The Upperman African-American Cultural Center at UNC Wilmington hosted its first comic-focused convention on campus all day Saturday, “Upp, Upp, and Away: Super Black Pop Upp Comic-Con.” The convention addressed black superheroes in the comic book world, including challenges and barriers faced by writers to include more characters of color in the industry.
One of these writers was Jazmin Truesdale, the keynote speaker and founder of Aza Comics. Aza Comics features comic book stories with female characters of color. Truesdale discussed the history behind her work and what inspires her to write on Saturday afternoon in the King Hall auditorium.
Truesdale grew up reading comic books, with Wonder Woman being her favorite comic book character. The superheroine inspired Truesdale to write her own empowered female characters.
“Men get to experience that empowering feeling you get when you see yourself reflected in the media,” Truesdale said. “I wanted to give women that same powerful feeling through their own characters.”
Truesdale said she avoids watching or reading any other superhero-inspired media so it will not influence her work. She mentioned, for example, how she would tend to write white characters if that is mostly what she sees and reads. Truesdale wants to create her stories from her own inspiration and tends to go for self-help books on writing to build plot, character, and other elements in her story.
Truesdale initially struggled to publish her comic books under other companies. Many rejected her due to the racial and gender bias as most comic books are written for and aimed at white male readers. Eventually Truesdale decided to self-publish, drawing from her experiences as an undergraduate business major and inspiration to write comic books for people like her.
“No one else is going to break the mold for you,” Truesdale said. “You have to do it yourself.”