Earlier this week, Disney decimated the competition with the reveal of their 2021 content season and beyond. Star Wars fans alone will be gorging on content for years. They’ll be barfing it up like Grogu (Baby Yoda) barfs up blue macaroons.
In the MCU, the abundance of content will give the Marvel fan the same sense of satiation. Loki, What If, Shang-Chi, Eternals, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision, Black Widow, this list goes on and on…
But there was one announcement that divided fandom, specifically Black comic fandom:
Black Panther 2, to be released in 2022, will not feature T’Challa, but rather focus on the country of Wakanda itself and other characters from the first film. This announcement was made because Chadwick Boseman, the superlative actor who brought T’Challa to life, passed away unexpectedly a mere two months ago.
Of course, the obvious go-to would be Shuri taking over the mantle of the Black Panther from her brother. The comic books themselves have shown Shuri as a Black Panther. However, some people (Black men if we’re being completely honest here) are up in arms with claims of Black man emasculation because the MCU will not recast the role of T’Challa nor use CGI to continue Brother Chadwick’s visage, if not performance, in this next film.
Ok. My two cents:
Yes, major characters like the DC Trinity have had multiple people play the various characters. However, there was always a sufficient amount of time between the “changing of the guard” so to speak. Examples include:
Superman: from George Reeves in the 50s to Christopher Reeve in the 70s to Dean Cain in the 90s, etc.
Batman: from Adam West in the 60s to Michael Keaton in ’89 to Christian Bale in ’05, etc.
Wonder Woman: from Lynda Carter in the 70s to Gal Gadot in 2018…
Point being, there were decades in between new actors taking on these roles for new generations.
Now T’Challa, specifically Chadwick Boseman’s performance, has elevated the role of Black Panther to that same mythic status. He made the role his. His performance is forever iconic. And, let’s keep it a buck, no matter who will eventually become the next T’Challa will be scrutinized and compared to Brother Chadwick’s performance… especially for BP2.
In other words: it’s too soon.
Of course people are gonna compare actors who took on the role like the late Sean Connery’s James Bond vs. Daniel Craig’s interpretation of the character. That’s natural.
But again, we’re dealing with generational comparisons. Brother Chadwick passed, what, two months ago?
It is simply too soon.
In addition, though T’Challa opened up Wakanda to the rest of the world doesn’t mean the next film will focus on that. Keep in mind, the MCU is now five years ahead of “regular” time thanks to Avengers: Endgame. It is possible to do a “back in time” BP movie without Chadwick to learn more about the nation and the mantle of the Black Panther (think the third Underworld film Rise of the Lycans) and then go forward in the third movie with a new T’Challa.
The thing is, some folks think T’Challa and Chadwick are the same person, which is not true. Besides, the MCU isn’t dumb enough to kill off a character because an actor passed. T’Challa is making them a lot of money. But I think they are sensitive enough to mourn. And, keep in mind, the whole cast and crew of BP (who are mostly returning) are still in mourning as well. They became a family on set and they are probably not ready to replace their champion.
This is actually a smart move, emotionally, to have BP2 focus more on Wakanda. Maybe the movie would be about other Black Panthers throughout Wakanda’s history. Maybe it’s about young T’Chaka. In any event, BP2 would act as a bridge for the next actor to fill Chadwick’s shoes in the role of T’Challa…
And I would love to see a flick about those who wore the habit of the Panther before the current King of Wakanda.
Of course, this is all speculative. None of us own the character and The Mouse will do what The Mouse does. We’re just gonna have to wait, see, and consume (or not) what they give us.
This is an article celebrating the worldwide release of Black Panther on the silver screen…
The construct of Whiteness is an exclusionary one. It’s really the promise of capitalism wrapped up in skin color. It is a tool designed by the rich to keep the poor separated. It was used as a fantasy to keep the white immigrants separate from the soon-to-be enslaved Blacks by giving the illusion that skin color made them better from others who were in the same economic situation.
It’s the ultimate marketing campaign and, the ultimate Ponzi scheme.
In order to become white, you must surrender your cultural identity because again, Whiteness is supposed to get you closer to economic freedom. The Europeans immigrants embraced this wholeheartedly. Being Italian or French or British or German, etc. Is a hell of a lot different than being white.
This is also evident with immigrants of color aspiring to this goal, to assimilate, to be respected, knowing this will never happen. They can sacrifice their culture, but the skin color will always be a deterrent to the perceived capitalist ideal.
Whiteness has no culture, it has no soul, and it has no positive aspect to its nature. The construct of Whiteness was built on violence and exclusion.
Whiteness breeds and promotes mediocrity. No matter what a white person achieves, it pales in comparison to achievements of the other. The obstacles that institutional Whiteness places in front of the other when overcome makes that achievement that more inspirational and salient. That is a reason why Whiteness appropriates other cultures to give an illusion of substance for Whiteness is a parasitic pathology.
That is exactly why when someone talks about White Power, they speak of exclusion and the denigration of the other in order to feel powerful.
White Power? White Supremacy? They are terms that illustrate the ultimate inferiority complex. Hence, the mass shootings, the police brutality, the Alt-Reich, the Trump regime…
These cats are soft A.F.
Now on the flip side, Black Power is a response to that. And, despite what some may try to say, Black Power is inclusive. It’s always been. It’s had to be. From slavery to Reconstruction to Jim Crow to the Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter, Black Power understands that alliance is the key to salvation.
Black Power represents diversity, justice and inclusion. Black Power has allied itself with Latino communities, Asian communities, First Nation, LGBTQ and yes, even poor white communities to affect positive change for everyone, not just themselves. Black Power challenges everyone to be excellent, not just mediocre.
Therein lies the difference.
What’s happening with these brittle spirits is that their #PsychicCapitalis diminishing day by day. These mediocre fools whose culture is the only thing that makes them worthy, the ones who voted for the homunculus of their mediocrity made flesh because of his promise to return them to glory, are reminded of how ultimately worthless they are without the comfort of privilege more each day.
