Cosplay contestants pictured with event organizer, Librarian Tray Fitzpatrick.
(Photos: Arri Henry)
By Perry Busby
Hundreds of comic and sci-fi fans of all ages gathered at the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center (AARLCC) on May 11th for AARLCC-CON, Fort Lauderdale’s festival for African American comic book and science fiction enthusiasts. The event brought together local and national writers, illustrators and industry professionals to meet fans and network.
The public was treated to a day full of activities that included discussions about comic books, movies and the industry in general, workshops, signed art display giveaways, STEM demonstrations, a costume contest and plenty of free food.
“Comic-Con events have become popular across the country. When we made decision to host one in Fort Lauderdale, we knew we didn’t want it to be like all the others. Our goal was straightforward: provide a platform for local and national African American writers and illustrators of comic books and sci-fi novels to communicate and present new projects to fans, and develop relationships within the industry,” said Tray Fitzpatrick, with Broward Coun ty Library and coordinator of the event.
Among the featured guests were Rodney Barnes, writer and
producer of American Gods, The Boondocks, Everybody Hates Chris, and Marvel’s Runways; Manuel and Geiszel Godoy, the creators of Black Sands comics; and local favorites such as Jeff Caroll, Keith C. Wade, Mervyn McKoy, Nicole Mucher, Creature Entertainment and Ramon Robinson of LSF Comics.
The rise in popularity of movies adapted from the Marvel Comics franchise, coupled with record-breaking box office ticket sales from Black Panther, has introduced a new generation of fans to comic book superheroes and sci-fi stories.
“The more quality work we put out, the more it will become a part of the fabric and how media addresses the marketing part of it. When the people who finance projects, whether it’s film, television or print, see that there’s a market for your work and the quality is evident, then we’ll begin to see more of these types of projects,” Barnes explained when asked if the future looked promising for movies and television shows featuring African American superheroes or all African American casts. “The market comes from quality work. Black Panther, Get Out and Us were all quality film projects. In fact, I’m excited to see how this generation thinking in ways I’ve never thought and doing it in ways I never would’ve imagined. They’ve been inspired by my generation and they’re taking it and crafting for today’s audience. The more they’re able to do that, the more the market will sustain it.”
Making a living in a highly competitive industry where there are very few African Americans is all the more reason why events like AARLCC-CON is necessary. “The reason why I like doing these events is because it reminds me that I need to do more and I need to do more, better,” Barnes said. “Not only do I need to continuously create more content that I enjoy but create content that has a positive impact on people who are trying to live their lives in a more creative way. Because I have access in a way that most don’t, I understand that I now have a responsibility to help influence others in the telling of their stories.”