Crafting a longer narrative voice for comics wasn't a huge stretch for Pittsburgh artist Yona Harvey.
“I feel like by nature I’m already a visual thinker,” said Harvey, “so that was already alive as a poet.”
Harvey helped make history this year through a collaboration on a new book out Wednesday by Marvel Comics. "World of Wakanda," a spinoff of Ta Nehisi-Coats’ revamp of Black Panther, features the 77-year-old company’s first two black female writers.
Comic book companies like Marvel have strategically targeted diverse characters and promising creators who can bring them to life.
Wakanda's first issue is written by feminist writer Roxane Gay, with a backstory contributed by Harvey about the female revolutionary character Zensi, who incites a riot.
Harvey, a renowned poet and professor at the University of Pittsburgh, said her background in poetry gave her a unique advantage. So did her connection to Zensi.
“Any woman who’s kind of risky or willing to challenge a male figure, even if that male figure is a hero, is pretty intriguing to me, so I think we have that in common,” she said.
Although progress has come slowly, Harvey said she’s happy for the steps Marvel is taking towards diversifying its creators.
“I’m mostly excited, honestly,” said Harvey. “I think it’s never too late to get started, and I hope it just releases a kind of flood. I hope it just makes more space and more room for more voices.”
Local support for the project has been easy to come by in Pittsburgh’s diverse comics community.
“I hope people recognize that I feel like I’m listening and hearing all those diverse voices, and trying to really channel them,” said Harvey. “And I hope that comes out in the story.”