We don’t genuflect at their altar anymore. They can’t handle our level of clapback when they try to get verbally brolic. Their chosen leader is an incompetent blowhard who no one respects in the global arena. They know we see them as pitiful human beings. They know we don’t fear them. They feel the thousand cuts as we openly mock them. Their #PsychicCapital has declared insufficient funds while, despite their efforts of physical and mental terrorism, our stock continues to rise.
I don’t even get angry at them anymore. I laugh at their insecurity and bathe in their tears. It’s better than Shea butter.
Which brings us to Black Panther.
Ok, full disclosure:
I wasn’t surprised by the costume and set design of Black Panther. I wasn’t astounded by its depictions of African societies, gender roles, spirituality nor the political conversations the film created or brought to the surface…
Because, with The Horsemen, I’ve been swimming in that same creative pool for over twenty years.
Instead, I felt a sense of validation. I felt a sense of relief. I felt a sense of pride. I felt completely Liberian and completely African American. For a brief moment, I felt the entire Diaspora connecting, becoming as one in celebration of our pure and unfettered selves. For 2 hours and 14 minutes, we were liberated. We were free.
Ryan Coogler achieved the impossible. He took a problematic character called the Man-Ape in comics and made him a breakout star in Black Panther. Okoye is the Storm people wish Storm could have been in the X-Men movies. Shuri is our amazing little sister who created perhaps the ultimate clapback against those of diminishing returns who attempt to deride our collective Black achievement and joy. Killmonger is the charismatic would-be revolutionary whose blind rage and limited vision make him a villain. We, the Diaspora, could see our true selves, dichotomies and contradictions intact, in these characters.
This just in: Black Panther’s estimated worldwide debut is $387 million dollars. It’s the biggest domestic opening weekend ever for a film released in February… Or March… Or April.
Congratulations to the cast and crew of this film. Y’all have officially made history.
Putting this into a certain context: Blade is the equivalent of Sweetback’s Badasss Song, Luke Cage is Shaft and Black Panther is the Superfly of Black superheroes in cinema…
As those three films defined the Blaxploitation genre, Blade, Cage and BP define the Black superhero, in particular, and the superhero movie genre, in general, to a certain extent.
After all, the modern superhero film all started with Blizzade…
Now, back up, and don’t rain on my parade. This next bit is my fantasy…
Somewhere, I imagine that Wesley Snipes is sitting in a chair in full Nino Brown mode. The chair swivels to reveal Mr. Snipes tenting his fingers. His mouth slowly forms a smile as he thinks to himself…
This is what happens when we are shown in our full glory. Black Panther has made a huge deposit into our collective accounts. Now, take this energy and use it to support those of us who grind every day whether it is in the arts, activism, politics, economics or whatever. Use this power to help make a better world.
I think it’s fair to make that comparison. The creators of what would become the basis of superhero mythology (i.e. Siegel & Shuster, Kane & Finger, Marston, Lee & Kirby) came from impoverished and marginalized first-generation immigrants whose hopes and dreams manifested in these new literary beings, which inspired generations… Kinda like Hip Hop…
Also, both comics and Hip Hop were, and still are to an extent, considered cheaply-produced, low-brow entertainment before they achieved economic success and cultural relevance… They both still carry that in their DNA.
Comics are an integral component to Hip Hop.
The essence of Hip Hop is dual consciousness. Darryl McDaniels famously said that DMC was his Superman persona. Tsidi Ibrahim, a daughter of South Africa, takes the name Jean Grae as her Hip Hop secret identity.
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five dressed like ghetto superheroes. The Soul Sonic Force took the Afrofuturistic comic-book stylings of Parliament / Funkadelic to another dimension of peace, unity and having fun. The Wu-Tang Clan is basically the Hip Hop Avengers. The first major Hip Hop release, Rapper’s Delight by the Sugarhill Gang, name-drops Superman. The Souls of Mischief name-drop Colossus and Magneto on their debut cut Let ‘Em Know. Of course, The Last Emperor’sSecret Wars is self-explanatory.
Understanding the history of comics is critical in making new and interesting material. Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics series would be required viewing in my class, especially, the Milestone episode. That episode clearly illustrates that the emergence of Hip Hop was a direct influence on the rise of the Black Comix movement. Hip Hop created larger-than-life musical superheroes that gave hope to a generation. Hip Hop gave the oppressed a voice that would resonate across the globe, a voice that despite best efforts cannot be silenced.
The reason why the Black Comix movement is called such is because of the creator, not the creation. The creator will define the creation, no matter how inclusive in content. The fact alone that we create makes whatever we do political. So, I say lean into it not in the sense that your creation is the definition of “Blackness” (which is extremely diverse anyway), but in the sense of being proud that you, as a Black creator, are making work that, hopefully, challenges and entices whatever audience you are attempting to reach.
That’s the thing… The artists, writers and creations of the Black Comix are walking legends. In their own way, each of them has changed the game. They showed us that Black stories matter, and that, independently, Black folks can create dope-ass concepts on par, and in many cases, better than anything that the “Corporate Two” could come up with.
They are the reason Blade kicked off the modern superhero film. They are the reason John Stewart became the Green Lantern for a generation. They are the reason Marvel hired Christopher Priest to set the stage for Black Panther’s ascension to the probably most-anticipated movie of the year.
Best believe, DC and Marvel were checking out what was going on, what all of these creators and more brought to the table, and knew they had to step their game up.
Each of these titles, each of these, inspired me to create The Horsemen and start Griot Enterprises. Not the Justice League, not the X-Men, but these books. And, I’m not the only one who thinks this. You all are part of my comic book DNA, of every brother and sister making comics today, and you should be celebrated as such…
And, I’m waiting to see what y’all are going to do next…
So, as you anticipate the release of Black Panther next month and check out Black Lightning on Tuesday, support the brothers and sisters creating our heroes outside of the “Corporate Two.”
