Tag Archives: 4Pages16Bars

Trailblazers

The African American presence has been evident in comics since the inception of the medium. Granted, for most of the medium’s history, the portrayal of African American culture has, at its best been skewed and, at its worst, offensive. But it cannot be denied that the African American character has always had a place in comic strips and comic books, and the African American comics’ creator has had a hand in developing the art form.

We have been here from the beginning and every day, there is another person of color, with nothing more than a pencil and imaginations, creating sepia-toned superheroes to right wrongs and provide inspiration to future comic book fans.

This is a celebration of the African American contribution to a uniquely American art movement, one, that at over 100 years and counting, has lasted longer than any modern artistic movement in history.

Here now are some of the trailblazers who paved the way for all of us from Milestone to Ania to Gettosake to Griot Enterprises, Black, Tuskegee Heirs, Niobe and so many more of us making comics today.

We salute you.

KrazyKat
Krazy Kat by George Herriman

KRAZY KAT

George Herriman’s premise of the series goes a little something like this: Krazy Kat is in love with Ignatz Mouse. Ignatz Mouse rebuffs Krazy Kat’s affections by throwing bricks at Krazy’s head. Krazy takes the brick throwing as a sign of affection from Ignatz Mouse and continues the pursuit. In this abusive situation comes Offissa Pupp, who is love with Krazy Kat, locks Ignatz Mouse up in order to show his feelings for the Kat who is totally oblivious to the good Offissa’s intentions.

Krazy Kat is, unmistakably, a Black comic strip. Through Herriman’s cultural chameleon-like way approaching life and work, he was able to bring his African American viewpoint on life and love to the masses…and the masses ate it up.

Torchy02
Torchy by Jackie Ormes

TORCHY

Created by Jackie Ormes, Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem, starring Torchy Brown, was a humorous depiction of a Mississippi teen who found fame and fortune singing and dancing in the Cotton Club. Ormes became the first African-American woman to produce a syndicated comic strip.

Torchy presented an image of a black woman who, in contrast to the contemporary stereotypical media portrayals, was confident, intelligent, and brave.

ZootComics
Zoot Comics by Matt Baker

MATT BAKER

Clarence Matthew Baker is the first known African-American artist to find success in the comic-book industry. He entered comics through the Jerry Iger Studio, one of the 1930s to 1940s “packagers” that provided outsourced comics to publishers entering the new medium. Baker’s first confirmed comics work is penciling and inking the women in the 12-page Sheena, Queen of the Jungle #69.

His other artwork for comic books includes the light-humor military title Canteen Kate, Tiger Girl; Flamingo, South Sea Girl, Glory Forbes, Kayo Kirby; and Risks Unlimited. Baker illustrated Lorna Doone for Classic Comics in December 1946, and others.

Baker was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2009.

BlackPhantom
Black Phantom by Steve Perrin & Ronn Foss

THE BLACK PHANTOM

Published in 1964, created by Steve Perrin and Ronn Foss for Mask and Cape #4, The Black Phantom pre-dates Jack Kirby’s Black Panther appearance in the Fantastic Four by two years. This fact makes the Black Phantom the first Black costumed superhero.

The Black Phantom was Lafayette Jefferson, an engineer and soldier who worked with the N.A.A.C.P. to address racial injustice in the southern United States. While traveling, he meets a young white man and orphan named Joey Trager. Together, they become the Black Phantom and the Wraith to battle the likes of the Ku Klux Klan and other opponents of tolerance and change.

DatelineDanger
Dateline Danger by Saunders & Williams

DATELINE: DANGER!

Inspired by the television series I Spy, the first TV dramatic show to co-star an African-American in a lead role, writer John Saunders and artist Al McWilliams created the adventure comic strip Dateline: Danger! for the Publishers-Hall Syndicate. Introduced as both a daily and a color Sunday strip in November 1968, it similarly was the first in this medium with an African-American lead character, Danny Raven. As in the TV show, the two protagonists were American secret agents who globe-trotted to trouble spots under the cover of another profession.

