Saturday, February 17, 2018

Sean Damien Hill talks about his "Black Power" exhibit

by Mike Rhode

Sean Damien Hill's drawings of African-American superheroes opened this week at the University of the District of Columbia's Gallery 42 (my cell phone pictures are here). The exhibit is open from February 13-28 and solely features Sean's drawings of notable black superheroes. I interviewed Sean just a year ago, and he graciously again answered questions about his new exhibit. (Photographs of the opening reception are by Bruce Guthrie)

Where did the idea of the show come from?

About a year ago Daniel Venne, head of the Art Dept. at UDC had the idea of doing a comic book themed show for Black History Month. We had known each other for some time and he was growing more and more familiar with my work, and he knew I did freelance comic work also.

Is this your first solo exhibit?

Yes it is. I’ve seldom done any art shows in the past. When I did, it was always with a buddy of mine, and I only had include one to three works or something like that. Doing this one was incredible but the anxiousness of it being MY SHOW was crazy. I’m an introvert by nature so I’m never craving that much attention so being the center of it for an art show was wild.

How many pieces are in the show?

About 20 pieces or so.
Sean Anderson from Route 3, courtesy of Sean Hill

How did you find or decide on the characters to draw?

A lot of these characters are some I’ve already been familiar with. All the DC and Marvel comics characters were creations I’ve enjoyed in the past and that aren’t being used to much right now. My favorite from DC Comics is of course Icon from the old Milestone Comics studio (published by DC) in the 90’s and of course Green Lantern John Stewart. Indy characters I included are Dreadlocks from Urbanstyle comics, Vigelance from creator Sean Mack. Anakulapo from Mshindo Kuumba, and of course Sean Anderson from Route 3 from Robert Jeffrey (and me).. I really wanted choose some heroes that are not too well known so it could also be an educational experience.

How did you draw them? Digitally, traditionally, or a combination?

The 20 drawings were done traditionally with Pentel brush pens, Copic fine liners on 500 series 11x17 and 16x20 Bristol board. The three colored prints are digital illustrations from the clip studio paint program I use all the time for most of my published work.

What's the difference between drawing digitally and drawing with pen and ink?

For me, it's always more comfortable drawing traditionally, as there is a certain amount fluidity to it. Drawing decisions are made a lot quicker even if I’m building on a lot of rough sketching and ground work to get things going. On paper, I have a better sense of how I’m going to use the space because it’s not something I can change with a zoom key. Overall for me, that’s the down side of drawing digitally, as paper size becomes so relative it’s hard to figure out ( at least for me who draws too many lines to begin with) where to focus more of my attention.

DC / Milestone Comics' Icon
Some of the drawings are done in blue pencil and then inked, can you discuss why you do that?

Traditionally blue pencil was used by artist to avoid the extra process of erasing pencils after inking. It save time because back then most printing was based on photography and cameras couldn’t pick up such a light blue. Now the digital age has caught up to all that, so now it’s more of a preference to better see your final line work over top the initial blue pencil sketch. It’s sort of become ingrained in the culture of comic illustration and digital comic drawing programs like Clip Studio Paint even have an option to turn your linework blue. Even traditional inkers print out pencils in blue nowadays so their line work is a lot clearer.

There are three color pieces in the show, where they done completely digitally?

Yes the color prints are completely digital. I have process videos on my YouTube channel of my digitally drawing two of them: and

Val Zod, courtesy of Sean Hill
I noticed the art in the show is for sale. Is there a market for original art drawings? Does this affect the convenience of doing material digitally at sometimes?

Yes, there is definitely a market for traditional comic art. Sometimes a lot of artists who draw pages traditionally will sell the originals after the books published. It’s a major incentive to stick to traditional which is probably why half the artists in comics still do.

Which are your favorite pieces in the show?

I have three. One is Val Zod, an African-American Superman. It has to do with the fact I drew him as though he’s contemplating something; narrative is huge when doing any illustration and if you can portray that, it tells something about the subject. The others are Sean Anderson from Route 3. And Icon, my drawing is literally a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Yasuke (photo by Rhode)
Can you tell us more about your superhero character?

Yasuke is my love letter to all those Hitori Hanzo, Mifune and Highlander movies I watched as a kid. He is based on the real Yasuke who was an African slave made a samurai during Ido-period Japan. In my story he is an immortal cursed to make amends for serving an evil emperor. His journey is about moral questioning and if there is an objective right or wrong. Through that journey he discovers the reason for his curse.

