Archive for Pioneers

Guest of Honor: NICHELLE NICHOLS

By · April 19, 2008 · Filed in Pioneers, Previous Guests · Comments Off

Nichelle Nichols began her professional singing and dancing career in her home town, Chicago, at the tender age of 14. As a teenager, she was discovered by the great Duke Ellington who hired her to choreograph and perform a ballet for one of his musical suites, and finished the tour as his lead singer. Nichelle has performed in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, including guest artist with Lionel Hampton’s band.

Nichelle was cast by Gene Roddenberry to create Lt. Uhura in his legendary TV series, Star Trek. Subsequently, co-starred in the six blockbuster Star Trek motion pictures. She is in constant demand to appear before the millions of “Trekkers” who keep the dream alive around the world.

Here is a tribute video created by Mizanmedia honoring Nichelle Nichols for her work as Lt. (Cmdr.) Uhura in the world of Star Trek for the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention (ECBACC) in 2008.

She was twice nominated for the coveted Sarah Siddons Award for best actress for her performances in the theatre productions of Jenet’s “The Blacks” and the Oscar Brown Jr. musical “Kicks and Company.” She starred in the touring Broadway hits, “Horowitz and Mrs. Washington,” and “Nunsense II”. In her one-woman show, “REFLECTIONS,”, she ‘becomes’ twelve legendary female entertainers, utilizing her beautiful three octave vocal range to rave reviews and plans for a CD album and a OVD of “REFLECTIONS.”

Nichelle was chosen to perform as guest solo artist with the Erie Pennsylvania Philharmonic Orchestra for their 80th Anniversary Celebration. She also performed as solo artist with the Symphony Orchestra of the California State University-Northridge, where she previously was commencement speaker for their School of Arts. Her latest CD album, “NICHELLE… OUT OF THIS WORLD, contains her original composition, “Gene,” in honor of “The Great Bird”.

On January 9, 1992, Nichelle was awarded her much deserved star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. A few weeks before, she became the first African-American to place her handprints and signature in the cement walk at the famous Mann’s (Grauman’s) Chinese Theatre. Along with her other command crew members on the Starship Enterprise, Nichelle was installed in a special exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, an unprecedented accolade for the entertainment industry.

Nichelle’s autobiography, “BEYOND UHURA,” and her first sci-fi novel, “SATURN’S CHILD,” featuring and intergalactic heroine, Saturna and its sequel, “SATURA’S QUEST” received critical acclaim. Currently, she is developing a children’s Edutainment franchise, “EUREKA ROAD”. In recognition of her many accomplishments, Nichelle was conferred a Doctor of Arts, honoris causa, from Marywood College on their 80th anniversary at which she delivered the commencement address. In July 2002, she was inducted as an Honorary Member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.

Nichelle’s public service activities have been equally outstanding. Under contract to NASA she took on the daunting task to successfully recruit the first women and minority astronauts for the Space Shuttle Program, for which she received NASA’S distinguished Public Service Award for her pioneering efforts. She continues as a member of the Board of Governors of the National Space Society, and as a member of the Advisory Board of the International Space Camp.
In 2004 Nichelle was selected as one of the International Human Rights Consortium’s FETE d’EXCELLENCE Laureates. The commendation reads:

You have been selected for the Medaille d’Excellence 2004 in the category of ‘Edutainment.’ This is in recognition of your being a true innovator, a woman of courage and commitment to the deepest values of excellence through your artistry within the world of entertainment and also as an innovative educator and patron to learning and inspiring the budding minds and hearts of youth.”

Nichelle recently was chosen to join the cast, beginning in the second season, of the NBC blockbuster television series “HEROES”.

Read the latest news and information about Nichelle Nichols at www.uhura.com.

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Larry Fuller

By · May 1, 2007 · Filed in Pioneers · Comments Off

Larry Fuller, (aka “A. Christian White”) is one of the undisputed kings of the Underground Comix era. Along with other such notables as Richard “Grasshopper” Green, Guy Colwell, and his long-time pardner and friend, Raye Horne, he left an indelible mark in the history of comic books. These gentlemen made sure that the voices of Black comic book creators were heard in a time when our artistic efforts were largely ignored.

Writer, self-publisher, and tireless promoter, Fuller mastered the art of delivering social commentary in a humorous format like no other. Even today his landmark work is studied both here and abroad for its historical significance.”

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Turtel Onli

By · May 1, 2006 · Filed in Pioneers · Comments Off


Onli is a creative artist whose career has touched upon a variety of disciplines. He has been an art therapist, educator, and illustrator. He has also distinguished himself in painting, drawing, illustration, publishing, fashion, and multimedia production. This includes an extensive exhibition and publication record. He is known for having coined the term Rhythmistic to interpret his stylizations which fuse primitive and futuristic concepts. Onli earned a BFA and MAAT from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago which included studies in Paris France at the Sorbonne and Centre Pompidue. He has work in the collections of The Children’s Museum of Chicago, The DuSable Museum, Alice Coltrane, and has freelanced with the Rolling Stones, McDonalds, Motown, and Holt, Rinehart, &Winston to name a few.

