Manuel and Geiszel Godoy are military veterans, and they believe deeply in social justice. But above all, they are entrepreneurs who saw an underdeveloped sector in their industry and dove in.
"We have to show that we can pull a Tyler Perry as a community," said Manuel Godoy, president of Black Sands Entertainment, in a recent interview. "The idea is that the bigger the company gets, the better the IP does, the more everybody wins, and we can fund our projects ourselves because we have the experience, the expertise to do it."
The Godoys' niche is a growing one: indie comics by Black artists, written for Black families about Black people, with a focus on tales of Africa before slavery. Among their projects are an upcoming animated series and the Black Sands Publishing app. "If we get this done," Godoy says, "we've proven that you no longer have to walk through the gate they built in order to get to the main stage."
Black Sands isn't the first through the gate. It joins a growing hive of Black creators who've carved space in a format that for decades was steeped in racism and exclusion. Booming genres like Afrofuturism (which meshes African culture with science fiction) reflect worlds envisioned by Black activists: worlds in which existing power structures are dismantled and Black people thrive.
There are other genres on the rise — from romance to Black superhero reboots to musings on workaday life. In the dark-fantasy adventure "Submerged" by Vita Ayala, a girl embarks on a quest to find her estranged brother after he gets lost in a New York subway. Ebony Flowers' "Hot Comb" explores Black women's relationships with their hair. In Micheline Hess' horror comic "Diary of a Mad, Black Werewolf," a clan of Black female werewolves prey on racist cops and "Karens." Just as Black Lives Matter builds on movements of the past, the rise of Black comics is more of a revival.
"One thing that gets lost when talking about the great Black orators, thinkers and historical figures of our time are the Black comic creators," says Sheena Howard, professor of communication at Rider University. "Challenging racial stereotypes in comics is a big part of what Black creators have done, alongside directly addressing injustice."
Movie studio interest was in no small part due to the success of "Black Panther," along with "Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse." They debunked the idea that movies starring Black-led superhero characters aren't profitable, says Frances Gateward, professor of media theory and criticism at Cal State Northridge and co-editor of "The Blacker the Ink: Constructions of Black Identity in Comics and Sequential Art."
"Disney/Marvel so grossly underestimated the film's potential that fans who wanted to purchase 'Black Panther' merchandise couldn't find any," she says. "So, as many active fandoms do, they made their own."
Perhaps more than anything, stories like "Black Panther" and publishers like Black Sands Entertainment offer examples of "heroism," Gateward says, "both in ordinary everyday living and fantastical superpowered beings — but maybe most importantly, by showing Black communities surviving and thriving."