Con Report: East Coast Black Age of Comics

(This was originally published on June 6, 2017 on Black Girl Nerds.)

EBCACC Rocks The Block

The 16th Annual East Coast Black Age of Comics (ECBACC) happened at the end of May with the theme of Homecoming. It was born in North Philadelphia, along the same corridor as the historic Uptown Theater and after a few years of hopping around the city, it has returned there.

The Glyph Comic Awards had been handed out the day before. Fan favorites like Tuskeegee Heirs won both the Rising Star Award and Best Comic. The titular character from Malika won the Heruica Character Creation Award. You can check out BGN’s recent review of Malika here. Black #1, with its evocative illustration, won Best Cover. Mainstream and indie comics alike shined that Friday, so all that was left for Saturday was a celebration of networking, commerce, and learning.

 

But with homecomings, you’re not just given a heaping helping of nostalgia, you also get to juxtapose the sameness with what’s changed. First and foremost, ECBACC was free this year! This was achieved by moving it into a school. Furthermore, the school itself added to the theme of the event by being a tech-based institution. ECBACC partnered with TECH: Freire Charter School and as someone who has been to quite a few ECBACC’s, I will say it was a fantastic space with great growth potential.

Another new thing this year was the Pitch Room. Enterprising creatives put together presentations for a panel of judges to get financial and tech support for their various ventures. The panel heard three proposals, and while all of them showed incredible potential, one rose above the rest for sheer vision mixed with pragmatic ‘doability’. Rorie Still, creator of the anthology Flashbang: Sci-Fi That Will Blow Your Mind took top honors.

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Winner of the First Annual Pitch Panel, Rorie Still w Roxanne Whitney cosplaying one of her characters.

Activities ranged from the artistic to the educational. This has to be the first time I went to a comic convention that had a live Capoeira demonstration! As founder, Yumy Odom stated in an interview, “ECBACC is educational. It is fan based too, but initially, the foundation of ECBACC was literacy, using current books and imagery, especially imagery of Africana and Black characters to promote literacy.”

Powerhouse artists like Mshindo Kuumba and Sheeba Maya ran Digital Artistry 1 and 2 respectively. Youth Workshop ran all day for a wide range of ages. The marketplace was chock full of unique artisans like Osazuwa Nkante, proprietor of Hidden River Armoury, which creates replicas of various African arms and armor, great for cosplayers or historical reenactors.

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FICA International Capoeira Angola Foundation Philadelphia chapter gave a spellbinding demonstration.

Another unique feature was the food available for purchase. Instead of the overpriced, dry jumbo pretzels and pizza that are a staple of the big convention experience, out front, the Uptown BBQ Food Truck provided con goers with much-needed sustenance. They served a truncated menu but there was still plenty of choices. All done with your fish fried rice and ready to indulge your sweet tooth? Don’t worry, ECBACC got you! Ariell Johnson of Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse Inc. was selling decadent desserts and refreshing drinks in the marketplace.

Events like this remind me of how prevalent and duplicatable cooperative economics and collective work and responsibility are in our community. It always puts an extra pep in my step when I spend money on burgeoning and established Black artists, writers, and purveyors of delicious, well-seasoned and prepared food.

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AfroCoz Winners [Photo: Kelli Mickens]

For more pictures with full annotation and credits, check out the ECBACC Facebook.

A Legacy of Black Excellence

While ECBACC is a spiritual successor to the Black Age of Comics Convention founded in Chicago in 1993 by Turtel Onli, it holds the distinction of being the first full-service convention of its kind, offering year-round workshops, trainings, and even availing itself to entities that would like to commission a tailormade convention.

Odom estimates there are maybe 25 conventions that have spawned from ECBACC. For instance, Alex Simmons, noted writer and voice-over artist use to run ECBACC’s Kid’s Corner activities and now owns the Kids Comic Con in New York. Back in March, I had the pleasure of attending Naseed Gifted’s Khem Fest in Newark, NJ. Joseph R. Wheeler III’s ONYXCON in Atlanta is set to heat things up in August. The list goes on.

