On August 6, 2022, the 103rd anniversary of the birthday of Jamaican folklorist Louise “Miss Lou” Coverley-Bennett was celebrated online with a Google Doddle. The creator of the Doodle was Robyn Smith, a star Jamaican cartoonist who is inspired by Caribbean history and myth. Smith is best known for the 2016 award-winning mini-comic, “The Saddest Angriest Black Girl in Town,” which is based on her own experiences of being one of the only Black people living in a rural town in Vermont and how these experiences impacted her mental health and added to her understanding of how Blackness is perceived in the world. Smith illustrated “Nubia: Real One” for DC Comics in collaboration with writer L.L. McKinney and on “Wash Day” written by Jamila Rowser for Black Josei Press. Read on to learn 15 fascinating things about cartoonist Robyn Smith.
- Robyn Smith was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica.
- Smith always wanted to be a cartoonist and was inspired by her portrait-artist father and makeup-artist mother.
- Smith, who is based in New York, immigrated to the Bronx at age 16 with her family and shared a house with 16 cousins and relatives in the Bronx.
- Her collection of “Archie Digest” comics that she brought with her from Jamaica helped to ease her transition to a new life in the US.
- Smith earned a BA from Hampshire College and an MFA from the Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS).
- Smith started out drawing portraits of her family and friends, but after seeing the first “Avengers” movie she was inspired to learn everything she could about superhero comics, knowing she wanted to make comics that involved “literal representation of power.”
- Smith realized that many superheroes arose from myths and that there are many Caribbean myths depicting real-life heroes like Nanny of the Maroons; she developed this concept for her senior undergraduate thesis in a comic featuring a league of three girls descended from these heroes.
- Smith once worked as a deli girl at Co-op Food Stores in White River Junction, Vermont.
- Smith wrote “The Saddest Angriest Black Girl in Town,” her debut comic, in 2016 to help her cope with her situation during a period at CCD when she was frustrated by the cold climate and culture shock of living in Vermont.
- “The Saddest Angriest Black Girl in Town” was later named to the “Best Short Form Comics List” by The Comics Journal.
- She loves cake and Benson, her cat.
- Her comic, “Wash Day Diaries,” a 2018 comic about a hair-care ritual for Black women, was published following a successful Kickstarter campaign and won the 2019 DiNKy Award for “Best Floppy Comic.”
- A Kirkus Starred Review called “Nubia,” the lead character in Smith’s DC project, “Nubia: Real One,” a new story about Wonder Woman’s twin sister written by YA author L.L McKinney, “An essential superhero story for this moment.”
- Smith is very aware of the role her heritage plays in her work as an artist: “As an Afro-Caribbean artist, I’ve always strived to center the Black community in the comics I make, so being hired to illustrate Nubia was a dream.”
- Smith has worked in the comics business chiefly with Black women writers and only made comics about Black female characters, a work situation that she enjoys.
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