The world according to premiere graphic novel artist Keithan Jones, San Diego will be yet another home of a world-famous Con; Black Comix Day. As the founder of the Comix Day, Keithan says this may be the best year ever. Keithan tells SDMNEWS just how being an artist himself and fathering a movement is one heck of a task!
SDM: The concept of Black Comix Day comes out of your love for Comics, of course, but tell us about your journey?
KJ: I’m still on my journey. I was originally sucked into the world of comic books and cartoons after seeing Star Wars for the first time at age 6. Not the remakes, the original 1977 debut. It blew my mind and sparked my imagination. As the years went by and I got older, I noticed that most comics didn’t feature Black protagonists beyond a simple sidekick or comic relief. Nobody I knew wanted to be those guys, including me. So, I made it my mission to change that narrative and create my own characters that were just as cool as the Marvel & DC characters. But that didn’t happen for many years later as I fell into a career as a Graphic Designer to support myself.
SDMN: Why was being an independent artist important to this segment of the industry?
KJ: I tried to go the traditional route of submitting my portfolio to the major comic companies when I was in my early twenties but that didn’t last long. I just didn’t have any real desire to draw or write other people’s characters- I wanted to forge my own legacy. That was an exciting path to me. Especially after Marvel’s top artists in the early 1990’s revolted and created an independent company called Image Comics. I was truly feeling that movement. But again, black characters were largely absent as the focal point. Then came a group of professional Black comic creators who teamed up to form a comic line called Milestone Media., distributed by DC Comics. THAT was super exciting to me! That showed me that it was possible to present Black Superheroes in the mainstream media. But alas I was still on the outside looking in. Just struggling along trying to make ends meet, with no real connections to the industry.
Looking back at that time, I wasn’t ready. Skill-wise I was, but mentally I wasn’t. I didn’t understand how much power I had to change my circumstances. I had no real mentors around me. Just learning life lessons the hard way- a lot of falling. I maintained a fairly steady career in graphic design and garnered my first full-time design job through the late great Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres. His wife Alicia Gwynn was running a company called AG Sport and hired me the day she met me. It was a HUGE blessing because I was down and out at the time, living in a storage room at my mother’s small dress shop. I had no computer skills or professional commercial design skills but Mrs. Gwynn was willing to let me learn on the job. From that time on, I was able to stay employed as an artist in some form or capacity.
SDMN: What is unique about this year’s Black Comix Day 2020?
KJ: BCD2020 is always unique because Black People creating comics is still a novelty. It’s still a subject of anomaly. The media inundates society with this picture of Black folks as only athletes, rappers or comedians. There is a nasty stereotype that Black Americans do not operate on an intellectual level. What’s worse is a lot of Black folks themselves have bought into this fallacy. Think about it, even the best athletes are generally the smartest players on the court. The physical is useless without the mental. But I digress. Black Comix Day offers a chance for people to meet the uniquely talented professional black artists in the comics industry.
SDMN: San Diego is very important to the comics world, how are you trying to leverage Black Comix Day with the comics community?
KJ: I’m not really. This is a case of having the industry come to us. Enough with the compromising of our visions. That’s a huge waste of time and a game I don’t wish to play quite frankly. Not everyone wants Chinese Food every night if you know what I mean.
SDM: Tell us about your present projects?
KJ: Currently I’m finishing up my comic called, The Power Knights. I’ve published issues 1-4 to this point. Issue 5 will bring it to a close for now. Those books can be purchased through kid-comics.com
Outside of my personal projects, I run and manage Black Comix Day in San Diego, CA. every February as a way to honor Black History Month.
The San Diego Monitor-News has been serving Black San Diego since 1986