Writer and editor Joseph Illidge is a highly respected veteran of the comics industry. Originally working for DC imprint stage media in the 90s, Illidge helped champion the cause of minority representation in the world of comics and made history as the first black editor of the hugely popular DC Batman titles, overseeing the books throughout the year”No Man’s Land“. His reach also extended impressively to the world of television, as he became involved in the production of both batman beyond and Static shock in addition to Gotham and Arrow live broadcasts.
Illidge took the time to answer a few questions posed by CBR regarding his most recent project, The Guide to Accessing the Black Comics Community, a massive volume that serves as a resource listing the various comic book projects produced by black creators. The venerable writer explained the need for the project, as well as the representation of people typically marginalized in the comic book genre and how interested parties can support the guide.
CBR: How did you come up with the idea of producing The Access Guide to the Black Comics Community?
Illidge: The first one Access Guide to the Black Comics Community was the brainchild of my friend, Dimitrios Fragiskatos. He owns two comic book stores in New York, Everyone Comics in Brooklyn and Everyone Comics in Long Island. He is dedicated to making his stores community hubs, bridging the gap between readers and comics. New readers interested in comic books and the related businesses of black creators and entrepreneurs need a guide to show them the full breadth of what our industry has to offer. Black buyers looking to delve into the comics scene should know the “safe spaces” in the industry where they might feel welcome to discover publishers and creators who are dedicated to producing stories featuring scene of heroes from all walks of life.
Dimitrios pitched the idea to me on Facebook, which led to a lunch, and I was sold! It was a natural extension of my mission to elevate diverse voices and their stories, stretching back almost thirty years to the start of my career at Milestone Comics. Designer George Carmona 3rd was the last piece of the puzzle Dimitrios put together, and then the work began!
Why do you think this kind of guide is necessary for the comic community?
Everyone needs reference guides they can pull off their shelves to learn about a topic. As far as we can tell, there was no such thing as Access Guide to the Black Comics Community in the world. So it was necessary because it didn’t exist, and the industry needed it.
Do you think black comic book creators and publishers are now getting the representation they need and deserve?
To be frank, black comic book creators and publishers are getting the representation they need and deserve. They stopped waiting for big companies to do it years ago. Mainstream publishers are now helping to facilitate this more consistently. Representation was historically inconsistent, but now it’s part of the norm, which is long overdue.
What would you like to see happen in the comics industry as a result of this guide?
We can already see it, and it’s great! Dimitrios, George and I had a hell of a time with this new second book in the series as there has been an explosion of stories from various creators over the past year! I can assure you that senior editorial, marketing, and PR executives from top publishers in the direct market have backed and purchased the first volume of Access Guide to the Black Comics Community. It’s cause and effect!
How can our readers help creators from diverse backgrounds gain more recognition and support?
Readers can help creators from diverse backgrounds gain more recognition and support by purchasing their books based on merit and quality of work. If you like their work, follow them throughout their career. Buy their creator-owned books as well as their company-owned books, and tell others about the great books you read by various creators.
How often do you plan to update Access Guide to the Black Comics Community?
The first was released in 2021 and the second is coming out this year. The new volume is a doozy, and it’s a thicker book with color. Dimitrios, George, and I are now discussing how we’re going to get past it, and we’ll announce the next book when we have the answers. Follow us on social media to stay informed of our progress! Also, if anyone could help with the folding and folding time, we would really appreciate it. Twenty-four hours a day is not enough!
What does the Access Guide to the Black Comics Community coverage other than comics and publishers?
It covers black-owned comic stores, conventions, and podcasts. The comic community is large, and part of its growth is through outlets, events, and media. The Access Guide to the Black Comics Community covers where you buy books, events you attend to meet creators and buy directly from them, and podcasters who discuss books and invite creators as guests.
The guide also includes books and new collected editions of existing stories ranging from Why Wakanda Matters at Friday Foster: Sunday strips to the new edition of Captain America: Truth – Red, White and Black.
Are there any particular projects mentioned in the guide that you can personally recommend?
This list is far too long to cover here! Thanks again to AHOY! Comics, for allowing their character to be used Stinger’s The bad ground on the cover of the guide, and to Jamal Igle for making the great illustrations!
Where can readers find the access guide and when will the latest volume be available?
Everyone who backed the Kickstarter campaign will have their copies in their hands very soon! Retailers who funded copies through the campaign will also receive their books shortly. The two volumes of Access Guide to the Black Comics Community can be ordered online at comicbookaccess.org.
The Guide to Accessing the Black Comics Community is now available for online ordering and immediate shipping.