ComicCon@Home Day Four: Power Rangers & Colorism in Comics

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We’re over and done with Day Four of ComicCon@Home. Is anyone else also loving the convenience and accessibility of the pre-recorded panels? For Saturday we checked out Doctor Who: Time Lord Victorious, HBO’s Lovecraft Country, and Personal Stories in Graphic Novels. Louis, Kate, and Cori also enjoyed the panels listed below, which explored the state of the industry, colorism in comics, and the future of Power Rangers. 

Women of Color in Comics: Race, Gender & the Comic Book Medium

The Women in Comics Collective International is an organization that focuses on the merit and craftwork of Women and Non-Binary People working in the comic book industry. They host comic book education events across the country, including their own convention, Women in Comics Con. In this segment of their ongoing panel discussion series, they will discuss the current state of the comic book industry and how it’s been impacted by the events of 2020; from COVID19 Pandemic to Racial unrest due to Police Violence. Panelists include, Jonita Davis (film reviewer, and pop culture journalist), Jules Rivera (comic book artist), Vanee Matsalia (writer, educator), Camilla Zhang (writer, editor, consultant), Marqueeda LaStar (tech & pop culture journalist), and moderator Regine L. Sawyer, (writer/publisher).

The world is a mess, and marginalised communities are more likely to struggle in these changing circumstances. This panel featuring creators of colour discussed how they’ve been handling the pandemic. 

It was interesting—and reassuring—to hear that even prolific creators are struggling to write anything when the literal apocalypse is happening outside our doors. Most of the panelists have been spending time on editing and revisiting their older content, rather than creating something new. I feel this, so much.

But it isn’t just the pandemic that’s on the minds of the panelists. The Black Lives Matter movement and the continuing police brutality was obviously a topic of conversation. The panelists called out corporations that are suddenly looking for BIPOC people to join them, when barely a couple of months ago, those doors were firmly shut. This virtue signaling is suspect, at best, and none of the panelists were here for it.

Another thing that the panelists weren’t going to put up with anymore? The recent revelations about the insidious abuses of power in the comics industry. While most of the panelists called for comics companies to give more marginalised people positions of power, Vanee Matsalia noted that those positions are already filled. If marginalised communities are to rise, people already in power need to start stepping down. Can we get a “hell yeah?”

There were so many fantastic points made in this discussion that it could easily have gone on for another couple of hours. The panelists did speak over each other a few times but it added to that feeling of a conversation among friends that one didn’t want to leave. This is the kind of panel I go to Comic Con for.

—Louis Skye

Gender, Race, and Comic Book Coloring

Did you know that comic book colors used to be hand-separated by an army of women in Connecticut? That “benday dots” are named after a real person? Or that there’s a technical reason African-American skin tones look wrong in old comics? Geek out on the hidden corners of comics history, from the Golden Age up to today’s digital era, and learn about the craft of coloring with color artist Marissa Louise (Amethyst), comics creator Mildred Louis (Astrea’s Nexus Studio), researcher and essayist Zoë D. Smith (University of Chicago), and master letterer/former DC production artist Todd Klein (Sandman). Moderated by author Anina Bennett (Boilerplate).

Moderated by Anina Bennett (a 2011 Inkpot Award Winner), this panel features two WWAC alum: Marissa Louise, whose Colorist on Color series can be found here, and Zoe D. Smith, who wrote 4 Colorism, or, the Ashiness of it All. The other two panelists, Mildred Louis and Todd Klein, are also professional colorists and well-known in the industry.

The panel starts off with a fascinating technical discussion about RGB color (light transmitted from a screen to your eye) and CMYK color (light that bounces off a physical object and into the human eye) and how that works on the human eye. The overall structure of the panel takes the audience from the 1970s to today. Klein, who began working for DC Comics in 1977, showed the color sets and color guides (which were limited to 64 colors), and original art from that period as it would have been printed, from start to finish. Zoe then joined in to speak about how these technical limitations created colorism issues with the way that Black characters would end up looking green due to the printing process (among other issues).

The final third of the panel dealt with that process in the 90s to computer-assisted comics coloring and color separation for printing, with Louis and Louise sharing their processes and the difficulty of working simultaneously with both RGB and CMYK for comics that are digitally created but still printed.

Overall, the panel was so informative from a historical and technical aspect, while also being accessible. It was also gratifying to see comics criticism included as having as much importance as the technical and historical discussion. Also, more than anything, this panel affirmed that colorists aren’t just amazing artists—they’re amazing technicians. There was a post-panel Twitch livestream on Marissa Louise’s channel, so check that out!

—Kate Tanski

Mighty Morphin’/Power Rangers: The Future is Now

A new era for the Power Rangers begins here! Join a star-studded lineup of talent including Ryan Parrott (Mighty Morphin, Power Rangers), Marco Renna (Power Rangers), Matthew Erman, Giuseppe Cafaro, and Francesco Segala (Power Rangers: Sins of the Future) along with Matthew Levine (editor, BOOM! Studios), Dafna Pleban (senior editor, BOOM! Studios) and Steve Cardenas (“Rocky DeSantos” on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers) to discuss the future of Power Rangers in comics! From the upcoming Power Rangers: Sins of the Future OGN and the shocking new direction for the Power Rangers that will leave you green with…EXCITEMENT! Moderated by Erin Cahill (Power Rangers Time Force).

I grew up watching the original Power Rangers. Tommy and Kimberly were my first childhood crushes, and Kim was the first time I saw a lady action hero and said, “I wanna be that!” Going back and watching those old episodes now is just not quite the same, because they’re very clearly made for children with just the amount of camp and kitsch that makes them hokey to older viewers. But what it has been fun to go back to are the Boom! comic series. I’ve started reading them to catch up before all the new series launch in November; they capture the magic of the TV show, while taking more time to flesh out things that the TV show couldn’t with its constraints. The comics are definitely still accessible to younger readers, but they are perfect for older fans looking for that nostalgia kick. 

This panel was about some of those challenges, and also the freedoms that the medium provides. They talked about how the comics have gotten to where they are as we approach the relaunch and the relief that Ryan Parrott feels now that he’s able to sync the timelines of the two ongoing books up, rather than have them set in different times. They showed first looks at both a new Green Ranger for the main books, and a new Black Ranger for the Time Force spin-off book Sins of the Future. The panel was moderated by former Pink Time Force Ranger, Erin Cahill, and her passion for the franchise and the fandom helped to drive the panel and made this one a real fun watch. If you’ve been looking for a reason to give the Boom! Power Rangers a try? This is a perfect opportunity.

—Cori McCreery

Don’t forget to catch up on our thoughts on ComicCon@Home day one, day two, and day three panels, as well as Kate’s roundup of teaching with comics!

Gretchen Smail

Gretchen Smail

Part time Bay Area journalist, full time loungewear enthusiast