For these comics creators, not just funny business African American gathering will teach nature of the industry.

May 19, 2006|By Rob Watson INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

He was as deadly as the Man With No Name and as smooth as James West, yet Lobo wasn't just another six-shooting hero. Author-artist Tony Tallarico's 1965 creation was much more than that. Lobo was the first African American character with his own comic book.

Tallarico will be one of the honorees tonight during the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention reception dinner at the African American Museum in Philadelphia.

The convention, Saturday at Anderson Hall on Temple University's main campus, brings together black artists, writers and fans to celebrate the craft, participate in workshops, and talk about the nature of the business.

The event has been held for five years. Its founder, Yumy Odom, director of the Pan African Studies Community Education Program at Temple, had seen the need for such a gathering for a long time.

"I actually just wanted to get black people in the industry talking to each other," said Odom, an avid comic-book collector in his youth. "I put together a list of Afrocentric comic books and started gathering names as a resource for people. It wasn't until 10 years after that that we planned our first convention, in 2001."

Among the many movers and shakers in the industry scheduled to appear are Reginald Hudlin, president of BET Entertainment and writer of Marvel's Black Panther, and Alex Simmons, creator of Blackjack.

According to Odom, there are many Philadelphians who are involved in comics, from the do-it-yourself types who will have their wares on display at the convention, to the more accomplished like Jump Start comic-strip creator Robb Armstrong and freelance illustrator Eric Battle. Both artists will participate in panel discussions and workshops.

Armstrong will be honored with an outstanding-achievement award tonight, and he will join the panel discussion on African American images in the cartoon and comic industries tomorrow.

"The cartoon comes very natural to me; it's not about political views, anger or anything like that," said Armstrong, a Wynnefield native whose strip about the African American Cobb family appears in more than 450 newspapers, including The Inquirer. "It's about subjects like having your daughter hug you. Jump Start, to me, says that with those types of things, that unconditional love, all is well or can be well, at least."

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