Brand New Nubia

DC gives Wonder Woman’s Black twin sister a new teen graphic novel

DC Comics first introduced Wonder Woman’s Black twin sister Nubia back in 1973. Now, author LL McKinney is bringing Nubia to a new generation of readers with her young-adult graphic novel, Nubia: Real One.

McKinney grew up reading Nubia, and had long wanted to showcase the character, as she explained during a recent Virtuous Con panel.

“She deserved to be back to who she was, Wonder Woman’s twin sister … her equal in every way,” McKinney said. “I wanted to bring her back to that.”

Her years of pitches paid off on two fronts. McKinney wrote two new Nubia stories that are part of the Immortal Wonder Woman DC Comics series. And Nubia: Real One, with illustrations by Robyn Smith, gives us Nubia as a Black teen.

Nubia is a superhero learning how and when to use her powers. She’s also a 17-year-old who sneaks out to a party and summons her bravery to talk to a crush. She’s equal parts superhero and high-schooler, reflected in the storyline and in the color palette Smith helped choose, full of pink hues.

“I love the color pink a lot,” Smith said at Virtuous Con. “For me, conflating that with power is something I really wanted to do in the book.”

Nubia and her mothers, Amera and Danielle, have had to move from city to city to avoid detection. They’ve been successful so far at their latest stop, and Nubia’s bonded with pals Jason and Quisha. But there are also bullies and harassers at school and in their community. Nubia hones her power by doling out righteous, thrilling justice.

Nubia

As the graphic novel opens, we see her foil a convenience-store robbery. She runs off to avoid onlookers who witness her immense strength, and sits on the curb to gather her thoughts. A police cruiser pulls up and the officer begins questioning her, insisting she matches the description of one of the thieves.

“Kids like us get shot,” Nubia thinks, as tears start to fall.

“See, you crying like this makes me think you’ve got something to hide, and you don’t want me finding out,” the officer pushes.

Such scenes reflect a reality not often depicted in comics. McKinney, author of the young-adult A Blade So Black trilogy, said she’d hear on school visits from students who loved superhero stories, but didn’t see themselves and their communities represented.

“They’d say, ‘It’s really neat how you can have these heroes that can avert natural disasters … but none of them seem to deal with anything that affects the Black community’,” she said. “I’m going to give these kids that hero.”

Importantly, McKinney and Smith also show us Amera and Danielle’s deep support and nurturing of their daughter, from the comfort, advice and inspiration the mothers share to their well-meaning boundaries. We see Nubia’s budding romance with Oscar, and her joy, especially in panels that show parts of a house party she attends. In Nubia: Real One, Nubia gets to be a hero with her full humanity on display.

“She doesn’t need her strength with her friends and family,” McKinney said. “Her strength is the people around her.”

It’s a layered portrait of nascent power that should both entertain devotees and amplify Nubia for new fans.

(DC Comics, Feb. 23, 2021)

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Sharyn Vane

Sharyn Vane has reported and edited at newspapers in Washington, D.C., Colorado, Florida and Texas. For the last decade she has written about literature for young people for the Austin American-Statesman.

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