The Harlem Renaissance was a very exciting time. Poetry, Painting, Music, Dance, Theatre and Philosophy and rising Black Academia. At the same time, Black folks were being lynched down in Mississippi right?
So you have this incredible dichotomy of what it meant to be Black in America. It’s nearly 100 years later, and that dichotomy still exists. We’re still making great art, we’re still intellectually doing incredible things, and yet we’re still being shot down in the streets. We are still being made to be the victims and we have to prove our own innocence when we’re dead.
But we’re not trying to hit people over the head with that. We’re just trying to tell a good story. – David F. Walker writer “BITTER ROOT” available from Image Comics November 14th
Resistance is patriotic – Thomas Jefferson
New York Comic Con will be remembered for many things, The new She-Ra Netflix series will include characters who are LGBT.
Warner Bros. Launches DC Universe Streaming Service that will include Live Action Titans, Stargirl and Doom Patrol Series.
These and many other headlines will be covered by myself and other journalists in attendance. But there was a 1000 pound Gorilla that hung over the proceedings. The Kavanaugh Confirmation. And, the naked audacity of White Male Rage on display there.
It was palatable, It was real. It could not be ignored. Now some people could say this venue is no place for politics.
And they’d be mistaken.
Two points I need to make clear.
First: Fact of the matter is, it’s easy to be disdainful of public political musings or pleas for voter registration by movie stars when you’re totally convinced that things are pretty great for you and for people like you.
Must be nice.
Unconsciously, you realize that if the “rabble” is truly roused, things could get uncomfortable faster than you can say, “new haircut selfie.” Consequently, if you can keep the hoi polloi quiet, the status quo continues and things have a better chance of staying just the way they are.
Second: Let’s talk a little about “politics in comics” before we move forward. Because this will come up more often as Women, Blacks, Asians, Non-Binary folks and others undeserved in the pop media landscape take the lead on both sides of the camera and all phases of production in Hollywood.
Political thought not only has always been a part of comics, it grounds the greatest heroes and drives the best stories. Whether it’s two Jewish Comic Book creators who give the world Captain America an indelible symbol of American defiance of Nazism in 1941 or the creation of The X-Men, oppressed, hated and feared solely for being different by larger society during the civil rights era of the 1960’s. Yeah, that was no accident. “Mutie” is the “N” word.
I cover this ground in “Remember When Were Sidekicks?: Black Panther and Comic Book Politics”
And though the East Coast’s biggest Geek event of the year is over, and the fanfare behind the premieres will soon die down. There was a spark that shall endure. This year, more than any Con I remember was infused with an undeniable sense of the urgency of the times. Every day of NYCC2018, as you will see here over the next few weeks, there were examples of resistance from creatives those who would not stay silent in word or deed to speak out for what’s right.
Make no mistake. The Writers, Illustrators, On Screen Talent & Show Runners I met were all consummate professionals that didn’t forget why were all gathered.
It is a trade show after all.
But, at the same time, there were those who shared a spirit of Resistance to real-world challenges that face the majority in this country. And, as artists have historically done, were unafraid to share their truths, to bear witness, hold a mirror to society and open a window for the privileged to see the oppressed. And confront us with the hard choices we must make to elect a representative Government that reflects our greatest ideals, not our biggest fears.
In an age where the powerful exchange lies as the coin of the realm, speaking truth to such power in today’s political climate can be dangerous. Artists have also historically been targeted by the powers that be. But there are those who persist nonetheless.
That’s truly heroic in my book.
I applaud all who took an affirmative stand to address what’s happening in our society through word and deed. I will highlight them in particular, as well as cover the bases with expanded day by day coverage of the essentials, the best booths, cosplay and geek artifacts I came across so check my Instagram feed @instayarde and click the link in my bio often.
So let’s dig in,
STARZ: AMERICAN GODS / OUTLANDER
In the excellent 2017 Vox Article “Why Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is so iconic” author
“Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel American Gods — the television adaptation about an imagined pantheon of American-bred gods and goddesses, who soak up our admiration and feed off our obsessions, and who find themselves obsolete as the world around them changes.
But Gaiman’s use of gods and goddesses is just one level of the story. On a broader level, American Gods examines American identity and questions whether the country has somehow cobbled together its own unique religion, with its own relative sense of morality.
American Gods is an examination of American obsession and identity.
