Mike McKone (penciller for Teen Titans, Fantastic Four, Justice League United, etc.) is a Facebook “friend” of mine. He just posted that he’s done working for the “Mouse” and the “Rabbit,” and gonna focus on his creator-owned works.
His fans didn’t bemoan the fact that he doesn’t want to draw DC or Marvel characters anymore and is happy to bounce (he posted his celebratory drinks of choice), but instead are looking forward to his original work, his original vision, and will definitely cop it if, and when, it drops…
Yet, over in these parts, if an Artist of Color said the same thing, around here a good number of us in this group would either beg him to stay on the “plantation,” front on him or her for leaving the “plantation” and definitely would not support said artist’s outside of the “plantation…”
The statement was made to illustrate a point that’s been a frequent topic of discussion and debate in certain circles, not the comic book community in general.
The argument isn’t to “Support Black Just Because It’s Black.” That line of thinking only reinforces the idea that COC (Creators of Color) generate inferior work.
The product has to compete at the level of the competition. It has to stand up against the average book coming from DC, Marvel, Image, IDW, etc. That’s just the name of the game. Keep in mind; the access to creative tools has always been democratic (i.e., anyone can buy art supplies). The attention to craft is something that must be addressed.
Still, if the craft is present, if the product can compete in the comic book realm, the question is (again by some in this group), why is the work considered lesser if not coming from the “Corporate Two”?
A lot of people like to say that art is subjective, but having been an art professor for over 12 years, I can honestly say that there is a criterion for judging whether competent hands or one who’s still developing has made a work.
That aside, even if the “different” work is of the same standard (if not better) than the established work, why is that work still deemed inferior if it has been created by a POC… Especially by other people of color?
Peep game: All illustration, especially comic books, animation, video games, etc., is based on the theories established during the Renaissance (i.e. proportions, perspective, anatomy, etc.). Every artist working today has to understand those concepts in order to produce competent work.
Now, other styles of art and personal interpretation come into play (for example, graffiti, Expressionism, Japanese art, Art Nouveau, etc.), but comic book artists in particular have to work with the established Renaissance theories in order for their vision to “work” for the audience.
Artists of Color are no exception. Even with the diverse interpretations of artists such as Jamal Yaseem Igle, Afua Richardson, Larry Stroman, Ashley A. Woods, Khary Randolph, Sanford Greene, Jason Reeves and myself (to name a few), we all have mastered the basic theories to create some exciting work that not only stands, but supersede much of the competition.
Even in the face of those facts, why do some people of color still find the work inferior if the “plantation” doesn’t distribute it?
In other words: is the work only valid if someone who is not of the culture admires the work? If so, why do some fans of color feel that way?
Is the PoC consumer so passive and unsure of what they purchase, especially if the product (in this instance, comics) is created by a PoC, that they need to see a person outside of the culture purchasing it in order for them to feel “safe” in supporting one of their own?
Do you also feel that, as fans and consumers, we need to delve further into our passion? By that I mean should it behoove us to learn more about the creators rather than the characters?
Do you feel that by learning about the person “behind the pencil” would better serve the FoC in understanding the nature of true representation in the game?
Now, from my years buying and creating comics, I have found many fans somewhat very knowledgeable in who creates their favorite characters. From pencillers to inkers to writers to colorists, they know who does what, they know who the creators look like, etc.
in other words, they are more than fans of the characters, they’re fans of the medium.
Yet, it seems that the only creator that anyone mentions in this group when it comes to PoC creators (well, really Black creators) is Dwayne McDuffie, as if he were the only African American creator in the history of comics.
Beyond the Milestone crew, Reggie Hudlin or Christopher Priest (because those creators have already crossed that “The Man accepts them” goal in the minds of those who hold on to that philosophy), could they name other artists such as Paris Cullins, Keith Pollard, Chuck Patton, Trevor Von Eeden, Denys Cowan and so many others throughout the history of the medium?
Furthermore, is it our job as CoC to educate the CoC audience to the dearth of the African American presence of comics? Personally, I say “yes” as I am proud to be included in the now-classic Black Comix book (do y’all have a copy?).
But, as was seen in the last year (in various threads), there was, and is still, an almost defiant pushback in the revelation of various EXCELLENT titles created by CoC. From the aforementioned “quality” issue to half-assed explanations of marketing from people who clearly don’t understand the practice to even the excuse of not buying from “online” sites due to lack of “trust” of privacy when they use their credit/debit cards on the daily.
So, where is the responsibility of education at this point? Is it on the creator to continue to educate or is it on the consumer of Color to educate themselves on the deeper workings and the idea of true representation in this business?