Tag Archives: Black Comix

YOU KNOW THE ANSWER

The question.

The eternal question.

It’s always asked. It never fails. It’s asked so frequently; you can set your watch to it. 

In the immortal words of Cherelle, “Let’s sing it together…”

IS THERE A BLACK COMIC BOOK INDUSTRY?

And, here is the short answer:

Yes, there is.

In just a few short years, Roye Okupe of YouNeek Studios has taken his characters from the comics to the big screen… Kudos!

How so, you may ask?

Well, let me school ya…

While this question is still being asked, many indie Black Comix creators were at NYCC supporting and big-upping each other. And, their tables were busy all weekend because people were buying their product left, right and center. On the same weekend, another group of Black Comix creators were in Algiers the same weekend sharing their talent with kids on the African continent.

From companies like Evoluzione Publishing to Webway Comics to Griot Enterprises to Stranger ComicsYouNeek Studios and others, to the larger independent companies like Image Comics publishing books like Bitter Root and Excellence, to the network of conventions that cater to fans of color like OnyxconMECCA ConECBAAC, Blerd ConBCAF and so many more, to crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, to printers like 133Art, distribution systems like Peep Game Comix and stores like Amalgam Comics and CoffeehouseFirst Aid Comics and Third Coast Comics, you damn right Black Comix exists not only as an industry, but a movement as well. 

The title of the book also denotes the quality of the product…

Hell, why do you think I created an anthology like 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape?

We’ve got creators, publishers, digital distributors, a convention system, printers and brick and mortar stores…

Sounds like an industry to me. And, it looks like the reach of this industry is international.

Problem is, cats who continue to ask this question are too busy chasing the business model of the “Corporate Two” or work in a vacuum so tight that they don’t realize what’s happening around them. Flat out, these cats don’t even really interact with, or stay aware of, other creators and what they are making in a similar space…

In other words, they are either too arrogant or too scared to be a part of the community. 

…The hell did he just say?

The arrogance comes because they want to be at the top of the totem pole when it comes to what they think Black Comix are. They are looking for that ephemeral superstarstatus Wizard Magazine put into some of their heads with their Top 10 Artist and Writer lists (which were totally and arbitrarily manufactured). The fear comes into play as they know, deep down, that their product isn’t as up to snuff as someone else’s.

Yeah, I know I’m gonna catch mad flack for that last statement. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t any less true.

Now, there are many Black creators who are not asking this question. They are the ones getting recognition and finding success because their books meet the standards of the market. Why? Let me say this so the people in the back can hear:

COMIC BOOKS ARE AN EXERCISE IN GRAPHIC DESIGN

Everything needs to work in harmony (art, story, coloring, lettering, layout design and editing) in order to be considered a viable product by buying standards. Books like Bitter RootNiobe: She Is Death, Is’nana: The Were-SpiderCrescent City Monsters and others have audiences of diverse backgrounds gobbling up their books because they are good stories that are well-designed with great content from Black creators. If one’s book is lacking in any of these areas, that book is going to have problems. 

From the root to the fruit, Bitter Root hits all of the right notes…

This leads into point two of this particular rant:

COLOR IS NOT CONTENT

The aforementioned books also work because it doesn’t matter if the characters are Black…

Their creators are.

Crescent City Monsters is a great because it is a completed original package. The addition of Vodou and African American culture enhances the book, not the sole reason for its success…

Furthermore, they’re not trying to create a “Black version” of comics they’ve read before. They’re telling unique stories in different genres (because comics are more than superheroes) using their culture to enhance their stories and give unique points of view.

Here’s another point that you may or may not be aware of:

THE GAME DONE CHANGED AND BLACK WOMEN ARE AT THE FOREFRONT OF THIS CHANGE

I am not disrespecting the brothers who have paved the way at all. In fact, the brothers who haven’t been asking the question know exactly what I’m talking about. 

While some are still asking questions, C. Spike Trotman quietly redefined the industry…

In my opinion, C. Spike Trotman and Iron Circus Comics is the new publishing model one would want to follow. This woman has fundamentally changed the game building a successful publishing company with her savvy use of crowdfunding, marketing and content while cats are looking elsewhere for answers. She understands the market she’s built and has an extremely loyal fan/economic base.