This explains much about where we find ourselves politically today.
I had a reservation at the STARZ booth located on the roadway right of the Crystal Palace. Starz brought one of the show’s central locations, the Motel America Diner, to New York Comic Con. The diner captured the attention of American Gods fans old and new by recreating everything from the iconic Motel America sign to the branded placemats that line the tables.
Just like any good roadside diner, the Motel America Diner offered show-themed swag.“Motel America” souvenirs – an iconic Motel America t-shirt and a character button.
Saturday night, Patton Oswalt Moderated a Conversation with Neil Gaiman and the “American Gods” Cast During Their First Official NYCC Panel Appearance:
In the excellent 2014 HuffPost Article “Outlander and the Female Gaze: Why women are watching” Jenny Trout makes a compelling case you should read that backs up her second headline –
“Outlander presents a fantasy that doesn’t seek to appease the pornography-influenced tastes of a straight male audience. To put it in simpler terms, Outlander is a drama crafted for the straight female gaze.”-
The OUTLANDER colonial experience “Welcome to Fraser’s Ridge” a period-accurate cabin complete with Clare’s Desk & a Caswell-Massey (est. 1752) apothecary Vendor who was in-period and leather craftsmen. It’s a brave new world in the Colonies! Here are are the OUTLANDER Season 4 opening credits:
Working with artisans and brands from the era, the Starz “Outlander” cabin experience featured two apprentice-style workbenches where fans can customize a leather item as well as receive a natural healing elixir inspired by the show.
Turns out No.6 was a rosewater that George Washington wore to his inauguration. Brand experts were on-site and in period costume to talk about the process and authenticity that went into bringing to life the historic details from colonial America. Really unparalleled booth by Starz. Check the video below as the actor never breaks character:
STARZ partnered with historic fragrance and beauty brand, Caswell-Massey (est. 1752), to curate a collection of the historically accurate products to offer fans as a unique, show-inspired takeaway.
Fans were able to take home one specially co-branded bottle of their choosing. STARZ also partnered with family-owned leather goods brand, Royce, to offer guests a luggage tag – a necessity for time travel – that can be customized with their monogram on-site.
To store their Outlander goods, guests were gifted a limited edition tote, featuring series key art!
The amazing panel featured a suprise, the first episode of the season! The Fraser clan try to make a new home in colonial North Carolina this season, as Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie (Sam Heughan) must negotiate a tenuous loyalty to the current British ruling class–despite Claire’s knowledge of the American Revolution to come.
Meanwhile, in the 20th century, a shocking discovery makes Claire and Jamie’s daughter Brianna (Sophie Skelton) and her would-be love interest, historian Roger Wakefield (Richard Rankin), consider following in Claire’s time-traveling footsteps.
Here’s the Trailer:
SHOWFLOOR–YOUNG ADULT SERIES KIRIN RISE
While on the Show floor I had the good fortune to discover Young Adult Author Ed Cruz and Illustrator Ron Langtiw. I was introduced to my new favorite young adult series featuring a hero girls can be proud to emulate KIRIN RISE
“This is the first young adult novel that gives readers basic lessons in Wing Chun Gung Fu. The only Chinese Martial Art developed by a woman.” said illustrator Ron Langtiw. This makes perfect sense since He’s a student and practitioner of Wing Chun his Sifu (Teacher) is also the Author Ed Cruz
“The World will move on without you unless you give it reason to stop.” – Sifu Cruz
The setting of KIRIN RISE is a semi-dystopian, near-future Chicago, people only care about surviving another day and forgetting their daily troubles by government-sanctioned bloodsports. The United Federation of Mixed Fighting (UFMF) keeps a lid on societal unrest by keeping them distracted with deadly bouts of destruction. Amature fighters can challenge professional fighters on “Chum Nights”.
Then, one Chum night, something miraculous happens. A 100-pound, fragile-looking young woman stands toe-to-toe against a seasoned Champion in the ring. She takes him out with a single blow, to the stunned silence from all in attendance.
“THIS,” she announces ton the audience, “is Wing Chun Gung Fu!”
Who is this girl? How did she defeat a seasoned champion so quickly? Where did she come from? What will she do next?
