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Featured News

Author William Jones to Hold Book Signing at Philly Comic Book Store on April 8


Lecture and youth workshop also on Jones’ April schedule

(PHILADELPHIA – March 28, 2017) – Author and self-described comic book geek William Jones will share his knowledge of black comic book heroes and illustration techniques at three events during the month of April.

Fans of science fiction, comics and the supernatural will find wisdom and inspiration during Jones’ appearances at a well-recognized comic book store in Philadelphia and two public libraries in Washington metro area. The events include a book signing, a lecture and a youth workshop.

Jones will make his first appearance on Saturday, April 8, 2017, from 1-3 p.m. at Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse in Philadelphia, where he will discuss and sign copies of his book, "The Ex-Con, Voodoo Priest, Goddess, and the African King: A Social, Cultural, and Political Analysis of Four Black Comic Book Heroes."

Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse is located at 2578 Frankford Ave. in the Kensington neighborhood. The store is owned by Ariell Johnson, a proponent of the comic book world becoming more inclusive and the first African American woman to open a comic book store on the East Coast.

"Philadelphia has continued to show me a lot of support, and I truly appreciate it,” Jones said. “To be invited to such a widely recognized book store is incredible. I am really looking forward to my discussion and book signing at Amalgam."

Jones will also be a speaker during the Spring 2017 African History and Culture Lecture Series at the Greenbelt branch of the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System. He will present "Black (Super) Power! The Portrayal of Black People in the World's of Sci-Fi, Comics and the Supernatural" on Tuesday, April 11, 2017, from 7-8:30 p.m.

Greenbelt Library is located at 11 Crescent Road in Greenbelt, Md.

To wrap up the month, Jones will host a workshop for aspiring, young comic book illustrators at the Olney Library in Olney, Md. on Monday, April 17, 2017, from 4-5 p.m.

Jones’ “Basics of Comic Book Art and Illustration Workshop” will teach young people the basic techniques of comic book illustration and how to create comic book characters. Participants ages 7 to 10 years old are invited to preregister for the event on the Olney Library’s website. Attendance is limited for this spring break program sponsored by the Friends of the Library, Olney chapter.

"One of the best parts of what I do is working with the youth. It is always exciting to work enthusiastic young people,” Jones said. “These events are always so much fun!"

The library is located at 3500 Olney Laytonsville Road, Olney, Md.
Jones frequently speaks on the subjects of the history of black people in America and the image of black people in various forms of media, pop culture and hip-hop music on college campuses and at conferences both nationally and abroad.

Jones is also the founder of Afrofuturism Network, an organization that seeks to support the ever-growing community of black writers, artists, and thinkers in the realms of sci-fi, fantasy, comic books and film, and analyzes the contributions and portrayal of black characters in these mediums. Additionally, Afrofuturism Network examines the role and place of black people in the past present and future and serves as a hub for black creativity and thought.

Learn more about Jones and Afrofuturism Network at www.afrofuturismnet.com.

‘Comic Book Geek’ William Jones to discuss black characters in comics, films on Feb. 4



(Washington, DC – Jan. 29, 2017) – Author and founder of Afrofuturism Network William Jones will talk about the imagery of black people in comic books, science fiction and supernatural films during a book discussion and signing event at Sankofa Video, Books and Café in Washington D.C.

The event was postponed in January due to inclement weather, but has been rescheduled for Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017, from 4 to 5 p.m.

“I am very excited to be making my first appearance at Sankofa Video, Books and Café,” Jones said. “I was disappointed with the postponement of the first event, but this has only heightened my excitement for Feb. 4.”

In The Ex-Con, Voodoo Priest, Goddess, and the African King: A Social, Cultural, and Political Analysis of Four Black Comic Book Heroes, Jones delves into the past’s of four black comic book characters to break down their origins and analyze their representation throughout comic book history. In turn, his analysis gives the reader a feel for the future of diversity and representation in the comic book medium.

Long-time lovers of comic books, sci-fi and the supernatural, established and aspiring creators, and new and casual fans will find fresh realizations during Jones’s talk. Jones will sign copies of his book following the discussion.

“I am grateful to Sankofa Video, Books and Cafe for their support,” Jones said. “Sankofa has long been an educational and cultural landmark in Washington, and I am honored that they would host such an event for me.”

Sankofa Video, Books and Café is located at 2714 Georgia Avenue NW, Washington DC, across from Howard University. For more information, visit http://www.sankofa.com.
Jones frequently speaks on the subjects of the history of black people in America and the image of black people in various forms of media, pop culture and hip-hop music on college campuses and at conferences both nationally and abroad.

Afrofuturism Network seeks to support the ever-growing community of black writers, artists, and thinkers in the realms of sci-fi, fantasy, comic books and film, and analyzes the contributions and portrayal of black characters in these mediums. Additionally, Afrofuturism Network examines the role and place of black people in the past present and future and serves as a hub for black creativity and thought.

Learn more about Jones and Afrofuturism Network at www.afrofuturismnet.com.

Past News

‘Comic Book Geek’ William Jones to hold youth art workshops, book signing in January

‘Comic Book Geek’ William Jones to hold youth art workshops, book signing in January

(Washington, DC – Dec. 30, 2016) – Author and founder of Afrofuturism Network William Jones will share his knowledge of black comic book heroes and illustration techniques at three upcoming events in the Washington metropolitan area.

 

Jones, a self-described comic book geek, will host two art workshops for youth who are interested in comic book illustration and a book signing during the month of January.