FridayFoster
Friday Foster by Lawrence & Longaron

FRIDAY FOSTER

Friday Foster was an American newspaper comic strip, created and written by Jim Lawrence and later continued by Jorge Longarón. It ran from 1970 to 1974 and was notable for featuring the first African American woman as the titular character in a comic strip.

Early on, Lawrence’s story lines had a harder edge showing the contrast of Friday’s family with her street-wise brother trying to accept her newfound success in the world of magazine publishing. But soon its episodes changed focus to showcase more soap-opera thrills of romance and travel for the gorgeous African-American.

Friday Foster made her way to film in 1975 with the incomparable Pam Grier playing the action-seeking photographer.  Friday Foster is arguably, the first African American comic strip character as a lead brought to the cinema.

Powerman
Powerman by Avenall, Gibbons & Bolland

POWERMAN

Powerman was a British comic book series written by Don Avenall (aka Donne Avenell) and Norman Worker, and illustrated by Dave Gibbons and Brian Bolland that was initially distributed in Nigeria in the early 1970s. The series starred a superhero named Powerman. When the comics were re-published in the United Kingdom the character’s name
became Powerbolt.

An executive from a Nigerian advertising agency approached Bardon Press Features to discuss the idea of making a series with a black superhero; the man and his wife saw that in Nigeria, the comics available were imported and had White protagonists. Gibbons said that he remembered asking why Africans did not work on the strips and hearing that the African artists would likely emerge once comics become popular in Africa.

4 PAGES Volume Three Cover(Facebook)
4 Page 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape Vol. 03 – Doin’ Our Own Thang

This is where we came from. Now, check out where we’re going. Grab Volume 3 of 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape – Doin’ Our Own Thang available now on Amazon, Kindle and DriveThruComics. Support diversity in Indie Comics!

#BlackFutureMonth

http://www.griotenterprises.com

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Fear of the Black Hero Pt. 2 – The New Universe

BlackPantherYellow
The mantra for the year…

Hello, 2016.

You definitely started off with a bang. You have come out of the gate with events that have shaken this world up. You have called some of our most influential elders back to the celestial plane. You have also put the comic book world on notice. You have literally changed a universe:

The Marvel Universe.

Secret Wars #9 was finally released, the climax to an event that has set the tone and direction of this venerable creative playground for the foreseeable future.

Actually, Secret Wars is the culmination of Jonathan Hickman’s vision of the Marvel Universe, which began with New Avengers #1. To see this extremely ambitious meta-story unfold, in hindsight, is pretty amazing, especially when you consider the ever-increasing corporate nature of DC and Marvel coming to the fore. What’s truly interesting, if you really think about it, was that the hero of this meta-tale, which truly changed the Marvel Universe, is not Doctor Doom nor is it Reed Richards.

You see, while this mini-series signaled the end of the old world and its symbolic parents the Fantastic Four (much like Crisis On Infinite Earths put to bed the Silver Age of the DCU with the death of Barry Allen), the architect of the new world was another Jack Kirby creation; perhaps his most important creation depending on who you’re speaking to:

The Black Panther.

BlackInfinityGauntlet
Creator of a new universe…

Yes, T’Challa is the real hero of Secret Wars. I would argue that for the past few years, we were seeing what the Marvel Universe had become through T’Challa’s lens. Understand I know that I am reaching here. There is nothing to back-up my thoughts. However, what is unmistakable is that the King of Wakanda was instrumental in creating the new Marvel Universe. Thanks to the Infinity Gauntlet, T’Challa dismantled Doom’s Battleworld and created something that merged universes as opposed to having them tear each other apart. He created something more inclusive, more “colorful,” something better than what was before. Here is an article that promotes a very ballsy theory, but quite valid: http://graphicpolicy.com/2016/01/15/the-new-marvel-universe-born-out-of-africa-and-afrofuturism/

Now, don’t get it twisted. I don’t think that Hickman created a more diverse, more inclusive Marvel Universe out of some notion of social responsibility. I don’t think that Marvel signed off on this direction out of any sense of social justice or any dedication to representation. This was a smart business move, pure and simple.

