Black talent and fans are expanding their representation in the comics industry


Joey Carlucci (right) convinced his wife Elizabeth and their son John to join him as Catwoman, TheRiddler and Two Face at last week’s Heroes convention at the Charlotte Convention Center.

The black comic book experience has come a long way.

Black creators first gained recognition in the comic world in 1947 with the single issue “All Negro Comics”, the first comic book written and illustrated solely by African Americans.

Despite this breakthrough, black creators and characters have struggled for decades to become mainstream and fully accepted in the comic book community. Fans of noir graphic novels became rare, as most of the stories created by white people were either unrelated or conveyed misrepresentations of African Americans.

Times have changed, however, and there are more well-known black comic book creators with black followers. At last week’s Heroes Convention in Charlotte, creatives and their fans came together for three days of fun and stressed the importance of teaching about the black experience through the panel. It is especially important today amid the controversy surrounding critical race theory.

Conservative lawmakers across the country have opposed teaching about America’s racist past in schools, going so far as to write laws banning CRT.

If children are denied the opportunity to learn about the Black American experience, Heroes Convention writers make sure they learn it through comic books.

“(Education) is the most important thing,” said award-winning writer David F. Walker. “Semi-educational, non-fiction books are where it’s at. And the sad thing is because there’s so much resistance against critical race theory and it’s all up to us as artists and creators. As if we had to do it now. Everything is excluded from schools.
“So how do we educate people? Well, we put it in a graphic novel.

Walker is considered one of the best creators of educational comics with his famous history books “The Life of Frederick Douglass” and “The Black Panther Party”. The late U.S. Representative John Lewis, a major historical figure in the civil rights movement, even contributed to the genre by penning the March series and “Run: Book One” alongside writer Andrew Aydin.

Lewis’ staff member Aydin also made an appearance at the Heroes Convention and said educational graphic novels are an important way to tell the country’s turbulent history.

“There is a tremendous historical pedigree for using comics to inspire social change,” he said. “This generation grew up on the Internet. Their literacy is visual literacy. Sequential storytelling is the same language as a meme or a tweet or anything you see with words and images working together. And so, if we’re going to reach this generation, reach the most… people with these important lessons (and) this important story, we have to do it in the language of this generation.

Education through comics seems to be working as Walker has described kids telling him that his book by Frederick Douglass is their favorite over Batman and Spider-Man.

“Who would have thought?” says Walker.

As expected, these socially conscious comics have been pushed back for their content. Convention attendee and award-winning graphic novel author and Regis University professor R. Alan Brooks had perhaps the most extreme reaction to his work. His book, “Anguish Garden,” is an allegory for quitting white supremacist movements and white supremacists sent death threats in response.

In addition to teaching about the Black American experience through comics, Black creators and fans at the convention shared their experiences in the comic and fantasy space where faces like theirs aren’t always prevalent.

For some creators, being part of the comedy scene has created a positive impact considering what it used to be for black people in those places.

“I remember a time when there were no other black creators, where there were no other black fans,” Walker said. “We kind of started to claim our place in this world, which I’ve tried to do not just for my entire professional career, but my entire life.

“When I was a kid, the whole portrayal of black people, especially in comics, was pretty negative. And I didn’t want that. So that’s part of the reason I got into this industry — to change so that other children don’t have to go through what I went through.

For others, it’s rewarding to connect with fans.

“I’m able to connect with people in a really cool way,” Brooks said. “Especially after you buy something, go away and read it, (then) come back and be like, ‘Man, I need more’, which is really dope. It’s something I wrote on my couch that resonates with someone’s life in a dope way.

In response to the idea that black people do not consume such art, fans strongly felt that the stereotype was not true, citing the right of individuals to simply be individuals.

“It’s a bit of an old way of thinking,” said Torrance Sawyer, who attended the convention. “Everyone loves everything these days. It’s hard to categorize someone just because of how they look or what they like. People can enjoy whatever they want. »

Participant Tajai Liles said, “I like reading comics, I like collecting action figures, so I don’t see anything weird. It’s just something I like to do.

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