Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing:

Sainted Wife Barb and Tony are in Philadelphia for the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention. The event’s opening reception (with the Glyph Comics Awards) was held Friday evening, May 19, at the TECH Freire Charter School. A truly wondrous time was had by all. The adventure continues...

Saturday. May 20. The hours of ECBACC 2017 were 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. That gave Barb and I time to go to the Reading Terminal Market, one of our new favorite places ever, for breakfast. Inside the market, we went to Hershel’s East Side Deli and ordered egg, turkey bacon and cheese sandwiches. They were so big we only ate half of them, giving the rest to an homeless guy who had been sitting on a grate near our hotel. We didn’t see him Sunday morning when we went back to Hershel’s, so, that time, we ordered one sandwich and shared it as we started our drive back home.

We drove to TECH Freire and, because there were no parking spots in front of the school, circled the block to try again. In doing so, we ended up behind a sanitation department truck on a one-way side street that was parked up on both sides of the streets. This was a new experience for Barb, who quickly concluded that she could not live on such a street with its parking permits and restrictions and the like. Fortunately, we were running well ahead of schedule.

There was no parking lot at the school, but, when we finally rolled around to the front if it again, we found a metered spot close to the entrance. We had to feed the meter every hour or so - parking was free after 4 p.m. - but it was worth it to be that close.

Since I was one of the judges for ECBACC’s annual Africoz cosplay competition, my table was in the room where the reception was held the previous evening. The rest of the guests and vendors were set up in a larger room that served as the school cafeteria during the school year.

I didn’t bring much to the convention. I had Black Lightning Volume One, which collected my character’s 1977-1978 run, a box of other Isabella-written stuff and five copies each of my pal Nat Gertler’s facsimile editions of the 1940 Negro Motorist Green-Book and 1953 Negro Travelers Green Book. These were guidebooks to places where blacks would be welcomed in cities across the country during a time when they were frequently barred from many places. I thought these reproductions might of interest to ECBACC attendees. I was right. I sold every copy I had for sale and wished I had ordered more from Nat. I’ll have more of them for next year’s ECBACC.

ECBACC charges no admission. There was a steady stream of people at the event. Some were fans who stayed the entire day. Some were new to comics. Some were parents bringing their kids to a convention in which there were multiple activities for those children. If ECBACC is a family - and it is - it is also a village where creativity is valued and teaching is a welcome duty.

Most conventions afford me some quiet times during which I can sit behind my table and take notes which I then use when I write these bloggy reports on conventions. That wasn’t remotely the case here. I was so busy I never had the chance to make a single note.

Shortly after the doors opened, before I even had a chance to spend any money in the marketplace areas, I was whisked away by Maurice Waters of Blacksci-fi.com to be interviewed for a documentary being made by him and Professor William Foster III. That session ran just over an hour. I answered so many questions and talked about so many creative and historical matters that I couldn’t possibly remember all of them. Whatever doesn’t make it into the documentary will be sent to The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. This will make sure I’ll never be able to claim I didn’t say something that I said on tape. That I realize this automatically makes me much smarter than every Republican politician and pundit and most of the Democrats.

Later that afternoon, I would again be summoned for a second bout with the documentary cameras. This time it was a conversation with Don McGregor and Mshindo Kuumba. The above photo was taken by Brian Saner-Lamken. 
Don is a dear friend and colleague for decades, one of the most original voices in comics and a fellow recipient of ECBACC’s Pioneer Life Achievement award. If you have never read his work on the Black Panther, Killraven, Ragamuffins, Sabre, Nathaniel Dusk, Detective Inc and other comics and graphic novels, then you’re behind on your required reading.

Mshindo is an artist, master painter, art director, visual artist, comics creator, cover artist, dancer, martial artist and mentor. He is a powerful commentator on culture and society whose work shows that power. During the conversation, he told an awe-inspiring story of his journey that I hope finds its way into the documentary. I’ve thought about that story several times since returning to my home in Medina, Ohio.

Barb had been holding down my table. I started selling and signing books as soon as I sat down. I only took a break when it was time for the AfriCoz competition.

The AfriCoz participation rules ask all costume portrayals to be of comics, film, television, sci-fi, fantasy or original characters of African descent. It’s a family-friendly contest with the costumes judged on overall appearance, character-likeness and creativity. The participants exhibited their costumes on the showroom floor and were then allowed to mingle in the marketplace while the votes of the judges were tabulated. I thought all the costumes were so good that my point totals were all pretty close in all of the criterion for the judging.

Among the contestants was a remarkable Blade presentation and Misty Knight as Captain America. There were two Static cosplayers, male and female. The male had a device that seemed to be powered by his own electrical energy. There was an amazing Bumblebee cosplayer and another portraying Nubia from the Wonder Woman comics. There was a Black Panther. Alas, no Black Lightning cosplayers, but I suspect that will be changing for next year’s conventions.

The contest was facilitated by ECBACC Secretary Shenkarr Davis, My fellow judges were author Robert Garrett, artist/digital painter Sheeba Maya, comics creator Jamar Nicholas and writer and creator Uraeus. When we were done voting, Jamar added up all the scores.

Here’s where this report gets a little embarrassing for me. Since I wasn’t able to take notes, I thought I had retrieved my scoring sheet after the contest. I didn’t. I don’t have the real names of the winner and the two runners up. In fact, I’m not even sure which of the runner-up contestants was second and which was third. What I can remember is this:

The Blade cosplayer took the well-deserved first place. Second and third places went to Misty Knight as Captain America and the male Static. Which was second and which was third? I got nothing there. However, I have reached out to Facebook friends for the information I’m missing and photos of these contestants. Look for a follow-up report on the contest as soon as possible.

I had a little more time at my table before being whisked away to a creators panel on “The Science of Storytelling.” I’ll talk about that panel and the rest of my ECBACC weekend when this convention report continues and concludes tomorrow. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

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