Black comic heroes and the artists who dream them descend on West Philly

The first super-hero, arguably, was an ancient Egyptian character named Horus, also known as Heru. With the head of a falcon and the body of a man, he was a supernatural warrior.

That character looms large for Yumy Odom, whose own head has been soaring with mythologies, both ancient and modern, since he was a kid in Brooklyn.

“In fifth grade, a friend brought me a new X-men comic — it had Storm on the cover. I have that in a frame,” said Odom in his North Broad Street office. “Storm is an African-American woman with white hair – it looked like Raffia cloth, that kind they wear in ritual masks. I saw the cover and said, ‘I gotta get this.'”

Odum grew up to found the Frator Heru Institute, an African-centric educational organization that offers workshops in everything from youth empowerment to small business economics. Many of his workshops use comic book tropes as teaching tools. “People can do heroic things,” said Odom. “One of the most heroic thing you can do is just discover who you are.”

He is a super-hero fanatic, creating the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention, now its 12th year. The one-day affair, on Saturday at the Enterprise Center in West Philadelphia, features professional netowkring events, workshops for young artists, comic vendors, and a Cosplay costume contest called Africoz where convention-goers have gone toe-to-toe with Black Panther, Storm, Blade or perhaps, the Bumblebee.

He cannot understand why there are not more black comic book characters.

“You can imagine a giant white guy who eats planets, but you can’t imagine an African coming from Egypt as a superhero. That is weird. That’s, like, pathological,” said Odom. “This is make-believe. Can you not make-believe this as well?”

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