Unapologetically Me

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know it’s been a minute since my last post. What can I say? I have been extremely busy. With working on TWO Horsemen projects, teaching and giving presentations among other things, it has left very little time to post on this blog.

One of the things I’ve been busy with is writing for role-playing games. Never thought that I would become a part of that industry as a writer, but here we are.

I’ve been contributing to Onyx Path / White Wolf Publishing’s World of Darkness franchise, which includes Vampire: The Masquerade and Wraith: The Oblivion (mad shout-out to Matt McElroy of Drive Thru Comics for recommending my work to the team). I had been tasked to create characters and design worlds for these games providing me with the opportunity to add something truly different to this venerable brand. I have had the rare pleasure of complete freedom in my voice and approach to these worlds. I have been truly unapologetically Black in my language and world-building with the complete support of the Onyx Path and White Wolf organizations.   

Here is a character I created for Vampire: The Masquerade. When developing her, the spirit of my dear departed uncle Ronald Williams entered my body giving this character her voice and attitude. Visually, my cousin Q Uetta Nunnelly was the inspiration for this character’s look.

What can I say? My people have mad swagger.

If The Horsemen was created to honor my Liberian heritage, then these characters definitely pay homage to my African American clan, the Williams family.

But, enough jibber-jabber (a pun I never I thought I would use) from me. Ladies and gentlemen, the incomparable Francois Mamuwalde

Latrice Royal
Latrice “Muthertuckin'” Royale was an inspiration for Francois Mamuwade’s fashion sense…

You wanna know my story? Well, I suppose. It’s not like I have anything to hide. Have a seat while Mother gets herself ready for this show. This is gonna take a minute.

So, my government name is Clarence Sherman Wilks. If you tell anybody that, I will find you and stake you with this eyebrow pencil. My daddy, Herbert Wilks, was from Autagua County, Alabama. He moved to Harlem in 1940 looking for work like they all did. Daddy did all kinds of things. He was a porter, drove a cab and also ran numbers on the side for Ms. Stephanie St. Clair. That’s right. My daddy was rollin’ with the Madam Queen of Policy!

Madame Queen of
The Madame Queen of Policy

He met his future wife, the beautiful, the stunning, the GORGEOUS Gwendolyn Price at the Savoy in 1942. All it took was one dance and that was it. They got married six months later and they went to work. Mama popped out the twins right off the bat. Constance and Joann were born in 1943, then my brothers Herbert in ’45, Alvin in ’47, and then my sister Juanita in ’49. After pushing out five kids in six years, they promised themselves that they would have no more kids. Problem was, Mama and Daddy enjoyed fuckin’ too much.

Ok. Do not act new. You wanted me to tell you MY story. So, don’t be actin’ all shocked by the way that I tell it. This is how I talk, honey, and I changing’ that for nobody. We are all grown up in here.

Anyway, I was born on September 17, 1951. I know I look damn good for my age, honey. When they say, “Black don’t crack,” I am living proof.

I was the baby of the family. I knew it and made sure everybody else in the family knew it, too. Mama always doted on me and I got away with everything. On top of that, I had a real slick mouth. Mama would always make my brothers take me when they went out. She knew that I would give the 411 without hesitation. I was a little snitch, honey. Oooh, it would make my brothers and sisters so mad!

Sidebar: I’m trying something new tonight. I’m going for an “Olivia Pope meets Angela Davis” kind of vibe. I call it “Power to the People while running B613” realness. Yes? No? Doesn’t matter. I’m committed.

Olivia Pope
Olivia Pope’s style is impeccable…

Now, where was I? Oh, yeah. I knew I was different from a very young age. My sisters would grab me and dress me up like a little girl. They had me in walking in Mama’s shoes, putting on her jewelry and wearing her wigs. Oh, those heifers pulled out all the stops. They thought they were getting me back for all the times that I got them in trouble. What they didn’t know at the time was that I loved every second of it. Playing dress up was my thing. I told you my Mama was beautiful and I wanted to look just like her.

You know how the story goes. If you know the words, feel free to sing along. Mama cried and prayed to God to get the demon out of her child. Daddy had a fit and tried to beat manhood into me. It all became too much. I ran away from home in ’68 and found myself on the streets of Greenwich Village. I was going to prove my family wrong and become a famous performer. Comedian, singer, dancer, it didn’t matter. I was going to be a star and Manhattan was the place to make it happen.

Angela Davis
And, what else can be said about Angela Davis’ “Black Power” cool?

It is extremely difficult to become a big-time celebrity when you are Black, gay and homeless. I had to fight off the bums who would try and steal my little bit of stuff when I slept on the park benches. I had to run from cops who were cracking down on the “perverts” bringing down society. I wound up selling mouth and ass on the street to the Wall Street businessmen on the “Down Low” and the soldiers in the closet going off to Vietnam for rent money and cigarettes. Those early days were rough, honey.

How’s my lipstick? Poppin’, right?

I was at the Stonewall when the riot started that Saturday night in June of ’69. That was an historical moment for me. Not because of the riots starting the whole movement and everything, but because that was the night I saw Erzulie for the first time. Now, this is a couple of years before we met for real. She was already a legend amongst the scene. There were all kinds of rumors about her. Everybody knew that she used to be a man, but some of the other stories? Some said that she had been around since the 20s.Some said that she never aged. Some said that she was a vampire and drank blood to stay young and fabulous. I didn’t pay any attention to all of the fairy tales, but when I saw her in the flesh? It was like watching sunshine in the darkness, honey.