The 4 Pages | 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape anthology series is a celebration of where true diversity exists in this industry, a sampler for potential fans to enjoy our intellectual properties, a showcase for existing and upcoming talent as well as a source guide for those fans to purchase our books.
It’s the multicultural Heavy Metal magazine for the 21st Century.
The superhero is a mythological construct unique to American society and the backbone of the American comic book industry. The superhero is the construct of immigrants; people from different cultures coming together to form a new nation where the unique attributes of each culture contribute to the greater whole.
As, arguably, the first immigrants (other than British and French) of America, African Americans were, initially, left out of the equation when constructing the superhero myth and were relegated to supporting roles. With the Black Panther’s appearance in Fantastic Four, African Americans were introduced into the mainstream consciousness of superhero myth.
The current curator of the Black Panther myth is Ta’Nehisi Coates, national correspondent for the Atlantic and recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship…
And some people have an issue with his handling of this particular mythology.
Personally, I don’t mind Coates’ take on the Black Panther mythos. His are the kind of stories that I, to an extent, would write. It has been slow building and it is a depiction of Wakanda as if Wakanda were an actual African country dealing with real political issues. I would argue that Coates’ run on the series will be as impactful as runs from Don McGregor, Christopher Priest and Reginald Hudlin.
That being said, some people are just not feeling Coates’ work on the title. So much so, some feel as if he is deliberately trying to bring down the Black Panther in terms of relevance and trying to destroy Wakanda in a way Namor or Doctor Doom or Thanos never could.
Which… Is ridiculous.
I understand some of us want to see T’Challa infallible, invincible, with Wakanda being the Afrofuturistic utopia of our dreams. We want our Black Panther bitchslapping Steve Rogers for putting mayo on his sandwich instead of mustard. We want to see the Dora Milaje single-handedly taking down S.H.I.E.L.D. because it’s Tuesday. We want that escapist wish fulfillment that we are not getting in our daily lives, especially in today’s political and social climate.
The problem is, utopias don’t exist. Not even in comics.
For example, did Coates force misogyny and rape culture into the mythos of Wakanda, or did he use the construct of Wakanda as a vehicle for commentary to what is happening not only on the continent, but in the world right now? Wakanda is in Africa, which has been dealing with issues concerning rape culture and slavery recently.
Have we already forgotten Boko Haram? Are we oblivious to the slave trade happening in Libya right now? Anyone?
In Coates’ interpretation, despite its majesty, Wakanda is no different than the creation of other great nations: not only African, but globally…
Well, with the exception of aliens losing their land instead of other Africans.
And, that little wrinkle in the Black Panther myth has added to the ire that some Black Panther fans have for the writer.
In reality, Wakanda has never been simon-pure. Priest had Wakanda dealing with an uprising from within at the beginning of The Client, McGregor created Killmonger in Panther’s Rage as a revolutionary whose basis for overthrowing Wakanda was tribal and personal, etc.
T’Challa, from McGregor’s run onto Coates, has always been depicted as a man torn between duty and desire. In the mythology, he has always preferred being a hero to being a king much to the chagrin of the Panther god and the Black Panthers before him (see the 1988 mini-series by Gillis and Cowan, Who is the Black Panther Pt.2 by Cowan and Lashley, the Black Panther: Man Without Fear arc by Liss and Francavilla for examples).
Besides, it’s not like T’Challa hasn’t met, or worked with, despots before. When the first Illuminati became the Cabal following the events of the Secret Invasion storyline, Namor tried to get T’Challa in to balance the likes of Doctor Doom, Loki, the Hood and Emma Frost. In New Avengers, he was working alongside Namor after Atlantis attacked Wakanda in Avengers Vs. X-Men and after Namor sold out Wakanda again to Thanos’ forces in Infinity.
So, after Doomwar, AVX, Infinity and Secret Wars, I would imagine Wakandans would feel some type of way about T’Challa and the court after those back-to-back tragedies. In fact, that’s referenced in the first issue of Coates’ run.
In the Nation Under Our Feet story arc, rape culture is an issue in Wakanda. Aneka and Ayo, the rogue Dora Milaje now the Midnight Angels addresses it, which brings attention to the royal court. With the rebellion and subtle coup from the confusion happening, the Midnight Angels, along with his sister Shuri (who returns from the Djallla following the “Living Death” as a more powerful and unique character), Changamire, Hatut Zeraze and the Crew help T’Challa not only quell the rebellion, but also helps to institute a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy in order to deal with such issues in the future.
And, the problem is? Apparently for some, Coates’ work taints the fantasy of an Africa we, as African Americans, wish existed.
But, what good is showing a better world without showing the struggle it took to create it? I mean the X-Men works as a concept because a marginalized people, mutants, fight for a better world that doesn’t currently exist… right?
One doesn’t have to like every iteration of a character or gush over every interpretation. For instance, my issue with Hudlin’s run was that I thought it was too light, too “comic book.” I felt he eschewed the complexity of Priest’s work for more of the wish-fulfillment aspects of Black nerdom. It was fun, but left me feeling a little flat.
A major strength of Priest’s run was, as a writer and former editor of comics, he understood the mechanics and quirks of the medium. He was able to marry the more complex themes of the book with the action that comic book fans are used to.
I think an issue with Coates’ run is that he is too serious a writer for some fans. In addition, outside of the bit of writing he does for Marvel, he’s not known as a writer of fiction. Scriptwriting, especially comic book scriptwriting is not his forte. For me, it’s akin to Doo-Bop (Miles Davis’ last album before he passed); a Hip Hop album by one of the all-time great jazz musicians, but didn’t spend a lot of time in the realm of the new music form he was trying to emulate.
Coates does bring depth and nuance to his run as a myth curator. He just doesn’t have the seasoning of good comic book storytelling to make his run more palatable. In other words, people don’t feel joy reading his stories. They are not fun. Because of this, people complain about the weight of social issues he brings to the mythology as if the mythology of the Black Panther wasn’t steeped in social commentary from his first appearance in 1966 onward.
