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Hometown heroes: Local creator brings super-stories to Black Comix Fest at BAM • Brooklyn Paper

Hometown heroes: Local creator brings super-stories to Black Comix Fest at BAM

Action shot: Jack Maguire, a New York City cop, uses futuristic technology to pass through a moving subway while on the run from paramilitary police forces in Jerome Walford’s comic “Nowhere Man.”
Jerome Walford

He’s written about black powers.

A Bay Ridge comic book creator will bring his graphic novels about a superpowered black cop to the Black Comix Expo at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Feb. 10. The writer and illustrator of “Nowhere Man,” who will join about 20 other artists at the day-long celebration of comics creators of color, says he invented the heroic character because he wanted to read about someone he could identify with.

“When you look at successful characters in comic books, it’s often someone the author can relate to,” said Jerome Walford, who founded Forward Comix in 2010.

Walford was a big fan of comic books growing up, but felt like the classics that inspired him, including Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” and the Batman story “The Killing Joke,” did not represent his experience. In high school, he invented the character who developed into the star of “Nowhere Man” — Jack Maguire, a black police detective who discovers futuristic technology that lets him walk through walls, create blasts of energy, and hack communications, among other abilities. But the state sees the super-cop as a threat, and unleashes a paramilitary force to hunt him down, racially profiling and harassing black men in his neighborhood.

Walford said that his protagonist reflects the black experience in modern-day New York.

“In the context of relations between the African-American community and law enforcement, I wanted to create a character that would walk both lines and ‘Nowhere Man’ came about organically,” he said. “We have this scene where the chasers go into the communities and use aggressive tactics to try and hunt down Jack. We see interactions, and we begin to realize that this looks very current and very relatable.”

Walford, who immigrated with his family from Jamaica during the 1980s, also created the “Gwan Anthology” in 2016 to publish the stories of immigrant comics creators.

Writers and readers from non-white backgrounds have increasingly been able to find their own stories reflected in comics, a trend amplified in recent years by the release of the blockbuster movie “Black Panther” and Netflix’s “Luke Cage,” according to one of the organizers of the Black Comix Expo.

“Comics play a big part, because for some readers they are the first visual representations of some of these ideas,” said Deirdre Hollman, the founder of the Black Comics Collective, which co-hosts the event.

Another recent factor, she said, has been the growth of the Afrofuturism movement, which envisions a future distinctly shaped by black culture and tradition.

“It’s an affirmation that not only do black people survive in the future but they bring with them the cultural traditions that have sustained them throughout time,” said Hollman.

In addition to the comics creators, the Expo will feature several events inspired by Afrofuturism, including a virtual reality experience that puts visitors in the body of a black woman, and a panel discussion on black women in science fiction and fantasy. The event will also feature a superhero cosplay contest and an art workshop for kids.

Black Comix Expo at BAM Peter Jay Sharp Building [30 Lafayette Ave., at St. Felix Street in Fort Greene, (718) 636–4100×1, www.bam.org]. Feb. 10; 11 am–5 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@schnepsmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Kapow!: Bay Ridgite Jerome Walford wrote and drew the comic “Nowhere Man,” and edited an anthology of work by immigrant comics creators, titled “Gwan.”
Photo by Kevin Duggan

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