Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg brings a strong new voice to comics

Niobe variant cover by Hyoung Taek Nam

The outspoken teen is determined to do more than just talk about issues of race in the media.

Comics fans just got a great reason to celebrate: a new teen superhero, created by a real-life one.

Teen actress Amandla Stenberg has been at the center of political controversy ever since her casting as Rue in The Hunger Games drew an unexpected storm of racist backlash. Now, she’s taking her idealism a step further, and teaming with independent comic publisher Stranger Comics to develop a powerful black comic book character who, much like herself, has the ability to unite communities and give people hope.

Niobe: She Is Life is a nine-issue series coming this November with a story by Stenberg and Stranger Comics CEO Sebastian Jones, and art by Ashley Woods, whose work honoring victims of racialized police brutality went viral earlier this year. Niobe follows the story of a half-elf, half-human orphan on the run from the devil.

Niobe, Issue #1, art by Ashley Woods

Niobe, Issue #1, art by Ashley Woods

Bleeding Cool

The project is part of Stranger Comics launch of several series exploring the universe of Asunda, described variously as a “dark,” and “vast and volatile fantasy world.” Here’s the publisher’s summary for Niobe’s arc:

Niobe Ayutami is an orphaned wild elf teenager and also the would-be savior of the vast and volatile fantasy world of Asunda. She is running from a past where the Devil himself would see her damned toward an epic future that patiently waits for her to bind nations against the hordes of hell. The weight of prophecy is heavy upon her shoulders and the wolf is close on her heels.

In this variant cover by Hyoung Taek Nam, Niobe bears a strong resemblance to Stenberg herself:

Niobe, Issue #1 variant by Hyoung Taek Nam

Niobe, Issue #1 variant by Hyoung Taek Nam

Bleeding Cool

At 13, Stenberg handled her Hunger Games ordeal with dignity, but continued to speak out about the importance of racial equality and awareness of sociopolitical issues that affect black communities. This summer, she drew backlash for speaking out against Kylie Jenner after Jenner wore her hair in cornrows. After the incident, a previous video she made went viral. In it, Stenberg explains how it’s an act of cultural appropriation for white women to wear such hairstyles. 

Stenberg told the Huffington Post that she was drawn to the similarities between her own struggles and Niobe’s:

“I was drawn to give voice to Niobe and co-write her story because her journey is my journey. I connect to her mixed racial background and quest to discover her innate powers and strengths, to learn who she truly is.” 

Stenberg added that “there’s never been a character quite like her—one who shatters the traditional idea of what a hero is.”

Although Niobe will only appear in her own title for nine issues, Stranger Comics is building a line of diverse titles and creators. Jones, who is multiracial, told Huffington Post, “We are everywhere. But there are few companies willing to let us tell our tales.”

Perhaps by adding voices like Stenberg’s into the mix, more doors will open up within the industry for black creators and others whose stories have been hidden for too long.

Photo via Bleeding Cool

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