In the turbulent era of late 1950s Manhattan—with jazz, the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement, and the Red Scare as the volatile ingredients—three groundbreaking black cartoonists defy convention and pay the price.
Cliff Murphy is matinee handsome, a light-skinned, straight-haired black man and a comics artist known for his glamour girl art. He’s black uptown and white downtown, and he has an eye for the ladies, and they for him—including his boss’ wife, who knows Cliff’s creation, the Phantom Avenger, is about to be stolen from him.
Though Stephaney “Stef” Rawls has her own romance-adventure strip for the largest black newspaper, she still has to work brutal hours as a maid to make ends meet. When she gets a lucrative offer to write and draw a “Negroes must reject agitation” flyer for the FBI, can she pass up the opportunity?
Then there’s Oliver “Ollie” Jefferson, a decorated Korean War vet who writes and draws editorial cartoons under the pseudonym Attucks, for the daily Red newspaper The Struggle. But when a cop beats him down while walking his pregnant Korean wife-to-be home one night, Ollie becomes a symbol of oppression and the streets threaten to explode.
These three friends will be tested and tried, will work in solidarity, and, just maybe, betray each other, in this explosive graphic novel—with prose by crime fiction author Gary Phillips and images by acclaimed artist-writer Dale Berry.
Gary Phillips is the author of The Darker Mask, Bangers, and Violent Spring. Raised in South Central Los Angeles, Phillips draws on his experiences from anti-police abuse community organizing and anti-apartheid activism in his work. He was the chair of the Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color committee and was a past president of the Private Eye Writers of America. He lives in Los Angeles.
"Gary Phillips’s love song to the history of black comics is beautiful and moody, channelling the quiet desperation, simmering anger, and creative intensity of 1950s noir."
"A fascinating, gripping look at life in the 1950s for three African-American artists living in New York City. A vivid and vital account of the hardships and unjust social realities of the day. The various plots are compelling, the characters strong and nuanced, and overall the book is an excellent piece of historical fiction."
– Graphic Novel Resources
"This graphic novel is for readers who know how to snap their fingers while turning the page."
– New York Journal of Books
"Phillips weaves the jazz scene, the civil rights movement, and the Red Scare into a well written and illustrated novel that evokes a conflicted time in U.S. History."
– Lansing City Pulse
"Highly recommended. The artwork is bold and handsome, often with very fine design work, all enhanced by the excellent colorist Justin Birch."