So some of ya'll already know that last month I launched the Kickstarter for my upcoming comic book, Is'nana the Were-Spider. Spoiler alert: it was a successful campaign. The positive responses were overwhelming, especially within the first few days. The majority of donors and people sharing and spreading the word of the book were many Black fans and creators. I suppose I could say given that the lead character of the book is a Black young man it's now categorized as a "Black book." It doesn't help that it's based on African folktales, and the lead is the son of Anansi the West African God of Stories. But quite frankly, that doesn't bother me one bit! If it's marketed as a Black book and is used to inspire a young Black fan, mega personal points to me!
Along with my book, other books are getting a lot of recognition on Kickstarter. Among those books are Tuskegee Heirs by Greg Burnham and Marcus Williams, which is a sci-fi comic about a group of young Black individuals using the legacy of Tuskegee Airman to defeat the forces of Machines attempting to enslave the world; Diskordia by Rivenis, a surreal fantasy described as Lovecraft meets Alice in Wonderland about the darkness lying beneath the surface of what appears to be our world; BLACK by Kwanza Osajyefo, Tim Smith 3, Jamal Igle, and Khary Randolph which tells a tale of a world where only Black people have superpowers, targeting the issues of police brutality as a theme. All of these books have blown past their initial Kickstarter goals. And these books are only scratching the surface!
Jason Reeves and Alverne Ball has a new saga for their property One Nation out; Roye Okupe's E.X.O and Paul Louise Julie's Yohance have been getting a lot of coverage; and so many other Black indie books that it'd take me a whole dang day to list!
I also heard it through the Griotvine (shhh) that Image Comics' Vescell creator, Enrique Carrion, also has something in the works for this year that he's being hella secretive about! (I'm gonna get the scoop from you sooner or later, Enrique! Keep playing with me!)
The main thing that sticks out for me as a consumer of comics, especially a Black consumer who is always looking for good representations of Black characters and other "minorities" in comics and other media is that fact that each of these books are so different from each other. Instead of waiting for the Big Leagues to throw us a bone and get some solid books out where the Black characters aren't side kicks being propped up as a legacy character for short term sales, a lot of Black creators started putting pen and pencil to paper and are creating these worlds for us to explore. And I'm extremely proud and excited to see people of all shades of color putting money where their mouth is and supporting these great looking books. We're seeing Black lead characters in all manners of stories, showcasing that while they are all Black books, there's no set categorization of set genre that a Black book should follow! We're as diverse as any other group and that should be represented in the many forms of stories out there.
This recent influx of Black books and properties really feels like quite a Black Comic Renaissance Movement of sorts and it's been exciting to experience.
"I thinks it's about time that people started to notice what's happening in that arena," says comic creator John Jennings when asked about the recent influx of Black content. Jennings is currently working on a graphic novel adaption of Octavia Butler's Kindred with creative partner Damian Duffy set to be released this year. He continues, "I think it's happening because people of color are tired of being ignored by the mainstream and have decided to create their own stream. Tools, training and access to various distribution methods on top of a growing network of Afrocentric and multicultural cons have afforded black independents a steady connection to new audiences. Also, there is a growing system of black geek and nerd journalists who are amazing supporters and critics of this new interest in the sequential art of black people throughout the diaspora."
Last month I attended the Black Comic Book Fest (curated by Jennings and Jerry Craft of the Mama's Boys comic strips) in Harlem with my sister, who's also an artist. Every year that I have gone has been a blast and has introduced me to so many other fans and creators of color. But boy was I not at all prepared for how packed this year would be. Last year, throughout the whole event, you could move around and walk in freely no problem. This year, due to my sister feeling a little sick, we stepped out for a short minute and had trouble getting back in due to a long line. We eventually gave up and called it a day. The attendance was high and I heard from a few creators that they sold nearly all their merchandises.
Also at the Black Comic Fest were Indie legends Guy A. Sims selling Brotherman, a Black comic that revolutionized the Black Indie comics game before Milestone Comics even made their mark, and Alex Simmons returning with the bad-ass adventurer Blackjack, along with artist Tim Fielder, who spearheaded the much celebrated AfrofutureFest that proved to be extremely popular in last year's New York Comic Con and will be releasing Matty's Rocket 2 and 3 this year!
"The road paved by the creators of Brotherman and trailblazers such as Turtel Onli has led us to a historic level of comic book stories, by Black creators about Black heroes and deeply cultural sagas," comic book journalist Joseph Illidge says. "With superheroes and myths of superhumanity as part of the mainstream, and success stories happening outside of the Big Two American comic book publishers, it's no wonder that so many Black creators are now more inspired than ever to tell their stories."
Could this rising success and inspiration from creators of color also be tied into the revival of Milestone Comics? Milestone 2.0 was announced last year to much celebration from many fans! While not necessarily "Indie," the excitement of getting creators of color to help produce and create new stories from the Milestone universe, a DC Comics imprint that focused on minority representation being told by minorities is enough to get me excited and want to support. This is just adding more fuel to this Black Comic Renaissance!
"The increased competition in the marketplace makes it all the more important for Black creators to bring their best skills to the table, in art, writing, marketing, and business," Illidge adds. It was also announced recently that Joseph Illidge and artist N Steven Harris have a revival of Solarman coming out.
Damn... with all these awesome and promising books coming out this year, I could only imagine how crazy next year's Glyph Awards at the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention are going to be...