The Centre for the Arts at the University of Technology Jamaica (UTech), in collaboration the Jamaica Animation Nation Network, will be hosting renowned comic specialist and founder of Kids' Comic Con, Alex Simmons, at UTech's Papine campus on February 15 and February 16, 2013 for an exclusive Black History Month comic workshop.
The workshop will be conducted over two days and will target the general public, with a specific focus on children. A select number of students attending primary and preparatory schools in Papine and surrounding communities will benefit from a hands-on session dubbed, 'The Art of Creating Comics' on Friday, February 15, 3 p.m. at the Centre for the Arts, UTech, Papine campus.
The public is invited to participate in what is a highly anticipated workshop on Saturday, February 16 at Lecture Theatre 23, College of Health Sciences, under the theme, 'Black Images in Comics: Creators and Characters'. Participants will learn, among other areas, the history of blacks in the development of the comic industry, the resurgence of this early form of animation and the creative processes involved in creating comics.
The arts and education consultant has written children's books; an original Sherlock Holmes play, a number of comic book stories from Batman to Archie; three movie novelisations for Disney; African-American Classics; and three biographies, including one on actor Denzel Washington. Simmons is, however, best known as the creator and writer of the acclaimed mini-series, Blackjack, which first appeared on the comic scene in 1996. The series, which depicts the life of an African-American soldier of fortune in the 1930s, has been receiving rave reviews from industry stakeholders and comic lovers in the Netherlands where it was launched in December 2012.
International Teaching Artist
The award-winning comic book creator who describes himself as an international teaching artist explained how the series evolved: "It started in my imagination ... a vision, a daydream. Then slowly it grew into a full-blown thought. See, I grew up watching movies from the '30s and '40s on TV. I knew the heroes, fictional and otherwise. I also knew - though we were conspicuously absent - that Black people were part of that era and not just as domestics and labourers. So I took what I knew, mixed it with what I imagined and Blackjack was born".
Only recently, he was lauded by his peers as an innovator while participating in the first-ever Black Comic Book Festival hosted by the Schomburg Centre for Research in Black Culture located in Harlem, New York, on January 12.
Director of the Centre for the Arts, Dr Janice Lindsay, views Simmons' visit as a timely initiative which should help reignite pride of self and nation during Jamaica's own observance of Black History Month, "It is not lost on us that Alex comes with an impressive bio, but importantly, it is one which reflects that, as an artist, he is especially cognisant of the need to represent the portrayal of people of colour in comics".
The Black History Month Comic Workshop is spearheaded by the Jamaica Animation Nation Network, a recently formed entity committed to the development of animation as a viable income-earner in Jamaica's creative industries. The event is being sponsored by Supreme Ventures Limited.