Black Comics Month Grows, Includes Special Edition NYC Panel
VixenVarsity.com is a fascinating site full of instructive "courses" on a wide range of topics, and site creator MizCaramelVixen has a passion for comics and a lot of thoughts about diversity in the industry, which she's spun into posts, a hashtag, and a website under the banner BlackComicsMonth (which is every month).
This weekend, MizCaramelVixen can be seen at the first ever Black Comics Month panel on Saturday at 1:15pm in Theater 2 during Special Edition NYC. We sat down with her to discuss the motivations behind BlackComicsMonth, what people can expect from the panel, and the next steps in her diversity campaign.
ComicsAlliance: In case our readers aren't familiar with you and your work, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and about your websites?
MizCaramelVixen: I launched VixenVarsity.com in January 2014 as a lifestyle site where one can catch up on anything, not just entertainment. Parenting, recipes, mental health issues and the like, but I wanted to have a theme around it, so I chose the "University" theme and our topics changed to Psychology (mental health), Nerdology (nerd/geek), Drama Club (TV), Cosmetology (beauty), etc.
After an incredible year and so much support from everyone, I just figured I'd take it up a few notches and add more content. What I wasn't expecting was for the idea of BlackComicsMonth to pop in my head. Using VixenVarsity as the "mothership," I forwarded the domain to VixenVarsity until BlackComicsMonth.com was ready to be presented to the "world."
CA: So Black Comics Month started as a hashtag, right? What made you want to start that conversation?
MCV: Well, it didn't really start off as a hashtag, it just gradually migrated that way. Milestone 2.0 was announced and I noticed several people on Twitter had no clue what Milestone was about. Then I saw a few tweets asking if there were black super heroes. I still don't know to this day if they were trolls or if they were serious and had no knowledge.
After seeing those tweets, I wanted to bring awareness to black comic book characters as well as black creators. The announcement was in January and I had two weeks to put something together that would get people talking, so BlackComicsMonth.com was born. Seeing how twitter is notorious for trending hashtags, I figured #BlackComicsMonth would be great; short and to the point.
CA: And the response to the hashtag and the posts you did was great. You got a lot of coverage?
MCV: A lot of coverage? No, not really, which was rather disappointing. AVClub, Buzzfeed and Black Sports Online featured the movement, but I've seen more coverage for other hashtag movements.
Blessed to get what little coverage that we did receive. However, people on Twitter definitely used #BlackComicsMonth in their tweets.
CA: Do you think it helped raise awareness in the way you'd hoped?
MCV: Heck no! It far exceeded my thoughts. I didn't think it would ever reach this far. Honestly, I never expected publishers to be involved in the way that they have. A panel? Never in a million years would I ever think I would do a panel about Black Comics Month and diversity in comics. I mean Darryl "DMC" McDaniels requested to be on my panel. "Insert minion whaaaaaaaa gif"! Seriously, I was happy if a few hundred people took notice. This? Overwhelming.
Seeing Marvel, Image and Dynamite use #BlackComicsMonth in their tweets had me doing Wonder Woman spins til I got nauseous.
CA: Let's talk about that panel! This weekend at Special Edition, you'll be talking about BlackComicsMonth and diversity in comics --- what can attendees expect to experience at the panel?
MCV: Yes! The panel, sheesh... well one thing they can expect is free diverse comics and prints! I wanted everyone in attendance to have at least one diverse comic that they can leave the panel with, just one. Now it might be two comics and a print.
The response has been fantastic --- publishers, creators and a comic book store have all donated to the panel.
This might be the largest diverse title giveaway, ever. We will be discussing diversity everything within those 60 minutes, which isn't a lot of time to tackle something this important. It amazes me what people really think and understand about diversity.
