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New ‘Green Book’ Showcases Black Contributions To Today’s Comics Business

In the Jim Crow era of the 1940s and 50s, Black travelers around the United States relied on the “Green Book,” researched and published by Black writers, to identify welcoming spaces in a hostile and segregated society. Now three veterans of the comics business have created a modern-day guide to the imaginary landscape of graphic storytelling called The Access Guide to the Black Comic Book Community 2020-2021, designed to introduce new audiences to the world of comics by spotlighting the work of BIPOC creators, publishers, events and retailers. The book starts shipping today online and will be in selected comic shops by the end of the week.

The Access Guide is the brainchild of Dimitrios Fragiskatos, owner of Brooklyn’s Anyone Comics shop, who sees potential to get more people from diverse backgrounds reading, enjoying and participating in the fan culture. Fragiskatos recruited Joseph Illidge, a longtime comics executive and current editor of Heavy Metal to help produce the project, along with illustrator/designer George Carmona 3rd.

The guide covers scores of currently-published titles from dozens of comic imprints, ranging from the “Big Two” (DC and Marvel) to independent and crowdfunded books that might be harder to find on the shelves of the average comic store. It also offers publishers the opportunity to discuss their efforts to engage diverse audiences and include BIPOC voices in the creative and business processes; highlights some of the minority-owned comic retailers around the United States; and promotes the dozen or so conventions, events and conferences focused on BIPOC content and Blerd (Black Nerd) culture.

Because Fragiskatos, Illidge and Carmona started work on the Guide in October, 2020 and were making edits right up until the last minute, the content is as current and complete as they could manage. The authors say they plan to update the Guide annually, with new material and anything omitted in the sprint to get the debut book out quickly added in subsequent editions.

Illidge says one of the motivations behind the project is to build bridges to readers looking to see more of their own experience and perspective reflected in the stories. “We live in a polarized society right now,” he said, as shown by the killing of George Floyd and the reactions to it. “That made the entire world pivot.” He says the team used the “Green Book” metaphor, recently showcased in the HBO series Lovecraft Country because in both cases, the goal is to help Black people navigate potentially toxic and dangerous spaces to…

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