Torchy to Teen Titans: Black Women in Comics (1937-2016)

In 2009, DC comics introduced Felicia Henderson as their first Black woman writer.  When announced, I was just as amazed as other fans were that this was the first Black woman to write for DC in their 75 year history.

In fact, we rarely mention Black Women in the comic book industry prior to this 2009 date.

I created this historic timeline to fill the odd radio silence between 1940 to 2009, as well as highlight key events for Black Women in the early aughts.

The timeline begins with Jackie Ormes, first Black woman cartoonist in 1937, and ends with the debut of Nilah Macgruder as the first Black woman to write for Marvel in 2016.


Black Women in Comics 1937 – 2016

1937: Jackie Ormes, First Black Woman Cartoonist

Jackie Ormes is known as the First Black Woman Cartoonist.  Her first comic strip, Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem, is published and syndicated by the Pittsburgh Courier in 1937.

1940: Dorothy Woolfolk, First Woman to work in comics

Dorothy Woolfolk, began her career at DC comics as an editor in the 1940s and wrote for Wonder Woman in the 1970s.

1966: Joan Baccus, First Black Woman in Comics

Joan Baccus (Maynard), the author of Golden Legacy #2 (Fitzgerald Publishing, 1966) and several other volumes of the series.

1989: Brandon-Croft, First Nationally Syndicated Woman Cartoonist

Barbara Brandon-Croft is known for her comic strip Where I’m Coming From, and for being the first nationally syndicated African-American woman cartoonist. (Note:  Brandon-Croft is the first Black woman to be “syndicated” by the Universal Press Syndicate.  Jackie Ormes’ comic strips were also “syndicated” in a fashion, within the network of Black newspapers owned by the Pittsburgh Courier.)

1995: Micheline Hess, Colorist for Milestone Media

Author and illustrator Micheline Hess began her career at Milestone Media (DC Comics) as a colorist on the Static comic book and other Milestone titles.  She’s best known for her self published comic, Diary of a Mad Black Werewolf.

1999: Alitha Martinez, Penciler for Marvel Comics

Illustrator Alitha Martinez got her big break in comics in 1999 as a penciler on Cable ’99 Annual (1999).  This may make her the first woman of color to work for Marvel as an artist.  Martinez is of Hoduran and Curaçao heritage. The first Black woman to write for Marvel doesn’t appear until 2016 (see below).

In 2000, she became the regular penciler on Iron Man (Issues 28-40, 2000, w/ Joe Quesada, Frank Tier).

In 2006, she self published her creator-owned comic book title, Yuke and Ever.

2003: Spike Trotman, Jennifer Crute

Spike Trotman, creator of the publishing company Iron Circus, enters the comic book industry via webcomics with her series Templar, Arizona.  She is now one of the most successful independently owned comic book publishers.

Cartoonist Jennifer Crute begins her career in 2003.  Her collection of comic strips, Jennifer’s Journal, is nominated for a Glyph Award.

2006: Ashley Woods, Millennia War

Illustrator, Ashley Woods began her career in 2006 by self publishing her fantasy title Millennia War.  She’s best known for her work on Niobe (published by Stranger Comics, 2015)

2007: Afua Richardson, Genius

Illustrator’s Afua Richardson’s first published work appears in Genius (Image/Top Cow, 2007).  Her work in Black Panther, World of Wakanda will win her an Eisner in 2018.


2009: Felicia Henderson, Teen Titans

Television writer and producer Felicia Henderson becomes the first Black Woman to write comics for DC in 2009, with her run on Teen Titans.

2012: Nilah Macgruder, M.F.K.

Author, illustrator Nilah Macgruder launches the webcomic M.F.K.  The action-adventure series won the very FIRST Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics in 2015.

Also in 2012, Spike Trotmon’s first adult, sex positive anthology Smut Peddler raises $83,000 on Kickstarter.

2013: Ngozi Ukazu, Check Please

The webcomic Check Please is launched in 2013 by author and illustrator Ngozi Ukazu.  In 2015, her first Kickstarter for the self published graphic novel raises $74,290.

2014: Dr. Sheena Howard, First Black Woman to win an Eisner

Dr. Sheena Howard is the recipient of the 2014 Eisner Award for her first book Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation (2013).

2016: Macgruder, Gay, Harvey become First Black women writers at Marvel Comics

In 2016, Nilah Macgruder officially became the first Black woman to write for Marvel with her book A Year of Marvels.  The title was a web exclusive.

Soon after, Marvel published Black Panther; World of Wakanda, written by Roxanne Gay and Yona Harvey and illustrated by Afua Richardson.  In 2018 they won the Eisner Award for Best Limited Series.


When it comes to the comic book industry, you’ll notice immediately that the timeline is very sparse prior to 2009 for reasons I don’t claim to understand.  For this reason, I’ve included milestones in comic strips, webcomics and graphic novels to create a more wholistic timeline. 

It is my belief that such historic moments outside of the “traditional” comic book market played a pivotal role in the success of Black Women in comics today.  For instance, it’s easy to conclude that the internet, and subsequently webcomics, lead to the explosion of Black Women entering the industry in the early 2000’s.  

I welcome any feedback anyone can give me on filling this timeline with the proper dates and names of creators I may have missed.  Please subscribe to my mailing list or Facebook group for correspondence.