On March 11 and 12, it was not unusual to see comic book charters such as Deadpool, Storm or Luke Cage casually strolling at North DeKalb Mall.
For the third year in a row, the Atlanta Science Fiction and Fantasy Expo gave metro Atlanta residents, artists, creators and vendors a space to share their products, gaming abilities, talents and enthusiasm—all free of charge.
Comic vendors, writers, artists and authors set up vending tables alongside face painters in North DeKalb’s food court while panelists talked in stores about costuming, fan-based fiction, screenwriting, pottery and theory. Meanwhile, dice-rollers and card dealers faced off in a room set up specifically for gaming.
One comic artist, Michael Archie, sold and discussed his work—Work Force Comics—on March 11. His series, which is dominated by Archie’s unique humanoids and dry wit, is a humorous spin on the daily grind of a retail chain worker.“It’s about a group of friends in a fictional store, with a boss that nags them, customers who get on their nerves, they have to come in on Sundays and get paid $7.25 with a 30-minute break,” Archie said. “I worked at Wal-Mart for a year, Sears for a year—after the Sears job, I knew I could [pull from my encounters at work] and do something with it. Once I got the humor together, it came together.”
Author Ellie Raine was in attendance to spread the word about the first book in an epic fantasy series, The NecroSeam Chronicles. According to Raine, the book—Willow of Ashes—features necromancy, demons and a mapped environment unique to her imagination. It focuses on twins who inhabit the same body, have different powers and seek another body.
Raine said she began sketching characters without a story approximately 10 years ago. She continued to draw until a story began to develop around them. She said she plans to write four more books in the series.
“I’ve always loved the grim reaper ever since I was a little girl,” Raine said. “My brother had a tattoo of the grim reaper on his shoulder. Since then, I’ve seen the character around and it’s always been an inspiration, mainly because Death is seen as a neutral character. In [my book’s] world, he’s a protector who prevents people from becoming demons.”
Writer Dedren Snead brought his Afrocentric, female-based comic Sorghum & Spear to North DeKalb to show the potential product he and his team of eight have created.
Snead said he receives his inspiration from people close to his heart, including his mother, Nichelle Nichols who played Lt. Uhura on the Star Trek television series and others. He said he enjoys researching ancient indigenous cultures and discussing ideas with historical experts to make sure even background pictures are accurate.
Snead said he collaborates with local nonprofits and plans to incorporate social issues into his product, which is developed by artists from as far as Trinidad.
“It’s all fantasy, it’s all women-based,” Snead said. “The women demonstrate not only physical strength but diplomatic strength. I want to write a narrative not based on what society thinks you’re supposed to be, but who you choose to be. We’re telling stories that aren’t necessarily told in mainstream media.”
Lonnie Jackson, executive producer of Upyri, said his team’s series—told through three separate storylines—tells the story of redemption through the seven lessons of confession, sacrifice, understanding, love, discipline, diligence and obedience.
Upyri, which has taken six years to develop, offers lessons through comics and virtual reality interactions with characters.
“That’s our world; we wanted to create something we can all relate to because we all go through this every day,” Jackson said. “Our characters should be able to do the same. You see the issues characters have in their stories and see how they strive to be redeemed.”
Jackson said he collaborates with eight others, including artists from Iceland and New Zealand. The team also offers free seminars and workshops through Upyri, including how to get creative properties up and running.
Event organizer Antonio “Tony” Cade said the event grew from hosting local authors three years ago to a full-blown weekend festival through word-of-mouth and a growing appreciation of some for all things science fiction and fantasy.
Cade owns and operates Challenges Games & Comics at North DeKalb Mall, a haven for local talent and pop culture enthusiasts. Though the store regularly holds tournaments and local authors, the festival allows such activity on a large scale.
“This actually all began as an author get-together in my store,” Cade said. “It seemed like a pretty good thing and we talked about taking it to the next level. We decided to go ahead and go with it. The mall loves it because it brings in a lot of people who wouldn’t regularly come here. Vendors love it because it brings a crowd.”
Cade said more than 40 vendors set up in North DeKalb Mall in a two-day span.
“This is a celebration of the creators,” Blank said. “The authors, the artists, the animators and the cosplayers—people who work on their crafts. It gives people a chance to show others their works and become interested in new things.”
For more information on the Atlanta Science Fiction and Fantasy Expo or similar events hosted by Challenges Games & Comics, visit http://www.atlantascifiexpo.com.