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Sol-Con Comics Expo Encourages Minority Students To Tell Their Own Stories

Ohio State professor Frederick Aldama, co-creator and director of SOL-CON.
Debbie Holmes
Ohio State professor Frederick Aldama, co-creator and director of SOL-CON.

The growing racial diversity of Columbus inspired an Ohio State University English professor to create an exposition for black and brown comic artists and animators. Now in its fifth year, “SÕL-CON: The Brown and Black Comix Expo” brings together students, indie comics, exhibitors and industry insiders.

“If you put a kid in front of a comic book no matter what age, whether they’re reading or not, they are going to spend time with comics,” says Frederick Aldama, co-founder and director of SÕL-CON.

Aldama, who's adopted the monicker Professor LatinX, said Columbus needed a space to bring together different communities to exchange their cultural experiences and examine their differences and similarities.

This year SÕL-CON featured three days of panels, workshops and lectures at Sullivant and Hale Halls on the Ohio State campus. It coincides with the four-day Carton Crossroads Columbus festival, which stretches its events across the city.

Students found out how to create comics, flip-books, zines (self-published comics about an author’s daily life), storyboards and animation.

“What I really wanted to see is a space for our younger generations, our new generations coming up, growing up,” Aldama says. “So they could see their African-Americans brothers and sisters as counterparts, as people that they can be with create with and where our African-American community members can also see our Latinx community members and come together.”

This is the first year that comics created a storybook for the expo, featuring poster art by local artist Uko Smith.

“He really wanted to bring in both African and Latinx elements into the poster art,” Aldama says. “So we have a kind of tropical look. We have the African mask. We have a very strong woman warrior figure.”

Aldama says the box-office success of the 2018 Marvel movie Black Pantherreinforced the notion that minority characters can appeal to all audiences.

“Finally, the industry is waking up to the fact that, yes we also like to see complexity of our own communities being represented in interesting ways in comics,” Aldama says.

Aldama says it's important to nurture future writers of comics. He says the industry is inexpensive to enter so it's easier to access.

“For communities that have been typically left out of mainstream representation, it is an important space that allows all of us to enter into, own our own stories, tell our own stories from our own perspectives and not have someone us tell those stories,” Aldama says.

Sol-Con continues Friday, Sept. 27 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, comic artists will exhibit their work at the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s downtown location.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.