The Soulful Comic's Domain.
www.theblackzone.com showcases contemporary comic books of African Americans and African Canadians. The criteria for inclusion is that the comic books must be "somewhat professional (in quality) and have some kind of publishing record, whether it be in print or on the web."
Based in Toronto, Canada, website creator, Paul Martin, 33, has been collecting Black comic books, attending comic conferences and developing his own skills for over ten years. "In the late eighties and early nineties I was well into the comics scene and trying my hand in drawing and writing, I took a class taught by a person who is now my mentor, Arvell Jones, one of the few people of color to break into Marvel [Comics] in the seventies. He taught me the basics, so I can say I was formally trained."
In 1997, Martin, founder and president of Hi Profile Entertaiment (launched in 1991), a computer hardware/software company, changed the company's focus to creating graphics and multimedia. This combined with his affinity for comics birthed the Black Zone.
The philosophy behind this website, once dubbed the "Black Comics Hall of Fame", is "Edutainment. Edutainment is learning while being entertained. A person can go through and look at something they really love, in this case, latest comics, cool artwork and stories- get the latest news and entertainment and also learn about the struggles that we have had in this area." He notes there is a lack of employment and encouragement of Black comic book artists. "Major comic book publishers have no concept of diversity. The industry itself has no concept. I try to do my part by buying what brothers are working on, which keeps them working."
By mid-July, the Black Zone will have a new look and format. "I recently teamed up with a number of individuals from black comics email lists, who will be helping me make the website community-based. For example, each person who participates can be in charge of a section," says Martin, who is currently creating a website for Milestone Media and the comic Static Shock (based on the Fox Saturday morning cartoon).
Martin hopes to someday publish his own comic caper."l have to rewrite and retool a couple to make them appropriate for all ages, which seems to be the way to go ... the next generation, the next audience" And as for his favorite comics featured on the Black Zone, "My favorites are Blood Syndicate and Brotherman Dictator of Discipline." That's Edutainment!