Tag Archives: john jennings

Eisner Award-Winning Artist John Jennings Joins AfroComicCon

John Jennings

AfroComicCon welcomes Eisner Award-winner and illustrator John Jennings as a Special Guests for the virtual convention!

John Jennings is a Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California at Riverside. Jennings is co-editor of the Eisner Award-winning collection The Blacker the Ink: Constructions of the Black Identity in Comics and Sequential Art. Jennings is also a 2016 Nasir Jones Hip Hop Studies Fellow with the Hutchins Center at Harvard University. John Jennings offers a fresh perspective on Black imagination and challenges our notions of Black expression in popular culture. As a cultural activist and creator, he creates stories and characters that are truly subjective and flexible and have myriad representations and modes of existence.

Jennings’ current projects include the horror anthology Box of Bones, the coffee table book Black Comix Returns (with Damian Duffy), and the Eisner-winning, Bram Stoker Award-winning, New York Times best-selling graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler’s classic dark fantasy novel Kindred. Jennings is also founder and curator of the ABRAMS Megascope line of graphic novels.

AfroComicCon​‘s 1st virtual convention will be held on October 24, 2020. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the annual event started in 2017 by the ​Oakland Technology & Education Center (OTEC), ​will be held virtually and free through a portal on the organization’s website. Sponsored by the NNPA, the ​Oakland A’s, and Pixar Entertainment, AfroComicCon promises to be a day full of exciting panels, screenings, entertainment, gaming, cosplay and special guests. The 12-hour event is currently slated to be live-streamed across multiple platforms including YouTube, Twitch, and Facebook. You can register now.

Review: Marvel’s Voices #1

Marvel's Voices #1

Marvel’s Voices is an Experience, capital E. It’s the first comic I know about that adapts the concept of a podcast into a comics anthology collecting stories from black creators giving their take on the Marvel universe.

The book’s title carries over from the podcast it’s based on, which is hosted by Angélique Roché. The list of creators includes Vita Ayala, Damion Scott, Kyle Baker, Brian Stelfreeze, Roxane Gay, Method Man, Alitha Martínez, among other notable industry names. What’s interesting about the project, though, is that it embraces its multimedia roots by featuring essays from other creators accessible via Marvel’s Voices online page.

Two particular essays grabbed my attention: Regine L. Sawyer’s “Growing Up Marvel” and Karama Horne’s “The Legacy of Isaiah Bradley: The First Black Captain America.” (Disclosure: Karama and Regine have both contributed to our site – ed.)

Sawyer’s essay is about her origin story into comics through a less conventional avenue than most other stories of the kind: X-Men trading cards. I don’t want to spoil the essay because it is a fascinating and well-written story, but it is wonderful to get this look at how comics allow for multiple entry points given it’s an entire cultural package. It made me remember my card collecting days growing up, both the same X-Men cards Sawyer collected and the classic Pepsi Cards I religiously hunted down back when they came out in Puerto Rico. I still have them with me and they also helped me embrace comics.

Horne’s essay is about two comics: Truth and The Crew. Each one stands as some of Marvel’s best comic book offerings. They were subversive and hard-hitting, daring enough to give Marvel a black Captain America (in Truth), complete with an exploration of the tragic treatment black heroes get using real-life black history as the basis for the problems each character faces (which is expanded upon in The Crew).

The essay is a great and concise history of these comics, but it also serves as a lesson on visibility. That Marvel hasn’t reprinted these stories or released newer editions of the paperbacks brings up more questions than it should. I think Horne’s essay makes a strong argument as to why we need these comics back on the stands.

On the comic’s side of Marvel’s Voices, we get a strong if a bit uneven set of short stories that are personal, celebratory, and thoughtful as to why Marvel characters mean so much in the struggle for more diverse voices in the industry. Kyle Baker, for instance, produced a one-pager Ant-Man and Nick Fury story titled “Perspective,” about Fury’s problem with depth perception. It’s a quick hit but the art on display here is impressive enough to make anyone want to see Baker do more Marvel work.

Geoffrey Thorne, Khary Randolph, and Emilio López’s “Top of the Key,” on the other hand, is a one-pager on Mosaic story (a character Marvel has severely underused, in my opinion) that would’ve benefited from an additional page or two. It feels more like a setup for a larger story and we only really just get a taste of it.

