After taking just one step inside Harlem’s storied Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture last weekend, one thing was immediately clear: Black Panther mania is real, y’all. The excitement in the air was thick, as comic creators, cosplayers, and vendors who have been in the game for 20+ years celebrated the arrival of Marvel’s Black superhero on the big screen.
The Sixth Annual Black Comic Book Festival is becoming a destination for cosplay fans. It’s a safe space for Black comic lovers to express their fandom, share their work, and network in a place created just for them.
A panel featuring Florence Kosumba, who stars as part of the powerful Dora Milaje in Black Panther, left no open seats in the Schomburg’s auditorium. Although Kosumba kept details masterfully under wraps, the excitement from panelists and attendees was palpable. Other panels featured advice from comic vets on how to break into the industry, tips on using Kickstarter to your advantage, and ways to highlight stories on social media. In addition, the festival did not shy away from the lack of women in the comic industry, and participants talked about intersectionality in very honest ways.
If you’re new to the blerd world (like I am), let the following three projects serve as your official starter pack. During The Brown Universe: Diversity in Comics panel, attendees were introduced to a Marcus Williams’ Tuskegee Heirs, a series that highlights real-life superheroes, the Tuskegee Airmen. Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez’s La Borinqueña series features an Afro-Puerto Rican superwoman, based on the strong women in his life. And Kwanzaa Osajeyfo’s Black series poses an interesting question: What if only Black people had superpowers? Needless to say, we’re here for it.
The two-day festival also included vendors who have been working hard behind the scenes for decades. Attendees braved the cold outside the Schomburg Center in hourly rotations just to support their favorite series and get their hands on merch. If this show out is any indication, Marvel has a smash in store, perhaps like we’ve never seen before—all thanks to T’Challa.