Recently he curated a major museum type exhibition featuring the visionary charts created by his late grandfather and Onli’s own Rhythmistic paintings. This show was called, “An Artistic and Spiritual Legacy”and was presented at the Center for the Visual and Performing Arts in Munster Indiana.
He is a regular participant n the School of the Art Institute’s annual alumni fundraiser, Barewalls! Along with various art fairs in the Midwest. He is expanding his Rhythmistic concept to create paintings and drawings that are desirable to collectors of al levels. This includes floral, metaphysical concepts,
religious themes, and abstractions. All of them are treated with some aspects of the Rhythmistic construct. This growing body of originals and prints is a practical way for collectors to extend the pleasure and value of their collections.
Onli feels that ownership is the highest form of appreciation. This works for the home, business or place of meditation. He is available for commissions as well.

Turtel Onli is the “Father” of the “Black Age of Comics”concept.

Career landmarks:

  • 1970 Founded the Black Arts Guild which featured touring art exhibitions and publishing.
  • 1974 Published “Funk Book” & BAG greeting cards.
  • 1977 Fine art accepted in the 2nd World Festival of Black and African Art and Culture in Lagos Nigeria.
  • 1980 Co-published a “zine” called “PAPER: with the Osun Center of The Arts.
  • 1981-82 Published NOG: The Protector of the Pyramides, and five issues of another early “zine’, “Future-Funk”.
  • 1984-89 Opened and directed the Black on Black Love Fine Arts Center in the Robert Taylor Public Housing Development, and directed the Cosmopolitan Daydream Talent management company.

The ‘90s until present

Officially re-introduced the term the Black Age of Comics in 1990 at the Chicago Comic Con in a social meeting with Denys Cowan, Gil Ashley, Rex Perry, and Mike Davis. Published Malcolm-10, Sustah-Girl: Queen of the Black Age (With Cassandra Washington), and NOG is BACK!!!. Illustrated the Grammar Patrol, The Numidian Force, and various freelance assignments. Featured in a zine by Pedro Bell of P-Funk fame called “ZEEP”

Organized the first and many more Black Age of Comics Conventions in Chicago. Worked with Omega Seven, Alonzo Washington, Roland Laird, Harlem Week, the San Diego Comic Con, The Chicago Comic Con, Milestone Media and Cassandra Washington on a landmark Black Comics Tour. Distributed Black Age books on a national level. Featured on the “E” Channel in a special dealing with independent comic books and animation.

On local cable TV and college radio Onli would present a state of the Black Age annual show.

Became a full time teacher of Visual Art and a coach for Girls Varsity basketball in the Chicago Public School System. This also included an after school program in Comic book art/ publishing that led to the publication of a student created anthology.

Created and maintains the internet based Rhythmistic Museum as a resource on appreciating specific art movements as the Black Age and Rhythmism.

Personal quote:

“This is a war of minds, creativity, and culture to secure market share and to change lives in the past, present, and future. Take a licking and come out kicking. A positive fantasy life usually results in a positive reality.”

You can find out more about Onli and his artwork by putting his full name into an internet based search engine such as Yahoo.com or go to dablackage.blogspot.com or Email: Multiglobe@aol.com

Onli and Avery Brooks Photo – In 1995 he was asked by Avery Brooks of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fame to come to the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta to present the Black Age of Comics

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Tony Tallarico

By · May 1, 2006 · Filed in Pioneers · Comments Off

Born in Brooklyn, NY

Attended: School of Industrial Arts, School Visual Arts

Lives in Valley Stream, NY with Bride, Elvira (44 Years)

Freelance Cartoonist, Illustrator, Author of over 1,000 children’s books…including “WHERE ARE THEY?” series that has sold over 11 million copies world-wide. Also, “I CAN DRAW…” series as well as “FUN-FILLED” series, “ENCYCLOPEDIA”, “DICTIONARY”, “BIOGRAPHY”, “GEOGRAPHY”, “ULTIMATE PICTURE” series.

I did the first Black hero comic book “LOBO” and the first political satire comic book “THE GREAT SOCIETY COMIC BOOK”. “TRIVIA-TREAT” comic strip with writer wife. Most important creations are daughter Nina Reyes and son Tony John. Top grandchildren, Maria & Christopher.

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Bertram Fitzgerald

By · May 1, 2005 · Filed in Pioneers · Comments Off

Silver Age comics writer and publisher Bertram Fitzgerald was honored with the festival’s Pioneer Award.