46.7% of comic readers are women. One in five comic book readers are Black or Latino. Diversity was the buzzword in 2015 and it’s only getting louder as we begin 2016. In other words, the world outside of the fantasy world of comics has changed. And, Marvel wants to get as much of that money as possible.

So, of course in the new Marvel Universe that T’Challa created, you are going to see more characters that reflect the real world the reader lives in. That has always been the strength of Marvel. That’s what makes Marvel different from DC. That’s what makes Marvel more accessible than DC. They have played to the strength of their creative business model’s core philosophy, and it’s paid off handsomely.

Black-Comic-Book-Festival-2016
BCAF in full effect…

On the flip side, this weekend marked the 4th annual Black Comic Book Festival at the Schomberg Center in Harlem. From everything that I saw posted, it was and extremely successful affair which showcased the diversity and evolution of the African American presence in the independent and mainstream comic book industry. All of the attendants, professional and fan, remarked how amazing the festival was. Lines were around the corner. Creators were selling work left and right. I, of course, was very disappointed that I couldn’t attend this year. It is my goal for 2017 to be at this event. In case you missed it, here are some of the panels that occurred thanks to our comrade Karama Horne AKA The Blerd Gurl:http://theblerdgurl.com/media/panel-replay-from-black-comic-book-fest/#more-6703

Simultaneously, the 2016 Black Comix Arts Festival is happening on the West Coast of our nation in San Francisco. I guarantee that this event will be just as successful as the BCBF.

BLACKCOMIXARTSFESTIVAL
The Brotherman makes his official return at BCAF…

In the first two weeks of this New Year, the presence of the Black Hero is being felt throughout the country. And, it’s going to just get Blacker as the year moves forward. From Firestorm and Hawkgirl’s appearance in Legends of Tomorrow to the continued presence of… Oh hell, let’s just call Diggle Spartan in Arrow (thanks, Felicity) and J’onn Jonzz in Supergirl, to Falcon and War Machine in Captain America: Civil War with the cinematic introduction of the aforementioned Black Panther, to the Luke Cage series which will bring Misty Knight to the world of Netflix, the Black hero (as well as the Brown hero) is going to play front and center in this brave new world.

TuskegeeHeirs
The Heirs of a grand tradition are coming…

What’s even more important and celebratory is that we are going to see more work from creators of color in this landscape. Again, with Marvel leading the charge in the mainstream, we are going to have the pleasure of enjoying David Walker and Sanford Greene’s Power Man and Iron Fist as well as Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brain Stelfreeze’s Black Panther alongside the minority dominant Ultimates, Squadron Supreme, Avengers, Ms. Marvel, Red Wolf, Spider Man, Captain Marvel and more. We’re going to see Afua Richardson and Ashley A. Woods get down and become trailblazers for women of color… Black women… Working for the Corporate Two. Of course, the Corporate Two need to do much more in this regard to their hiring practices, but this is a small step in the right direction.

Is'nanaTheWereSpider
A truly All-new, All-different Spider Man…

Most important, we are going to see the continued growth of creators of color in the independent scene rising up to the challenge and creating fascinating, interesting and financially successful concepts. From Marcus WilliamsTuskegee Heirs to Greg Anderson-Elysse’s Is’nana The Were-Spider and Jason Pearson’s return to Body Bags (all successfully funded via Kickstarter), the landscape has truly changed.

We have our own convention network now, and it covers the major areas in these United States. From the BCBF to BCAF, from ONYXCON to ECBACC, from SOL-CON to M.E.C.C.A. CON, our network is solid and it’s expanding…

And don’t get me going on Social Media… We got that joint on lock.

The world has changed. They are no longer the standard. They are no longer the example to follow. We no longer want to be like them. Their fantasy world is no longer theirs and they are afraid. They are desperately trying to turn back the clock, to impede progress. They tried to halt evolution. Because of that, they now face revolution. If you are offended by this paragraph, you are They and I apologize that I am not here to comfort you in your time of fear and grief.

BodyBagsKickstarter
Welcome back, Clownface and Panda… It’s about to get bloody…

Representation matters and here we are representing to the fullest.

