I went to New York Comic-con 2009 this weekend and had a grand old time. I met up with Gavin, Tucker and Nina Stone, Timothy Callahan, Julian, Ron Wimberly, the Funnybook Babylon gang, LeSean Thomas, Sean Witzke, Cheryl Lynn, and probably half a dozen more people over the course of the weekend.
What’s striking, though, is how the con doesn’t really represent the make-up of the stereotypical comics reader. Yes, there are the chubby white dudes wheeling carts full of comic books to be signed and being rude (a special shout-ot to the guy dressed as a robot who hit me in the head with his boombox). Yes, there were dozens of Slave Leias clogging up the aisles like half-naked roaches. However, there were a lot of girls, latinos, and black folks.
This wasn’t really shocking to me as much as it was just a confirmation of the song I’ve been singing for years now– we’ve always been here. I grew up on comics. Everyone I know grew up on these books, black or white. We all found something to love. I’ve noticed that most of the black people I know leaned toward Marvel for a variety of reasons.
The con was real life– it’s the world that I’m used to seeing, it’s the world that I grew up in, and it’s the world that all of us know. I saw black dude working a booth with some anime thong on his head (I *smh*’d, seriously), others wearing Naruto headbands (I *smh*’d again, you aren’t tupac), and others just dressed like normal people. Some were even dressed as grown-ups. What matters is that there was a huge variety of people there. Young, old, and everywhere in-between. Some were there for indie books, others for superhero pieces, and still others for that creepy porno people always sell at cons.
I went to two panels on Sunday, which doubled my total for the weekend. The first was the Multiculturalism in Comics panel, which was okay, save for a few bumps which I probably won’t get into later as they’re overall meaningless. But, the second panel was the Hip-hop and Comics panel, which was not printed in the show flyer (It was shown as ??? and had no description). It featured Chuck D, DMC of Run DMC, Kyle Baker, James Bomb, Adam Wallenta, and a couple other guys whose name escapes me.
It was pretty wonderful. Rather than being a shillfest for PE’s comic, which was only mentioned maybe twice, it was about growing up in the ’60s and ’70s and what they were into. It was about the intersection between rap and superheroes. It was about everything I’ve ever talked about in one hour long panel.
One thing I hate are comic fans who get upset when somebody goes “Ha ha, nerds!” It’s stupid self-hating lack of self-esteem-having silliness. This panel was the opposite. It was a bunch of guys in touch with their inner nerd and not feeling bad about it at all. One guy mentioned that he was getting stellar grades in school and was being tested for access to a gifted class in school. The teacher asked him if he knew what espionage meant. His response?
“Like in Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division?”
“Uh, it means spy stuff. Espionage.”
Other notable shout-outs were White Tiger (Hector Ayala from Spanish Harlem, “’cause where else are you gonna put a Puerto Rican in New York City?”), Shang-Chi, Moon Knight, and Spider-Man (who is from Queens, and a favorite of Kyle Baker and DMC, both of whom are Queensborn).
I wish I had recorded the panel, because it was everything I want to do in BHM09 all in one place. It talked about how the fact that Marvel’s characters had problems you could relate to and lived in NYC made them more real and relatable than other characters.
It was as much a celebration of comics, and loving comics, as it was about hip-hop. They often mentioned how secret identities informed the creation of rap aliases and costumes, and even how Peter Parker being a normal kid with an outlandish alter ego helped turn Darryl McDaniel into a Devastating Mic Controller.
Everyone reads comics. Comics are a mirror to our society. It shows our fears, hopes, dreams, failures, vulnerabilities, and possibilities. For comics not to reflect us (and by us I mean “people,” not “black people”), even as it reflects all this other stuff, is silly.
No, silly is the wrong word. It’s stupid. It’s stupid because it’s so glaringly obvious a child can see it.