As one of the United States’s biggest comic book convention takes place in San Diego this week, we’ll see panels titled “Women and Writers of Color Breaking Barriers“; “We Are All Heroes: The Changing Landscape of Comics, Geekdom, and Fanboy Culture“; and “Chicano Comics.” These discussions are representative of the shift that’s taken place in recent years at the conference and throughout geek culture.
With the push for increased diversity in comic books, we’ve seen the introduction of characters like Miles Morales (the first Afro-Latino Spider-Man) and America Chavez (Miss America), who is Marvel’s first lesbian Latina superhero. And these efforts for inclusivity have moved beyond paper and onto both the small and big screens. In 2016, Netflix’s Luke Cage – starring African-American Mike Colter – made its debut. And this year, DC’s Wonder Woman (portrayed by Gal Gadot) hit theaters and is in line to become this summer’s biggest box office hit.
Despite all the strides, there’s more the industry can do to foster POC, LGBTQ+, and female talent. But those who have been historically excluded from geek culture aren’t waiting around for the industry to catch up. Instead, they’re telling their own stories and creating their own heroes, which has led to the birth of conventions that serve communities that are often on the periphery at more mainstream events. Across the country, myriad comic book and pop culture conventions have sprung up to make geeks from all walks of life feel at home. Here are 11 conventions that celebrate the diversity within the geek world:
Game Devs of Color Expo
The second annual Game Devs of Color Expo took place on June 24 in Harlem with the specific purpose of exploring the diversity of the video game industry – which includes everyone from the creators and designers to fans and newcomers. Even the location chosen – the historic Schomburg Center (named for Afro-Puerto Rican Arturo Alfonso Schomburg) – celebrated the accomplishments of people of color.
The expo is an extension of the Brooklyn Gamery, an independent development company producing games for a number of devices and platforms. “We were in a room somewhere, basically in a circle of chairs, talking about the experience of being a person of color in games, as a person who creates games or plays games and some of the other stuff, like character design,” Chris Algoo, one of the organizers, told GamesBeat.
This year’s event saw more than 20 guests from the industry, an arcade, and all-day workshops and panels covering everything from game design to representation in video games.
Learn more about Game Devs of Color Expo.
Writing about the impressiveness of BlerDCon in just a few words is nearly impossible. Spread out over three days – June 30 to July 2 – the first edition of BlerDCon was a success. The convention – the brainchild of businessmen Hilton George and Hassan Parish – is a comic book, cosplay, anime, and pop culture convention like no other. Though the event’s name signals that it specifically caters to blerds (black nerds), BlerDCon is an inclusive space for all POC, LGBTQ+, female, and disabled fans. The inaugural event’s programming reflected that.
Arcade cabinets blinked and beeped throughout the night, and panels and workshops ran for nearly 24 hours. With more than 2,000 attendees showing up to the Arlington-based event, the staff – a broad coalition with representatives from several communities – successfully created a space for blerds and beyond. BlerDCon is slated to return in 2018.
Learn more about BlerDCon.
Texas Latino Comic Con
When: July 29
Where: 2600 Live Oak St., Dallas, Texas 75204
Texas Latino Comic Con is the state’s first convention specifically targeted to the Latino community. This nerdiverse newcomer is under the leadership of Hector González Rodríguez III – founder/CEO of Rio Bravo Comics and creator of El Peso Hero. Hector hopes Texas Latino Comic Con can fill a few gaps. Not only will it center the voices of Latino creators, the event is also free.
“One of the great things about Texas latino Comic Con is it’s free and it’s in Central Dallas,” Hector told Remezcla. “It’s in a place where it’s accessible and we don’t discriminate on the basis of income, socio-economic status, because a lot of these conventions cost a lot of money and they tend to discriminate on who’s able to afford to go in.”
Learn more about Texas Latino Comic Con.
When: August 19-20
Where: 333 Adams St., Brooklyn, New York 11201
In 2014, Geeks Out – a non-profit organization seeking to create spaces for LGBTQ+ geeks – started a KickStarter account in order to put together Flame Con, “a super-queer comic con.” Fast forward to 2017, and the group is preparing to host its third iteration.
Last year’s event spanned two days and saw more than 3,400 guests, but Geek Out promises that 2017’s Flame Con “will be bigger and better this year.” Phil Jimenez, Serafín, and Yesenia Moises are a few creators who will participate in this year’s con.
Learn more about Flame Con.
Small Press Expo
When: September 16-17
Where: 5701 Marinelli Road, North Bethesda, Maryland 20852
While it’s not a specifically diversity-focused convention, the Small Press Expo has provided fantastic opportunities for women and people of color to connect to audiences and fellow creators. Launched in 1994, Small Press Expo features independent creators from all over. Over the years, the expo has gained fervent fans, like the Hernádez Brothers – the duo behind the seminal Love and Rockets.
“Honestly, [we come to SPX] because it’s part of the world that we live in, and that we came up in, and it’s cool to see all these people doing what they want to do instead of what they do for money,” Jaime Hernádez told NPR.
The annual event has even caught the attention of industry professionals from Cartoon Network and Disney, who scout talent at SPX.
Learn more about Small Press Expo.
When: September 28-29
Where: 154 W. 12th Ave. (Hale Hall, MLK Room), Columbus, Ohio 43210
A more academically minded effort, Sol-Con is a convention formed from an alliance between African Americans and Latinos at Ohio State University. The event, hosted by the school’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, began about three years ago when Professor Frederick Aldama decided that comic books could bring OSU’s people of color together. With the help of SUNY Buffalo professor John Jennings and Latino Comics Expo creator Ricardo Padilla, Aldama made Sõl-Con a reality.