So, no more talk of whether or not independent comics by creators of color are viable. No more questioning whether there is an audience for this kind of work by this type of creator. No more asking, “Where is the next Milestone.” No more asking, “Why doesn’t DC or Marvel have more Black characters.” As we have seen, and will continue to see, this aspect of the industry is here in full force, firmly entrenched. Our heels are dug in. We have built the foundation on which this new nation has, and will continue, to emerge.

David Bowie famously sang, “We can be heroes.” Well, here we are, on the page and behind the scenes… We are the real Black Heroes…

Fear us… Better than that, celebrate us. We were a village. We have become a nation. Ubuntu.

http://www.griotenterprises.com

 

Change Is A Contact Sport

My favorite artifact from the past few weeks...
My favorite artifact from the past few weeks…

Well, this has been an exciting few weeks in the world of comics and comic-cons.

Two weeks ago, I had the extreme pleasure of attending the first ever Brown and Black Comix Expo, Sol-Con, on the campus of Ohio State University. Despite the fact that my skin was slightly smoldering from standing on enemy ground (I graduated from the University of Michigan), It was a transformative event… Let me amend that statement… It reminded me of what comic-cons used to be.

What do I mean? Well, before the “star” system and culture created by the late Wizard Magazine, comic-cons used to be a place where not only fans met their favorite comic creators and could bond with like minds over shared interests, comic book creators could bond with each other, share ideas, develop alliances and develop friendships. There was very little hierarchy. It didn’t matter which company you worked for. It didn’t matter if you were working with Marvel, DC, or one of the independents. Were you a creator? Cool. Let’s interact.

I love this book... LOVE IT...
I love this book… LOVE IT…

This vibe was evident at Sol-Con. Here we were, African American and Latino creators, side-by-side, plying our wares, sharing our stories, mixing it up with a diverse crowd of students, fans and educators…

…And left our egos at the door.

We shared the same space with the legendary Xaime Hernandez, creator of the seminal Love and Rockets. David Walker and I finally met face to face after knowing, and writing, about each other for at least 10 years (BTW, I got the Power Man / Iron Fist news over drinks that Friday and he swore me to secrecy). I was able to kick it with my sister Ashley Woods and here her manifesto on bringing the sensuality to her work and not giving two fudges about it (go on, girl). I reconnected with my man Eric Battle and finally met the illustrious Tim Fielder (can’t wait for that Horsemen piece!). I was able to meet the fantastic creator J. Gonzo and cop his awesome book La Mano del Destino… I could go on forever about how great that convention was…

Yes... YYYYAAAASSSS!
Yes… YYYYAAAASSSS!

We were truly nerds of color, proud and unabashed in our culture, influences and knowledge. We were mixing and matching conversations ranging in topics from Blaxploitation films to the greatness of Robert Rodriguez to 80s pop music to Robin’s green swimming trunks.

In short, we were becoming comrades. We were becoming friends. We were expanding our tribe.

Side note: I’m extremely proud to say that The Horsemen and 4 Pages | 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape will be used as textbooks for an upcoming OSU class focusing on race and representation in comics.

Hence, you could appreciate my saltiness at not being able to attend the New York Comic-Conthis past weekend. I wanted to keep the love going. But, I stayed abreast of everything that my fellow creators of color were doing that weekend, and extremely happy with the coverage that the con received. In fact, I did a little mental squeal of happiness when MSNBC did a story on comic book diversity and some of my colleagues were a part of that piece. You can check it out right here:

http://www.msnbc.com/melissa-harris-perry/watch/reflecting-on-inclusiveness-at-ny-comic-con-542561859800

So, here’s another article about diversity in comics coming hot off the heels of NYCC 2015:

http://fusion.net/story/215451/superheroes-of-color-not-storm/

At this point, shouldn’t we all agree that articles like this only scratch the extreme surface of diversity in comics? Can we all agree that we should demand more of certain so-called “comic journalists” to go deeper with their research concerning not only characters of color, but creators of color as well?