Rob Markman, Damion Scott, and Dono Sánchez-Almara’s “What a Wonderful World” stands as one of the most impressive stories in the anthology as it offers a well-rounded look at a Marvel character with outstanding art and a clear message to boot. It centers on a troubled Silver Surfer, comparing Marvel’s biggest villains with humanity’s own villainy when it comes to protecting the environment. No panel was spared, no color was misplaced, and no bit of text hung without intent. Just a really good two-page story.

The best story in the book is without question “Inspiration,” by James Monroe Iglehart, Ray-Anthony Height, and Emilio López. This 4-page tale gives the radioactive spider that gave Peter Parker his powers a much-deserved platform to contemplate his role in the grand scheme of things. The script showcases an interesting play on what a superpowered spider is supposed to be and how much of its natural instincts define its actions. It’s simply unforgettable and truly worthy of getting its own comic book series.

Marvel Voices #1 is the type of book Marvel needs to invest more on. It shows just how important it is to bring in other perspectives into this superhero universe and just how different it can all turn out to be. It speaks to the power of voices hungry for diversity in storytelling. And that, in itself, is a beautiful thing.

Writers: John Jennings, Anthony Piper, Luciano Vecchio, David Betancourt, James Monroe Iglehart, Evan Narcisse, Vita Ayala, Regine L. Sawyer, Brian Stelfreeze, Brandon Montclare, Tatiana King Jones, Karama Horne, Kyle Baker, Roxane Gay, Yona Harvey, Don McGregor, Geoffrey Thorne, Rob Markman, Method Man, Daniel Dominguez, Charlamagne The God, David F. Walker, Chuck Brown
Art: Anthony Piper, Luciano Vecchio, Ray-Anthony Height, Jahnoy Lindsay, Bernard Chang, Brian Stelfreeze, Natacha Bustos, Kyle Baker, Brittney L. Williams, Khary Randolph, Damion Scott, Alitha E. Martinez, JJ Kirby, Sanford Greene
Color: Anthony Piper, Luciano Vecchio, Emilio Lopez, Marcelo Maiolo, Brian Stelfreeze, Tamra Bonvillain, Kyle Baker, Rachelle Rosenberg, Dono Sánchez-Almara, JJ Kirby, Matt Herms
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Writing: 9 Essays: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10
Recommendation: Buy and make sure to bag and board it.

Review: I Am Alfonso Jones

I Am Alfonso Jones

The separation in the current geopolitical climate is wider than most people care to recognize. Many people don’t understand why there’s outrage over concepts that are now considered racially insensitive but were just common jokes not too long ago. “Political correctness” applies to all aspects of the human kaleidoscope, to include disability and gender as well as race. Much of it is more than reasonably justified.

The Black Lives Movement sought to shed light on the hate and disregard that Black lives have endured including police killings. Those who don’t understand usually are offended or confused by the message of BL. They fail to inject empathy and connection to those who they don’t understand or are normally around. The them, the “other.” It’s always easier to talk to or associate with those people who agree with you but it requires courage and fortitude to extend an olive branch to those who don’t. In Tony Medina, Stacey Robinson, and John JenningsI Am Alfonso Jones, we find a protagonist whose life is cut short but his love for those around him marches on.

We meet Alfonso, a young Black and Puerto Rican kid, whose part time job as a bike messenger, allows him to travel all throughout New York City.  He just got a part in his school’s hip hop rendition of Hamlet, while he harbors feeling for his best friend, Danetta. His life changes when an off-duty police officer mistakes Alfonso pulling out a weapon, when he actually pulled out a clothes hanger. He ends up being shot dead, while his spirit ends up on a ghost metro train, where other NYC dwellers who happen to be ghosts also reside, as he awakens to no recollection of what happened. Alfonso soon finds out that each rider had an unjust death. Each of them tell their story to him as their unrest becomes the fuel for the protesters fighting the injustice that leads to these murders.

Overall, an affecting story that feels very close to home. Medina discusses these very relevant issues while remembering to stimulate the reader. The story by Medina, is powerful, well developed, and relatable. The art by Robinson and Jennings is vivid and heartfelt. Altogether, a story that leaves an imprint on your consciousness while enlightening your mind for the road ahead.

Story: Tony Medina Art: Stacey Robinson and John Jennings
Story: 10 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.7 Recommendation: Buy

Review: The Blacker the Ink: Constructions of Black Identity in Comics and Sequential Art

In today’s political climate it feels like we rarely see each other as humans. It is mostly what political megalomaniacs tend to spin is what we each other as, labels and often lies.

This is even more distressing in communities of color, as the disparity in conviction rates has perpetuated a false narrative of black on black crime and that myth that people who grow up in these communities, have a choice.