Did you grow up on superhero comics? If so who are your favorite characters? Favorite creators?

I was raised around comics like Avengers, Teen Titans, Legion of Super-Heroes, with plenty of Batman and Superman too. My mom and grandpa would read them all the time. Grandpa actually introduced books like Will Eisner's the Spirit and Dick Tracy to me, and Mom loved the the Avengers and Teen Titans.

My favorite heroes have always been Batman, Icon, and Magneto (even though he was a villain).

Who or what would you like to work on from one of the major publishers?

If I had a chance, I’d love to do Luke Cage or Black Panther, and Batman of course, but even to have a shot at Superman because it would be fun drawing that giant square jaw and boy-scout smile.

Introductory exhibit text (photo by Rhode)

What are your thoughts about African-American representation in the comic books? 

Well of course I’m all for it. Our media reflects our world and our beliefs. If we have different types of heroes in our media, it’s only because we believe different types of people can have a great potential, and even reach that potential. But if we only see one type of people in that role throughout our media, it’s then widely believed, at least on a subliminal level that only that particular kind of people have that potential. And that sends a sign that the rest shouldn’t bother.

On there other hand, I do think diversity in comics is a bit larger than what people credit, where some are just looking in the wrong place. I really believe if the audience gave more attention to Indy titles they might find the type of diverse storytelling we all need. It’s getting easier to self-publish nowadays and people have a lot of stories to tell.
Marvel's retconned first Captain America

Typically when someone says they want diversity in comics, it’s really a lot of the time just wanting the big two (DC and Marvel) to deliver it, but those companies have heroes that had been created and gained a lot of footing during a time where diversity was not on the table. Now to be fair, those companies have tried to diversify their heroes, but it’s often nothing original and usually a repackaging of something they already have. To me that’s not true diversity, because it can both hurt the fandom that loves that particular hero and also tells the audience being catered to that they aren’t worth investing in a new hero for.

Do you think the race of the writer/ artist should be under consideration when it comes to drawing an African-American character?

I won’t say who should be hired for what, but I think we have a responsibility help create a culture of diverse creators behind comics. Right now it’s still widely white males on the credits of most mainstream titles. I’m not saying a white writer couldn’t do a great Cyborg story because Marv Wolfman did and white creators are responsible for Black Panther, Luke Cage, Spawn, Misty Knight ... a lot of those characters [in this exhibit]. But we should create a culture in comics where the creators are diverse just like the world we live in.

DC Comics' Vixen
The Black Panther movie obviously has the issue of black superheroes on everyone's mind right now; are you interested in seeing the movie?

I am, and I’m very interested to see how it’s going to effect our medium afterwards. I know it won’t make book sales jump and stay steady, because none of the movies have been able to increase comic readership for the long term. But it’s definitely going to have an influence on how diverse stories can be told. Ultimately though, it;s up to us to determine what impact this really has, but so far it’s really hopeful.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Feb 18: Ted Rall in Takoma Park

Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America with Busboys and Poets Books

Please join Busboys and Poets Books as we welcome journalist Harmon Leon and political cartoonist Ted Rall to Takoma.

Legendary infiltration journalist HARMON LEON is at it again, this time teaming up with ferocious political cartoonist TED RALL to answer the question most of America has been asking: "What the hell happened in 2016?" In their new book, Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America, Leon goes deep undercover into the heart of Trump America, and Rall—two-time winner of the RFK Journalism Award and a Pulitzer Prize finalist—adds an innovative extra dimension to the book with his own essays and full-color cartoons.

Running throughout Meet the Deplorables, Rall's distinctive artwork enhances the insightful and often irreverent tone employed by Leon—an award-winning New York journalist whose stories have appeared in VICE, Esquire, The Nation, and National Geographic. In his inimitable Gonzo-style, Leon's carefully crafted narrative is designed to help us understand (and humanize) the "deplorables," a word used by Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign to describe the racist, sexist, homophobic, and xenophobic supporters of Donald J. Trump.

Books will be available before and after the event. Please contact with any questions.

NPR on Black Panther

'Black Panther' Is A Superhero Story You Haven't Seen Before — And It's Thrilling

February 12, 20188

Black Panther's Mythical Home May Not Be So Mythical After All

Kendrick Lamar Releases 'Black Panther' Tracklist, And It Doesn't Disappoint

Here's How 'Black Panther: The Album' Came Together

More on March's sequel

JK Snyder III interviewed at Scoop

Washington papers on Early Man

I love Aardman's movies.