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Again, Black folks led the charge for freedom in thins country. Do not get it twisted…

After the riots though, I knew I had to get my shit together. I wasn’t gonna let anybody use me and throw me away anymore. I had a voice and I was gonna use it, cotdammit! I started telling jokes on the corner for spare change. I was out here reading people left and right working on my material. I was able to “mop” some dresses, wigs and make-up so I could put together some looks.

My first drag name was Baby Love. The whole Motown girl group thing in the early days inspired me. I started performing in bathhouses and the clubs in ’70. I wowed them sweaty young things while making sure my face didn’t melt off in the heat. I started to get a little following, child! I was making moves! Every now and then, I would catch a glimpse of who I thought was Erzulie in the crowd. But, every time I would try and find her after my set, poof! Nowhere to be found. I swear, at a certain point I thought I was making her up as motivation to keep going.

I was also a big fan of horror movies. I loved to scare myself, girl. I would sneak into movie theaters to catch the dollar show and sit in the dark wishing I had a big, strong man to grab his shoulder and bury my head into his chest so I could avoid the really scary moments.

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The night when everything changed…

August 25, 1972. I will never, as long as I live, forget that night. This new vampire movie called Blacula had opened. You know that film? Anyway, William Marshall was all elegant and stuff with that strong-ass voice playing a Black vampire prince in love with that fine-ass Vonetta McGee. I loved that movie! All the time I was watching, I thought to myself, “Yaaasss, Mamuwalde! Come bite me!”

You know that old line, “Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it?” Well, there was this white boy sitting a couple of seats over. I know, I know, but he was fine, girl. All long hair and broad shoulders, big strapping corn-fed muthafucka! I felt him staring at me while he was rubbing his crotch. I got the message loud and clear. I didn’t feel any cop vibes coming off of him and we were in a theatre outside of the usual spots where cops were harassing the bull dykes and the sissies. Plus, it had been a while since I stopped turning tricks. Mama ain’t had any in a while and did not mind ending her drought with a tall glass of milk.

The theatre was pretty filled up. We were in the back where no one could see us. I moved to the seat next to him and replaced his hand with mine on his crotch. I undid his pants and was about to get busy doing my thing when he yanked my head up and bit my neck. It happened so fast, I couldn’t even scream. I saw my life flash before my eyes as I was dying I saw my parents, my brothers and sisters. They were looking at me with judging eyes, shaking their heads, blaming me for getting into this situation and saying this was payment for going against God’s law.

Could you hand me my wig, baby? The purple one. Wha’chu mean the color is off? It’s supposed to be off! Don’t you worry about my skin tone! I know I’m dark! I have a look happening here! It’s gonna be so off, it’s on! Don’t ever question Mother’s fashion sense!

I swear, you ‘bout to get my pressure up and I don’t even have a heartbeat…

ANY WAY… I woke up under a pile of garbage in a dumpster the next evening. The muthafucka took me out back to the alley and threw me away like trash. It was worse than being raped. I was abandoned, I was thirsty, I had fangs, I couldn’t walk out in the middle of the day anymore… Child, I was a mess.

I tried to learn about my new condition as best I could, but vampire movies are not educational films. At least I could see myself in the mirror so I could fix my face. But the rest of it was a sad state of affairs. I resorted to feeding off of rats because I was scared that I was gonna turn anyone I bit into something like me, too. I was so scared; I didn’t know what I was gonna do. The stress was messing with my performance, which also meant it was messing with my money and I wasn’t making that much money to begin with. I was bombing on stage, singing sad-ass songs; people were starting to hate Baby Love.

I became so depressed that I was ready to end it all. It was New Year’s Eve and I decided that after my last show at the bathhouse, I would stand in the middle of the Village and watch the sunrise. Just burn up in the middle of the street to ring in 1973. I opened with The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face by Roberta Flack. As I looked out into the sea of bored faces, I Erzulie again. I thought it my mind was playing tricks on me. But then, she started moving closer until she got up to the front. Child, the goddess was real! I felt the spirit come back and proceeded to bring the house down… Baby Love was back!

But, that was only the beginning. After the show, Mama Erzulie came up to me, gave me a hug and told me it was gonna be alright. I found out that the stories about her were true. She was a vampire and so was I. She took me in and gave me a home. She became my mentor and my friend. She saved my life and gave me a purpose. She’s the reason why you’re sitting here, getting on my nerves while I get ready for this show.

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Bob, the Drag Queen was also a touchstone in the development of “Mother” Francois…

I am the first member of the legendary House of Lilith. I am the Mother of the legendary House of Mamuwalde and the fiercest bitch in all of the goddess’ creation. I am Francois Mamuwalde, but you can call me Buffy because I am here to slay all y’all muthafuckas!

Respect my name.

Chicago by Night – Vampire The Masquerade 5th Edition from Onyx Path and White Wolf Publishing will be coming soon to a tabletop near you. Peep the evolution of the Kindred universe.