 

“Learn the Basics of Comic Book Illustration” will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017, from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at the Quince Orchard Library, 15831 Quince Orchard Rd., Gaithersburg, Md. The hands-on workshop is designed for youth ages 10 to 17 years old. Paper and pencils will be provided, but attendees are welcome to bring their own supplies. 

 

Registration can be completed at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/library. The workshop is sponsored by the Friends of the Library, Quince Orchard Chapter. For more information, call 240-777-0200.

 

The first workshop is a lead-up event to Montgomery County Public Libraries’ inaugural comic book convention, MoComCon, the venue for Jones’ second workshop.

 

MoComCon will take place on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 at the Silver Spring Library, 900 Wayne Ave., Silver Spring, Md. The free event is scheduled from noon to 4 p.m. with registration for Jones’ workshop open at 11 a.m.

 

“I would like thank Montgomery County Libraries for their continued support,” Jones said. “I always look forward to work with youth and the next generation of artists.”

 

The event also includes a variety of panels, additional workshops, programs, displays, exhibitors and a cosplay contest. Visit montgomerycountymd.gov/library/programs/mocomcon/ for more details.

 

Between the two art workshops, Jones will discuss and sign copies of his latest book at Sankofa Video, Books and Café on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017 at 4 p.m. 

 

In The Ex-Con, Voodoo Priest, Goddess, and the African King: A Social, Cultural, and Political Analysis of Four Black Comic Book Heroes, Jones delves into the past’s of four black comic book characters to break down their origins and analyze their representation throughout comic book history. In turn, his analysis gives the reader a feel for the future of diversity and representation in the comic book medium.

 

His presentation will also include a discussion of the portrayal of black people in science-fiction, fantasy and supernatural films.

 

“I am very excited to be making my first appearance at Sankofa Video, Books and Cafe. Sankofa has long been an educational and cultural landmark in Washington, and I am honored that they would host such an event for me,” Jones said.

 

Sankofa Video, Books and Café is located at 2714 Georgia Avenue NW, Washington DC, across from Howard University. For more information, visit http://www.sankofa.com.


Jones frequently speaks on the subjects of the history of black people in America and the image of black people in various forms of media, pop culture and hip-hop music on college campuses and at conferences both nationally and abroad.

 

Afrofuturism Network seeks to support the ever-growing community of black writers, artists, and thinkers in the realms of sci-fi, fantasy, comic books and film, and analyzes the contributions and portrayal of black characters in these mediums.  Additionally, AFN examines the role and place of black people in the past present and future and serves as a hub for black creativity and thought. 

 

Learn more about Jones and Afrofuturism Network at www.afrofuturismnet.com.

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Author William Jones featured on Black Tribbles Radio Show

Author and AfroFuturism Network founder William Jones was recently featured on the radio show Black Tribbles at the Black Speculative Arts Movement (BSAMPhilly 2016) on November 12, 2016.

 

Click here to listen:  https://soundcloud.com/black-tribbles/the-bsam-philly-2016-special

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Afrofuturism Network to participate in upcoming Black Speculative Arts Movement convention in Philadelphia

Afrofuturism Network to participate in upcoming Black Speculative Arts Movement convention in Philadelphia

(PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – Nov. 7, 2016) – Afrofuturism Network will participate in the Black Speculative Arts Movement (BsaM) annual Afrofuturism, black comics and arts convention, an event designed to support the growing Afrofuturism movement, black creativity and intellectuals in the field of Afrofuturism.

 

Afrofuturism Network (AFN), led by founder William Jones, will participate as a vendor alongside many other comics, art, artisan creators and vendors at Temple University in Philadelphia, one of several college campuses selected for the convention’s tour.

 

The event will be held on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Gladfelter Hall, 1115 Polett Walk, Philadelphia.

 

Jones is a historian, self-described comic book geek, educator and author. He recently published his first book The Ex-Con, Voodoo Priest, Goddess, and the African King, and speaks publically on the subjects of the history of black people in America, the image of black people in various forms of media, pop culture and hip-hop music. He has spoken on various college campuses and at conferences both nationally and abroad.

 

AFN seeks to support the ever-growing community of black writers, artists, and thinkers in the realms of science fiction, fantasy, comic books and film. They examine the role and place of black people in the past, present and future, and serve as a hub for black creativity and thought.

 

The BsaM convention schedule also includes live performances, panels, lectures, hands-on workshops and the MECCAcon International Film Festival. 

 

BsaM is a loose umbrella term represented for different positions or basis of inquiry: Afrofuturism, Astro Blackness, Afro-Surrealism, Ethno Gothic, Black Digital Humanities, Black (Afro-future female or African Centered) Science Fiction, The Black Fantastic, Magical Realism and The Esoteric.

 

Tickets and the complete schedule for the Philadelphia convention can be found at bsamphilly2016.eventbrite.com or www.facebook.com/events/1614789775501626/. Attendees, presenters and vendors are encouraged to use the hashtag #BSAMphilly2016 to promote the convention on social media.

 

Last month, Jones and AFN participated in a highly successful workshop sponsored by Diverse Writers and Artists of Speculative Fiction (DWASF) in conjunction with Black Author Showcase on how to develop stories in science fiction, fantasy and horror.

 

“This workshop helped people learn to create high-quality fiction that accurately portrays people of color,” said K. Ceres Wright, president and founder of DWASF.

 

Held at the Long Branch Library in Silver Springs, Md., Jones addressed the representation of black characters in comic book and supernatural/fantasy films. He also spoke on his first book, The Ex-Con, Voodoo Priest, Goddess, and the African King.