Early Man Is a Stop-Motion Delight [in print as Primitive Living]

The director of "Wallace and Gromit" and "Chicken Run" returns with another delightfully bizarre film.

Washington City Paper February 16, 2018 , p. 22
online at

'Early Man,' the latest from hit factory Aardman, is an ordinary underdog-athlete movie [in print as Comic knuckles hit all bumps on the dirt

Washington Post February 16 2018, p. Weekend 25
online at

'Early Man' Is a Very Funny Trip to the Past

A version of this review appears in print on February 16, 2018, on Page C6 of the New York edition with the headline: Make Way for Silliness and Soccer.

Washington papers on the Black Panther

'Black Panther' is exhilarating, groundbreaking and more than worth the wait [in print as Behold, a comic book king].

Washington Post February 16 2018, p. Weekend 15-16

'Black Panther' is a revelation but also a reminder of what we've been missing

Washington Post February 15 2018

'A different kind of superhero': Why 'Black Panther' will mean so much to so many

'Black Panther's' Ryan Coogler has always been searching for superheroes who look like him

Washington Post Comic Riffs blog February 14 2018

Black Panther is more than a name. It's an identity. [in print as Not-secret identity: 'Black' isn't just part of his name].

Express February 16 2018, p.32
online at

'Black Panther' pops up; Enter Wakanda takes over Red Lounge's space for the weekend.

Frtiz Hahn

Express (February 16, 2018): 3

How celebrities are helping thousands of children see 'Black Panther' for free

Washington Post Comic Riffs blog February 16 2018

'Black Panther' will break box-office records. But could it change the movie business?

Washington Post February 16 2018

    'Black Panther' Shakes Up Marvel With Feeling and Flair


A version of this review appears in print on February 16, 2018, on Page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: Superheroic, But Intimate.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

March sequel announced; exhibit to open in NYC

Exclusive: Congressman John Lewis' Next Book, Run, Will Pick Up Where Award-Winning March Left Off

By Lily Rothman (February 15 2018):


THURSDAY, MARCH 1, 6:00 - 9:00PM



Please join us to celebrate the opening of The Art of MARCH: A Civil Rights Masterpiece
This exhibition offers a unique opportunity for students to connect in a deeply personal way with 
the struggle for civil rights as lived by a major American icon and expressed in this essential National Book Award–winning graphic novel. 

With your support, we intend to welcome thousands of students to the Society for the chance to participate in arts educational programming related to this exhibition. With your generous contributions at this opening, you can help us welcome Title I and other special needs schools that would not otherwise have access to the exhibition. 

Thank you in advance for your support!


MARCH is published by Top Shelf Productions, an imprint of IDW Publishing.


Washington City Paper on Black Panther

Black Panther is the Marvel Cinematic Universe's First Truly Great Movie

With the film, director Ryan Coogler creates a robust Afrofuturist Shakespearean epic

Feb 14, 2018

Express on Black Panther

For Ryan Coogler, 'Black Panther' is about the big picture [in print as Black Panther's Big Picture]

Express February 15 2018, p. 40
online at

Monday, February 12, 2018

Meet a Local Comics Writer: A Chat with Leslie Tolf

by Mike Rhode

I met Leslie Tolf last week when I was at Politics and Prose last week for the book-signing by Laurie Halse Anderson and Emily Carroll of their collaborative Speak: The Graphic Novel* and began talking with fellow line-standers as one does. Leslie told me she had written a graphic novel, and pulled a copy of her book from the shelves, which I then bought (but haven't read yet as there are too many signings to go to), and then she agreed to do our standard interview. It all happened roughly like that, and it makes me glad I live around DC where interesting people are everywhere.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do? Your website describes When the Rules Aren’t Right, as "a graphic novel for all ages. It is the story of Emma, your basic fed-up teen, tired of parents who only talk about work and money, a self-obsessed older sister and a college-educated brother who’s moved back home and seems destined to stay there. She hates her chores, her know-nothing classes and she’s oblivious to the bigger world out there that could use her help."

I wrote When the Rules Aren’t Right, a graphic novel about worker’s rights and activism, because kids under 20 are now growing up in this country without the job safety net that was essentially created by  decades of struggle by unions and other progressive groups.

I always loved the Toni Morrison quote, “if there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”  I had been thinking about this book for 10 years, but when I left my CEO job it took exactly 9 months to write it.  Literally, a "labor" of love.

How do you do it?
Thumbnail by Leslie Tolf.

