Blerd City Con, the comic conference for black nerdom, came to four venues across Dumbo this weekend. Sci-fi and fantasy short films were showcased at Automatic Studios to an intimate crowd of conference attendees, directors and producers. One film featured Sterling K. Brown running from an alien invasion and another featuring Frankie Faison as a zombie about to eat his granddaughter, which has been included in “The Black Horror Revolution.” Down the street there were cosplay and martial arts panels as well as an especially emotional panel on being a black woman in the comic industry.
In a room of about 30 audience members, panelists from the Women in Comics Collective spoke about the challenges black women face in the predominately white male industry. The panel started out by discussing the merits of black people accepting roles as slaves in HBO’s controversial new show, Confederate, but quickly turned into an emotional tête-à-tête when Marvel artist and panelist Alitha Martinez said, “I’ve been trying so hard to be an artist that the last thing I want to be known is as a black, Hispanic, female artist.” Which then prompted cosplayer Geisha Vi to say, “It’s important for it to be there in the beginning because it lets other people know who you are and that they too can be where you are. I know you don’t want it to be the modifier to your work-,” before being cut off by Martinez as she walked off the panel and out of the conference. Continuing her point, Vi said that race and gender labels shouldn’t matter, but they do, and should be embraced because they can inspire other people from similar backgrounds.
One attendee, Auteema Suber, said she appreciated the honesty of the women on the panel and understands why diversity in the workplace is an emotional topic. Suber, who attended the first day of the conference, appreciates what founder Clairesa Clay organized on a small budget. “It’s just nice to have a focused con that was more than a few panels at New York Comic Con,” she said. But ultimately, she’d like to see some sort of mentorship program included next year so black children or people new to the comic world can make connections with the panelists and collectives that attended.