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Comics in Color Festival highlights BIPOC comic artists

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Comics in Color Festival highlights BIPOC comic artists
Artist Don Bass at last year's Comics in Color Festival. PHOTO: Courtesy of Cagen Luse

This weekend, visitors to the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in Roxbury might spot some unusual characters. The center’s typical runners and basketball players will be replaced with superheroes, steampunk warriors and anime adventurers during the annual Boston Comics in Color Festival celebrating stories by and about people of color. and about people of color.

Created by local artists Cagen Luse and Barrington Edwards in 2020, with the first festival debuting in 2021 due to pandemic shutdowns, the festival has steadily grown in its past four iterations. Luse says they may see more than 1,000 attendees at the event this year.

2023 special guest Alitha Martinez. PHOTO: Courtesy of Cagen Luse

“The goal is really to uplift and promote artists of color in the comic book space and advance the culture here in Boston,” says Luse. “And I really think it has achieved that — it’s kind of become an institution.”

There’s a lot on the docket for this year’s festival, including eight special guests, ranging from punk artist Raeghan Buchanan, who makes comics highlighting the Black roots of rock ‘n’ roll music to John Jennings, a professor of media cultural studies, author, graphic novelist, curator and Harvard Fellow, among others. The festival will also feature three nationally syndicated Black cartoonists: Ray Billingsley, Barbara Brandon Croft and Deon Parson.

“There’s not really that many of them,” says Luse. “So having three in the same place is pretty exciting.”

In addition to speakers and panels, festival-goers can view and shop pieces by local artists, interact with renowned cosplayers, participate in live art-making and watch artists at work.

Nile Hennick is one of many examples of people who have felt the impact of Comics in Color. Hennick, a 12-year-old Boston artist, attended the 2021 festival. It was his first time experiencing a convention. He passed out a small black-and-white comic he’d hand-drawn, met Luse and received encouragement from many established local artists. Since then, Hennick has had his work displayed at the Boston Children’s Museum and has had his own table at Comics in Color and other festivals around the region.

Cosplay contest participants at Comics in Color PHOTO: Courtesy of Cagen Luse

Luse says, “I can’t claim it, he came to me with the talent. But I’ve tried to create opportunities for young artists to share their work and meet other artists. So he’s definitely a success story.”

The Comics in Color Festival will be held Saturday, April 20 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center. It’s free and open to all.

The festival is an opportunity for an often-undervalued artistic medium to get its flowers and for comic-lovers to connect with their community. But it’s not just a space for fans to meet each other and their heroes.

“I really hope they get inspired to tell their own stories,” says Luse. “My ultimate goal is to create more artists … I hope that people walk away and say, ‘I love these stories that I found here and I can tell my story, because my story is important.’”

art, Barrington Edwards, Cagen Luse, comic books, comics in color, cosplay