For a while I have been thinking about a syllabus based on the work of David F. Walker. Recently, I was spurred on to work up a tentative syllabus through a discussion online, and as such, this is what I present to you today. This syllabus is in not way complete. However, it is meant to serve as an introduction to the ways to frame a course around a singular comics author. As I said, I have been thinking about this some over the past few years, specifically since I have read a lot of Walker’s work and connected with it in various ways.With that said, you will find the syllabus below.

Course Description:

Every time I see David F. Walker’s name, my mind immediately thinks about David Walker, the activist, abolitionist, and writer who published the Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World (1829). In his Appeal, Walker directly challenged the mythology of American equality that has existed in the nation even before America’s founding. Specifically, Walker addressed Thomas Jefferson’s racist ideas that he put forward in Notes on the State of Virginia (1784) and elsewhere. Walker uses Jefferson’s text and takes him to task, refuting Jefferson’s assertion. Walker asks his reader, “Has Mr. Jefferson declared to the world, that we are inferior to the whites, both in the endowments of our bodies and of minds?”

At its core, Walker’s Appeal confronts America’s racism, the construction of race that lays at the foundation of America’s history. In a similar manner, David F. Walker’s work does the same, almost 200 years after Walker’s Appeal. He does this work through comics, challenging the stereotypes that persist within our society and challenging the representation of African Americans and others within the comics medium.

Speaking with the Furious Gazelle about the publication of The Life of Frederick Douglass, Walker stated, “I don’t consider myself to be an overtly political person but I do consider myself to be someone who will fight for not only my humanity but the humanity of others. And part of the equation of recognizing humanity, serving humanity, acknowledging it, is representation in mass media.” Discussing Bitter Root, Walker, along with co-creators Chuck Brown and Sanford Greene, wrote, “One of the greatest horrors we face is racism. . . . Bitter Root is filled with action, drama, laughs, and amazing artwork. But, at its core, this series is a call to combat the bitter root of racism and hate.”

This course will look at David F. Walker’s work in relation to representation along with discussions of race and the deep rooted, bitter roots, of racism that have seeped into the foundations of our nation and society. Over the course of the semester, we will look at numerous works by Walker examining how they comment on identity, race, representation, history, and more.

Keep the following questions in mind as we move forward this semester.

  • In what ways does David F. Walker’s work challenge representations of African Americans in mass media?
  • In what ways does David F. Walker’s work call upon us to examine and think about our shared humanity?
  • In what ways does David F. Walker’s work deconstrcution the social constructions of race?
  • In what ways does David F. Walker’s work speak to the past? The present? The future?

Primary Texts:

  • Walker, David and Marcus Kwame Anderson. The Black Panther Party, Ten Speed Press, 2021.
  • Walker, David, Chuck Brown, and Sanford Greene. Bitter Root Vol. 1: Family Business, Image Comics, 2019.
  • Walker, David and Nelson Blake. Luke Cage Vol. 1: Sins of the Father, Marvel Comics, 2017.
  • Walker, David, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Adriano Lucas. Cyborg Vol. 1: Unplugged, DC Comics, 2015.
  • Walker, David and Sanford Greene. Power Man and Iron Fist Vol. 1: The Boys are Back in Town, Marvel Comics, 2016.
  • Walker, David, Damon Smyth, and Marissa Louise. The Life of Frederick Douglass, Ten Speed Press, 2019.
  • Walker, David and Ramon Villalobos. Nighthawk: Hate Makes Hate, Marvel Comics, 2017.

Secondary Texts:

  • carrington, andré m. “The Whiteness of Science Fiction and the Speculative Fiction of Blackness.”Speculative Blackness: The Future of Race in Science Fictions. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016. 1-29.
  • Davis, Blair. Bare Chests, Silver Tiaras, and Removable Afros: The Visual Design of Black Comic Superheroes.” The Blacker the Ink: Constructions of Black Indentity in Comics and Sequential Art, eds. Frances Gatewood and John Ira Jennings, Rutgers University Press, 2015, pp. 314-332.
  • Dery, Mark. “Black to the Future: Interviews with Samuel R. Delany, Greg Tate, and Tricia Rose,” Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture, Duke University Press, 1994, pg. 179-222.
  • Nama, Adilifu. “Birth of the Cool.” Super Black: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes. University of Texas Press, 2011, pp. 36-66.
  • Jennings, John Ira and Stacy Robinson. Uncaged: Hero for Higher. 17 Nov. 2018-31 March 2019. Culver Center of the Arts.
  • Riverea, Lysa. “Appropriate(d) Cyborgs: Disaporic Identities in Dwayne McDuffie’s Deathlok Comic Book Series. MELUS 32.3 (Fall 2007): 103-127.
  • Smith, Lillian. Selections from Killers of the Dream, W.W. Norton, 1961.
  • sonofbaldwin. “Humanity Not Included: DC’s Cyborg and the Mechanization of the Black Body.” The Middle Spaces, 31 March 2015.
  • Teutsch, Matthew. “Luke Cage and the History of Medical Exploitation.” Black Perspectives, 30 May 2019.
  • Wanzo, Rebecca. “The Black Technological Sublime.” Black Kirby: In Search of the Motherboxx Connection, Editors John Jennings and Stacey Robinson, pg. 140-142.

I’ve written a lot about David F. Walker’s on this this blog. Here are the posts I have done so far.

What texts, either primary or secondary, would you add to this syllabus? As usual, let me know in the comments below, and make sure to follow me on Twitter at @silaslapham.

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