October brought a new Black-owned/operated fandom-focused convention to the Oakland, California area: AfroComicCon.
At the same time that big comic/fandom conventions keep getting bigger, small local cons are popping up almost every month. There are a lot of reasons for this — local cons offer an easier access point for families and younger fans, for example, while also providing a great starting point for young talent. They also can showcase local creators and provide a way for fans to get to know and support favorites in their neighborhoods. These local cons can blow up into national events in just a few years, but the experience of being there “on the ground floor” is really special.
With that in mind, I went to AfroComicCon ready to have some fun.
It was a great first-year convention held in the wandering halls of a local school. In addition to all the Black comic book artists, writers, jewelry designers, painters — creators of all kinds of media — there were workshops and panel discussions held throughout the day, with yours-truly holding it down about Women in the Comics Industry with a fabulous panel. It was a great experience with all of the passion and love that a local event can bring.
When I wasn’t on stage, I was buying comics and supporting my local talent. Here’s a roundup of the comics I picked up, and why you might want to download them too. Many are available on Comixology or on the creators’ websites.
Valorians: Calling of the Zealots Pt. 1
Writer, Artist: Paul McGill / McGill Creative
This is an ambitious military action comic with a serious plot of religious rebellion and political freedom. Every page is filled with guns and ab muscles, all with a shiny digital gloss. I say “ambitious” here because if McGill can fulfill what he’s hinting at here, this will be a long, deep story with plenty of intrigue and backstabbing to go along with the rain of bullets.
The art is slick and there’s some innovative panel work throughout, which I always like. Plus it is a diverse cast — multiple races and genders are represented on both sides of the conflict. To go along with that, McGill clearly went to a lot of effort to make every character distinctive, which in a comic like this that promises tons of characters, is vital.
If your nerd interests run towards Warhammer 40K and other military sci-fi settings, you’d do well to pick this one up on Amazon. This is a comic you can invest in.
Writer, Artist: Kyrun Silva / Big Tree Comics
In Shaman’s Destiny, a young neophyte shaman is fighting against the forces of evil who are trying to subjugate Gaea, the earth itself personified by a white elf woman. All pretty typical. What makes the comic atypical is the way the story is told and the twists and turns that start to pile up almost immediately. This is a comic that you think you can predict, but you can’t.
What’s causing these zombie monsters to take over whole towns? Who’s the menacing Dominic? Is Gaea being completely honest with our hero Malik? What’s with the talking rabbit, Jeph? And that cliffhanger ending?
If weird, funny superhero-ing is your favorite, think NextWave but solo, not a group, then this might be for you. Big Tree Comics is a Sacramento CA group of comic writers/artists who are really putting together something special. I had to pass up on their other title, Whyte & Wong, in favor of some solid fantasy work with Shaman’s Destiny. If you’re looking for new reading material, head to their site and look around. They have some exciting Kickstarters coming up that are worth a look.
Writer: Ry-El Nagasta / Artist: Anthony A. Angleró / Triple Optic Publishing
Indigo Clan is exactly what it seems: a comic about a group of superpowered people coming together to fight a world-spanning empire of evil lizard men. To do that, the super team has to travel the globe re-igniting and re-consecrating sacred sites. What makes the comic unique are the details: all of the heroes are People of Color, including the team leader being a Native American of an unspecified tribe. She’s stereotypically clothed, but the story hints that she’s not a person but a Goddess, so take that as you will. The crew also uses different sets of fighting techniques — one of them is a capoeirista — which is well represented in the art.
There’s plenty of action in the first issue, which has brightly colored digital art. Not every panel works well, but when it comes together, this is a pretty book. While there is a fair amount of exposition, the plot moves along pretty quickly. If you like mystical urban fantasy, with bits of different cultures and metaphysical theories mixed together, then this might be a good fit for you.
Writer: Adrean Klein / Artists: Miguel Ruiz, Eugen Betivu / Sygns Media
Wow. Like for-real: wow. The set up: a government science facility is experimenting on kids, all of whom have a brain abnormality that simultaneously gives them a disability — ranging from Multiple Sclerosis to mutism — and an ability — from telepathy to radioactivity. With echoes of the X-Men, and particularly Wolverine and X-23, this comic goes way past them in its own, complicated, dynamic, direction. The first issue has moral ambiguity, team conflict, and all the mystery you’d expect for a handful of kids who’ve never left the lab.
The story is compelling and the art is top-notch. The faces are wonderfully drawn and the action well detailed. You’ll form opinions about each of these kids in just 16 pages. Hand this one to your snob friends who claim indie comics aren’t as “well produced” as those from the Big 2. This one will shut them the entire hell up. Available at Comixology, for you digital-or-nothing collectors.
Nuthin’ Good Ever Happens at 4 a.m.
Writer, Artist: Avy Jetter / Stormone Originals
Zombies aren’t usually my gig, but something about this zine-like comic interested me, and the more I read it, the more interested I became. The plot is straight forward: four friends are scattered around Oakland, CA when the Zombocalypse comes and the first issue is them all checking in on each other and fighting to get to their safe spot: their fave corner store.
This comic is 100% for locals: The Oakland Public Library? Oscar Grant Plaza? All there and well portrayed. I knew which corners the story was taking place on because I knew the landmarks. Those kinds of details really make this comic personal, and especially for a topic like this, more scary. Speaking of details, each face is not only unique, but uniquely disfigured and zombified.
The story is told in short autobiographical tidbits, through text messages between the friends — the words are sparse but well used — and the hints those tidbits give of the difficulties of city life, even without zombies, make for a very effective emotional journey. I can totally recommend Nuthin’ Good for folks who want a good, raw, horror comic that makes The Walking Dead look like a suburban dream.