Say the name Wonder Woman and just about everyone knows who you’re talking about. But what about Wonder Woman’s Black twin sister, Nubia?
Author L. L. McKinney and illustrator Robyn Smith are placing the spotlight on Nubia, DC Comic’s first Black female superhero who debuted in 1973. Nubia is center stage in McKinney and Smith’s newly released graphic novel Nubia: Real One.
In this rendition, Nubia’s story touches on timely themes of equality and identity. As we noted in our review, “L. L. McKinney is the perfect choice to pen Nubia’s story. Her passion for this character is shown in each panel …” Likewise, Robyn Smith’s illustrations are engaging in a way that immediately draws readers into the story. As we said, “The striking artwork by Robyn Smith helps showcase how emotional this novel truly is.”
Such an incredible character deserves all the spotlight she can get. We had the chance to speak with L. L. McKinney and Robyn Smith to learn more about how they approached Nubia.
One thing’s for sure, she’s much more than just “Wonder Woman’s Black twin sister.”
Read our interview below
How important was it for you to bring Nubia front and center in her own story?
L. L. McKinney
Very. I’ve been hollering about Nubia needing to be brought back — as her original self, Diana’s twin — for a long time. We’ve gotten other iterations of her that were, but none were ever her in her former glory. To be able to do that has been beyond amazing.
Everyone deserves to be front and center in the telling of their own story. The entire history of this world has been written and told from limited, and insufficient imaginations, and so Nubia’s story couldn’t be told sufficiently, without her at the center.
How Nubia imagines herself, how she sees the world, what she believes to be true, could never come to life unless she was the central teller/figure of this story.
What do you wish to tell young Black readers who decide to read Nubia’s story?
L. L. McKinney
That being true to who you are and being there for the people you love can be a super power, one you can use all day every day. That’s what’s important.
“I hope this story brings you belly aching joy.” I want Black readers to experience unadulterated joy in being emerged into Nubia’s world. Joy as resistance. Joy as liberation. I want them to read this work and be inspired to imagine new worlds. I want to tell young Black readers that we can use our collective imaginations to envision the worlds we want to be in; worlds where Black folk are free to rest and dream and fight, and dance, and laugh, and relish in all of our humanity.
Do you have any advice for Black storytellers who aspire to enter the comic book field?
L. L. McKinney
Walk into the room, whether the room is a Zoom conference or an email, knowing you deserve to be there. Every time. Because you do.
MAKE A LOT OF NOISE. This question made me think of a poem by Nayyirah Waheed actually, her poems are short but the weight of them sends you into deep meditation on just how beautiful thick and intricate Black stories are.
She says, “your melanin isn’t quiet.
it was born with a wide mouth,
please do not hush your skin,
it’s too beautiful to be silenced.”
So again I’d say, to make all the noise.
Oh. Also get a cat.
DC fans have always known Nubia as the “first Black woman superhero” but not many people know much more about her. How do you expand their knowledge of the character to showcase she’s much more than just that title?
L. L. McKinney
She has friends and family, feelings and fantasies, things she wants to accomplish, things she regrets, things that make her happy and things that upset her. She’s a whole person who just happens to have superpowers.
The truth is, despite having the title “First Black Woman Superhero,” she was created as an enemy. Even worse than that, though, is that she was created to make Wonder Woman more interesting. A lot of characters of colour are created to accent the stories of the white protagonist, so hopefully, by reading our book and other more current iterations of Nubia’s story, DC fans will “expand their knowledge” and not claim to know her based just on her appearance in 1973.
What scene in Nubia do you think represents her best? One that tells readers they need to pick up this novel.
L. L. McKinney
I think the scene where she goes to a party. She’s incredibly nervous about it, questioning the decisions she made about her outfit, whether she should be here or not, but her friends stop what they’re doing to talk to her, tell her she’s okay to have those feelings, and her friends are here to help her through this moment. It’s a moment of quiet heroism that happens all the time.
All the scenes haha. I mean Nubia’s personality is jumping off every page. Elle really created a whole person when she wrote Nubia. Everything she does, says and is, is Nubia.
About Nubia: Real One
Can you be a hero…if society doesn’t see you as a person?
Nubia has always been a little bit…different. As a baby she showcased Amazonian-like strength by pushing over a tree to rescue her neighbor’s cat. But, despite having similar abilities, the world has no problem telling her that she’s no Wonder Woman. And even if she was, they wouldn’t want her. Every time she comes to the rescue, she’s reminded of how people see her: as a threat. Her Moms do their best to keep her safe, but Nubia can’t deny the fire within her, even if she’s a little awkward about it sometimes. Even if it means people assume the worst.
When Nubia’s best friend, Quisha, is threatened by a boy who thinks he owns the town, Nubia will risk it all — her safety, her home, and her crush on that cute kid in English class — to become the hero society tells her she isn’t.
From the witty and powerful voice behind A Blade So Black, L.L. McKinney, and with endearing and expressive art by Robyn Smith, comes a vital story for today about equality, identity and kicking it with your squad.
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