Tag Archives: African American superheroes

Man, This Wakandan Lemonade Is Delicious

The Black Panther keeps making waves in this comic book landscape.

Black_Panther_1_Sook_Variant
Get this money… Erryday, erryday, erryday…

http://www.bleedingcool.com/2016/05/13/black-panther-is-the-best-selling-comic-in-april-2016-as-marvel-march-on-marketshare-ahead-of-dc-rebirth/

Straight up, this is the Black nerd’s Lemonade right now.

For the first time in history, a comic book featuring an African superhero, written and illustrated by African Americans, is the highest-selling title from the Corporate Two. Yeah, having the character steal the show in the best comic-book related movie this year and a major marketing push definitely helped, but this is what happens when you #BetOnBlack

The Black Panther marketing plan should be taught in schools. It’s actually a pretty textbook marketing strategy. They got the right team, did the proper product placement and marketing and got a winner on their hands.

Furthermore, they respect the importance of the character that is in their stable, a character, which encapsulates the hopes and dreams of a marginalized demographic. They actually heard this fan base and gave the character its due respect, steeped this character in its culture (fictional, but based on an amalgam of existing cultures from the marginalized demographic) and gave this character the necessary agency this character, and the marginalized demographic it represents, deserves. Because of this, Marvel produced yet another profitable situation that they, and their parent company, will benefit from greatly. This bit of good will is, in fact, good business.

In short, Marvel created the climate in which the Black Panther could be Columbused. We are seeing the effects of this as I write these words.

This should be a call to arms of what happens when you produce a fantastic product and market a great property.

Too bad DC Entertainment wasn’t in class that day… If you’re in the minority that DC has kept it on point cinematically, read this article written by Verge Entertainment bigwig and former Milestone and Batman editor Joe Illidge:

batman_v_superman___dawn_of_justice___wonder_woman_by_goxiii-d9bmo30
Gurl… Once again, Man’s World is playing an Amazon close…

https://www.theshadowleague.com/articles/the-true-enemy-of-black-panther-and-wonder-woman

This information puts to bed a lot of superfluous “explanations” of why product featuring and created by people of color doesn’t sell. Independent creators should use this fact to push our products to the forefront…

Some people want to bring up Spawn as a counter to my statements. To that I say…

Whatever…

I am way more excited about this development than I ever was with the introduction of Spawn in the early 90s. In fact, if you wanna be real Image about it, I will always hype Tribe way more than Spawn as it was the first comic book featuring characters, and created by people of color, Todd Johnson and Larry Stroman, that sold over a million copies, which adjusted for inflation is on par with BP’s sales.

In other words, I’d rather celebrate the whole cake rather than just the frosting

This should be inspiring to a lot of us independent creators of color and we need to capitalize on the climate. In fact, a number of us are.

We have seen an increase in coverage concerning independent properties dealing with the discussion of diversity (i.e. Black, The Legend of the Mantamaji, Niobe: She Is Life, Watson and Holmes, Exo: The Legend of Wale Williams, Solarman, etc.) exactly because these cats had their marketing game down and went beyond the perceived market to find their audience.

solarman2
We got next…

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that these projects are expertly created (i.e. writing, art, etc.), but creating is the easy part. Marketing is where the work comes into play.

This is the kind of work we should continue to push and purchase in addition to showing love to the “Corporate Two” when they “get it right.” Way more than being a DC or Marvel fan, I’m a fan and practitioner of the art form.

Interesting times indeed.

So, let me know if you are interested in more than just enjoying this historic moment in representation. Let’s keep it going. Let this be more than just a moment. Let’s make this a fact of life.

Speaking of, I’m going to be teaching a course on this exact subject through the International School of Comics starting in July. Granted, this class will be in Chicago, but if there is enough interest, I would possibly take this bad smoker into the remote teaching realm.

BAMFCAd
Sign up for the class… You know you want to…

P.S. Personal note to the brothers Johnson and Stroman, c’mon fellas. We need to do a Tribe trade so that people can experience the loveliness that book was and can be again. Get at me.

http://www.griotenterprises.com

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Promised Land

CivilWar_Punmagneto
Captain America: Civil War… A promise delivered…

Captain America: Civil War

It is very hard… very hard for me to give this kind of assessment. I’m tighter with ratings than The Source used to be. With that being said, this is a 5-mic film. Any criticism would be some extreme nit-pickiness bull-caca. Anyone fronting on this movie is a hater, plain and simple…

I feel those fans who find criticism complain about the what-iffery of certain elements in the film, great elements that bring color to the narrative, not coming to fruition even though they weren’t supposed to. A few points (SPOILER-ALERT):

1.) I appreciate that at the end of the day, the “Civil War” was a very personal conflict that dealt with the loss of families (Zemo’s, Stark’s & T’Challa’s)

2.) That Zemo, basically Bin Laden-style, did to the Avengers that Loki, Ultron and Hydra couldn’t do… Destroy them.

Tony Vs. America
A battle worse than anything the villains brought to the table…

3.) Because of the personal nature of the story, we didn’t need to see those other Winter Soldiers in action against our titular heroes. Then, it would have been Universal Soldier: Regeneration wasting the emotional currency, which drives the film.

4.) Storytelling was on point. Things followed through logically and I felt that all of the important elements in the film had organic conclusions. Even with Spider-Man’s inclusion at the eleventh hour didn’t feel tacked on and yes, just like Jon Bernthal made the Punisher his character, Tom Holland IS Peter Parker. And, I am a big fan of Marisa Tomei as a modern Aunt May. There were no plot holes.

5.) CW was a sequel for two movies, Captain America: Winter Soldier and the Avengers: Age of Ultron, and a fine one for both.

6.) Everything made sense. Everyone was true to character. Every character had their moment to shine. The battles were top-notch with each character’s physical language as unique as the character themselves.

7.) CW is the rare instance that the film was better than the mini-series… Yeah, I said it. Also, remember that Thor and the Hulk weren’t around during the mini-series either.

8.) Just the hint of the Dora Milaje, along with the taste of Wakanda was enough for me. I’m gonna get all that goodness in the Black Panther solo film.

Dora_Milaje_CW
Strength and beauty, thy name is Dora Milaje…

9.) According to Dwayne McDuffie’s Rule of Three, this is the MCU’s Blackest movie to date… And it was so on point with the diversity and agency of Black folks from Alfre Woodard’s brief, but crucial scene, to War Machine, the Falcon and, of course… This is the rare movie I would pay full price to see again in the theatre… Immediately.

10.) The secret sauce in making this delicious meal is Nate Moore as Executive Producer for the MCU. Yes, the characters would have been there eventually, but having a brother as an exec. producer helped to ensure that said characters did not come off as stereotypical ciphers, but rather fully realized people making their ethnicity natural, yet crucial in the MCU.

Realize, there is no one representation of “Blackness” in the MCU, nor do we just add color to the background. From War Machine to the Falcon to BP to Nick Fury, etc., each character is unique, each character has agency, each character is authentically Black in their own way.

PantherLeaps
Bow down to the King… Everyone else has…

Brother Moore has made sure that we haven’t been seen as a monolith, but in a rich tapestry more in line with how we really are as opposed to how the Other often portrays us.

These reasons, and more which I’ve mentioned in previous posts, is why not only is Captain America: Civil War a more satisfying film-going experience than Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, but also why Marvel has all but decimated the DCCU.

Quite simply, Marvel trusts and cares about their properties, DC does not. Marvel has been playing chess in unfolding their universe, taking time to craft their cinematic universe so that it has the same resonance as the comic book universe.

DC has been playing checkers, rushing product and blowing their wad repeatedly on half-baked measures which treat their properties as cash-grab ciphers rather than respecting the history and mythology of the characters to craft tales which speak to the human condition using the superhero as an analogy to inspire and make us seek out our better selves.

Here’s something to chew on: when people start writing think pieces on your film discussing the deeper ramifications of what your heroes represent in the larger world context rather than judging success or failure of your project based on how much money it makes, you’ve made a better film. When you respect not only your hard-core fanbase, but also can make your properties resonate with the casual viewer, you’ve made a better film. When you focus on storytelling rather than spectacle, you’ve made a better film. And, said film is steadily going to make a lot of money rather than suffering a near-90% drop in viewership the second week of release.

civilwar3
So, who won the Civil War? Marvel did…

Personal point of order… A few years ago, I got caught up in a what-iffery tread about a potential (at the time) Black Panther movie in which I broke down how I felt Wakandan self-image should be portrayed.

Then, Captain America: Civil War.

It’s like the Russo Brothers read my mind. For about 35 seconds, I thought: “Man, I may not have to do The Horsemen anymore…”

Then, I got out of my fanboy phase and became even more inspired to make more work.

Trust, that is the highest of praise.

So, I’ve never fallen into one camp when it came to the “Corporate Two.” I loved DC’s icons and Marvel’s B-list. But, after Daredevil: Season Two, Jessica Jones, Captain America: Civil War and the upcoming Luke Cage

Cinematically, Make Mine Marvel.

http://www.griotenterprises.com

The Secret Revealed

So, this article got everybody in a tizzy:

Comics: You’ve Got Your Diversity, So Why Don’t You Buy Them?

It’s an old chestnut, to be sure. Hell, I’ve written at least five articles on this subject alone. Still, as Diversity has become the number one topic in the comic book industry (yes, more prevalent than Batman Vs. Superman and Captain America: Civil War).

Wakandan Push Back
300 K in advanced sales… Marketing, beeyotch!

The “Corporate Two” will make a big initial bruhahah about a “diverse” project, but not follow up after the first issue’s release (i.e. DC’s handling of David Walker’s run on Cyborg). In fact, if you know your A-list properties have that built-in audience that’s carrying your line, how about spending less time marketing the obvious and spend a little more money, and attention, on your “struggling” or “off-beat” properties.

Diversity is more than just the color of your character… It’s also the tastes of the reading public.

Now, back to the independent portion. Say it with me one more time with feeling, people…

You build your audience one customer at a time.

This is where conventions and social media come into play. This is where you need a plan… Marketing 101. From my experience, this is the real work.

Although time intensive, creating the book is the easy part in making comics… Because it’s fun to create. As an Indie, keep in mind that you are not going to sell DC or Marvel numbers… You don’t have to. You don’t have the same overhead that those companies do.

Bounce-Know-Your-Place
Chuck Collins’ Bounce built its fanbase one comic at a time… Now collected in its first print volume…

In addition, trying to do a monthly comic when that is not your main job is kind of not the way to go nowadays since the only brick and mortar distributor, Diamond, is not really checking for Indies. You’re better off either doing a webcomic to build your audience and then create a trade when you have enough material, or creating an original graphic novel (OGN).

This model has way more shelf life than a 32-page book and easier to sell to parents or people looking for something new. In fact, new fans aren’t checking for “floppies.” The new reader, I’ve found, prefers the trade or OGN because of the fact that there is a complete story to read rather than buying one issue and waiting 30 – 60 days for the next installment.

“Floppies” only work on the old guard of fandom as part of our culture involves collectability. The new fan, because of the emergence of digital, doesn’t have the same mindset. So, when creating and marketing your property, think of the fan yet to be than the fan that was… Does that make sense?

 

DC Trinity
Started from the bottom, now we here…

The thing I have to remind myself is that it took over 80 years for DC to become DC and, like, over 60 years for Marvel to become Marvel. We’re babies in this game, and it’s a long game; it’s a marathon, really. The build is slow, but as long as you move forward, not backward, you continue to gain that traction you’re looking for.

This answer is really simple: make product that meets or exceeds the standard of your average DC, Marvel, Dark Horse or Image comic.

Now, what is the standard? Look at any comic book on the stands at your local comic book store… That’s the standard. Batman is the standard. Power Man and Iron Fist is the standard. Lumberjanes is the standard. Saga is the standard, you feel me? Flat out, your product has to… has to… Stand toe to toe with those books (art, story, lettering, package design, etc.) and others because they are your competition.

You don’t have to spend 4 -6 grand a month in advertising… As an Indie, one simply does not have that kind of money. And, in all honesty, if you create a product that meets, or exceeds, the standard of acceptable industry quality, it will sell.

IndieBlackComix
What do these books have in common? They all meet the standard…

But, when it comes to pushing your books, that’s where being a salesman comes into play. Honestly, the market has always been saturated with good product. Today is no different. And, there is always room for more.

It’s really not that hard to sell your book as long as you feel your book is worth selling. If you believe that your book is unique, if you believe that your concept is strong, if you create the book that you want to read and feel is missing in the landscape, you will be able to sell that book.

So, where’s the best place to meet and sell to your potential audience? Conventions… With the exception of San Diego. You ain’t gonna sell jack at San Diego, but you will be able to sell at C2E2, M.E.C.C.A. Con, ECBACC, DragonCon, Onyxcon, etc. Make a plan of attack for whatever convention, or conventions, you are able to attend and execute that plan. Be engaging to your potential audience. Be courteous. Stand at your booth as opposed to sitting down. Smile. Shake hands and kiss babies. All of this seems basic, but it’s true. If you don’t have the dollars, you need to put in the time.

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One of the many conventions where you have an audience that may be interested in your product…

Straight up, I don’t have to do a hard sell at conventions for my books. That’s because I produce work that meets, and hopefully, exceeds the standards of the comic book product.

What I have to do is get people to stop and look when they walk by my table, which I’m able to do because I’m able to engage people. I use humor and shared experiences to create a sense of comfort and break the ice with the customer. Then, after introducing the book to the consumer, I let the book do its job to draw the viewer in.

I apply that same philosophy online. That’s why I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. That’s why, in part, I write this blog.

At the end of the day, there is no secret formula to success… Unless, you were rich to begin with. Even then, it doesn’t exist. Everyone’s story of getting to a modicum of success is unique to them. Make a plan of success that is unique to you. This is how it’s done. This is what you have to do.

Flat out, you are not going to get huge sales right away. Those days of the 90s are long gone. Fact is if you’re looking at comics to get paid quickly, you need to find another hustle. First and foremost, you’ve got to make your book for the love. Passion begets passion. Attention to quality begets more eyes looking at your product. Tenacity and consistency begets trust. All of these plus interaction with the buying public begets your audience… You feel me?

John_Henry_New_Frontier
Keep grinding…

At the end of the day, this game is not a sprint… it’s a marathon.

http://www.griotenterprises.com

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.

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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

 

Fear of the Black Hero

 

LongTimeComin
Long time comin’…

The Black heroes are coming, y’all… I SAID THE BLACK HEROES ARE A’COMIN!

Right now, some would feel that American society is under attack. The heroes they would normally turn to have been compromised, captured, and in some cases, systematically destroyed as their way of life is going through a fundamental shift. To those feeling this pressure, I would like to say one thing:

Get over it.

In the past couple of weeks, amidst the heart-breaking tragedies, amidst the ongoing home-grown terrorism that people of color, women and other communities that are not Cis-gendered, White men have been subjected to, amidst the blustering of would-be demagogues and the corruption of elected officials who would rather save their own skin than bring the gross abuse of injustice to light, something else has happened:

Diversity has come to heroism.

I’m going to concentrate on what has happened, what has been revealed on the television, digital and widescreens. I am going to celebrate what is already here and what is to come…

And yes, I’m going to give the Corporate Two their props.

Creed-Jordan
The Champ is here…

First off, let’s talk briefly about Creed. Let’s talk about a little film that at once is an amazing addition to a beloved film mythology, yet can stand on its own while creating a completely new franchise. Let us praise Ryan Coogler’s vision of a Black hero, Adonis Johnson (Creed) the son of fallen hero Apollo Creed once rival then mentor then brother-in-arms to the lovable underdog Rocky Balboa. Let us praise Michael B. Jordan’s performance of a young man saved by Creed’s wife, had a good job, but gave it all up to pursue his passion, his father’s passion, for boxing. Let us celebrate the portrayal of a determined young man finding his way, forming his family and taking control of his own destiny.

Luke Cage Netflix
A Hero for Hire indeed…

Second, let us give thanks to the appearance of Luke Cage in Marvel’s Netflix series Jessica Jones. Let us take note of how a character that once epitomized the stereotype of the hyper sexualized angry Black male became an emotional center of perhaps the most mature depiction of superheroics on the screen. Mike Colter’s portrayal of the future Hero for Hire showed a true depth of strength, honor and heart. From the casual use of his super strength to his almost casual boredom when an assailant tried to pierce his unbreakable skin to his interaction with Krysten Ritter’s Jessica Jones in probably the most honest portrayal of interracial relationships even seen on film, his Luke Cage may have had steel-hard skin, but his heart was all gold…

And, left viewers wanting more. With his series coming in 2016, we will probably see the Blackest, make that honestly Black, superhero series since the first Blade movie make it to the screen. Furthermore, we will see the first Black heroine, Daughter of the Dragon Misty Knight on camera as well…

And no, Halle Berry’s Storm does not count. As marginalized and as tepid as Ms. Berry’s performance was in those films, in addition to the fact that she never once captured the majesty of the Wind Rider, I cannot in good faith count that a strong representation of the Black heroine. The abysmal Catwoman only further validates my stance.

Speaking of cats…

EW Black Panther
Enter the King…

I have to say, and I’m sure the majority of my fellow Nerds of Color will agree, that the absolute best elements of the upcoming Captain America: Civil War trailer was the inclusion of the King of Wakanda. Yes, we finally, finally, saw T’Challa, The Black Panther on the screen… For five seconds. But, damn, those were some of the best five seconds ever. Here he was, our hero, the Jackie Robinson of comics, being that hero. Dusting Captain America in pursuit, Capoeria-kicking the Winter Soldier clear across the screen, leading not following. About 20 seconds after the release, memes and gifs flooded my Facebook page featuring our hero (shoot, I made one myself).

Sorry, Falcon. No disrespect, War Machine. But, our hero has finally arrived and Marvel is about to get all of that Black Geek Money… Hell, Disney is about to get all that Black Geek Money (I ain’t forgot you, Finn).

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A Justice League…

I would remiss to ignore what DC has done to bring Black heroes and other heroes of diversity to the small screen week after week. If you truly pay attention to Arrow, what they have done on that show is create a team that is predominately female and people of color. Think about it, we have the Black Canary, Speedy and John Diggle finally in costume (though the helmet is still so problematic that some in my community have taken to call him “MagNegro”) fighting alongside the newly christened Green Arrow with Felicity as their information hub.

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Firestorm in full costume… Light my fire…

Over in the world of The Flash, we were introduced to the new half of the Firestorm matrix, a young Black man (though not Jason Rusch) and the Latina Hawkgirl. Both characters will be featured to the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow series.

Finally, the fledgling Supergirl series gave us a real treat. In a fascinating bit of race-bending and character merging, the mysterious leader of the DEO Hank Henshaw (played by David Harewood) was revealed not to be the Cyborg Superman (which I expected), but instead J’onn J’onzz AKA the Martian Manhunter.

Supergirl-Martian-Manhunter-Hank-Henshaw
The ultimate outsider… Man, am I glad to see him…

I call this an interesting case of race-bending, as J’onn himself is a shapeshifter. Before the Justice League cartoon series, J’onn J’onzz would transform into a white detective calling himself John Jones. However, in the cartoon, actor Carl Lumby, an African American, would voice J’onn.  As a result, from the Smallville television show to now Supergirl, the human identity of J’onn J’onzz would be played by and African American first, by Phil Morris and now Mr. Harewood. With a simple choice of voice actor, the Martian Manhunter would now forever be associated with a true sense of what it is like to be a person on the fringes of what is considered normal society.

Mythology is crucial to the development of a society. We need heroes. This is a fact of life. Heroes reflect the best of us. They are the models of perfection that we aspire to achieve. The heroes that a society creates represent the dreams, the goals, and the psychology of that society…

Yes, American society is under attack. American mythology is under attack. In fact, I would go so far to say that the destruction is irreversible. Everything that you thought was true isn’t. The lie has been exposed. The Wiz is just Richard Pryor in a bathrobe and the Emperor has no clothes. What is this, this thing you thought to be a fundamental truth now ripped to shreds and thrown around like so much confetti into the air? What is this security blanket, Linus, that used to wrap you tight now shredded and discarded on the ground and trampled into the mud? The lie exposed is this:

The White man is the only model of heroism.

PantherKick
Seriously…

The Black heroes have come and there is nothing that you can do about it. We need them. America needs them. This is only the beginning…

Don’t be scared.

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