Not only is Coates challenging the mythology, he’s not making it an easy go for the comic book reader. He’s writing the book as if it were a fictional novel written by an academic social essayist (which, he is). There’s not enough escapist water for the casual reader when the sociological meat is too hard to swallow. If Coates had a stronger comic book writing sensibility, I feel that his critics wouldn’t be too up in arms about the subject matter he’s brought to the mythos.
At the end of the day, the core issue is whether or not Coates can write entertaining comics. Honestly, comics are not his strong suit. They are not in his wheelhouse. He was brought onto the title because his name carries weight outside of comics…
Like Reginald Hudlin.
So, do I think Coates’ run is terrible?
Do I think his run has been great?
Do I think Coates is a superlative comic book writer?
But, do I think he has an agenda to “bring down” the Black Panther as a character?
Finally, for those of you getting your pitchforks and torches ready (not the Tiki torches because these fans aren’t butter-soft alt-right scrubs), you’re not going to see more of the “problematic” elements of Coates’ run in the upcoming Black Panther film. So, Coates’ detractors should take a deep cleansing breath. The ingredients for this particular dish will probably be 2 cups of Priest’s run for story, 1-¼ cups of McGregor for world-building, 1 cup of Hudlin for attitude with a dash of Coates for social relevance.
Again, I would have incorporated a number of elements Coates introduced in his curation of the Black Panther myth if I were approached by Marvel to write the book. The difference is that I understand the mechanics of comic book writing and would have incorporated more of the wish fulfillment of the fan base. It would have been, hopefully, as complex as the work of Christopher Priest and Don McGregor. It also would have been as fun as Reginald Hudlin’s work as well.
But, I didn’t. That’s why I created The Horsemen…
Because I am in the business of creating mythology.
Birthdays always find me in an introspective state of mind. I think about the past year of my life, which gets me thinking about other memories and events that shaped me, that created the man who writes these words on a laptop today.
As an artist, I’m sure that I am not unique in this position. As a human being of a certain age, I am sure that I am in like company when it comes to this acknowledgement concerning the passage of time.
So, during this rumination, I’m also thinking about my next post for the blog when I came across this article from the New York Times:
My “click bait” headline when I posted this article through my various platforms was:
“Not only will my work not escape it, I lean into it…”
The fact is that as a creator of color, your work is already political. The nature of America made it political. Even the attempt to be apolitical is a political stance. Unfortunately, it can’t be avoided. So, why try and placate an audience that already views you through a certain lens? Be unapologetic and authentic in your creation. The nature of art is to be provocative, to elicit a feeling, an emotion. Don’t avoid it. Lean into it. That’s my philosophy…
I’m not saying that there is a specific vision of what “Black” writing is. Not only is that an extremely myopic vision, and completely arrogant to assume, but that also plays into viewing yourself through the “other’s” lens.
What I am saying is that the color of our skin makes everything we do political. We can’t escape that. What we can, and must do, is simply be artists. Our skin color and culture do not limit us… It enhances us. So, why try to hide? Why be ashamed? Be diverse! Write or draw whatever you want! But, also be proud and unapologetic of whom you are as a creator. Every example of Creators of Color, from Richard Wright to Zora Neale Hurston to Donald Goines to Kevin Grevioux to N. K. Jemisin to David Durham figured that out. All of them diverse in their thinking and subject matter. All of them Black. And, because they are Black, the other will always think there is an underlying agenda to their work, which makes their work political.
What part of my saying “be diverse” is confusing to you?
Ultimately, I don’t create for anyone’s approval but my own. Richard Wright didn’t create for anyone else’s approval but his own. I create to celebrate my culture and my people. Comic books are my medium. Because of this, and because of the color of my skin, my work will always be perceived as political… And, I don’t care. In fact, if my work changes a point of view, then I’ve succeeded as a creator.
That’s why we have diverse voices.
I am a fan of Richard Wright’s work as well as Octavia Butler as well as Donald Goines as well as Wole Soyinka as well as Christopher Priest. In short, I read different Black writers with different points of view and diverse voices depicting their unique observation of the human condition. Each one, because they are Black, these authors are considered political writers simply because of their skin color. My voice is unique from theirs, but my skin color is not. Therefore, I am a political artist as well, not because I write about slavery or the ghetto (because I don’t), but because of who I am. I am simply not ashamed of being considered a political artist. In fact, I use my platform, my culture and my voice to inform my craft. The first rule of writing is “Write what you know.” That is simply what I do…
“To every thing (turn, turn, turn)…
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)…”
– The Byrds
Marvel is working hard to get your dollars…
I recently picked up their free Previews magazine and I saw not one, not two, but ten books with characters of color in its upcoming roster of releases post their current Secret Wars event.
However, only two of their books have characters of color as the lead, those being the upcoming Spider Man featuring Miles Morales and Ms. Marvel featuring Kamala Khan.
Fine and good, right? I’m sure some of you and definitely Marvel is breaking its metaphysical arm patting itself on the back as it celebrates its latest stab at diversity.
Well, let me throw this out there: I looked at the creative teams on the books and do you know how many writers of color are going to be on these books?
Yes, yes y’all… It’s about that time.
I’ve noticed that every 20 years or so, the mainstream comic book industry all of a sudden becomes diverse… Really diverse… As in, they lean into diversity like a corrupt police officer leans into a defenseless “suspect” of color.
Granted, the seeds are planted a couple of years before the crop fully matures. For instance, Marvel planted a seed when the Black Panther first debuted in 1966. They planted another seed with the Falcon in 1969. But, we didn’t get the full crop of Black superheroes until the 70s with characters like Luke Cage, Brother Voodoo, Misty Knight, Storm, Blade, Black Goliath (later, the Black Giant Man) and more. Of course, that crop coincided with the escalation of the Civil Rights Movement, but more so came to pass because of the proliferation of African-American themed action films (commonly known as “Blaxploitation).
