The Secret Revealed

So, this article got everybody in a tizzy:

Comics: You’ve Got Your Diversity, So Why Don’t You Buy Them?

It’s an old chestnut, to be sure. Hell, I’ve written at least five articles on this subject alone. Still, as Diversity has become the number one topic in the comic book industry (yes, more prevalent than Batman Vs. Superman and Captain America: Civil War).

Wakandan Push Back
300 K in advanced sales… Marketing, beeyotch!

The “Corporate Two” will make a big initial bruhahah about a “diverse” project, but not follow up after the first issue’s release (i.e. DC’s handling of David Walker’s run on Cyborg). In fact, if you know your A-list properties have that built-in audience that’s carrying your line, how about spending less time marketing the obvious and spend a little more money, and attention, on your “struggling” or “off-beat” properties.

Diversity is more than just the color of your character… It’s also the tastes of the reading public.

Now, back to the independent portion. Say it with me one more time with feeling, people…

You build your audience one customer at a time.

This is where conventions and social media come into play. This is where you need a plan… Marketing 101. From my experience, this is the real work.

Although time intensive, creating the book is the easy part in making comics… Because it’s fun to create. As an Indie, keep in mind that you are not going to sell DC or Marvel numbers… You don’t have to. You don’t have the same overhead that those companies do.

Chuck Collins’ Bounce built its fanbase one comic at a time… Now collected in its first print volume…

In addition, trying to do a monthly comic when that is not your main job is kind of not the way to go nowadays since the only brick and mortar distributor, Diamond, is not really checking for Indies. You’re better off either doing a webcomic to build your audience and then create a trade when you have enough material, or creating an original graphic novel (OGN).

This model has way more shelf life than a 32-page book and easier to sell to parents or people looking for something new. In fact, new fans aren’t checking for “floppies.” The new reader, I’ve found, prefers the trade or OGN because of the fact that there is a complete story to read rather than buying one issue and waiting 30 – 60 days for the next installment.

“Floppies” only work on the old guard of fandom as part of our culture involves collectability. The new fan, because of the emergence of digital, doesn’t have the same mindset. So, when creating and marketing your property, think of the fan yet to be than the fan that was… Does that make sense?


DC Trinity
Started from the bottom, now we here…

The thing I have to remind myself is that it took over 80 years for DC to become DC and, like, over 60 years for Marvel to become Marvel. We’re babies in this game, and it’s a long game; it’s a marathon, really. The build is slow, but as long as you move forward, not backward, you continue to gain that traction you’re looking for.

This answer is really simple: make product that meets or exceeds the standard of your average DC, Marvel, Dark Horse or Image comic.

Now, what is the standard? Look at any comic book on the stands at your local comic book store… That’s the standard. Batman is the standard. Power Man and Iron Fist is the standard. Lumberjanes is the standard. Saga is the standard, you feel me? Flat out, your product has to… has to… Stand toe to toe with those books (art, story, lettering, package design, etc.) and others because they are your competition.

You don’t have to spend 4 -6 grand a month in advertising… As an Indie, one simply does not have that kind of money. And, in all honesty, if you create a product that meets, or exceeds, the standard of acceptable industry quality, it will sell.

What do these books have in common? They all meet the standard…

But, when it comes to pushing your books, that’s where being a salesman comes into play. Honestly, the market has always been saturated with good product. Today is no different. And, there is always room for more.

It’s really not that hard to sell your book as long as you feel your book is worth selling. If you believe that your book is unique, if you believe that your concept is strong, if you create the book that you want to read and feel is missing in the landscape, you will be able to sell that book.

So, where’s the best place to meet and sell to your potential audience? Conventions… With the exception of San Diego. You ain’t gonna sell jack at San Diego, but you will be able to sell at C2E2, M.E.C.C.A. Con, ECBACC, DragonCon, Onyxcon, etc. Make a plan of attack for whatever convention, or conventions, you are able to attend and execute that plan. Be engaging to your potential audience. Be courteous. Stand at your booth as opposed to sitting down. Smile. Shake hands and kiss babies. All of this seems basic, but it’s true. If you don’t have the dollars, you need to put in the time.