The “Queen of Detroit” stays holding it down for five years and counting…

In Detroit, Maia Crown Williams has created a cultural powerhouse with her MECCA Con which brings creators from all over the country to the Motor City, sets them up with book signings and makes sure that they sample the finest cuisine my hometown has to offer. In addition, she brings top-notch Black creators to Detroit as educational ambassadors who show young brothers and sisters the craft of bringing their visions to life.

Oh, you don’t know about Niobe? Where have YOU been?

Also, Sebastian Jones’ Stranger Comics and World of Asunda brand featuring Niobe has a huge female fan base in part due to Amandla Stenburg’s involvement in the creation of the character as well as Ashley Woods being a part of the creative team. By putting the creative team front and center (something the “Corporate Two” used to do), Stranger Comics built up that fan base, in part, because the marketing of the creative team Black women gave added legitimacy to the brand.

I missed the opportunity to go to her store when I was in Philadelphia earlier this year. Next time, I won’t make the same mistake…

And, of course, not enough can be said of Ariell Johnson and her success with Amalgam Bookstore and Coffeehouse.

Black women, straight-up, buy comics. Black women, straight-up, make comics. In addition to sci-fi author, creator of Dark Horse Comics’s LaGuardia and writer of Marvel’s Shuri series Nnedi Okarafor, we’ve got Ironheart writer Eve Ewing, artist Afua Richardson, writer and creator of the Women In Comics collective Regine Sawyer, illustrator Micheline Hess, indie writer Dorphese Jean, the badasses Ashley WoodsAlithea A. Martinez and so many more putting in that work on the daily and having a large fanbase that includes Black women.

This leads me to my final point:

CHANGE YOUR DEFINITION OF SUCCESS 

People who want to get into comics nowadays don’t want floppies (though the 24-32-page pamphlet is still useful in getting people interested in your brand), they want books. They want graphic novels. These aren’t the people who go to the store every Wednesday for their X-Men or Justice League fix. They want books that represent them. They want to know that the creators of these books look like them, way more than the characters. They want the new and the creative. They want something different. They want a product that they don’t have to necessarily pick up every single month to follow the story. This is a new audience that people who keep asking the question are completely ignoring…

And, leaving money on the table.

While some people are trying to mimic the model of a corporation, books like this are racking up best-seller list accolades…

Too many cats think way too small when it comes to their subject matter and its potential reach in other markets because they’ve locked into a model that, though successful for some, makes absolutely no sense for others. It amazes me how many cats don’t look at libraries or bookstores (online and mortar) as viable markets when those markets are killing it in terms of graphic novel sales. 

it’s all about mindset. If you’re long-range goal is myopic, you’re not gonna find much traction. Straight-up, the model has changed. It’s been changed since, at the extreme least, 2010. 

If you’re just going for a success model that only benefits the “Corporate Two” (i.e. built-in fan base from over 80 years of market saturation, Diamond as distribution, etc.) YOU ARE GOING TO FAIL. Simple as that.

The idea that Black Comix aren’t making an impact is bullshit. People who say that simply aren’t really checking out what’s happening in Black Comix. They’re too busy wishing for the “Corporate Two” to appease them while Milestone happened, while the whole con structure for Black Comics was built while Bitter Root and World of Asunda get picked up by Legendary and HBO respectively while Raising Dion and Cannon Busters appeared on Netflix.

But again, too many of aren’t aware of what’s happening in front of them. People really need to open their eyes to see what’s really going down. The machine has been created. More people just need to plug in by going to the cons, interacting with and being truly aware of what’s happening with other creators. That’s called being a part of the community…

And, maybe we’ll finally stop asking this question.

The anthology celebrating the true diversity in comics returns… Cover art by Julie Anderson

Speaking of community:

Dedication, Vol.05 of 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape is available now in print ($24.95) and digital ($9.95) formats. Click here to grab the print copy, here for the digital.

Witness the birth of a new creative multiverse… Cover designed by Jiba Molei Anderson

Also, 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape presents The Union is on sale in digital format ($3.99) with a print format coming at the end of October. What is The Union? The Union is an 8-bit video game that brings properties from independent Black Comix creators like Dorphise JeanRobert Garrett(RIP), Quinn McGowanWilliam SatterwhiteTerance BakerTyrell White and Jiba Molei Anderson together for the first time to battle an enemy that threatens the very fabric of the multiverse we like to call The Blaxis. You can grab that bad boy here.

This is the community I’m talking about. This is Black Comix.

Get on board.

www.griotenterprises.com

A Quick Musing For The End of the Year

This is the last day of 2018 and the sixth day of Kwanzaa, Kuumba (creativity).
 
They say that diamonds are formed under immense pressure. Well, 2018 showed that Black creativity is brilliant, dazzling and gleaming. From Black Panther to Sorry To Bother You to A Wrinkle In Time to Dirty Computer to Into The Spider-Verse, the Afrofantastic has been on full display and crushing competition. The #BlackComix movement is thriving in its diversity of thought and content while Comicsgate was crushed under the weight of its misogynistic and racist vitriol.
 
Despite the continued assault on the African consciousness, 2018 was the year we came out in our full melanin creative glory. We’re gonna top it in 2019… #SurviveResistExcel #BlackArtMatters

BlackComix2018(Web)
Books of the Afrofantastic that I purchased in 2018

Moving The Needle

Print
Don’t sleep… We have been activated…

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?”

bp-4
Is he really coming to save us all?

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.

 The pioneers: Arvell Jones, Keith Pollard

 The legends: Denys Cowan, Turtel OnliLarry Stroman, Dwayne Turner, Guy A. Sims, Baba Dawud Anyabwile, Roosevelt Pitt, Brian Stelfreeze

 The next wave: Ashley Woods, Brandon EastonN Steven HarrisMshindo Kuumba, Eddy Newell, Jamal Yaseem Igle, Ken Lashley, Kevin Grevioux 

 The promoters: Andre Batts, Yumy Odom, Maia Crown Williams, Vince White, Robert Stull, Alex Simmons, Joseph Wheeler III, Brandon PeytonKeithan Jones 

 The brain trust: Joe Illidge, William H. Foster III, John Jennings, Marcus H. Roberts, Sheena C. Howard 

 The dreamers: Michael WatsonJiba Molei Anderson, G Walker Teon, Sean MackPeter DanielJ.m. HunterRobert Garrett, Greg Anderson Elysée, Victor Dandridge Jr.

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

Icon 2.0
Milestone 2.0… Good to have you back

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?

 

4 PAGES Volume Four Cover(Facebook)
We are a different breed… We must move in a different lane…

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.

Black-Comics
If you want to move the needle, is this book in your collection?

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.

Black Comix Returns
We do not need to be a monolith… There is unity in collaboration.

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!

www.gofundme.com/GriotEnterprises

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

Mind Your Surroundings

Words of wisdom from Ra's Al Ghul...
Words of wisdom from Ra’s Al Ghul…

“The only weapon the uninformed has in a debate against an informed opponent is the circular argument “…

– Jib Tzu – The Art of Verbal War

Wow. My last post sparked some real conversation.

If you haven’t read my last post, you can check out The Complexion of Comics.

It’s interesting to be responded to, and referenced as a solution, simultaneously…

A follower of mine on Facebook had a response to my article concerning the return of Milestone. Here are a couple of excerpts:

“Its not that black people don’t want these comics or minorities in general, its the lack of authenticity in most minority creators approach to selling the books based on our needs and behavior as a group of minorities in America. As someone who substitutes at schools where I have shown minority comics with excitement, I’ve witnessed from the shining eyes of children from 5th -8th grade school I know they want it.

Too many Minority-owned companies competing in an industry where there is not enough mainstream established creators for it to have meaning. As in this industry is so dominated by Caucasians that each time a minority creator is so called competitive that they are not building more ground to establish themselves, but rather are really lessening their appeal for it’s numbers that decide who is successful and a hot commodity in an industry.