DC, which by the way has always played catch-up to the change of society, followed with the first of the “race-bent” characters. John Stewart inherited the mantle of Green Lantern in 1971, a full five years after T’Challa’s debut. Tyroc (the Angry Black Man with the voice of an angel) joined the Legion of Super Heroes in 1976 and Black Lightning didn’t appear on the scene until 1977.
Now, I know what you’re thinking…
“Jib, we know this. You’re just repeating the same old thing…”
And, you’re right. But, bear with me… I’ma take this to another level. I just need to put what I’m about to explore in an historical context.
Here’s the thing: Diversity came into the mainstream comic book industry purely because of profit, not because of any underlying social responsibility these companies felt. Indeed, once the books failed to yield any lasting sales (i.e. Black Lightning’s initial run only lasted 12 issues, Brother Voodoo only lasted 5 issues as the headliner in Strange Tales, etc.), many of the initial crop of Black superheroes were either folded into larger superhero teams or teamed-up with other characters (i.e. Black Panther and Falcon joining the Avengers, Luke Cage teaming up with Danny Rand aka Iron Fist, Storm always being and X-Man, etc.), or, more commonly, sent to the minor leagues to fade into relative obscurity…
In other words, the explosion imploded.
Now, that’s not to say that we didn’t have African American characters created during the 80s. Indeed, the 80s saw the debut of Monica Rambeau as Captain Marvel (initially a “legacy” character that would later claim her own identity as Spectrum), Cyborg, Vixen and others. However, none of these characters would be the lead in their own title. Captain Marvel was a member of the Avengers, Cyborg was in the New Teen Titans and Vixen was a part of the oft fronted upon Detroit Justice League.
While Hip Hop was emerging as the dominant cultural force in the United States, while the Cosby Show was the most popular television show of the decade, We wouldn’t see an African American lead a comic book in the larger comic book community until the 90s…
Until Brotherman… An independent comic book created by creators of color.
Then, the floodgates opened again. After Brotherman, the next big African American superhero was Spawn. Once again, emerging from the independent sphere.
However, when Milestone Media came along (and best believe, DC never owned Milestone), the game done changed. All of a sudden, we were seeing Black characters popping up left and right, and the independent scene led the charge. From Tribe becoming the biggest selling comic book from creators of color in history to the start of Ania to Blackjack, Prophecy of the Soul Sorcerer and more, brothers and sisters were creating some exciting IP…
And getting paid.
DC and Marvel took notice. They had to. New characters like Steel were carrying their own books, Black Lightning got another shot at being a headliner, the first Blade movie would become the template for the eventual domination of the cinematic Marvel Universe, the list goes on and on.
More importantly, we saw more people of color creating product at the “Corporate Two.” Writers like Dwayne McDuffie, Christopher Priest, Alex Simmons and others were getting the opportunities to shine, creating innovative and provocative concepts. Artists like Ken Lashley, Darryl Banks, the late Steven Hughes, Eddy Newell, ChrisCross and many more emerged as the visual caretakers of the American mythology. For a time, it was all good…
Then, the implosion happened… again.
This time, the implosion happened behind the scenes.
To be clear, we still had characters of color shining. Black Panther had two successful titles in the new millennium. Luke Cage became a major player in the Marvel Universe. Nick Fury became Samuel L. Jackson. DC kept on race bending and creating “legacy” versions of Mr. Terrific, the Crimson Avenger, and others. John Stewart, thanks to Justice League Unlimited, became the Green Lantern of a generation. Vixen went from a footnote to a strong character that will be getting her own animated series at DC. And, of course, Miles Morales and Kamala Khan would enter the scene.
However, fewer and fewer writers of color would be hired to chronicle their exploits, so much so that we would have to celebrate one Black writer getting hired at Marvel since 2009 and one Black writer getting hired at DC since 2011. To be fair, artists of color working for the “Corporate Two” are still getting love. And, some would argue that we’ve got brothers and sisters in other positions at the “Corporate Two,” but there are no Black editors. It seems that we are only good enough to draw the characters, not write them. It’s as if our images matter, but not our voices.
Our voice is important, now more than ever. With the murders of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and too many others painful to name at the hands of corrupt police practices and systemic racism, with the too-recent atrocities of Ferguson and Charleston, with the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Haitians in the Dominican Republic, from Boko Haram and #BringBackOurGirls, to the bravery of our real-life superhero Bree Newsome and the new leaders of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, we cannot be silenced. We must not be co-opted.
We should not and cannot be satisfied with the status quo. The scraps of representation others give us should not placate us, especially when the creators of said representation do not look like us nor care about the issues that continue to plague our community. The “Corporate Two” has been pulling a Rachel Dolezal on a large, and growing, part of their audience for far too long. And, don’t get it twisted, as soon as sales drop or don’t even achieve the break-even point, these books will fade into obscurity, once again to be mused upon until the next cycle of diversity comes around.
Yet, there is a bright light amongst the despair. And, once again, it’s coming from the independent sphere. From projects like Exo: The Legend of Wale Williams to the satirical Trill League, from webcomics like Project: Wildfire, Hunter Black, Kamikaze, Bounce, Diskordia, Matty’s Rocket and many others, from books like One Nation, Midnight Tiger, The Horsemen, Kid Code, Molly Danger, Concrete Park, Dziva Jones, Juda Fist and so much more, creators of color are coming on strong, taking no shorts, providing true representation, and giving voice to the voiceless. We’re saying it loud and we’re saying it proud.
The question is: Are you listening?
I don’t know about you, but I’m not gonna wait another 20 years for the “Corporate Two” to get around to some half-assed stab at diversity if it doesn’t work this time.
Vote with your dollars, support those who speak with your voice and #PlantYourFeet.
“When you only focus on DC and Marvel for diversity, you will always be disappointed…”
Hold up, hold up… In addition, the research of this article is mad faulty. Black Panther under utilized? My man has been a B+/A- list character since the Marvel Knights launch, Bradley was the recipient of the first version of the Super Soldier serum, no mention of DC’s roster or Milestone?