ECBACC is a wonderful hub for Black artistry, Afrofuturism, and Black thought. They’ve already begun advertising for next year so save the date: May 19th 2018. Hey, that’s Malcolm X’s birthday! Fitting.

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Jason Rothenberg Interview Excerpts

Yesterday an interview I conducted with creator and executive producer of The 100, Jason Rothenberg, went live on The Verge. I worked with an excellent editor over there named Tasha Robinson so shout-outs to her! Because this is their first article about The 100 ever, we had to strike a balance between offering adequate context for the interview without being overly specific for a new audience.

Below is an excerpt that needed to be cut. I love it because I have watched Bob Morley discuss his process and his connection to Bellamy in various convention videos and interviews over the years, so I wanted to know what it felt like collaborating with him as a writer/producer. So, I asked.

With so many characters, comes the artistic and logistical reality of working with an array of actors who have varying work styles. Morley has frequently talked about his deep connection to the character of Bellamy and how it is fostered by asking questions and drawing from his own analysis to glean understanding. “Every actor is different, and I try to make sure that my process isn’t rigid so I can bend and sway with each one of them however they need me to. Some actors have a lot of questions and want to talk all the time. Some just show up and get the script and say the lines. Bob probably falls in the camp of “has a lot of questions.” He’s a thinker, very cerebral and he wants to know why things are happening and where things are going. Not everybody is like that. I don’t find it difficult; I find it usually makes the scenes better. If Bob has an issue and doesn’t understand the way something is written and wants to talk about it, I take my ego out of it if it’s something I’ve written. Generally speaking, when I revisit a scene whether it’s in the way he was asking for or not, the scene always gets better. It’s something I appreciate about him a lot.”

I hope you enjoyed that small look into the process of making The 100. Definitely, give the main article on The Verge a look-see if you haven’t already. There are some really great insights including Jason’s take on the “Bellarke” reunion, Octavia’s familial and political dynamics this season, and how they managed to make Clarke’s post-apocalyptic road trip look so authentic.  

Just before Jason had to go I got to ask a fan question. I chose this one because I could weave it into a story I had already outlined, which details my take on it, so it seemed fortuitous.

[Tweet from @gradybridges answering my call for fan questions that reads: Is there a storyline that you wanted to tell in the first 4 seasons that you can’t do now because you destroyed the world? If yes then what was it?]

Jason laughed, thought for a few seconds, then said, “Wow. … Nothing comes to mind. Sorry, gradybridges!” I know my ideas aren’t a good consolation prize for Jason’s but my article on the three things I’m sad we’ll never get post-praimfaya is coming! 😜💃🏾⚔️

I really enjoyed talking to Jason about this great show and look forward to seeing how The 100 Season 5 unfolds.

Thanks for reading. May we meet again.

“I intend to speak of forms changed into new entities…”

the 100, the 100, the 100

The 100 “Red Queen’ (RQ) is the second episode of the fifth season and it was surprising. I consider myself a Bellarke enthusiast, so imagine how gobsmacked I was after viewing the first 4 episodes of the season and declaring that this one, which had nothing to do with them, as my favorite. Another surprising thing is the relief it brought me. Spending almost a year hastily scrolling past the chatter of a gleeful fandom predicting that Jaha’s demise would be a bacchanal of cannibalism got into my head a bit. I felt certain that this tragic yet flawed figure would be disrespected and dehumanized based solely on fandoms thirst for it to happen. I am so overjoyed that the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, he was sent off in a way befitting his arc. Octavia and Jaha’s story in TRQ honored this man and so many of the themes of the show. Thank you, Jason Rothenberg, for that.