 

Authors Cerece Rennie Murphy, Stafford Battle, B. Sharise Moore, Diane Williams, and K. Ceres Wright also participated in the workshop.

 

“It’s important that we take control of our image and representation in all forms,” Jones said.

 

For more information on AFN and Jones, visit AfroFuturismNet.com.

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How Comic Books Can Bridge Cultures

For decades, comic books have been in color, but now they are more and more reflecting the true hues of American society.

The new Captain America is black. A Superman who is suspiciously similar to President Obama recently headlined a comic book. Thor is a woman, Spider-Man is black-latino and Ms. Marvel is Muslim.

 

Mainstream comic book superheroes — America’s modern mythology and the wellspring behind several recent Hollywood blockbusters — have been redrawn from the stereotypical brown-haired, blue-eyed white man into a world of multicolored, multireligious and multigendered crusaders to reflect a greater diversity in their audience.

 

The struggle to portray the full diversity of America is nothing new for the source material for these adaptations, the great American comic book. Although superheroes had arrived on the scene with Superman’s debut in 1938, it would be another quarter of a century before a black superhero would appear with the Black Panther’s premiere in 1966.

 

 

Historically, superheroes have enjoyed their greatest popularity at times when national confidence is under strain. In comic books, the superheroes’ popularity peaked during World War II, enjoyed a creative renaissance during the turbulent 1960s, and are now meeting a new national hunger for heroes as the country faces military threats from radicalized groups, renewed tension with Cold War adversaries and shadowy cyber-attacks.

 

In this new climate, I look forward to experiencing a culture in which portrayals of black people as super-powerful people are standards in the mainstream. On the one hand, could such heroes become even more potent icons for a new Millennial generation that expects diversity? On the other hand, perhaps these heroes will not resonate in quite the same way that icons like Cap do, and we won’t see white males attired like the Black Panther. 

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Origins and Representations of Black Comic Book Characters Analyzed in New Book

Origins and Representations of Black Comic Book Characters Analyzed in New Book

(WASHINGTON, DC., September 27, 2016) – Black superheroes are frequent stars in today’s top box office movies and fans clamor to the comic book stores to read about their latest adventures. But it hasn’t always been this way. 

 

In the not so distant past, black comic book characters were a rarity on the big screen and in the pages of comic books. Those characters that were created often had questionable origins and storylines. 

 

Author William Jones tells the untold stories of four such black characters in his new book The Ex-Con, Voodoo Priest, Goddess, and the African King: A Social, Cultural, and Political Analysis of Four Black Comic Book Heroes.

 

The characters examined in the book are:

 

  • Luke Cage – After being wrongfully imprisoned, his superpowers are unleashed giving him unbreakable skin and superhuman strength. Luke Cage first appears in Luke Cage, Hero for Hire No. 1 in 1972;
  • Papa Midnite – A voodoo priest, Papa Midnite’s superpower of immortality originated with his deadly betrayal of his own sister. He made his first appearance in Hellblazer No. 1 in 1998;
  • Storm – One of the first black female comic book characters, Storm makes her first appearance in Giant-Size X-Men No. 1 in 1975. Classified as a mutant, she was born with her superpower abilities to control the weather and fly; and
  • Black Panther – First appearing in Fantastic Four No. 52 in 1966, Black Panther is first black comic book character to appear in American comic books and the first to have superpowers.

 

By delving into their pasts, Jones breaks down the character’s origins and analyzes their representation throughout comic book history. In turn, his analysis gives the reader a feel for the future of diversity and representation in the comic book medium.

 

“I wrote this book to examine the creation and multifaceted nature of select black superheroes in the American comic book tradition,” Jones said. “This topic is significant because the creation of comic books has continuously shaped and influenced popular American culture. Comic books, like any other socio-cultural product, become a means by which perceptions and ideas are transmitted. Hence, given that comic books are so readily digested by the public, it becomes all the more important to analyze and decode their messages.”

 

Long-time lovers of comic books, established and aspiring creators, and new and casual fans will find fresh realizations within the book’s 212 pages.

 

The Ex-Con, Voodoo Priest, Goddess, and the African King: A Social, Cultural, and Political Analysis of Four Black Comic Book Heroes is available in paperback and can be purchased on the Afrofuturism Network website at www.afrofuturismnet.com/main/book/.

 

Jones is the founder of Afrofuturism Network, a historian, educator and self-described "comic book geek." He frequently speaks on the subjects of the history of black people in America, the image of black people in various forms of media, pop culture and hip-hop music on various college campuses and at conferences both nationally and abroad.

 

Afrofuturism Network seeks to support the ever-growing community of black writers, artists, and thinkers in the realms of sci-fi, fantasy, comic books and film. AFN analyzes the contributions and portrayal of black characters in these mediums. AFN examines the role and place of black people in the past present and future and serves as a hub for black creativity and thought. 

 

AFN recently hosted the 1st Annual Afrofuturism Network Comic Book Convention and Conference, which provided activities promoting creativity in youth, innovative workshops, informative panel discussions and featured the talents of various black artists. Learn more about AFN at www.afrofuturismnet.com

 

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How Have Comic Books and Graphic Novels Been Used In The Classroom

More and more educators are beginning to see the educational potential of comics and graphic novels. They can help with building complex reading skills. While graphic novels and comics have the complexity and development of novels, students can read them in a shorter time, allowing classes to study more texts, writing styles and genres during a semester. Important topics in society and history — gender issues, racial division, war — can be shown and taught through comics. X-Men, for example, are mutants born with superhuman powers. While fighting for peace, they must also fight anti-mutant bigotry.

