NEW YORK - The 11th annual Black Comic Book Festival kicked off Friday at the Schomburg Center in Harlem, with fans and cartoonists coming together .
The festival is expected to be the largest yet, with 50 vendors and more than 8,000 registered visitors.
"We're just increasing the type of representation we have within the community, and that's something I think that's going to be exciting for folks to see when they come visit," said Kadiatou Tubman, festival executive director.
As panels took deep dives on the creative process, artists took time to get acquainted with their fans.
"It's very welcoming, so everybody can come in," said cartoonist Joel Christian Gill, "but if you are Black and you come to this show, you no longer have to think, where are my stories? Because every story is your story."
"I've always wanted more media growing up that had Black girls, especially Black girls just being really, really cute and joyful," added cartoonist Shauna J. Grant.
Seeing themselves reflected on the pages inspires readers to dream of their own power.
"I never went to Puerto Rico, but when I read 'La Borinqueña' I feel like I'm there," said Litzy Acosta, who arrived at the festival dressed in a custom costume.
"La Borinqueña" series creator Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez not only brings readers to his home island; he also brings funding for local nonprofits.
"That super-heroism can translate outside of the pages like it does with our social justice work and philanthropy in Puerto Rico," Miranda-Rodriguez said.
Protests during the pandemic amplified stories like David Crownson's "Harriet Tubman: Demon Slayer," which is now in the works as a series funded by Disney.
"Seeing that attention and that budget that's like a 'Black Panther' level being brought to my independent company, my indie book, that usually never happens," Crownson admitted.
Twists on history are common narratives seen at the festival, coming from artists sharing a different perspective.
"Storytelling is really in our DNA as Black people," said TJ Sterling, lead artist at RAE Comics. "It's something we've always done from the very beginning of time, and I think comics is really a perfect platform to express yourself in every way that you can."
The festival continues Saturday, including the much-anticipated cosplay contest at 5 p.m. To learn more, click here.
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