Lamar Harris and David Gorden only met in 2017, but the two St. Louis natives grew up with — and still share — a love of superheroes. Like many fans, though, they were often disappointed by the lack of minority representation in the fantastical worlds they loved.
Inaugural Soundwave Comic Xpo puts ‘geek culture’ diversity in the spotlight
“When I was a kid, you could watch your Saturday morning cartoons, and there would be all these different superheroes,” Harris says, “but none of them really looked like you.”
Harris and Gorden hope to change that with the Soundwave Comic Xpo. The one-day event aims to be a one-stop shop for everything that fans of superheroes, anime and “geek culture” can imagine. Designers, cosplayers and gamers from all walks of life are invited to attend.
SWCX sets itself apart from other such events by focusing on programming about minorities from minorities. The inaugural event, during Black History Month, highlights Afrofuturism creatives.
Superheroes of all skin tones will be featured.
“It’s important to be able to see these — to show that we are out here,” says Harris, a St. Louis musician who also performs as DJ Nune.
He says people often are surprised when African Americans such as himself are interested in geek culture — comic books, anime, even “Game of Thrones.”
But it’s for everyone, he says. He grew up watching Batman and has tubs dedicated to Magneto (a Marvel Comics superhero who has magnetic superpowers) cosplay.
Both characters are white. As a child, Harris’ peers often made fun of him for role-playing as white characters.
Even from their late integration into the comic book worlds, black superheroes have had a limited presence. Black Panther, the first black superhero, didn’t hit shelves until 1966, and Butterfly, the first black female superhero, arrived in 1971.
Today, though, there’s a plethora of content about superheroes of color by minority creators. Many of those creators are in St. Louis, Harris says. At SWCX, those characters and their creators will be featured front and center.
“There are a lot of wonderful creators that don’t always necessarily get to shine on top,” he says.
Gorden is one of those creators. The graphic novelist wrote “Kwame Hightower: And the Man With No Name” and presents the event’s “Hall of Heroes,” which features a variety of African American superhero costumes.
Harris ensured a life-size Wakandan throne, popularized by the 2018 film “Black Panther,” would also be on display.
“Lamar has always had a flair for the theatrical, which I think is probably an understatement,” Gorden says.
Meeting minority creators is just as important as seeing diversity on the page or screen, Gorden says.
“It’s very important for young kids to see us doing work in these industries and seeing that we’re making headway and performing at the highest level of our creativity,” he says.
SWCX also will include a family-friendly pavilion, Kids Super HQ, with theater performances, face painting, a parade, and music and dance sponsored by Metro Theater Company and the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.
A Microsoft-sponsored gaming tournament and a cosplay contest will determine the champions of the day, and performances by musicians Mark Harris II, Bell Darris and Kimmy Nu will keep the party rolling.
What Soundwave Comic Xpo • When 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday • Where Grand Center venues including .Zack (3224 Locust Street), High Low (3301 Washington Boulevard) and the Sun Theater (3625 Grandel Square) • How much $21 • More info soundwavecomicxpo.com