Born in New York in 1958, cartoonist Barbara Brandon became the first African-American female to have a nationally syndicated comic strip. She studied at Syracuse University's College of Visual and Performing Arts, graduating in 1980. Brandon then worked briefly for Elan magazine and then became a beauty and fashion writer for Essence magazine. In 1989, she launched her comic strip Where I'm Coming From in the Detroit Free Press. Brandon was able to take the strip national two years. Where I'm Coming From ran in newspapers until 2005.
Early Life and Career
Born in New York on November 27, 1958, cartoonist Barbara Brandon made history as the first African-American woman to have a nationally syndicated comic strip. She grew up around cartoons as the daughter of Brumsic Brandon Jr. Her father created the Luther comic strip, which he started in the 1960s.
Brandon pursued her own interest in the arts as a student at Syracuse University. She studied at the university's College of Visual and Performing Arts, earning her fine arts degree in 1980. Not long after graduation, Brandon landed a job at creating cartoons for a magazine called Elan. The publication, unfortunately, went out of business before her work could appear. Brandon later became a fashion and beauty writer for Essence magazine.
Groundbreaking Comic Strip: 'Where I'm Coming From'
In 1989, Brandon debuted her groundbreaking comic strip Where I'm Coming From in the Detroit Free Press. The strip featured a diverse group of African-American women—from activist Lekesia to single mom and business owner Lydia. In the Syracuse University Magazine, Brandon described her work as "a weekly strip that explores life and relationships—universal themes—some of which come from a black sensibility."
Brandon landed a development contract with Universal Press Syndicate to take her comic strip to a national audience. In 1991, Where I'm Coming From started to appear in newspapers across the country. Her strip received a warm welcome from many. In an interview with Editor & Publisher, she said, "I've received letters from people who say the characters kind of remind them of themselves. That's the best compliment you can get."
In the drawing of Where I'm Coming From, Brandon chose to focus only on the characters' heads and hands. This was a conscious decision by Brandon. As she explained to Editor & Publisher, "I'm a little tired of how women are portrayed in videos, car ads and elsewhere. We're always summed up by our bodies. I just want to give us a little more dignity."
By 2005, however, interest in Where I'm Coming From had waned. It was only being carried by seven newspapers when Brandon decided to end the strip. After 14 years, in March 2005, she published her last Where I'm Coming From strip.
Brandon is married to musician Monte Croft. The couple has a son named Chase.
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