In a time when the re-ascension of the superhero genre began crowding out comics of other genres, Fitzgerald was unique in that not only did he fashion a career self-publishing historical comics, but he did so for a historically underserved market and attracted major corporate sponsorship in the process.

A graduate of Brooklyn College with an accounting degree, who also served in the Air Force, Fitzgerald was always drawn to reading in general and comics in specific. Among his favorite novelists included Alexander Dumas and Alexander Pushkin, but he was frustrated that the African heritage of these writers was being overlooked in biographical records.

Determined to present an account of Black history that could be utilized as an educational tool, Fitzgerald got together with writer artist Leo Carty, an army friend he had worked with before, to publish what would be the first in a series of comics called Golden Legacy, in 1966.The initial subject was Toussaint L’Ouverture and the Haitian slave revolt, and over time, Fitzgerald would attract other creators to tackle a wide range of biographies, some written by Fitzgerald himself, of historical Black figures, including Harriet Tubman, Crispus Attucks, Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr., 16 in all through 1976.While he was able to secure distribution through commission men who serviced specialized products to the Black community, getting payment from them was often difficult.

Fitzgerald put his accounting degree to use by approaching Coca Cola, appealing to the fact that Blacks accounted for a higher per capita share of soft drinks as an enticement for them to sponsor Black-related products. At the company’s request, Fitzgerald suspended newsstand distribution until a deal could be brokered, and a year later, the third volume of Golden Legacy came out with a full cover back ad for Coke with Black models. In addition, Coke bought bulk amounts of the comic at discount and distributed them free to libraries, schools and charitable organizations, including the NAACP. Over time, additional sponsors would include McDonald’s,AT&T, Exxon and Columbia Pictures.

During the 70’s, Fitzgerald took on other projects. In 1970 he wrote an anti-drug one-shot called Drugs… Where It’s At, a full-sized,four-color publication. In 1976, he created an Archie-like teen comedy book called Fast Willie Jackson with artist Gus Lemoine. Lasting only seven issues, it had an integrated cast of characters, drawn in the classic Don DeCarlo Archie style, with 70’s slang and clothing. Though each issue had increased sales, the series did not break even until the seventh, last, issue, right as Fitzgerald was about to close an animation deal with Filmation, makers of the “Fat Albert” cartoon show.

In 1983, all 16 volumes of Golden Legacy were bootlegged as a result of Fitzgerald giving out circulation figures to an outside party who operated under false pretenses. Fitzgerald filed suit against both the party and the printer, which led to a trial that lasted four years.Though he was given an award, the party disappeared and the printer filed an appeal. The stress of the suit led to him retiring from publishing, and he continued working for the New York City Mayor’s Office as its communications industry advocate. His Golden Legacy series remains in print and continues to hold up as an example of the ability of comics to both educate and entertain.

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Samuel Joyner

By · May 1, 2004 · Filed in Pioneers · Comments Off

In an ongoing quest to bring recognition to our pioneering Cartoonists of Color, we present an illustrator whose resume & portfolio of art has successfully endured five decades.

Born in 1924 to an entrepreneurial Philadelphia interior house painter is Samuel Joyner. By the age of 7 he drew imitations of cartoons in the daily paper. Shortly after the 1930 depression was in full force upon the nation. Being one of 4 brothers, Mr. Joyner’s parents somehow managed to supply him with how to draw books & materials because they saw how fascinated he was with drawing.

Encouraged by his elementary school teachers, he was recommended for lessons at the Free Graphic Sketch Club in south Philadelphia on Saturday mornings. Although the art instruction here was free, the students had to supply their own art material, such as charcoal, pencils, colored chalk & etc. Still his parents sacrificed and kept him in supplies for the classes.The art classes opened up a new world for the teen-aged Samuel Joyner. He discovered pastels & plate finished vellum & bristol board. His junior high art teacher allowed him to cut the design for the school yearbook on linoleum block, which served as the printing plate for the yearbook cover.

In the 1930’s there were few role models for young Black artists to emulate, & even fewer Black-owned magazines to submit art work to, yet Samuel Joyner never lost sight of his ambitions to be an artist. In 1939, young Mr. Joyner entered South Philadelphia High school with hopes of earning a living with his artistic talent. Although he enjoyed swimming & basketball with friends, Black NBA players were still unheard of.

His high school art teacher, which he greatly respected took him aside one day, and warned him not to get his hopes up about becoming an illustrator or a commercial artist. He told him that the Black community had no mass circulation magazines, no top quality advertising agencies, or successful art services that he could work for. The instructor asked young Joyner how he planned to make a living, knowing this. in spite of his being a very skilled & talented artist, but no mainstream art directors or art departments would hire him simply because of his race. Instead, the teacher suggested that he study landscaping. He believed White people wouldn’t have a problem with a Black man cutting their grass or shaping hedges or arranging flower beds. To the teacher, this was a reasonable artistic outlet for a creative young Black man.

