A celebration of Blerds: This weekend’s Urban Nerd Con features Black characters, creators

  • The Urban Nerd Con is Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Cramton Bowl Multiplex
  • Tickets available online at theurbannerdcon.net

There’s a multiverse of geekery from Black artists and other creatives of color coming to Montgomery.

Urban Nerd Con is Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Cramton Bowl Multiplex. While TUNC is certain to draw “Blerds” — short for Black nerds — it’s actually a convention for all fans of comics, TV, film and games.

“The reality is that our stories are no different than anybody else’s stories,” said founder Roy M. Eavins, who identifies as a Blerd. “Ultimately, at the end of the day, we’re all people. We all have a lot of the same worries. We all have a lot of the same concerns and desires. At the same time, we have a lot of the same fantasies.”

Roy M. Eavins, II, of Jericho Broadcasting, announces the upcoming Urban Nerd Con during a press conference in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday January 11, 2022.

Montgomery artist Lashawn Colvin, who serves on TUNC’s board of directors, fills a lot of the creative slots for Blerds. She recently landed a publishing deal for her “Beautiful Soldiers” with Scott Comics. Along with being a comic author, artist and editor, she’s had a comic book shop and works with dozens of independent creators.

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“My experience has been good in comics,” Colvin said. “Everyone has been supportive and wanted me to succeed.”

Colvin said she’ll be floating around the convention this weekend, speaking at several panels, including her own on women in comics one Sunday at noon. 

“I think this con is so critical and crucial to have here in Montgomery, Alabama,” Colvin said. “Especially considering the history of Montgomery.”

Lashawn Colvin of Montgomery, a comic book writer and artist, displays the cover for her book "Beautiful Soldiers."

So what does Eavins hope crowds take away from this convention experience? 

“We’re looking for different people to get different things out of it,” Eavins said. “Those Blerds, we want them to be able to come to a space where they are completely free to enjoy and engage in their nerddom, their geekdom, their gamerism, all of that.”

For people of other races and cultures, Eavins hopes they have an “Oh, my gosh! These nerds are just like our nerds” experience. 

“We’re the same. We enjoy the same things, though it may be for different reasons,” he said. “We want people’s eyes to be open and to see how much stuff out there that Black people are creating.” 

Lots of special guests

From stars who had trekked across the galaxy to homegrown Montgomery artists, a lot of people are coming together to make this event extra special. 

“I think this is a wonderful opportunity for Montgomery to have something new and something different,” said Kevin King, owner and artist at The King’s Canvas in Montgomery, who will join the Grumpy Old Nerds for a podcast there on Friday. “It shows, I think in my mind, a higher level of inclusivity.”

Kevin King paints during an art event remembering Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman at Montgomery Plaza in downtown Montgomery, Ala., on Saturday September 5, 2020.

One of TUNC’s extra special guests is Tiamak, who starred as Bruce LeRoy in the iconic film “The Last Dragon.”

“When I was a child, I watched that movie back to back,” Colvin said. 

They also have director, screenwriter, producer, actor and graphic novel creator Kevin Grevioux (“Underworld,” “I, Frankenstein,” “Blue Marvel”). You’ll probably remember him best as the giant Lycan (werewolf) in the first “Underworld” film. On Friday, after an interview with Grevioux, they’ll have an “Underworld” screening.

“I was literally shocked when I found out that (Grevioux) was the guy that wrote it,” Eavins said. “Those are his stories.”

The Urban Nerd Con has become a Montgomery hub for two huge SciFi fan factions: Star Trek and Stargate. 

On the Star Trek side, they’ve got director Adele Simmons (“Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Star Trek: Voyager.”), actor Anthony Montgomery (“Star Trek: Enterprise”), and Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”)

For “Stargate SG-1,” which is in its 25th anniversary, guests include actors Peter Williams (villain Apophis), Tony Amendola (Jaffa master Bra’tac), Simone Bailly (Ka’lel), and Steve Bacic (Maj. Coburn and Camulus). 

“The actual air date of the first episode (of “Stargate SG-1″) is two days before the con,” Eavins said. 

Some of the special guests at The Urban Nerd Con are: Top, from left, Tiamak (The Last Dragon), Kevin Grevioux (Underworld), Anthony Montgomery (Star Trek: Enterprise); 2nd row from left, Adele Simmons (Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager), Cirroc Lofton (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine); Peter Williams (Stargate SG-1); Bottom, from left, Simone Bailly, Tony Amendola, and Steve Bacic (all of (Stargate SG-1).

Other special guests for the convention include:

  • Rob Morgan: An actor who appeared in all of the Netflix’s Marvel series and on the Netflix series “Stranger Things.”
  • Dave Fenoy: Voice actor for TV, animation, games, commerercials who among his many credits include films “Ghost Rider,” “Happy Feet,” “King’s Ransom,” plus many cartoons and video games.
  • Chyna McCoy: Actior, martial artist and CEO of Wondertoons Studios.
  • Tiffany Toney: Actor, producer and owner of Sensory Overload Films.
  • Penelope Flynn: Writer and illustrator of adult speculative fiction. 
  • William Hayashi: Screenwriter and author of “The Darkside Trilogy.”
  • Pros & Cons Cosplay: Award-winning cosplay twins
  • Blerdover: Founder and creator of Blerdover LLC nonprofit Micah “Skip.88” Blair of Birmingham  
  • Sonia James: Writer and producer for racio, TV and online, and owner of Pyrobyrd Creative. 
  • James Goodridge: Writer of speculative fiction.
  • Helen Nde: Researcher, writer and artist who explores African mythology, folklore, spirituality and culture.
  • Cranston Burney: Writer and media commentator.
  • Rafeeat Aliyu: Writer, editor and documentary filmmaker.
  • Radi Lewis: Open World Comics
  • Alicia McCalla: Fantasy, scifi and horror author
  • Grumpy Old Nerds: Podcast hosts dive into everything scifi and comic books. 
  • Violette L. Meier: Writer, folk artist and poet.
  • Dawn Burkes: Writer and editor with the Los Angeles Times.
  • Yvette Kendall: Author of “The GOD Maps” trilogy, which a sub-genre of SciFi called “Biblical Futurism.” She also has the children’s series “Somebody for Mommy.”

Note: Previously announced guest Meagan Tandy, TV star of CW’s “Batwoman,” will not be attending, according to Urban Nerd Con’s website. 

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‘Blackness’ in comic characters

"Black Lightning" is a DC Comics hero that was adapted into TV for the CW.

A decent amount of Black comic characters have made the crossover into TV in recent years, especially on CW network’s DC adaptations: Black Lightning, Batwoman, Naomi, Martian Manhunter, and Guardian, to name a few. 

It took a while to get to this point.

There was a time when it seemed important for some Black comic book characters to be set apart by having “Black” in their names: Heroes like Black Lightning and Black Panther, and villains like Black Manta. In TV land, the original Black Power Ranger was a black character underneath the outfit. 

Has the world grown beyond the need to put “Black” in the names of Black characters? Definitely, Eavins said.

“I used to have my own comic book company,” Eavins said. “I don’t think we had any characters that referenced the word ‘Black’ specifically.” Out of around 400 characters, his closest was an armor-wearing one named Ebony. 

In an homage to them, Eavins used a couple of his characters  — Hood and The Sheriff — in the convention’s logo. Their series was a play on Robin Hood. 

Urban Nerd Con is coming to Montgomery on July 29-31.

Racial identity can be difficult to illustrate with fully-masked, costumed characters. Even longtime fans of creator Todd McFarlane might not remember that the living costume wearing, somewhat reluctant hero “Spawn” began as a Black man. 

It’s a challenge that’s reached into storylines also. Here’s an example from Marvel: A fully-costumed Spider-man (the Peter Parker version before Miles Morales) appears in court and  — jokingly — testifies that Daily Bugle editor J.J. Jameson hates him because he’s Black. 

With characters where skin tone can be seen, Colvin said people pay attention to details. In multi-racial groups like her originally four-person hero team for “Beautiful Soldiers” (white, Asian-American, Native American and Black), that’s something she had to address with her Black character Terra.

“She’s a lighter toned woman,” Colvin said. “She doesn’t have the regular Afro-centric kinky, curly hair… To some people, she just wasn’t Black enough. I used to tell people all the time that Black comes in different shades. That’s the beauty of people of color. There’s a multitude of shades.”

After talking with the Blerds for a while, Colvin decided to add a fifth hero to the group, instead of altering Terra’s design. The look for Nina, her new character, is based on Colvin’s mother, who passed a couple of years ago.

“Nina is a dark-skinned Black woman with kinky, curly hair,” Colvin said. 

Dress to impress

This weekend's Urban Nerd Con will focus on Black characters and creators, and will likely draw in a lot of fans who are "Blerds" — Black nerds.

Cosplay is a way fans often express their inner geek, dressing like their favorite characters from comics, tv, film and games. Sometimes it’s cute. Sometimes it’s super realistic. Sometimes it’s just jaw-droppingly awesome. 

Eavins reminds everyone planning to cosplay that this is a family-friendly event.

“We are asking people to be considerate, since there will be children in the space. A lot of what we are doing is focusing on young Blerds,” Eavins said. “We will have some areas that if there are some more risque things, where they’ll be able to go and have the full breadth of what their cosplay is.”

As far as accessories go, mock weapons (not real ones) are allowed. No swords or knives with actual blades. No real guns or actual barbed-wire-wrapped bats, etc. 

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“We have a team of people that will be checking those as people come in,” Eavins said.

Roy M. Eavins, II, of Jericho Broadcasting, announces the upcoming Urban Nerd Con during a press conference in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday January 11, 2022.

Ticket & time info

Ticket prices vary depending on packages, and are available for single day or all three days. They can be purchased online at theurbannerdcon.net.

On Friday, badge pack pickup begins at 11 a.m., and the VIP entrance opens at 12:30 p.m. General public admittance is at 2 p.m. Vendors close at 7 p.m., and TUNC After Dark ends at 10 p.m.

On Saturday, badge pack pickup begins at 8 a.m., and the VIP entrance opens at 9 a.m. General public admittance is at 10 a.m.. Vendors close at 7 p.m., and TUNC After Dark ends at 11 p.m.

On Sunday, badge pickup begins at 9 a.m., and the VIP entrance opens at 10 a.m. General public admittance is at 11 a.m. Vendors close at 6 p.m., and TUNC After Dark ends at 9 p.m.

Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Shannon Heupel at sheupel@gannett.com.

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