White Scripts, Black Supermen And The Schomburg Center Of Harlem

Taylor Maimbourg writes for Bleeding Cool;

When I first walked into the Schomburg Center for the Black Comic Book Festival, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Besides the information on Bleeding Cool, I hadn’t been able to dig up any information on what exactly was going to happen at the festival. I arrived a few minutes after 10 am and found out that the centerpiece of the Festival, the documentary White Scripts and Black Supermen: Black Masculinities in Comic Books, had already started. Fortunately, the film had just started, so I was able to catch most of it.

The film was good, although it was fairly short (just over 50 minutes), and didn’t delve too deeply into any one topic. It provided an overview of some of the earliest black comic book characters (The Black Panther, Lobo, The Falcon, etc.), with running commentary on each from academic scholars as well as comic book writers and artists.

After the movie ended, the director and writer, Dr. Jonathan Gayles, came out for a Q&A. When asked about the short running time of the film, he told the audience that further scenes were filmed, but not included in the film due to the fact that the documentary was meant for a classroom setting (with classes running about an hour). However, he told the audience that further scenes and information could be found at http://blacksuperherodoc.com. Overall, I would recommend checking out the documentary if you have a limited knowledge of black superheroes. If you are well-versed in characters like the Luke Cage and John Stewart and their histories (in terms of creation), I would have a difficult time recommending it, as the film covers very basic ground (origin, year of debut, initial storylines, etc.).

After watching the film, I went out to walk the “show floor”, which was in fact just a couple of tables set up in the main room of the Schomburg Center. Because the room was so small and there were quite a few people there, the room was very hard to navigate and made getting to the tables extremely difficult. However, in the end, I made it to all the tables, all of which had a variety of black comic books, sketches, and prints.

At 2 PM, I attended the panel discussion. This panel discussion was much more academic than panels at other conventions or festivals I’ve attended, and the four presenters each spoke for about fifteen minutes on their chosen before having a Q&A session with all of the panelists. While the topics were varied, large segments of each topic seem to overlap with each other, not to mention the information presented in the movie. In fact, some panelists presented pictures that were identical to the ones shown in the movie. However, like the movie, on a basic level the panels were informative, and the Q&A session was actually the highlight, as a number of people came up with interesting questions that challenged the panelists.

At the beginning of the panel, the head of the Schomburg Center said that they would like to make the Black Comic Book Festival an annual event, if not semi-annual. I would enjoy returning to the next Black Comic Book Festival with the hopes that they would create a more diversified line-up with topics, movies and panels that branch further out than just the origins of black comic books. Also, although the auditorium at the Schomburg Center was great for hosting the movie and panels, I would hope they would find a less cramped area to host the tables and exhibits (and hopefully get more than just a handful of tables.)

 

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