Cola-Con mixes hip-hop, comics

Dead Prez, ‘Boondocks’ creator highlight convention

Cola-Con, Columbia’s hip-hop and comics convention, featured a diverse array of hip-hop artists and comics artists, ranging from rapper Dead Prez to Carl Jones, producer of TV show The Boondocks.

At Comic-Con, the most well-known comics convention, superhero comics are king, and the show floors are flooded with people in elaborate costumes. At Cola-Con, however, only a scattered few wear costumes. A large amount of the comics writers that have set up shop are self-published, and they’re flanked by rap artists and artists involved with black culture.

Comic-Con has become mainstream, but for right now, Cola-Con is a modest affair.

“It’s not fair to compare,” said artist Rachel Mongin, who writes “The Adventures of Death Elf and Woose” and other comics with her husband Ethan Mongin. “Cola-Con is really young, and a lot of the other cons around the country have been around 10, 20 years. I think they’re doing really well for their third time.”

“I think it’s got a lot of potential to grow,” said Chuck Brown, writer of “Rotten Apple” for Dark Horse Comics.

Ed Piskor, author of “The Beats: A Graphic History,” explained why comics and hip-hop are linked.

“I think there’s an underdog aspect that’s very strong between both mediums,” he said. “The aesthetics of early graffiti are full of comic book imagery. The idea of alter-ego … RZA’s name is not really RZA. Those components mirror superhero comics.”

A lot of the artists at Cola-Con, comics or hip-hop, work out of passion for what they do. Sam Spina, a graduate of USC in graphic design, maintains his blog Spinadoodles and publishes his own comics.

“Everything I’ve done has been myself, printing them myself, stapling them myself. That’s the cool thing about comics: it’s kind of whatever you want it to be,” he said.

It’s not the most steady career path, but that’s not the important part to these artists.

“It’s not for money, because there isn’t any,” said Matt Bors, a prominent political cartoonist.

“You do it because you can’t not do it. It’s a manifestation of OCD,” Piskor said.

There’s a diversity to Cola-Con’s offerings. You can go from a panel on political comics to a panel on how to engineer a beat through sampling, each with completely different crowds.

While comics and hip-hop have a lot in common, the cultures don’t always intersect. Going from a discussion on the sexist undercurrents in the comics industry to a music producer saying, “Sometimes you just want to see a scantily-clad female dancing on top of a car,” shows some of the conflict.

“It’s interesting to see how my work fits in with the other works at the show,” said Blue Delliquanti, writer for “O Human Star.”

“How robots and gay guys fit in with hip-hop,” Bors chimed in.

Despite a few hiccups, the two mediums co-exist peacefully at Cola-Con. Hip-hop artists rap in the background while artists draw Spider-Man on display, and somehow, it all makes perfect sense.

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