Convention Celebrates 22 Years of Connecting Black Comic Creators with Fans

 

The Philadelphia Inquirer covered the ECBACC held at Temple University (my own parents were graduates of that faculty), which spotlights many Black and African-American contributions to comicdom:

 

Lynne Marie Finley became fascinated by comic book heroes when she was young. Luke Cage and Misty Night, two of Marvel’s first Black superheroes that came after Black Panther in the 70s, first grabbed her attention. But when Finley, now 47, first saw Storm from the X-Men comics with her Black skin and silver hair, it was “striking.”

When Finley came from her home in Maryland to Philadelphia last weekend for the 22nd Annual East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention, there was only one character for her to dress up as.

“They didn’t throw her in there just for diversity’s sake,” she said, referencing Storm’s critical role in one of Marvel’s most successful franchises. “They had some plans [for her].”

ECBACC is an annual gathering in Philadelphia for creators and fans of Black comic books and fantasy, bringing in people from across the country. Finley is a regular here, taking in the comic book vendors, panel discussions, and cosplay competitions each year with everyone else.

 

Noticing she dressed in one of the hottest designs for Storm’s costumes, that should make clear somebody’s got no issue with the concept of sex appeal as artists like Dave Cockrum applied to Ororo Munroe during the Bronze Age. It’s a shame, however, that today’s comics proper aren’t worth the cover price.

 

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“[You] get to see images that look like us … A lot of the other cons, you don’t see a lot of Black art and Black characters,” Finley said.

“You get to find something a little different and something that looks like you.”

Centering comic creators

In 1988, as Yumy Odom first arrived in Philadelphia, he noticed that the comic book creator and fan community here was not very connected. “I don’t think that [people] knew they had that many creators in this one city,” he said.

Odom has been a comic book fan since he was a boy in New York. His mother gave him several issues of X-Men, Fantastic Four, and other comics to read while he was hospitalized with an arm injury, and he’s been dedicated to them ever since.

He’s a sort of comic book historian, pointing out how Philadelphia was home to the first comic book to be created by, and featuring, all Black people — the single issue All Negro Comics — in 1947.

A decade after completing his master’s thesis on Black comics at Temple, Odom started ECBACC in 2002 with a few colleagues, aiming to continue building connections between Black comic book creators and fans. He believes comics can be used to increase literacy in Black communities too, and wants to help support the people who are writing and drawing those stories.

“This is both [for the fan and the creator], but we center the creator. Most of the other [conventions], the corporate ones, their focus is really making money, which is not a bad thing. But our focus is actually promoting the people who make the work,” he said.

 

To this guy’s credit, he hints at exactly what’s wrong with more corporate conventions, which explains why the San Diego ComiCon’s become more movie-focused than comics-focused. And come to think of it, why they’re not worth paying money to anymore.

 

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But the following, honestly, overlooks what’s wrong with another form of corporatism:

 

He is proud of the people who have worked with and received EBACC awards. “We have folks who are now at Disney, they’re at BET, they’re all over the place. They’re at Marvel and they’re at DC [Comics].”

 

Here, based on how far the Big Two and Disney have fallen, I’m afraid I can’t agree from a modern perspective that it’s a wonderful thing anybody’s working for them, since it’s clear they’re doing nothing to defend the dignity of classic creations or what made them work, and much of the storytelling today lacks merit. And who knows how many contributors who attended EBACC are even injecting wokeness into the stories they’re working on for the majors?

 

That’s why an indie creator going to work for the Big 2 today is nothing to be excited about or admire. If the terms are absurd and PC, and only do a disfavor to the classic source material, and the assigned creator can’t or won’t do anything to make improvements, then what’s the use of working for them nowadays?

 

Originally published here.

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Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1

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