Comic Con San Diego: why it matters to Black folks

Halle Berry at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con International Photo by Gage Skidmore

Halle Berry at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con International
Photo by Gage Skidmore

The entire American entertainment industry is focused on the California coastal city of San Diego this weekend. The world’s most important annual fan convention occurs there each July. Over the past decade it has become Hollywood’s major staging ground for introducing, previewing and presenting their big films and television projects to the taste leaders among the universe’s geeks, nerds, cosplayers, and fans who are rapidly becoming the norm rather the exception in pop culture. I was fortunate enough to have attended Comic Con International San Diego in 2009, and it will likely always rank as one of my Top Ten life experiences. Longtime readers of the PRIDE may recall my coverage of the event that summer.

Wednesday, July 8, Comic-Con and Warner Bros. Television continued their annual Preview Night tradition, with exclusive world premiere screenings of the pilot episodes of four of the most highly anticipated series of the 2015-16 television season: Supergirl (Mehcad Brooks and David Harewood), Blindspot (Ukweli Roach and Marianne Jean-Baptiste), Containment (David Gyasi ), and Lucifer (DB Woodside). The focus of this article is on the African American participants at Comic Con, so the folks in parentheses are African American stars on the four shows.

One of the huge draws for Comic Con is the series of hundreds of panels on all sorts of topics. Many of the more interesting ones can be viewed online if you can’t be there in person. I like to catch the panels on YouTube channels, such as ‘IGN,’ which has over 6 million followers who can view live streams from the con, or the ‘Flicks And the City’ channel, which posts full HD versions of many of the best panels, among dozens of sources. Conan O’Brien went to San Diego and is dedicating his show this week to four special broadcasts on TBS, Wednesday through Saturday nights, with special guest stars from Comic Con, among them cast members from two of the greatest shows currently on TV – Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, with Danai Gurira.

Many African American actors, artists and entertainers will be featured among the events that run Wednesday, July 8 through Sunday, July 12. Here’s a day-by-day rundown of some who have panel appearances this week at Comic Con. THURSDAY: Halle Berry, Wesley Snipes, Hill Harper, Olivia Brown, Roger Cross. FRIDAY: Ivy Doom Kitty, Christopher Judge, Danai Gurira, Sonequa Martin-Green, Tim Russ, Aisha Tyler, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Tamara Taylor, and Kandyse McClure. SATURDAY: Yvette Nicole Brown, Russell Hornsby. SUNDAY: Keke Palmer, Angela Bassett, and Khary Payton.

+++++ Selected Comic Con Panels of special interest to African Americans ++++++

FRIDAY:
The Black Panel: This year’s panel consists of Ne-Yo (Ghost: The God Killer, Non-Fiction), Joe Illidge (writer, columnist, The Ren), Karen Hunter (The Karen Hunter Show, Karen Hunter Publishing, Pulitzer Prize winner), Eric Dean Seaton (Disney Channel director, creator, Legend of the Mantamaji) and last but not least, Don McGregor (2015 Bill Finger Award recipient for Excellence in Comic Book Writing). The focus of the panel is the lack of unity among many in the Black pop culture space and opens the floor for ideas on how we can change that. Also, a sea change occurs as the panel realizes an end of an era. Moderated, as always, by Michael Davis.

SATURDAY:
Three Panels of special note:

MARCH with Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell –
His first visit to Comic-Con made national news; now the legendary civil rights icon, U.S. congressman, and #1 bestselling graphic novel author John Lewis returns. Congressman Lewis, co-author Andrew Aydin, and artist Nate Powell re-team to share their award-winning March series. You’ll hear about the incredible tour that’s brought the message of March to schools, universities, libraries, and corporate headquarters from coast to coast. You’ll see glimpses of the much-anticipated March: Book Three, covering Mississippi Freedom Summer and the unforgettable Selma-Montgomery March. And of course, you’ll hear Congressman Lewis’s firsthand memories of sit-ins, Freedom Rides, the march on Washington, Selma, and beyond, and the vital power of his message of transformative nonviolence in the world today.

Spotlight on Reginald Hudlin –
Reginald Hudlin (House Party, Django Unchained, Black Panther), the writer/director/producer of movies, TV shows, and comics, will have a no-holding-back discussion of both upcoming projects and classic work like the Black Panther comic book and animated series; the return of Milestone Media, including the upcoming Static Shock live action series; and the Django/Zorro comic book, as well as his experiences on groundbreaking projects like The Boondocks, Bebe’s Kids, Boomerang, and more. There will be several special guest stars, including CNN host Van Jones.

We Are All Heroes: The Changing Landscape of Comics, Geekdom, and Fanboy Culture-
With the landscape of geekdom evolving, Cashmere Agency’s executive vice president Ryan Ford has assembled a star-studded, diverse panel to discuss the evolution of comic book, video gaming, and fanboy culture, and its growing popularity among a new audience-specifically African Americans, women, LGBTQ, and other minorities. Joined by Ryan Coogler (director, Dope), Murs (Hip Hop star), Michael Jai White (Dark Knight), Tyler James Williams (The Walking Dead), Kristina Law (Arrow), and Kellvin Chavez (editor, Latino-review). Cashmere Agency has worked with a slew of titles in the geekdom community, including Star Wars, The Boondocks, Tekken, and Black Jesus. The panelists are eager to shed light on how minorities are not adequately portrayed within the entertainment genre.