One of the many conventions where you have an audience that may be interested in your product…

Straight up, I don’t have to do a hard sell at conventions for my books. That’s because I produce work that meets, and hopefully, exceeds the standards of the comic book product.

What I have to do is get people to stop and look when they walk by my table, which I’m able to do because I’m able to engage people. I use humor and shared experiences to create a sense of comfort and break the ice with the customer. Then, after introducing the book to the consumer, I let the book do its job to draw the viewer in.

I apply that same philosophy online. That’s why I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. That’s why, in part, I write this blog.

At the end of the day, there is no secret formula to success… Unless, you were rich to begin with. Even then, it doesn’t exist. Everyone’s story of getting to a modicum of success is unique to them. Make a plan of success that is unique to you. This is how it’s done. This is what you have to do.

Flat out, you are not going to get huge sales right away. Those days of the 90s are long gone. Fact is if you’re looking at comics to get paid quickly, you need to find another hustle. First and foremost, you’ve got to make your book for the love. Passion begets passion. Attention to quality begets more eyes looking at your product. Tenacity and consistency begets trust. All of these plus interaction with the buying public begets your audience… You feel me?

Keep grinding…

At the end of the day, this game is not a sprint… it’s a marathon.

Crash of the Titans

It should have been so much better than it was…

I just saw Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. It was not good…

To be fair, I walked in knowing that I was going to be disappointed… Like, I was going to eat at McDonalds including the resignation of gastronomic depression and utter despair that comes with making such a decision.

It was X-Men: Days of Future Past bad… With Days being about 5% better.

Nah. It was bad… Don’t need to see it twice to change my mind. The film was a solid “C” when it should have been an “A.”

That’s not good. Especially when you have a film featuring the three most iconic superheroes of all time in one film.

Truly the best thing about the whole movie…

At least DOFP followed one story thread. BVS was a slapdash (yeah, I said it) Frankenstein’s Monster, but less cute, crappy mash-up of three different storylines from three different franchises. Worst mash-up of The Dark Knight Returns, Death Of Superman with shades of the New 52 Justice League reboot and a dash of the video games Arkham Knight and Injustice ever.

Zach Snyder wanted to make The Dark Knight Returns, but DC wouldn’t let him. He is not a gifted storyteller. As a visual director, his work is lovely. He is the cinematic equivalent of a top-tier, fan-favorite penciller such as John Byrne or, probably more accurate, Jim Lee. He’s fine on a remake or adaptation of a well-written work (see Dawn of the Dead, 300 or Watchmen).

Original stories a la Sucker Punch for example… Not so much. He is no, shall we say, cinematic Frank Miller in his prime. He’s the “dude-bro” type of fanboy who is dazzled by flash and style. He is not known for substantive films that stay with your psyche. His films don’t really invoke the desire to see them over again whether for entertainment or because his films carry layers of nuance that one gleans through repeat viewings.

I don’t even really like Ant Man, but I’ll see this movie again in a second…

In other words, when Avengers: Age of Ultron or Ant-Man pops up on Starz, I’ll watch those films over and over because they are enjoyable, because the narratives and the characters are engaging. Even though these characters have been around for decades, the films make their intricate back-stories and histories accessible for the moviegoer who is not a comic book fan. The stories have singular focus, which means that they can stand on their own while tying into a larger narrative… Kind of like how comics from the “Corporate Two” used to be written.

It’s like this: Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman were fine visually. In terms of brief character development, WW was great. Zach Snyder wanted to do his version of The Dark Knight Returns so bad, the script straight up, word for word, lifted lines from that book like a Diddy sample.

The storytelling, however, was horrible. There was no gravitas, no reason to care about any of these characters. This film does not trust itself nor trusts the history and legacy of these characters. It’s inaccessible to the casual viewer and there is no joy in this film… At all.

