Representation continues to be a topic of discussion when it comes to comic books. Readers from all backgrounds and experience like to find themselves reflected in many of the books and media they enjoy. When some of these readers have difficulty finding some of those books that speak to them, they frequent events and conventions that fills the void of what they're looking for. Black Comix Day in San Diego has been one of those conventions the past few years to fill that void. With quite a few comic conventions on the East popping up to satisfy the needs of Black fans, Black Comix Day is one of the few that has appeared on the West side. Creator of BCD, Keithan Jones, prepares for the third year of this convention. As a creator from New York City, this convention has proven to be one of my favorites to participate and vend at, especially when meeting fans and Black readers who are always so amazed and excited to find books and creators who look and identify with them.
Keithan Jones is a comic creator born in Memphis, Tennessee and raised in San Diego, California. Jones has been drawing his entire life but it wasn't until his father took him to see Star Wars back in 1976 that Jones discovered his passion for art. Star Wars informed his world view and set the bar to everything artistically that he wanted to achieve. While Jones found a variety of inspiration through works like Star Wars and other high fantasy media, he noticed growing up the lack of Black characters in the comic books and movies he was so fond of.
"For the most part they were buffoons or sidekicks," Jones says, taking the time out of his busy schedule. "Real life black men became my Afro-Heroes. Legends like Muhammad Ali, Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Hmmm… All their names started with an 'M.' So that said, now that I have been working as a professional graphic and comic book artist for several years, I felt it was time for me to lay the foundation to changing the narrative on 'Black Heroes' in pop culture."
In 2014, Jones started his publishing company KID Comics and debuted his childhood creations, The Power Knights, a sci-fi fantasy book featuring Black men and women as the main protagonists with a story being relatable for anyone to read. Jones' mantra for KID Comics is "The Kid in You Never Dies." A theme that's reflected throughout his work that's filled with dynamic characters and action packed moments that can make any reader giddy in excitement.
"It has done very well for me on the indie level, but I am currently working towards taking it to higher levels of prestige and awareness, including a mobile game called Beat Siege: The Power Knights Edition. Stay tuned for greatness."
On top of working hard on expanding the world of The Power Knights, from the comic books to now mobile gaming, Jones is also preparing for the third year of his comic book convention in San Diego in time for Black History Month at World Beat Center. This year, the event will be two days instead of one. With a focus on Black creators creating their own works that center Black characters, culture, themes and catering to comic fans seeking something different and of course Black readers (and potential readers) to find representations of themselves, Jones says his convention, Black Comix Day, came out of a necessity.
"I never imagined myself running a comic-con event, let alone a 'black' one. But it makes so much sense for it to exist," Jones explains. "All the preaching African-Amercians do towards owning our own content and businesses, this show should have happened a long time ago. There are other shows across the country like BCD but to my knowledge none in San Diego, which is the birth town of the 'comic-con.' I was originally approached by Malcolm X Library San Diego, to do a comic show for Black History Month back in 2017. At first I was going to dismiss it, but then I thought about how hard it was for me to find venues that actually focused on Afrocentric comics. It was an epiphany; I could literally make my own doorway to success and walk through it. And so I did. With the help of my mother, The Malcolm X Library and now founder of the new location, Makeda 'Dread' Cheatom of The World Beat Center, the show is successfully heading into its 3rd year!"
Black Comix Day will showcase various professional artists and writers from big publishers such as Image Comics, Marvel Comics, and DC Comics, but Jones believes that the real glue of the show is the Black Owned Publishers that are being celebrated. "That's the true reason the show was created. To give them a platform to reach their community."
Despite the growing success of the show, Jones opens up a bit about the behind the scenes aspects of running such an event.
"It's ALWAYS challenging to put a show on. The logistics, the staff, the marketing, the funding and just getting the artists to take a chance on exhibiting at an unknown, unproven event like BCD. All parties involved are taking a gamble in some form or another. I understand that dynamic. Unfortunately, there are people with clout, who can really help take an event like this to much higher levels that just aren't willing to take such gambles unless they see a proven track record. Which forces me to make things happen on a limited budget. Meaning whatever's in my pocket [laughs]! But I get it, I understand. It's the laws of ROI. In my experience, those who take the biggest gambles, usually reap the biggest rewards."
If you're a regular comic convention attender, you know a con isn't always complete with panels. Panels where one learns some tidbits about the business and how to create their own stories, discussions about themes and subject matters showcased in pop culture, and so one. Black Comix Day will also have panels, two in particular that Jones is excited about.
"We have 2 excellent panels! Saturday Feb. 22: 'The Long Road Home: Time Travel & Race In Science Fiction.' We talk with John Jennings and Damian Duffy, the creators behind the graphic novel adaptations of Octavia Butler's books, Kindred and Parable Of The Sower. Bleeding Cool's own, Hannibal Tabu will be moderating. And on Sunday Feb. 23: 'Empowered: How Indie Comic Creators Build Universes & Communities.' This panel is for aspiring writers, artists and entrepreneurs in general. We get insight on how to succeed in the indie market from creators, Robert Love, Greg Anderson Elysée, Dr. Lawana Richmond, and Jason Reeves. It's moderated by Aaron Nabus."
The event is free for everyone to attend and will also include a video game lounge where attendees can compete for prizes in games like Tekken and Soul Calibur as well as other kid friendly games.
"We want all folks, from all cultures to come and experience Afrocentric or Afrofuturism comic art and artists," says Jones before wrapping up to continue preparing for the show in less than two weeks. "I guarantee you'll have a great time hanging out with us. Please join us for a special Black History Month event Feb. 22-23 at World Beat Center, Balboa Park San Diego. Sat. & Sun. 10am-6pm. Thanks!"
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