When I first considered participating in the Midwest Ethnic Convention for Comics and Arts #MECCAcon2016, I wondered – what is a horror author going to do at a convention for comic book artists? Would I stand out - not in a good way? Would these immensely talented visual artists look at me sideways, like…why is she here? All she does is write!
Then I got to thinking – speculative fiction is about fantasy and imagination and otherworldly beings, just like a segment of the comics. So we’re actually a perfect team. The term Black speculative arts can cover a wide range of creative expression from graphic arts to literature to film, craft and beyond. I hadn’t even considered that beyond the visual elements, someone has to actually WRITE the comics. That being said, I relaxed my anxiety and prepared to be amazed.
MECCAcon, which stands for Midwest Ethnic Convention for Comics and Arts, is a movement founded by Maia Crown Williams (pronounced My-EE-uh). This year, as well as the previous two years, the event was held in the beautiful and historic Detroit Public Library. MECCAcon is a celebration of many forms of afro-focused creative art, including illustration, literature, and film covering themes that include afropunk, afrofuturism (my new buzz word), sci fi and fantasy. And this is really important - all for a “suggested donation” of $6, an unbelievable deal that makes it affordable for the entire family. Things like this are so important for people of all ages to have access to. I saw so many young children and teens walking around starry eyed, the significance of MECCAcon’s impact can’t be dismissed.
Unlike a lot of ‘cons where you sign up and show up at your table and go home – this one is more like a total promotional event that makes it well worth your participation. In addition to the convention itself, there are promotional events in the days leading up to MECCAcon such as radio interviews and book signings at local venues. I participated in a group radio interview hosted by Andrea Daniel of Motown Writers Network, featuring Maia Crown Williams alongside authors Leah Vernon and Zig Zag Claybourne. This year's book signings took place in Detroit at Vault of Midnight Comics, and Source Booksellers, a charming indie bookstore with a corner "stage" set up for intimate author presentations.
There were three other authors participating at the actual convention, paranormal author AM Griffin, and scif-fi authors Zig Zag Claybourne, and Steve Bellinger (I hate to box anyone into a category because a lot of us write in different genres, but I’m basing this description on their work solely in relation to the theme of the con).
Obviously MECCAcon attracts a lot of children and there were many graphic artists with work that either featured children, or work that was very kid-friendly; but there were also works of a more mature nature, where the themes were dark and twisted. Such as, Eating Vampires by Regine Sawyer, (LOOOOOVE that title), gorgeous artwork, kickass storyline featuring an eleven year old girl in afro puffs (drools); and Is'nana the Were-Spider, for you shifter fans, this series by Greg Anderson looks HOT!
Also check out Eileen Alden’s work on Super Sikh Comics – I just thought this was really cool, the first Sikh superhero comic book line. The illustrations are magnificent, the storylines entertaining and in Issue 3 he has a fly sidekick named Janelle and that one piqued my interest!
As if that wasn’t enough, there were featured discussion panels on topics ranging from Screenwriting to the Art of Storytelling to Breaking into the Comic Book Industry and even a Steampunk workshop, among others.
I really wanted to skip my booth and go sit in the International Film Festival (https://meccacon.wordpress.com/indiefilmfest/) which featured at least ten independent films “from creators of the African diaspora”. That alone could be its own day and well worth the admission “donation”. (Just kidding about skipping my booth – traffic stayed so constant and each time I tried to wander around and shop, I had to rush back to speak to a guest!)
Most of the vendors I met had traveled from other states to be there, some as far as New York and California; I think that says a lot about the faith and commitment they have in this annual event that they went through that expense and effort to be there.
While I'm not a graphic artist, I do have a professional graphic design background, so I had a lot of people stopping at my table to ask about my covers and promo materials, and of course that lead to discussions about the books on display. I have to say that it felt really good to be in a venue where people were excited and engaged about my work and not slinking past my table covering their eyes, talking about, “Oooh, chile, I don’t like horror!” So many visitors stopped at my table just to talk and ask questions, even if they weren’t ready to purchase, it was so nice to be noticed and have the ability to network and hand out my promo cards.
As writers and creators of the darker side of fiction, I think there is so much value in networking with this outstanding multicultural graphic art community. I'm definitely interested in participating again in 2017 and I highly encourage other Colors in Darkness authors to consider making the trip for it.
If you would like to know more about this awesome event, click here!