Later…

http://www.griotenterprises.com

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Psychic Capital

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Who need a hero?

This is an article celebrating the worldwide release of Black Panther on the silver screen…

Seriously.

But first…

The construct of Whiteness is an exclusionary one. It’s really the promise of capitalism wrapped up in skin color. It is a tool designed by the rich to keep the poor separated. It was used as a fantasy to keep the white immigrants separate from the soon-to-be enslaved Blacks by giving the illusion that skin color made them better from others who were in the same economic situation.

It’s the ultimate marketing campaign and, the ultimate Ponzi scheme.

In order to become white, you must surrender your cultural identity because again, Whiteness is supposed to get you closer to economic freedom. The Europeans immigrants embraced this wholeheartedly. Being Italian or French or British or German, etc. Is a hell of a lot different than being white.

This is also evident with immigrants of color aspiring to this goal, to assimilate, to be respected, knowing this will never happen. They can sacrifice their culture, but the skin color will always be a deterrent to the perceived capitalist ideal.

Killmonger
The prodigal son, the would-be Revolutionary so poisoned by rage that he becomes the very monster he wants to destroy…

Whiteness has no culture, it has no soul, and it has no positive aspect to its nature. The construct of Whiteness was built on violence and exclusion.

Whiteness breeds and promotes mediocrity. No matter what a white person achieves, it pales in comparison to achievements of the other. The obstacles that institutional Whiteness places in front of the other when overcome makes that achievement that more inspirational and salient. That is a reason why Whiteness appropriates other cultures to give an illusion of substance for Whiteness is a parasitic pathology.

That is exactly why when someone talks about White Power, they speak of exclusion and the denigration of the other in order to feel powerful.

White Power? White Supremacy? They are terms that illustrate the ultimate inferiority complex. Hence, the mass shootings, the police brutality, the Alt-Reich, the Trump regime…

These cats are soft A.F.

Shuri
The smartest person in the room…

Now on the flip side, Black Power is a response to that. And, despite what some may try to say, Black Power is inclusive. It’s always been. It’s had to be. From slavery to Reconstruction to Jim Crow to the Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter, Black Power understands that alliance is the key to salvation.

Black Power represents diversity, justice and inclusion. Black Power has allied itself with Latino communities, Asian communities, First Nation, LGBTQ and yes, even poor white communities to affect positive change for everyone, not just themselves. Black Power challenges everyone to be excellent, not just mediocre.

Therein lies the difference.

What’s happening with these brittle spirits is that their #PsychicCapital is diminishing day by day. These mediocre fools whose culture is the only thing that makes them worthy, the ones who voted for the homunculus of their mediocrity made flesh because of his promise to return them to glory, are reminded of how ultimately worthless they are without the comfort of privilege more each day.

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The General, the right hand, the true daughter of Wakanda

We don’t genuflect at their altar anymore. They can’t handle our level of clapback when they try to get verbally brolic. Their chosen leader is an incompetent blowhard who no one respects in the global arena. They know we see them as pitiful human beings. They know we don’t fear them. They feel the thousand cuts as we openly mock them. Their #PsychicCapital has declared insufficient funds while, despite their efforts of physical and mental terrorism, our stock continues to rise.

I don’t even get angry at them anymore. I laugh at their insecurity and bathe in their tears. It’s better than Shea butter.

Which brings us to Black Panther.

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The first love, the spy turned activist and one-third of Wakanda’s Red, Black and Green

Ok, full disclosure:

I wasn’t surprised by the costume and set design of Black Panther. I wasn’t astounded by its depictions of African societies, gender roles, spirituality nor the political conversations the film created or brought to the surface…

Because, with The Horsemen, I’ve been swimming in that same creative pool for over twenty years.

Instead, I felt a sense of validation. I felt a sense of relief. I felt a sense of pride. I felt completely Liberian and completely African American. For a brief moment, I felt the entire Diaspora connecting, becoming as one in celebration of our pure and unfettered selves. For 2 hours and 14 minutes, we were liberated. We were free.

Ryan Coogler achieved the impossible. He took a problematic character called the Man-Ape in comics and made him a breakout star in Black Panther. Okoye is the Storm people wish Storm could have been in the X-Men movies. Shuri is our amazing little sister who created perhaps the ultimate clapback against those of diminishing returns who attempt to deride our collective Black achievement and joy. Killmonger is the charismatic would-be revolutionary whose blind rage and limited vision make him a villain. We, the Diaspora, could see our true selves, dichotomies and contradictions intact, in these characters.

M'Baku
The rival cum ally, the surprise fan-favorite

This just in: Black Panther’s estimated worldwide debut is $387 million dollars. It’s the biggest domestic opening weekend ever for a film released in February… Or March… Or April.

Congratulations to the cast and crew of this film. Y’all have officially made history.

Putting this into a certain context: Blade is the equivalent of Sweetback’s Badasss Song, Luke Cage is Shaft and Black Panther is the Superfly of Black superheroes in cinema…

As those three films defined the Blaxploitation genre, Blade, Cage and BP define the Black superhero, in particular, and the superhero movie genre, in general, to a certain extent.