 

Comics and graphic novels can be used as a “point of reference” to bridge what students already know with what they have yet to learn. For example, comics and graphic novels can teach about making inferences, since readers must rely on pictures and just a small amount of text. By helping students transfer this skill, teachers can lessen the challenge of a new book.

 

Teachers are finding it easier to teach writing, grammar and punctuation with material that students are fully invested in. And it turns out that comic books have other built-in advantages. The pairing of visual and written plotlines that they rely on appear to be especially helpful to struggling readers.  Classes on comics and graphic novels support kids who are increasingly part of a visual society. Everything they see and read online comes with a video, graphics or photo that's part of telling the story.

 

 

Even beyond the support given to reluctant readers and English Language Learners, the benefits of graphic novels and comics in the classroom are vast. They can:

 

  • engage readers who learn visually, and who are comfortable with visual media, such as video games and computer graphics
  • increase vocabulary
  • encourage readers to explore different genres, and develop an appreciation for different literary and artistic styles
  • teach positive messages, such as helping others, working to one’s best ability, working as a team, and persevering
  • open a reader’s mind to new ways of storytelling, and increase their imagination, through the unique combination of text and pictures used in comics to convey the story.
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If Comic Books Never Existed

We can’t take a look at the psychological influence of comics and their superhero tales without also looking at where they came from, and why they hold so much of an impact on society.

Comics and the evolution of superheroes have reflected historical trends and addressed societal problems, but what about the narrower relationship to the individual, rather than the wider community? Importantly, the relationship between comics and societal factors is not unidirectional, with a strong direct impact on individuals. 

 

When we read comics or try to understand superheroes, particularly as children, we develop our emotions, reading ability, and morals. Just as we idolise celebrities, we idolise superheroes. Furthermore, based on theories of social psychology, comics likely impact our levels of aggression, prosocial behaviour, leadership ability and attitudes.

It is not an unusual sight to see a child running through the yard with a Batman or Superman cape, battling imaginary supervillains and saving the world, one treehouse at a time. 

 

Children can use superheroes and villains to take various perspectives on a situation and test the consequences of actions, while reading comics can assist with developing their emotional vocabulary. Comics provide the exaggerated opportunity to play out moralistic and ethical dilemmas for both children (in an effort to increase their understanding of the world around them) and adults (to critique and analyse the status quo). In fact, superheroes likely feed straight into our tendency to create imaginary friends that are supercompetent in an effort to control or “master” the world.

 

Comics give us an accessible means to process the complicated world aroun us and put it into easily-digestible context. If they never exsisted, I suspect that as humans, we’d find some other medium through which to do this. 

 

But I doubt it would be as loved.

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Do superheroes vote? Are they liberals or conservatives?

Batman

 

If Batman has a principle, there is nothing that can thwart him from standing by them. This is a trait present in most superheroes. Unfortunately, unlike most superheros, Batman’s principles are pretty contradictory. Despite distrusting any law or government officials, Batman strongly believes in the rule of law and right vs. wrong. Despite accepting fist fights and living a life of fighting crime, he is completely against guns and the death penalty. Batman is definitely too confusing to belong to any party. When Batman votes, he weighs all the options and chooses the best person for the job, regardless of party affiliation or whether they are actually running for office. In other words, he writes-in BATMAN on every ballot.

 

Spiderman

 

Spiderman is DC’s version of a Democrat. Spiderman had a personal experience with poverty, watching his primary guardian Aunt May stretch Uncle Ben’s life insurance and taking freelance pictures of himself for a couple bucks. Spiderman absolutely believes in taking care of the little guys. “With great power comes great responsibility”…how democratic.

 

Superman

 

Superman is the prime example of a moderate Republican. Growing up in rural Smallville, Kansas, and working in Metropolis, Superman has a keen balance of “small town values and big city pragmatism”. Clark Kent, Superman’s alter ego, works at the liberal newspaper “the Daily Planet” where he meets his similarly moderate wife Lois Lane (daughter of a military general and lead reporter for the Daily Planet). Superman is socially moderate but pro-death penalty and distrusts the President. Lex Luther was his arch enemy.

 

Iron Man

 

Iron Man, of Marvel Comics, is about as Republican a character as possible. Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, is a billionaire with an Ivy League degree. He has a long history with war, serving as Secretary of Defense and is a weapons manufacturer. In Marvel’s civil war story arch, Iron Man was a huge supporter of the proposed law that all superhumans need to register with the government and abandon their secret identities. If anyone was against him and his movement, he classified them as an enemy combatant first and locked them up in Negative Zone prison, asking questions later. For these reasons, Iron Man could be considered a neo-con republican.

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How Will Future Generations View This Generation's Fascination With Geek Culture?

The young adults graduating high school now don’t know a time without The Internet, global communication, or portable electronic devices. And these future generations will grow accustomed to an advanced world; one that in increasingly more devoted to the practical application of the sciences, both in personal and public use. In short, they will grow up in a world that would be mere fantasy to our grandparents.

 

But what does that mean for the geek?

 

As all of this advanced technology becomes more and more common, I think the world will start to forget that all of this once dwelt almost exclusively in the realm of the geek. Even the most resistant will begin to accept, with some grudging respect, that the once mysterious fringe-dweller is now the backbone of our evolving society.

