Harriet Tubman Demon Slayer. w. David Crownson. a. Courtland L. Ellis and others. Kingwood Comics. 252 pp. $59.99
The subject of slavery has been depicted and processed in many ways, from critical analysis to cathartic expression. This new comics series takes the reader on a mystical journey led by none other than Harriet Tubman (1823-1913), the famed leader of the Underground Railroad (1850-1860) which led enslaved people to freedom in America. Creator and writer David Crownson gives his story just the right bite, which makes sense for this mashup of genres.
Meet Harriet Tubman, Demon Slayer. Crownson goes all out casting Tubman in the role of a superhero ninja freedom fighter who must do battle with whatever monsters slave owners can throw at her: vampires, werewolves, demons, you name it. This trade paperback is a graphic novel collecting the previous six issues to this series. In this story, we follow Tubman as she is helping a family to freedom. Crownson has done a great job with character development. I was quickly engaged in the plight of the Edgefield family: the young girl Vanessa; her parents Caesar and Catherine; and her brother, Nathan. Tubman, like a mysterious angel, suddenly appears in their lives as they are attempting to flee from slavery. The right amount of action, humor, horror and fantasy ensues.
I was immediately intrigued by this book. The cover art got my attention and the artwork throughout, led by Courtland L. Ellis, kept me turning pages. The book begins with a photograph of Tubman and a quote from her: “Never wound a snake; kill it.” That sets the tone very nicely. From what I know, Tubman appears to have been a very driven, reserved and no-nonsense person. That’s the way that Crownson depicts her. She has a job to do and she does it with speed and precision. She knows exactly how to drop a vampire or werewolf in seconds flat. Out comes the magic sword or the wooden stake and that’s that. It’s cathartic to see how swiftly Tubman takes care of all the villains. In comics, we often find some righteous justice and this comic delivers on that promise.
To take a historical figure and then put that person into a fictionalized universe is one of the most satisfying things you can do as a writer. No doubt, Crownson is having a great time with his superhero version of Harriet Tubman. On the creative side, it’s great fun. And you can also call it a sacred privilege. Crownson celebrates and honors Tubman with respect and joyful energy, fully aware of the painful and sensitive subject; fully aware of hope and healing. There’s no record of this anywhere but Crownson includes a character, Chip, a young white man, as Tubman’s adopted son. It’s just part of the story, an uplifting use of creative license, and something that Tubman would probably give a wink to and approve of. I’m confident that she’d approve of this whole audacious comic book series and enjoy it.