‘Black Panther’ celeb to highlight CAAM comic book fest

By Shirley Hawkins

Contributing Writer

EXPOSITION PARK — African American fans of comic books are expected to flock to the California African American Museum from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 10 for the first CAAMCon Black Comics Festival.

A panel of experts will discuss the history, artistry and power of Black comics.

Ryan Coogler, the celebrated director and screenwriter for “Black Panther” and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” and Aaron Covington, the “Long Live the King” novelist, will appear on a panel from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to discuss the challenges and rewards of writing Black comic books, the transition of stories from comic books to the big screen and the subversive nature of the comic book genre.

Appearing on a second panel will be Cody Ziglar, director, podcast producer, and writer of “Marvel She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” and “Spider-Punk” series writer, and Rodney Barnes, executive director of The Boondocks.

Also on that panel will be John Jennings, who co-founded the CAAMCon Black Comics Festival along with Angelique Roche.

The panel will be moderated by Sebastian Jones, president of Stranger Comics and creator of comic superheroine Niobe, whose story is currently in development with HBO.

“I’m executive producing and co-writing the series along with “Insecure” and “Uncorked” writer Prentice Penn,” Jones said.

Jennings is a professor at UC Riverside, a New York Times best-selling author and a graphic novelist who will appear with Ziglar and Barnes from 1:30 to 3 p.m.

Jennings felt that holding the Black comics festival was necessary to showcase Black representation in the comic book world.

Topics the panel will discuss are Black characters who have become staples in Black comics as well as the growing representation of Black women characters.

“I was an avid collector of comic books since I was about 8 years old,” said Jennings, who grew up in Mississippi. “I used to collect comic books featuring the mighty Thor, Superman and Casper the friendly ghost.

“After the Blaxploitation boom, characters of color became more prevalent in the mid-60s like Luke Cage, the Falcon, Black Panther and Black Lightning.

“The first Black superhero that I remember reading about was the Falcon, a highly trained fighter with wings who had a pet bird named Red Wing, created by Stan Lee and Gene Colan. Falcon is currently one of the Captain Americas featured in the comic books.”

“A lot of times, Black kids don’t see themselves reflected in the media that they consume,” Jennings said. “That can be detrimental to their self-esteem. If you don’t see something that reflects yourself then you think it doesn’t exist.

“We wanted to create a space for just one day where Black families are the central default.”

Jennings, who also writes for Marvel, added, “I’m working on a directory of Marvel’s Black heroes with Angelique Roche, who also works with Marvel. We are writing a book called “My Superhero is Black,” a collaboration between Marvel and Simon and Schuster that will be released in June.”

Comic book lovers will be able to meet some of their favorite creatives at CAAM’sComics Marketplace, including Kristal Adams, David G. Brown, Shawnee and Shawnelle Gibbs, Ray-Anthony Height, Keithan Jones, Jason Reeves, Robert Roach, TJ Sterling, Rubyn Warren II and Larry Welch and see their work in person.

A children’s activity corner will be available where children can create and color their own Black comics.

“I just hope people will come out and support the festival,” Jennings said.

“This event is important for multiple reasons,” said Alexsandra M. Mitchell, manager of education and public programs at CAAM. “I’m excited to help bring this festival to the L. A. area to highlight the wealth of talent that we have here in the city as well as to highlight the connections of Black life, history and culture in the Black comic genre.”

Shirley Hawkins is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers. She can be reached at metropressnews@gmail.com.

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