Nope. Couldn’t take the article seriously at all…
The core conceit of race and gender bending to create “diversity” was on point, but the sheer sloppiness in terms of research and myopic thinking concerning the “solutions” to the “problem” in this post destroys whatever credibility the writer is trying to establish.
For real, I’m tried of the bitching for bitching’s sake when it comes to a lot of this “reporting.” If you don’t acknowledge what has come before and really investigate what is happening currently (it ain’t hard… it’s called research), you’re just wasting energy flapping your gums…
On the flip side…
This paper written by JD Boucher is quite possibly one of the most informed and nuanced pieces I’ve ever read concerning the presence of race in comics. Insightful, provocative and engaging, this is a must read… A must read… For anyone who calls themselves a fan of comics and social issues. At 80 pages, it’s a quick-ish read, but it will change your perception, and conversation, of comics and issues of identity… Perhaps forever. Download it for free.
Next, we have The Strange Case of Rachel Dolezal.
The way social media is used to assassinate character nowadays is insidious. I was wondering why this was brought to the fore now as opposed to years ago. Hearing about the court case puts everything into perspective…
I imagine that your response to Ms. Dolezal’s outing is similar to some whites when they discovered that those that they thought were white were actually passing as well. If we want to link it to entertainment, that was a key plot line to such books, and films, like Devil In A Blue Dress, An Imitation of Life, Pinky, Trick Baby, etc.
What makes her story so problematic is her extreme appropriation of “race,” culture and color in order to prove herself an ally to the cause. In fact, she benefitted from this “transformation” in ways people of African descent never could to the point of trying to check people who were born into the social strata based on skin color on their level of “Blackness” or whatever. The lack of authenticity that she perpetuated is the problem, when it was completely unnecessary…
I feel that the greater issue/problem is the question of why, in order to be an ally for social justice, Ms. Dolezal felt that she had to alter her appearance and deny her family in order to operate in that space when it was totally unnecessary to do so…
I don’t feel it’s a non-issue to discuss considering the ongoing discussions of race and representation. If anything, this could be looked at as Stockholm Syndrome in reverse, with Ms. Dolezal identifying with the oppressed (her adopted siblings in this case) as opposed to the oppressor (i.e. respectability pundits, etc.)…
Transgender and transracial are two completely different things. In fact, the use of the term transracial when it comes to Ms. Dolezal is incorrect as well since it actually refers to children of one “race” adopted by families of a different “race,” which is true of her siblings, but not Ms. Dolezal herself.
Think of it more akin to the situation when, say for instance, White parents adopt Chinese infants. More often than not, those children are never taught nor exposed to the culture they were born in, but rather raised completely in white culture. That lack of self-awareness can lead to a great deal of feelings of exclusion and lack of belonging… To any culture…
Now when it comes to Ms. Dolezal, that level of appropriation could border on some sort of disorder. We’ve got to look at her family as to understand why she felt the need to take it that far…
We all know that notions of identity begins at an early age with the family being critical in that development…
The issue is not what has gone before pre-colonialism. No one is saying that every thing was hunky-dory before then. In addition, the empires stated (Aztec, Incan, Chinese, Egyptian, etc.) weren’t established by outside forces, which did not look like them, placing the way they look as the ideal. All of these empires, and more, were created well before the construct of “race.”
What we don’t address is the conflict of those who bought into the underlying construct of “race” and realizing that construct was a lie, especially when encountering the negative ramifications of that construct, and how some have dealt with that realization.
And then, Charleston happened. A hate crime occurred… In a church… Please people… Please…
Did you see the president’s eyes though in his public statements? He has to walk that extreme bleeding edge. There was so much that he wanted to say, but deals with a pressure that none of us will ever know unless being in that position. I definitely would not want his job…
His words blame gun violence… But, his eyes let you know he wants to go off on the real problem…
Meanwhile, Jon Stewart (who I will truly miss when he steps down from the Daily Show even though I am looking forward to his replacement Trevor Noah) used his platform to eloquently and truly gives honest, real commentary as to the root of this tragedy.
Musician Sunn m’Cheaux appreciated what Stewart had done, but did not want to share it on his wall. His reasons were as such:
“Ideally, it should be the content of the message, not the color of the messenger that matters, but in the case of representing the Black experience, the deep seated aversion of Whites (and many conditioned persons of color) to accepting the intellectual and/or emotional testimony of Black intelligentsia and everyday people is more harmful than helpful towards the cause of anti-racism.
And this would be an obvious point if it took men to parrot the points of women for people to accept feminism. We could easily identify that pattern as misogynist. How then is waiting for Whites to parrot the points of Black people before accepting the points not racist? If you genuinely believe that #BlackLivesMatter, you should also believe that Black Voices Matter… and uplift them. #dontBSyourself”
I shared Stewart’s commentary on my wall. I agree with Brother Sunn’s statements. At the same time, as a teacher, I know that sometimes a student needs another student who grasps the concept taught to explain it to them… Because they sure as hell didn’t listen to the teacher…
Don’t get me wrong. I wish Obama went ham on this one, especially since this is his last year in office… True “no fudge” stage. But, damn if being the first African American president isn’t riding the bleeding edge of all this. I do not envy his position at all in this moment.
Still, if I had that type of platform, I would be a little less subtle in my condemnation of the real issue…
But, I don’t have that platform. I have another. I have this blog. I make these books. My purpose is to bring people together and get them talking (hopefully, in a positive and productive way), get them moving in a more collaborative, more compassionate way. That’s what I’m here to do.
This is a public service announcement for all of those working to get into the game.
I have, officially, been a working artist since 1994.
I’ve actually been getting paid for making art since I was a teenager. I was getting paid for my craft since I was, about, 13 years old. For real, my parents were among my first clients, paying for my services because they understood that this was going to be my profession, not a past time.
But, as a professional, I’ve been making money off of my talent since I received my bachelor’s degree lo those many moons ago.
I’m not saying this to brag. This is just a simple fact. Indeed, my fellow creatives will tell you that making a living in this business is hard work… Extremely hard work. A lot of blood, sweat, tears, money and time went into getting to this point in my career. The fact that I can live a lower-middle class lifestyle off of this art game is a success in itself.