I’m sick of seeing the snuff film that is the death of the Waynes over and over again. The only time I smiled is when I saw the Trinity together for the first time. It made its opening weekend money, but the film has no lasting power.

Legends Of Tomorrow
Now, this is a good superhero team show… BVS should have better than this…

I actually wanted more spectacle. At least, it would have been quality junk food… If they were just honest about the film and called it Dawn of Justice, I would have been fine with that. Instead, we got this convoluted thing that, again, tries to hard to play catch-up to the Marvel Cinematic Method while still not trusting the course that DC set to establish their cinematic universe.

Meanwhile at the House of Ideas…

It’s crazy that a comic book release would garner so much attention. I mean we’re not in the 80s and the 90s anymore (even though the strip-mined “story” of BVS would have you believing otherwise)…

And, it’s not like this character has been out of the limelight for any significant length of time. I mean, since 1999, my man has been in no less than 4 successful series, at least 2 of which he was the headliner. He’s had his own animated series as well as appeared in a number of Marvel animated projects.

Yet, today is a special day. With his first live-action film appearance looming, with the massive marketing push that we have never seen for a character of color before him, with pre-sale numbers comparatively equaling the biggest-selling African American comic book of all time (I see you Todd Johnson and Larry Stroman#TRIBE), the King is ready to claim his throne.

Black Panther #1 scripted by Ta-Nehisi Coates and illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze drops today. This is some actual pop culture history happening today, and I guarantee you’ll be more satisfied with this $4.99 expense than the money you lost suffering through BVS…

Today is a day of kings…

And therein lies the difference. With Marvel Studios, with Marvel Comics, this company is confident in the universe it built. So confident, they didn’t compromise what makes the Marvel Universe special to bring their characters to the big and small screens. There is no confusion, no pandering to a fickle audience that does not understand the complexity and rich history of their fictional world. Instead, because of this confidence, Marvel Studios has been able to dominate the film landscape.

Cinematically and in the printed world, DC’s footing is less sure. They constantly second-guess the strength of their brand and their properties (with the exception of The Batman). They spend too much time chasing the success of Marvel, while ignoring what makes the DC brand so special, so unique.

A bigger problem is that the Powers That Be at DC/WB have no idea how to proceed. They’re too busy playing catch-up to Marvel/Disney as opposed to laying out their own path. The benefit of Marvel Studios is that the comics dictate the stories and character developments and the films follow the lead unlike DC/WB.

This team-up is everything BVS should have been…

The DC Universe is not a “grim and gritty” one. It is not dour, nor depressing. It does not reflect the world around us. It is a fantasy world, which strives to be a utopia. Its heroes are benevolent gods that protect the populace from the forces of evil and darkness. There is a sense of legacy in this universe, the passing of the torch from one generation of heroes to another.

In other words, the DCU is kind of corny… And that’s fine. This is what makes the DCU so fun.

On television, the powers that be get it. That’s why Arrow, Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl work. They are fun to watch. They put a smile on your face. The Supergirl/Flash team-up was cute and wonderful. There were moments of unbridled joy between Barry and Kara during their team-up as if you were watching two kids in kindergarten becoming best friends for life.

Watching Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was a chore… And, watching a superhero flick should never feel like a chore.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to prepare for Captain America: Civil War… Now, that’s gonna be a whole lot of fun.









A Dream Realized


an Italian word (literally “little puffs of smoke” in reference to speech balloons), which refers to all comics. In English, the term refers specifically to photonovels or photographic comics, a genre of comics illustrated with photographs rather than drawings. Italians call these fotoromanzi (photonovels). Photonovels are popular in Spain, South Africa, and Latin America, where they are called fotonovelas, and have also gained popularity in France.

What’s happening all.