Growing up in these communities myself, I know this not true, as the lack of choices is what leads many to the choices they make. Many of these choices are rarely ever ideal.

It is a lifetime of indiscernibility as Ralph Ellison wrote in the Invisible Man:

I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.

This is what was wrong with Matt Groening’s argument surrounding South Asians’ issue with the Apu character, is that he refused to see the problem. His privilege gave him blinders that would otherwise come full on a creator of color.  This void all people of color carry, is something we barely show to our non POC acquaintances, but it is there. Even more difficult is the burden as well as journey most creators of color face, how their work is most often misunderstood, how they rarely receive the same accolades as their white counterparts. This is why Dr. Francis Gateward and John Jennings chose to illuminate those creators in The Blacker The Ink about those stories that made the comics world what it is, but rarely gets told, when it comes to creators of a more sepia tone.

In “The Introduction” the editors recount how it was for them to grow up as children, being interested in comics and not seeing themselves reflected in the comics they enjoyed. In the chapter entitled “No Sweat”, Daniel Yezbick dissects how the Comics Code changed a well-intentioned progressive story because of unfair targeting at EC Comics. In “Sex in Yop City”, Sally McWilliams talks about the first attempt to produce a graphic novel about modern Africa, and how the politics of racial fragility prevented the book from reaching the masses it intended to. In “A Post colony in Pieces”, the reader is treated to how the lessons in Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks can be seen throughout Joshua Dysart’s run In Unknown Soldier. In “Fashion in Funny Papers”, Nancy Goldstein attempts to give prolific Jackie Ormes, the justice she richly deserved. In “Graphic Remix”, Coleman and Youmans chronicle the stratospheric rise of the Boondocks as not only as comic strip and cartoon but also as a cultural touchstone. In “American Truths”, Conseula Francis examines the 2002 comic, “Truth: Red, White & Black”, which tells the story of the first men to get the Captain America’s powers before him. In “Drawn into Dialogue”, Andre Carrington, uncovers the story behind Milestone’s Icon and one of its most controversial stories, which is considered relevant today but revolutionary at the time. In “Critical Afrofuturism”, Reynaldo Anderson tells about some fo the first comics to feature” Afrofuturism”, as one of the first books was Ramzez: Prince of Panet Heru. In “Bare Chests, Silver Tiaras and Removable Afros”, Blair Davis, uncovers the evolving look of black superheroes through the whole history of comic books. In “Daddy Cool”, Kinohi Nishikawa tells the story of how Donald Goines gave the world, he first graphic novel about street life from a black perspective. In “The Tragic Bluescomic”, Qianna Whitted talks about Stager Lee, and its long hard road to publication. In “Provocation Through Polyphony”, Craig Fischer gives a behind the scenes look of how Kyle Baker’s Nat Turner came to be. In “Performance Geography”, Hershini  Bhana Young, they dissect Jeremy Love’s Bayou. In “A Secret History of Miscegenation”, James Ziegler, gives readers a look at Jimmy Corrigan and how the main character’s adoption of a black child, gave readers pause. In the final story, “It’s A Hero?”, Rebecca Wanzo, examines society’s lack of empathy and refusal to see a hero of color, has led to generations of children of color struggling with identity and self-empowerment.

Overall, a groundbreaking work that neither preaches or purely entertains but educates and stokes the fire of readers everywhere to dig into these comic books.  Each essay/story gives readers much needed insight into these pioneers and under read classics. The rose of each story is both intriguing and illuminating. Altogether, a much-needed book which tells a part of the story, but does it very well, as the story continues to today.

Essayists: Daniel Yezbick, Sally McWilliams, Patrick F Walter, Nancy Goldstein, Robin R.Means Coleman, William Lafi Youmans, Conseula Francis, Andre Carrington, Reynaldo Anderson, Blair Davis, Kinohi Nishikawa, Qianna Whitted, Crag Fischer, Hershini  Bhana Young, James Ziegler, and Rebecca Wanzo
Editors: John Jennings and Professor Frances Gateward
Essay: 10 Prose: 9.0 Overall: 9.4 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Box of Bones Chapter One The Troubles I’ve Seen

When I was a teenager in high school I delved into “knowledge of self.” I wanted to learn more than what I learned in school. One of my uncles stoked that fire in me, when he gifted me a copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X for my birthday. Before I read that book, I only knew of Malcolm X from what the media said about him decades after his death. They always portrayed his ideals as incendiary compared to Martin Luther King Jr.

