On Saturday, May 18th, I got the opportunity to go to the East Coast Black Age Comic Convention (ECBACC), which was held in the historical Enterprise Center on 45th and Market Streets in Philadelphia, PA.
I can’t say that I am a comic enthusiast; the hardest that I ever went would be reading the Sunday funnies every week when I was a child. Aside from watching X-Men cartoons here and there, the Spiderman movie series with Toby McGuire was my first taste of the Superhero. Throughout the years, thanks to comic enthusiast friends and family, I have seen my fair share of comic based movies despite my preconceived feelings about comics in general. I believed most, if not all, comics to fell into the realm of depthless action and senseless violence, a genre I would tolerate but not seek out. Actual comic books looked dull and long-winded so I ended up avoiding the print, and instead I tagged along curiously to theaters with my fanboy/girl friends.
After a while my curiosity grew. I dipped a toe into the waters of manga, That opened my eyes to how intensely people felt about the art of comic creation and the culture that surrounds it. For instance, Cosplay, also known as “Costume Play”, is dressing up as a fictional character; typically an anime, comic, or sci-fi character. Some people spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on elaborate costumes to wear at conventions, festivals, parties, or just to go grocery shopping. I wondered, what is it about a particular character or series, that makes and individual go to great lengths to emulate a super hero (or villain)? A few years ago I figured it out when I realized that I had a very large crush on the portrayal of Iron Man by Robert Downey Jr. When the Third season of The Walking Dead began, I vowed one day to cosplay as Michonne, the samurai sword carrying, zombie slashing, female lead. These characters and many more represent everyday people with everyday struggles and with not so everyday strengths, powers and fortunes. When I look at Michonne, I see a strong, logical, powerful woman, traits of which, I wish to find in myself and in others, though I don’t find the need to wield a katana (at least not all the time).
As with most forms of media, the black to white ratio is largely uneven in comic culture. Eurocentric looks are easily found throughout the top series. You may see the occasional lack Spiderman, the very rare “Superman vs. Mohammed Ali“, or the unironically titled “Black Panther” (a new personal favorite of mine). But the majority is White Clark Kent, White Captain America, White Punisher. At the East Coast Black Comic Book Convention you got to see another side of the world of comics. For the day, the Enterprise Center was full natural hair and spandex, a very odd yet affirming sight, which exemplified pride in one’s many cultures and sub-cultures. I was very tempted to scream “YOU GO GIRL”, when I came across a woman rocking an afro puff and a skintight, one piece, red leotard. I still did not figure out the the superhero that she was personifying.
At the ECBACC there was something for everyone ranging from lectures and Q&A with world renowned writers to drawing workshops for children and adults alike. The cosplay contest was a crowd favorite. The costumes ranged from the obscure to the well know characters like Storm. Vendors were selling comic books, sketches, original artwork, children’s books, and classic action figures. You could even purchase pixilated images of Harry Potter and Dragon Ball Z characters.
One thing that I find to be extremely interesting about comics in general is the fact that concepts used in many comic, black or not, have originated from ancient Kemetic stories. For instance, the story of the brothers Heru and Set is parallel to the strife between Thor and Loki. Heru represents light, goodness, and the preservation of life. On the other hand Set represents, sorrow, darkness, and suffering. Heru is in a never ending battle with Set to restore order in the name of his father.
At the convention, I was representing a new web series titled The Epic of Heaven and Earth. The story was written by Thomas View and Cee Knowledge who is a member of the Grammy Award winning Hip-Hop group Digable Planets. What a every great epic needs is the struggle between good and evil. In this case it is The Afronauts vs Wretchin. In short, the series’ foundation is based on the struggle to keep a high standard in the artistry and quality in music.
You can find The Epic of Heaven and Earth Presents: The Afronauts vs. Wretchin mixtape!
Check it out.