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There were plenty of surprises at San Diego Comic-Con, but one of the most buzzed-about events at the convention had nothing to do with Marvel or DC.
What was planned to be a small Black Lives Matter flash mob grew into a phenomenon after comics writer URAEUS showed up at the convention with twenty t-shirts sporting the phrase “Black Heroes Matter.”
Award-winning comic book writer David F. Walker, whose credits include books for Marvel and DC, organized the flash mob, with it growing into something bigger than he imagined.
“It just sort of snowballed. I’m not much of an organizer. So it really took a couple of other people to take the lead on things. The next thing you know, URAEUS, he shows up with his Black Heroes Matter t-shirt,” Walker tells Heat Vision. “And everyone lost their minds over that.”
Walker and URAEUS have known each other for years, so the pair decided to join forces. Soon, people of different backgrounds began expressing solidarity for their ideals on the convention floor and on social media.
Community. Visibility. This is us. #blmsdcc2016#blackheroesmatter pic.twitter.com/093jZZd6Lz
— David F Walker (@DavidWalker1201) July 24, 2016
URAEUS, who is based out of Baltimore, says the idea for his Black Heroes Matter mantra stems from what has been happening in indie comics for decades, with characters of color being more likely to be front and center, rather than relegated to sidekick roles.
“At its core, Black Heroes Matter represents a paradigm shift. A change in our prevailing philosophy that governs black culture,” URAEUS says. “With the sociopolitical environment and upheaval we see in the streets and in different communities, it’s kind of an SOS call to creators of color, urging them to bring life to positive, well-balanced heroes that reflect to the world to bring our best selves to the world and specifically to the children of the world.”
URAEUS, a father to three sons, is inspired to create his characters for his children, so they can see heroes who look like them achieving great things. Among his most acclaimed creations is Jaycen Wise, who he describes as the “anti-Tomb Raider.”
“I created that specifically so my sons could see someone like them save the world. The human psyche is funny in that way, because if kids don’t see something, they tend not to believe that they can achieve it and do it. And they don’t even aspire to do it,” says URAEUS. “What we feel is important is putting out strong heroes and principled heroes and upright men and women of all colors. A representation of the whole ball of wax of what we have to offer as human beings, but specifically as black people in America. We want to show the children that it’s not a far-fetched goal to want to save the world and want to affect change in your community.”
This year’s Comic-Con featured diverse heroes front and center at some of the biggest panels. Warner Bros.’ Wonder Woman — the first big budget superhero film starring a woman since 2005’s Elektra — was among the most buzzed about panels, with Marvel Studios’ Black Panther and Netflix’s Luke Cage also getting huge responses.
“I remember watching the trailer for Wonder Woman and thinking, ‘This might work,’ but really thinking, ‘I want this movie to be so good and I want this movie to make so much money that we can end this conversation of ‘Do movies with female action heroes make money or not,’ ” says Walker. “When we are focused on that conversation, when we are trying to put a monetary value on whether or not a female action lead can make money, what we’re really doing is we’re placing some sort of value of building the self-esteem of girls and women. It’s the same thing when we’re talking about black characters or transgender characters or queer characters. The moment we say, ‘That doesn’t sell,’ what’s really being said is, ‘Well they’re not worth it.’ And that’s not true.”
URAEUS sees the big rollout Black Panther received as a positive as well.
“Black Panther is an awesome character. He’s one of the richest men in the Marvel Universe. He’s one of the most brilliant men in the Marvel Universe. He’s the monarch of one of the most scientifically advanced nations on the planet in the Marvel Universe,” says the writer. “That flies directly in the face of stereotypes and the archetypes we’ve seen for 50, 60 years in comics, so that’s huge to have that symbol.”
However, he notes that he would like to see more original characters of color break through with the major publishers, rather than seeing established characters reimagined.
Please help spread the word!! #RepresentationMatters #BlackHeroesMatter pic.twitter.com/e6XWE0WuHP
— Black Heroes Matter. (@JaycenWise) July 26, 2016
“What you see in Marvel is a lot of what we call the hand-me down characters. All of a sudden you’ll have a black Spider-Man or a black Iron Man now, which is cool, which is great. But I’m a huge fan of Iron Man as he is, of Spider-Man as he is. I’d really love more to see an original character of color who could stand toe-to-toe with a Spider-Man,” says URAEUS. “Keep Spider-Man the same. He’s a great character and doesn’t need to be changed. Iron Man, the same. We would push for new and unique characters and there are so many stories to tell and there’s room for all the heroes that the human mind can think of in the pantheon of Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse and all these guys.”
Black Heroes Matter t-shirts can be ordered now (see the tweet above for details). There’s also talk of a Black Heroes Matter panel at New York Comic Con in October.
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