Following the pandemic, artist Evan Bishop found himself standing in front of a classroom full of fifth-grade students who were thoroughly unmotivated by the traditional lesson plans he’d been handed. “I just took a gamble… I literally took those papers and threw them in the garbage. What came to me was ’Who wants to create a comic book?’” This was the start of the Yonkers Comic Creation & Convention, an exhibition affectionately known as YC3, at which original comic book superheroes created by members of the community will be on display.
Bishop took this classroom experience to heart and developed a series of virtual and in-person comic book creation workshops called I AM A HERO, which expanded out of the classroom, and across Yonkers and its surrounding areas. The hands-on workshops were designed by Bishop and his partner, Katori Walker, as a way of discovering what would truly engage local students.
“I just began talking to the kids,” says Bishop. What became very clear through these conversations, he says, was the importance of addressing social issues that mattered to them. Therefore, in the I AM A HERO sessions, each participant created their own original superhero that tackles a social issue that has meaning to them.
Bishop was impressed with many of the issues brought to the table: “These kids were really able to come up with some heartfelt things: Food deserts. Poverty. Support for veterans. Homelessness. Mental health issues. LBGTQ support.”
As the workshops grew and the mission developed, the upcoming YC3 exhibition was born and the blueprint was created for an event where people can celebrate artists as well as creative ways to address important social issues.
Artists of all ages and skill levels were encouraged to submit. With that, Bishop hopes the creative solutions posed by the superhero figures become “not just applicable to the comic book, but [that people can] now take that same momentum into conflicts in their lives, or in their communities.”
He notes that bullying was a recurring topic in the workshops: “Everyone had a different way of resolving it. And I love that… It doesn’t mean that bullying around the world ends. But if one person can see it in a comic book, then this person was able to address that issue without harming other people.”
Early on in the process, Bishop made some interesting discoveries when he spoke with his students. Some were having trouble wrapping their heads around a superpower that wasn’t simply “blasting someone to smithereens,” while others came up with ideas what were more nature- or cosmos-based. Keeping with this idea, YC3 asked that all submitted superheroes solve their problems without causing harm or using a weapon. It’s a challenge that Bishop and Walker hope residents will enact in their everyday lives.
As YC3 aims to unite comic book enthusiasts and social advocates, it is their hope that this event will not only entertain but also ignite meaningful discussion: “I’d love to see people walk into the gallery and just have conversations. Not just around the artwork or the artists, but the social issues and the creative ways [in which] the artists were able to resolve them.”
Ultimately, Bishop and Walker intend for YC3 to become a full comic book convention in the future. That said, it will be different from the traditional “big corporate comic con,” as Bishop puts it: “This space really celebrates the original heroes, original characters. The emerging and established artists who [created] superheroes for which they’ve never had a platform to showcase,” Bishop says. “That’s the driving force behind this Yonkers comic book experience.”
Bishop and Walker are partnering with Yonkers Arts to produce and house the YC3 program, where it will be on view from June 23-July 9. An opening reception will take place on June 22 and June 24 will offer a day of family programming.
Photos: Top photo submitted by a workshop participant; middle and bottom artworks by Evan Bishop.
Scott Meaney is a writer based in Mt. Kisco, New York. He has written for numerous publications, including ArtsNews, Dualshockers, Comic Book Resources and various newspapers. He also has been an SEO copywriter for 11 years.
About Mary Alice Franklin
Mary Alice Franklin is ArtsWestchester’s Communications Manager and Editor of ArtsNews. She has a Bachelors in English and Masters in Publishing, and has been published in Paste Magazine, HuffPost, Art Zealous, Art Times, and more.