I began my career in DC as a graphic designer in my 20s, but knew I wouldn’t be good enough so I went on to get an MBA and became CEO of a labor organization, called Union Plus.  I was able to do thumbnails of When the Rules Aren’t Right, based on my rusty art skills.

I felt it was really important to have women illustrators, and in particular women of color. So I decided I would follow Neil Gaiman's Sandman approach, and have each chapter illustrated by a different illustrator, but ones who were female graduates of either RISD or School of Visual Arts.
Final art by Sophie Page

Being a female CEO in the union movement for two decades, I felt the (not-so) subtle discrimination of a leadership structure to this day dominated by white men. In my encore career as a graphic novelist, I feel it’s important to help people of color and women rise up in this very impactful medium of graphic novels.

If you're not a DC native, where were you born? 

I am a stereotypical Midwesterner, born and raised in the Chicago suburbs while never using four-letter words.  As such, I was living in a white middle class “bubble” until I went to college and moved to Washington, DC.  Working in labor unions, and with non-profit organizations, opened my eyes to the vast inequities of the system.  As Alice Walker said, “activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet.”

Why are you in Washington now?  What neighborhood or area do you live in?

I live in Brookland after two decades on Capitol Hill, and I feel I’m finally home.
It is a kaleidoscope community of colors, religions and ages.  It has a thriving art platform with the Arts Walk, Dance Place and Bluebird Yoga and Arts Center.  

Chapter 3 on Equal Pay

Illustrator: Molly Walsh

Who are your influences? 

Oooooo! Favorite question. Neil Gaiman and the Sandman series was my portal in, but here are some current idols:

How to be Happy, Eleanor Davis
Lumberjanes, Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson
This One Summer, Mariko and Jullian Tamaki
Ms. Marvel, G Willow Wilson et. al.

And I’m a big nerd of zines and the zine community.

What would you like to do  or work on in the future?

I’ve recently been asked to do a graphic novel series based on When the Rules Aren’t Right, on issues like animal activism, environmental concerns, civil rights, and women’s rights. A kind of "Magic Treehouse Kids Grow Up and Become Radicals!" Graphic novels aimed at a middle-school ages (8-15) can be explosive as this is when kids are exploring their truths, and seeing injustice in this world. They’re optimistic and engaged. 

Veronica Agarwal's art.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

It’s funny, I just bought Daniel Pink’s new book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, and it’s confirmed what I’ve experienced.  Write in the morning.  And be aware of your personal energy slumps (mine are right after lunch).  If you can swim with the tide, it’s much easier.  Other than that, more coffee.
What monument or museum do you like to take visitors to? 

This is a cheat but my favorite museum to take visitors to is the Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. It blows everyone’s mind, and it has the best museum shop in the country.
Chapter 6: Health and Safety

Illustrator:  Haijin Park

How about a favorite local restaurant? 

I have to give a shout out to Brookland’s Finest, the BBQ is amazing. Also Fox Loves Taco, near the Arts Walk.  I also love to hang out at my local college bookstore, Barnes and Noble, where the staff are super-smart and make a mean cappuccino with suger-free vanilla.

Do you have a website or blog?
I have a website and Facebook page.  But most importantly, I’d love to continue my school road trip around the country. If you have ideas, ping me at
*transcript coming soonish, since P and P didn't record the session for their own site.

Comic Riffs on the Black Panther's history

Everything you need to know about the Black Panther

Unfamiliar with the character or just need a refresher? Here's a primer on comics' most popular black superhero.

Captain America movie in DC revisited

PR: SPX 2018 Exhibitor lottery opens today

Hello Everyone! 

It's that time of year again! Planning for SPX 2018 is already underway and we're excited for all of you to see what we have in store. We want to make sure you have all the right information you need. If you are interested in exhibiting at SPX this year, here's what you need to know for 2018.
An SPX Exhibitor Registration Primer
As you may know by now, SPX has a two phase registration system that combines invited exhibitors with a lottery that in past years has led to a roughly 50/50 split. The two phases are staggered, which allows us to maximize the number of tables available for the lottery.

We feel that having a first time creator with a printed zine tabling next to an established creator with a decades long career is part of what makes SPX so special, and the lottery is a key part of making that possible.

If you don't have any questions and just want to get to the good stuff, you can find the 2018 Lottery here!

Key Dates

For Invitations:
  • February 5th - Invited exhibitors will begin receiving notices.
  • March 1st - Last day for invited exhibitors to confirm their table space.
For the Lottery:
  • February 12th - The SPX table lottery opens.
  • February 26th - The SPX table lottery closes.

