitier: The Emergency of Black Masculinity in Comic Books will be screened during the National Black Arts Festival events at the Rialto Center for the Arts on July 14. The film, which was shot, edited, and produced by Gayles, will be screened for the first time here at Georgia State University.
Prof. Gayles, who teaches in the Department of African American Studies, was an avid comic book reader as an adolescent, and identified with the few African-American superheroes that he discovered primarily because they too were African-American men. This documentary critically examines the earliest representations (primarily1965-1977, with discussions of several earlier characters) of Black masculinity in comic books and the troubling influence of race on these representations.
Through interviews with prominent artists, scholars and cultural critics along with images from the comic books themselves, it becomes clear that the Black superheroes that did eventually emerge were generally constrained by stereotypical understandings of Black people and Black men in particular. From the humorous, to the offensive, to the tragic, early Black superheroes never strayed too far from common stereotypes about Black men.
Thinking critically about the manner in which Black men were first portrayed in hero serials provides insight into broader societal conceptions of the Black man as character, archetype and symbol. (From press release)
The screening will take place at 2:30 p.m., Thursday, July 14, at the Rialto Center for the Arts. Tickets for the film can be purchased at the door one hour before show time for $11, and online at the National Black Arts Festival website only. Click here for a full list of National Black Arts Festival films showing at the Rialto this week.