Essential Pittsburgh
2:29 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

Beyond the Funny Pages: The Rich History of Pittsburgh African American Cartoonists

Phantom Lady #17, drawn by Matt Baker
Phantom Lady #17, drawn by Matt Baker
Credit Wikipedia

Visitors to the City County Building this February may find themselves captured by the rich history of Pittsburgh-based African American cartoonists.

In a new exhibit titled Beyond the Funny Pages: The Works of Arts and Life Captured in Comics, Toonseum collaborates with the City Parks office of special events to create a time capsule of art by black cartoonists living in the Steel City. 

Executive Director of Toonseum, Joe Wos, says the city was a hotbed for African American artists because of its ideal cultural character.

“If you look at the two art forms that Pittsburgh embraced and allowed the opportunity for blacks to excel, you had jazz and comics. Those two sort of go hand-in-hand as uniquely American art forms. Those two art forms don’t have the same economic barriers that many other art forms do, so there’s a certain embracing among them within the African American community.”

Chay Tyler, program coordinator for the City Parks office, originally pitched the idea for the exhibit and says much of the inspiration came from his childhood readings of Pittsburgh comics. The two brought the idea to life in time for Black History month and showcases artists including Matt Baker and Jackie Ormes.