With this post, I decided to put the dashiki aside and embrace my inner geek by celebrating this moment in time. When I was a young lad, I dreamed of the day that I would see all of my favorite heroes on the big and small screens. I’m talking not just the A-Listers, the obvious ones, but the secondary, more obscure (well, obscure to mainstream audiences) characters coming to life. I thought that day would never happen…

But, we started from the bottom, now we’re here.

So, in anticipation of C2E2 this weekend, in anticipation of Batman V. Superman, Captain America: Civil War, Daredevil and the rest of ’em, enjoy this fumetti love letter created for the twelve-year old that exists in all of us.

See you at C2E2, March 18-20… Cheers!



No Welcome Mat for Fascism: Stop Whining About Trump’s Right to “Free Speech”

Proud of my adopted hometown this week…

Transformative Spaces

FB_IMG_1457891366279 A protester holds up a sign at Friday’s Trump rally in Chicago. (Photo: Aaron Cynic)

So Donald Trump discovered that he wasn’t welcome in Chicago, and some people have a lot of feelings about it. Some of those people hail from the most predictable of corners – Trump supporters, Fox News fans, my friend’s uncle who thinks protests are stupid and too damn loud, etc. Honestly, as someone who was out there protesting on Friday, I would think we’d done a poor job if these types weren’t displeased. I’m not writing these words because I want to respond to their critiques, because there’s no point in arguing with such people.

But the leftists who are shaming protesters?

Your behavior is a special kind of shameful, and you need to find some seats.

From Hillary Clinton to sanctimonious columnists, leftist equivocation in the face of fascism abounds. A full spectrum of people…

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Gods of Egypt is the most racist film ever.

You’re welcome… #BlackFutureMonth

Scott Woods Makes Lists

“Oh, I knows. I knows. I’m just a worn-out ol’ man what don’t do nothin’ but tell stories. But they ain’t never done no harm to nobody. And if they don’t do no good, how come they last so long? This here’s the only home I knows. I was going to whitewash the walls, too, but not now. Time done run out.”

– Uncle Remus, Song of the South (1946)

* * *

When Stargate came out my boys and I went to see it on opening day at the Eastland Cinema 8. Our black consciousness was at peak levels and the trailer for Stargate looked like a black nationalist’s wet dream: pyramids, Egyptian gods, ancient technology, confused white folks…it looked to be awesome. Back then, the world wasn’t able to spoil everything months before it came out, or warn us that Stargate was going to be on some Chariots…

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The African American presence has been evident in comics since the inception of the medium. Granted, for most of the medium’s history, the portrayal of African American culture has, at its best been skewed and, at its worst, offensive. But it cannot be denied that the African American character has always had a place in comic strips and comic books, and the African American comics’ creator has had a hand in developing the art form.

We have been here from the beginning and every day, there is another person of color, with nothing more than a pencil and imaginations, creating sepia-toned superheroes to right wrongs and provide inspiration to future comic book fans.

This is a celebration of the African American contribution to a uniquely American art movement, one, that at over 100 years and counting, has lasted longer than any modern artistic movement in history.

Here now are some of the trailblazers who paved the way for all of us from Milestone to Ania to Gettosake to Griot Enterprises, Black, Tuskegee Heirs, Niobe and so many more of us making comics today.

We salute you.

Krazy Kat by George Herriman


George Herriman’s premise of the series goes a little something like this: Krazy Kat is in love with Ignatz Mouse. Ignatz Mouse rebuffs Krazy Kat’s affections by throwing bricks at Krazy’s head. Krazy takes the brick throwing as a sign of affection from Ignatz Mouse and continues the pursuit. In this abusive situation comes Offissa Pupp, who is love with Krazy Kat, locks Ignatz Mouse up in order to show his feelings for the Kat who is totally oblivious to the good Offissa’s intentions.

Krazy Kat is, unmistakably, a Black comic strip. Through Herriman’s cultural chameleon-like way approaching life and work, he was able to bring his African American viewpoint on life and love to the masses…and the masses ate it up.

