SDCC 2018: Black Mask – Debuting Tomorrow’s Legends

by Noah Sharma

Black Mask’s panel nearly got off to a very colloquial start as moderator Matt Pizzolo arrived a few minutes late. Vita Ayala (The Wilds, Submerged) was willing to run a Q&A but thankfully that wasn’t necessary. They were joined by Pat Shand (Breathless), Kwanza Osajyefo (Black AF: Widows and Orphans), Stephanie Phillips (Devil Within), Ashley A. Woods (Dismantlers), and Matthew Rosenberg (New Mutants, Punisher, and something he can’t talk about yet).

Pizzolo spoke about how creator owned work is often more personal than work for hire comics. Shand had a particular, almost life and death, connection to his work, Breathless being born out of the anger at the healthcare industry that sold the medicine that allows him to breathe at unreasonable prices. Osajyefo’s work on Black came purely out of not seeing stories told from the black perspective at other companies. Devil Within was directly inspired and overseen by a friend of Phillips’ from the Philippines who 100% believes that she has been possessed. Phillips called it a horrifying experience, regardless of whether you believe in possession, and wanted to convey that fear and that belief through the comic.

Both of Ayala’s books come out of her own fears and frustrations. The Wilds was born out of the amount that our society demands from women and particularly women of color. Submerged, meanwhile, is about regret and family and the way that you can resent people you love.

We Can Never Go Home was similarly personal for Matthew Rosenberg, but he’s been advised not to explain how for legal reasons. 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank was literally just an idea that Rosenberg came up with to make a closing shift go faster.

The panel came to general consensus that social media is a fantastic way to find collaborators. Ayala and Osajyefo in particular had found artists for Black Mask through twitter and tumblr. In fact, the panelists had a lot to say about the role of social media in their job. Vita Ayala explicitly credited twitter with making her book viable. Rosenberg had to point out, however, that, despite how much he likes hearing criticism and commentary about his work, social media comes with a huge amount of “vile shit”. Rosenberg said that he really enjoys social media, but he realized that it doesn’t make sense outside the world of the internet. He has followers he interacts with regularly but if they were people he interacted with in the real world, if they were the people he encountered on the bus, he would say “I should get a bike…”

Anyone attending is heartily invited to visit Black Mask at booth #5536, however, they should be informed that that really puts them along the front wall of the exhibition hall in front of row 2200.

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