Octavia Blake/Skairipa/Asleya/Blodreina
At Octavia’s core, there is a sense of adventure, loyalty, and love. But the circumstances of her life, from being locked away, to losing Lincoln warped her natural instincts. At the beginning of RQ, the idea of population reduction is repellent. She is in no way prepared to deal with the very real situation they find themselves in but after running a gauntlet literally and figuratively she is able to use the brutal lessons of her life and the tools at her disposal to solidify and unify a society despite a woeful lack of confidence.

Octavia has a molten core of rage inside of her and embracing the grounder way as early as the first season was the bellows stoking it. When she had Lincoln it was a way to show her love and fierceness, but as much as she talked about what it meant to be a warrior, what she really wanted was to live a peaceful, honorable life on Luna’s rig. That all changed when Lincoln was killed. Her grieving process had her give over completely to the thrill of bloodshed and death. In my opinion, I saw it not just as a lashing out but as the ultimate show of agency. “I may not have been born into a life where I get to control what happens to me but now that I’ve lost 2/3 of my tether to this world (Arora and Lincoln), I can enact my will taking lives with brutal precision.”

Octavia is not well, never has been, never had the chance to be. She was able to build on her sense of compassion and empathy due to Bellamy’s love as Atom suggested in S1, but ultimately she has always had the capacity to go to a deeply disturbing place even when she’s trying her best not to. There’s nothing stopping her now and actually every reason she should continue down this path if she wants to keep the fidelity of her people.

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Courtesy of The CW

The performances. — Everyone hits it out of the park.
Marie Avgeropoulos holds the entire thing up on her toned shoulders. Even her physicality changes after the 6 year jump. She goes from flinging herself on the floor across from Jaha ready to give up, pouting miserably over not being a leader to fully inhabiting her latest title of Blodreina. We don’t actually get much of present-day Blodreina but she is poised, still, and commanding. In later episodes make note of how she moves and speaks. It is a fantastic transformation on Marie’s part. In that small bit at the end, we see the extent of her power. Her people look to her completely. A small raising of the hand sends her subjects into a rapturous frenzy and affirms the freedom of the colosseum victor. The reason it works is we saw the bloody penance she had to pay to get that kind of obedience, and we saw the toll it took on her spirit as she lay like a child on her book, crying blank-eyed until she’s’ joined by Gaia and Indra.

Adina Porter‘s subtle facial expressions and delivery of pointed dialogue like, “Your real commanders would’ve let you burn.” build on my already enormous esteem for the character and the actress. I can’t get enough of her and her conflict. She shows the struggle between honoring tradition and making something that works in the present. She demonstrates Indra’s frustration with Gaia’s rigidity, her desire to protect and honor and nurture Octavia’s leadership, and her own adherence to tradition as the only thing she knows, which has a proven track record of working to unify the clans. Such complexity. I can’t wait to see more.

Isaiah Washington is always intense and riveting as Thelonious Jaha. I loved the sharp and watchful but non-challenging look he has in all his scenes with Bunker leadership. You can almost see the wheels turning in his head when Jaha is saying goodbye to Ethan in the bunk room. Jaha knows he’s mortally wounded but he has to save his people one last time so he hatches a plan to do just that. The character of Jaha has run its course and I’m so happy that he died surrounded by his loved ones on his own terms. May we meet again, Isaiah.

Odds and Ends

  • Mackson! (More on them after S4)
  • Kara is Kane and Abby’s consequences.
  • Kane and Abby’s relationship is not one that moves me normally but they had some great scenes in this episode
  • I love an episode where basically everyone is right from their own PoV and it’s handled well
  • Way to honor the history and themes of this show to the fullest

 

 

Reclaiming my lines…

I dedicated two years to an online website, tirelessly working as an editor and writer. I resigned due to unethical practices from the person in charge. In retaliation, my Bylines were stolen from me. So I’m posting my body of work here and adding to it. At the end of the day, I’m not going to let setbacks steal my joy. I have so much more to write and explore. There’s pain in learning sometimes. I learned:

Never work for free.

Be watchful and sharp.

Trust is not to be freely given.

It’s ok to limit selflessness.

I’m a motherfucking star and I can shine for my damn self.