Black Comix Day: A Look Back
Black Comix Day showed me that it was about so much more than just comics. It was also about the deep and rich culture we come from.
Feb 2019, San Diego California. I pull into the parking lot at Malcolm X library. The fresh, cool air hits my face as I open the door. The library teems with people both young and old. As well as it should, it’s Black Comix Day!
I entered the venue with a backpack on, full of poster prints I got made at FedEx and a Justice shirt. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but from the moment I stepped out, there was nothing but love and positive energy all around. Like a kid in a candy store, I bounded from table to table, talking with creators. Some of these professionals I knew, others I met for the first time. There was an electricity in the air and a love for comics that I haven’t found matched at ANY other comic event I’ve been to. The comfort of knowing that I was in the company of other link-minded comic enthusiasts and free from the disapproving glares that often accompany other conventions made Black Comix Day an amazing experience for a 30-year comic and comic convention veteran.
Fast forward a year and here I am, behind the table… Black Comix Day 2020. Heroes Rise III.
As soon as I saw vendor applications for Black Comix Day, I knew I needed to be there. So, I was quietly celebrating when I got my application accepted. I arrived at the new venue, The WorldBeat Cultural Center in San Diego, earlier than I meant to. I might not have looked like it, but it was my first convention and to say I was excited would be an understatement. For me, the atmosphere was electric. The WorldBeat Cultural Center was a WWE arena and I was the Rock, walking to the stage in my $500 shirt. Emblazoned with a Wingless Comics shirt on my chest and my books and posters on my back, I entered the hall of creators. The hall was already alive with veteran exhibitors setting their tables and displays. They were as varied as the content they presented. Black Comix Day showed me that it was about so much more than just comics. It was also about the deep and rich culture we come from. Paintings adorned the hall, as well as crafts, food, radio broadcasts, and even a game room. The multiple layers of Black Excellence permeated every facet of the World Beat Center. At the center of this amazing event were two people: Makeda ‘Dread’ Cheatom and Keithan Jones.
I met Keithan Jones, founder of KID-Comics and creator of The Power Knights at Black Comix Day 2019. His energy was infectious and his talent with both a story and illustration moved me to buy all four issues of The Power Knights instantly. Not only is he committed to ensuring that the kid in us never dies, but he’s also the driving force behind the ever-growing Black Comix Day. Makeda ‘Dread’ Cheatom is the Executive Director and Founder of the WorldBeat Cultural Center, our gracious host for the event. With an over 30-year history of community service, Makeda Cheatom was inducted into the San Diego Women’s Hall of Fame. The pair put together an event that uplifted the San Diego community and the Black Arts community simultaneously. While this was my first show vending, it was just one of many that I’ve attended. Never before have a seen an atmosphere of such pure comradery and communal love. Creators helped each other with table setups and tips for first-timers like myself. It wasn’t a “me” event, it was a “we” event as everyone pulled together to make the best experience for the community and convention fans. At the end of the event, we took a combined picture to encapsulate the moment in history. We all knew that we had been a part of something special and would continue to do so each year in the future.
As this event had such an impact on me and held so many strides for diversity and representation in the comic market, I took some time to talk to multiple creators about their experience. Michael Scott, of Thing-A-Majig Productions, had this to say, “Black Comix Days is an avenue or venue for creators that don’t fit the corporate mold or stereotype to come together, network, promote their businesses and be more creative in a relaxing and open environment.” Similarly, his co-founder James Merrill said, “Inclusion, fun for kids and teaching them that they can do anything they want to. It doesn’t matter what time in life you start, you can always accomplish your dreams. You can do an event like this and inspire other people. We were put here to help and inspire each other and Black Comix Day gives us another place to showcase that.” With Projects like The Chronicles of Gabriel, Buffalo Squad and Me & Mr. Jones, Thing-A-Majig studios look to hold true to their thoughts about Black Comix Day and the ideals that it represents for them.
Author, Brent Lambert (no relation) was also very positive in his feelings about Black Comix Day. “It is this beautiful culmination of all this black creativity and expression. It always leaves me feeling energized about the creative community going forward. His table-mate, Greg Anderson Elyseé (of Is’nana the Were-Spider, Marassa, The Gentleman and various other titles’ fame) was more succinct when describing BCD. He simply said, “It means everything.” When asked to elaborate, Elyseé added, “Black Comix Day is a chance to see us as normal. To see us as the default and no longer just the supporting cast. It’s a chance for us to stand in the spotlight.” Having built a career on exploring our rich African heritage and exploring numerous levels of diversity within his characterizations, Elyseé has a firm grasp on the impact of what BCD does and how it’s received.
