Comics have never been basic— at worst, they’re escapist entertainment. At best, they’re high art, satire for real world issues and/or an introduction to reading for people who might not otherwise find their way to books. The Glass City Black Comix Arts Festival (GCBCAF) aims to span that wide spectrum in one day. At the Toledo Lucas County Public Library Main Branch, the inaugural GCBCAF offers a series of discussions and tutorials on comics as entertainment, education and identity, as well as a chance to meet some of the creators.
The festival, which brings together some of the most accomplished inkers of indie comic books, is the brainchild of Imani Lateef, creator of black comics online retail hub Peepgamecomix.com (FULL DISCLOSURE: Lateef is also a member of the Adams Street Publishing family, which creates the Toledo City Paper). “I wanted to share the wealth of work that the people of color have been putting out,” said Lateef. “Technology has given us the opportunity to produce a lot more work, a lot more comics. I noticed that most outlets didn’t curate works very well. So there’s no way to tell which creators are African-American or Latino. I created my website to curate that work and present it specifically for African-American creators and that’s also the main reason I created the Festival.”
Comics in the classroom
While the festival will showcase the works of African-American creators, all are welcome— particularly parents and educators— to learn how comics can be an aid for enhancing literacy. Terreece Clarke, co-founder of digital marketing firm LifeSlice Media, will present “Introducing Comic Books in the Classroom and at Home,” an important topic because “traditionally, comics are thought of as throwaway reading,” Clarke said. “A parent will want to steer their child away from a graphic novel, and towards something that’s a ‘real book.’ What they don’t understand is that researchers have been showing for years that comic books and graphic novels are kind of like an easy introduction for reading.”
“One of the benefits of a festival like this is it highlights comic book creators who get overlooked in the mainstream press and their local press too,” said Clarke. “At these shows, people discover comic books and comic book creators. Particularly marginalized groups who don’t have multimillion dollar campaigns like Marvel. A lot of time when we do these (sorts of) events, we see kids’ and parents’ eyes light up and they can’t believe all this material is out there.”
Drawing from life
Another presenter, Victor Dandridge, runs Vantage: Inhouse Publishing and writes an array of comics, including kid-friendly The Kinder Guardians. With his presentation, “Creating Your Own Comic Book Characters,” he will teach attendees to become world builders. “My involvement with PeepGameComix made this a perfect sort of invite,” said Dandridge. “Imani was spearheading this and really trying to get people involved, and with me being local to Ohio, it was kind of a trifecta of great things.”
Over the past six years Dandridge, a full-time creator, has instilled the love of reading through comics, introducing kid-friendly comic titles to schools with his immersive program, UCre8 Comics. “As a kid, I didn’t like to read and I found a lot of benefits from reading comic books. I wanted to build a program that would highlight that for educators. If you think about it, reading a book can be considered a heavy task,” Dandridge said. “If the kids have any trouble with reading or comprehension, reading a novel with strictly words is daunting, but the combination of pictures and words makes things a little easier, particularly when you consider the pop culture phenomenon of superhero movies and TV shows.”
Also presenting at the show will be Andre L. Batts, who runs Detroit comic publishing house Urban Style Comics and Michael Watson, who will be on hand to teach his interactive card game Epic 21. So there will be lots to do and lots to learn. Attending a show about comics and education can be an education in itself. Don’t miss this immersive free event, perfect for kids and adults alike.
The schedule of events:
10am: Festival begins.
An Introduction to Black Comic Books with Imani Lateef and guests
Noon-1pm: Creating Your Own Comic Book Characters with Victor Dandridge
1:30-2:30pm: Comic Books in the Classroom and at Home with
3-4pm: Epic 21 Card Game Instruction with creator Michael Watson
10am-4pm. Saturday, February 25.
Toledo Lucas County Public Library
325 Michigan St. | 419-259-5209