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.
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.
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!
“It was all a dream, I used to read Wizard Magazine…”
– Paraphrasing ‘Juicy” by The Notorious B.I.G
Pssst… Guess what?
Comics are Hip Hop.
Of course, if this were written in the 20s, I would have said, “Comics are the Blues.” If this were written in the 40s, then Comics would be akin to Jazz. In the 60s, Comics would be considered Rock and Roll…
You get the idea.
Comics started out as a sort of gutter hybrid art form of image and text, which (for the most part) were crudely drawn, crudely written disposable fair printed on cheap paper for the unwashed masses, mostly children, to enjoy.
Comics are hood. Back in the day, nobody who considered themselves “true” artists or writers would claim comics as a legitimate art form. Artists wouldn’t claim comics, using that work as a stepping-stone while they pursued “legitimate” work from advertising agencies.
Hell, Stanley Lieber created the pen name Stan Lee initially to distance himself from comic book work for the day when he would write The Great American Novel.
Comics are dangerous. Along with Jazz, along with Rock and Roll, along with Hip Hop, Comics were once, and according to some, still considered the bane of existence; a poison of the mind that would lead to delinquency, crime, homosexuality, and murder. Frederic Wertham made his bones by putting the fear of comics into the hearts and minds of good, hard-working, American folk with his ode to ridiculousness Seduction of the Innocent.
Comics are gully. They have the ability to tap into our base instincts. They allow some to engage in power fantasies of strength, sexual illusion and dominance, fulfilling wishes to be overly-muscled, gritted teeth savage demigods who can kill with impunity, cruelly reducing women to disposable plot devices only useful for fulfilling carnal needs or a tool for motivation in their mutilation or death by exotic and tragic means.
The Comic Book industry knows beef. From the eternal struggle for dominance by DC and Marvel to the conflict between Milestone Media and Ania (a rift that echoed the East Coast/West Coast war without the death of its representatives), to the dearth of flame wars pertaining to every aspect of comics in social media, it’s a wonder that we’ve never seen scuffles on par with the Source Awards at the San Diego Comic Con.
At the same time, Comics are conscious. Comics can uplift. Comics can inspire. Comics can show us at our absolute best. We love Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Black Panther, Storm and many others because they illustrate who we want to be. Two Jewish men for the purpose of punching Hitler, and the ugliness of Nazism, in the face, created Captain America. Spider Man shows that an ordinary schlub could rise from his nebbishness and become a hero because, of course, with great power comes great responsibility. The X-Men fight for equality in a world where not only are they not wanted, but are outright persecuted for being different.
Like Hip Hop, Comics are experimental, have different styles, represent different regions, and are global. East Coast is different from the West Coast, which is different from the Midwest and the Dirty South, yet no matter if you rock Nas or Rakim, NWA or the Souls of Mischief, Common or Eminem, Outkast or T.I., it’s still representing the culture that is Hip Hop. By the same token, no matter if you’re Justice League or Avengers, Hellboy or Saga, Blade of the Immortal or Archie, you’re still knee deep in that comic book culture.
Comics and Hip Hop share the mastery of elements in order to be truly down in the game. The practitioners of Hip Hop are the MC, the DJ, the B-Boy & B-girl and the Graffiti artist. The practitioners of comics are the Writer, the Penciller, the Inker, the Colorist and the Letterer.
And, just like Hip Hop, money has come in and changed the game. Before 2008, one could say that DC and Marvel were in the same boat as Dark Horse, Image, Dynamite, IDW, Boom, etc. Even though DC and Marvel were “bigger labels,” they were still in the comic book family.
Like Hip Hop, Comics had cinematic success well before recent memory. For instance, one may be able to call the 1978 Superman film the Beat Street of comic books movies. Furthermore, Comics and Hip Hop have borrowed from each other as well as had moments of symbiosis (i.e. the Wu-Tang Clan, MCs using their rap monikers like secret identities, rappers creating comic books, Brotherman, etc.).
Real talk, 1997’s Blade, in tone, attitude and execution, was as close to a Hip Hop influenced comic book movie as you were gonna get.
However, once Iron Man and The Dark Knight made big money, the Mouse (Disney) bought Marvel, the Rabbit (Warner Brothers) doubled down on DC and changed the whole game. Now we’ve got the Corporate Two trying to dominate, and sublimate, an industry that thrives on innovation and diversity. For them, it’s not about creating good stories, but exploiting IP.
Same thing happened in Hip Hop. Before Dr. Dre’s classic The Chronic, you could have A Tribe Called Quest, EPMD, Salt N Pepa, Public Enemy, Arrested Development, 2 Live Crew, MC Hammer and more rock the airwaves and all be considered Hip Hop. After The Chronic, it became all about blunts, guns, sex and keeping it real. It became all about the clothing deal or schilling products before even getting the record deal. It became less about speaking your truth and more about fattening your bank account…
In other words, Hip Hop became more about Drake and less about Kendrick Lamar.
Still, just like real Hip Hop, real Comics endure. 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. That’s 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 (POD, websites, Comixology, Drive Thru Comics, Kickstarter, etc.) searching for that fan with discernable taste to purchase what they have to offer.
And, just like Hip Hop, the work is diverse, dangerous, gully and uplifting. These Comics represent our base fears and our wildest dreams.
Remember when Nas said, “All I need is on mic?” The Comic creator could say, “All I need is one pen, or one pencil, or one stylus…”
This is where the future exists. This is where we exist. We are 4 Pages | 16 Bars, and we came to rock the house.
Protect ya neck.
4 Pages | 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape presents Sequential Graffiti is available for print ($14.99) and digital formats ($5.99) now at Amazon and Drive Thru Comics. Think of it as a 66-page EP celebrating some of the Visual MCs and Literary DJs who help make comics a cooler place to be. It’s all leading up to Vol. 01 of 4 Pages | 16 Bars: A Digital Mixtape. It’s called The Symphony for a reason…