Motor City Comic Convention to spotlight independent artists
By Steve Furay
Special to the Michigan Citizen
The Motor City Black Age Comic Convention returns for the fifth straight year and is ready to show Detroiters a new side of one of today’s most popular art forms.
This free and all-ages comic book show will be held Sept. 27 and 28 at YouthVille Detroit, located at 7375 Woodward Avenue.
The comic book industry has grown into one of the most popular forms of entertainment today, with recent films like “The Avengers,” “Batman” and “Man of Steel” bringing comic heroes from pages to imaginations around the world. Many independent artists and writers create stories and heroes of their own, and the Motor City Black Age Comic Convention gives them their chance to make new fans.
“This comic convention is focused on indie comics,” says Maia “Crown” Williams, a local professional event coordinator and the show’s executive assistant. “There are a lot of people who don’t realize there’s other things beside Marvel, DC and Hound (Comics).”
Highlights of the event include a networking party and film screening of “DREADLOCKS: The Animated Movie” from 6-9 p.m. on Sept. 27. Also, participants can look for live painting by Sabrina Nelson, comedian Mic Larry, and hip hop artists D.S. Sense, Microphone Misfitz and Poetic Menace enthusiasts on Sept. 28.
The convention specifically gives Black artists a space to feature their work, to “try to focus on comic books that are of African descent …because they get pushed out of most mainstream comic book conventions,” says Williams.
“It’s also located in Detroit, whereas most of the other … (Michigan comic conventions) that call themselves Detroit are located outside of the city,” she says.
On Sept. 28, three different workshop classes for youth will take place; at most comic conventions, workshop space and participation are reserved for adults. Young artists will get instruction in writing, illustration, coloring and paneling.
Inspiring young local artists is important because of the great history of Black comic books artists from Detroit, says Williams. “People also don’t realize Dwayne McDuffie, one of the biggest writers of all comic books, came from Detroit, and he passed away two years ago,” she explains.
Dwayne McDuffie, a Black comic artist responsible for introducing many Black characters through different works, was born in Detroit in 1962 and graduated from the University of Michigan before accepting his first job as editor for Marvel Comics in 1987. He moved on to write for DC Comics as well, having written for titles like Spider-Man and Captain Marvel.
McDuffie went on to help found Milestone Media, distributed by DC Comics from 1993 to 1997, with ethnically diverse characters from popular titles, including “Static,” “Icon” and “Hardware.” The company also produced 52 episodes of the animated series “Static Shock,” a major accomplishment in giving Black characters a place in the mainstream world of comics.
“You only had two types of characters available for children,” said McDuffie in a 1993 interview about the early days of comics with The New York Times. “You had the stupid angry brute and the he’s-smart-but-he’s-black characters. And they were all colored either this Hershey-bar shade of brown, a sickly looking gray or purple. I’ve never seen anyone that’s gray or purple before in my life. There was no diversity and almost no accuracy among the characters of color at all.”
Arvell Jones is another Black comic artist from Detroit, an industry legend who has written for popular titles like Iron Man, Thor and the Black Panther. He will be in attendance on Saturday.
DREADLOCKS was created by Detroit artist Andre Batts for his company Urban Style Comics, and his animated film screening on Friday evening is a featured event of the Motor City Black Age Comic Con. He has stated that his work stems from gaining a higher knowledge of self, then realizing that most major comic books series, like Thor and Superman, come from ancient African myths and spirituality.
DREADLOCKS has produced nine comics and a graphic novel called “The Revelations,” which all will be available for sale at the Urban Style Comics vendor booth.
“We try to highlight not only people who have worked in Marvel and DC,” says Williams. “we really try to highlight people that self-publish their own comic books, create their own comic books printed under their own name.”