As a kid who was constantly sketching and creating original characters, I never drew a single black person until the age of 15 when I made the conscious decision to do so. My default for so long was being plugged into this system where I wasn’t represented, that it just never occurred to me. For preexisting characters I was limited to Storm (who conveniently had straight long light hair, a thin nose, and blue eyes), my favorite singers, or…a self portrait.
So in the realms of fiction and fantasy, representation was abysmal. My default when it came to having a vision, was fantasy worlds devoid of people who looked like me…almost like I was emulating the majority of fantasy worlds gasp emoticon !!
I’d find whatever scraps I could and jokingly roll with it. “This character has a tan…..so…she might be part black” “Fran, from Final Fantasy 12? Obviously a black woman….(or a rabbit human with brown fur)” “Panthero, yep. He’s black too” *queue to an 8 year old Odera who legtimately thought Lara Croft was simply a light skinned black woman kicking ass and adventuring*
So with that in mind, today I want to celebrate the works of the illustration legends Leo & Diane Dillon. I actually hadn’t heard of them until I started to study illustration at RISD! So when I look at the Dillons’ vast and glorious body of work I think: These are the types of images I would have absolutely loved to see as a child. Works that show that black lives matter and can thrive in the real world and fictional worlds. We can be singers and athletes, but we can also be knights, magicians, and limitless.
We find out the heart only by dismantling what the heart knows. By redefining the morning, we find a morning that comes just after darkness. We can break through marriage into marriage. By insisting on love we spoil it, get beyond affection and wade mouth-deep into love. We must unlearn the constellations to see the stars. But going back toward childhood will not help. The village is not better than Pittsburgh. Only Pittsburgh is more than Pittsburgh. Rome is better than Rome in the same way the sound of racoon tongues licking the inside walls of the garbage tub is more than the stir of them in the muck of the garbage. Love is not enough. We die and are put into the earth forever. We should insist while there is still time. We must eat through the wildness of her sweet body already in our bed to reach the body within the body.