Influences Part One

Hey, all.

Wanted to talk a little bit about my influences. When I got into comics, there was a certain style of artist that I gravitated to. I enjoyed the artists who were trying to capture the more realistic approach to rendering the human figure in their “cartooning” while still maintaining the exaggeration of action and camera angles that help make comic book art so dramatic and exciting. This was the kind of feeling that I wanted, and still want, my art to elicit. As I entered the industry, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting almost all of my artistic heroes. These are the roots of my kung-fu:

1.) Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez

He is the “Old Man on the Mountain,” the wisest of my kung-fu masters. His artwork is probably the most seen in the mainstream of any comic book artist because of his extensive marketing and advertising illustration for DC Comics. I’ve been aware of his work since I was a little child in the 70s. He is probably one of the greatest draftsmen the industry has ever seen. When I met him at the New York City Comicon in 2009, it was a true “Master, please to show me a new style!” moment. He was an absolute gentleman, very kind, gracious and still very vital in the game, which is so rare. He was everything that I thought and hoped he would be and he showed me the power of grace when you concentrate on your craft.

2.) John Byrne

Seriously, if you came of age reading and wanting to draw comic books in the 80s, then you were influenced by this man. He re-vitalized Superman and with Chris Claremont elevated the X-Men from B-list status to a household name. I owe a lot of my construction of the human figure to this artist. His visual storytelling, though seemingly conservative next to some artists today, is extremely effective with subtle hints of experimentation. Say what you want about the man’s personality (I never saw it when I met him in the 90s), but you have give respect when respect is due.

3.) George Perez

Perez is the epitome of the self-taught artist… That’s the first thing that I love about his art. The second thing that I love is that he never rested on any laurels. He’s always trying to improve, to progress, to blow us out of the water, and he always succeeds. His sense of composition is uncanny. His individualization of character is almost beyond compare. From The Teen Titans to Crisis on Infinite Earths to JLA/Avengers, this man is a beast. I’m still salty, and proud, that my good friend John J. Hill was the art director for the last title. Perez is also one of the sweetest people that I’ve ever met in comics and I’m still geeking out that I was a speaking character in his too-short lived Crimson Plague.

4.) Alan Davis

Ah, the British Invasion of the 1980s: Alan Moore, David Lloyd, Dave Gibbons… You would think that I would have Brian Bolland in my top 5. Don’t get me wrong, Bolland is amazing, an artistic deity… And I knew I would never get to that level of detail… But I could be Alan Davis. Please believe, it is not that Alan Davis is any less talented than Bolland. In fact, Davis combines the best of Neal Adams, Barry Windsor-Smith and John Buscema in my opinion. And, it is exactly because of those influences that Davis’ work speaks to me. Elegant and dynamic with fascinating page design, I’ll always buy a Davis-drawn book when it comes out.

5.) Steve Rude

For someone who is decidedly in the independent comic arena, you see that most of my influences come from the “Big Two.” This artist really made his bones by doing his own thing. I’ve always been enamored by the book Nexus. I thought that Mike Baron and Steve Rude created something truly unique. Rude’s work speaks to my collegiate experiences. He is an artist’s artist combining his love of Alex Toth and Jack Kirby with the structure of a fine arts education. There is an innocence in his work, which is uniquely Midwestern. I’m sure he doesn’t remember, but Steve Rude is the reason why Griot Enterprises exists. He gave me the biggest compliment and that was the kind of encouragement a young artist needs and desires to hear. So, I thank you for that, Mr. Rude.

These artists are the roots of my style. I’ve learned and continue to learn so much from them whenever I see their work. So, that’s it… For now. Cheers!

Wizard’s End:

So, unless you’re one of the three people in the comic book industry who shares a cave with Osama Bin Laden, you already know that Wizard’s existence as a print magazine is no more. Instead, it will re-invent itself as an online journal starting in February.

Now, my first reaction was a knee-jerk “What’s gonna happen with the industry now that Wizard isn’t on the stands?” Then, I realized that I got the heads-up from Comic Book Resources, my online journal of choice.

Yes, Wizard’s demise was it’s own fault. They shouldn’t have tried to franchise the convention experience (their biggest mistake, in my opinion), they should have covered indie comics more, hell, Gareb Shamus should not have tried to get into the MMA business. But, the end of Wizard truly means the end of an era… It means that the ’90s, in the comic book industry, are officially over.

Peep game, Wizard’s rise to prominence as the comic book journal of note directly coincides with the rise of Image and Valiant. It can be argued that these three entities created a symbiotic relationship that helped start a revolution in the industry. All three entities were brash and in your face. All three entities showed the power and possibility of the independent market in comics. However, Valiant caved under the miasma that was the speculator market and the ousting of Jim Shooter as EIC. Image suffered the loss of Jim Lee’s Wildstorm studio and the in-fighting of the partners, which forced its re-defintion. Wizard decided to suck on the teat of the big two, most notably, Marvel especially post-bankruptcy.

