One of the most rewarding things I did all last year was participate as a judge for the first ever McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics; not only was I exposed to a lot of great comics material I had never seen before, but I worked with a fine panel of judges and it was a genuine joy to get more attention for the eventual winner–Nilah McGruder’s MFK.

Happily, I’ll be part of the final selection committee for this year’s awards, with the winner to be announced at the Long Beach Comic Expo on Saturday February 20, in room S5 from 2:30pm – 3:30pm.

I’m a judge alongside Matt Wayne, Len Wein, Joseph Illidge, Joan Hilty, Charlotte Fullerton McDuffie, William Watkins, and Neo Edmund. And we’re going to have to work three times as hard this year.

I’m told that the number of submissions this year was three times that of the first award last year. And about a third of them are from women. The award is presented to remember the the spirit of the late Dwayne McDuffie, and the criteria is “promoting diversity,” whether through the comics itself or through the creators. I think some of the most exciting comics being done fit into this framework and I can’t wait to start reading this year’s submissions.

Coupled with the news that this weekend’s Black Comic Book Festival drew 5000 people, you can see that expanding both the audience for comics and the creative pool for the industry is something that people are very excited about. And it isn’t a “trend” — it’s the way things are.