 

Look around. Look at all those iDevices, the Powermats charging them, and the Wi-Fi networks that every coffee shop has to support them. Look at the people using them. They are not the members of some crazy fringe culture with purple hair and a nose ring. They are fathers checking on daughters, mothers looking up recipes, and students sending texts to friends. They are people sharing GPS locations so that their family and friends can find them with ease. They are “checking in” to Facebook and Foursquare. Even our cars have technology we only once dreamt possible. HUDs (Head-Up Display), once only used in precision attack aircraft, are making cars safer (BMW, GM, and Audi are developing these as we speak) and micro cameras, complete with a cabin view screen, make parallel parking a dream. Surely, just driving one of these cars won’t make you a geek?

 

In short, I think the geek of today – at least as he is portrayed in the media – is going to go away. Sure, we’ll still have technophiles and enthusiasts, but I’m not sure if they’ll be as interested in improving on the technology as much as collecting it. I think brand recognition will play an increasing role in how we view one another, as well.

 

And that, I think, will be one of our defining factors for the future geek. He is going to become increasingly more specialized, focusing his attention on innovation and improvement. I suspect that, while his focus may be married to a particular brand of technology, he’ll be the one looking to continue to bridge the gap – making his devices work in ways never intended. I think we’re going to see whole new types of geeks, too. Maybe, as society merges and the world grows smaller, another culture, with a far more appropriate term, will label them. (Anyone know the Chinese word for geek?). Or perhaps, as we grow closer, we’ll lose all need for the word.

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The Impact of Anime on America

The modern age of Anime arrive in Japan in the 1960s, and over the course of the next decade or so boomed into the giant robot, space battle genre bender that we would soon recognize as the anime of today.

 

Evolving over the next 30 years or so, it reached a peak where it could begin to overtake and become an integral part of other cultures, much like the Hollywood of the 1930s quickly grew to encompass the rest of the world and inform their pop culture. In the same manner, American pop culture becomes increasingly informed by the trends and cult response to anime.

 

Back in America, a few executives were beginning to see the effect these shows were having in Japan. What started as a crossover, slowly began to actually change the way in which American's marketed their television to children. Shows with more adult content appeared, and in some cases emulated the Japanese format. The writers at Pixar crafted brilliant, more maturely themed cartoons without the silly musicals of Disney past, and Disney even dissolved their tried format in favor of more mature, complete stories. The devolution of American quality in cartoons though as they attempted to match the output meant even more Japanese entries in the market. Now, if you turn on Fox kids in the morning you'll find over half of the shows on are animes. And Cartoon Network still presents multiple entries themselves, with more mature offerings in their Adult Swim block late at night. Spirited Away won the Oscar for best animation in 2003 and South Park, the quintessential American barometer of cultural trends at first knocked the trend with their Chinpokemon episode, later to embrace it (while still mocking it) via changing their own art style in the Weapons episode just a couple years ago.

 

Nowadays, you'll find anime oriented t-shirts everywhere, an entire aisle devoted to DVD releases in Best Buy (compared to the one row only seven years ago) and the success of the Anime Network, a channel solely devoted to Anime programming. Magazines like Newtype, a Japanese trade magazine for the Anime industry is now translated and released in America every month with previews of new shows, and American directors like James Cameron are looking to direct live action versions of manga like Battle Angel Alita.

 

Another appeal of anime, especially more recently, is its distinct aesthetic artwork. Anime artwork has grown popular among many fans to the point that poster industries and animators collaborate to produce mainstream anime posters and wall scrolls to meet the demands of fans around the world. Companies in Japan have made an industry of creating figurine models of popular anime characters to sell to fans in stores, conventions, and around the world. Gamers now expect aesthetic artwork in their video games. Video game reviews now take into account the visual artwork of each video game—this shows that artwork plays a major role in anime.

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How And Why Comic Books Are No Longer Just For Children

Comic books are not for kids. They are not for “geeks” and certainly are not for girls. Comic books are not for fans of serialized drama or action movies. Comic books are for everyone.

 

One of the most important things to happen in comics in the past few years has been the rise of all-ages books.

First and foremost, all ages comics aren’t meant specifically for children. Some of the art or structure usually is cartoony and may appear to be “kiddy” but in these books, story always comes first.

 

The approach of all ages titles in comics in my best comparison would be that of a Pixar movie. Pixar movies are all obviously animated and heavily stylized animation but first and foremost the focus is to tell a story that appeals to a huge group of people. Kids, adults, teenagers — anyone who gives them a chance. The best way to tell a story to younger kids is to not dumb it down and treat kids like they are stupid, and in that way it works for the older crowd because they can still appreciate the jokes and humor in the book without feeling like it was intended for a four-year-old. All-ages books can be enjoyed by children just as much as by parents, siblings and others.

 

Lots of creators recently in the past few years have been doing a great job providing books that people of all ages can enjoy. Free of the threat of gratuitous violence and bad language and adult themes which have become all too common in comics. I got to speak to a few of these creators who for the most part, make a living at telling stories for everyone both young and old. They lead the charge and have as much passion, if not more about comics than most.

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Why Do Adults Cosplay?

Cosplay is basically the adult version of dress-up; more specifically, it's a type of performance art where participants dress as costumed characters. 

 

Cosplay is a shortened form of two words – costume and play. The early 90s saw the rising of cosplay into popular culture, although it probably originated initially in Japan. It is the practice of portraying a fictional character – at times completely identifying as that character while in costume (and thus acting as if the individual was that character to add to the authenticity of the experience).