After all, the modern superhero film all started with Blizzade…

Now, back up, and don’t rain on my parade. This next bit is my fantasy…

Somewhere, I imagine that Wesley Snipes is sitting in a chair in full Nino Brown mode. The chair swivels to reveal Mr. Snipes tenting his fingers. His mouth slowly forms a smile as he thinks to himself…

“Mission Accomplished.”

This is the power of Psychic Capital.

This is what happens when we are shown in our full glory. Black Panther has made a huge deposit into our collective accounts. Now, take this energy and use it to support those of us who grind every day whether it is in the arts, activism, politics, economics or whatever. Use this power to help make a better world.

Wakanda Forever.

www.griotenterprises.com

www.gofundme.com/GriotEnterprises

 

 

Comics Are Hip Hop: The Remix

Comics are Hip Hop.

I think it’s fair to make that comparison. The creators of what would become the basis of superhero mythology (i.e. Siegel & Shuster, Kane & Finger, Marston, Lee & Kirby) came from impoverished and marginalized first-generation immigrants whose hopes and dreams manifested in these new literary beings, which inspired generations… Kinda like Hip Hop…

Also, both comics and Hip Hop were, and still are to an extent, considered cheaply-produced, low-brow entertainment before they achieved economic success and cultural relevance… They both still carry that in their DNA.

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Since I’m not able to attend the BCAF events this weekend, I’m going to celebrate by digging into my Black Comix library.

Comics are an integral component to Hip Hop.

The essence of Hip Hop is dual consciousness. Darryl McDaniels famously said that DMC was his Superman persona. Tsidi Ibrahim, a daughter of South Africa, takes the name Jean Grae as her Hip Hop secret identity.

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five dressed like ghetto superheroes. The Soul Sonic Force took the Afrofuturistic comic-book stylings of Parliament / Funkadelic to another dimension of peace, unity and having fun. The Wu-Tang Clan is basically the Hip Hop Avengers. The first major Hip Hop release, Rapper’s Delight by the Sugarhill Gang, name-drops Superman. The Souls of Mischief name-drop Colossus and Magneto on their debut cut Let ‘Em Know. Of course, The Last Emperor’s Secret Wars is self-explanatory.

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Since I’m not able to attend the BCAF events this weekend, I’m going to celebrate by showing love to some of the artists who walk the line between Marvel, DC and the indie world.

Understanding the history of comics is critical in making new and interesting material. Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics series would be required viewing in my class, especially, the Milestone episode. That episode clearly illustrates that the emergence of Hip Hop was a direct influence on the rise of the Black Comix movement. Hip Hop created larger-than-life musical superheroes that gave hope to a generation. Hip Hop gave the oppressed a voice that would resonate across the globe, a voice that despite best efforts cannot be silenced.

The reason why the Black Comix movement is called such is because of the creator, not the creation. The creator will define the creation, no matter how inclusive in content. The fact alone that we create makes whatever we do political. So, I say lean into it not in the sense that your creation is the definition of “Blackness” (which is extremely diverse anyway), but in the sense of being proud that you, as a Black creator, are making work that, hopefully, challenges and entices whatever audience you are attempting to reach.

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Since I’m not able to attend the BCAF events this weekend, I’m going to celebrate by showing love to some of the writers, actors and MCs who crossed the media stream and brought their storytelling skills to the comic book game.

That’s the thing… The artists, writers and creations of the Black Comix are walking legends. In their own way, each of them has changed the game. They showed us that Black stories matter, and that, independently, Black folks can create dope-ass concepts on par, and in many cases, better than anything that the “Corporate Two” could come up with.

They are the reason Blade kicked off the modern superhero film. They are the reason John Stewart became the Green Lantern for a generation. They are the reason Marvel hired Christopher Priest to set the stage for Black Panther’s ascension to the probably most-anticipated movie of the year.

Best believe, DC and Marvel were checking out what was going on, what all of these creators and more brought to the table, and knew they had to step their game up.

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Since I was not able to attend the BCAF events this weekend, I’m going to celebrate by showing love to some of the creators throughout the Diaspora showing that this movement is not limited to just African American culture nor is it just happening in the United States.

Each of these titles, each of these, inspired me to create The Horsemen and start Griot Enterprises. Not the Justice League, not the X-Men, but these books. And, I’m not the only one who thinks this. You all are part of my comic book DNA, of every brother and sister making comics today, and you should be celebrated as such…

And, I’m waiting to see what y’all are going to do next…

So, as you anticipate the release of Black Panther next month and check out Black Lightning on Tuesday, support the brothers and sisters creating our heroes outside of the “Corporate Two.”

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Since I was not able to attend the BCAF events this weekend, I’m going to celebrate by showing love to some of the collectives and independent comic book companies that continue to move the needle. There is strength in numbers.

The 4 Pages | 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape anthology series is a celebration of where true diversity exists in this industry, a sampler for potential fans to enjoy our intellectual properties, a showcase for existing and upcoming talent as well as a source guide for those fans to purchase our books.

It’s the multicultural Heavy Metal magazine for the 21st Century.

