In 1968, a retired school teacher named Harriet Glickman began to ponder the atrocities done to people of color. Dr. Martin Luther King had just been assassinated. Protests and riots began to take place around the country, as some believed that this was the greatest wave of social disruption experienced since the Civil War. Glickman had a desire to help change conditions in society that led to the assassination of Dr. King. She wanted to do anything to be able to influence her broken society.
Like others before, she realized that comics had the potential to influence others through storytelling. She decided to write to popular comic strips at the time, including Mary Worth and Peanuts. She asked the writers if they would be willing to integrate their comics. Surprisingly enough, the writer of Peanuts responded. Although reluctant at first, he eventually created the first black character in the comic strip: Franklin. Franklin’s first appearance was important, because it was not commonplace for children of different races to be seen playing together in society at the time. The comic strip featured Franklin, a Black child, simply playing on the beach with White children. This was a shocking sight to the world! Before Franklin appeared in Peanuts, white people and people of color did not interact positively in comics. In 1923, one of the first mainstream newspaper comic strips to portray a black man was Tempus Todd. This comic portrayed Black people in a negative and stereotypical light. The fact that Franklin was about to feature in a popular comic, stripped from the usually negative stereotypes placed on Black people at the time showed that Glickman did succeed in her goal of influencing her society.
This is just one example of how comics have been used to influence our society- but if you look at any American comic, you will see its culture and its values sprawled across its pages. Comics can be used as a means for understanding the cultural history of America, as well as a way to get certain ideas across to society. In 2014, the comic book, Ms. Marvel was released. This story was about a Mulsim teenage girl who wrestles with her adolescence, all while transforming into a superhero- and just like many Black children were inspired in the late 60s to see a Black boy in a cartoon, just like them, there are many young Muslims girls who get to look up to someone just like them in a comic book.
Comics have had the ability to affect our society and they always will.