Now, let’s be clear: Wizard was never the New York Times, but it did make reading comic books fun. And, I especially enjoyed the How-To-Draw section in the mag, which was extremely useful. I enjoyed their attempt to give better coverage of the indy scene w/ Wizard’s Edge (The first one in 2002 was a great boost for my book, The Horsemen).  But, those experiments quickly dissapated leaving Wizard much worse for wear. Their convention strategy blew up in their faces, pissing off everyone from fan to retailer to creative to company. When DC or Marvel decides to pass on your convention, you’re screwed.

 At the end, Wizard forgot what Wizard was about, making comics fun. They started “smelling their drawers” and thought that they were the industry. That is the reason for Wizard’s demise. No one of us is the industry; not, DC, not Marvel, not Wizard. We are all a part of this industry and we all need to understand that in order for the industry to maintain and to grow. Don’t get me wrong. Marvel and DC will always be the big two Image and Dark Horse will always be the pinnacle of the second tier and the rest of us will be pushing to get our product out under these conditions… and that’s cool. I appreciate the competition. Just remember that we’re all in this together and there ain’t no “I” in team. That’s the only way that we’re all going to survive in this industry.

What Is Black Sci-Fi?

This statement is written for the purpose of not only defining the course of which my work has taken, but also to name and define a movement. This movement is not new nor is it limited to realm in which I choose to express my discipline. This movement has existed since Humanity began to express itself through creativity and sought to explain its existence through spirituality. However, the naming and explaining of this movement will be limited in the context of a culture (or cultures) and the hue of a people: my culture and my people.

The name of the movement is Black Sci-Fi.

This name, as some would no doubt like to debate, is not meant to divide, but rather to categorize and celebrate the speculative fiction from the African Diaspora. Furthermore, the name Black Sci-Fi does not preclude those outside of the Diaspora from working within this subgenre. However, in order to do so, one must follow certain tenets if one is to truly call their work Black Sci-Fi.

1.) The name of the genre is Black Sci-Fi.

It is not called African American Science Fiction, African American Speculative Fiction, Urban Sci-Fi nor any other politically correct terminology. It has been named Black Sci-Fi and will always be referred to as such to reflect its defiant political, social, spiritual, and racial stance in this these United States of America.

 

2.) Black Sci-Fi must have an African American as the primary protagonist.

Simply put, it’s not Black Sci-Fi if an African American is not main character in the story (i.e. I Robot, the Blade Trilogy, Spawn, Black Panther, etc.).

 

3.) Black Sci-Fi will always have a connection to the Black Experience.

All Black Sci-Fi works have made a connection between the actions executed in the “present” of the piece and the history of the Black Experience. This link is not limited to the African American experience but rather to the historical experience to the African Diaspora as a whole (i.e. the works of Octavia Butler).

 

4.) Black Sci-Fi focuses on the spiritual rather than the physical.

Whereas other subgenres of speculative fiction tend to focus on technology (the physical), Black Sci-Fi almost always focuses on the potential of the human experience (the spiritual). Indeed, Black spirituality is, in one shape or form, based on a link to the cosmos from the Dogon to the Yoruba to even Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Granted, technology may be in Black Sci-Fi works (especially if the work is based in a far off future), but technology is never the driving force of the piece (i.e. the Matrix Trilogy, Star Trek DS9, etc.).

 

5.)    Black Sci-Fi respects and often references other cultures.

The genre does not exist in a vacuum nor does it eschew other cultures to further its own agenda. Rather, Black Sci-Fi embraces the importance of all cultures in the human existence and draws upon them as well in order to create a cohesive universe in which it can exist. The subgenre is inclusive, not exclusive (i.e. The Horsemen, The Monarchy, etc.).

 

6.)    Black Sci-Fi is political.

Whether the work focuses on gender, sexuality, religion, class, race, etc., Black Sci-Fi is always a commentary on the existing conditions in which the work was created. More often than not, it is a critique on those conditions (i.e. Brother From Another Planet, Space Is The Place, etc.).

 

7.)    Black Sci-Fi is not limited to the literary or the visual.

Simply put, Black Sci-Fi is everywhere and we experience it every day. This is not a new phenomenon. This has been happening from the beginning and, in particular, the 20th and 21st centuries. We hear it everyday in our music, we see it in the clothes we wear, we use it in our speech, and it is in the way we move. It is a living, breathing entity. The Blues are Black Sci-Fi. Jazz is Black Sci-Fi. Rock and Roll, Soul, and Funk are Black Sci-Fi. Reggae is Black Sci-Fi. Hip Hop is Black Sci-Fi. House, Techno, indeed all DJ culture-based music is Black Sci-Fi (i.e. John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Parliament/Funkadelic, Sun Ra, EWF,
Outkast, Derrick May, Dwele, Afrika Bambatta, Vikter Duplaix, Goldie, Janelle Monae, Common, etc.).

This is the criterion that one must follow if one wants to work in this newly defined genre. I say newly defined not newly formed because this genre existed long before I was born. I’m just following its rules and regulations.
If you want to create true Black Sci-Fi, I suggest you do the same.

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