On May 3rd, comic book fans throughout the Bronx made their way to the Bronx Library Center on East Kingsbridge Road to take part in the 6th Annual Bronx Heroes' Comic Con. The number of comic book artists, designers, storytellers, and fans has been steadily growing over the years, with plenty of homegrown and emerging talent taking part in this year's event.
Ray Felix, the originator of both the comic book series "Bronx Heroes" and of the comic con, expressed that he was pleasantly surprised by the turn out earlier in the day, having been concerned that he was competing with so many other events throughout the Bronx. This event also coincided with National Free Comic Book Day, where kids are given free comics and was designed to promote literacy.
One of the artist that was at the event was Sara Woolley, a Columbian-American illustrator from the Soundview section of the Bronx. Her major work is a graphic novel called "Los Pirineos", a memoir of her mother's family's escape from the ravages of war in Columbia in the mid-20th century. Featuring intense artwork, Sara explained how she wanted to capture the memories of her grandmother in the best way she knew how, in word and art. Many of the other artists, including Sara, have also collaborated with each other or with other well-known comic companies such as Marvel, DC, and Image Comics. But like Sara, display a noticeable sense of pride in their work and in trying to elevate their own brands.
Catching up with Ray later in the event, I asked him what made him get involved in this labor-intensive project. "I feel that the whole idea is to inspire kids to become artists and to live out their dreams, while we promote literacy and being creative and being artists," stated Ray. "We want you to know that when you come out to one of our shows, you can meet professionals in this industry, this is what they do for a living, and they can help you learn how to do this too."
Regarding the literacy component, Ray expressed how important it was to promote literacy in the Bronx. As a high school teacher himself, he discussed how too many students aren't prepared adequately to pass the English language proficiency exams. "Kids don't read enough, and they need to find new channels and sources of interests so that they can pick up their pace and read something that sparks up their own interests and imagination."
Regarding the influence of comic book artwork, Ray also commented on the decline of art instruction in the classroom. "They have been taking out art systematically from the school system, and we think that it is also important for kids to have that outlet to steer them away from negative behaviors and tap into their own self-value, finding something beautiful in themselves that they can share with others."