Now, I love comics and comics are much more than DC and Marvel. Furthermore, I love a GOOD comic with an engaging story, dazzling artwork and an attractive package. If it is a book featuring a character of color, so much the better. When I read a comic, I want to be entertained. If any of these elements are missing from a book, I will not be entertained. Therefore, I will not purchase the product.
Of all the “minorities” in comics, African Americans, by the numbers, are the most represented in “Mainstream” comics. In fact, the African American presence in the medium of sequential art is not only prevalent, it is also culturally influential. From George Herriman’s Krazy Kat to Negro Comics from the 40s to Milestone Media in the 90s, We have set trends and flipped the script.
As professionals working for the Big Two, we are everywhere. We hide in plain sight. Ken Lahsley, Sanford Greene, Olivier Copiel, Doug Brathwaite, Khary Randolph, Brain Stelfreeze, ChrisCross, Jamal Igle and many, many more (I haven’t touched the “Old School” pioneers) have been consistently killing it throughout their careers, creating resonant works that we still talk about to this day. We are definitely more prevalent as artists than writers currently when it comes to DC and Marvel, but the writers who have worked it raised the bar (i.e. Christopher Priest, Brandon Thomas, Kevin Grievoux and Dwayne McDuffie) for EVERY writer working for the “Mouse” or the “Rabbit.”
In terms of characters? We’ve got plenty in both the “Mainstream” and Indie rivers. Black Panther, Blade, the Falcon, Storm, Shadowman, Martha Washington, Spawn, Black Lightning, Vixen, Blackjack, Chocolate Thunder, Brotherman… The list goes on and on.
Yet, we’re the ones who bitch about DC and Marvel not doing enough. You don’t hear the same rumblings from the Latino, Asian and other cultures. Why? Because they ain’t waiting for DC or Marvel… They’re making they’re OWN books for their OWN communities and the communities are supporting their creators.
The “mainstream” entertainment industry is an industry of followers, not innovators. It becomes aware of the “fringe” when the “fringe” starts making noise.
In the case of the Asian comic book community, they own US. Hell, we’ve been trying to mimic them for the past 20 years. They got over by taking what works in American comics and Animation and applying Asian sensibilities, exporting it back to us as Manga and Anime.
A huge problem with some independent comics of color (and most of the creators in the Big Two) is that they focus on the color of the character as the core of the concept and content rather than focusing on making good comics period. Culture should be used to enhance the character or concept rather than being the sole focus. And yes, some creators of color’s world view is as limited as the suburban mind set.
When I created Griot Enterprises and, in particular, The Horsemen, I knew the challenges that this industry presented. I knew that my product had to exceed the standards DC and Marvel set in order to gain notice. Otherwise, my efforts would have been for naught. I wanted to create a book that could stand toe to toe with properties like The Avengers or the Justice League. I wanted to create iconic characters that everyone could relate to…
…That just happened to be African and African American.
Using African culture and mythology as a root, I also used mythologies from other cultures, which expanded that universe to reflect the entire world.
As a result, The Horsemen Universe truly represents the world. Because of that, I have a truly global fan base interested in what I am going to produce next.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is cross-cultural marketing.
Next Step? Marketing the hell out out of my property.
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