(Keep in mind, in 1940, there were no publications such as Ebony, Essence,Vibe for Black artists to submit work to.)

There were, however Black-owned newspapers with national circulation, such as the Pittsburgh Courier, but even if an artist could get his/her work published in it, there was the reality that in those days race-intolerant groups like the White Citizens’ Council & the KKK who would burn the crates of newspapers at the railway yards, & what was left sometimes was only an incomplete part of the edition.

Role models were few during the 40s, yet one day, Mr. Joyner happened upon a copy of Esquire Magazine. (known for its glamorous pin-up girl paintings) In a photo of the art staff, he noticed one E. Simms Campbell listed as the cartoonist. Campbell not only painted attractive four color cartoons of sensuous women, he also wrote the gags & punch lines for the ‘pretty girl’ cartoons. Campbell not only contributed art to Esquire, but to The Saturday Evening Post, Judge Magazine & Life. He also had a syndicated cartoon with King Features called Cuties. E. Campbell Simms, Joyner was delighted to discover, was African American.

This discovery enforced his belief that there was a chance he could earn a living as an illustrator. He transferred out of South Philadelphia High School, to the Edward Bok Vocational Technical High School. Here he pursued his training in commercial art under the guidance of teacher who this time was himself Black, the renown artist, Samuel Brown.

During the war years, Samuel Joyner was drafted in 1943. His considerable talent was used to paint sings on military equipment, & lettering army charts. It is important to note, according to Mr. Joyner, while Black soldiers fought for the American way & freedom in World War 2, while stationed in Alabama, when it came time to eat, the White troops went first, then the captured Nazi prisoners ate next. All U.S. Black troops were fed last!

After an honorable discharge, Mr. Joyner used his veteran benefits to continue his education, graduating from the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art in 1948. He continued mailing decorative spot drawings & gag cartoons to publications of the day, & like most of us accumulated a collection of rejection slips. “But I also received checks in the mail…” This was the encouragement that launched a professional career as a cartoonist.

With determination & a full portfolio of work, thanks to successful selling of illustrations to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Mr. Joyner landed a free-lance position with the headquarters of the publication division of Board of Christian Education of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., developing drawings for Sunday School material & church literature. This job took on a multitude of forms; weekly papers, quarterly & monthly magazines, paperbacks & coloring books.

In the 1950’s, while sharing studio space with two other cartoonist, Mr. Joyner got the opportunity to assist (anonymously) in the drawing background or lettering many popular comic strips & books. Also during the `50’s he became the first Black man to work as an illustrator for a prestigious art service. His drawings appeared on brochures & supplements for corporations such as Sears & General Electric. Although his work was used as long as no one knew who drew it, Samuel Joyner found it difficult to simply show his portfolio in person in these same corporations. He would find himself sitting all day in the outer office until closing without ever being shown in to see the art directors. (Some things never change)

Also in the early 50s, he marries. His oldest son is born the following year, so they found it necessary to move from his apartment & buy a house. This called for a second job. He inked an agreement to provide cartoons & illustrations for a national Negro publication, Color Magazine to create artwork on a freelance basis, later becoming the publication’s art director. Color had a circulation of 70,000 to 200,000. This 14 hour day task was bringing in good pay until the 1960 recession. His first job reduced it’s staff & Color magazine folded.

In the 60’s, he worked as an illustrator for the Navy department, airbrushing technical illustrations of machines & weapons for handbooks & parts manuals. With the help of his wife & children Samuel Joyner opened a store-front print & graphics shop, where he illustrated everything from booklet covers & letterheads to hair conditioner labels & posters.

All the while, he continued his education, attending Temple University, College of Education. Ultimately reaching his goal as a technical high school art teacher. From 1971 to 74, he gave back to the community at at the Visual Communications Middle School, and Commercial art at Bok Vocational Technical High School from 74 until 1990, when he retired from the Philadelphia School Board to create freelance artwork for a school text book publishing firm.

Still he continues to draw cartoons. From 1947 until today, the art of Samuel Joyner, & the energy provided by God, still meets the deadlines of scores of Black Press publications such as the Texas Houston Sun, The Philadelphia Tribune, the Georgia Metro Courier, the Orlando Times, the Virginia New Journal & Guide, the Ohio Buckeye Review & many others.

(I’m proud to say that my cartoon, Things That Make You Go Hmm… sometimes share the pages of the Buckeye Review with the art of Samuel Joyner.)

Samuel Joyner acknowledges that it’s only by the grace of God he has survived the ins & outs, the ups, downs & sideways of the art business. we agree, & salute another living chapter in African American heritage & Pioneer Cartoonist of Color. This article taken from http://www.clstoons.com/index.pdf

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