by GILLIAN PUMA, Staff Writer
On Tuesday, Oct. 30, the Multicultural Center turned Smith Auditorium into a comic book convention known as JasperCon. This was the first JasperCon ever held, and was attended by faculty and students alike. The convention included four panels that discussed cultural comics, women in comics, careers in comics and the importance of representation. There was also several vendors at the event, selling written works, comic books, pins, artwork and t-shirts.
“One of the goals of the multicultural center is to show diversity in a lot of different fronts,” said Hayden Greene, director of multicultural affairs. “Comic book culture is such a mainstream thing in the United States between movies and big authors now are writing comic books. JasperCon looks to expose the people who haven’t had the opportunity like women of culture, people of color, and LGBQT culture.”
The vendors were also very diverse, and included independent and well known companies including Sokoya Productions, West Village Comics, Lockett Down Productions, Greg Anderson Elysee, Xmoor Studios, PBS Media, Leigh P. Walls, Sulaweb Inc., Pyroglyphics Studio, Forward Comix, Eric Orr Art, Black Comics Collective, N. Steven Harric, Mean Tees, Citizen Kow, The Curv, Dill Comics, Allison Conway, Maika Sazo, and Bulletproof Comics.
“We were able to connect with these vendors at Comic Con (in New York) so we would have them at our event,” Greene said.
Allison Conway is an illustrator and comic artist living in Brooklyn, N.Y. She graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. She first became inspired to get into graphic novel writing when she studied abroad in France. She went to a comic book festival in Angouleme and knew she wanted to write graphic novels for a living. One of her popular comic series is known as “A Pillbug’s Life,” in which the stories follow a pillbug’s life with his insect friends.
“I chose bugs as the subject of this series after my traumatizing experience with bed bugs while I was in college,” Conway said.
“A Pillbug’s Life” was also featured on Vice Media’s comic book section of their website. Conway is also a vegetarian, which she passionately explains in her other graphic novel, “The Lab.” “The Lab” tells the story of a creature that was tested on for numerous lab experiments his whole life, and was then expelled from the lab after he was done being used. The story is supposed to symbolize animal exploitation that is done in today’s society.
The Lab will be Conway’s first graphic novel and will be published next year by Top Shelf.
Leigh Walls is an independent artist as well. He traced the linework for Daniel Cooney’s “The Tommy Gun Dolls” graphic novel series.
“I always liked comic stories and cartoons. I started drawing them because it was the easiest way to translate stories from my head,” Walls said.
Walls takes inspiration from the image comic series “Savage Dragon” by Erik Larsen. He’s been doing professional artwork since 1998, but is now working on his own series known as The WindSong of Legalia.
“The story explains the chronicling of a culture from its birth to the end of the world,” Walls said. “Essentially, it’s 40,000 years of stories. I haven’t come up with the illustrations for it yet. It is a project that has taken me 20 years in the making.”
Deirdre Hollman is the founder of the Black Comics Collective, a forum for bringing together creators within a community at large.
“I produced a comic book festival at the Schomburg Library in Harlem seven years ago,” Hollman said. “I learned there’s a huge community of folks interested in comics created by people of color and other minorities.”
Hollman continues to produce the festival there and has even reached out to several different boroughs and locations. She calls Black Comics a “collective” because it is a community of people who care about representation and diversity as well as political views.
Outside of Black Comics, Hollman is a public school educator, where she even teaches comic books to her middle school and high school students.
“I want my students to know there’s a broad variety of narratives as well as creativity,” she said. She has also had great success with teaching her kids through comic books.
At the end of the day, JasperCon was more than just an average convention. It was made to promote diversity in the comic book scene that isn’t normally seen. The event will be held next fall as well.