 

Though the exact origins of cosplaying aren't known specifically, the phenomenon began in earnest during the 1970s and 80s in Japan. During this period, the anime media form started gaining serious traction in Japan, and series like Gundam, Future Boy Conan, and Space Battle Yamato captured public imagination like never before. Small fan gatherings began springing up, and participants would show their appreciation for their favorite shows by dressing in clothes that resembled their favorite characters. Places like Akihabara became hubs of fan culture, and industrious young people would create home-made costumes to emulate their favorite characters in "ordinary" life.

 

There are few reasons cosplay is appealing and well-suited to adults.

 

As much as cosplaying is about the fan experience, it is also about community. Strangers often get together for "sew parties" where frequent cosplayers can work on their outfits together and share construction tips and strategies. And in a world where nearly everyone is on Facebook, finding a cosplay community near you isn't exactly difficult.

 

Even with bills and loans, it’s still safe to say that most adults still have more money than a 15 year-old in high school. Adults have jobs, can save money and plan ahead. Adults can afford better materials for cosplay and get better props and accessories.

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How Comic Books Have Become A Political Tool

These days, the nature of political participation in comics is much more sophisticated and much more based in the area of social commentary than that of propaganda. These commentaries have a lot to do with the popularity of the leaders depicted, to be sure, but also the political stances of the writers and even those of the characters themselves.

 

More recently, though, the portrayal of our own leaders, politicians and even the political climate has been bent toward much more interesting forays into the realm of biting social commentary. A lot of people in the world of politics don’t seem to realize how much the world of politics pervades the world of comics.

 

Most of us who have read it would agree that V For Vedetta, written by Alan Moore, was a truly great story -- and it was extremely politically charged. However, unless you know anything about Alan Moore, you might not guess that V for Vendetta wasn't only a story about a masked revolutionary who stands up to a totalitarian regime; it's also Moore's commentary on what he truly believes is the best form of government: anarchism. Now, you can choose to read this classic graphic novel two different ways: one, can you read it for what it is, a great story; or you can read it with the thought that Moore very seriously believes that anarchism is the solution to all of our political problems.

 

Probably the most widely read of the recent crop of political comics has been Marvel's "Civil War," a massive 2006–2007 crossover story line spanning the company's main superhero titles. The story begins when the members of a young team of C-list heroes get a bit too big for their spandex and challenge a group of powerful supervillains living incognito in Stamford, Connecticut. The ensuing battle leaves more than 600 civilians dead, and public outcry prompts the hasty passage of the Superhuman Registration Act, which requires costumed heroes to be trained and licensed -- and to disclose their secret identities to the government. The "powered community," heroic and villainous alike, is riven by the act: Iron Man and the Fantastic Four's stretchable supergenius Reed Richards rally support for registration, while Captain America goes rogue and begins building a dissident underground. The stand-in for the conflicted reader in this debate is Spider-Man, who is initially so convinced of the wisdom of registration that he unmasks on national television. When he sees the extradimensional Guantanamo being built to house resisters, however, he defects with a dramatic speech about the folly of trading liberty for security.

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Digital vs Hard Copy Comic Books

If you’re new to comics and you’re still trying to figure out what you like or if you like them at all, digital let’s you easily explore on your own time without requiring a trip to your local comic shop and actually having to deal with a physical comic. Collecting comics is a bit of a commitment so if you’re a casual reader, digital comics also remove the stress of storing and caring for your collection. You can read them as often as you’d like without having to worry about wear and tear and you don’t have to concern yourself with bags and boards and long boxes cluttering up your home. It’s also a great way to bring comics to people that don’t have stores nearby or worse, have felt unwelcome in stores nearby.

 

Another thing that’s great about digital reading is guided reading that takes you panel to panel. The surprise factor is big in storytelling and that guiding reading helps to enhance the experience.

 

That being said, once you cross the threshold from casual reader to collector buying digital is a waste of money, especially because the digital comic is priced on par with the print verion and is rarely discounted. Print comics retain their value and usually increase in value over time. Having a physical copy of the comic also opens the door into the next level of geekiness which is hunting down signatures from artists and writers or actively pursing cover variants. Having the physical copy gives you something that you can display and eventually pass down to your kids and, while it is a commitment, it’s a small commitment. Going to the shop each week, sorting every nw stack into reading order, then putting everything away in an organized manner becomes a kind of ritural for collectors. Once you start collecting you’re really just taking on the cost of comic storage aka bags and boards and boxes. Once you get that far you can take it as far as you want or just sit on it.

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Why is comic readership down?

It’s no secret now that comic book sales have been steadily on the decline.

 

Comic book sales in April took a dive of 18% (and over 22% in units) versus April 2015, although that does come with a caveat - there were five shipping weeks in April 2015 and four last month. But the end results mean that overall 2016 sales are in the red again, down over 4% against 2015 through the same cycle last year. 

 

There are several reasons why this is the case.

 

Regarding Marvel, the current regime in charge seems to care less what the fans think or want, and instead simply wants to shove their initiatives down the fans' throats -- "take it or leave it."

 

And both the Big Two do share a common problem, which is: either some sort of interference by the studios or trying too hard to emulate what the movies do in a failed attempt to think the movie audience crosses over with the comic audience (it doesn't and never has, at least not to a significant extent).

 

Both companies are losing established readers who no longer feel that the company’s output reflects the sort of comics they enjoy. Stories are lackluster, unfocused, and excessively long as companies think in terms of collected editions, not individual issuees. The tone is mostly dark and uninviting.

