Modern Griots Recap: Highlights from Black Comic Book Festival

Attending the Black Comic Book Festival for the first time this year introduced me to a wide scope of the comic book world from the lens of the black community and so I wanted to share some of the creators and their works that I came across while there. It was difficult walking around the presentation tables and stopping myself from buying all the comics there, but I did get a couple:

*The first table I went to was the artist John Jennings and I purchased the African American Graphic Classics. As someone who does write poetry, this was a great find for me. It’s a similar idea to a book I had when I was younger, illustrator and author Ashley Bryan’s book of illustrated African-American poetry. Various comic and graphic artists, such as Jennings, Lance Tooks, and Afua Richardson, illustrate several short stories and poems from various authors, including Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Dunbar Nelson, W.E.B. Du Bois and Langston Hughes.

*Walking around I saw many male creators in the comic and science fiction industry, like the Craft family, N Steven Harris, Mshindo Kuumba, I enjoyed particularly seeing black women who were part of it as well, like Evolve‘s Kia Barbee. I met illustrator and animator Tiana Mone’e Scott, who has done work with Cartoon Network and PBS. At the right below was one of my favorite pieces that she had on her table. See more of her work here.

Tiana Mone’e Scott’s Mermaid

*The other book I bought was Jewels Smith’s (H)afrocentric. Hearing her on the black women in comics panel, along with Regine Sawyer, Barbara Brandon, Alitha Martinez and Jennifer Crute (see my tweets from the panels), interested me in her comic book. I had a nice talk with her after the panel about how to jump into work as a comic writer. She told me to start with doing character analyses, like writing specific biographies and character traits for each character in your comic. I might try that with my idea I have for a subway train that can travel through time and space, including through the Internet, called The E Train Chronicles. I definitely hope to see more women there next time. Below is a page from Volume 2 of her comic, which uses comedy to discuss social issues and to give a levity to those who consider themselves socially and spiritually “conscious;” it falls in line with the speculative imagining a different world. On the page is an alternative world where Sammy Sosa has a school of beauty, police and teachers have a high starting salary, George Jackson has an endowment chair in a university, Bush, Cheney, Rice and Powell are tried for crimes, Assata Shakur is New Jersey’s mayor and Whole Foods is affordable:

(H)afrocentric Vol. 2

*One of the films that I was looking forward to (he had mentioned it to me before), but didn’t get showcased because of technical difficulties was animator Tim Fielder’s Matty’s Rocket. The series follows the adventures of Matty Watty, a black woman space pilot and is based on the pulp stylings of science fiction and comic works on the early 20th century. But before I left, I talked to him (and I got two posters for the series, yay) and he said that he might be getting a special showcase later this year at The Schomburg Center, so stay tuned for that and watch one of the title sequences:

I am glad I went this year, I learned a lot, saw a lot of comics that I want for myself or for the kids in my life in the future, and now have a bigger interest and appreciation for comics. Hopefully, one day this festival will be in a bigger facility because it was so overcrowded, which obviously was a good sign.

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