Star Trek's Nichelle Nichols.
Photos by C. L. Eaton

The East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention, an annual event focused on black characters and black comics creators, held annually on the campus of Temple University in Philadelphia, Pa., once again opened its doors to the public. For two days, May 16 and 17, the convention provided attendees with a lively offering of comic art, animation and panel discussions focusing on black characters, creators and celebrities. Attendance figures have not been released, and while the crowds looked good, attendance seemed to be a bit down from last year.

Despite gloomy weather conditions, spirits were high at the annual Glyph Awards, which took place on Friday evening at the African American Museum. The ceremony, established to honor the year's best in comics featuring black characters as well as to celebrate exceptional black creators, launched the weekend celebration of sequential art. Cartoonist Jamar Nicholas once again assumed his role as master of ceremonies, and critically acclaimed graphic novels like Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie’s Aya (Drawn & Quarterly), Percy Carey and Ronald Wimberly’s Sentences: The Life of MF Grimm from (Vertigo) and James Sturm and Rich Tommaso’s Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow (Jump at the Sun) dominated this year's awards. A full list of winners can be found at the Glyph Web site.

Professor Bill Foster

Weather conditions improved considerably on Saturday as an eclectic mix of artists and writers carted their wares into Temple University's Anderson Hall beneath a bright and cheerful morning sun. Cartoonist M. Rasheed was on hand to provide children with caricatures while convention goers perused colorful comics and graphic novels such as Brother Man by Dawud Anyabwile and Guy Sims, Adrenaline by Tyler Chin-Tanner and James Boyle, and John Jennings and Damian Duffy's The Hole: Consumer Culture. Professor Bill Foster and comics writer and educator Alex Simmons were also present to discuss the history and conditions in the traditional comics industry, and educational organizations such as 12Comics supplied information on upcoming literacy programs. Away from the main convention hall, lively discussions took place on panels dedicated to love and humor in comic books, the latest technological innovations in the world of art and how to launch a career as a cartoonist in the comics industry.

Glyph Award organizer Rich Watson

Celebrities such as actress Nichelle Nichols and entertainer Nell Wilson arrived to interact with fans. Nichols, who played the role of Uhuru on the science fiction TV series Star Trek, enthralled listeners with tales from her time working on the show and on the hit TV show Heroes and anecdotes on the advice and accolades she received from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Nell Wilson -- known for her role as Fat Momma on the reality television series Who Wants to Be a Superhero? -- elated admirers with her charm and humor and gracefully acquiesced when fans requested photographs.

Turtel Onli and Maurice Waters are in charge of the BACC conventions in Philadelphia as well as the upcoming show in Chicago. Waters runs the Philly ECBACC, while Onli directs the Chicago BACC, which will take place in October 2008. Many of the creators at this year’s ECBACC expressed the desire to have a similar convention in a Southern region such as Atlanta, Ga., and Onli and Waters are considering the possibility. However, no decision has yet been made. In the meantime, the Windy City and the City of Brotherly Love have provided a place where African-American culture and comics culture can go hand in hand.