From Oct 6-9, 2016 I was lucky enough to participate in two of the record 38 panels at New York Comic Con whose subject matter centered around Diversity and Inclusion. As long as I’ve been going to NYCC I have NEVER seen this many panels on diversity, nor have I seen this much intersectional diversity represented either. Almost all of them were packed, despite many being scheduled at the EXACT same time. I think the thing that impressed me the most this year was the VARIETY of the ethnicities and genders involved in many of the panels. this year’s NYCC featured thirty-eight separate panels split into four subcategories: Disability, LGBTQ, People of Color and Women. I remember when there was just one, (Geeks of Color I think) and the moderator tried to include as many different representations of diversity on the panel as possible. Whereas during NYCC there were panels dedicated to a specific topic or ethnicity. Here a highlights from a few…
We Need Diverse Books Presents: Women and Gender, Non-Conforming Writers of Color in Digital Media
Bani Amor, Christina Tesoro, Cristina Arreola, Jamie Broadnax (Black Girl Nerds) and Swapna Krishna had a great panel discussion led by Jennifer Baker (Forbes.com; Minorities in Publishing podcast) about writing, blogging, and navigating the world of literature and social media as a woman of color. Panelists gave fantastic advice about how to get paid as a writer, how to write effectively, and how to deal with social media “trolls.
Across the hall….
Blastr’s Fangrrls presents: Women in Geek Media
Immediately following WNDB we ran across the hall to see Cher Martinetti, Catrina Dennis, Alisha Grauso, Jamie Broadnax (she was one busy lady during NYCC!), C.A. Higgins. Sarah Kuhn, and Connie Willis for the third annual Women in Geek Media Panel. It was a nice segway from the WNDB panel actually because these ladies discussed more of how they promote themselves online and real-world advice on how fans can support women in comics, gaming, TV, and on social media.
Afropunks and Blerds: The New Black Nerd Renaissance
I was lucky enough to be asked by David Walker (Power Man and Iron Fist, Shaft, Nighthawk) to moderate this one. But to be on a panel with him , Dr. Sheena Howard (Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation), Ytasha Womack (Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture), Corey Glover (Living Colour), Vernon Reid (Living Colour), John I. Jennings (Blue Hand Mojo) and Jamie Broadnax (Black Girl Nerds). We had a really great discussion about what it’s like to be considered an outsider even within your own community because of the music you listen to or the comics or movies that you’re into. We also discuss the meaning of the term “blerd” and how it’s not just a pop-culture reference. We even touched on topics like mental health/depression and isolation due to lack of community. We even discussed the spiritual aspect of Afrofuturism and the concept of being able to see yourself in the future. (Video coming soon!)
Scheduled at the same time as our panel was another panel….
Race and Sexuality: A Conversation with Ta-Nehisi Coates, Steve Orlando, Tee “Vixen” Franklin and Steve Orlando
Moderated by Johnathan W. Gray, Coates’ discussed his work at the Atlantic and the characters in his current run on Black Panther and the overwhelming response it’s received. Steve Orlando, who’s rebooted Midnighter and Apollo dropped this month to high-praise and who also wrote Virgil, a comic about a Jamaican cop investigating the kidnapping of his boyfriend, discussed non-binary characters comics. Blogger and #BlackHistoryMonth creator Tee “Vixen” Franklin discussed her new comics, the overuse of the word “diversity” and questioned of the decision to hire Dr. Roxanne Gay to pen the Black Panther spinoff World of Wakanda versus “hiring from within”.
Rising From the East: A New Kind of Comics
This panel was the first I’ve seen about India’s comic book industry, and featured Akshay Dhar, Jatin Varman and Anant Sagar. The panel covered the American influence on the comic book industry, political cartoons in India. They also spoke about how US superheroes and characters make more money in China than they do in India, so there is a greater chance of a Chinese character being cast in an American film than someone from India. For their first panel, they did quite well and I hope they come back next year.
Tee “Vixen” Franklin moderated her 3rd annual NYCC panel with guests Steve Orlando, Juan Ferreyra, Ma. Victoria Robado, Wendy Xu, Kwanza Osajyefo and Brenden Fletcher.
Super Asian America
This was an awesome panel. Moderated by Mike Lee of Racebending and featuring Greg Pak (totally Awesome Hulk), Marjorie Liu (Monstress, Astonishing X-Men), Keit (Nerds of Color founder/Secret Identies) , Visjavit Singh (Sikh Capt America) and the legendary Larry Hama (G.I. Joe) The paneliests ad a frank discussion about inclusion and what’s like to be regularly overlooked or have their work/characters misinterpreted. Liu told a touching story about her grandparent’s immigration and how that inspired her to write Monster (which you NEED to read!), while Hama gave some real world advice as to how to combat diversity indifference in the comics business.
