In Your Black Friend and Other Strangers, Ben Passmore masterfully tackles comics about race, gentrification, the prison system, online dating, gross punks, bad street art, kung fu movie references, beating up God, and lots of other grown-up stuff with refreshing doses of humor and lived relatability.
The title comic earned Passmore an Eisner nomination, Ignatz Award for “Outstanding Comic”, and a coveted spot on NPR’s 100 Favorite Graphic Novels list.
The comics in this 120-page collection include works previously published by The Nib, VICE, and the As You Were anthology, along with brand new and unreleased material.
These comics are essential, humorous, and accessible, told through Passmore’s surreal lens in the vibrant full-color hues of New Orleans.
Hard Cover, 120 full-color pages, 6″ x 9″
SILVER #086; ISBN:978-1-945509-20-9; Previews: DEC171793
Purchase: Silver Sprocket Store
“Your Black Friend,” one of the buzziest comics in recent years, is by a young artist who cut his teeth in the anarchist-punk scene of New Orleans. Reading and discussing Frantz Fanon’s “Black Skin, White Masks” with a friend in 2016, Ben Passmore realized, as he told an interviewer, the extent to which “we, black punks, live in a different world than our white friends.” With a comics festival on the horizon, Passmore, inspired, quickly drew and photocopied his missive of alienation to debut there. The 11-page story was soon reissued as a full-color pamphlet by Silver Sprocket (a tiny San Francisco-based comics publisher that is also a bicycle club and an activist collective) and it snapped up numerous industry awards. Now Passmore is out with YOUR BLACK FRIEND AND OTHER STRANGERS (Silver Sprocket, $20), a beautifully printed collection tackling dysphoria and difference.
Passmore presents an impressive range of work in the collection, which includes impressionistic one-page pieces. The best of these is a first-person meditation on his decision to cut contact with his white, Trump-supporting mother; brief but haunting, it stuck with me for a long time. The book also includes more sprawling sci-fi stories that showcase Passmore’s dense, colorful drawings; he’s clearly invested in genre, and there are echoes of Gary Panter’s fantastically dystopic “Jimbo” comic strip here. “I’m not really a reporter-type dude, I’m really into drawing mutants and people punching other people,” Passmore told Newsarama last year. But as “Your Black Friend” reveals, when Passmore observes daily life — reporting on its own kind of mutancy — his work explodes with force.
Ben Passmore’s Your Black Friend and Other Strangersis a collection, not a graphic novel, but it tells a story and tells it loud. This story, Passmore writes in the introduction, is “about how to be dangerous, how to be a failure, how to laugh in the face of a world that wants to crush us. … And we all fail, homies, it’s OK. We just have to learn how to fail upward.” He adds that “there are a bunch of comics in here that are supposed to turn you into anarchists,” and with that goal he pours out his thoughts on racism, the Black Lives Matter and Antifa movements, hypocrisy, Trump, the police, God and what it’s like to go to jail. He writes lavishly, excessively, piling on observations and theories until he nearly overflows his word balloons.
Ben Passmore is a writer of great nuance and clarity, which is a tough exacta to hit, but he does it panel after panel, with a self-awareness that’s never needlessly demonstrative, and with wit, humor and sharp lines (I mean ‘line’ in two ways there). One hope I have for the reception of this book is that while people are noting how good the stuff Ben has to say is, they won’t neglect to mention that as a visual artist he utterly shreds; reading his stuff, you feel like you’re reading already-classic underground comics. I grew up on underground comics; they expanded my horizons; I know Ben’s work will do that for people growing up on comics in the present-day, and that’s really exciting to me. Anyway, buy this book and read it: it will challenge and entertain you in equal measures.
This contentious volume collects Passmore’s short comic pieces into a powerhouse argument for antiracist action. Passmore attacks not only the overt racism that surfaced during the 2016 presidential election but also the subtler forms of prejudice experienced daily by people of color. Passmore doesn’t disguise his belief that “we all need to be anarchists,” particularly in the multi–award-winning title story. Other graphic essays detail his experience being jailed following a protest, well-meaning political misfires in New Orleans during the controversy surrounding the removal of statues of Confederate soldiers, and the destructive effect of the 2016 election on family relationships, with some dystopian sci-fi and early zine work tucked in for indie fans. He cuts down obvious targets, but also takes to task “establishment lefty groups” for favoring drama over risk, the ACLU for defending hate speech, and Black Lives Matter for choosing respectability over revolution. Passmore’s intimate and funny style buoys his radical argument, that everyone should work to destroy systemic oppression, in this bracing and eye-opening narrative manifesto.
Ben Passmore is one of my favorite cartoonists; his radical comic Your Black Friend, which acts as an open letter about racism, alienation, friendship, and daily microaggessions, is a powerhouse read that was originally published by Silver Sprocket in 2016. This new deluxe hardcover collection will reprint Your Black Friend, as well as Passmore’s strips from both VICE and The Nib. Passmore’s strip for The Nib about Charlottesville and the dangerous idea of neutrality in the face of racism, fascism, and violence stands as one of the most powerful and necessary responses to the neo-Nazi rally and the murder of Heather Heyer. Passmore’s political comics for both outlets are outstanding and a chance to own them in a format you can hold in your hands and enjoy over and over again is frankly exhilarating.