I picked this book up at one of my scouting sessions at the local library – intrigued by the title and the concept of the storyline – taking something historically true and making a comic book out of it is a pretty common theme lately.

Incognegro takes place in the 1930’s, back in the Southern heyday of lynching black people in their towns for fun and sport. The idea is that Northern light-skinned black people would infiltrate Klan rallies and report on them – making sure that these “secret” lynchings would be publicized and brought to the public attention.

The graphic novel is written by Mat Johnson, who is not primarily a comic book writer and illustrated by British artist Warren Pleece who works mostly for DC comics, and inks a few of their Vertigo titles.

The story of Zane Pinback is one of a truly brave and truly heroic person in a time where merely attempting to pass as a white person could get a man killed. Passing is a central theme in this graphic novel – and Johnson does well to illustrate the benefits and pitfalls of being able to pass as white in a white dominated society. It’s almost a philosophical look at race…

The book is an excellent blend of history, suspense, and revelation – as well as gut-wrenching frankness about the relationship between black and white people during this time period. There is a noir-ish mystery element added to it – and a focus on women’s own struggles with identity that I particularly appreciated, which almost mirrors the main characters “false identity.”

incognegro-imageThe novel is also incredibly sad and sobering – with imagery that is nearly impossible to burn from your mind (specifically the lynchings). The black and white format works perfectly for the theme of the story, as well as the noir-ish style with lots of shadows and dark blended in for added weight and depth. There wasn’t a lot of panel trickery either – it was all pretty standard and straight forward – and did not detract from the story itself.

A definite recommended read – it can easily be consumed in an evening and lends itself to a questioning and exploring of our history that is very important right now…when fear of other races and cultures is STILL so prevalent.

Final thought: This book should be supplemental or required reading in schools. It illustrates a perspective not often seen – the “other” perspective.

Much Love, Mindy C


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About tinyheroes

Mindy Crouchley is a 33 year old woman with a degree in English and Technical Writing from Portland State University. She has accumulated three+ years experience in the Marketing and Communications field - with an emphasis on creating digital media content. She has been reading comic books since she was 10 years old. She currently lives in outer southeast Portland with her spouse Dan Robertson, her baby girl, and their dog - Jabba the pug. She spends her free time devouring books, crafting cosplay, video gaming, attending comic cons, writing stories/screenplays, attending book to film adaptation club meetings, volunteering, and watching copious amounts of TV and movies.

2 responses to “Incognegro”

  1. Michael says :

    I saw adverts for this book but hadn’t looked into it myself yet. As you’re recommending it, I’ll not only get it, but do my damndest to get my kiddos reading it next year. We’ll see what flies. 🙂

  2. tinyheroes says :

    Awesome!! I can’t vouch that there won’t be some swearing – so maybe this isn’t a great one for the kiddies, but the content (outside of the explicit material) – touches on themes that aren’t often explored in most of the literature used in schools.

    Much Love, Mindy C

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