You definitely started off with a bang. You have come out of the gate with events that have shaken this world up. You have called some of our most influential elders back to the celestial plane. You have also put the comic book world on notice. You have literally changed a universe:
The Marvel Universe.
Secret Wars #9 was finally released, the climax to an event that has set the tone and direction of this venerable creative playground for the foreseeable future.
Actually, Secret Wars is the culmination of Jonathan Hickman’s vision of the Marvel Universe, which began with New Avengers #1. To see this extremely ambitious meta-story unfold, in hindsight, is pretty amazing, especially when you consider the ever-increasing corporate nature of DC and Marvel coming to the fore. What’s truly interesting, if you really think about it, was that the hero of this meta-tale, which truly changed the Marvel Universe, is not Doctor Doom nor is it Reed Richards.
You see, while this mini-series signaled the end of the old world and its symbolic parents the Fantastic Four (much like Crisis On Infinite Earths put to bed the Silver Age of the DCU with the death of Barry Allen), the architect of the new world was another Jack Kirby creation; perhaps his most important creation depending on who you’re speaking to:
The Black Panther.
Yes, T’Challa is the real hero of Secret Wars. I would argue that for the past few years, we were seeing what the Marvel Universe had become through T’Challa’s lens. Understand I know that I am reaching here. There is nothing to back-up my thoughts. However, what is unmistakable is that the King of Wakanda was instrumental in creating the new Marvel Universe. Thanks to the Infinity Gauntlet, T’Challa dismantled Doom’s Battleworld and created something that merged universes as opposed to having them tear each other apart. He created something more inclusive, more “colorful,” something better than what was before. Here is an article that promotes a very ballsy theory, but quite valid: http://graphicpolicy.com/2016/01/15/the-new-marvel-universe-born-out-of-africa-and-afrofuturism/
Now, don’t get it twisted. I don’t think that Hickman created a more diverse, more inclusive Marvel Universe out of some notion of social responsibility. I don’t think that Marvel signed off on this direction out of any sense of social justice or any dedication to representation. This was a smart business move, pure and simple.
46.7% of comic readers are women. One in five comic book readers are Black or Latino. Diversity was the buzzword in 2015 and it’s only getting louder as we begin 2016. In other words, the world outside of the fantasy world of comics has changed. And, Marvel wants to get as much of that money as possible.
So, of course in the new Marvel Universe that T’Challa created, you are going to see more characters that reflect the real world the reader lives in. That has always been the strength of Marvel. That’s what makes Marvel different from DC. That’s what makes Marvel more accessible than DC. They have played to the strength of their creative business model’s core philosophy, and it’s paid off handsomely.
On the flip side, this weekend marked the 4th annual Black Comic Book Festival at the Schomberg Center in Harlem. From everything that I saw posted, it was and extremely successful affair which showcased the diversity and evolution of the African American presence in the independent and mainstream comic book industry. All of the attendants, professional and fan, remarked how amazing the festival was. Lines were around the corner. Creators were selling work left and right. I, of course, was very disappointed that I couldn’t attend this year. It is my goal for 2017 to be at this event. In case you missed it, here are some of the panels that occurred thanks to our comrade Karama Horne AKA The Blerd Gurl:http://theblerdgurl.com/media/panel-replay-from-black-comic-book-fest/#more-6703
Simultaneously, the 2016 Black Comix Arts Festival is happening on the West Coast of our nation in San Francisco. I guarantee that this event will be just as successful as the BCBF.
In the first two weeks of this New Year, the presence of the Black Hero is being felt throughout the country. And, it’s going to just get Blacker as the year moves forward. From Firestorm and Hawkgirl’s appearance in Legends of Tomorrow to the continued presence of… Oh hell, let’s just call Diggle Spartan in Arrow (thanks, Felicity) and J’onn Jonzz in Supergirl, to Falcon and War Machine in Captain America: Civil War with the cinematic introduction of the aforementioned Black Panther, to the Luke Cage series which will bring Misty Knight to the world of Netflix, the Black hero (as well as the Brown hero) is going to play front and center in this brave new world.
What’s even more important and celebratory is that we are going to see more work from creators of color in this landscape. Again, with Marvel leading the charge in the mainstream, we are going to have the pleasure of enjoying David Walker and Sanford Greene’s Power Man and Iron Fist as well as Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brain Stelfreeze’s Black Panther alongside the minority dominant Ultimates, Squadron Supreme, Avengers, Ms. Marvel, Red Wolf, Spider Man, Captain Marvel and more. We’re going to see Afua Richardson and Ashley A. Woods get down and become trailblazers for women of color… Black women… Working for the Corporate Two. Of course, the Corporate Two need to do much more in this regard to their hiring practices, but this is a small step in the right direction.
Most important, we are going to see the continued growth of creators of color in the independent scene rising up to the challenge and creating fascinating, interesting and financially successful concepts. From Marcus Williams’ Tuskegee Heirs to Greg Anderson-Elysse’s Is’nana The Were-Spider and Jason Pearson’s return to Body Bags (all successfully funded via Kickstarter), the landscape has truly changed.
We have our own convention network now, and it covers the major areas in these United States. From the BCBF to BCAF, from ONYXCON to ECBACC, from SOL-CON to M.E.C.C.A. CON, our network is solid and it’s expanding…
And don’t get me going on Social Media… We got that joint on lock.
The world has changed. They are no longer the standard. They are no longer the example to follow. We no longer want to be like them. Their fantasy world is no longer theirs and they are afraid. They are desperately trying to turn back the clock, to impede progress. They tried to halt evolution. Because of that, they now face revolution. If you are offended by this paragraph, you are They and I apologize that I am not here to comfort you in your time of fear and grief.
Representation matters and here we are representing to the fullest.
So, no more talk of whether or not independent comics by creators of color are viable. No more questioning whether there is an audience for this kind of work by this type of creator. No more asking, “Where is the next Milestone.” No more asking, “Why doesn’t DC or Marvel have more Black characters.” As we have seen, and will continue to see, this aspect of the industry is here in full force, firmly entrenched. Our heels are dug in. We have built the foundation on which this new nation has, and will continue, to emerge.
David Bowie famously sang, “We can be heroes.” Well, here we are, on the page and behind the scenes… We are the real Black Heroes…
Fear us… Better than that, celebrate us. We were a village. We have become a nation. Ubuntu.