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Is 'Luann' about to rid itself of its only African-American character?

Delta James, the only African-American character in "Luann," may be about to depart the striip
Delta James, the only African-American character in "Luann," may be about to depart the striipComics.com

Most of the comics on the funnies page look more or less the same: Three panels and a finite number of plot devices. Greg Evans' "Luann" always had something that made it stand apart from the pack -a small dose of diversity.

That element looks as if it is about to be lost as the cartoonist considers dispatching his comic's only African-American character, Delta James, to Howard University in Washington, D.C., while the rest of the strip's white-bread residents get to remain in the fictional unnamed burg they have called home since 1985.

Witness this important "Luann" episode from Tuesday, in which Delta reveals she will be leaving town for Howard, while pals Bernice and Luann stick around and attend the local university (for brainy Bernice) or community college (um, has Luann be studying at all in the nearly three decades she's been in school?).

Unless Evans (and daughter Karen, who has been co-scripting "Luann" since 2012) intends to write a lot of strips in which the gang and Delta talk to each other via Skype (certainly possible: How have Luann and Aussie boyfriend Quill been able to stay in touch?), we suspect her presence in the comic going forward will be minimal...and it's not like she's been used all that heavily in recent years, anyway.

The absence of Delta means that the cast of "Luann," like that of "Mark Trail, "Momma," "Blondie," "Hi and Lois," "Garfield," "Heathcliff," "Marvin," "Marmaduke," "Rex Morgan, M.D.," "Mary Worth" and - oh, Jesus, must we continue? - will consist entirely of white characters. Tom Batiuk's "Funky Winkerbean" avoids this issue by relying heavily on a female African-American character, Cayla Williams, and her daughter, Keisha. We remain uncertain as to the race of the individual avian characters in "Shoe."

Granted, it's not as if "Luann" is as racially diverse as "Grey's Anatomy," but at least it had something. This "Delta Dawn," as it were, may leave the cast of the comic looking as if it came from the funnies' page heyday of 1956, not 2014.

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