Greensboro’s fantastic four by: Blair Barnes
Marcus Williams, a professional illustrator and comic book artist from Atlanta, was asked by a comic convention organizer to create an illustration inspired by the Greensboro Four. The illustration showed the men sitting down with their shadows in front of them. However, at a second glance, you could see their shadows reflected four different images of superheroes.
Williams had not heard of the Greensboro Four prior to being asked and decided to research the history behind them. He was completely astonished. He was excited to know he could inform his younger audience about African-American history through his art.
He wanted to show his viewers that heroes are ordinary people just like them.
“You don’t have to wear a costume or a cap to be a superhero because real heroes look like us,” said Williams.
Williams aims to strengthen the knowledge of black history through audiences of ethnicities within through his comics. He enjoys receiving real interactions versus online comments. “You get to see the genuine excitement in their eyes,” Williams expressed.
The novel is catching on at many higher institutions across the state.
“This is a relatable and positive presentation of history in the south and it keeps the younger generation engaged,” said Dr. Bryan Giemza, the University of North Carolina (UNC) Southern Historical collection director.
Dr. Giemza looks forward to adding the Greensboro Four piece to the civil rights collection at UNC.
Last Oct., Williams created a series of illustrations entitled “Swaptober.” Swaptober is a 31-day art challenge that focuses on swapping your favorite games, comics, movies, and fantasy characters. Williams created several Swaptober pieces featuring well-known characters, such as a black female Frozone, Power Ranger, and Green Lantern.
Currently, he has his first comic book series entitled Tuskegee Heirs. In the book, Williams travels 80 years into the future with a troop of young leaders who are bound to be Earth’s last hope.
“I love to see local African-American history,” said Edward Love, an archive specialist at North Carolina A&T State University. Love bought and donated a few copies of the Tuskegee Heirs novel so students could read them. He also grabbed a copy of the Greensboro Four poster to place in the library archives.
Overall, Williams’ black comic representation is revolutionary or a genre that isn’t always the most diverse.
“I love how Williams took on regular comic book characters and turned them into African- American representatives. I think it’s awesome because my son is into anime and comics. There is definitely a lack in characters who look like him,” said Tim McGoogan, a North Carolina A&T State University alumnist.
In the future, Williams plans to collaborate with other artists such as Danny Quick, an Aggie alumni illustrator. While digging deep into African-American history, Williams will continue to create comic book series that capture the minds of younger audiences for future generations.
For more information on Marcus Williams and his comic book adventures, visit, @marcusthevisual (main page), @tuskegeeheirs, and @theaceblade on Instagram.