NYCC Recap: Top 5 Moments from the Race & Sexuality Panel
Despite being the last panel of the day, con-goers ran to get in line for a panel on race & sexuality in comics Thursday night. Moderator Jonathan W. Gray joined writers Ta-Nehisi Coates (Marvel’s Black Panther), Steve Orlando (DC’s Midnighter and Apollo) and Tee “Vixen” Franklin (founder of #BlackComicsMonth and writer of an upcoming back-up story for Image’s Nailbiter) to talk representation, intersectionality and a whole lot more. Here are the Top 5 moments from the intense (and occasionally fun) panel.
The writer explained that while doing research for Black Panther, he became fascinated with the Dora Milaje, the all-female group of warriors sworn to protect Wakanda’s king. However, he soon noticed that their stories were always seen from T’Challa’s perspective and he approached their story by asking, “what about the love they have for themselves? What about the love they might have for each other?” The result was fan-favorite couple, Ayo and Aneka, who will get their own spin-off book this November, World of Wakanda. While Coates assured the audience that, “they’ll remain really, really prominent,” in the main book, he also teased that the book’s co-writer, cultural critic Roxane Gay wants the book to feel like an, “origin story and a love story,” and plans to use flashbacks to show the evolution of the characters’, “disenchantment with T’Challa.”
2. Franklin Takes Credit for Coates Getting the Black Panther Job
Well, not really. When talking about #BlackComicsMonth, Franklin joked that the attention her monthly spotlight of work by black creators in comics received from outlets like Buzzfeed and The Washington Post helped create the atmosphere that led to Coates’s first comic book work. “I’ma take credit for him,” she deadpanned. On a more serious note, Franklin (who emphasized that she is a queer, disabled, woman of color) was driven to create comics because she wanted to see herself in them. “Nobody else is doing it,” she explained.
Though the writer, who is queer himself, “expected some discomfort,” in convincing the notoriously skittish DC comics let him right a queer comic, he explained that it helped that the book’s editor was also gay. He went on to say that the comic actually isn’t as risky as some might think. “It feels audacious because of the lack of representation,” he explained. However, he did admit that even though the first issue of Midnighter and Apollo only hit shelves the day before, people at the con had already approached him about how racy it is.
4. Ms. Marvel Saved Franklin’s Life
When an audience member asked how the panelists had gotten into comics when they were younger, Franklin explained that reading a story in which then-Ms. Marvel Carol Danvers was kidnapped, raped and then bore a child by her rapist had a profound influence on her. “I was going through a time when I needed that book,” she explained. “That book is the reason why I’m here today,” she went on, adding, “‘here’ as in alive.” She went on to say that a large part of why she got into comics was that she wanted to help people in the same way that book helped her.
5. Orlando Encourages Creativity when Playing with Action Figures
When asked by an audience member whether the panelists thought that action figures and toys might be agents of bringing more diversity to culture, Orlando agreed that they could but pointed out that it was difficult to make a specifically queer action figure. However, he relented a moment later and joked, “they can all be queer in the right circumstances,” and then added, “now with kung fu grip!” to laughs from the audience.