Andre Owens of Hiro Unlimited Productions highlighted the importance of BCD because “there are a lot of people out there that don’t know there are more black comics than Black Panther and the Falcon. There are more black characters than they see on television. There are literally hundreds of black characters from other black independent creators. I invite everyone to go out and support black comics as much as they can.” Having published his first book, Force Galaxia #1 in 2006, Owen’s long tenure in the business is due to support and the ability of others to see and enjoy his creativity at venues like BCD and others.
Jason Reeves, founder of the award-winning studio, 133art was also a vendor at BCD. While taking a break from his work at 133art, Jason had this to say, “BCD is an opportunity for us to show, not that we are out here, not only are black comic book creators making diverse and varied content but also to show the multitude of worlds we can create. There are several creators out here that are making books that represent us in ways that we aren’t represented in the mainstream media. We are creating fantasy worlds that show us as gods, as heroes, and most importantly as protagonists. Since it’s a free event, it also gives kids a chance to see that they can do the same themselves.” His business partner and wife, Kemi Reeves added, “BCD is a time we can fellowship with like-minded people. It’s also a venue where we can reinforce positive black images, positive creative space for our children and the next generation. We can show them that there is a different narrative and a different perspective. Also, that it's cool to be creative and think outside of the box. With the litany of titles that 133art is producing, they are putting their money where their mouth is.
Freelance artist Robert Love, who has worked for Image and Darkhorse, among others and is currently producing the creator-owned title, Number 13 said, “Black Comix Day mean representation to kids and groups that don’t feel like they are represented in mainstream comics today. The diversity and inclusion of all people, regardless of color, culture or orientation, on the printed page. It also gives young kids that aspire to create comics a chance to see people blazing a trail for them.”
Lastly, I spoke to the man himself, the organizer of this event, Keithan Jones. Having held the event for 3 years straight Black Comix Day holds a special place and special purpose in his heart. He said, “It’s an opportunity for us to express ourselves as black creators and people from the black community without a filter. This is coming from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. This is a venue that is unique because we aren’t censored in the way we portray ourselves and we are not slighted in the way we portray ourselves. We get so to show our vision, our way at Black Comix Day.”
For a guy that came to Black Comix Day in 2019 with just a backpack on, to hosting a table and vending along with such giants in our industry in 2020, Black Comix Day meant the first step in a long journey. I saw other hopeful creators set their minds similarly. I watched children light up when they saw heroes that looked like them. I saw a little girl realize that she could be a writer as she talked to someone that had written their own novel and told her that no matter what, all she had to do was keep studying and keep trying. I saw a French-African father brought to tears because they don’t see images like this for his children in France. I saw a community come together and show the beauty of what is and what can be. At Black Comix Day 2020, I saw heroes rise. But those heroes weren’t limited to the pages of the books we love. Those heroes were the men and women that created them and instilled that hope, love, and culture in the next generation.
Brian Joseph Lambert is the lead contributing writer and editor at Wingless Entertainment LTD. He specializes in bringing diversity to action/adventure, fantasy and sci-fi worlds. In 2017, while earning his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Full Sail University, he published his first novel, ASCENSION- THE CHRUSION SAGA BOOK 1. In 2019 he earned a Master’s degree in Entertainment Business and released JUSTICE- ISSUE #0 for Wingless Entertainment LTD and Konkret Comics. Brian's current projects include WAR FOR THE SWORD- THE CHRUSION SAGA BOOK 2, a CG animated feature film entitled, RUBICON and JUSTICE- THE FALL, an ongoing graphic novel with KONKRET COMICS. Brian recently was selected as a Reader's Favorite Book Award Finalist in 2019 for, ASCENSION- THE CHRUSION SAGA BOOK 1. Brian has edited numerous independent works including, Is’Nana the Were-Spider by Greg Anderson Elysée, Akolyte by Derek Allen, Nia Caler by Dorphise Jean and the upcoming Beyond 13th by Michael Ralph. When not writing or editing, Brian works on creating a functioning lightsaber so that he can pass the Jedi trials.