Ambrose Chase... One of the coolest characters no one is talking about...
Ambrose Chase… One of the coolest characters no one is talking about…

Let’s start with the basics: Spawn, Shadowhawk, Steel, T.R.I.B.E., Brotherman, the entire Milestone line; pretty much every comic fan from 1993 on knows about these characters. Now, let’s go a little deeper: how about Jakita Wagner and Ambrose Chase (Planetary), Martha Washington, Quantum, Shadowman, Jackson King (Stormwatch, The Monarchy), Blackjack, Dhalua and Tesla Strong, Purge, Chocolate Thunder… The list goes and on. Now, let’s get to the 21st century. How about Destiny Ajaye (Genius), Midnight Tiger, Will Power, Watson and Holmes, Lucius Hammer, Concrete Park

You see where I’m going.

Can we all agree that comic books are way, way more than just the “Corporate Two”? Can we agree not to celebrate these cursory articles about diversity, but instead challenge them to go further?

It’s 2015… We deserve more… And, we should demand it…

Creating for others to acknowledge and support you (i.e. the “mainstream audience”) is a waste of time. Stay in your lane, be unapologetic in your approach, make sure what you represent is of the utmost quality and you will find audience… Later for waiting for the “Corporate Two”…

The “mainstream” only comes… Only comes… after you have established a track record of production and garnered a fan base on your own. Even then, it only wants a pre-packaged sanitized, or easily exploitable, version of what one has produced. The “mainstream” has never… Never taken the lead on anything. It’s up to creators to bring cats in, kicking and screaming if need be, to the land of “Act Right.”

Ashley Woods is about to blow up... On her terms...
Ashley Woods is about to blow up… On her terms…

Cons like Sol-Con prove my statement. It is because of the independent spirit of creators like David Walker and Xamie Hernandez and Ashley Woods that they have spotlight on them right now. The mainstream didn’t make them a success. The independent market did. Diversity has always been a part of the independent comic book game. The mainstream is just now seeing the profitability of making the comic book world reflect the world we live in.

BTW, we have not arrived. There is no time to be resting on any perceived laurels. This is just the beginning and the comic book game is only going to get more interesting and more colorful.

I’ve stated this before. Folks can’t be spectators. Change is a contact sport.

Yo, you can now pick up The Horsemen: Divine Intervention and The Horsemen: The Book of Olorun at comiXology. Yep, now we’re everywhere… No excuses…

http://www.griotenterprises.com

The Complexion of Comics: The Business of Representation

This has been an interesting past couple of weeks…

On a personal level, I have been doing a lot of interviews, some in print, some for online radio, and the topic has been the same…

The Complexion of Comics.

MECCA Con 2015
MECCA Con 2015

Now, this phrase came about as I was speaking with MECCA Con founder Maia “Crown” Williams and I were working to title a panel I was going to moderate at the event. We didn’t want the panel to be the same old “bitch session” concerning the state of representation on the printed page and behind the scenes of the two largest publishers in the comic book sphere. Rather, we wanted to steer the conversation towards independent publishers and creators of color working on the fringe, navigating this space and creating new streams of access that DC or Marvel don’t care, or are too large of an entity, to navigate.

No more complaining. No more hoping, wishing and praying. This panel was to be about celebrating and forming alliances. You know how I get down.

It was a great panel, a true cross-section of publishers, artists and distribution with Bill Campbell, publisher of Rosarium Publishing, Daniel Zarazua, publisher of Pochino Press, Imani Lateef, owner of online distributor of comics by African American creators Peep Game Comix and Anthony Piper, creator of Trill League. We broke it down, we came correct, chopped it up and learned from each other…

Oh, yeah… The audience dug it as well. You can check out the panel right here:

I also had the extreme pleasure of meeting Sheena C. Howard and swapped a copy of ‪#‎4Pages16Bars‬ for her award-winning book, Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation. It’s a meaty read and an extremely necessary discourse concerning the history of Black comics and their creators. If you want to get your academia concerning comics on, this is the book to read… It won the Eisner for a reason…

Sheena C. Howard flipped the script... Congratulations, sister!
Sheena C. Howard flipped the script… Congratulations, sister!