Torchy by Jackie Ormes


Created by Jackie Ormes, Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem, starring Torchy Brown, was a humorous depiction of a Mississippi teen who found fame and fortune singing and dancing in the Cotton Club. Ormes became the first African-American woman to produce a syndicated comic strip.

Torchy presented an image of a black woman who, in contrast to the contemporary stereotypical media portrayals, was confident, intelligent, and brave.

Zoot Comics by Matt Baker


Clarence Matthew Baker is the first known African-American artist to find success in the comic-book industry. He entered comics through the Jerry Iger Studio, one of the 1930s to 1940s “packagers” that provided outsourced comics to publishers entering the new medium. Baker’s first confirmed comics work is penciling and inking the women in the 12-page Sheena, Queen of the Jungle #69.

His other artwork for comic books includes the light-humor military title Canteen Kate, Tiger Girl; Flamingo, South Sea Girl, Glory Forbes, Kayo Kirby; and Risks Unlimited. Baker illustrated Lorna Doone for Classic Comics in December 1946, and others.

Baker was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2009.

Black Phantom by Steve Perrin & Ronn Foss


Published in 1964, created by Steve Perrin and Ronn Foss for Mask and Cape #4, The Black Phantom pre-dates Jack Kirby’s Black Panther appearance in the Fantastic Four by two years. This fact makes the Black Phantom the first Black costumed superhero.

The Black Phantom was Lafayette Jefferson, an engineer and soldier who worked with the N.A.A.C.P. to address racial injustice in the southern United States. While traveling, he meets a young white man and orphan named Joey Trager. Together, they become the Black Phantom and the Wraith to battle the likes of the Ku Klux Klan and other opponents of tolerance and change.

Dateline Danger by Saunders & Williams


Inspired by the television series I Spy, the first TV dramatic show to co-star an African-American in a lead role, writer John Saunders and artist Al McWilliams created the adventure comic strip Dateline: Danger! for the Publishers-Hall Syndicate. Introduced as both a daily and a color Sunday strip in November 1968, it similarly was the first in this medium with an African-American lead character, Danny Raven. As in the TV show, the two protagonists were American secret agents who globe-trotted to trouble spots under the cover of another profession.

Friday Foster by Lawrence & Longaron


Friday Foster was an American newspaper comic strip, created and written by Jim Lawrence and later continued by Jorge Longarón. It ran from 1970 to 1974 and was notable for featuring the first African American woman as the titular character in a comic strip.

Early on, Lawrence’s story lines had a harder edge showing the contrast of Friday’s family with her street-wise brother trying to accept her newfound success in the world of magazine publishing. But soon its episodes changed focus to showcase more soap-opera thrills of romance and travel for the gorgeous African-American.

Friday Foster made her way to film in 1975 with the incomparable Pam Grier playing the action-seeking photographer.  Friday Foster is arguably, the first African American comic strip character as a lead brought to the cinema.

Powerman by Avenall, Gibbons & Bolland


Powerman was a British comic book series written by Don Avenall (aka Donne Avenell) and Norman Worker, and illustrated by Dave Gibbons and Brian Bolland that was initially distributed in Nigeria in the early 1970s. The series starred a superhero named Powerman. When the comics were re-published in the United Kingdom the character’s name
became Powerbolt.

An executive from a Nigerian advertising agency approached Bardon Press Features to discuss the idea of making a series with a black superhero; the man and his wife saw that in Nigeria, the comics available were imported and had White protagonists. Gibbons said that he remembered asking why Africans did not work on the strips and hearing that the African artists would likely emerge once comics become popular in Africa.

4 PAGES Volume Three Cover(Facebook)
4 Page 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape Vol. 03 – Doin’ Our Own Thang

This is where we came from. Now, check out where we’re going. Grab Volume 3 of 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape – Doin’ Our Own Thang available now on Amazon, Kindle and DriveThruComics. Support diversity in Indie Comics!


Pop Culture, Politics and Flavor


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