Held this past weekend, the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention 2013, an annual comics festival focused on African American comics and creators, drew over 350 attendees to witness the continued Black experience in independent comic book storytelling at the Enterprise Center in Philadelphia. The two-day event kicked off the prior evening on May 16 at the African American Museum of Philadelphia with the 8th Annual Glyph Comic Awards honoring the preceding year’s best black comics characters and their creators.

Among the highlights of ECBACC was the all-day comic book marketplace featuring artists, writers, sci-fi novels, posters, memorabilia, games and action figures. ECBACC also featured AfriCoz 2, an African-inspired cosplay contest with a $200 grand prize.

Among the winners of this year’s Glyph Awards are veteran cartoonist Jerry Craft’s Mama’s Boyz comic strip, awarded the prize for Best Comic Strip or Webcomic, Chris Samnee, artist for Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #6, named Best Artist, and Raymond Ayala’s H.O.P.E., award the Rising Star Award for Best Self-Publisher. A complete list of Annual Glyph Comic Awards (GCA) recipients can be found on the ECBACC web site.

Held in the city of Philadelphia, the site of the first independently produced black comic book, All-Negro Comics, created by Orrin C. Evans in 1947, for the last 11 years, ECBACC has paid tribute to this legacy promoting the work of both veterans and up and coming African American comics creators. Yumy Odom, founder and president of ECBACC, Inc., recalled, “I started a network back in 1990, '91 when I put together a little compendium of about 15 or 20 comic artist who did not know each other and I liked them. And from there we started to meet and talk. And about 10 years later, in 2002, right here in Philadelphia we had the first convention.”

The ECBACC draws in fans and reluctant readers alike by utilizing graphics to promote literacy while underscoring the important contributions of comic book creators, artists and writers of African decent. Odom has lectured extensively on the importance of acknowledging the place of Pan-African global imagery in world mythology from ancient history to the present. “For me, anyway, it's about the imagination, which I have tried to introduce in the classroom. A lot of folks do Black versions of white characters, and that's not bad, but that's not part of an entire spectrum. I would like to see the entire spectrum, especially the one that includes us in the mythology: We have African myths and African American myths that people don't even use, so use those to grow what you are trying to do. That is how this started.”

This year's programming includes a spotlight panel discussion that recognized the 20th anniversary of Milestone Media, a pioneering comic book company founded by a group of Black writers and artists that included the late Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan and others. The company was responsible for creating several notable comic book properties, including Static Shock, as well as launching the careers of many comic book professionals. The panel was moderated by comic book historian Professor William H. Foster III and featured former Milestone Media contributors: writer/editor Joseph Phillip Illidge, artist/color editor Jason Scott Jones and artists Chris Cross and Eric Battle.

TIn addition to the interactive Kids' Library, there were a series of screenings and workshops that both entertained and informed. During his 60-minute workshop, 2010 Glyph Best Writer winner Alex Simmons, creator and writer of the critically acclaimed Black Jack adventure mini-series, encouraged the attendees to continue to express themselves.

“Sometimes I see portfolios full of drawings about characters they have created, whether you love them or not it doesn't matter, because in their hands, in their spirit and in their mind is the belief that 'I can do this; that I have an idea worth putting out there to the public; that I am good enough to do that,'” said Simmons. “I look at the work that we do, and you can look out there at the tables and see a lot of reflection of people's personalities, and you will see the things that inspired them.”