Last Night, the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention presented the Annual Glyph awards. The award was held in Philadelphia at TECH Freire Charter School in a departure from its typical venue at the African American History Museum of Philadelphia.

The awards began with a bang as writer Brandon Easton and artists Tony Vargas and Tommy Lee Edwards were presented with the Fan Award for Best Work on M.A.S.K. – Mobile Armored Strike Command. The creative team won an additional award for their characterization of Matt Trakker in the series, taking home the trophy for Best Male Character.

Tuskegee Heirs: Flames of Destiny by writer Greg Burnham and co-writer/Artist Marcus Williams took two awards—for Best Comic Strip or Web-Comic as well as the coveted rising star award.

Cartoonist Micheline Hess took the award for Best Female Character. Hess created the comic Malice In Ovenland Volume #1 with the award presented to her for the character Lily Brown.

The Heruica Character Creation Award went to Michael White and Youneek Studios for their work on E.X.O. – The Legend of Wale Williams Part One.

Tony Isabella, the creator of the first black superhero at DC Comics, Black Lightning, then took the stage to present the Best Artist award.  Isabella energetically presented the nominees who included Jamal Yaseem, Jerome Walford, Micheline Hess, Nate Powell, and Brian Stelfreeze. Ultimately, Stelfreeze took the prize for his work on Black Panther with Between the World and Me writer Ta-Nehisi Coates.

The best writer award was presented by Mshindo Kuumba I. Nominees included Brandon Easton, Congressman John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Kwanza Osajyefo, Regine Sawyer, and Ta-Nehisi Coates. John Lewis and Andrew Aydin took the award for March: Book Three, the conclusion to the trilogy of graphic novels that chronicle Lewis’ esteemed career as an activist and politician.

Then, the ceremony turned to recognize those who have advanced representation over the course of their careers in comics. Don McGregor presented a posthumous Pioneer Lifetime Achievement Award to Billy Graham, best known for his work on Luke Cage. Foster III said that he liked Graham because he had “no problem drawing babies being born…gay characters…[things] that weren’t being done” in the 1980s.

Tony Isabella was also presented with a Pioneer Award for his various contributions to the comics industry. In addition to creating Black Lightning, he worked as an editor at Marvel and DC for 40 years and wrote stories about a variety of acclaimed characters including Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, and the various heroes of the Star Wars universe. The ceremony paused to screen CW’s trailer for the upcoming Black Lightning TV series, which debuted earlier this year. After the screening, Isabella took the stage to say that when he created Black Lightning, he was not thinking in terms of “representation” but “in terms of fairness.” He didn’t understand why black readers weren’t seeing themselves represented in comics so he decided to help rectify the situation.

Ariell Johnson then presented a Pioneer Award to Asli Dukan, a director, activist, and educator. Dukan has developed a variety music videos and is currently working on an anthology horror film which explores issues related to the black community. Dukan is also the host of a series on YouTube that explores the history of black science fiction.

Maurice Waters then took the stage to present a Pioneer Award to Professor William Foster III, whom Waters called a “keeper of the culture.” Waters says that Foster has worked to preserve the history and culture of black comics. He said that “there wouldn’t be a Pioneer Award without Professor Foster” and told the story about how when the Glyphs started, Professor Foster kept bringing up historical black cartoonists who had gone unnoticed and deserved to be rewarded for their contributions to culture. Professor Foster took the stage to say that “nothing is more important than the encouragement of talent…in a world that tells you ‘we have a judgment for you…why don’t you shut up?’” Professor Foster said the community is more than just a professional collective—it is a family.

McGregor then returned to the stage to present a Pioneer Award to Alex Simmons. McGregor told the story of when he first met Simmons in 1968. McGregor was invited to a private party where he was most excited to meet Jim Steranko, but when McGregor met Simmons the pair ended up talking all night with Steranko long forgotten. The two became fast friends and worked together on a variety of film projects. Simmons couldn’t be at the event, but recorded a short video from Moscow to express his appreciation for the comics community and the Glyph Awards.

Steven Harris presented the award for Best Cover art. Harris stressed the important role covers play in convincing readers to purchase comic books. The best covers, Harris said, scream “Hey, look inside!” Nominees included the creative teams behind Bitch Planet, Black #1, Black #3, Black Panther, Gwan Anthology, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, and Tuskegee Heirs: Flames of Destiny. Writer Kwanza Osajyefo and artist Khary Randolph took the award for their work on Black #1. Osajyefo took the stage humbled and overjoyed to have received the award. He praised Randolph for stepping “out of his comfort zone” with the covers on Black and creating a series of striking images that stood out on the shelf. “This is his award,” Osajyefo said, “I’m just holding it.”

To present the final award of the evening, Professor Foster III returned to the stage. The important elements of Story of the Year were summarized as “a story with strong plot, characters, artwork, and storytelling.” Professor Foster III praised the way that good stories endure the test of time and teach us new things every time we read them. March: Book Three won the coveted trophy. Foster called it a read that “you will not regret” and described Congressman Lewis’ determination to achieve justice in the face of extreme prejudice and violence.


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