Please support this project and more by donating to the www.gofundme.com/GriotEnterprises campaign today…

And, ya don’t stop.

www.griotenterprises.com

Don’t Call It A Comeback: The Horsemen Have Returned To Save Us All

THE HORSEMEN: DIVINE INTERVENTION (20th Anniversary Edition)

ISBN: 978-1941958001

120 pgs. • $24.99 (print) • $9.99 (digital)

Written and Created by: Jiba Molei Anderson

Pencilled by: Jiba Molei Anderson, MCL

Inked by: MCL, Patrick Brower

Colored by: Digital Broome, Eric Pence

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The first family of Afrofuturism in comics…

Griot Enterprises is celebrating 20 years of publication with the 20th anniversary release of The Horsemen: Divine Intervention.

Created, written and illustrated by Jiba Molei Anderson, The Horsemen is the saga of seven ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances, as the gods of ancient Africa possess them. The gods have chosen them to protect humanity from itself…whether humanity wants them to or not. They combat those who control the fate of the planet. Through their actions, the world would never be the same.

“I wanted The Horsemen to reflect my worldview,” Anderson explains. “I was tired of the ‘famine and underdeveloped’ narrative that the continent is saddled with in the United Sates,” Anderson explains. “I also wanted to address the problems that Post-Colonialism left behind on the continent as well.”

With the release of the first issue in 2002, The Horsemen became a pioneer of the Afrofuturism movement in comics by using the Orishas as the basis for the superhero mythology. “I wanted to work with a different faith system, a system that when The Horsemen was created, no one, I mean no one, was thinking of,” Anderson says. “No one was thinking of using the Yoruba religion and its deities, the Orishas as a launch point for a comic book world at that time.”

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They have returned to save us all… Whether we want it or not…

The Horsemen would go on to become a critical, if not financial, success. Its fan base would include Hollywood talents such as Tony Todd (Candyman, Star Trek DS9 and Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings, Stranger Things) and comic book royalty like the late Dwayne McDuffie (Justice League Unlimited, Milestone Media). In addition, The Horsemen and Griot Enterprises served as the link between the independent Black Comix scene of the 90s (Brotherman, Tribe) and 21st Century renaissance currently happening in the industry with books like Niobe: She Is Life, Is’nana: The Were-Spider, Black and the entire Catalyst Prime imprint.

“We have seen many great African American superheroes in comics,
but we never saw an iconic African American superhero team,” Anderson continues. “We didn’t have our Justice League, our Avengers. We, as comic book fans of color, young and old, didn’t have a universe where our heroes reside…

… Griot Enterprises fills that void.”

The Horsemen: Divine Intervention is available at Amazon, Comixology, Drive Thru Comics, IndyPlanet and Peep Game Comix in print and digital formats. In addition, Griot Enterprises is running a GoFundMe campaign to help fund the company’s 2018 convention schedule.

Please contact www.griotenterprises.com for inquiries and more information.

Moving The Needle

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Don’t sleep… We have been activated…

Imani Lateef, owner of digital comic book store Peep Game Comix and Todd Johnson, co-creator of the seminal independent Black comic book Tribe started a spirited discussion on Facebook. The conversation was a subject that I had written a few articles worth over the years. You can view them here and here.

Sparked by the upcoming Black Panther film, Mr. Lateef posed this simple question:

“Will Black Panther help Black Comix? Why or why not?”

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Is he really coming to save us all?

This prompted Mr. Johnson to start a post on his own page. This is how his thread began:

“Thinking about a recent post from Peep Game Comix’s Imani Lateef regarding would there be any financial blowback of the Black Panther movie into the other African American comic properties my short answer was NOPE.

 IMHO, opportunities for this market to penetrate will not be successful by solo efforts for a multiple of reasons that could be discussed and debated ad nauseam. Conflicting mindsets, experience, business acumen, street smarts, egos, finances, time dedication present unique leadership conflicts.

 But I would offer that a Think Tank model would be successful in formulating best practices, coop purchasing, marketing strategies, information hubs, mentorship/partnership possibilities, etc.; a representational body from many areas.

 The pioneers: Arvell Jones, Keith Pollard

 The legends: Denys Cowan, Turtel OnliLarry Stroman, Dwayne Turner, Guy A. Sims, Baba Dawud Anyabwile, Roosevelt Pitt, Brian Stelfreeze

 The next wave: Ashley Woods, Brandon EastonN Steven HarrisMshindo Kuumba, Eddy Newell, Jamal Yaseem Igle, Ken Lashley, Kevin Grevioux 

 The promoters: Andre Batts, Yumy Odom, Maia Crown Williams, Vince White, Robert Stull, Alex Simmons, Joseph Wheeler III, Brandon PeytonKeithan Jones 

 The brain trust: Joe Illidge, William H. Foster III, John Jennings, Marcus H. Roberts, Sheena C. Howard 

 The dreamers: Michael WatsonJiba Molei Anderson, G Walker Teon, Sean MackPeter DanielJ.m. HunterRobert Garrett, Greg Anderson Elysée, Victor Dandridge Jr.

This list by no means is all just some I thought of off the top of my head as an example. A think tank model harnessing a group such as above and more could do some damage on many fronts.”

The responses to both posts were immense and varied, from professionals and fans. The pros and practitioners, for the most part, were picking up what both Imani and Todd were laying down. But, in some parts, the conversation disintegrated into well-worn conceits of DC and Marvel Comics’ wish fulfillment of representation or the tired musing of some monolithic entity like Milestone Media controlling the flow of content and information. Some also cite Image as an example of independent success easily replicated. And that thought spooked a creator or two. It was as if the participants in the thread were having two conversations.