SPX Table Lottery winners will be notified shortly after the close of the lottery. Depending on the number of submissions it may take us a few weeks to review the entrants for duplicates or other issues before actually pulling the winning names. We expect this to take roughly about two weeks, so you should hear from us by mid March.

More Questions, You Have Them
We know many of you will likely have further questions, so here's a few quick notes on the way ahead and our process for 2018 exhibitor registration:


How will I know if I have been invited?
Invited exhibitors began receiving notices from SPX on February 5. Invitees will have until March 1st to confirm their table space, with a few reminders sent in between. Any invitee tables not claimed by March 1st will roll over to the lottery pool.
How does SPX decide who gets a reserved table?
The SPX executive committee will collectively review the invitation list each year to make this determination. 
If I was invited last year does that mean I am guaranteed an invitation this year?
No, not necessarily. It is possible you will receive an invitation again, but we have limited space and want to make sure we're always keeping the list dynamic. Doing so will allow us to ensure that we can invite people that we think will be a great fit for the show.
If I wasn't invited this year does that mean I'll never be invited again?
Not at all. The invitation list will change annually. There will not be a formal rotation or cooling off process but our goal is ensure that the process is equitable. Not being invited one year does not mean you won't be invited the next. 
If I am not on this year's invitee list, can I enter the table lottery?

Lottery Entrants
When will the lottery take place?
The 2018 table lottery registration period will open up starting today, February 12. You'll have two weeks, until February 26, to enter your information. SPX will post lottery information widely on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr as well as our website. You won't be able to miss it.
How do I apply for the lottery?
When lottery registration opens we'll post an online form that collects some basic information. This year we are doing away with the randomized number generation to cut down on confusion; you will receive one confirmation email, and then an email at the end of the lottery. This registration website link will be shared widely on social media later this week.

Please note that we will not be picking the randomized lottery winners until after all applciations have been received; this means there is no benefit to applying early or late (except maybe peace of mind).

You can only apply for the lottery once, and multiple entries will result in being removed from the lottery pool (unless you email us and tell us you accidentally clicked twice or something, we do have a heart!).

You will not be responsible for any payments until after the lottery is complete.
How will I find out if I won a lottery table (or half table)?
We will notify the winners via email in early March. Winners will then have until March 31 to confirm and pay for their table. Any unused tables will be carried over to the wait list. If you are selected, half tables will cost $185 while full tables will cost $375.
Do I really have a shot at a table from the lottery?
Heck yes. We earmark a minimum of 110 tables (out of our total of 270) for the lottery. When you look at this in terms of exhibitors behind those tables over the last three years we've been filling about half of SPX via the lottery.
Will there be a wait list?
Absolutely. We store the next 75 names after filling our lottery tables and folks get pulled in every year from this wait list.

Other Questions 
I HATE this system. SPX, why are you so dumb?

In order for us to pull this show off each year, we need to balance limited table space against a bunch of ravenous groups that eagerly take all the tables! Big publishers, small publishers, self-publishers, local favorites, international guests, old faces, new hotness — all worthy and all welcome!

Our registration process helps us manage overwhelming interest in the show in a manner consistent with our core values. Most comic arts festivals are by invitation only. We knew that wasn't for us.  But a pure lottery wouldn't work either. Community is what makes SPX. We had to find a balance that honored both — and helps us manage massive demand to exhibit at the show.
Why not just more add more space? 

There is quite simply no larger facility anywhere in the Washington, DC area with the crucial combination of hotel and convention space — but the more important issue is that the indie comics industry is growing even faster than SPX, drawing more and more passionate, talented creators to the medium. It would be impossible for us to expand enough to meet demand without raising prices significantly for both exhibitors and attendees alike.

Even if we could locate a venue with a similar set-up and more space — and one that wouldn't totally blow our budget — consider that over two days SPX runs only about 14 hours. With 650 to 700 creators exhibiting, assuming an attendee stays on the show floor every single minute and wasted only seconds moving from table to table, that leaves a barely one minute per creator.

We want folks who exhibit at SPX to have the best chance possible to make money at our show. For the time being — and we're at the Marriott through 2020 — it simply does not make sense to seek a larger exhibition hall space. 

Still have questions? 

Hit us up on Tumblr, Twitter or Facebook for a quick reply. We're also happy to chat if you email us at

We appreciate your care and investment in SPX and we'll never take it for granted.

Thanks so much,

Jamie, Mike, Sam, Warren and the rest of the SPX Executive Committee

Copyright © 2018 Small Press Expo, All rights reserved. 
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