Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Rich Watson on The New Black Comic Books

I am very psyched about this post. This blog is leading me to whole new worlds of literature. I hope you feel the same.

Rich Watson has been involved with comics since 1993 as an artist, retailer, journalist, and more. He is a staff writer for Pop Culture Shock and the creator of the web comic City Mouse Goes West. He lives in Columbus, OH. Everything below is from Rich:

In recent years, comic books have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity the like of which has not been seen in generations. As the public has slowly become aware of the wide variety of genres the medium offers, the awareness of creator diversity has also increased. African-Americans, in particular, are beginning to reap the benefits of this new comics renaissance. More black creators are entering the field and making their presence known, and publishers are green-lighting more books with black characters and themes.

In 2005, I founded the Glyph Comics Awards (GCA), with the invaluable cooperation of the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention (ECBACC), to recognize the quality of these creators and their work in a medium where it is easy to overlook. The awards strive to not only single out the best in black comics, but to provide a pinnacle for future creators to aspire to. It was also founded to provide entry points for new readers and thereby expand the audience. The following is an abbreviated list of notable past winners, meant to provide an idea of the kinds of books that are feted.

Nat Turner
Kyle Baker, writer and artist

Inspired by the life of the 19th century slave who inspired a brief but bloody revolution in the American south, this four-time GCA winner (including Story of the Year 2006) relies on the words of Turner himself to tell the story, accentuated by a gritty cartoon style that never flinches in depicting the brutality of not only the
slave trade, but Turner's rebellion.

Astonishing X-Men: Storm
Eric Jerome Dickey, writer, David Yardin & Lan Medina and Jay
Leisten & Sean Parsons, artists

Comics have attracted many "celebrity" creators in recent years. Marvel Comics recently brought in noted romance novelist Dickey to portray this love story from the early days of two of comics' greatest black characters: the X-Man Storm and the African monarch known as the Black Panther. The result was a tale grounded in the reality of African life and politics, while providing a healthy dose of the action and adventure that have made Marvel a household name. It won the 2007 Fan Award for Best Comic.

Templar, Arizona
Spike, writer and artist

Some of the freshest new comics talent of the 21st century can be found on the internet, including the recipient of the 2007 Rising Star Award, Spike. Her series builds an entire world of oddball characters and curious places, all inhabiting the fictitious town of the title. One part David Lynch, one part Charlie Kaufman, the strip (collected in two hardcopy volumes and counting) is truly a singular vision that reflects the mind of its creator.

Marguerite Abouet, writer, Clement Oubrerie, artist

Comics are a global phenomenon, from England and France to Brazil, the Philippines, India, and Japan and Korea. With this coming-of-age tale of teenagers in the Ivory Coast of the 70s, Abouet presented a side of Africa not often seen in the media, and invested her story with equal parts warmth, humor, and sincerity, abetted by the lively and colorful artwork of Oubrerie. It is the winner of two GCAs, including the 2008 Rising Star Award, and a second volume is currently available.

The K Chronicles
Keith Knight, writer and artist

In a climate where editorial cartoonists are a slowly dying species, it's a struggle for survival for the ones still making a living. As the winner of three consecutive GCAs for Best Comic Strip - indeed, the only winner of the award in the GCAs' brief history - as well as many other awards, Keith Knight sits at the top of the heap. His insightful and incisive take on modern life is reflected in all his strips, including th(Ink) and his latest, The Knight Life, but never more so than in this one. It is available in a large omnibus collection.

The GCA ceremony is held every May as part of ECBACC, the comics convention that celebrates black comics talent. For more information about both, visit the ECBACC website, and follow this year's nominees at my blog, Glyphs.


Claudia said...

Love this list, Rich! I am so glad that you are bringing much-needed attention to comics with black characters and themes to the general public. I really, really enjoyed Aya and just finished the second book in the series. And I'm looking forward to reading more of Templar, Arizona.

Carleen Brice said...

Claudia, a few folks mentioned Aya in the last post. Really looking forward to reading that one and stuff by Spike-her website is really interesting.

Lafreya said...

Comic books are my great, great passion. Thanks for this post. I love it. I have more black books to buy.

Conseula said...

I'm so excited to see discussion of black characters/comics. Aya was great and I can't wait to read Templar.

Demon Hunter said...

I had no idea that Eric Jerome Dickey did that. I'm going to see if I can get an autographed copy. :-)

Carleen Brice said...

See the things we learn on this blog. Lafreya, had no idea you were into comics!

Demon Hunter, I too had no clue that EJD was doing comics.

Conseula, Another vote for Aya. Good to hear!