(By Gideon Fortune for LSU Reveille) Blerd-ish is a podcast and Black comics pop-up shop operated by Baton Rouge natives Keith Cooper and Mark Wallace. The “Dynamic Duo from the Dirty South” use their platform and shop to lift others up and build a sense of community, a trait embedded in the culture of south Louisiana.
The Southern University graduates met some time before the movie “Black Panther” released. “Black Panther” was a revolutionary moment for Black superheroes’ fans, comic book creators and sci-fi fans, which gave the duo an idea. The word “blerd” (Black nerd) was gaining traction. Both Mark and Keith consider themselves blerds. Thus, the podcast Blerd-ish was created. Copper and Wallace use this platform to talk about Black nerd things, and other -ish.
A majority of the podcast is spent highlighting other people. Guests appear on almost every episode to chop it up with the duo and inform the audience of what they are up to. Cooper is constantly searching for new creators that want to use the podcast to highlight their work. Topics discussed on the podcast are vast due to their frequent collaborations. Notable podcast guests included gamer Zombaekills whose profile has risen greatly in the gaming community this past year, Los Angles based and New Orleans born comic book creator and illustrator Jason Reeves, NASA scientist and author Dr. Renee Horton and many others.
Other topics discussed include sports, movies, anime, TV shows, political issues and so on. By creating a space for other creators, they have avoided putting restrictions on the scope of their content.
Black creatives are a group the duo find important. They emphasize the importance of Black people behind the content with their faces on it to provide authenticity. Wallace emphasized the inclusion of Black creatives who took part in the TV shows “Watchmen” and “Lovecraft Country.” This includes artists such as Ashley Woods, who met the pair as a lead guest of the Mid-City Micro-Con in 2019, and who was a storyboard artist for “Lovecraft Country.”
Podcast guest and independent Black creator Jason Reeves was the first client for the Blerd-ish pop-up shop. The success of this pop-up shop led to the creation of an online store featuring comics, art, books and merch from the creators they connect with. Blerd-ish are also affiliates with other companies to sell pop-culture merch including their own. One such affiliate includes Bookshop.org, which puts an emphasis on small bookshop owners.
“We ended up being a platform that would be a gateway for a lot of those artists to get seen by people who wanted their stuff and didn’t even know it.” Wallace said.
Success with the brand came with new exposure but clout was never a goal for the duo. Blerd-ish was contacted by legendary comic book artist Larry Strouman and has even interviewed Lafayette native Rob Guillory, another award-winning creator. The duo started for the love of all things Blerd and are now able to meet people they are fans of. They have seen incremental growth sticking to a quality over quantity approach.
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