Feb 5 2015
Whit Taylor is a Brooklyn-based cartoonist and comics writer. She won a 2012 Glyph Award for her self-published comic Watermelon and was a 2013 Ignatz Award Nominee for her series, Madtown High. She also writes comics reviews and articles for Panel Patter, The Comics Journal, and Comics Workbook Magazine. She can be found online at her site, WhitTaylor.
Black identity is a complex, multilayered thing.
It’s much like a fine art – finding the line straddling between making exploring race and identity a priority, but also not boring or alienating the reader. Many artists of color struggle to find this balance for most of their careers, and others succeed at it gracefully, without missing a beat.
Enter Whit Taylor’s The Anthropologists.
The Anthropologists is a comic series that focuses on an anthropological trip in Australia back in nostalgic-filled 2005. It’s what Taylor describes as being a “minicomic”, which is just a comic that exists outside the lines of a traditional comic series, either by form or comic length. To me, it was a fresh take on telling an autobiographical story without becoming daunting like others written just as novels.
The Anthropologists is funny, but in a dry, endearing way. It’s almost as if Whit transforms her character to someone you are face-palming and cringing along with when she encounters the awkward situations while in Australia. And at the same time, I felt invested in seeing the story unfold. I knew that Whit would spend her days in Australia and eventually make her way home, but it was the way that she told her story that held me in.
It’s refreshing seeing a travel story feature a Black woman. Usually, these “wanderlust/finding yourself” stories are reserved for those who don’t look like us (ahem, Eat, Pray, Love and Wild). But while intending to or not, centering a nontraditional Black story on this topic shows just how broad the Black story really is.
I also really enjoyed the notes of more academic-sounding terms throughout the comic that was applied to any given situation that Whit has found herself in with the other characters. It creates this new spin on examining anthropology, and bridges the gap between academia and personal influence. It reinforces how people and ideas do not exist in a vacuum, and we are influenced by everything around us.
The Anthropologists may seem like a left-wing choice to review for #BlackComicsMonth, but isn’t the focus supposed to be refitting our definition of Black History? What Whit is able to do, by telling her story truthfully and for others to learn from, does this, with ease. She is able to not just wait to ask for room at the table of Black history; she takes it into her own hands and pulls up a chair of her own.
Reading this comic has given me a fresh perspective on nostalgia, bridging identity, and finding the sweet spot between nostalgia and moving forward.