Hey and Welcome to the last Lesson in BLACK BUSINESS MONTH!
Slavery. Sister, Sister. Katanas.
Trust me, that’s the BEST way I could start this lesson off.
HARRIET TUBMAN: DEMON SLAYER. (#1)
Harriet Tubman is written by David Crownson and drawn by Courtland L. Ellis and…is definitely a dodgy subject.
Things regarding history and retelling it, with a change of superpowers can, though be a great action to read, come off insulting to those of us who come from that same line of disenfranchised ancestors, people who, for a time, couldn’t even be considered people.
To come in and rewrite to say “hey, there was an answer here the whole time” can be rather tone deaf to the very same audience you may hope to reach.
Now, this wouldn’t be the first time I’ve heard of something like this, creators coming up with new twist of historical times, namely Lincoln: Vampire Hunter & the graphic novel Strange Fruit being just a couple, but…Harriet Tubman? Well, in spite of its…questionable nature, I gave it a read.
*DISCLAIMER! THIS STORY IS DEPICTED OF AMERICA DURING ITS SLAVE YEARS AND DIALOGUE AND MANNERISMS WILL REFLECT THAT SETTING. I WILL NOT BE CENSORING ANY OF IT BECAUSE TO DO SO WOULD BE TO ACT LIKE IT NEVER HAPPENED. READER DESCRETION IS ADVISED.
From the first panel, you’re thrown right into it. A father is attempting to flee with his wife and daughter and there’s no room for misinterpretation. The room is dark, it’s close, it’s claustrophobic and, even without establishing the danger (save for a minor jump scare), you feel a sense of urgency and uncertainty.
It’s a tone that sets the pace and yet isn’t compromised when given moments of levity with slight humor and bathos.
Also, trees. I had no organic way to segue into that, but now that we’re here, artist Ellis has a way with mixing real, almost with an uncanny specificity, with the comic, splashing in emotes not far off from what you’d see in the Teen Titans cartoon. ( #ComeBack )
From this panel, you see the twigs and branches are done very specifically, like one stroke from a paintbrush was used for each one. What I see are strips of duct tape used to peel off paint and their trail is what remains. I never would’ve thought of that but it’s instantly recognizable to me. It’s small, but I dig that!
So, the story continues and the family you’re following are about to make their daring escape when they’re stopped by white men with no qualms of being…impolite.
They further taunt the slaves with knowledge of spelling, a language art they didn’t even have the tarp for. This is especially damning because on one hand, slaves weren’t taunt these things to keep them dumb so that they may never overthrow their masters. On the other, and even worse so, if a slave did know how to spell, who knows what their punishment would be?
It’s truly f*cking evil.
They say they can’t leave, but when you’re as driven as they were, nothing would stop them. And they UNLOAD on them in what’s honestly a pretty badass moment.
Everything seems fine once the shooting stops until—!
While not a particular fan of the dialogue choice, even given the time period and setting, I have to say, this is not only an “oh, shit!” moment, it’s also one of the cooler ones once I thought about it more.
With the reveal of the slave masters being literal vampires, or demons as the title would have you believe, it paints a truth that some of us know as objective, rather than subjective.
I refuse to get political on this blog. That’s not what this platform is for.
So, I only say that to say this: there are some of us Americans that still revel in holding on to items in the past, some that are borne of great shame and hatred to descendants that those relics were used to oppress.
To those descendants, we could see these people as demons, “a cruel, evil, or destructive person or thing” by definition. While it doesn’t change the past, it does paint it…a little differently. And, honestly, I’m okay with that because what follows makes it allllll worth it.
Wait for it…
Wait for it…
Wait for iiiiiiiiit…
Challenging her inner Yoda from Attack of the Clones, one of a humble personality comes in and dominates, seemingly effortless, the opposition our protagonists did NOT see coming. Fam, I was SHOOK.
I was shook!
So our mystery protagonist takes no time delivering a big ol’ can of whoop-ass with a side of just desserts.
And honestly, I like this. A LOT.
Granted, I still stand by my original statement that rewriting history isn’t something I’m necessarily for, but this doesn’t seem to do that.
It uses real people, sure, but that’s about it. From the action, to the very way the story is told, it’s just done in an action-packed, enthralling way that history itself isn’t really to be tampered with.
This entire sequence is fun, tightly paced (thanks also, in part, to comixology’s guide view) and doesn’t come off pandering in the slightest.
It’s not meant to be taken seriously nor is it a way to reeducate us on what “really happened” in our history.
Crownson and Ellis take what we know about history and alters it only to give a metaphorical/unsung hero a literal reinterpretation. It’s a story I’m glad I was informed about. It doesn’t linger too long on the darker truths of the past nor does it pretend to be anything that it isn’t:
This is one unsung hero I can’t sing praises of enough.
And, oh, one last thing –
Told y’all it was Sister, Sister
If YOU would like to support and read more of their work,
you can find his issues on:
https://www.comixology.com , Crownson’s twitter @Dcrownson & Ellis’ info at: http://cle2.daportfolio.com and his twitter @illesigns .
Well, that’s all for now. So, until Lincoln Vampire Slayer crosses over with Harriet Tubman or someone makes fanart with Blade and Harriet, I’ll see you for the next lesson.
Until then, class dismissed!