I wonder if they watched the Image episode of Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics on AMC. The Image of today is WAY different than the early days. Even then, the early success of Image was based on the star power the creators established at Marvel.

It’s hard to have people think are operate collectively in a more productive way than just wishing out loud.

Some cats love to dream, but the reality is too much for them. Some of them are fans playing professional. A lot of them think that DC and Marvel are the end all be all of comics. Most of them don’t know comic book history, especially when it comes to the Black presence in comics. So, becomes a perpetual “Johnny Come Lately” situation.

Being a fan of DC or Marvel comics does not make you an expert on the business of comics

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Milestone 2.0… Good to have you back

One of the issues, I feel, is that some desire a Black Comix monolith using, mistakenly, Milestone Media as the model for such an entity when the truth is the Black Comix movement is more akin to Hip Hop: different viewpoints and concepts while emulate different aspects of the culture. Hip Hop is not only East Coast/West Coast or Def Jam or No Limit or Death Row. It’s all of those entities, artists, journalists, etc. contributing to the culture. Why should the Black Comix movement be any different?

It’s not about controlling creativity. It’s more about how we can market effectively. Again, folks flow in different spaces beyond the creation of comics. It’s not a question of conforming to one mindset, but more of how can we collectively continue to spread the word and celebrate the diversity of the movement.

We also have to step away from the gaze and operating practices of the “other.” I feel as if some think that the current of comics’ business affairs, audience and structure is the only way to go when that is so not the case. The current business model doesn’t really work for us financially or creatively. So why stick with a faulty model?

 

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We are a different breed… We must move in a different lane…

As creators of content, part of our responsibility is to grow the market. To pursue a classic comic book market model (i.e. monthly pamphlets, Diamond distribution, comic book shops, etc.) is a losing battle. That model requires a major influx of funds to compete in a stagnant space dominated by corporate-owned entities with the resources to maintain their control.

What I’ve found way more successful is the pursuit of the wider book market / educational route. I’ve found the signs of much bigger success there. Parents and teens enjoy the representation they see because it’s not Marvel or DC. And, there’s a growing niche field of study concerning comics and pop culture thanks to the emerging interest in Afrofuturism.

For example, books like Sheena C. Howard’s Encyclopedia of Black Comics, John Jennings’ & Damian Duffy’s Black Comix & Black Comix Returns and my own 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape anthology series are concentrated texts that show the diversity of the movement. We all can big up these projects as examples of how we get down. A few articles about these books in different spaces as well as social media and cons like M.E.C.C.A. Con, Sol-Con, BASM, ECBACC and others can bring more eyes to what we’re all doing.

Black-Comics
If you want to move the needle, is this book in your collection?

In essence, we’re creating cultural artifacts more so than just a new line of comics. So, we should think of, and market, them as such.

In terms of creating a sales metric of the movement, I think we could use successful Kickstarter campaigns and book sales of the Black Comix projects that received a great amount of grassroots marketing exposure. I’m thinking of books like Black, Trill League, Midnight Tiger, etc. along with the Catalyst Prime line as a baseline starter.

It would take all of us to promote each other. We all have fan bases, some shared, some unique. So, why don’t we promote each other more than sometimes wanting to be the G.O.A.T? Teamwork makes the dream work. That’s one of the ways Hip Hop became a dominant cultural force.

Black Comix Returns
We do not need to be a monolith… There is unity in collaboration.

If we did a full-court press cross-promoting some of the best that the Black Comix movement has to offer, beyond Facebook or Twitter, we could make an impact and move the needle.

It would take a series of articles that would focus on known books like Niobe: She Is Life, Black, the Catalyst Prime line, Milestone 2.0 etc. as well as projects like Bounce, Project: Wildfire, The Horsemen, Is’nana: The Were-Spider, DMC and more published in places like Afropunk, IO9 and “mainstream” outlets as well as CBR, Newsarama, etc, but I think that this will bring awareness to what we do.

We’ve got the network in place. We just need to flex it properly and unapologetically.

It’s ours for the taking. Hip Hop didn’t look for approval and built its audience the old-fashioned way: one person at a time. Then, the “mainstream” came in and co-opted aspects of the culture. We can do the same. We have the tools…

Of course, we should avoid the whole co-opting thing, though. Because as Paul Mooney said “Don’t have too much fun, or they’ll take you too…”

Currently Griot Enterprises has a GoFundMe campaign happening. Your contribution will help us keep this train moving and you can cop some cool rewards for your donation. So please, become a part of Griot Enterprises and a part of the future of entertainment… We tell great stories!

www.gofundme.com/GriotEnterprises

www.griotenterprises.com

All I want for X-Mas…

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Hi. I’m Jiba Molei Anderson: writer, illustrator, designer and educator. I’m also the creator of The Horsemen, curator of the 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape anthology series and publisher for Griot Enterprises.

Since 1997, Griot Enterprises has existed for one reason:

To tell great stories featuring diverse characters.

