Well, this has been an exciting few weeks in the world of comics and comic-cons.
Two weeks ago, I had the extreme pleasure of attending the first ever Brown and Black Comix Expo, Sol-Con, on the campus of Ohio State University. Despite the fact that my skin was slightly smoldering from standing on enemy ground (I graduated from the University of Michigan), It was a transformative event… Let me amend that statement… It reminded me of what comic-cons used to be.
What do I mean? Well, before the “star” system and culture created by the late Wizard Magazine, comic-cons used to be a place where not only fans met their favorite comic creators and could bond with like minds over shared interests, comic book creators could bond with each other, share ideas, develop alliances and develop friendships. There was very little hierarchy. It didn’t matter which company you worked for. It didn’t matter if you were working with Marvel, DC, or one of the independents. Were you a creator? Cool. Let’s interact.
This vibe was evident at Sol-Con. Here we were, African American and Latino creators, side-by-side, plying our wares, sharing our stories, mixing it up with a diverse crowd of students, fans and educators…
…And left our egos at the door.
We shared the same space with the legendary Xaime Hernandez, creator of the seminal Love and Rockets. David Walker and I finally met face to face after knowing, and writing, about each other for at least 10 years (BTW, I got the Power Man / Iron Fist news over drinks that Friday and he swore me to secrecy). I was able to kick it with my sister Ashley Woods and here her manifesto on bringing the sensuality to her work and not giving two fudges about it (go on, girl). I reconnected with my man Eric Battle and finally met the illustrious Tim Fielder (can’t wait for that Horsemen piece!). I was able to meet the fantastic creator J. Gonzo and cop his awesome book La Mano del Destino… I could go on forever about how great that convention was…
We were truly nerds of color, proud and unabashed in our culture, influences and knowledge. We were mixing and matching conversations ranging in topics from Blaxploitation films to the greatness of Robert Rodriguez to 80s pop music to Robin’s green swimming trunks.
In short, we were becoming comrades. We were becoming friends. We were expanding our tribe.
Side note: I’m extremely proud to say that The Horsemen and 4 Pages | 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape will be used as textbooks for an upcoming OSU class focusing on race and representation in comics.
Hence, you could appreciate my saltiness at not being able to attend the New York Comic-Conthis past weekend. I wanted to keep the love going. But, I stayed abreast of everything that my fellow creators of color were doing that weekend, and extremely happy with the coverage that the con received. In fact, I did a little mental squeal of happiness when MSNBC did a story on comic book diversity and some of my colleagues were a part of that piece. You can check it out right here:
So, here’s another article about diversity in comics coming hot off the heels of NYCC 2015:
At this point, shouldn’t we all agree that articles like this only scratch the extreme surface of diversity in comics? Can we all agree that we should demand more of certain so-called “comic journalists” to go deeper with their research concerning not only characters of color, but creators of color as well?
Let’s start with the basics: Spawn, Shadowhawk, Steel, T.R.I.B.E., Brotherman, the entire Milestone line; pretty much every comic fan from 1993 on knows about these characters. Now, let’s go a little deeper: how about Jakita Wagner and Ambrose Chase (Planetary), Martha Washington, Quantum, Shadowman, Jackson King (Stormwatch, The Monarchy), Blackjack, Dhalua and Tesla Strong, Purge, Chocolate Thunder… The list goes and on. Now, let’s get to the 21st century. How about Destiny Ajaye (Genius), Midnight Tiger, Will Power, Watson and Holmes, Lucius Hammer, Concrete Park…
You see where I’m going.
Can we all agree that comic books are way, way more than just the “Corporate Two”? Can we agree not to celebrate these cursory articles about diversity, but instead challenge them to go further?
It’s 2015… We deserve more… And, we should demand it…
Creating for others to acknowledge and support you (i.e. the “mainstream audience”) is a waste of time. Stay in your lane, be unapologetic in your approach, make sure what you represent is of the utmost quality and you will find audience… Later for waiting for the “Corporate Two”…
The “mainstream” only comes… Only comes… after you have established a track record of production and garnered a fan base on your own. Even then, it only wants a pre-packaged sanitized, or easily exploitable, version of what one has produced. The “mainstream” has never… Never taken the lead on anything. It’s up to creators to bring cats in, kicking and screaming if need be, to the land of “Act Right.”
Cons like Sol-Con prove my statement. It is because of the independent spirit of creators like David Walker and Xamie Hernandez and Ashley Woods that they have spotlight on them right now. The mainstream didn’t make them a success. The independent market did. Diversity has always been a part of the independent comic book game. The mainstream is just now seeing the profitability of making the comic book world reflect the world we live in.
BTW, we have not arrived. There is no time to be resting on any perceived laurels. This is just the beginning and the comic book game is only going to get more interesting and more colorful.
I’ve stated this before. Folks can’t be spectators. Change is a contact sport.