Jamaica: Comic Relief for Artists

blackjackRory Daley writes about last weekend’s two-day seminar “Blacks in Comics: The Creators and Characters,” where creators and enthusiasts turned out for workshops and discussions at the University of Technology in St Andrew, Jamaica. One of the main issues that were discussed in lectures and roundtables was the representation of race and ethnicity in comics.

Arranged by the Jamaica Animation Nation Network (JANN), the workshops featured African-American writer and comic book creator Alex Simmons. “Comics are powerful. A lot of the mythology projected on us at an early age comes from comic books,” said Simmons, 60.

Friday’s session focused on sparking children’s imagination and giving them tools to create their own comics. Saturday’s lecture addressed an older crowd and chronicled Simmons’ battle within the North American comic industry as a person of colour. “The lack of characters of colour in comics and literature, in general, never sat well with me,” he said. So, he created his own comic series, Blackjack. At the same time, he was working on illustrious titles such as Batman and Archie.

Blackjack first appeared in 1996 under the banner of DAP (Dark Angel Publishing) Comics. The first three-issue series was called ‘Second Bite of the Cobra’ and introduced its hero Arron Day. That series had critical and commercial success. It was followed by the second Blackjack mini-series, Blood & Honor.

Simmons appealed to Jamaicans who wish to produce comic books as a cure to the racial and cultural divide. He said that it is the artist’s responsibility to produce quality content representing Jamaican views. “I understand that there isn’t a huge comic publishing infrastructure here, but the World Wide Web has opened up the market in the United States, and can do the same here,” he said.

For original article, see http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/entertainment/Comic-relief-for-artists_13677229

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