With that being said, if you want to guarantee that I will never work with you on a project, say these two words:
If I had a dollar for every time someone uttered those words to me for a possible collaboration, I would be a rich man.
Let’s build comes from a cat that had an idea for a comic book after smoking the finest while watching Meteor Man or Steel and said to himself, “I could make some coin off of comics, son (swupp, swupp). I’ma make a comic book the first comic book with a real Black superhero and get paid, yo.”
Let’s build comes from that dude who I meet at parties, finds out what I do, and says “Yo, I got a dope idea for a comic book. I don’t wanna tell you my idea, ‘cuz I’m worried someone will steal it like ‘ol girl who wrote The Matrix. But, you could help me make it, yo, and then we’ll both come up.”
Let’s build comes from my man who one of my boys told him about me, showed them my work and says that they should get in touch with me to get advice on how to get into the business and they approach me like we shared Pampers back in the day.
Yeah… Good luck with that, fam…
Let’s build is probably the most unprofessional phrase in this business. It’s downright insulting. It’s the assumption that I am just a dupe waiting for someone of “brilliance” to come and bless me by exploiting my talent to make his half-assed, half-baked dreams come true.
I learned to avoid the hook up because 9.5 times out of 10, those cats were not as serious as I was about the game.
Notice how I kept my examples male-specific, because no woman has ever come to me with this phrase. They understand the need to get paid.
I’ma let my comrade Damon Alums throw some dimes into the conversation.
“The folks that didn’t give you the time of day made the shift to the professional lane, and it paid off for them. Going back to the ‘lemme see if I can get the hook-up’ lane would be a step backward, and that’s not what life is about. Not that they forgot where they came from, not that they’re crabs in the bucket, trying to stop your shine, it’s just they’re at that higher level, and looking to work with folks who are at that same level. A reflection of being at that level is having cash up front. That’s just business talking. Not personal. Whether that money comes from street corner hustling, a bank loan, or quarters saved from movie theater floors is immaterial. That much I also know.”
Thank you, Brother Alums. We now return to our regularly scheduled program…
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I’ve never collaborated with another creative or creatives. Indeed, some of the best work I’ve ever done has been in collaboration with others. Shoot, my advertising days were nothing but collaborations. Griot Enterprises started as a collective of artists and writers trying to put themselves on in the comic book industry. The Horsemen: Mark of the Cloven is in collaboration with my comrade Jude W. Mire. I’m currently involved in collaborating on an anthology, Artists Against Police Brutality, created in part by my brother-in-arms John Jennings.
The fact is this: I don’t need to collaborate with them. They don’t need to collaborate with me. Neither one of us is dependent upon the other to build our repertoire. We have all had some success, built some notoriety because of our own merits. All of us have developed our craft on our own and we recognize the talent, drive and dedication in each other. We’re like-minded in focus. Because of this, we want to work with each other, thereby building collectively on the foundations that we individually established.
It also doesn’t hurt that we consider each other not just friends, but professionals.
True collaboration comes when all parties equally bring something to the table. I can’t ask someone to do something that I can’t do myself.
It’s not predatory when an artist or a writer asks for compensation for their time and their talent. It’s actually more predatory to talk collaboration than to hire an artist. Illustration is incredibly time-consuming and creating work on faith with no compensation just doesn’t make fiscal sense especially when drawing is how you put food on the table.
As a businessman, which professional artists are, you’ve got to make sure that you’re gonna eat and that the people you work with are on the same page, the same level as it were.
You know how many times those artists got burned in their career? You know how many empty promises cats have had to swallow like horse pills with no water to wash it down? Trust, if you had to deal with that level of janky hustlin’, you would be mad cagey as well.
It’s not about being greedy; it’s about protecting your talent and making sure that you keep a roof over your head.
Peep game: I’m in the process of finding funding for a Horsemen project, Lumumba Funk, that will include the talents of Arvell Jones, Larry Stroman and a few of my fellow Blaxis agents like Hannibal Tabu, Damion Gonzales, Quinn McGowan, Jason Reeves, Ashley Woods and many more.
Now, though they made the verbal agreement to be down for the cause (and, I truly appreciate the love), I’m not gonna ask them to draw, or write, page one until I have that funding in hand to pay my brothers and sisters.
Trust, they’re as impatient to get started, as I am to get them paid. But I know when I’m ready, they’re ready. And, they know that I’ll keep my word as a professional to get them squared away…
That’s beyond hustle… That’s gangster… And with gangster shit, we all eat.
Though my thought is that shenanigans probably, well almost definitely, happened throughout the course of his career, I cannot call him a rapist based on half-remembered testimony. Janice Dickinson, hot mess that she is, really puts the claims in side-eye territory in my opinion.
Without proof, I cannot honestly say he is guilty of those crimes…
What has been happening with the Cosby incident never sat quite right with me. Not because he’s Bill Cosby, but because it just never felt quite “right” to me vibe-wise… In other words, my gut tells me something different.
For example, with the OJ trial, I always felt that if OJ Simpson didn’t murder Nicole Brown (which, I still think he didn’t) he definitely knew who did. With the R. Kelly sex tape incident, even before I saw the evidence, I knew in my heart of hearts that he did that shit.
With Cosby, please understand, I felt he definitely had mad indiscretions, but I don’t feel that roofies or forced intercourse was involved. You know me. If I felt that’s how it went down, I’d be all over it. But, that’s only after I’ve heard all of the evidence from multiple angles and made my own decision based on those facts.
I’m not one to follow the court of public opinion. Right now, it’s pure speculation and, if it were truly the case, why don’t these women file civil suits against him? Yes, the statute of limitations on criminal charges has passed, but don’t they still have some sort of legal recourse if these accounts were indeed true. Or, why haven’t these women banded to together and put the pressure on? Why have they acted separately instead of collectively?
No one is brushing Women’s Rights under the rug. I simply pose the question that, just like Ferguson, why don’t the women who made the claims of sexual assault against Cosby come together as one voice, one chorus, as opposed to disparate voices in the wind?
For example, I agree wholeheartedly with the University of Virginia’s decision to shut down their fraternities due to sexual assault. Granted, it took an article from Rolling Stone to get the ball rolling, but anyone who has gone to college knows the prevalence of rape culture at U.S. campuses.
With, what, fourteen women coming forward with claims against Mr. Cosby, wouldn’t you think that there would be some solidarity amongst them to stand as a united front against him? Wouldn’t you think that, at some point, they would ban together and take some legal action against him?
That’s why I question the whole Cosby thing. Again, I never said that he was simon-pure in this situation. I simply called into question the allegations of sexual assault based on the points that I have brought forth during this post, court of public opinion aside.
The statue of limitations for a criminal trial has long since passed. But again, what about a civil suit? Apparently, there are more than enough accounts of the behavior and fourteen voices in unison are way more powerful than one…
Again, the question is why haven’t these women banded together?
There are 14 of them… And they have made their claims known. In the realm of social media, they know that they are not alone. So, just like support groups, there should be solidarity and support…
Why isn’t there among these women?
Please understand that I am not diminishing rape or its victims. In my heart, I just don’t feel that it applies in this instance. And, until there is proof or, more to the point, some sort of solidarity amongst these women in the public eye, my feelings concerning this particular situation are not changing.
I’m just too aware of media manipulation and character assassination to take things at face value…
Mr. Cosby’s silence on the matter is not a good look at all. An innocent man would not stand silent while his name is being dragged through the mud. Again, I agree there has been wrongdoing on his part. I think we can all agree on that. His reputation has been permanently tainted. I just pose this question:
Why now? Why in the twilight of his career have these allegations come to light? Why not during the height of his fame, his influence in this country? Why not soon afterwards? Remember, after the death of his son that girl came forward claiming to be his daughter? Where was the outrage then? Why didn’t people come forth then? He was vulnerable at that point, but that incident was soon forgotten. And knowing that, we allowed him to play respectability politics knowing he had that shade on him, yet our outrage over that was, again, minimal.
If I’m not mistaken, and I very well may be, the overwhelming majority of the women making the claims have been white, with only one (that I am aware of) being light-skinned, perhaps biracial. And it comes to the fore now, in the midst of the revelation that it ain’t all good in this post-racial America. A paragon of Black America, the United States so-called favorite TV dad, who is Black, is coming under fire.
The biggest problem is that most independent creators don’t take into account the proper preparation of their files, creating the entire package of the comic book beyond the artwork and the writing. I am a graphic designer and worked in pre-press during my advertising days. I have complete control over the quality of Griot Enterprises product. That way, my books come out exactly the way I need for them to…
Again, it is the company’s responsibility for quality control, not the printer…
The only reason why “self” publishing doesn’t feel like “real” publishing is because you are responsible for the quality of your product, no one else.
Fam, this is exactly how the “Corporate Two” and all other companies operate. Print On Demand and the digital landscape has leveled the playing field… Now, it’s all about skills and how bad you want to make your hustle happen.
That was the appetizer… Here’s the main course…
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again:
The “Make Your Own” argument usually comes from either someone who wants to make a big stink about how “we” are not represented just before saying “Buy my shit because it’s real” or someone who complains about the lack of representation, but completely ignores the dearth of good material with the representation they’re “starving” for, but because it doesn’t come from the “Corporate Two” or the “Mainstream,” they run from it like the IRS was chasing them down the street.
As a creator, businessman and fan, I want to see the hotness all day, every day, from wherever it comes from. I owe no allegiance to any company besides my own. If it’s dope, it’s dope. If it’s wack, it’s wack…
And, as a businessman, I know if I want to succeed, I have to come with dope product and market the hell out of it. I will drag the consumer, kicking and screaming, to check out the product I have to offer because I am confident that once they see it, they’re going to want it…
Because, as a fan, I created what I felt was missing in the landscape…
I have to say that the number one reason I was down, and continue to be down with the Underworld series is because Kevin Grevioux created it. It always makes my heart swell with pride when I see one of us making real power moves and being successful in getting our personal and collective visions out to the masses.
I mean, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? The problem with a lot of us is that we’ve given up on imagination so much so, that we can’t even comprehend when someone who looks like us has the imagination, talent, and passion and drive to create something. And, not only when it happens, but also when it is good, we don’t trust it. We don’t find it valid because, in the back of some of our minds, we feel “How dare they? How dare they do something that we shouldn’t be able to do?”
What’s even crazier is that if the masses at large accept the things that we create and we derive some critical and/or financial success from the “crazy” ideas that ruminated in our heads, those who sacrificed their imagination, hopes and dreams to the “other” either hop on the bandwagon or, more often, call us “sell-outs.” What did we sell out to? Our passion? Our confidence? Our drive?
Brandon Easton eloquently called this mindset BGSS (Black Geek Stockholm Syndrome). Some took offense to that term… Because it applied to them and Brandon called it for what it was.
So, what am I saying? I’m saying that I’m proud to be in the company of cats like Hannibal Tabu, John Jennings, Quinn McGowan, Jason Reeves, Afua Richardson, Ashley Woods, Damion Gonzales, Erika Alexander and so many others. I’m proud to call them colleagues and some of them I consider good friends. I am proud to count cats like Larry Stroman, the Milestone Crew, the Sims Brothers and others as my mentors. I am proud that the “silverbacks” have co-signed on what this young lion is doing.
Why? Because I’m adding to the legacy. I’m adding to the legacy of the brothers and sisters who have made indelible contributions to the game since its inception. And, I am glad to stand amongst greatness.
To the creators holding it down, my sword arm is yours. To the fans that support us? Thank you. We won’t let you down…
To the rest of y’all? If you’re mad now, get ready to be truly pissed off.
Well, I said my piece. Do what you will and the best of luck… I’ma keep grindin’…