LAST FALL, while teaching at the Ohio State University, Frederick Aldama decided he needed to do something about what he perceived as a lack of unity among the campus’s minority students. But what could bring many of them together?
The answer, he decided, was the comic book.
So Aldama, with help from John Jennings (an artist and professor at SUNY Buffalo) and Ricardo Padilla (co-founder of the Latino Comix Expo) created Sol-Con, a comics convention that makes its debut today on the OSU campus in Columbus.
Aldama’s goal is simple: To highlight and showcase African American and Latino talent within the comics industry while uniting minorities, both on and off campus.
“There are very few events that bring these two communities together” here, Aldama told The Post’s Comic Riffs. “And what better way to do it than through comics? Something that we all love.”
Aldama hopes that Sol-Con: The Brown + Black Comix Expo, which is free to the public, will especially attract comics lovers of color who might be inspired by both veteran and rising talent.
“One of the great things about putting on an event like this is that it puts a spotlight on the importance of this talent, in a way that even people who are bottom line about dollars will understand that there is a market,” Aldama says of Sol-Con’s potential effects. “A market that has largely been marginalized and that, if they don’t wake up to it, tomorrow they are not going to be having that bottom line.
“This is where it’s at,” he continues. “This is where the creativity is happening. It’s just been exploding. And what I love about it is that we’re really seeing a new generation of creators in their 20s and early 30s, and some even younger, that have found role models in their African American and Latino counterparts and have said: ‘Look, I can do this.’ And they’re doing incredible things.
“Whether they are publishing with mainstream comics, even the imprints like Vertigo, the fact is that they are publishing, and they have a readership and the readership today is growing massively.”
Sol-Con will feature a collection of veteran big names and up-and-coming talent. Jaime Hernandez of Los Bros Hernandez and Lalo Alcaraz (“La Cucaracha,” Fox’s “Bordertown”) are scheduled guests, as well as Eric Dean Seaton (“Legend of the Mantamaji”). (Some of Sol-Con’s guests will also appear at the concurrent Cartoon Crossroads Columbus festival.)
Sol-Con will also have an expo, where creators can show off their work to attendees free of charge, as well as events where young fans can ask questions about working in the comics industry.
In advance, a Sol-Con reception was held Thursday for the talent attending, because as Aldama notes, it is not just the reading community he’s trying to unify, but also the creative community as well.
“Believe it or not, a lot of the Latino and African American artists don’t know of each other,” Aldama said wryly.
Aldama hopes that Sol-Con can be an event that shows major comics publishers that diversifying behind the drawing board, and not just on the pages, is a worthwhile investment.
He says that the changes with Marvel Comics’ roster of diverse heroes wouldn’t have been possible without minorities in top positions, such as current Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Axel Alonso and Marvel chief creative officer Joe Quesada.
“The fact is, we don’t have as many artists, authors, creators of color in the Marvel and DC industry, and until we start having that, we’re really aren’t going to be getting those compelling characters that we want to go back and read every month,” Aldama says of behind-the-scenes diversity. “It’s a question of responsibility to the subject matter. And because our experiences are more proximate to the Latino or African American experience, until we get us in there, doing the thinking and the scripting and the drawing, there’s going to be a kind of gap.”
Aldama also says that although making comics shouldn’t just be about money, he hopes Sol-Con also spotlights that there is money to be made by seeking diversity.
“Bottom line, in the world of capitalism, it just makes [financial] sense to get” creators of color in there, he says. “We’re not there yet, but [we’re] certainly better today than a decade ago.”
Sol-Con runs through Sunday at the Ohio State University’s Hale Hall.