NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Schomburg Center is hosting the 10th Annual Black Comic Book Festival this week. Through Saturday, fans can attend panels and engage with artists and authors, but it is all happening virtually this year.
A trip down memory lane kicked off the 10th Annual Black Comic Book Festival Thursday. Some of the event’s original organizers participated in a panel to discuss its history.READ MORE: Upper Manhattan Blood Drive Aims To Address Local Shortage
“There are people who come to this festival who are now superstars,” pointed out John Jennings, co-founder of the Black Comic Book Festival.
One of the new superstars participating this year is David Crownson, creator of the hit comic “Harriet Tubman: Demon Slayer.”
I spoke to Crownson about merging Black history with graphic art, and the decision to turn Harriet Tubman into a ninja.
“She is a ninja!” Crownson exclaimed, “She actually did this. Like, this is… I think one of the most compelling figures in history.”
This year’s festival provides a vastly different visual than two years ago, when an estimated 10,000 people showed up to the Schomburg in person. I asked Schomburg’s education programs manager Kadiatou Tubman how her team translates the energy into a virtual setting.
“It takes a bit of magic, right? A little bit of Black girl magic,” Tubman told me. “I admit, it’s not the same exact energy as you would get if you were in person, we know that. But we still bring you the excitement.”READ MORE: Violent Week In The Bronx Continues As Cab Driver Stabbed, Convenience Store Worker Robbed And Stabbed
Tubman enlisted the help of artist Micheline Hess to invite families into the land of imagination with this year’s flyer. Hess has been creating comics and graphic novels like “Diary Of A Mad Black Werewolf” for decades.
“It’s been kind of such a lonely path you’re almost like, hello?” Hess said, “and then you all come together and you see that there are other people who are doing the same thing, who have the same kind of passion, the same kind of dream.”
Not even superheroes could save the world from a supervirus, but the pandemic turned the page on a new chapter in comic book fandom. Crownson had his best sales year ever in 2020. His creation will soon be slaying on screen, in a television series expected to premiere in 2024. Crownson is developing the show with successful “Insecure” showrunner Prentice Penny.
“We’re just starting the writing process and bringing on like a team… a group of mostly Black people to write this and, you know, make 10 hours of amazing content,” Crownson said.
The more these stories leap from the page, the more inspiring these artists can be.
“You can be the hero,” Hess said, “you can be front and center and you can have a seat at that table, because you are invited, not because you are anyone’s plus one.”
You do not need a plus one to visit the in-person exhibit celebrating ten years of the Black Comic Book Festival. “Boundless” opens to the public on Friday at the Schomburg Center.MORE NEWS: 'SNL' Comics Colin Jost, Pete Davidson Buy Staten Island Ferry Boat
CLICK HERE for a list of events and how to register