new book “magnifique noir” shows the magic of black queer women

October 23, 2017
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By LaTonya Pennington / WearYourVoice Mag, AFROPUNK contributor

Created by a Black queer woman named Briana Lawrence, magnifique Noir is the latest example of Black female and femme creators applying the magical girl genre to the concept of #BlackGirlMagic.

In 1997, the world was introduced to a Japanese heroine named Sailor Moon. With cute magical powers, femininity, and strong female friendship, Sailor Moon won hearts in Japan and abroad. The popularity of Sailor Moon would influence an entire genre of magical girls and boys in animation, comics, and books. One such influence is the new young adult book magnifique Noir, which features a team of Black queer magical girls.

Created by a Black queer woman named Briana Lawrence, magnifique Noir is the latest example of Black female and femme creators applying the magical girl genre to the concept of #BlackGirlMagic. Other works include Mildred Louis’s webcomic Agents of The Realm and Shauna J. Grant’s webcomic Princess Love Pon! Of the two webcomics, magnifique Noir can be compared to Agents of The Realm due to its older female leads and queer black women.

These works take the cuteness, femininity, and transformation sequences seen in Sailor Moon and combine them with the ups and downs of Black womanhood. The Black female leads in these stories show that Black girls can be powerful no matter what their circumstances are. One way that magnifique Noir does this is by showing a variety of Black queer identities.

In magnifique Noir, each of the young women are somewhere on the queer spectrum and have distinct personalities that influence their magical abilities. One heroine, Bree Danvers, is a Black bisexual gamer girl whose transformation phrase is “Cosmic Green, Press Start!” Another character, Galactic Purple, is a plus-sized, baker on the asexual spectrum who attacks using cupcake-shaped energy bombs.

Complimenting their magical abilities are cute and gorgeous artwork for their attacks, transformation phrases, and character profiles. Done by a variety of artists that include Briana Lawrence herself, the bright colors, sparkles, and cartoonish appearance of the characters are reminiscent of classic magical girl cartoons. In the vibrant purple artwork for Galactic Purple’s “Cupcake Bomb” attack, she gathers her power in a confident, joyful pose that is accented by sparkles.

By having Black queer young women become magical girls, magnifique Noir gives us a realistic, heartwarming display of friendship among Black women. Unlike in magical girl cartoons where the heroines instantly become friends and work together, the members of magnifique Noir must learn to trust, open up, listen, and work together. As a result, their bond between them becomes stronger and they are able to help each other through the challenges of Black womanhood.

In addition to being an entertaining story, magnifique Noir is also used to comment on experiences that Black women and femmes deal with every day. For example, a male street harasser is depicted as an actual monster that attacks Bree Danvers while walking home. Another instance of noteworthy commentary occurs with the character Lonnie Knox, who is caught between proving her strength and constantly having her womanhood denied.

Meanwhile, there are also cute mini comics by the creator that balance out the seriousness of the book with humor. Clearly influenced by the wackiness of Japanese animation and manga, these comics display a more carefree side to the young women. One particularly amusing mini comic titled “Is She Cute Though?” has Cosmic Green ignoring a lecture from Galactic Purple in order to gleefully sing about a crush on a cute Black girl.

As a Black queer femme who adores the magical girl genre, this young adult book was so poignant. To see an entire team of Black queer women fight monsters with powers related to their everyday lives was empowering. It showed me the importance of Black queer women learning to understand and support each other as friends, romantic partners, and as a chosen family.

Through fun and smart storytelling, magnifique Noir shows that Black women and femmes reclaiming their lives is magical. The women of magnifique Noir represent real Black women in nerd culture, Black women in college, Black women considered too mannish for some and too feminine for others. The women of magnifique Noir are not only powerful, but also human in a way that reflects the complexity of Black queerness and Black womanhood.