This lead to my reading even more books and my being exposed to the evils of colonialism, the marginalization of indigenous peoples, and misleading values of assimilation. Which is also why when I watched Haile Gerima’s Sankofa, it made me look at how if we don’t know our own history we are doomed to repeat it.

In Ayize Jama-Everett and John JenningsBox Of Bones, a young graduate student discovers a box that is more trouble than she expected.

We meet Lyndsey, a grad student who is getting her degree in African American Studies. She does her dissertation on the Night Doctors, a set of demonic creatures from Afrika folklore. They’ve been seen in certain key moments in history and through a mysterious box. As she begins her research, the people she interviews are distraught with the memories the box brings with. Strange things start occurring everywhere. The first one being her grandfather who tells her about when a gang raped his sister and beat him half dead which prompted them to use the box of bones on the people who attacked them. But as is expected in this type of stroy, the use of the box comes with a cost, more than they could have bargained for. It’s a story that shows the evils of racism in the Antebellum South mixed with a tinge of the supernatural.

The story by Jama-Everett is smart, captivating, and unnerving. The art by Jennings is alluring. It is both scary and intriguing. The comic is a frighteningly penetrating story that gets the reader at their core leaving you in pieces.

Story: Ayize Jama-Everett Art: John Jennings
Story: 10 Art: 9.6 Overall: 9.4 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Octavia Butler’s Kindred

kindredgraphiccoverTime Travel has always been an interesting way to look at characters. This the reason why Back To The Future, is so relatable, as one decision in that story has repercussions and thereby making the right one is paramount to everything. Then there is HG Wells The Time Machine, which is a character study at its most base, where you realize man is and will always be the same good and bad. The last example, that most reverberates, is probably Dickens A Christmas Carol, whereby time travel is accomplished through paranormal means.

The one thing that threads all these examples together, is the fact that they barely have characters which possess melanin. When they do like it in Back to the Future, is they are mostly background characters, or plot devices, like  Mayor Goldy, to illustrate what certain choices yield. Rarely, has time travel been ideal for people of color, in science fiction, as one could only believe that they may have not existed during those times, which history refutes time and time again. One example in science fiction, that comes to mind, is a 1993 movie by Haile Gerima, called Sankofa, where a model times travels to slavery times.

Enter Octavia Butler, whose is an iconoclast in the science fiction world, and though she passed in 2006, her words live on and more so, in works like these. In Kindred, as the synopsis sums up:

Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is abruptly snatched from her home in California and transported to the ante-bellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, has summoned her across time to save him from drowning. After this first summons, she is drawn back, again and again, to protect Rufus and ensure he will grow to manhood and father the daughter who will become Dana’s ancestor. Each time she arrives in the past, Dana’s sojourns will become more and more dangerous because of Rufus’ obsessive need for her. The reader never knows whether she will survive one journey or the next. It’s only when she finally must save herself from rape by killing Rufus that she is finally freed from the pull of the past.

As I remember reading this book when I was 13, and had not picked it up since, but this adaptation, brought all those goosebumps, back all at once. By story’s end, the reader has been taken on a ride, realizing things about themselves as well as the need for empathy in the human race.

Overall, when it comes to adaptations, this more than captures the spirit, pushes it to new heights. Damian Duffy deftly gets every message Butler was conveying and gets why this book has been a cornerstone, to every Octavia Butler fan. John Jennings‘ illustrations leap off the page, tugging at the reader’s heartstrings, at the right beats and not flinching when most artists would. Altogether, a strong adaptation, which not only met expectations but makes one fall in love with story all over again.

Story: Damian Duffy Art: John Jennings
Story:10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy NOW!!!!!!

SDCC 2016: Magnetic Press Partners with Jennings & Duffy for Black Comix Panel

Magnetic Press has partnered with 2016 Eisner Award Nominee & Harvard Fellow John Jennings (The Blacker the Ink, Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred), and Glyph Comics Award winner Dr. Damian Duffy (Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred, Other Heroes) to co-present the San Diego 2016’s panel, BLACK COMIX: AFRICAN AMERICAN INDEPENDENT COMICS PUBLISHING. The panel features an all-star lineup of comic creator heavy weights, including Ron Wimberly, David Walker, Ashley A. Woods, Jeremy Love, & Robert Love.

Magnetic Press, Jennings & Duffy will be making more official announcements at the panel, where they will reveal more about their partnership. The panel will be held on Saturday, July 23rd from 8:00-9:00pm in Room 28 DE, and will be will be co-moderated by Jennings & Duffy.  Magnetic Press teased the title image by Ashley A. Woods, which hints at announcements to be made during the panel.

