Beyond Impossible with Nilah Magruder

I had a chance to talk with Nilah Magruder as part of my Beyond Impossible project. Beyond Impossible is a series of brief conversations with creators of color. My concern with black imaginary is on display in multiple ways this year. I should probably go around call this the "Year of the Black Imaginary."  I will at some point:-). Right now, I hard at work creating the corpus of conversation with creators in the comic field.  As I point out often, I am an urban historian. I have recently been label cultural historian. I accept this label, but I like to point out we are in majority urban habitation environmental, therefore being a urban historian is being a cultural historian (I'm being difficult. I'm sorry). As a historian concerned with culture and the city:-) I have a concern for the real and imagined urban experience. What I mean by this is I am concern with perceptions linked to urban spaces and those perceptions effect on policy created to govern and change those spaces. Moreover, I am intrigued by how the identities and communities found in the urban can fostered or hampered perceptions linked to those spaces. The black imaginary offers an important space to understand how black creative endeavors create a space to challenge the dominate society through direct and indirect means. The black imaginary is inherently political in this framing, but need not be concern with creating political objects. Instead, the act of black voices in the public sphere creates a sociopolitical counter-narrative by its very existence. Nilah Magruder is good example of these complexities.  

Nilah Magruder is comic book writer, artist and animator. She is the winner of the 2015 Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity. My conversation with Magruder come after Marvel announced that Roxanne Gay and Yona Harvey would be the first black women to write for Marvel with the publication of World of Wakanda (due out in November 2016). While they will be the first black women to write an ongoing series, Magruder is the first black woman to write a story. She wrote a one-shot in A Year of Marvels: September Infinite Comic #1. Magruder’s story is a digital only and available through Marvel Unlimited, a subscription-based service. Her story features Tippy Toe and Rocket Raccon and is drawn by Siya Oum.

Magruder accomplishment should be taken seriously and framed in a different light than Gay and Harvey's work.  Magruder following a pattern nurturing new talent established by Marvel for more than a decade. Considering those writers that have been employed by the House of Ideas in recent years, everyone has had a career as an indy writer or artist before getting a chance at Marvel.  From Matt Fraction to Jonathan Hickman, these writers made their mark with creator own work.  Magruder fits this mode well. She has garnering a following with her webcomics MFK and projects like We Don’t Go There At Night.  Moreover, she continues to innovate with her new children's book, How to Find a Fox.   Taken together, she is an example of how a creator from a diverse background represents an intersection of concerns. 

Rethinking the City: Alex Cummings on the Creative City

I spoke with Alex Cummings for Rethinking the City about his research on the creative city. For years the concept of the creative class has been at the center of how some planners and urban advocates have promoted revitalizing urban centers. In this conversation, Alex Cummings unpacks the complexity around the fallacy linked to the creative city concept. 

Dr. Cummings is a historian of law, technology, and American political culture. His work examines how the ideological transition to an “information society” reshaped American culture, economic policy, and the built environment from the late nineteenth to the early twenty-first century. He earned his BA in History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and went on to receive an MA (2005) and PhD (2009) in History from Columbia University, studying with Elizabeth Blackmar and Barbara Fields.

His first book, Democracy of Sound: Music Piracy and the Remaking of American Copyright in the Twentieth Century, was published by Oxford University Press in 2013, and has been reviewed in publications such as PasteBlurtReason, Pop Matters, and Entertainment Law Review, among others. His next project, Brain Magnet: RTP and the Idea of the Idea Economy, looks at North Carolina’s Research Triangle region as a landscape of the high-tech economy of the late twentieth century. It approaches the same economic and technological shift that Democracy of Sound examined through law by looking instead at local boosterism, the role of the federal government in fostering high-technology “hubs” such as the Triangle, and the changing racial and class demographics of the prosperous, sprawling metropolitan area encompassing Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and Durham. His article, “Brain Magnet: Research Triangle Park and the Origins of the Creative City, 1953-1965,” is forthcoming in the Journal of Urban History.

Dr. Cummings has been the recipient of the Torbet Prize, a Whiting Fellowship, a postdoctoral fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies, and a Dean’s Early Career Award at Georgia State University.  His work has appeared in the Journal of American HistorySouthern Cultures, and Technology and Culture, among other publications. He is also the co-editor of the history blog Tropics of Meta.