The Black Age of Comics is a graphic novel movement generated outside of the mainstream comic book industry. The term originated from Chicago’s own Turtel Onli and adapts the period language from that industry in America to discuss periods of production like the Golden Age (1938-1950) and the Silver Age (1956-1970), etc. The Black Age (1970-present) deals with expanding the industry to include artists that create material from a black or African perspective, yet exists parallel to the Modern Age of Comics (1985-present). Called the Father of the Black Age of Comics, Mr. Onli’s artwork combines afrofuturism with art education. He defines it as “a genre of graphic novels that feature creators and products derived from the black, urbane, indie, African or cosmic experience.”
The artists that make up the movement regularly produce a convention showcasing independent comic book artists who create, publish, and distribute their own and others stories that exist outside traditional comic book companies. The event originated in Bronzeville, first held at the South Side Community Art Center in 1993. Since then the convention has developed into a national venue for graphic artists to come together, network, and support a thriving industry of do-it-yourself African American-based enterprise. Conventions are now held independently in Detroit (Motor City Black Age of Comics), New York (East Coast Black Age of Comics), and Georgia (Onyxcon), in addition to Chicago.
The exhibition case is located in the Art Center lobby and contains material made by Turtl Onli/Onli Studios produced over the past twenty years. The material is presented in celebration of the 20th Anniversary achievement of the Black Age of Comics movement and its ties to the Bronzeville Renaissance, explored further by Samantha Hill in the Gallery 5 exhibition, Topographical Depictions of the Bronzeville Renaissance .
The 2014 Black Age of Comics Convention was held at the DuSable Museum.
By developing socially adept programming that finds new ways to engage diverse audiences in the work of Chicago’s artists, the Art Center makes space for transparent interaction with art and the artistic process, inspiring creative exploration and encouraging exchange between audiences and artists.