n Harlem, on 135th Street and Lenox Avenue inside the austere halls of a research center devoted to the Afro-Caribbean experience in America, a comic book festival took place; in fact this weekend is the third time it’s happened. Maybe that’s not shocking to you but that sure as hell blew my mind. Funny that about “the times” and how they keep on changing.
Saturday, January 17, 2015 was the start of the Schomburg Center’s Third Annual “Black Comic Book Festival” which lasted through that Sunday. The festival brought together premiere artists, writers, and thinkers on the topic of the black image in the comic medium from all over New York City. The artists and writers had booths to showcase their projects and to get positive feedback and support from this close knit community of image-conscious creators. Like any good comic book convention, there was also an assortment of panel discussions to choose from on topics like how creators of color can take more responsibility in controlling the Black image in comic culture to practical advice on how today’s youth can get started in the industry.
One slightly disheartening thing to see was that this was strictly an indie affair. There was no representation from the big three present and even the smaller publishers such as BOOM! or Valiant were nowhere to be seen, but as you walked around the festival you started to get the feeling that maybe that’s okay. Books that got the crowd’s attention did so on talent and buzz and not name recognition and movie tie-ins. Creators from every genre shot the shit with friends and fans and colleagues and made an environment that bigger events from groups like REEDpop are trying to recapture the spirit of with events like Special Edition NYC. This was an indie comic lover’s lucid dream, telling tales of a counter-culture’s sub-culture that stretched and circled the American zeitgeist in endless shades of vivid brown and pitch perfect black.
Black people making and buying comics is not a new concept, so something like the Black Comic Book Festival was bound to happen and I’m personally very glad I got to see it in happen in Harlem. I’m actually surprised the concept of black artists and writers coming having a festival of their own took as long as it did coming into fruition. Comic book festivals have been growing in popularity in New York City and have started to rival the west coast in stature and crowds, so it was only a natural step to have a festival devoted to black comic culture. Maybe I’m a little bitter that the BCBF wasn’t around when I was a kid but in any case it’s here now and judging by the crowds the Black Comic Book Festival might be here for a while.