The first day of the largest comic convention in the nation, Comic-Con International: San Diego, has begun, kicking off a weekend long fiesta of panels, events and workshops with some of the industry’s biggest movers and shakers.
The “Afro-futurism, ‘Black to the Future Too’” panel discussed the status of Hollywood hiring practices, the future of minorities in once dominated spaces and the domino effects of Black Panther, one of the biggest blockbuster movies ever in cinema history.
The panel included Denys Cowan (Milestone Media, The Boondocks), Kevin Grevioux (Underworld, I, Frankenstein), Professor Ajani Brown (San Diego State University), La Quia Howard (Kemet, I Choose 2 Be Me), and Rico Anderson (The Orville, Star Trek: Renegades).
The panel was moderated by legendary television screenwriter Jimmy Diggs, who made quite the entrance in an all-black ensemble.
Denys B. Cowan, an American comics artist, television producer and one of the co-founders of Milestone Media, has an impressive list of credits, including Black Panther, Static Shock, and Batman.
As Senior Vice President of Animation at BET, Cowan was responsible for the creation, development and production of animated programming for the entire network, including the premiere season of the prime time animated series, The Boondocks.
BET’s Living Editor Jazmine Ortiz asked Cowan about the how the side-splitting cartoon was way before it’s time, as the social topics are still relevant today, years later after it’s broadcast.
“Creative people always react to what’s going on around them, so you get this opposite effect,” Cowan said. “So people will talk about the things that affect them the most, and will express it in entertainment for their time, and this is that time. You’ll see more stuff like this, as long as the current situation remains as it is.”
Cowan believes that despite the fact that the future of socially conscious comics is uncertain, the future is indeed bright.
“But that’s because of the times; artists always react to the times. Now we’re in a time where people of color, black people, women, gay people, are kind of under assault... Black Panther has a lot of relevance because of what’s going on. Black Panther 2 will have a lot of relevance because of what’s happening in society.”
Cowan also addressed the recent backlash regarding the Halle Bailey casting to play Ariel in the live-action The Little Mermaid remake:
“Ultimately, it’ll all be fine. It’ll be the same way with [a Black Ariel]… I applaud Disney; I think it’ll be a good move... Controversy can be good sometimes.”[Halle Bailey’s] gonna be awesome; it’s gonna be a big hit.”
Jimmy Diggs, writer on Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, who wrote the greatest number of scripts amongst freelance writers in the 40+ years of the Star Trek franchise, also discussed The Little Mermaid casting.
“I’m excited for the actress, but I wanted an original character for her,” he said.
Ajani Brown, professor of African Studies at San Diego State University and comic artist, agreed with Diggs, “I think it takes more than just painting a character black… it doesn’t do it full justice. We need more original characters with a backstory that’s purposeful.”
Kevin Grevioux, creator of the Underworld movie series and I, Frankenstein, also chimed in on the hot topic: “The more they race bend, the less energy and effort they put toward creating new characters.”
After years of fighting for a seat at the table, these creators believe that we’re able to create our own table, proving it’s possible to truly go Black to the future.