This marks Magnetic Press’ 3rd consecutive appearance at San Diego Comic-Con since the publisher’s debut three years ago at SDCC 2014. Magnetic Press can be found at booth #5534.

Black Comix Returns: African American Independent Comic Publishing
Saturday July 23, 2016 8:00pm – 9:00pm
Room 28DE

Join 2016 Eisner nominee & Harvard University Fellow John Jennings (The Blacker the Ink) and Damian Duffy (Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred), as they offer real talk about race and representation in independent comics publishing with the likes of 2016 Eisner nominee Ron Wimberly (Slave Punk, Prince of Cats), David Walker (Power Man & Iron Fist, Shaft), Ashley A. Woods (Niobe), Robert Love (Alpha Girl, S.P.O.O.K.S.), and Jeremy Love (Bayou, Fierce).


Early Review: Blue Hand Mojo #1

blue hand mojo #1 coverThe thing about legends that makes them endure is the part of the human psyche which does believe without actually seeing any empirical evidence, that which some call, faith. Some of these legends come off as mere “tall tales” or exaggerations of what actually happened. Then there are those which are told so visceral, that the details make them, live long after the storyteller has left the living. One of those legends, that had so much detail and told in such a tangible way, is the tale of the Devil and Robert Johnson.

This particular story has been explored in popular culture through movies like Crossroads starring Ralph Macchio and through shows like Supernatural. In the comics’ realm, you have iconic characters like Ghost Rider, who practically signed a deal with the devil in order to achieve some temporary wish that will take him seemingly forever to pay off. There are also the indirect adaptations like the popular manga and anime, Death Note, which the main character, Light makes a deal with Shinigami, the angel of death,   to be able to kill anyone whom he writes their name in his book but in return not enter heaven or hell. Then there are those adaptations that are truly genre defying, such as John JenningsBlue Hand Mojo.

As their solicitation describes the story as:

1931. Bronzeville. Chicago. The mage, Frank “Half Dead” Johnson, is a marked man. Literally. A drunken decision fueled by tragedy has left him with half a soul, sorcerous powers, and two centuries to work off his debt to Scratch (aka The Devil) himself.

Within the first few pages, you enter one of Frank’s dreams, one very much reminiscent of a scene from Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Frank is truly in one of the best ages in Chicago’s history, one that John Jennings takes full advantage of, by Frank getting involved in a case with Macieli Gotti aka Mac the Shark, a lieutenant in Al Capone’s gang, where it seems as his crew was affected by black magic, which is right up Frank’s alley. By issue’s end, Frank is in one hell of a mess between his due to the devil and the gangster world.

Overall, a good blend of crime noir, history and horror, which not only is an above average addition to each of those genres, but a very innovative interpretation of this well-worn trope. The story by John Jennings, works well within any of the genres it inhabits, and a solid crime noir, which is reminiscent of Mickey Spillane. The art by John Jennings, is a huge difference from many of his pioneers, as his artistic stylings is unique and more of which I would like to see more of. Altogether, a fine mix of genres, that not only entertains but will make fans of John Jennings incredible talents.

Story: John Jennings Art: John Jennings
Story: 10 Art: 9 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

Roasrium Publishing provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Black Comix: African American Independent Comics, Art, and Culture

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Later this month John Jennings and Damian Duffy will be releasing an anthology, Black Comix: African American Independent Comics, Art, and Culture, that showcases independent African American cartoonists and the subculture of conventions, websites, and awards surrounding them.

Duffy and Jennings met at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where Jennings is a professor of graphic design and Duffy was a graduate student at the time and is currently a PhD candidate.  Their first collaboration was The Hole a sci-fi graphic novel which dealt with “issues of identity and consumer culture.”  They then followed that up with two art exhibits which focused on African American comic creators.

The contacts they made at these two shows lead to the graphic novel which serves as an introduction to this area of comic book culture.  People featured in it include Dawud Anyabwile, the creator of Brotherman, Keith Knight, the author of The K Chronicles who wrote the introduction, Turtel Onli the creator of NOG: The Protector of the Pyramids, Sustah-Girl: The Queen of the Black Age, and Malcolm-10, and up and coming artists like Ashley A. Woods the creator of Millennia Wars and Arie Monroe.

The book also focuses on the history and nature of the Black independent comics community and the subcultures that orbit it.   Online you can find some of that history and community in the The Museum of Black Superheroes which was founded by Omar Bilal.

Black Comix