 

All comics have ever needed to do to grow readership is to tell engaging stories over the long term to get readers hooked on comics, but, instead, the big publishers focus on continually bilking the existing readership for more money with these gimmicks. It can't last forever. It never does. And while DC Comics is showing possible signs of a crash, Marvel is about to embark on a large-scale repeat of DC's 2011 reboot plan, which, as we are seeing right now, resulted in a short term boost and a long term loss. Constantly rebooting your line leads to diminishing returns.

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William Jones, Founder of Afrofuturism Network To Host Comic Art Workshop

GAITHERSBURG, Maryland –  William Jones, founder of Afrofuturism Network, will be making an appearance at the Gaithersburg library in Maryland to host a workshop on comic book art.  

 

The workshop will be geared toward elementary school aged children and will teach them how to get started making comic books of their very own. The workshop will be a hands-on activity, and pencils and paper will be provided. Participants are also free to bring their own supplies.

 

Says workshop facilitator, William Jones, “I am very excited about this event and am looking forward to working with the next generation of artists. I would also like to thank Gaithersburg Library for this opportunity.”

 

The workshop will take place on July 28th from 1 pm until 2 pm at the Gaithersburg Library, located at 18330 Montgomery Village Ave, in Gaithersburg, Maryland, 20879. Registration for the workshop is required, and participants can register up until July 28th at 9 am.

 

 

 

About Afrofuturism Network

 

AFN seeks to support the ever growing community of black writers, artists, and thinkers in the realms of sci-fi, fantasy, comic books and film. Here, we analyze the contributions and portrayal of black characters in these mediums. AFN will examine the role and place of black people in the past present and future and serve as a hub for black creativity and thought. Read more at afrofuturismnet.com. 

 

About William Jones

 

William Jones, the founder of Afrofuturism Network, is a historian, “comic book geek”, writer, and educator. He is a sought-after public speaker on the subjects of the history of black people in America, the image of black people in various forms of media, pop culture and hip-hop music, to name just a few. He has spoken on various college campuses and at conferences both nationally and abroad.

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Women in Comics

Originally, women played a very small role in comic books. In the late 1930’s, super powered heroes like Superman and Captain Marvel dominated the stage while women scarcely made any presence. Specifically, they were depicted as dependent and “damsels in distress” — victims that needed to be rescued by the male protagonist; a prize that needed to be won by either the male villain or hero. For example, in the first issue of Superman, news reporter and future love interest, Lois Lane, is kidnapped by criminals and eventually rescued by Superman. No relationship gets developed and nothing else is learned about who Lois is — Superman simply saves her, flies her to safety, and then flies away. Women were also portrayed as the girl-Friday, the seductive vamp, or perhaps, the long-suffering girlfriend. The stereotypical gender roles were quite obvious: men alone are capable of succeeding independently and being courageous, while women are subordinate figures in the background. These early attitudes towards women in comic books are implicative of common gender role stereotypes where women are thought to be less intelligent than men and only have a place in the house as a caretaker and/or source of emotional support. 

 

Today, women are becoming more and more sexualized. Black Widow. Wonder Woman. Scarlet Witch. Cat Woman. These might be some of the characters that come to mind when asked to think about female superheroes. Now, think about what they’re wearing.

 

Ever since the dawn of superhero comics in the early twentieth century, women have been objectified within those square windows, no matter how powerful or likable the character is. This is often done through their skin-tight and usually suggestive costumes, gender ratio, and more. 

 

The people who write comic books, particularly for major publishers, are overwhelmingly men. The artists who draw them are, too. The characters within them are also disproportionately men, as are the new characters introduced each year. But despite the growth of femme scribes in the industry, gender can still be an issue behind the issues. While there have been great strides in the field, there are still biases that exist within readers regarding female-driven titles.

 

Women are becoming more and more prominent in the comic book world, especially as people grow more confident with bringing issues to the forefront. It can be assumed that the more people talk about feminism and its representation in superhero fiction, the more women will feel better about admitting that they like comics, even if those same issues still exist.

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William Jones Published in Shades of Whiteness

William Jones Published in Shades of Whiteness

William Jones, Founder, AfroFuturism Network, has been featured in the newly released book, SHADES OF WHITENESS. 

Description:

This collection examines the varying constructions of racial whiteness across different historical periods, cultures, and nation states. Discussions are included of whiteness as depicted in cinema, literature, comic books, the internet, photography, and popular television, drawing on perspectives and disciplines such as history, sociology, the law, feminism, discourse analysis and cultural studies. The formation of whiteness is considered across many national contexts, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Austria, Italy, Sweden, South Africa and Ireland. The intention of the collection is to illustrate the variability of whiteness as a racial construct; the ways in which whiteness is complicated and fragmented by other qualities such as country of origin, religion, language, age and appearance; the extent to which whiteness comes to be located in non-physical qualities, such as education, ethnicity, class, lifestyle, and behaviour, and the extent to which whiteness establishes and maintains its own internal hierarchies.

 

Learn more by visiting:  http://www.interdisciplinarypress.net/product/shades-of-whiteness/

 

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Afrofuturism Network’s First Annual Comic Book Convention Deemed A Success

Afrofuturism Network’s First Annual Comic Book Convention Deemed A Success

CHANTILLY, Virginia - On June 11th, Afrofuturism Network, founded by William Jones, presented its first annual comic book convention and conference in Chantilly, Virginia. The all-day event was held at the AVS Inc (Audio Visual Systems) office and targeted those who were interested specifically in the contributions of black artists and creators in the genre.

 

The conference provided activities promoting creativity in the youth, innovative workshops, informative panel discussions and featured the talents of various artists. Cosplayers were also out in full effect, and local artists were able to take advantage of the marketplace to promote and sell their goods.