During BEA [Book Expo America] last Wednesday, I attended the Star Wars panel and I asked a question if there would be diversity in the Lando comic series (besides Lando, of course) and I was given answers that really made me believe that people do not understand what diversity really means. Being told from the writer that, "Star Wars is a diverse universe," and from the artist that, "I'm from Bulgaria, isn't that diversity enough," tells me so much, and it's sad that diversity means freaking aliens to some.
CA: On that topic, what is "diverse" to you? What do you look for to decide a project is diverse?
MCV: Diversity in comics to me, first of all, are any comics that are created by a creators of color. COC's are very few in this industry and that needs to change.
If a comic is done by the "usual" (white man/woman) and features people of color, that also gets the stamp of Diversity in Comics approval. The world is diverse once you step out of your home, so there is absolutely no reason why comics shouldn't reflect diversity that your eyes see every single day.
CA: I recently had a conversation with a queer comics creator about how so often conversations about diversity focus on gender and not race or orientation. My feeling is that it's often easier to figure out gender based on only a name than it is to figure out race or orientation, for many reasons. How would you advise people to find creators of color if they're seeking out diversity to hire or read?
MCV: See, that's the thing, you don't want to assume that someone is queer or figure out their gender, because, one, it's not your darn business, and two, you just don't know. We all know what they say when you assume something.
I believe that comics are for everyone and that means if you create or read them. Will I not read an issue if an Asian Queer wrote a kickass comic? The only word in that sentence that I care about is "kickass." People get hung up on the color or gender of a person. Who cares? If they can write or draw something that will have my jaw drop to the floor, I will throw my money at them and promote them to the best of my abilities. Shameless plug; follow me on Twitter. I've said a few times that I will promote diversity in comics until I'm dead and even then I'll be in hell promoting diversity in comics. Of course visit blackcomicsmonth.com for black creators and keep an eye out for diversityincomics.com, which will feature creators of color as well as characters of color.
CA: But if it's the quality of the story that matters, why should people care about diversity in their comics? Why does diversity matter?
MCV: Diversity matters because my nieces, nephews, god children need to see themselves represented in comics. They need to know that there are people of color, including women, who draw and write comics.
They need to know that when they grow up they too can be writers and artists who can create comics for their generation and that cycle can continue. Ever tried explaining to an African-American child why there are no black women super heroes who have their own comics out right now? Or just one? Ever tried explaining to a child why the only black men you see featured are the "bad guys" or "thugs" in the comics? I can't speak on any other race but my own, and what I've experienced first hand. Representation matters not only in the comics, but on the covers. Creators of color, especially women, are needed.
CA: What is your goal with BlackComicsMonth.com and diversityincomics.com? What would you like to see happen with these initiatives?
MCV: I can't give away the plans that I have as of yet, but I would eventually like for both sites to be the "go to" spot when searching for creators of color, whether it's to hire them or purchase their books.
CA: Any other final things you want to add?
MCV: I would like for publishers to start a diversity division and hire more people of color to work behind the scenes as editors, associate editors, etc. Add some color to your roster, publishers. I can't do this alone, although I am doing a pretty awesome job. My reach is but so far, but publishers hold the power and should start holding diversity talent searches.
Please, stop by Theater 2 on Saturday, June 6th and participate in the #BlackComicsMonth: Diversity in Comics panel. Follow me on twitter: @MizCaramelVixen, visit BlackComicsMonth.com and spread the word on #BlackComicsMonth and #DiversityinComics.
Actually, don't just spread the word, open your wallets and support creators of color and pre-order comics their comics! David Walker's Cyborg is out in July, go to your local comic book store and preorder that issue, like NOW! This is Cyborg's first solo series, let's do right by this amazing character!
Dark Horse Comics is giving away Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #1 for free the entire month of June for Black Comics Month. Dark Horse Comics is the Black Comics Month sponsor for the year, they gave a year supply of comics, so I'll be doing a giveaway for Concrete Park from Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander, as well as David Walker and Robert Love's Number 13.
Thank you to everyone for their support, this wouldn't be a success without all of you!