Welcome to the eighth volume of 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape! Thank you to all of the Visual MCs, Literary DJs and Crowd Controllers who saw the vision and decided to enter the Cipher. Y’all have shown where the true diversity in this comic book industry exists and came through with straight bangers!
And to think, all of this started with a casual conversation…
In 2007, I was at the WizardWorld Chicago Comic Con. I happened to run into Sanford Greene (BitterRoot, Power Man & Iron Fist). Both of us were taking a much-needed break from manning our respective booths. At the time, we were both working on Hip Hop-related projects with Sanford creating the artwork for the Method Man graphic novel while I was writing a book called (at the time) Hip HopChronicles.
Since we were both in a “break dancing & wall tagging” state of mind, we started reminiscing on the direction our respective careers were taking. We talked about the sketchbook and how that reminded each other of the mixtapes DJs and rappers would create to sell their skills directly to the masses.
Taking the sketchbook/mixtape metaphor further, the Comic Con became, in essence, the equivalent of selling a mixtape at a swap meet or out of the trunk of your car. The sketchbook reflected the stage of the creator’s career.
The analogy breaks down like this…
When you start out, you probably don’t have a lot of money. But you could go to Kinkos and, using the copy machine, print up about 20 – 50 of those sketchbooks right quick to give the audience a taste of your skills.
As you grew in the business, hopefully, you had gotten some credits under your belt and some coins in your pocket. Maybe now, you could afford better quality paper for your next sketchbook. Maybe now, you could afford a color cover. Maybe now, you could afford full-color interiors.
The full-color experience let you know that the artist was ballin’ and making power moves… They done come up!
In any event, the whole idea is that as one levels up in their career, their presentation evolves as well. One develops their professional persona and define their swag. The sketchbook then becomes the avatar of one’s “drip, “so to speak. The sketchbook, in our summation, is a visual mixtape.
You picking up what was just laid down?
I’m a child of the 70s who came of age in the 80s. The mixtape, in my time, was a carefully curated work. One didn’t just slap a bunch of songs together on a cassette and send it on its merry way. Nah. You had to come up with a theme. Your mixtape had to have a narrative, and a raison d’etre or reason for being.
Maybe you were nursing a heartbreak. Maybe you were trying to shoot your shot with that special someone. Maybe you wanted to get the party started with the perfect selection of tracks guaranteed to get the crowd amped up. The mixtape was a form of personal sonic expression where one could become the DJ, the Bard, or the Griot they felt they were meant to be.
Track selection was an extremely important aspect of making a bomb mixtape. Again, one could be basic about it; just take the hits everyone heard on the radio, slap them together and off they go. But anyone could turn on the radio and listen to the hits. You might as well buy a volume of Now, That’s What I Call Music and call it a day. To make a dope mixtape, one had to go off the beaten path and “dig in the crates” a little bit.
Track arrangement was the secret sauce of the mixtape. It’s one thing to have the dope music. It’s another thing to arrange those tracks and assemble a tale that hits the emotions of the listener. A great mixtape was the soundtrack to a film that people wished they could see. A mixtape was all about mood and intention with the goal to take its intended listener on a journey into the creator’s psyche.
This philosophy is the methodology behind 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape. Each volume has been carefully curated with each entry chosen and arranged to take the reader on a journey through the diversity of creators, and content, that is present in the comic book industry. We go deep; finding the best cuts and the illest tracks to craft an eclectic experience that can only be found in the indie comic world.
And now here we are; eight volumes in serving up the crème de la crème of Black Comix, in particular, and Indie Comics in general. This village has definitely become a nation.
This volume features the next crop of Visual MCs and Literary DJs who decided to grab the mic! Aries Art (Cover Artist and Visual MC), Michael Watson (Hotshot), Raudric Curtis (Dambe), Milton Davis (Changa and the Jade Obelisk), Andre Roberts (The Dog Years), Terry Huddleson (Visual MC), Malachi Bailey (Her), Akinboye Olasunkanmi (Weju), Juan Arevalo (Oya), Brett Hillesheim (The Book of Gylou), Curtis “Specks” Thompson (Legacy of the View), and more enter the Cipher!
So, sit back and relax, kick your feet up, get into this playlist we put together for you, and remember…
This is a public service announcement to all of the artists and writers who are considering entering this wild world of comics.
Ok, so what I’ve been seeing in these internet streets is that some neophyte writers think that artists are interchangeable and should be happy with whatever rate they are offered. They believe that artists are just sitting around and twiddling their thumbs waiting for these neophyte writers to bless them with their ideas.
These so-called writers are also upset because other artists, who’ve been in the game longer than most of them, are telling younger artists, no matter where they reside, to know their worth and not get jacked by people who don’t value nor respect their efforts.
And yet, some of these writers… Excuse me… “creators” want to play victim when they aren’t willing to respect the artists they hire and pay them what they’re worth?
As one who handles every aspect of comic book production (writing, illustration, lettering, coloring, design, etc.), I know exactly the amount of work it takes to produce a book from beginning to end.
I’ve also gotten paid as a freelancer for over 20 years working as a writer, illustrator, and designer.
And, I have never let anyone undervalue the work I put into the game nor would I ever undervalue anyone else…
Because I respect their talent. And that respect is shown by paying them what they are worth.
When I see these so-called writers, or “creators,” complaining or trying to justify not paying potential artists what they’re worth, regardless of which country they reside, I see that they don’t respect the artist.
That is sad because the artist, not the writer is the attraction to the book.
Look, this is comics, not prose. Comic book readers don’t care about words until they open the book. The artist is the part of the collaboration that gets eyeballs on the project.
Let me put it another way: you literally get what you pay for when it comes to art. $20 art will look like $20 art. $200 art will look like $200 art. No matter which artist from which country you deal with, the metric is the same.
Yet some “creators” act like artists from other countries live in hovels. Because of this poisonous mentality, they employ exploitive capitalist practices (Power to the People) as the model for their businesses while, for the most part, larger companies like DC or Marvel pay their creatives a living wage equivalent for their talents…
And make up that cost by selling books.
UPDATE 01: Here is a link to an article from Creator Resource which lays out the page rates from major comic book companies in 2017.
Some of these “creators” are being cheap as fu*k and their slip is showing. Show some respect and pay the artist their worth.
What is the national average for every country from every artist you work with? And, is that your metric for hiring artists from that region?
If so, that still smacks of exploitation in my eyes.
I would rather pay a bit above their national average, especially if they come from a country whose currency is less than the country where I reside.
I can afford it because that’s showing respect.
You’re talking to a cat who has told other artists to charge me their real rate as opposed to the “I’m just happy to be here” rate because that’s not only showing respect, but that’s also a guarantee that I’m getting some of the best talent in the business.
I treat my collaborators the way I command to be treated in this business.
Here’s another point these so-called “creators” might want to think about if they are going to attempt this mode of artistic exploitation:
Did you ever consider that some artists set the price they set in order to weed out “clients” who they consider are a waste of their time and effort?
To the “creator” who prompted this piece (I’m not giving them the satisfaction of naming them), the claim that American artists are encouraging artists from other countries to raise their rates to price themselves out of their jobs is… ridiculous.
Real talk: an artist should base their rate on the time it takes to create the work and their experience level. Newer artists should charge less because of their experience. Artists with a track record can, and should, charge more.
UPDATE 02: There is a site called Litebox which breaks down the rates illustrators have been paid in various industries including comics.
For example, I wouldn’t do a page for a $100 because my CV shows that I’m worth more than that. However, I tell all of my students that they should establish a baseline rate in order to teach them to respect their talent from jump and to never sell themselves short.
Do you honestly think that artists encouraging other artists to know their worth is part of some devious plan to shaft other artists from different countries in order to what? Level some playing field to work with a bunch of start-ups that are just learning the business themselves?
That is hilariously arrogant.
No, what some people seem to be getting upset about is that artists are encouraging other artists to know their worth.
What some people are getting upset over is artists communicating with other artists in order to help the younger cats coming up in the game not get jerked.
Again, it’s not about pricing themselves out of the market. It’s about self-respect and recognizing their value in this business.
This is where respect comes into play.
As stated earlier, comics are a collaborative effort. Unless you are a true cartoonist and can execute every role yourself, a comic book needs a writer, an illustrator, a colorist (if color book), a letterer, and an editor in order to be a viable product.
A comic book is an exercise is graphic design; a synthesis of image and text coming together to create a message.
No one is more important than the other in this process. If one aspect of the product is lacking, then the entire book falls apart.
So, you need to respect every member of the team. That respect, in part, comes from paying your creative team properly.
With 10 days to go, 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape Vol. 08 – Change Clothes is fully funded!
Now, it’s time for that stretch goal!
Now, you’re already getting the “Roll Call” poster because we reached 50 backers and the “Comics Are Hip Hop” poster because we made our goal. What’s the next goal? 100 backers. What’s the reward? Quite possibly one of the most controversial and provocative books you’ll ever read…
JBD: THE DEVIL’S DUE
He rose up against those who oppressed his people. Using an image meant to denigrate a race, he united a people and created a mighty nation. Now, he must rise again to save the nation he created from the corruption within.
“’White people look at what you are, and not who you are,’ remarks a supporting character, neatly setting out the Devil’s contraction: he dresses as all the most denigrating assumptions American society might have about a black man, and then behaves in a manner demonstrably superior and utterly without mercy. He thinks to usurp, and fights to kill. In the parlance of mid-’90s spandex he would be termed an anti-hero, perhaps akin to a horror character, his blade and suit drenched in blood. But, obviously, the iconography active in his design goes far deeper into comics history, all the way back to the most ‘traditional’ depictions of black people as comedic minstrel figures, an acrid and enduring shorthand. To me, graphically, he seems like Will Eisner’s The Spirit and Ebony White combined into one damning person.“
“But there is another power residing in this story, in its depiction of a liminal America. To give the Devil his due is to understand that to affect the spirit of justice is to prompt great shifts in social thinking. The Devil as bringing light and offering the fruits of knowledge. Protest, to him, is destruction, but destruction is only the prelude to reconstruction. He does not mean this in terms of a shift in the Presidency, but in accosting the makeup of the U.S. self-identity to finally ascertain the humanity of persons. All of the heroes in this comic eventually abandon the United States, for new terrain within its old borders. Repressive extremism is normal, which means it can comfortably worsen, and the answer is to push harder, harder still.”
Written by La Morris Richmond and featuring the first professional work of The Horsemen creator Jiba Molei Anderson, JBD: The Devil’s Due is #BlackComix unleashed: a bold and unflinching look into a world where Black Liberation was achieved, the lengths forces that be would go to dismantle a nation, and what one man would do to preserve it.
When we get to 100 backers, this graphic novel will be yours. So, spread the word, click on the link and remember…
The 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape anthology series is a celebration of where true diversity exists in the comic book industry. Curated by Griot Enterprises’ publisher Jiba Molei Anderson (The Horsemen), this anthology celebrates the work of BIPOC creators from mainstream to independent, webcomics to graphic novels and everything in-between.
VOLUMES 06 & 07 SHOWED THE WORLD WHAT TIME IT IS!
The Kickstarter campaigns for the last two volumes were a huge success! People flocked to see what creators like Sheeba Maya, Crystal Gonzalez, George Gant, Javier Cruz Winnick, Jamal Yaseem Igle, Kofi Bazzell-Smith, Jahni Kwatrae, Alan Saint Clark, Moana McAdams, J.M. Hunter, Ronnie Dukes & Elvira Carrizal-Dukes, Dedren Snead, Mason Easley, Tony Kittrell, Albert Morales, Michael Norton Dando, and Amber Denise Peoples brought to Vol. 06 – The Feel.
People like Vol. 06 so much, they came back for Vol. 07 – Mass Appeal which featured works from Blossom Blair, Newton Lilavois, JayDee Rosario, Bradley Golden, Keef Cross, Marcus Roberts, Ryan Francis, Lance Tooks, Corey Davis, Daimon Hampton, Brian J. Lambert, Giselle “FunkyPunkNYC” Bradshaw, and Sean Hill!
GRAB A SUIT AND GET IT TAPERED UP FOR VOLUME 08: CHANGE CLOTHES!
Vol. 08 – Change Clothes promises to keep the party going! This volume leans hard into fantastic visions of the Motherland with this next crop of Visual MCs and Literary DJs who decided to grab the mic! Aries Art, Michael Watson, Raudric Curtis, Milton Davis, Andre Roberts, Terry Huddleson, Malachi Bailey, Akinboye Olasunkanmi, Juan Arevalo, Brett Hillesheim, Curtis “Specks” Thompson, Marc Blair, and Marco Lopez have all decided to enter the Cipher!
TELL THE WHOLE WORLD THE TRUTH IS BACK!
4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape is more than just an anthology of great comics. Each 126-page volume is a portable gallery featuring the past, present, and future of comics’ finest creators of color. It’s an academic document recording the evolution of the medium… It’s living history!
The stage is set and we’re back with another banger. The Cipher returns February 28, so click on the Kickstarter link, sign up to be added to the guest list, join the party and remember…
Since the beginning of this campaign, The Horsemen creator Jiba Molei Anderson has been getting a lot of “likes” for the artwork on social media. This may be the largest number of “likes” for his art that he’s received in recent years.
Thank you. Sincerely. Thank you for the warm reception.
But you know what would really show that you like the art, and the concept, of The Horsemen? If you pledged to the Kickstarter!
For as little as a $10 pledge, you help ensure that the heroes YOU want to see reach the public. And, if we exceed our $5000.00 goal, all backers receive TWO 24” X 30” print-ready PDFs featuring the heroes and villains of The Horsemen Universe.
You know what else you’ll get? Wait for it…
Five digital comics from the members of The Blaxis! That’s over 160 pages of content for only $10.00!
Likes are great, but backing this campaign shows real love. So help The Horsemen reach their Manifest Destiny by backing our Kickstarter campaign today!
4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape is an anthology series that records the living history of #BlackComix, past, present and future. Here is the second in a series highlighting the Visual MCs and Literary DJs who decided to grab the mic!
Meet the cover artist for Mass Appeal: Vol. 07 in the 4 Pages 16 Bars anthology series!
Blossom Blair is an illustrator who likes painting sparkly girls. A brief introduction that belies an amazing talent, Blossom creates images of whimsy and true Black Girl Magic. Ms. Blair also happens to be the sister of 4 Pages Literary DJ Greg Anderson-Elysée, creator of Is’Nana theWere-Spider!
The Angel has blessed the Cipher!
Fresh off their own successful Kickstarter, Wingless Comics‘ Justice will be one of the entries in 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape Vol. 07 – Mass Appeal!
Justice is the brainchild of Brian J. Lambert, lead contributing writer at Wingless Entertainment. Brian published his first novel, Ascention- TheChrusion Saga Book 1. Brian was selected as a Reader’s Favorite Book Award Finalist in 2019 for Ascention.
He has also edited numerous independent works, including, Is’nana the Were-Spider by Greg AndersonElysee, Akolyte, by Derek Allen, Nia Caler, by Dorphise Jean and the upcoming graphic novel, Beyond 13th, by Michael Ralph.
Unstoppable Comics enters the Cipher!
Finding himself frustrated with the glaring lack of representation in the industry, JayDee Rosario started Unstoppable Comics in 2008 to give a space to perspectives not usually seen in mainstream comics.
Tired of stories that centered wealthy playboys and infallible gods, JayDee’s characters were inspired by folklore and the people around him. Unstoppable’s flagship title Shield of the Interceptor is loosely based on Arthurian legend and pays tribute to David Flynn, one of JayDee’s best and oldest friends who lives with acromegaly, a hormonal growth disorder.
But, wait… There’s more!
Griot Enterprises is proud to announce that its flagship title returns this fall with The Horsemen: Manifest Destiny!
The next installment of The New Mythology, The Horsemen: Manifest Destiny is a 64-page journey of three tales that continues to chronicle the past, present, and future of the Horsemen Universe.
Written and illustrated by Jiba Molei Anderson (with Kofi Malik Boone), the Kickstarter for The Horsemen: Manifest Destiny will begin in August and the book will be released this October. But everyone who backs the Kickstarter campaign for 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape Vol. 07 – Mass Appeal will receive a 24-page B/W preview of Manifest Destiny absolutely FREE as a special thank you to everyone that made Volume 7 of the hottest anthology in comics a reality.
With 65 backers and 6 days left in our campaign, we are under $500.00 from our funding goal. Help us get over the finish line by donating to the 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape Vol. 07 – Mass Appeal Kickstarter today!
4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape is an anthology series that records the living history of #BlackComix, past, present and future. Here is the second in a series highlighting the Visual MCs and Literary DJs who decided to grab the mic.
We’re very proud to introduce the next Visual MC to enter the Cipher as he was one of Jiba Molei Anderson’s (4 Pages 16 Bars Curator) students during his time as an animation / video game design professor at the Illinois Institute of Art – Schaumburg!
Ryan Francis is a Chicago-land independent artist and animator who has created artwork for children’s books, comics, T-shirts, video games. He also self-publishes comics such as, Shirley’s Day, Incident at the Game Store, and The Pizza Man.
The next Visual MC to grab the mic is a second-generation artist whose mother was a fellow classmate of Anderson’s at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago!
Damion Hampton is a UX designer and illustrator passionate about creative problem solving and the stories of those he designs for. Hampton’s work as a freelance comic book artist displays his interest in people and the desire for efficiency. Damion uses all of the skills he’s developed, balancing user needs with function, and crafting intuitive layouts in a role in User Interface Design, research, and as a Storyboard artist.
Finally, we’re very glad that this next Visual MC decided to grab the mic and bring his flavor to the Visual Mixtape!
“Growing up being influenced by Ralph Bakshi, Vaughn Bode’, Wendy Pini, and Robert Crumb to name a few, really shaped my visual aesthetic.”
Keef Cross is a tattoo artist, painter, illustrator, and graphic novelist. He is the author and illustrator of Dayblack Volume 1. An Atlanta, resident, the diverse cast of individuals he has met in his tattoo chair is a big part of why he began the Dayblack comic series.
But, wait… There’s more!
Imagine seeing this poster in your Local Comic Book Store (LCS)!
For a $75 pledge, your LCS will receive 3 copies of 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape Vol. 07 – Mass Appeal and 3 copies of 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape presents Sequential Graffiti. For the $100 pledge, Your LCS will receive 1 copy of the entire anthology series to carry in their store. Both pledges will receive this 30″ X 40″ poster to display in their store! If we get to $5000, this poster will be the stretch goal for all physical backers.
Vol. 07 – Mass Appeal is currently less than $1000 from its initial goal. With 12 days left, help us get over the finish line by donating to the hottest anthology in comics today!
The 4 Pages | 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape anthology series is a celebration of where true diversity exists in this industry. Curated by Griot Enterprises publisher Jiba Molei Anderson (The Horsemen), this anthology celebrates the work of BIPOC creators from mainstream to independent, webcomics to print media and everything in-between.
“In February 2014, I was invited to take part in a roundtable discussion on a podcast,” Anderson begins. “During that time, an almost annual discussion began on social media where many fans were clamoring for some sort of unified front. ‘Why don’t we have a new Milestone‘ or ‘We need some sort of magazine to let people know about us‘ were some of the most common statements. “
“We brought that topic up in the roundtable. We discussed the logistics and perceived difficulties of putting something like that together. I was the one who said that all one needed was the connections to the various creators in the game, the wherewithal to bring all these diverse personalities together, the technical and marketing acumen to create the product and a certain lack of ego to play a bit of a back seat in order to push the movement forward.
And, since I opened my big mouth, I knew that I had to be the one to make this thing happen…”
Contributors for the previous five volumes included Quinn McGowan (Wildfire), Micheline Hess (Diary Of A Mad Black Werewolf), Roosevelt Pitt (Purge), John Jennings (Kindred), Chuck “Dragonblack” Collins (Bounce), Tim Fielder (Matty’s Rocket, Infinitum), Anthony Piper (Trill League), Roye Okupe (EXO: The Legend of Wale Williams), Nigel Flood (The Globalists), David Walker (Power Man and Iron Fist, Naomi), Robert Love (Bayou, Fierce), Sanford Greene (Bitter Root), Ray Anthony-Height (Midnight Tiger), Sha-Nee Williams, Khary Randolph (Excellence), Greg Anderson Elysée (Is’nana The Were-Spider), Ed Williams (Mayke), Robert Jeffery (Mine To Avenge), Dorphise Jean (Spirit’s Destiny) and Uko Smith.
“4 Pages | 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape is more than an anthology series of great comics,” Anderson continues. “Each 126- page volume is a portable gallery of some of the finest creators of color, past present and future. It’s an academic document recording the evolution of diversity in the medium. It’s living history!”
Volume 06 – The Feel will include creators the likes of George Gant (Beware of Toddler), Jamal Yasseem Igle (Supergirl, Black, The Wrong Earth), Moana McAdams (The Adventures of Nakoa and Nohea), Albert Morales (Samurai Señorita) and Amber Denise Peoples.
“Comics are Hip Hop,” Anderson states. “The work in 4 Pages | 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape is diverse, dangerous, political and inspiring. Like Hip Hop, Comics have the ‘mainstream’ and the ‘underground.’ Like Hip Hop, the underground or ‘independent’ scene of Comics is where true innovation and experimentation exists, where you’ll find cats grinding out with passion, creating their own labels and selling their wares out of the trunks of their digital cars searching for that special fan to purchase what they have to offer. “
This Kickstarter for 4 Pages | 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape Volume 06 – The Feel begins February 15. Click here for more information.
Yeah, it’s a grind for real. I’ll say this: writing a business plan before starting to draw page one has allowed me to navigate the game thus far. But yes, I am ready to advance to the next stage…
Now, let me address (once again) the feasibility of the oft-mused about “Black comic book company.”
I’ve seen some people try to take on the task of creating a huge comic book universe with dreams of a bunch of artists and writers coming on board to make this vision come true. Most times, it’s one person who wants to be the architect of this vision with the idea that they would become the next “Stan Lee,” the epicenter of this grand creative enterprise…
And, such thoughts lead, unfortunately, to nowhere or worse (feelings of betrayal, bitterness, clique-forming, etc.). Why? I’ll tell you…
Today, creators want to tell their own stories, build their own universes, and they can. Nothing is holding them back not even economics if they have the skill set to make their IP come to life (or create fundraisers on platforms like Kickstarter to raise capitol).
Making the comic is the easy part, the “fun” part. Handling the marketing and business of promoting the comic is where the real work lies. Building a fandom is a beast. That takes marketing, consistently putting out a quality product (not monthly, necessarily, but consistently), having a web presence (not just Instagram or Facebook but an actual website), going to conventions, pressing the flesh… The game ain’t for the faint of heart nor part-time players.
The good thing about Diamond when I got in the game was that they demanded seeing three issues before soliciting the first one. So, one had to have a complete arc from jump.
A lot of neophyte creators don’t plan for the long haul. Too many focus on that one issue hoping it will hit before doing a second one. I think some people need to focus on creating a solid story (beginning, middle, and end) as opposed to creating universes from jump. Universes come with time and consistent output. But first, you need to get a story out there to build the universe on.
Let me also say this on the creative end: don’t wait for your universe to be built before launching your title.
With The Horsemen, I did have the makings of a comic universe based on a couple of concepts that were percolating when I was an undergrad at U of Michigan back in the day. this existed before I even thought of The Horsemen themselves. Those concepts didn’t begin coming to fruition until my graduate studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where my thesis project birthed both The Horsemen and the 4 Pages 16 Bars project.
When I decided to enter the game, I knew that waiting until I had everything fleshed out creatively or skill-wise could mean that I’d be waiting forever. In other words, I knew that I would get in the way of my work seeing the light of day. Getting the book out was the most important thing.
I stopped looking at comics from a fan perspective and started to really look at them as an art form and as a product. I knew I had the skill set to make it look and read comparable to the industry standard package and design-wise. I also knew that the more I did it, the better and more sophisticated the work would become. It had to be good, but it didn’t have to be perfect. The point was to get the property out to the world, to “plant my flag” and to keep coming with new product.
On the creative side, I allowed the universe to grow naturally bringing those concepts into the story as the story progressed. I also kept myself open to new ideas as they popped up. By the time I published Mythos: The Official Handbook of the Horsemen Universe and Lumumba Funk, I realized that I had my universe with the characters, worlds and rules intact. I also found out that I established at least two spin-off properties from that world if I so choose to do that. It took 20 years, but in that 20 years, I put out The Horsemen so that readers could take the journey with me.
The reason why I created the 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape series is for people to sample different works from creators of color and guide them to said creators’ websites and such to purchase those books. Somewhat of the same concept as a company without the hassle of needless “continuity” between disparate creators and their own publishing/transmedia goals.
When it comes to bringing different properties under one banner, a business model similar to the Image Comics of 2019 is more feasible than a shared universe. Reason being, as stated above, building a cohesive comic book universe takes time. For example, DC’s multiverse exists because of acquisition (i.e. absorbing the properties of other comic book companies like Charlton, Fawcett,Wildstorm, etc.) whereas Marvel’s was more cohesive with a singular writing architect (initially Stan Lee) with equally creative artistic input from visual storytellers like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, etc. Even then, that took years to build.
Initially, all that creating the Image Comics’ model would take is a number of books carrying the same brand logo similar to the Image “I.” In addition to carrying that brand on the selected properties, said books would cross promote each other’s properties via social media, free ad swaps in their books, pooling resources to get small press tables at conventions, much like Hip Hop crews like the Native Tongues (The Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Queen Latifah, Monie Love, Black Sheep, etc.), the Soulquarians (D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, Common, J Dilla, The Roots, etc.), the Wu-Tang Clan and others whose similar sensibilities added to the success of the individual groups or artists.
I have a plan for that and a symbol…
And yet, you still find people complaining about the lack of representation in comics.
The real issue is that, simply, some people call themselves comic book fans when really, all they only read is either DC or Marvel comics instead of really looking for what’s out there. Even when they say they read comics from other publishers, it’s either early Image (Spawn, Youngblood, etc.) or Milestone, which hasn’t published a book since 2010.
And, the whole excuse of “we can’t find them” is complete and utter bullshit as we creators are promoting our works every single day on social media. Point blank period, the DC/Marvel acolytes ain’t checking for them because of the fact that those books aren’t from DC or Marvel.
The point is this: if you just read DC or Marvel comics, that’s fine. We all read DC or Marvel. They’re the “fast food” of comic book companies especially today.
But, if you complain about a lack of Black characters or Black creators, and only look at DC or Marvel as salvation as opposed to at least exploring offerings from independent creators, that’s a problem.
The whole “dreaming and wishing” phase has long past with so many creators and properties getting shine and making waves. Unfortunately, it seems that its only Black fans, the loudest complainers honestly, who refuse to be up on the game…
I think that’s partly because those cats don’t need to “invest” in DC/Marvel properties like they do the indies.
They can talk about what DC/Marvel does all the live long day subconsciously knowing that the “Corporate Two” ain’t really listening to them. Also, they don’t necessarily have to buy “Corporate Two” books because of close to 100 years of market saturation.
With indies like us, first they have to buy our books. There’s no workaround from that. Second, they know whatever they say will get a quick response, which isn’t necessarily a good thing (seriously, some cats need to get out of their feelings).
Also, there’s a fear factor involved in the sense that those who yap and create aren’t ready to hear critiques of their work (for real, get out of your feelings).
Finally, the “Corporate Two” stans want to feel like they are a part of the “mainstream” comic book community. That’s why they bitch so much about a Blue Marvel or John Stewart flick because they feel “if ‘mainstream’ fans (read: you know what I mean) watch it then I am, tangentially, of value.”
Yeah, I said it. I said that shit.
I’ve heard this same argument or plea or solution for the past five years. And, even though I personally made inroads to solve this problem, the fact is that if cats want the Black heroes, they think DC or Marvel should be making, they need to look outside of DC or Marvel to find them.
I see way too many people wish for the “Corporate Two” to make the type of Black characters or books that some #BlackComix creators have already made. I see too many fans wish for some sort of mainstream “approval” when there is more than enough material we created to build and support our own fandom.
Just like Jazz, Hip Hop, and Rock & Roll, we as Black folk have the opportunity to be ahead of the curve by supporting great indie Black Comix which would lead to more books which would lead to the “mainstream” wanting that content.
But until that day comes, I’ma keep making comics and celebrate other great books from Black creators like Crescent City Monsters, Excellence, Is’nana the Were-Spider, the upcoming Bass Reeves and more because they deserve more of my support and energy than a book from the “Corporate Two.”
A blueprint has been laid out. Question is: will someone follow it?
It’s always asked. It never fails. It’s asked so frequently; you can set your watch to it.
In the immortal words of Cherelle, “Let’s sing it together…”
IS THERE A BLACK COMIC BOOK INDUSTRY?
And, here is the short answer:
Yes, there is.
How so, you may ask?
Well, let me school ya…
While this question is still being asked, many indie Black Comix creators were at NYCC supporting and big-upping each other. And, their tables were busy all weekend because people were buying their product left, right and center. On the same weekend, another group of Black Comix creators were in Algiers the same weekend sharing their talent with kids on the African continent.
From companies like Evoluzione Publishing to Webway Comics to Griot Enterprises to Stranger Comics, YouNeek Studios and others, to the larger independent companies like Image Comics publishing books like Bitter Root and Excellence, to the network of conventions that cater to fans of color like Onyxcon, MECCA Con, ECBAAC, Blerd Con, BCAF and so many more, to crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, to printers like 133Art, distribution systems like Peep Game Comix and stores like Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse, First Aid Comics and Third Coast Comics, you damn right Black Comix exists not only as an industry, but a movement as well.
Hell, why do you think I created an anthology like 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape?
We’ve got creators, publishers, digital distributors, a convention system, printers and brick and mortar stores…
Sounds like an industry to me. And, it looks like the reach of this industry is international.
Problem is, cats who continue to ask this question are too busy chasing the business model of the “Corporate Two” or work in a vacuum so tight that they don’t realize what’s happening around them. Flat out, these cats don’t even really interact with, or stay aware of, other creators and what they are making in a similar space…
In other words, they are either too arrogant or too scared to be a part of the community.
The arrogance comes because they want to be at the top of the totem pole when it comes to what they think Black Comix are. They are looking for that ephemeral superstar status Wizard Magazine put into some of their heads with their Top 10 Artist and Writer lists (which were totally and arbitrarily manufactured). The fear comes into play as they know, deep down, that their product isn’t as up to snuff as someone else’s.
Yeah, I know I’m gonna catch mad flack for that last statement. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t any less true.
Now, there are many Black creators who are not asking this question. They are the ones getting recognition and finding success because their books meet the standards of the market. Why? Let me say this so the people in the back can hear:
COMIC BOOKS ARE AN EXERCISE IN GRAPHIC DESIGN
Everything needs to work in harmony (art, story, coloring, lettering, layout design and editing) in order to be considered a viable product by buying standards. Books like Bitter Root, Niobe: She Is Death, Is’nana: The Were-Spider, Crescent City Monsters and others have audiences of diverse backgrounds gobbling up their books because they are good stories that are well-designed with great content from Black creators. If one’s book is lacking in any of these areas, that book is going to have problems.
This leads into point two of this particular rant:
COLOR IS NOT CONTENT
The aforementioned books also work because it doesn’t matter if the characters are Black…
Their creators are.
Furthermore, they’re not trying to create a “Black version” of comics they’ve read before. They’re telling unique stories in different genres (because comics are more than superheroes) using their culture to enhance their stories and give unique points of view.
Here’s another point that you may or may not be aware of:
THE GAME DONE CHANGED AND BLACK WOMEN ARE AT THE FOREFRONT OF THIS CHANGE
I am not disrespecting the brothers who have paved the way at all. In fact, the brothers who haven’t been asking the question know exactly what I’m talking about.
In my opinion, C. Spike Trotman and Iron Circus Comics is the new publishing model one would want to follow. This woman has fundamentally changed the game building a successful publishing company with her savvy use of crowdfunding, marketing and content while cats are looking elsewhere for answers. She understands the market she’s built and has an extremely loyal fan/economic base.
In Detroit, Maia Crown Williams has created a cultural powerhouse with her MECCA Con which brings creators from all over the country to the Motor City, sets them up with book signings and makes sure that they sample the finest cuisine my hometown has to offer. In addition, she brings top-notch Black creators to Detroit as educational ambassadors who show young brothers and sisters the craft of bringing their visions to life.
Also, Sebastian Jones’ Stranger Comics and World of Asunda brand featuring Niobe has a huge female fan base in part due to Amandla Stenburg’s involvement in the creation of the character as well as Ashley Woods being a part of the creative team. By putting the creative team front and center (something the “Corporate Two” used to do), Stranger Comics built up that fan base, in part, because of marketing the creative team, the Black women who are a huge part of said team, gave added legitimacy to the brand.
And, of course, not enough can be said of Ariell Johnson and her success with Amalgam Bookstore and Coffeehouse.
Black women, straight-up, buy comics. Black women, straight-up, make comics. In addition to sci-fi author, creator of Dark Horse Comics’s LaGuardia and writer of Marvel’s Shuri series Nnedi Okarafor, we’ve got Ironheart writer Eve Ewing, artist Afua Richardson, writer and creator of the Women In Comics collective Regine Sawyer, illustrator Micheline Hess, indie writer Dorphese Jean, the badasses Ashley Woods, Alithea A. Martinez and so many more putting in that work on the daily and having a large fanbase that includes Black women.
This leads me to my final point:
CHANGE YOUR DEFINITION OF SUCCESS
People who want to get into comics nowadays don’t want floppies (though the 24-32-page pamphlet is still useful in getting people interested in your brand), they want books. They want graphic novels. These aren’t the people who go to the store every Wednesday for their X-Men or Justice League fix. They want books that represent them. They want to know that the creators of these books look like them, way more than the characters. They want the new and the creative. They want something different. They want a product that they don’t have to necessarily pick up every single month to follow the story. This is a new audience that people who keep asking the question are completely ignoring…
And, leaving money on the table.
Too many cats think way too small when it comes to their subject matter and its potential reach in other markets because they’ve locked into a model that, though successful for some, makes absolutely no sense for others. It amazes me how many cats don’t look at libraries or bookstores (online and mortar) as viable markets when those markets are killing it in terms of graphic novel sales.
it’s all about mindset. If you’re long-range goal is myopic, you’re not gonna find much traction. Straight-up, the model has changed. It’s been changed since, at the extreme least, 2010.
If you’re just going for a success model that only benefits the “Corporate Two” (i.e. built-in fan base from over 80 years of market saturation, Diamond as distribution, etc.) YOU ARE GOING TO FAIL. Simple as that.
The idea that Black Comix aren’t making an impact is bullshit. People who say that simply aren’t really checking out what’s happening in Black Comix. They’re too busy wishing for the “Corporate Two” to appease them while Milestone happened, while the whole con structure for Black Comics was built while Bitter Root and World of Asunda get picked up by Legendary and HBO respectively while Raising Dion and Cannon Busters appeared on Netflix.
But again, too many of aren’t aware of what’s happening in front of them. People really need to open their eyes to see what’s really going down. The machine has been created. More people just need to plug in by going to the cons, interacting with and being truly aware of what’s happening with other creators. That’s called being a part of the community…
And, maybe we’ll finally stop asking this question.
Speaking of community:
Dedication, Vol.05 of 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape is available now in print ($24.95) and digital ($9.95) formats. Click here to grab the print copy, here for the digital.
Also, 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape presents The Union is on sale in digital format ($3.99) with a print format coming at the end of October. What is The Union? The Union is an 8-bit video game that brings properties from independent Black Comix creators like Dorphise Jean, Robert Garrett(RIP), Quinn McGowan, William Satterwhite, Terance Baker, Tyrell White and Jiba Molei Anderson together for the first time to battle an enemy that threatens the very fabric of the multiverse we like to call The Blaxis. You can grab that bad boy here.
This is the community I’m talking about. This is Black Comix.