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The Be-Bop Barbarians: A Graphic Novel

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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 d 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. Stephaney “Stef” Rawls has her own romance-adventure strip for the largest black newspaper, but she still has to work brutal hours as a maid to make ends meet. But 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.


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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 d 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. Stephaney “Stef” Rawls has her own romance-adventure strip for the largest black newspaper, but she still has to work brutal hours as a maid to make ends meet. But 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.

38 review for The Be-Bop Barbarians: A Graphic Novel

  1. 5 out of 5

    Joshua

    A nicely done (fictionalized) history of early moments of Black comics. (I assumed from the title that it would be more of a superhero allegory than it was, but it was still an engaging and educational read.) I also recently learned about Larry Fuller who created and published Ebon, the first Black superhero, but I need to do more research to see how he fits in with this story.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jacky

    Really wanted to spend more time with these characters. Felt like this was meant to be a much broader story but it was actually very short.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lori

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Nicole

  5. 4 out of 5

    Matic Slapšak

  6. 5 out of 5

    NOT CURRENTLY ACTIVE

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jamespc

  8. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Holt

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jay Amari

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mysti Berry

  11. 5 out of 5

    ColumbusReads

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Brown

  13. 5 out of 5

    Adam Smith

  14. 5 out of 5

    Annie

  15. 5 out of 5

    Bailey Luna

  16. 4 out of 5

    Megan

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rianna

  18. 4 out of 5

    Taylor

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tom

  20. 5 out of 5

    Heather

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ben

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Hunter

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sujei

  24. 4 out of 5

    Maryanne

  25. 4 out of 5

    gale

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kara Lauren

  27. 5 out of 5

    Alejandro Merlan

  28. 4 out of 5

    Laura Medicus

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lola Kaye

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

  31. 5 out of 5

    Walter Schoenly

  32. 5 out of 5

    Kim

  33. 4 out of 5

    Alyazia

  34. 4 out of 5

    Candace Hisey

  35. 5 out of 5

    Diana

  36. 4 out of 5

    Scott

  37. 4 out of 5

    Anthony

  38. 4 out of 5

    Rena

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