“One of the great things about putting on an event like this is that it puts a spotlight on the importance of this talent, in a way that even people who are bottom line about dollars will understand that there is a market,” Aldama told The Washington Post. “A market that has largely been marginalized and that, if they don’t wake up to it, tomorrow they are not going to be having that bottom line. This is where it’s at. This is where the creativity is happening. It’s just been exploding. And what I love about it is that we’re really seeing a new generation of creators in their 20s and early 30s, and some even younger that have found role models in their African American and Latino counterparts and have said: ‘Look, I can do this.’ And they’re doing incredible things.”
Like in year’s past, this edition of Sol-Con will feature exhibitors, panels, and workshops in an intersectional, inquisitive environment that brings to focus the shared struggles of people of color.
Learn more about Sol-Con.
Indigenous Comic Con
When: November 10-12
Where: 11000 Broadway Blvd SE, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87105
In 2016, indie comic book publishing company Native Realities took a leap of faith and created the first-ever indigenous comic con. This year, Native Realities will host the event again. Laguna Pueblo member Lee Francis – who organized the 2016 Indigenous Comic Con (ICC) – told Remezcla that he hoped the event would show indigenous people “that they have a place in popular culture… In other words, we have a viable future that is connected to the past but not represented solely by images and perceptions of the past. Mostly, we want indigenous youth to see that there are so many wonderful ways they can express themselves and that they can support and celebrate each other’s uniqueness.”
There’s no information on this year’s guests, but in 2016, ICC featured Jonathan Joss (the voice of John Redcorn from King of the Hill). The Native Realities team recently opened Red Planet Books & Comics, the first book, games, and comic book shop dedicated to Indigenous creators and stories.
Learn more about Indigenous Comic Con.
The Latino Comics Expo
When: November 11-12
Where: 628 Alamitos Avenue, Long Beach, California 90802
In 2011, Ricardo Padilla and Javier Hernández – the comic book writer and artist behind El Muerto: The Aztec Zombie – established the The Latino Comics Expo to highlight creators dedicated to bringing our stories to the forefront. “We wanted to create a comic book experience for Latino fans,” Hernández told NBC News. “Put different experiences under one tent at the Expo… and every exhibitor they visit is another [stage, snapshot] of the Latino-American experience.”
With past guests including Love and Rockets creators Gilbert and Jaime Hernández, Lalo Alcaraz, and the late Spain Rodríguez, Ricardo and Javier have successfully put together an impressive roster of talent. This year’s event – which will once again take place at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, California – is scant on details at the moment, but judging by past editions, it’ll surely be a space where visitors can meet the established and up-and-coming creators working to make the comic book world more diverse.
Learn more about The Latino Comics Expo.
Jewish Comic Con
When: March 2018
Where: 603 St Johns Place, Brooklyn, New York 11238
Considering the significant contributions of Jewish creators like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby – as well as Jewish characters like The Thing and Magneto – it’s surprising that 2016 saw the first-ever Jewish Comic Con. held in the Congregation Kol Israel synagogue, the event explored both the history and experience of Jewish creators in the comic book, who often had to subtly obscure their heritage to evade anti-Semitic oppression.
“Early comic book creators sometimes changed their names and had to hide Jewish characters and content, but were still able to use their talents to progress idea of truth and justice,” Congregation Kol Israel President Fred Polaniecki, who founded the event with Fabrice Sapolsky, told The Jewish Week.
Last year’s event featured Julian Voloj and Will Torres as special guests. Details for this year’s Jewish Comic Con are unavailable, but it will return in November.
Learn more about Jewish Comic Con.
July 24 at 6 a.m. ET: This entry originally stated that Jewish Comic Con took place in November 2017, but the date has been edited to reflect that it will now take place in March 2018.
The Nerdtino Expo
When: November 18
Where: 2600 N. 5th St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19133
The Nerdtino Expo – the first East Coast Latinx comic book, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and pop culture convention – will make its debut in Philadelphia in November. Current featured guests include Edgardo Miranda Rodriguez (creator of Boricua superhero La Borinqueña), sci-fi and fantasy authors Sabrina Vourvoulias and Matthew David Goodwin, Philly cosplayer Victoria Avalor, and Deadpool and GI Joe comic book artist Mike Hawthorne.
Learn more about The Nerdtino Expo.
Editor’s Note: Thomas E. Delfi, the author of this article, is the creator of The Nerdtino Expo. If you’re interested in participating as an exhibitor, vendor, or sponsor, contact him at NerdtinoExpo@gmail.com.
East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention
When: May 19, 2018
In the 16 years since the first East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention (ECBACC), the event has grown and changed. But as its core, ECBACC remains the same. It’s still committed to promoting literacy, giving black creators the space to showcase their work, and to put out positive Black images. Yumy Odom – the founder, who serves as the convention’s president – has taken it further by establishing the Glyph Awards in 2006. With Black comic book creators still struggling getting their work out to the masses, these awards help them get their foot in the door.
“We are connected to almost everybody in the industry and people actually come to us and they use our work as their starting points in conversation,” Odom told Newsweek.
As this event centers the voices and experiences of black creators, it’s also inspired other events that are doing the same. “All the conventions that come from and through ECBACC have their own flavor,” Odom added. “We were the ideators for most of what you are seeing. They come from people who have been to ECBACC. They like what this feels like.”
Learn more about East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention.