The Indie Comic Book market is grown. It’s been grown since, roughly 1995… The African American audience is just a little late to the party.
In my opinion, this is what happened: the success of Milestone, T.R.I.B.E., Brotherman, Spawn, Martha Washington and others in the early 90s put the “Corporate Two” on notice. It showed that African American characters sold, and sold well.
So, they, in turn, looked at their stable and started promoting them more and started publishing more books based on those characters (hence Bishop, Steel, etc.). African American readers stopped looking for independent images of themselves because they were “placated” by the “Corporate Two.”
Another reason why the “Black Comics” movement of the 90s failed to gain even greater traction is because of, unfortunately, A.E.G. (Artist Ego Bullshit) getting in the way of some of these cats forming alliances to ensure the movement stayed healthy.
The cool thing is that in the 90s and the early 00s, we saw more brothers and sisters get into the game either through the Indies or the Mainstream (i.e. Ken Lashley, Keron Grant, Sanford Greene, Khary Randolph, Felipe Smith, Jamal Igle, N. Steven Harris, Afua Richardson, Rob Gullory, C. Spike Trotman, etc.).
However, because the African American comic buying public is not an informed one, a lot of us don’t even check to see exactly whom we’re supporting. We just think that by supporting characters of color, we’re supporting the African American presence in comics, which is definitely not the case.
As a result, this is why we are in this situation right now… And, I am glad that we, as creators, are taking steps in order to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. But, as usual, it is going to take an informed buying public to support the product designed to address their needs.
So, knowing this, as a creator (especially as a creator of an underserved demographic) how do you compete in this landscape?
First things first, instead of trying to create a whole line, work on one concept and make that concept the absolute best it can possibly be. Out of all your concepts, which one keeps coming back to the front of your mind? That’s the concept you should concentrate on.
Second thing is this: When creating your own concept, DON’T LOOK TOO OTHER COMIC BOOKS FOR INSPIRATION.
The reason is that your creation won’t be your own; it’ll just be a derivative of your favorite comics.
Instead, think about what you haven’t seen in comics, what stories, you feel, haven’t been told in comics. Write from your interests outside of comics.
Be in the world. Live in the world. Keep an eye on what’s really happening not just outside your window, but on the global scale. That will be your inspiration for creating something unique and different.
As an artist, you’ve got to study. Study anatomy, study proportions, study classic drawing so that you have a strong foundation to take the stylistic chances to make your vision a unique one.
Finally, study the competition. Don’t just look at their art or read their story, look at the lettering, look at the coloring, look at the design of the package. Compare different books (not just DC and Marvel) and how they design their covers. What works for you? What doesn’t? How can you incorporate what they did that caught your attention into your package?
This is just a start, but I hope this helps you on your way.
BTW, as this is Black History Month here in the U.S. a group of independent creators of color (including yours truly) have gotten together on Facebook and formed an event called BLACK COMIX MONTH. This an amazing display of solidarity and a chance for you, the reader, to see the diversity and talent that we have to offer. Click on that link to join in the festivities.
In addition, we’ll be offering FREE books for download. My contribution? The Horsemen: Divine Intervention will be available until February 10 at Drive Thru Comics… That’s right, all three issues absolutely FREE!
The Blaxis is spreading… Cheers.