October 9, 2021 •  By Christine Pasalo Norland

Celebrating Jackie Ormes 

Thank you to everyone who joined us on Thursday, October 28, 2021, at 7:00 p.m. ET (4:00 p.m. PT / 6:00 p.m. CT) as cartoonists and history-makers Barbara Brandon-Croft, Bianca Xunise, and Steenz discussed the impact of the late cartoonist Jackie Ormes and their hopes for the future of comics in print and digital periodicals. The free virtual panel "Celebrating Jackie Ormes" was moderated by Hello Barkada founder Christine Pasalo Norland and live streamed by Women in Comics Collective International (WinC).

For a list of resources on the life and impact of Jackie Ormes and her work, please see our article "Recommended Reads: Jackie Ormes."

Screenshot of Christine Pasalo Norland, Barbara Brandon-Croft, Bianca Xunise, and Steenz on a purple background. Lavender text reads, "Replay now available! Celebrating Jackie Ormes with Barbara Brandon-Croft, Bianca Xunise, and Steenz." Logos of Women in Comics Collective International and Hello Barkada on perimeter.


Born 110 years ago on August 1, 1911 as Zelda Mavin Jackson, the late Jackie Ormes is the nation's first prolific Black woman cartoonist. For nearly 20 years, her comics appeared in either The Pittsburgh Courier or the Chicago Defender, two of the major and nationally-distributed Black-owned newspapers of her day. Her comics career debuted in 1937 with the comic strip "Torchy Brown in 'Dixie to Harlem'" (1937–1938), and continued with the single-panel "Candy" (1945), the long-running cartoon "Patty-Jo 'n' Ginger" (1945–1956), and the full-color comic strip "Torchy Brown in 'Heartbeats'" (1950–1954). 

Besides her work as a cartoonist, Ormes was an avid doll collector, and in 1947, oversaw the production of dolls based on her editorial cartoon character "Patty-Jo." She was also an arts and social activist who advocated for such organizations as the South Side Community Art Center and served on the board of directors of the DuSable Museum of African American History, both in Chicago. She passed away on December 26, 1985. Because of her work and impact on journalism and comics history, she was posthumously inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame in 2014, and the Will Eisner Comic Industry Hall of Fame in 2018.


Barbara Brandon-Croft (@barbarabrandoncroft) became the nation's first Black woman cartoonist to be internationally syndicated in the mainstream press when her comic strip "Where I'm Coming From" was picked up by the Universal Press Syndicate in 1991 after premiering in the Detroit Free Press in 1989. The comic strip appeared in newspapers in over 60 U.S. cities as well as in publications in Jamaica and South Africa. As the daughter of the late cartoonist Brumsic Brandon Jr. (whose comic strip "Luther" was originally syndicated by Newsday Specials, then the Los Angeles Times Syndicate), the syndication of "Where I'm Coming From" also established the Brandons as the first father and daughter to each be nationally syndicated in the mainstream press. Although the syndication of  "Where I'm Coming From" concluded in 2005, you can follow Brandon-Croft on Instagram for new installments as editorial cartoons and for news about her upcoming book!

Bianca Xunise (@biancaxunise) is a Chicago native and part of the "Six Chix'' collaborative comic distributed by King Features Syndicate. Regarded as the first nonbinary cartoonist to be syndicated in the mainstream press, Xunise won an Ignatz award in 2017 for their comic "Say Her Name" and has also published works in The Washington Post, The Lily, Riot Fest, Vogue, Hello Giggles, The Nib, Believer Magazine, and Shondaland. Beyond contributing to “Six Chix”, Xunise publishes goth, diary, and goth diary comics on their Patreon while working on "Punk Rock Karaoke," their first solo graphic novel set to release in 2023 by Penguin Teen.

Steenz (@oheysteenz) is an award-winning St. Louis-based cartoonist who became the second nonbinary cartoonist to draw a syndicated comic strip when they took over the series "Heart of the City" in April 2020. They are also the co-creator of the Dwayne McDuffie Award-winning graphic novel "Archival Quality," and are featured in short story anthologies such as "Dead Beats'' and the Eisner and Ignatz Award-winning "Elements: Fire, Mine!" When they aren’t working on "Heart of the City," teaching cartooning at Webster University, or editing titles for comics publisher Mad Cave Studios, Steenz can be found rollerskating around St. Louis or working on "Side Quest: A Visual History of Role Playing Games," a nonfiction graphic novel set to release in 2023 by Clarion/HMH Books.


Founded by comics writer and publisher Regine L. Sawyer, Women in Comics Collective International (aka WinC, pronounced  "wink"; @wincnyc) is an artistic and informative initiative that began in May 2012. WinC hosts educational and professional events across the country, serving to highlight the merit and craftwork of marginalized voices, especially that of women and Queer folx of color, who work in various industries, such as comics, publishing, gaming, media, education, and multimedia. 


Hello Barkada aims to coordinate more virtual arts and culture programs in collaboration with like-minded organizations. While this event is free to attend, please consider becoming a Hello Barkada patron and a WinC Member in support of both organizations' efforts to coordinate programs that center marginalized voices in the arts.

This article has been updated to refer to the event in the past and to add news related to Barbara Brandon-Croft.


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