John Jennings and Damian Duffy are both award-winning artists, writers, curators, comic book historians, and teachers. Jennings co-founded the Annual Schomburg Museum’s Black Comic Book Fest in Harlem, N.Y., and his Blacker the Ink: Constructions of Black Identity in Comics and Sequential Art won him an Eisner Award in 2016.
No strangers to comics, art, and activism, Duffy and Jennings have written several anthologies together, including Out of Sequence: Underrepresented Voices in American Comics (2009) and Black Comix: African American Independent Comics, Art and Culture (2010). They also did a graphic novel adaptation of the Octavia Butler horror sci-fi novel Kindred, which won them a 2017 Bram Stoker Award.
Now they're back with Black Comix Returns, which they just released through Lion Forge Comics, and I got a chance to sit down and talk to the authors on the SYFYWire stage at C2E2 about the new book.
The anthology showcases the incredible work of about 100 artists across the African diaspora who have been putting out stellar work in sequential art, afrofuturism, and fantasy for quite some time and who might not otherwise be recognized. Duffy and Jennings see the volume more as a curated guide rather than individual stories collected in a volume. ”It... acts as a great resource guide... It's a great sampling of the diversity of black expressions in comics," says Jennings.
We spoke about the changing scene in comics right now and how the popularity of movies such as Black Panther have actually helped shed a light on many black artists who have been around for quite some time. "When people see Black Panther [as] the end-all be-all of black people in comics, that is the tip of the top of the iceberg," Duffy pointed out. "We've been studying this culture for about 15 years, and we wanted to make sure that people understood that there was an underground culture [in black comics] that has been around since the mid-'90s."
The pair also talked about how researching the book allowed them to find some artists that they had never heard of and whose outstanding work may have been missed by mainstream comics. A few of those artists include Shauna J. Grant, Matthew Clarke, and Jerome Walford.
Definitely check out this interview if you are curious about a genre of sequential art that is not often explored or if you are interested in learning about new comic creators and artists who do incredible work.