Artist Joseph R. Wheeler III was tired of not seeing enough black voices reflected in comic and sci-fi conventions, so he took matters into his own hands and created a convention in his hometown of Atlanta. Now, eight years later, ONYXCON attracts fans and vendors from all over the country. It takes place two times a year — ONYXCON: SANKOFA is in February for Black History Month, and there is a smaller event which happens every August.
The latest event, ONYXCON 8: “INFINITY”, takes place August 20 at the Southwest Arts Center, including an opening reception on August 19. We connected with Joseph to learn more about its history what to expect in this year’s event.
How has ONYXCON grown now that it’s in its 8th year?
It has grown in awareness and appreciation. I get joy from fans telling me what it means to them to have events like this. People come from all over the country and we have international interest too. We have had vendors and fans come from as far as California, New York, Philly, Detroit, Florida, and Kentucky. And we’ve had art contributions from as far as London for our art exhibits, which along with our film festival, is another highlight of ONYXCON.
With the success of Power, Empire, and the upcoming Black Panther movie and Luke Cage series, we’re seeing more diverse faces in entertainment. How do you feel about the current state of black representation in pop culture?
Diversity is the future. Part of [the increase in representation] is simply smart marketing on the part of the big capital holding companies. The rest is the impact and undeniable power of the Black dollar and diversity in general. I love it, and I welcome more genuine representations. The key word here is “genuine.” — that happens when Blacks, Latinos, Asians, women, and other minorities become the writers, illustrators, and producers of their own comics, films, and more. There will not be a loss if true diversity is further embraced. There is everything to gain. We are living in a paradigm-shifting time.
Tell our audience why they need to be at ONYXCON this year.
Well, we have our opening reception on August 19, which also kicks off our art exhibition “The Resurrection”, which celebrates the lives of deceased artists through the lens of fantastic imagery. It is not to be missed! That exhibit runs through September 9.
And of course, Saturday, August 20 is convention day! One of our special guests, TOR Books editor Diana Pho, will give a presentation and will be seeking new novels by aspiring science fiction and fantasy writers. TOR Books also publishes Nnedi Okorafor and others on that level, so RSVP if you wish to have a pitch meeting with her.
More information on guests and vendors is being added to our website regularly, so prepare for an amazing two days of ONYXCON!
What are your future plans for ONYXCON?
Total expansion, especially for our film festival. We have been around for eight years because ONYXCON is built off of real love for art. We will be here forever! Hard works pays off.
How can people get involved and help ONYXCON grow?
Attend our events. If you’re an art collector, come to the opening reception on August 19, and help add value to this legacy. Come out to the convention on August 20. Bring your entire family. We want to see bus loads of people with families!
Become a sponsor! We want more business connections and partnerships with nonprofits and for-profit businesses. Seriously, help spread the word.