Oh, and Ms. Howard will be contributing to 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape… That’s how you build…

So, all in all, it was a great experience for everyone involved and something that I hope more of us, creators and fans can and will experience.

Coates... Stelfreeze... T'Challa... Indeed...
Coates… Stelfreeze… T’Challa… Indeed…

Now, coming back from MECCA Con, I was pleasantly greeted with this news:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/23/books/ta-nehisi-coates-to-write-black-panther-comic-for-marvel.html?_r=4

Huzzah…

I am excited by this news not because T’Challa is heading a solo book again (I called that when they announced that the Black Panther movie was green lighted; just good business), not because Ta-Nehisi Coates, a crucial voice in racial discourse, a voice who I listen to is writing the book, but also because Brian Stelfreeze, one of the greatest artists in the game, an influence on my work and an African American is drawing the book as well.

Peep game: A major African character from the “Corporate Two” has a writer/artist team that is representative of that character’s ethnic background.

Now, you may be saying: “Well, we’ve seen this before, haven’t we?” And, I would say yes… Almost 20 years ago. I can cite Steel towards the end of its run when Christopher Priest handled the writing duties and Denys Cowan handled the art circa 1997. Before then, Marcus McLaurin and Dwayne Turner working on the Cage book in the early 90s…

Since then? Nope… Until the recent news development.

A family of African descent with extraordinary abilities at Marvel... Somebody might have read The Horsemen...
A family of African descent with extraordinary abilities at Marvel… Somebody might have read The Horsemen…

On the flip side, this article popped up yesterday in the Huffington Post:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ebonycom/the-black-family-in-comic_b_8196644.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000047

Now, I posted this and called it a revolutionary story and I stand behind those words. Never in comics coming from the “Corporate Two” have you seen a story focused around a family with extraordinary abilities of African descent… Never. Steel doesn’t count because John Henry and Natasha Irons never wore their respective armors at the same time. Black Lightning, pre-New52, never shared a book with his super powered daughters Thunder and Lightning. This is the first time, though only a mini-series, that you have seen this type of dynamic on the comic book page. It is revolutionary… Marvel should be patting its back on this book…

However, neither the writer nor artist of Infinity Gauntlet is of African descent. So, revolutionary in the sense we haven’t seen this from the “Corporate Two.” However, still problematic as there are no people of color writing nor drawing the book…

And, unfortunately, since Infinity Gauntlet is a mini-series, which is part of the Secret Wars event with no signs of becoming an ongoing title, by this time next year folks will complain about proper representation at the “Corporate Two”.

That’s the ongoing problem. People are so content with representation on the printed page, but aren’t nearly as concerned about the voice writing it. When that happens, things tend to get disingenuous. That’s why the upcoming Black Panther is so important. With the team of Coates and Stelfreeze, those are two brothers guiding the King of Wakanda. The only thing that would make that book more authentic is if one of the creators hailed directly from the continent.

C'mon with it, Ms. Richardson...
C’mon with it, Ms. Richardson…

So, Ta-Nehisi Coates on Black Panther is coming along with Brian Stefreeze drawing the book. They also just signed my girl Ashley Woods along with ally Afua Richardson as the first African American women working as an artists at Marvel as well as Sanford Greene finishing Runaways, Jason Pearson, Olivier Copiel, and more doing those Hip-Hop variant covers. I have to admit, this is kind of cool. It seems as if the “Corporate Two,” in some form, is paying attention to their buying audience and making some inroads to representation behind the printed page…

But, you know how I roll in this business and, you know I am one of the biggest critics when it comes to the “Corporate Two’s” practices. My side-eye is permanent.

Sol-Con: The Brown + Black Comix Expo
Sol-Con: The Brown + Black Comix Expo

This coming weekend is the inaugural Sol-Con: The Brown + Black Comix Expo held at Ohio State University’s Hale Hall from October 2-4. I hope that some of you will be able to attend and experience the true Complexion of Comics… Cheers.

http://www.griotenterprises.com

Lean Into It

So, I recently had a birthday.

Birthdays always find me in an introspective state of mind. I think about the past year of my life, which gets me thinking about other memories and events that shaped me, that created the man who writes these words on a laptop today.

Leo Season came to an end... And the warrior still stands (art by Michael Rechlin)...
Leo Season came to an end… And the warrior still stands (art by Michael Rechlin)…

As an artist, I’m sure that I am not unique in this position. As a human being of a certain age, I am sure that I am in like company when it comes to this acknowledgement concerning the passage of time.

So, during this rumination, I’m also thinking about my next post for the blog when I came across this article from the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/20/magazine/can-black-art-ever-escape-the-politics-of-race.html?_r=0

Thank you, universe, for sparking my impetus.

My “click bait” headline when I posted this article through my various platforms was:

“Not only will my work not escape it, I lean into it…”

The fact is that as a creator of color, your work is already political. The nature of America made it political. Even the attempt to be apolitical is a political stance. Unfortunately, it can’t be avoided. So, why try and placate an audience that already views you through a certain lens? Be unapologetic and authentic in your creation. The nature of art is to be provocative, to elicit a feeling, an emotion. Don’t avoid it. Lean into it. That’s my philosophy…

Cover art for Octavia Butler's Wildseed... A major influence on my work...
Cover art for Octavia Butler’s Wildseed… A major influence on my work…

I’m not saying that there is a specific vision of what “Black” writing is. Not only is that an extremely myopic vision, and completely arrogant to assume, but that also plays into viewing yourself through the “other’s” lens.

What I am saying is that the color of our skin makes everything we do political. We can’t escape that. What we can, and must do, is simply be artists. Our skin color and culture do not limit us… It enhances us. So, why try to hide? Why be ashamed? Be diverse! Write or draw whatever you want! But, also be proud and unapologetic of whom you are as a creator. Every example of Creators of Color, from Richard Wright to Zora Neale Hurston to Donald Goines to Kevin Grevioux to N. K. Jemisin to David Durham figured that out. All of them diverse in their thinking and subject matter. All of them Black. And, because they are Black, the other will always think there is an underlying agenda to their work, which makes their work political.

Donald Goines portrayed the dark side of the Black experience with a disturbingly seductive elegance...
Donald Goines portrayed the dark side of the Black experience with a disturbingly seductive elegance…

What part of my saying “be diverse” is confusing to you?

Ultimately, I don’t create for anyone’s approval but my own. Richard Wright didn’t create for anyone else’s approval but his own. I create to celebrate my culture and my people. Comic books are my medium. Because of this, and because of the color of my skin, my work will always be perceived as political… And, I don’t care. In fact, if my work changes a point of view, then I’ve succeeded as a creator.

That’s why we have diverse voices.

I am a fan of Richard Wright’s work as well as Octavia Butler as well as Donald Goines as well as Wole Soyinka as well as Christopher Priest. In short, I read different Black writers with different points of view and diverse voices depicting their unique observation of the human condition. Each one, because they are Black, these authors are considered political writers simply because of their skin color. My voice is unique from theirs, but my skin color is not. Therefore, I am a political artist as well, not because I write about slavery or the ghetto (because I don’t), but because of who I am. I am simply not ashamed of being considered a political artist. In fact, I use my platform, my culture and my voice to inform my craft. The first rule of writing is “Write what you know.” That is simply what I do…

So, I’ll say it before and I’ll say it again…

Everything I make is Protest Art.

http://www.griotenterprises.com

Iceskating Uphill

We all know the line... Let's say it together...
We all know the line… Let’s say it together…

So, this was posted today on one of the many groups I belong to on Facebook:

Why is it so hard to break into the comic book industry?

Here’s my issue with this post: it seems that the poster’s look at the fact that since the “Corporate Two’s” hiring practices are so insular that creators have taken to other avenues or different formats as a bad thing when, as it has been shown with examples (i.e. Harry Potter) the success that creators have found by working outside of the confines of the mainstream.

The climate of the industry today is this: Create your own. That’s not bad at all. More readers are gravitating to work outside of DC and Marvel. In fact, most creatives working at DC or Marvel today are seeing that exposure as a stepping stone for an audience to follow their independent work.

For example, Rick Remender and Mike McKone have stopped taking on work from DC and Marvel to focus on their own work. In addition, with crowdfunding platforms, Print On Demand options and webcomics, we as creators don’t need to work for DC and Marvel for any other reason than just to get a paycheck because the “Corporate Two” is not looking for original IP. They’ve got more than enough characters in their roster.

You won't get this level of satire from the mainstream...
You won’t get this level of satire from the mainstream…

Case in point, Attack on Titan has far outsold the highest-selling DC or Marvel book. Independent books like Saga, Lumberjanes, Low, Velvet, Lazarus and others are selling quite well and are being optioned for film. In all honesty, the creator of today does not need DC or Marvel to get out there.

The fact is that the creator of today has to also be a salesman, marketing and advertising entity, etc. Yes, that’s hard. Yes, we’d all rather just create and have other people take care of the elements of selling our IP that we may not want to make the time for, or have that innate ability to do, but this is the state of the industry today… And, it ain’t bad at all.

My issue is that the feeling that I get from this post is that it seems as if the poster looks at going into trade publishing and adapting a book to a Young Adult format as a some sort of defeat.

Yes, people who only look at DC or Marvel as the end all be all are going to ask where are the new superheroes because, quite simply, they aren’t looking. As it was stated, there are so many more spaces where people can be satisfied and, honestly, many creators have eschewed pursuing work at DC or Marvel because they enjoy the freedom of dictating the direction and potential financial rewards of owing their own IP.

Why follow when you can lead?
Why follow when you can lead?

As a fellow creator of comics and as an owner of my own company as well, I get asked that same question all the time: How do you break into comics? And, the answer is simple:

Create your own.

Now, if people are asking the question, how do I break into DC or Marvel? Again, the answer is simple:

Create your own.

Today, DC and Marvel are looking at what people do on their own, what kind of work they produce, what kind of following are they able to generate and how consistent their output is. In addition, yes you go to the cons and you use social media to foster honest relationships with cats who are working in the “Corporate Two” if you’d like to get a paycheck from them. But, they are not the end-all, be-all of this industry.

It’s like this: you can’t become the next Stan Lee working on Stan Lee’s properties at Stan Lee’s company. The Image cats knew that. The Milestone cats knew that. Independence is the goal, not the consolation prize.

So again, the only issue I take with this post is the perceived pessimism of working independently when, after it’s all said and done, it’s the desire of most people working in the industry, both in the mainstream and independent sphere.

Speaking of…

Support the Complexion of Comics!
Support the Complexion of Comics!

For a pledge of just $5.00, you’re officially a Head Nod and you get The Posse Cut(over and hour of some of the greatest collabos in Hip Hop history) and a digital version of Sequential Graffiti, a 64-Page poster book featuring some of the finest Visual MCs and Literary DJs working in comics today… Support‪ #‎4Pages16Bars‬ project on Indiegogo today… The deadline in August 16, 2015.

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Help a Brotha Out Pt. 2: The Real Hip Hop

4 Pages 16 Bars ain't nothin' to f$%k with...
4 Pages 16 Bars ain’t nothin’ to f$%k with…

What’s happening, fam!

While you’re waiting for those Hip Hop variant covers from that other company, grab the 4 Pages 16 Bars Boxset today!

4 Pages | 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape is a celebration of where true diversity exists in this industry, a showcase for existing and upcoming talent as well as a source guide for those fans to purchase these books.

He's the EP...
He’s the EP…

Sequential Graffiti is the EP, a 64-page poster book featuring some of the finest Visual MCs and Literary DJs working in the independent scene today.

I'm the LP...
I’m the LP…

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The contributors for this first volume include Quinn McGowan (Wildfire), Micheline Hess (The Anansi Kid’s Club), Roosevelt Pitt (Purge), John Jennings (Kid Code, Black Comix) and many more!

We also got them beats for you to read to!
We also got them beats for you to read to!

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Both books and the Posse Cut can be yours for the low price of $15.00 and can purchased through our Square store and PayPal (jazintellect@hotmail.com)

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