When Griot began, we had seen many great African American superheroes in comics, but we never saw an iconic African American superhero team. We didn’t have our Justice League, our Avengers. We, as comic book fans of color, young and old, didn’t have a universe where our heroes reside…

… Griot Enterprises filled that void.

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The New Mythology

In the past, we have paid for everything out of our own pockets. Because of this, our market saturation hasn’t matched our output and dedication to the company. However, despite our limited resources, Griot has made an impact on this industry. Our books have become educational tools and cultural touchstones. We have been celebrated as vanguards of the Black Comix movement and as pioneers of Afrofuturism in comics.

Our books can be found online at Amazon, Comixology, Drive Thru Comics and Peep Game Comix. And we have established distribution with Independent Publishers Group through our alliance with Cedar Grove Books, publisher of Young Adult books.

Now, we are in a moment where creators of color and their properties are beginning to receive their just due. From companies like Catalyst Prime to properties Like Niobe: She Is LifeExo: The Legend of Wale WilliamsBlack and others, the call for diverse images and heroes has never been louder…

We’ve built the foundation. Now, it’s time for Griot Enterprises to take it to the next level and, we need your help.

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4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape

We have planned an aggressive marketing and sales campaign to bring our books to the masses in 2018. We will be attending at least seven conventions across the U.S. throughout the year to build our fan base and promote our brand.

Here’s our proposed convention schedule:

April: C2E2 (Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo), Chicago, IL
May: ECBACC (East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention),

Philadelphia, PA

June: BASM (Black Speculative Arts Movement), Los Angeles, CA

August: Wizard World Chicago, Chicago, IL
September: M.E.C.C.A. Con, Detroit, MI
October: Sol-Con (Black and Brown Comics Expo), Columbus, OH
October: New York Comic-Con, New York, NY

The funds generated from this campaign will pay for convention appearances, printing books, production and shipping. It only takes a dollar to participate, but if you give a little more, we have a bunch of rewards to show our appreciation…

You could even become part owner of the entire operation.

For 20 years, Griot Enterprises has been the future or entertainment. Help us in continuing our mission. We are a village. We will become a nation…

Cheers!

https://www.gofundme.com/GriotEnterprises

http://www.griotenterprises.com

The Power of Myth

Creating mythology is a tricky thing.

Curating mythology is even trickier.

The superhero is a mythological construct unique to American society and the backbone of the American comic book industry. The superhero is the construct of immigrants; people from different cultures coming together to form a new nation where the unique attributes of each culture contribute to the greater whole.

As, arguably, the first immigrants (other than British and French) of America, African Americans were, initially, left out of the equation when constructing the superhero myth and were relegated to supporting roles. With the Black Panther’s appearance in Fantastic Four, African Americans were introduced into the mainstream consciousness of superhero myth.

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The Jackie Robinson of comics… Looking good at 51…

The current curator of the Black Panther myth is Ta’Nehisi Coates, national correspondent for the Atlantic and recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship…

And some people have an issue with his handling of this particular mythology.

This article was cause for a bit of uproar:

https://www.bleedingcool.com/2017/11/22/ta-nehisi-coates-black-panther-167/

Personally, I don’t mind Coates’ take on the Black Panther mythos. His are the kind of stories that I, to an extent, would write. It has been slow building and it is a depiction of Wakanda as if Wakanda were an actual African country dealing with real political issues. I would argue that Coates’ run on the series will be as impactful as runs from Don McGregor, Christopher Priest and Reginald Hudlin.

That being said, some people are just not feeling Coates’ work on the title. So much so, some feel as if he is deliberately trying to bring down the Black Panther in terms of relevance and trying to destroy Wakanda in a way Namor or Doctor Doom or Thanos never could.

Which… Is ridiculous.

BP vs. Doom
The monarch beef is real…

I understand some of us want to see T’Challa infallible, invincible, with Wakanda being the Afrofuturistic utopia of our dreams. We want our Black Panther bitchslapping Steve Rogers for putting mayo on his sandwich instead of mustard. We want to see the Dora Milaje single-handedly taking down S.H.I.E.L.D. because it’s Tuesday. We want that escapist wish fulfillment that we are not getting in our daily lives, especially in today’s political and social climate.

The problem is, utopias don’t exist. Not even in comics.

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A Call to Arms

For example, did Coates force misogyny and rape culture into the mythos of Wakanda, or did he use the construct of Wakanda as a vehicle for commentary to what is happening not only on the continent, but in the world right now? Wakanda is in Africa, which has been dealing with issues concerning rape culture and slavery recently.

Have we already forgotten Boko Haram? Are we oblivious to the slave trade happening in Libya right now? Anyone?

In Coates’ interpretation, despite its majesty, Wakanda is no different than the creation of other great nations: not only African, but globally…

Well, with the exception of aliens losing their land instead of other Africans.

And, that little wrinkle in the Black Panther myth has added to the ire that some Black Panther fans have for the writer.

In reality, Wakanda has never been simon-pure. Priest had Wakanda dealing with an uprising from within at the beginning of The Client, McGregor created Killmonger in Panther’s Rage as a revolutionary whose basis for overthrowing Wakanda was tribal and personal, etc.