50 Years of Black Panther
This panel was pretty epic. A tribute to Marvel’s character Black Panther, past and present, it was amazing to see Christopher Priest, Alitha Martinez, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Don McGregor, Brian Stelfreeze, Axel Alonzo and James Monroe Iglehart on stage discussing the iconic character. The panel was hosted by “Nightling” co-anchor Byron Pitts. A lot of history was discussed, including MCGregor’s explanation of the politics involved in the 70’s when they were pushing for a black lead in a comic book (Jungle Action Series). Priest also spoke about his Marvel Knights run with Panther and how much he admired the character. Coates talked about how representation matters and how growing up in the 80’s/90’s,“The only place to see black heroes in my childhood was in comic books.” Personally, I was thrilled to see Alitha Martinez on the panel. I feel she is an often overlooked artist who has been in the industry for years, but since it has been announced that she’s is the artist on the Black Panther spinoff World of Wakanda, many people are hearing her name for the very first time. “I’ve been creating comics for 17 years, but every time I do a book people think I’m new.”
Black Heroes Matter
I was also on this panel and both the stage and the room were PACKED! David Walker led a frank discussion along with Tim Fielder (Dieselfunk Studios), comic book historian William H. Foster, Regine Sawyer (Women In Comics Collective NY Intl), John I. Jennings (Blue Hand Mojo, Kindred), Kwanzaa Osajeyfo (Black) about why representation matters , and how creators and the media can start working together to get our stories out there. Discussions covered how to make real changes and erase the us/them mentality surrounding indie comics vs mainstream. Panelists also provided real-world advice about how comics actually get written, chosen and sustained. Check out this interview with David Walker by HBO Vice News:
Meanwhile down the hall…
Geeks of Color IV: The Force Awakens
I remember when Diana Pho’s (editor, Tor Books) Geeks of Color Panel was one of the ONLY panels on diversity you could find at NYCC. Unfortunately it was at the same time as the Black Heroes Matter Panel but I heard it was well-attended just the same. The panelists included Jenn Baker (Forbes.com; Minorities in Publishing podcast), Bill Campbell (publisher, Rosarium Press), Andrea Lee (Got 2B Real web series), Sarah Kuhn (author, Heroine Complex), Quressa Robinson (editor, St. Martins) and was of course moderated by Pho.
Lion Forge Panel
There were several amazing announcements made at this panel including a new kids imprint called Cubhouse and their YA division called Roar! Along with the announcement of Magnetic an imprint that primarily reprints French titles, the big moment (for me anyway) was when newly hired Senior Editor Joseph P. Illidge (CBR, Solarman) announced the new Catalyst Prime Imprint with the lineup of comic book artists on its roster including: David F. Walker (Power Man and Iron Fist/Shaft/Nighthawk), Alex DeCampi (Archie vs. Predator/No Mercy), Christopher Priest (Black Panther/Deathstroke), Dr. Sheena Howard (Back Comics: The Politics of Race and Representation) and Chuck Collins (Bounce!)
30 minutes after that panel started…
Women of Color in Comics: Race, Gender and the Comic Book Medium
Carol Burrell (Graphic Universe), Che Grayson (Rigamo), Jules Rivera (Valkyrie Squadron), Micheline Hess (Malice in Ovenland), Camilla Zhang (COMIC) and Barbara Brandon-Croft* (Where I’m Coming From), the first ever nationally syndicated African-American female cartoonist. The panel was moderated by Regine Sawyer (Ice Witch), founder of Women In Comics Collective NY International, who led the panel discussion about how each member got into the comic book industry, and how the changing face of comics although much better, there is still a ways to go. For instance, even though mainstream comics has admitted that women are definitely reading as much (if not more) comics their male counterparts, there still are not that many female writers or editors.
FanBrosShow Presents – Inclusion is Revolution: Reclaiming Geek Culture
This is another panel that blew me away, not just with the subject matter, but with the guests! Podcast pioneers The Fan Bros Show put together a great panel including “Tatiana King-Jones (Fan Bros Show), June Kim (Girltrash!), Isaac Goodheart (POSTAL), Joseph P. Illidge (Lion Forge Comics), Kennedy Allen (The Black Tribbles) and Daniel José Older (Shadowshaper) and moderator DJ Ben Hameen (FanBrosShow). They led yet another discussion about the overuse of the word “diversity” and gave great visual examples of whitewashing looks like in Hollywood. (I had no idea Tom Cruise’ Edge of Tomorrow was a live-action remake of All You Need Is Kill). The panel also discussed the myth of marketing diverse media.“There is a lie…in this business, that people of color in other cultures won’t sell.” said Illidge.
Whew! There was a LOT going on this year, but I applaud ReedPop for making the effort to represent intersectional diversity at NYCC this year. With their recent aquisitions of Emerald City Con and the Harvey Awards, I hope that it becomes a trend.
•Did you attend any of the NYCC diversity panels? What did you enjoy the most?
*A bit of trivia, Croft’s father Brumsic Brandon Jr. created the comic Luthe, one of the earliest comic strips with lead black character