 

A little over one hundred people attended and were pleased with the experience they had at the event.

 

“I enjoyed the reactions from the audience members that attended the panel discussions,” said William Jones, founder of Afrofuturism Network and organizer of the conference. “Based on their responses I could tell that they were both enlightened and entertained. I also enjoyed the cosplayers that attended the event. There is definitely an audience that is being underserved and appreciate the vision of my company.”

 

Overall, the feedback was quite positive. Corey Morgan, an attendee of the conference, had this to say. “So I can definitely say that my debut as the Falcon at the AFN Convention and Conference was a success! I wasn't able to stay long, but I understand that William Mason Jr. Jones hit it out of the park! I had a great time taking photos with Liam Stillman, Lynne Marie (who did one if the best Storm cosplays you've ever seen), Rossi Brown and of course, Fred Holt. Can't wait until the next one!”

 

“To say the first annual AfroFuturism Network Comic-Con and Conference was a success, would be an understatement! My hat goes off to Mr. William Mason Jones Jr.for launching a very organized, accommodating and professional show. I had an opportunity to meet old fans and make new ones, as well as catch up with colleagues, such as Chris Ward Dewunmi Roye Okupe, Tony Kittrell, Naseed Gifted and Shawn Alleyne. Many thanks goes out to my special lady Rosalie Sexton, who always keeps things orderly and running without a hitch. Didnt know she was a big fan of BLADE tho. Now I know why we get along so well. If, you didn't have a chance to visit this con, do so next year. To attend was an honor! I will be returning.” - Roosevelt Pitt, conference attendee.

 

Plans for next year’s conference are already underway. “I would like to thank all the attendees, vendors, presenters, family and friends that came out to support my event,” Willian added. “They helped to make my dream a reality, and I look forward to building upon the momentum that began at this event. I am proud to be part of the growing black geek community.”

 

 

About Afrofuturism Network

AFN seeks to support the ever growing community of black writers, artists, and thinkers in the realms of sci-fi, fantasy, comic books and film. Here, we analyze the contributions and portrayal of black characters in these mediums. AFN will examine the role and place of black people in the past present and future and serve as a hub for black creativity and thought. Read more at afrofuturismnet.com. 

 

 

About William Jones

William Jones, the founder of Afrofuturism Network, is a historian, “comic book geek”, writer, and educator. He is a sought-after public speaker on the subjects of the history of black people in America, the image of black people in various forms of media, pop culture and hip-hop music, to name just a few. He has spoken on various college campuses and at conferences both nationally and abroad.

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Afrofuturism Network To Hold Its First Annual Comic Book Convention

Afrofuturism Network To Hold Its First Annual Comic Book Convention

CHANTILLY, Virginia –  Afrofuturism Network will be holding its first ever comic book convention and conference on Saturday, June 11th in Chantilly, Virginia.

 

The conference will provide activities promoting creativity in the youth, innovative workshops, informative panel discussions and feature the talents of various artists. One of the aims of the conference is to highlight and amplify the voices of black artists, creators, and contributors to the genre. Cosplay is also allowed and even highly encouraged.

 

Afrofuturism, for the uninitiated, encompasses the world of sci-fi and fantasy culture from a black perspective and encourages a breaking down of current, outdated, and widely accepted paradigms to promote a more fully realized and complex black experience. Afrofuturism is intersectional, and, at its heart, about representation and fighting erasure through a kind of cultural activism. 

 

“My goal and the goal of AFN in organizing this convention is to create a space where artists and creators within the genre can meet to make connections and exchange ideas. We want to raise awareness, encourage collaboration and increase the visibility of black comic book artists and writers in the mainstream, because, at the end of the day, representation matters.” - William Jones, Founder of Afrofuturism Network

 

The conference will be held on Saturday, June 11th from 10 am to 6 pm at the AVS Inc (Audio Visual Systems) office, located at 14566 Lee Road in Chantilly, Virginia. Admission for adults is $10. Children age 12 and under can attend for free when accompanied by a paying adult. 

 

Local artists and other vendors wishing to take advantage of the marketplace can register for a table and participant badges. The table registration fee is completely free and includes one 6’ x 30” table with two chairs. Vendors can set up anytime between 8:30 am and 9:30 am on the day of the conference. For more information about vendor registration, visit http://www.afrofuturismnet.com/main/workshop/.

 

For those traveling to attend the event, AFN recommends the Hyatt Place Chantilly/Dulles Airport South located at 4994 Westone Plaza in Chantilly VA for your hotel accommodations. There is a special rate of $105 per night (June 9th through June 13th) for those asking for the comic book fair rate. Interested parties can call 1-866-440-2995 and ask for Terrell Yough, Sales Manager.

 

Key hotel features and amenities include:

 

  • complimentary shuttle to the comic book fair
  • complimentary airport shuttle
  • complimentary full, hot breakfast daily
  • complimentary high-speed internet service
  • 24-hour gym access
  • 24-hour made-to-order snacks and entrees

 

For more information on the convention and how to register, visit http://www.afrofuturismnet.com/main/workshop/.

 

 

About Afrofuturism Network

 

AFN seeks to support the ever growing community of black writers, artists, and thinkers in the realms of sci-fi, fantasy, comic books and film. Here, we analyze the contributions and portrayal of black characters in these mediums. AFN will examine the role and place of black people in the past present and future and serve as a hub for black creativity and thought. Read more at afrofuturismnet.com. 

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