Rayn C., a native New Yorker, is a geek, a mom, and a creator. She is an avid comic reader, has been a comic con attendee for over a decade and a vendor at various conventions, markets, and fairs selling items such as coasters made from recycled comic books. 2017 is the year that a dream came true when she opened a comic book shop in Union City, NJ with her partner, Jazmin. She now spends her nights playing board games and Dungeons & Dragons way past closing time in the shop. We spoke to Rayn about Thought Bubble Comics and being a creator.
Black Girls Create: What do you create?
I recycle comic books into coasters. I go to cons and I cosplay. I’m a con vendor and right now I am actually in my comic book shop creating a counter.
BGC: What gave you the idea to make the coasters?
I used to get yelled at for water rings on my furniture and I was like “I don’t want some ugly ass coasters in my house.” So I took some beat up comic books that my brother had lying around and made them into coasters, and some folks were like “yo that’s really awesome, can you make me a set?” Making 1 set became making 10 sets and making 10 sets ended up with me going to conventions and selling them.
BGC: What are some of your favorite characters to cosplay as?
I have yet to do an elaborate cosplay. I did two of them last year, I dressed up as Lieutenant Uhura for New York Comic Con a year ago, and then I dressed up as Bulma earlier last year. Wig and all. That was really fun. Wigs are really itchy though.
BGC: What made you want to start a comic shop?
I live in a neighborhood with a crap ton of kids. I’m also a mom, I have 2 daughters who are geeks themselves, and I was talking to them and realized that there was nothing for the kids to do in the neighborhood. For me, giving comic books to my kids is a really big deal. I wanted to share the awesomeness that is Marvel and the DC universes. And I realized they’re really into it, and their friends watch the cartoons for it, but there’s really no access to comic books in the area, so I just decided to try it out and see how it all works out.
BGC: Why do you create?
It’s a shitty world we live in, so I figure it’s a pretty good way to destress. It’s a form of escapism, but I sometimes like the Marvel universe better than I like ours. I like to make things and take my mind off all the shenanigans happening in the world.
BGC: So you mentioned that you have kids so for the comic book shop is it mostly going to be marketed towards kids and what’s that age range? Who is your intended audience?
I’ve gone to comic book shops for over a decade and I feel like the best ones have a variety. Veterans, older folks can come in and battle it out over the counter about who’s the best superhero. But then there’s also an area for kids to see the new comic books and something more age appropriate. So I’m trying to do the same thing here. I’ll have kids section, I’ll have the typical comic books. And I’ll try to get some old stuff, vintage comics, to pull in the older crowd.
BGC: What are some of your all-time favorite comics?
That’s the kind of conversation that could start a battle. I’ll have to say my all-time favorite was the Birds of Prey series. I don’t have all of them, I’m missing about 20 issues, but I have the majority of the collection. And it was because I was tired of seeing all these guys kick ass and save the world, so I was looking for comic books of chicks who lead the helm. And the comic book owner was like “I have this pile of these really old Birds of Prey comics that don’t really sell,” and gave them to me for 50 cents each. And I took the whole thing home and binged it really hard. So that’s been my absolute favorite because it was the first series where I got to see a whole bunch of women whoop ass with no guys in the pictures as much. That was inspiring for me. So I always go back and reread those as much as I can.
BGC: Who or what inspired you to do what you do?
I would say my kids, since they’re always asking me about the next comic book, and I was like oh maybe I’ll just get it in the store.
BGC: Do they help out with stuff?
I have them on one side of the store and they’ll play with scraps of wood that I have cut out - they’re “helping” - but building little things on the other side of the room. It’s more like they just want to hang out and see the process. How often are kids allowed to go into businesses and look at how it’s built from the ground up, you know?
BGC: Why is it important to you as a black person to create?
Black people have created forever and how often do they get recognition for it? For me, I would have to say that the reality really hit me when I went to my first comic con 10 years ago and barely saw another person of color in sight, besides me and my brother. We were like neon blinking signs. But I think once we understood how few of us there were in the cons we made more efforts to go to more conventions and bring more of our friends, and if you go near a comic con now, it’s so diverse and there’s little black kids showing up and cosplaying and it’s one of the most amazing things you could see, that joy. And black people make amazing things.
I’ve been going to cons for 10 years now, and I’ve only started cosplaying last year. I was always shy about it because the rare times that I would see cosplayers of color, it wasn’t as widely received years ago, but now it’s a much more open door policy. So we should just take every opportunity to create as much as possible and just put it out in the universe.
BGC: How do you balance creating with the rest of your life?
I work two jobs, I raise two girls, and I’m also opening a comic book shop. So for me creativity always happens at the crack of dawn or late at night. I have to squeeze out the time and place for it. I built a tiny studio in my house a.k.a. a work table, just to squeeze in my work in my own space. I won’t lie, there are months where I don’t get to create because everything else is demanding my attention. Like you have to pay bills. But the moment I get a chance, I’ll definitely be at that table, any opportunity that I get. I also horde a lot of arts and crafts.
BGC: Do you have any advice for young creators/ones just starting?
So it took me 6 months to perfect one process in making the coasters, which was the layering and the preservation of the comic books without damaging them. I screwed up for 6 months over and over and over. And I think the most important thing I learned about creating is that creativity is not just about successes. It’s mostly about the failures. And once you get through all the failures, you line up everything you figured out and learned in the process and you come out with some amazing shit. So don’t think the failures are bad, they’re pretty good.
BGC: What has been the response from the community so far?
There are a bunch of kids and teenagers who stand in front of my door when I’m working like “what’s going on in here, what are y’all doing?” Two days ago I was working and I told this teenager that I’m opening this shop and he went running down the street screaming “yo this shit gone be lit!” So there’s definitely an enthusiastic response so far, and some people stop by when my door is open and are like “thank you for doing something,” because this place was like a trash can for two years. It was a vacant dead spot. Technically it was supposed to be sold, the landlord was expecting gentrification to give him a big fat check, and I was like “nah, give it to me.” I’m going to do free art classes for the kids in the neighborhood, we’re gonna do cosplay events, we’re gonna have Yule Balls, we’re gonna do all these things for the kids, why would you want to give this space away to someone who doesn’t give a shit about us? And he gave it to me - I twisted his arm a bit, but I got it.
BGC: Do you have any future projects that you’re thinking about working on?
There is an assortment of things that I want to do. Right now my main obsession is playing with wood and resin as mediums. I’m very ambitious. I never picked up a tool my whole life but I said I’m just going to build some shit and see how it works out. I’m trying to build out more custom furniture and have engravings of old superhero logos and villain logos and do that as commission based work, and see if people like it. And if they don’t, then I’ll move onto another project. I’m trying to graduate superhero stuff to more adult-looking stuff and see how people react. Every time I take the coasters to cons, they garner a lot of attention. I used to sell them online, but I took the website down because I plan on selling them in-store now. And I’m trying to organize a small geek convention in my neighborhood too. And maybe I’ll try cons again, but the shop is taking up a lot of attention right now.