The Invisible World of Black Comic Creators

sdccOkay, so I got back from the San Diego Comic Con a few days ago, and I really wanted to share some of my experiences and thoughts, before they are lost in the jumbled mess of my mind. Let me start by saying that I’ve been going to SDCC since 1998, and in that time there are only two years I’ve missed. Some years have been great, and other have been not-so-great. This year was one of the best years for Comic Con—especially considering where my life is at on a personal level (which I won’t bore your with). Professional things are going well, but because of a series of non-disclosure agreements, I can’t talk about what I’m working on (nor could I talk about these various projects at the con itself).

The Supernals Experiment #1 - Comics by comiXologyOne thing I could talk about was The Supernals Experiment. This is a five-issue mini-series that I wrote for Canon Comics, founded by NFL great Phillip Buchanon. The Supernals Experiment is the creation of Phillip, and through editor Shawna Gore, I was brought on to write the mini-series. The first issue debuted digitally on Comixology the day before SDCC kicked off, and Phillip was at the show handing out physical copies of the comic. He also debuted New Money, another creation of his, written by my friend Hannibal Tabu, and drawn by N Steven Harris. It’s interesting to me that no one has really picked up on the significance of all of this. Phillip is a black man, who has started his own comic publishing company, and has hired predominantly creators of color to craft stories with a diverse line-up of characters. This in and of itself might be one for the history books. But that was just the beginning.

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Hanging with Phillip Buchanon (left), creator and publisher of The Supernals Experiment.

If you pay any attention to pop culture coverage, you’ve probably read about the lack of diversity in comics (as well as just about everywhere else). I’ve raised this issue myself on multiple occasions, but I have also been very critical of those critics that bemoan the lack of diversity in comics—both within the pages of comics, and within the ranks of creators—but who do little to mention who and what is out there. The truth is there is a problem with a lack diversity and representation in comics (and all facets of pop culture), but the other truth is that there are some truly amazing people doing some truly amazing work out there. And I ran into quite a few of them at SDCC 2014.

watson 3I’m not going to name everyone I saw, because that would take too long. But I do want to make mention of some great creators who I crossed paths with. Amongst the writers, there was Brandon Eason, who along with N Steven Harris and Karl Bollers, was nominated for an Eisner for his work on the comic Watson and Holmes. I ran into Joe Illidge, whose upcoming graphic novel The Ren has got my heart palpitating. I also talked to Brandon Thomas, Geoffrey Thorne, Hannibal Tabu, Gary Phillips, Kevin Grevioux, and Reggie Hudlin, all of whom are amazing writers. You might not recognize some of these names, but that doesn’t mean their work isn’t top notch.

comictemplate3aI got to meet Ray-Anthony Height, whose comic The Midnight Tiger is one of the most impressive debuts of the new year. And though it was all too brief, I did say hello to Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander, whose upcoming Concrete Park is the comic I’m most looking forward to this year.

concrete-park-1-coverSpeaking of too brief, I barely got to talk to Keith Knight, an old friend, creator of The K Chronicles and (Th)ink, and one of the best cartoonists on the planet.

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Keith Knight. One of the best cartoonists in the game.

I got to finally meet Ted Lange IV in person, and his brother Turner Lange, both of who are comic creators (Ted’s series is Warp Zone, and Turner’s is The Adventures of Wally Fresch). I saw some incredible comic artists, including Sanford Greene, Khary Randolph, Robert Roach, Jason Reeves, Jamal Igle (whose book Molly Danger is killin’ it), and JJ Kirby (who drew an amazing picture of my character, Darius Logan). If you want to see what the work of these artists looks like, just do a Google search.

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Me, John Jennings, and William Foster, plotting to take over the world.

The highpoint of SDCC was spending time with artist/college professor John Jennings, writer/college professor William Foster, and writer/artist/badass Jeremy Love, creator of the critically acclaimed graphic novel Bayou. All three of these guys have some amazing projects in the works and, hopefully, some that will allow me to collaborate with them. I was with Jennings, Foster, and Love, when we had a truly amazing moment. I stopped to take a picture of a guy dressed as the superhero Static Shock, when artist Denys Cowan photo-bombed the picture. Cowan is the co-creator of Static Shock, and a founding member of the legendary Milestone Comics line.

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Legendary comic artist Denys Cowan photo-bombing a picture of Static Shock, a character he created.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, the point that I’m trying to get at is that there are black folks out there making comics. You may not have heard of some of them, or the comics they are working on, but that doesn’t mean that they are invisible. It means that many of the creators like those I’ve mentioned—and those I haven’t mentioned (sorry)—aren’t getting enough press. Big publishers like Marvel (owned by Disney) and DC (owned by Warner Brothers) haven’t given that many black creators (especially writers) a chance. That has left it up to publishers like Action Lab, Lion Forge, and Dark Horse to give creators of color a break. And of course, some of us just self-publish, while fighting to get noticed.

This is just a brief glimpse at the people I ran into at SDCC 2014. Some are old friends. Some are people I just met. And, of course, there are those I didn’t list (again, my apologies). I encourage everyone to check out the work of the creators I’ve mentioned, as well as seek out the work of others. We are not invisible. We are just waiting to be seen.

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