BP_The Client
My favorite iteration of the Black Panther mythos…

T’Challa, from McGregor’s run onto Coates, has always been depicted as a man torn between duty and desire. In the mythology, he has always preferred being a hero to being a king much to the chagrin of the Panther god and the Black Panthers before him (see the 1988 mini-series by Gillis and Cowan, Who is the Black Panther Pt.2 by Cowan and Lashley, the Black Panther: Man Without Fear arc by Liss and Francavilla for examples).

Besides, it’s not like T’Challa hasn’t met, or worked with, despots before. When the first Illuminati became the Cabal following the events of the Secret Invasion storyline, Namor tried to get T’Challa in to balance the likes of Doctor Doom, Loki, the Hood and Emma Frost. In New Avengers, he was working alongside Namor after Atlantis attacked Wakanda in Avengers Vs. X-Men and after Namor sold out Wakanda again to Thanos’ forces in Infinity.

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Doing the unthinkable… Because that’s what rulers do…

So, after Doomwar, AVX, Infinity and Secret Wars, I would imagine Wakandans would feel some type of way about T’Challa and the court after those back-to-back tragedies. In fact, that’s referenced in the first issue of Coates’ run.

In the Nation Under Our Feet story arc, rape culture is an issue in Wakanda. Aneka and Ayo, the rogue Dora Milaje now the Midnight Angels addresses it, which brings attention to the royal court. With the rebellion and subtle coup from the confusion happening, the Midnight Angels, along with his sister Shuri (who returns from the Djallla following the “Living Death” as a more powerful and unique character), Changamire, Hatut Zeraze and the Crew help T’Challa not only quell the rebellion, but also helps to institute a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy in order to deal with such issues in the future.

And, the problem is? Apparently for some, Coates’ work taints the fantasy of an Africa we, as African Americans, wish existed.

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From struggle, a new nation is born…

But, what good is showing a better world without showing the struggle it took to create it? I mean the X-Men works as a concept because a marginalized people, mutants, fight for a better world that doesn’t currently exist… right?

One doesn’t have to like every iteration of a character or gush over every interpretation. For instance, my issue with Hudlin’s run was that I thought it was too light, too “comic book.” I felt he eschewed the complexity of Priest’s work for more of the wish-fulfillment aspects of Black nerdom. It was fun, but left me feeling a little flat.

BP and Storm
A good run, but not my favorite. However, Hudlin did fulfill the wishes of the Black Panther and Storm’s many fans…

A major strength of Priest’s run was, as a writer and former editor of comics, he understood the mechanics and quirks of the medium. He was able to marry the more complex themes of the book with the action that comic book fans are used to.

I think an issue with Coates’ run is that he is too serious a writer for some fans. In addition, outside of the bit of writing he does for Marvel, he’s not known as a writer of fiction. Scriptwriting, especially comic book scriptwriting is not his forte. For me, it’s akin to Doo-Bop (Miles Davis’ last album before he passed); a Hip Hop album by one of the all-time great jazz musicians, but didn’t spend a lot of time in the realm of the new music form he was trying to emulate.

Miles Davis Doo Bop
The last recording from a legend…

Coates does bring depth and nuance to his run as a myth curator. He just doesn’t have the seasoning of good comic book storytelling to make his run more palatable. In other words, people don’t feel joy reading his stories. They are not fun. Because of this, people complain about the weight of social issues he brings to the mythology as if the mythology of the Black Panther wasn’t steeped in social commentary from his first appearance in 1966 onward.

Not only is Coates challenging the mythology, he’s not making it an easy go for the comic book reader. He’s writing the book as if it were a fictional novel written by an academic social essayist (which, he is). There’s not enough escapist water for the casual reader when the sociological meat is too hard to swallow. If Coates had a stronger comic book writing sensibility, I feel that his critics wouldn’t be too up in arms about the subject matter he’s brought to the mythos.

At the end of the day, the core issue is whether or not Coates can write entertaining comics. Honestly, comics are not his strong suit. They are not in his wheelhouse. He was brought onto the title because his name carries weight outside of comics…

Like Reginald Hudlin.

So, do I think Coates’ run is terrible?

No.

Do I think his run has been great?

No.

Do I think Coates is a superlative comic book writer?

Hell, no.

But, do I think he has an agenda to “bring down” the Black Panther as a character?

No.

Finally, for those of you getting your pitchforks and torches ready (not the Tiki torches because these fans aren’t butter-soft alt-right scrubs), you’re not going to see more of the “problematic” elements of Coates’ run in the upcoming Black Panther film. So, Coates’ detractors should take a deep cleansing breath. The ingredients for this particular dish will probably be 2 cups of Priest’s run for story, 1-¼ cups of McGregor for world-building, 1 cup of Hudlin for attitude with a dash of Coates for social relevance.

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King… Hero… Legend…

Again, I would have incorporated a number of elements Coates introduced in his curation of the Black Panther myth if I were approached by Marvel to write the book. The difference is that I understand the mechanics of comic book writing and would have incorporated more of the wish fulfillment of the fan base. It would have been, hopefully, as complex as the work of Christopher Priest and Don McGregor. It also would have been as fun as Reginald Hudlin’s work as well.

But, I didn’t. That’s why I created The Horsemen

Because I am in the business of creating mythology.

http://www.griotenterprises.com

 

 

 

 

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