These are the questions my little girl and I are are currently discovering as she devours book one “The Cast of Shadows” book two “The Shadows Unleashed” is also currently available! It’s a very exciting and thoughtful read with a protagonist who has her own challenges to overcome the racism & sexism Kirin encounters strengthens her resolve to move forward. She’s a complexly written, proud protagonist that everyone can root for. This is a new “Hunger Games” for me that has a truth to it with its own philosophy rooted in the Martial Art style made famous by practitioners like Sifu Bruce Lee.
I’ll have a full book review in time for my Holiday Gift Guide but you should definitely support these creators in their affirmative support of women & girls.
Visit their website https://www.kirinrise.com
and order from Amazon
About Ed Cruz
Ed Cruz is an expert in the martial art of Wing Chun Gung Fu. He has been studying and practicing it for thirty-nine years and teaching it for eighteen. His Kirin Rise series uses the real martial arts philosophy as the basis for a dystopian YA thriller.
Cruz was trained in various martial arts for eleven years, but Wing Chun Gung Fu and its effective approach caught his attention. He met with Augustine Fong, a Wing Chun Gung Fu master, and has since devoted his life to mastering the art. Cruz is now an expert and has been publishing articles about Wing Chun Gung Fu for eighteen years.
Cruz was born in Manilla in the Philippines but immigrated to the United States at the age of three. His family resettled in Chicago, Illinois, and it has been his home ever since.
About Ron Langtiw
A native Chicagoan and a child of the 80’s, Ron Langtiw has always been a fan of Saturday morning cartoons and gung fu. The intersection of the two came in watching the US adaptations of Japanese animation like Battle of the Planets and Robotech. As a child, Ron learned to draw by tracing his older brother’s drawings. Later, he was inspired by artists like Alex Ross, Dale Keown, Greg Horn and Matt Wagner through their various comic series.
As a fan of Bruce Lee, Ron always wanted to learn martial arts. Ron met Ed Cruz in 2000 and began formally studying Wing Chun Gung Fu in 2004. He loved the art for its efficiency and effectiveness. As he grew in the art, Ron learned not only how incredible the art of Wing Chun can be, but he also gained a great family in his Wing Chun brothers and sisters.
Life went on as it always does and Ron spent a significant amount of time working in the Information Technology industry. While it paid the bills he needed an outlet for the creative energy inside him. After having two spirited boys, he found himself drawn back to his artwork and started penciling illustrations. By 2012, the timing worked out where Ed approached Ron with the concept of Kirin Rise. Two and a half years later, Ed and Ron published their first book together: Kirin Rise The Cast of Shadows.
ARTISTS ALLEY INTERVIEWS- DAVID F. WALKER & SANFORD GREEN IMAGE COMICS “BITTER ROOT”
I had the distinct honor to interview renowned comic book writer David F. Walker (Power Man & Iron Fist, Tarzan on the Planet of the Apes, Nighthawk) and illustrator Sanford Green (Power Man & Iron Fist, Royals) reunited to tackle demonic creatures that inhabit 1924 Harlem, NYC during the Harlem Renaissance.
“It’s basically a horror story, an adventure story that takes place against the backdrop of the Harlem Renaissance. It’s about a family of monster hunters. The premise is America was built upon the disease of racism & hatred and that disease infects people and transforms them into demonic creatures.
Our family of monster hunters heal these creatures or kill these creatures depending upon which family member you’re talking too. This creates a schism within the family, a rift in the family. When we meet them a lot of the family had been killed over the “Red Summer “ of 1919 their numbers are dwindling just as they are about to meet their greatest threat to the planet or I should say, this realm of existence.”
“If you’re a fan of Steampunk or Alchemy. The supernatural combined with the history, settings, fashion of the Harlem Renaissance. Plus a dramatic family story this is the book for you.”
– Artist Sanford Greene
You can view my interview with Walker & Green in full, where they break down not only what is Image Comics most eagerly awaited new title, but the current state of affairs inside and outside the Comic Book industry for Black Creatives and an EXCLUSIVE preview of Sanford’s incredible unfinished 5 cover spread below:
David Walker is not only a gifted storyteller, he is an advocate for diversity in large and small comic book publishers, one of the creators of “Black Heroes Matter” and a champion for representation within the comic book industry at all levels of production. “
I’ll have much, much more coverage of all aspects of New York Comic Con throughout the coming weeks so stay tuned!
Photos courtesy of the author.