"Black kids need to be able to see more representations of themselves in media," he said, explaining what motivates him to reimagine the characters.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on June 9, 2021. It has since been updated.
Growing up, Tyron Handy never saw himself reflected in any of the cartoons he watched. Even the few Black characters that did make it onto the screen did nothing more than reinforce harmful and disrespectful racial stereotypes. So when Handy grew up to be a talented comic artist and children's book illustrator, he took it upon himself to reimagine some of his favorite cartoons with Black characters. "There weren’t a lot of cartoons that I felt represented me much growing up — most black characters in cartoons and tv shows were stereotypical side characters and the best friend of the White main character. Black kids need to be able to see more representations of themselves in media," he told BuzzFeed.
"Most recreations that I see are just people putting designer clothes and jewelry onto the characters and changing their skin color. My recreations really look like they could be parallel versions of the characters," he added. Speaking to Bored Panda, Handy revealed that although many support his efforts to raise awareness about the lack of Black representation in media, there are some who don't approve of his methods and say that he's just "keeping racism alive."
"What inspired me was I had rarely seen any Black cartoon characters on TV. Most of them were the main character's token black best friend or overexaggerated stereotypes. So for fun, I just started reimagining some of my favorite cartoon characters as the Black versions of themselves and most of my redesigns took off. It was cool to see a lot of positive reactions toward my artwork," the artist said. "My goal is to create my own original Black characters and cartoon series and hopefully inspire more Black artists to create their own."
"There wasn't a specific goal I set for making my cartoon reimaginings. But I guess if there was it was just simply to see the reaction of people seeing these redesigns for the first time and hopefully inspiring others to make some of their own and or make more original Black cartoon characters," he continued. "I've been drawing for as long as I could remember. My daily routine as a kid consisted mainly of me watching cartoons all day and drawing my favorite cartoon characters. I'm self-taught if I see something once I can draw it perfectly from memory at any time."
When asked if he feels the entertainment industry has improved in terms of representing people of color, Handy said: "It's not perfect but I can see there is more of an effort than there was when I was younger. I'm hoping they continue to do better and maybe one day I will be one of the main ones helping with that."
Here are some more of Handy's reimagined cartoon characters: