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 HORSEMEN: DIVINE INTERVENTION (20th Anniversary Edition)
120 pgs. • $24.99 (print) • $9.99 (digital)
Written and Created by: Jiba Molei Anderson
Pencilled by: Jiba Molei Anderson, MCL
Inked by: MCL, Patrick Brower
Colored by: Digital Broome, Eric Pence
Griot Enterprises is celebrating 20 years of publication with the 20th anniversary release of The Horsemen: Divine Intervention.
Created, written and illustrated by Jiba Molei Anderson, The Horsemen is the saga of seven ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances, as the gods of ancient Africa possess them. The gods have chosen them to protect humanity from itself…whether humanity wants them to or not. They combat those who control the fate of the planet. Through their actions, the world would never be the same.
“I wanted The Horsemen to reflect my worldview,” Anderson explains. “I was tired of the ‘famine and underdeveloped’ narrative that the continent is saddled with in the United Sates,” Anderson explains. “I also wanted to address the problems that Post-Colonialism left behind on the continent as well.”
With the release of the first issue in 2002, The Horsemen became a pioneer of the Afrofuturism movement in comics by using the Orishas as the basis for the superhero mythology. “I wanted to work with a different faith system, a system that when The Horsemen was created, no one, I mean no one, was thinking of,” Anderson says. “No one was thinking of using the Yoruba religion and its deities, the Orishas as a launch point for a comic book world at that time.”
The Horsemen would go on to become a critical, if not financial, success. Its fan base would include Hollywood talents such as Tony Todd (Candyman, Star Trek DS9 and Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings, Stranger Things) and comic book royalty like the late Dwayne McDuffie (Justice League Unlimited, Milestone Media). In addition, The Horsemen and Griot Enterprises served as the link between the independent Black Comix scene of the 90s (Brotherman, Tribe) and 21st Century renaissance currently happening in the industry with books like Niobe: She Is Life, Is’nana: The Were-Spider, Black and the entire Catalyst Prime imprint.
“We have seen many great African American superheroes in comics,
but we never saw an iconic African American superhero team,” Anderson continues. “We didn’t have our Justice League, our Avengers. We, as comic book fans of color, young and old, didn’t have a universe where our heroes reside…
… Griot Enterprises fills that void.”
The Horsemen: Divine Intervention is available at Amazon, Comixology, Drive Thru Comics, IndyPlanet and Peep Game Comix in print and digital formats. In addition, Griot Enterprises is running a GoFundMe campaign to help fund the company’s 2018 convention schedule.
Imani Lateef, owner of digital comic book store Peep Game Comix and Todd Johnson, co-creator of the seminal independent Black comic book Tribe started a spirited discussion on Facebook. The conversation was a subject that I had written a few articles worth over the years. You can view them here and here.
Sparked by the upcoming Black Panther film, Mr. Lateef posed this simple question:
“Will Black Panther help Black Comix? Why or why not?”
This prompted Mr. Johnson to start a post on his own page. This is how his thread began:
“Thinking about a recent post from Peep Game Comix’s Imani Lateef regarding would there be any financial blowback of the Black Panther movie into the other African American comic properties my short answer was NOPE.
IMHO, opportunities for this market to penetrate will not be successful by solo efforts for a multiple of reasons that could be discussed and debated ad nauseam. Conflicting mindsets, experience, business acumen, street smarts, egos, finances, time dedication present unique leadership conflicts.
But I would offer that a Think Tank model would be successful in formulating best practices, coop purchasing, marketing strategies, information hubs, mentorship/partnership possibilities, etc.; a representational body from many areas.
This list by no means is all just some I thought of off the top of my head as an example. A think tank model harnessing a group such as above and more could do some damage on many fronts.”
The responses to both posts were immense and varied, from professionals and fans. The pros and practitioners, for the most part, were picking up what both Imani and Todd were laying down. But, in some parts, the conversation disintegrated into well-worn conceits of DC and Marvel Comics’ wish fulfillment of representation or the tired musing of some monolithic entity like Milestone Media controlling the flow of content and information. Some also cite Image as an example of independent success easily replicated. And that thought spooked a creator or two. It was as if the participants in the thread were having two conversations.
I wonder if they watched the Image episode of Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics on AMC. The Image of today is WAY different than the early days. Even then, the early success of Image was based on the star power the creators established at Marvel.
It’s hard to have people think and operate collectively in a more productive way than just wishing out loud.
Some cats love to dream, but the reality is too much for them. Some of them are fans playing professional. A lot of them think that DC and Marvel are the end all be all of comics. Most of them don’t know comic book history, especially when it comes to the Black presence in comics. So, becomes a perpetual “Johnny Come Lately” situation.
Being a fan of DC or Marvel comics does not make you an expert on the business of comics
One of the issues, I feel, is that some desire a Black Comix monolith using, mistakenly, Milestone Media as the model for such an entity when the truth is the Black Comix movement is more akin to Hip Hop: different viewpoints and concepts while emulate different aspects of the culture. Hip Hop is not only East Coast/West Coast or Def Jam or No Limit or Death Row. It’s all of those entities, artists, journalists, etc. contributing to the culture. Why should the Black Comix movement be any different?
It’s not about controlling creativity. It’s more about how we can market effectively. Again, folks flow in different spaces beyond the creation of comics. It’s not a question of conforming to one mindset, but more of how can we collectively continue to spread the word and celebrate the diversity of the movement.
We also have to step away from the gaze and operating practices of the “other.” I feel as if some think that the current of comics’ business affairs, audience and structure is the only way to go when that is so not the case. The current business model doesn’t really work for us financially or creatively. So why stick with a faulty model?
As creators of content, part of our responsibility is to grow the market. To pursue a classic comic book market model (i.e. monthly pamphlets, Diamond distribution, comic book shops, etc.) is a losing battle. That model requires a major influx of funds to compete in a stagnant space dominated by corporate-owned entities with the resources to maintain their control.
What I’ve found way more successful is the pursuit of the wider book market / educational route. I’ve found the signs of much bigger success there. Parents and teens enjoy the representation they see because it’s not Marvel or DC. And, there’s a growing niche field of study concerning comics and pop culture thanks to the emerging interest in Afrofuturism.
For example, books like Sheena C. Howard’s Encyclopedia of Black Comics, John Jennings’ & Damian Duffy’s Black Comix & Black Comix Returns and my own 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape anthology series are concentrated texts that show the diversity of the movement. We all can big up these projects as examples of how we get down. A few articles about these books in different spaces as well as social media and cons like M.E.C.C.A. Con, Sol-Con, BASM, ECBACC and others can bring more eyes to what we’re all doing.
In essence, we’re creating cultural artifacts more so than just a new line of comics. So, we should think of, and market, them as such.
In terms of creating a sales metric of the movement, I think we could use successful Kickstarter campaigns and book sales of the Black Comix projects that received a great amount of grassroots marketing exposure. I’m thinking of books like Black, Trill League, Midnight Tiger, etc. along with the Catalyst Prime line as a baseline starter.
It would take all of us to promote each other. We all have fan bases, some shared, some unique. So, why don’t we promote each other more than sometimes wanting to be the G.O.A.T? Teamwork makes the dream work. That’s one of the ways Hip Hop became a dominant cultural force.
If we did a full-court press cross-promoting some of the best that the Black Comix movement has to offer, beyond Facebook or Twitter, we could make an impact and move the needle.
It would take a series of articles that would focus on known books like Niobe: She Is Life, Black, the Catalyst Prime line, Milestone 2.0 etc. as well as projects like Bounce, Project: Wildfire, The Horsemen, Is’nana: The Were-Spider, DMC and more published in places like Afropunk, IO9 and “mainstream” outlets as well as CBR, Newsarama, etc, but I think that this will bring awareness to what we do.
We’ve got the network in place. We just need to flex it properly and unapologetically.
It’s ours for the taking. Hip Hop didn’t look for approval and built its audience the old-fashioned way: one person at a time. Then, the “mainstream” came in and co-opted aspects of the culture. We can do the same. We have the tools…
Of course, we should avoid the whole co-opting thing, though. Because as Paul Mooney said “Don’t have too much fun, or they’ll take you too…”
Currently Griot Enterprises has a GoFundMe campaign happening. Your contribution will help us keep this train moving and you can cop some cool rewards for your donation. So please, become a part of Griot Enterprises and a part of the future of entertainment… We tell great stories!
Since 1997, Griot Enterprises has existed for one reason:
To tell great stories featuring diverse characters.
When Griot began, we had seen many great African American superheroes in comics, but we never saw an iconic African American superhero team. We didn’t have our Justice League, our Avengers. We, as comic book fans of color, young and old, didn’t have a universe where our heroes reside…
… Griot Enterprises filled that void.
In the past, we have paid for everything out of our own pockets. Because of this, our market saturation hasn’t matched our output and dedication to the company. However, despite our limited resources, Griot has made an impact on this industry. Our books have become educational tools and cultural touchstones. We have been celebrated as vanguards of the Black Comix movement and as pioneers of Afrofuturism in comics.
Our books can be found online at Amazon, Comixology, Drive Thru Comics and Peep Game Comix. And we have established distribution with Independent Publishers Group through our alliance with Cedar Grove Books, publisher of Young Adult books.
Now, we are in a moment where creators of color and their properties are beginning to receive their just due. From companies like Catalyst Prime to properties Like Niobe: She Is Life, Exo: The Legend of Wale Williams, Black and others, the call for diverse images and heroes has never been louder…
We’ve built the foundation. Now, it’s time for Griot Enterprises to take it to the next level and, we need your help.
We have planned an aggressive marketing and sales campaign to bring our books to the masses in 2018. We will be attending at least seven conventions across the U.S. throughout the year to build our fan base and promote our brand.
Here’s our proposed convention schedule:
April: C2E2 (Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo), Chicago, IL
May: ECBACC (East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention),
June: BASM (Black Speculative Arts Movement), Los Angeles, CA
August: Wizard World Chicago, Chicago, IL
September: M.E.C.C.A. Con, Detroit, MI
October: Sol-Con (Black and Brown Comics Expo), Columbus, OH
October: New York Comic-Con, New York, NY
The funds generated from this campaign will pay for convention appearances, printing books, production and shipping. It only takes a dollar to participate, but if you give a little more, we have a bunch of rewards to show our appreciation…
You could even become part owner of the entire operation.
For 20 years, Griot Enterprises has been the future or entertainment. Help us in continuing our mission. We are a village. We will become a nation…
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.
However, the Black Panther also used to frustrate the hell out of me.
Six years earlier in 1960, 17 African nations gained independence from their colonial overlords. Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, two men of Euro-American Jewish descent, famously introduced The Black Panther in Fantastic Four #52 dated July 1966, three months before the revolutionary Black Nationalist organization of the same name.
I don’t know if the upheaval in the continent influenced the creation of T’Challa, but the introduction of the Black Panther was a revolutionary moment.
To have the first mainstream Black superhero in comic book history come from the continent, from a country (though fictional) that was technologically ahead of the Western world, to have that hero not only as competent as, but superior, to his white counterparts (he defeated the Fantastic Four in his first outing), was as radical as the Civil Rights Movement and as resonate as the African Independence Movements. The Black Panther was ahead of his time…
Too far ahead.
I will say that Don McGregor is a cornerstone in the development of the Black Panther’s world. McGregor would build T’Challa’s court including W’Kabi and Taku as well as creating, arguably, T’Challa’s greatest adversary in Erik Killmonger as well as his first great love, African American musician Monica Lynne.
The story was called Panther’s Rage, which ran as a 13-issue story arc in the bi-monthly Jungle Action title from 1973 – 1975. Recognized as the industry’s first “graphic novel,” Panther’s Rage was an epic tale set in Africa. Beautifully illustrated by Rich Buckler, Gil Kane, Billy Graham, Klaus Janson, P. Craig Russell and Bob McLeod, Panther’s Rage was dense, complex and sensuous.
T’Challa was depicted as a man of great passion and determination. Killmonger was more than just a standard mustache-twirling villain, but a revolutionary wanting justice for his father who died laboring in the vibranium mines (the fictional metal of the Marvel Universe and the source of Wakanda’s vast wealth). T’Challa and Killmonger’s rivalry was personal and brutal. Every victory was hard-fought and hard earned in this story. McGregor was able to infuse the world of the Black Panther with some realities of life on the continent giving the story and the character a resonance that one would think made the Black Panther a character to be reckoned with, an A-list property if you will…
Despite McGregor’s Panther vs. The Clan follow-up arc to Panther’s Rage, the Black Panther failed to gain substantial traction as an ongoing series. Oh sure, he would pop up in other titles, sometimes as a guest star, but mostly stayed in the background, the veritable “Franklin” of the Marvel Universe.
The mainstream comic book industry was, and is, dominated by white men. It’s majority-cultivated fanbase, until relatively recently, was geared towards white male power fantasy. In the late ‘60s and early 1970s, creators of color, especially writers of color, were few to none. Though this period saw the emergence of Black comic book artists the likes of Billy Graham, Arvell Jones, Trevor Von Eeden and others, the voice of Black superheroes was the voice of the other…
And, T’Challa suffered from it.
From the age of ten, I knew that I was going to be a comic book creator. I became enamored with the medium the second I opened the first comic book my father gave me. My love for the medium was beyond mere brand loyalty. DC, Marvel, Atlas, Charlton, First Comics, it didn’t matter. I was a nerd in the classic sense. In addition to comics, I was interested in science fiction and mythology. This love of mythology, coupled with the awakening of my political philosophy and Diasporatic African identity, led me to study the ancient faith systems of the continent. This largely untapped subject matter became the well from which my eventual contribution into the industry would spring forth. I was an Afrofuturist before the term was coined.
And, it was in this emergence of my creative self that my frustration with the Black Panther began.
Though the character would be the focus of various mini-series by Peter B. Gillis, Denys Cowan, Don McGregor, Gene Colan and Dwayne Turner, I felt that the character was underutilized and that the Black Panther was a treasure chest of untapped potential and untapped exploration…
The Black Panther became a promise unfulfilled.
I erroneously thought that all creators tapped into the same wellspring of creation, that we all studied the same points of interest and Marvel had dropped the ball by not making Black Panther an ongoing series thereby giving these creators the opportunity to utilize the revelation of story ideas that the exploration of African history, politics, culture and mythology had provided me.
But eventually, I realized that T’Challa’s development, as a character was, ultimately, not my concern. Though I had affection for the Black Panther, I did not own the character, he was not my “child,” so to speak. I had to use my resources and influences for my benefit, for my creative process. I had to use the elements that were “forgotten” in the Black Panther’s development for my own purposes.
I had looked to the promise of the future that would be labeled as the Black Age of Comics, or Black Comix movement, for my inspiration. Inspired by the emerging voices that Milestone Media, Brotherman, Tribe and others brought to the industry, I forged ahead with my exploration and development of my property, infusing my nascent universe, The Horsemen, with the elements I felt missing from the Black Panther.
In reality, the only thing that T’Challa needed were Black voices to tell his tale.
Christopher Priest found T’Challa’s voice in his silence. When Black Panther Vol.3 debut in 1998, Priest (along with artists Mark Texeira, Joe Jusko and Mike Manley) made T’Challa the epitome of detached cool. The Enemy of the State arc made T’Challa, and Wakanda, a force to be reckoned with in the Marvel Universe. A tale of espionage, Priest created State Department attorney K. Everett Ross to be the white reader’s entre into the Black Panther’s world. More importantly, Priest introduced the Dora Milaje, T’Challa’s personal guard of women warriors, which added a much-needed feminine strength and energy to the world of Wakanda.
Following Priest’s impressive 62-issue run, a new Black Panther series was launched in 2005, which ran for 41 issues. Scribed by Hollywood writer and producer Reginald Hudlin (Boomerang, House Party, Django Unchained) and illustrated by John Romita, Jr, Hudlin’s Who Is The Black Panther arc introduced a neo-Kirbyesque Wakanda that was never conquered, defiant and untouched by the taint of colonial influence. More so, Hudlin’s arguably greatest addition to the Black Panther’s mythos was the creation of Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister who would become the ruler of Wakanda and a Black Panther in her own right following T’Challa’s incapacitation.
In 2016, author and journalist Ta’Nehisi Coates would create a Wakanda rooted in a less romantic, more fact-based context reflecting the reality of the African continent. Though somewhat controversial amongst long-time Black Panther fans, Coates’ A Nation Under Our Feet arc tapped into the wellspring of African mythology, philosophy, culture, politics, and social issues I thought abandoned by other creators save myself. With a sense of novelization rivaling the earlier work of Don McGregor, Coates weaves a Wakanda exclusively from Afrofuturistic cloth, fulfilling the promise of a Black Panther I thought would never be realized.
This promise will be further made good come February 2018 when the Black Panther hits the big screen. Thanks to director Ryan Coogler, lead actor Chadwick Bosemen, Danai Gurira and the rest of the cast and crew, This will be the first time that audiences worldwide will see a vision of Wakanda and the Black Panther that had always existed in my mind, but will be new and exciting for the majority of a people who have been historically denied the ability to imagine a fantasy world where they play front and center.
In 2017, I attended the annual Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) not as an exhibitor, but as a fan. I strolled the convention taking in the sights and visiting the creators’ tables in Artist Alley, something I rarely had the luxury of doing since I began to attend comic book conventions over 20 years ago. Brian Stelfreeze, artist of Ta’Nehsi Coates’ inaugural run on the title was in attendance. I was able to strike up a conversation only to be surprised and humbled that an artistic hero of mine followed my work.
But, the best part of our exchange?
We acknowledged that we were drawing from the same wellspring for inspiration…
T’Challa has lived up to his promise. All hail the king.
Now, keep this mind (especially for those sitting in the back of the auditorium)…
Black men and women who were murdered by police for doing nothing but being, well, Black (i.e. Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland and the yet to be murdered Black person because it’s not Monday) are vilified as the media digs deep for any past transgression like, say for instance, jaywalking.
Yet, this heifer, who was caught in no less than three acts of statutory rape, is called hot? As if her attractiveness (which is mad questionable BTW… Love that #Pathology) makes her crime more palatable?
Yeah… Call me a bigot all day, every day. I’d rather be this kind of bigot than a hypocritical sycophant any day…
Now; this was the article where I was called out for my bigotry.
I looked over the initial post again… The #Sensitive really got all in a tizzy because I said Gal Gadot was white while others have been trying to make her the Hollywood Rachel Dolezal because she is Israeli… And I said that it was ok for Gal Gadot to be white…
Damn… I didn’t know that saying it’s ok to be white was so racist…
What I have found since I started posting this material in 2013, is how deep this #Pathology goes and how fervent people are willing to defend this toxic ideology (so much so that people voted for the absolute worst candidate in the 20th/21st century in 2016).
The information is out there. The statistics exist for anyone to obtain. You don’t even have to really search for it. Hell, all I do is share information that other people post on their walls.
The reality is that this information completely dismantles the rhetoric that people have been spoon fed for centuries. It completely destroys the illusion of the inherent goodness that the #Pathology promotes. It’s all a lie, the ultimate Ponzi scheme, if you will. But, because of the fact that the majority of the world is brown and that brownness is overtaking the safe spaces and that brownness, with other marginalized voices actively rejecting the #Pathology, the “dominant” culture is real nervous.
They read the articles, hear the voices of critique and feel that; somehow, they are experiencing racism…
They couldn’t handle what real racism is.
Racism is the power to make policy based on prejudice. The only people who have, and exercised that “power,” is the “dominant” culture (AKA white culture). When one can produce evidence that marginalized people (i.e. Black, Latinix, Asian, LGBTQ, etc.) have held positions of power in this country to create legislation that is detrimental to others (AKA white people), then we can talk anti-white racism. Until then, marginalized people can only practice prejudice, which results in hurt feelings and, perhaps, individual agony…
The United States was founded on racism, built by racism and still feels it must operate under a racist paradigm (especially with this administration). Facts.
And that is the thing that they are most scared of, that the sins of the father will revisit them tenfold.
So, they lash out. They find spaces like mine to reclaim some sort of supremacy for themselves as if to say, “If I can shut this guy up, then I’m right and things can go back to ‘normal’.” They use the false information they’ve digested as fact assuming that someone like myself (read: Black) doesn’t know any better…
And, they get really mad when it doesn’t work.
Engaging in conversation and making “flame” arguments are two different things. Every single thing I post is to puncture the hypocrisy of the racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. narrative that we have been spoon-fed. Interestingly enough, pointing out this hypocrisy makes me the very thing I rail against?
Eff. That. Noise.
I don’t have to pull out any disclaimers about my intentions because, if you truly know me, you know where I’m coming from. I’m not going to sugar coat it, I’m going to be brutally honest. This is the work I do. It’s the work I’ve always done. I do not pray to the #Pathology of whiteness. I don’t believe in false prophets.
Because of this do I hate Euro-Americans or others of European descent? Not even. However, I’m not gonna sit and get pissed on while fools try to tell me it’s raining either.
Fun fact: I don’t troll other people’s walls with my viewpoints. Folks always wanna say something on my wall when they get #Sensitive about things that I point out…
Why is that?
Yeah, addressing this willful ignorance is tiring and disappointing. But, if what I do enlightens one, just one, person to take a step back and change their thinking, then I’ve done my job.
I mean, isn’t that what teachers are supposed to do?
No, that’s not the total truth. The truth is that so many of the things have happened in the past almost-year I’ve written about before…
“But what about Hidden Figures? What about Get Out? What about the #45thRegime? What about Wonder Woman…”
Yo, there have been so many think pieces about all of that, and more, I felt that I would just be adding noise to the ether, especially when so many of those pieces touched on themes I would touch on but in, some cases, a more eloquent way.
Then, Friday happened.
Here’s my response to that. Art and words by yours truly…
I will be giving you more of what (I hope) you remember me for soon and frequently. For the New Jacks checking this out for the first time, welcome.
The people I’ve found most shocked about the outcome of Election 2016 are white people.
If I were being completely honest with myself, (and those of you who follow my wall) this backlash and increased terrorism against POC, LGBTQ and other marginalized groups, protests included, would have happened even if Hillary Clinton won the election (yes, the Electoral College).
As much as people want to claim (public figures, private figures and everyone in between) that this election wasn’t about a response to the other, some of us need to stop denying the truth of this.
I’ve been working the idea (and speaking about it) that the most-maligned “minority” in this country is the poor and working white class.
In some ways, the false construction of race has really given them the short end of the stick from fighting in the Civil War for rich plantation owners (to keep their slaves, not states rights) until now. They are ignored and ridiculed by their own. They are the neglected children of the country, and a pathology, that they love so dearly.
To further the insult, to some, those that they were taught are lesser than them because of hue or orientation or gender are celebrated, called heroes and role models, when those other people rise from the same miserable conditions they have been forced to endure due to loss of industry, environmental distress, social depression and more.
This is a very hollow victory for them… Especially as the ones who may not be racist, misogynistic, etc. are lumped into the same group of others who look like them. Now, they must hide their thoughts and beliefs, fundamental aspects of who they are, from others lest they be stereotyped and lumped in with the dysfunctional members of their tribe. They have to pass as someone else in order to get through the day…
It’s kinda like what People Of Color have been facing since the beginning on this country.
Don’t get me wrong… POC, LGBTQ and other marginalized groups are extremely frightened about what just happened.
However, we pretty much knew it was coming. In particular, African Americans, First Nation and Latinix Americans were shocked, but not surprised at what happened the night of Election 2016… At all. Literally for us, with Sandra Bland, voter suppression, NoDAPL, “Build That Wall” and so many other things we have dealt with not just this year, but from time, Tuesday night was just another day in the sense of dreams deferred and denied.
Here’s the thing: we POC always knew that stakes were high. And, that this very real danger is not surprising. The past couple years, decades, centuries of terrorism have got us activated and prepared.
Still, though I may understand, things were said in this campaign that cannot be brushed aside. History cannot be taken back nor rewritten as much as people try to. Fools keep reaching for that imaginary carrot of White Privilege (really Class Privilege) like Charlie Brown keeps trying to kick that ball only to have the football snatched from them again and again…
For that, there is no sympathy, no understanding.
Because it is the pursuit of privilege that perpetuated slavery, created Jim Crow & Segregation, destroyed Black Wall Street, invented Redlining, created COINTELPRO and started the War on Drugs to name a few of the pursuit’s outcomes. That pursuit of privilege ends the lives of Black and Brown folk without compunction far too early and blames the victim for being victimized. It has destroyed empathy and compassion.
No, this is the Come to Jesus moment, another example of a long overdue dismantling of some fundamental lies. Now, white folks need to have a discussion with each other to reconcile these issues.
This existential crisis is that community’s cross to bear. They need to own it. They shouldn’t deny the conflict that some may be wrestling with in their hearts and minds. They need to feel that pain…
…because on the other side of that pain is understanding and compassion.
People need to take a good long look in the mirror and really accept some hard truths if there’s going to be any sincere and lasting change…
Creating a totem out of something that one can find in their junk drawer is not nearly enough.
And, it is not our job as POC or any other maligned group to understand and try reach out because we already have… Repeatedly… And, we yet to be heard.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s a true one. I know people are hurting, disillusioned, frightened and angry. I know I am. But, in these times, there needs to be a moment of self-reflection and the acceptance of these ugly truths before one can truly change their state of mind in planning for future action.
BTW, for those who honestly put the work in, you know this ain’t about you so there should be no reason to get in a huff. This isn’t about blame, but about facts…
Change never comes easy. Progress never comes easy. And these things never come from the top down. Some of us have known this from jump.
This post is dedicated to the memories, family and friends of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Lorne Aherns, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa.
I need to share this with y’all… Especially those of you who still feel the need to question what I post and the veracity of what it’s like to be a Black man in America.
I grew up on the West Side of Detroit. Now, despite what some of you may think or heard about the 313, I can tell you for a fact that I felt safer in the “D” than I ever did going out to the ‘burbs. Why? Because of the color of my skin.
I remember one evening when my brother and I were heading back to the city from, I think, West Bloomfield. We’re waiting at a light when this group of white dudes in the car next to rolled up and in a brief moment of supposed bravery had the courage to yell nigger to us as the light changed and they very quickly sped off as if a car of five white dudes were afraid to catch the wrath of two Black dudes.
It’s real out here. Knock on wood, every encounter I’ve had with the police has been without incident, but that’s because my mom gave me The Talk in high school. And, best believe that in every said encounter (wasn’t that many, but all it takes is one time), I was worried because I knew that every encounter was a crapshoot. Man, I even got pulled over in Walled Lake, Michigan a few years ago when I was in a relationship with a woman whose parents lived there for little reason other than… Well, fill in the blank.
Luckily, the cops I encountered had cool heads, in part, because my mom gave me The Talk and my outwardly calm and agreeable demeanor aided in neutralizing what could have easily been a tragic situation. But best believe, I was well aware that things could always go left…
This is a small taste of what it’s like to be a brother in the U.S. I’m one of the lucky ones. Too many of us are not.
That shouldn’t be the case and I shouldn’t have to say this unfortunate truth.
This isn’t an abstract intellectual debate. Shit is real out here. No matter how many degrees you have or what you wear, in this dark skin, there is a permanent target on your back in these United States of America… Realest talk.
They call us racist because we remind them of the racism that exists every day. They call us racist because we pull the blinders away from their eyes every day. They call us racist because we force them to acknowledge that what they live are the lives of slaves trapped in mental shackles.
But, people need to know these real stories. They need to read what’s it’s truly like to be a Person Of Color in this country. They need their noses rubbed in the shit that we have to endure every day, even those of us who are not in the more concentrated areas of this oppression. We still live in this state of hyper awareness that at any moment, any wrong turn, we could become another name that people are told to remember due to this disgusting pathology.
As you can read, the past few days have been really tough. Honestly, the past few years have been extremely difficult to deal with. My spirit has been sorely tested, damn near beaten to the ground. A rage has been building inside of me, poisoning my soul and corrupting my mind. The battle that I have been fighting had almost destroyed the love that I had for myself and the love I have for others.
And then I went to the 9:30 service at Soul City Church. I was in a space where our pastor, Jarrett Stevens, addressed these trying times honestly and unabashedly, bringing another member of our church, Reverend Chris Griffin, up to the stage to give his testimony as a Black man, born in 1963, who was a young boy during the riots shortly after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, who after nearly 50 years of that tragedy saw the same injustices against our people play out again. These men of God gave us, a truly diverse congregation (something that is, unfortunately, rare in places of worship), and a space to lament.
In this space, I did something I rarely ever do…
I let myself feel the pain of this moment in time. I looked into my own heart and faced the anger that was poisoning my mind and affecting my soul. I was able to cleanse myself of all of this toxic pain and rage…
And then, God spoke to me. And God reminded me of my mission, my gifting and my ministry.
Now, I understand that this post will take some of my readers aback as I have never spoke about my spirituality before…
Or, so it seems.
But, let me let you in on a little secret…
Comics are my ministry.
Peep game: The Horsemen is so much more than just a graphic novel series with, hopefully, a cool group of Black superheroes fighting bad guys. It’s my manifesto. It is my diatribe against the injustice I see every day (i.e. racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.). The mission statement for The Horsemen is this:
They have come to save Humanity… Whether we want them to, or not. For who controls the Eight Immortals but the number seven.
The Horsemen’s logo is an adaptation of the Andikra symbol known as the Gye Nyame, which translates to, But for the grace of God.
The Horsemen, you see, is a blessed book.
I said it before: The Horsemen would never exist at DC or Marvel. It can’t. The Horsemen exists to serve a higher purpose. The Horsemen is my space to explore and critique the miasma of bullshit we, as human beings, subject ourselves to every day that keep us separated from a deeper understanding of ourselves and others.
Finally, I saw this photo posted over the weekend of nurse and mother 28-year-old Ieshia Evans facing off against a group of police officers in Baton Rouge.
This is how I see this photo:
Notice that the sister stands tall and proud in the face of injustice.
Notice how her strength is too much for the oppressor to handle.
Notice how they are being pushed back with the power of her righteous indignation.
Notice how that Blue line stands in the distance afraid to approach her for fear of being pushed back as well…
That is what I see in this photo…
The power of the righteous dispelling fear and hate.
This is what I do, fam. I work my passion and use the gifts that the Most High gave me in order to fight for a better day for all people. Remember when I wrote that everything I make is Protest Art? Well, now you know why.
Y’all may think I’m crazy, but I need to change the narrative within myself if I am going to change the narrative within others…