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Amandla Stenberg: Niobe: A New Type of Superhero

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Amandla Sternberg, the 16-year-old Hunger Games actress, is planning to release her very own comic book on November 4th, according to The Huffington Post.

Sternberg is well known for her well thought-out and articulate response to Kylie Jenner’s cultural appropriation in her video “Don’t Cash Crop on My Corn Rows.” Now, she is creating a new comic book character: a badass half-human, half-elf woman of color. This character is named Niobe Ayutami and has a story very similar to Amandla’s. According to Sternberg, “I was drawn to give voice to Niobe and co-write her story because her journey is my journey.” She also said that Niobe is a character that “shatters the traditional idea of what a hero is.”

Sternberg’s effort is very much needed in the superhero world. There are painfully few characters of color in comic books and even fewer creators of color. Francesca Ramsey recently illustrated this in an episode of her MTV News YouTube series Decoded at New York’s Comic Con. She asked convention goers to name just seven superheroes of color, and the results were disappointing to say the least. People who had been collecting comic books for years were unable to complete the task (at least without naming all the different-colored power rangers). It’s time for a non-white narrative to be told through the medium, which is exactly what Sternberg and others are trying to do.

To make her comic book, Amandla had the help of Stranger Comics, a Los Angeles-based multiplatform publishing company. The CEO of Stranger Comics, Sebastian A. Jones, has a history of creating work targeted at underrepresented communities. He worked to create the “I Am” children’s book series that includes the books I Am Mixed, I Am Awesome, and I Am Living in 2 Homes. Jones talked about his desire to work with a diverse group of creators to make more stories heard. He also discussed the importance of having creators who reflect that diversity as well: “I may be mixed, but I am not a young, black, teenaged woman, so it would have been idiotic and morally insensitive of me to not team up with someone who could really engage with Niobe’s soul and state of being.”

The illustrator, Ashley A. Woods, is also a black woman embarking on her first professional comic book experience. She praised the character Niobe for being courageous, flawed, and brave, among other things. She also expressed the similarities between Niobe and Amandla by saying “Niobe is Amandla… and I am honored to see them into someone quite special… A hero for our time.”

Ultimately, more representation is never a bad thing. And in a genre as homogenous as comic books, it’s important to introduce more characters of color, as well as other minorities. Amandla Sternberg’s efforts with Stranger Comics is a huge step in the right direction for all the children of color who are tired of only seeing white superheroes.

The comic “Niobe: She is Life” is now available for preorder.

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