And Milestone is only repeating a common practice by most Blacks when it comes to success, that its not understood to maintain it that you have to grow it from the community you are trying to represent instead of obtaining success and not spreading it.”

In the immortal words of Morris Day, "Oh, lawd..."
In the immortal words of Morris Day, “Oh, lawd…”

Wow…

That response pissed a number of my fellow creators off. Here’s an excerpt of a response from T.A.S.K. creator Damion Gonzalez:

“You called Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Derek Dingle and Michael Davis sellouts. You accused them of not hiring minorities. I think that Joseph Illidge, Ivan Velez, Jr., ChrissCrossX, Jason Scott Jones, Robert Washington (RIP), Eric Battle and Micheline Hess would beg to differ. Those are just the people I know. Also Michael Davis would go on to mentor and tutor scores of other including N Steven Harris! You can talk all the businesses talk you want to talk but calling those men sellouts and ignoring what they actually did to foster your lack of knowledge about what they did will not fly.”

Damion Gonzalez took the commentary to... Well, you know...
Damion Gonzalez took the commentary to… Well, you know…

Wildfire creator Quinn McGowan also offered this as a counter to the argument posed to the commentator:

“Perhaps doing some actual research (as has been suggested to you before) and being informed before criticizing and tagging other people in your argument based in emotion (not in fact) would behoove someone considering themselves offering suggestions to people doing the work (And clearly already offering real and workable suggestions) in this industry…”

Quinn McGowan lit that... You see where I'm going...
Quinn McGowan lit that… You see where I’m going…

E.P.I.C. creator Lonnie Lowe Jr. came at my man straight no chaser with his response:

“Ok, until you create or contribute something wit at least 1/16 of the importance of what Milestone did for creators of color and minority creators you need to chill.

You’re way too heavily opinionated for someone who hasn’t done one thing to push the culture forward yet you have all the answers and solutions. You lack tangibility. You have no physical evidence. You haven’t done anything creator wise other than talk and make these long-ass posts about what someone else should be doing.”

Lonnie Lowe's response was... Now, I'm just being ridiculous...
Lonnie Lowe’s response was… Now, I’m just being ridiculous…

I felt what some could do is share the article on their walls to spread the word as opposed to preaching to the choir with their manifesto.

One of the points in my article is that the activation of fandom is also crucial in this equation.

Here was my response:

“For example, instead of explaining the creator’s responsibility (which as the name of this group suggests, most of us are), you could share this article on your wall in addition to other walls thereby spreading the message. Active fandom is an essential part of the cause. People do it for DC and Marvel all the time. Why not for us doing the good work as well?”

In the 20 years since Milestone ceased regular publication, this is what happened:

Griot Enterprises
Rosaruim Publishing
Gettosake Entertainment
Ravenhammer Entertainment
133Art
The Operative Network
Black Comix
ONYXCON
The Glyph Awards
MECCA Con
Genius
Concrete Park
Blackjack
Wildfire
4 Pages 16 Bars
T.A.S.K.
Exo: The Legend of Wale Williams
Trill League
Cannon Busters
Legend of the Mantamaji

And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg…

The point I am making is that the solution is in practice… Right now. As stated, the widespread awareness of diversity in comics is in its infancy (in one’s estimate, only 20 years when in actuality it’s almost 30). It takes not only time, but also an active word-of-mouth audience who purchases our work and promotes it for all to succeed.

We do the promotion. We’re active on social media and have been getting exposure on mainstream and independent media outlets. We’ve got the conventions established. We’re doing our part. What we need are active, not passive, consumers.

Yeah... I said it...
Yeah… I said it…

With Print On Demand outfits like Ka-Blam, Amazon’s Createspace, IngramSpark, etc., there is no need to spend extra money to print books in all 50 states to increase awareness or availability… Anyone can buy our books, in print and digital formats, anywhere in the world. One doesn’t even have to go to the comic book store to get their books. One goes to the comic book store for a sense of community, kinda like the barbershop.

In terms of marketing, social media takes care of the wide net awareness approach (i.e. articles, posts, etc.) while conventions (if one could afford the cost of travel, housing, booth space, meals and product) handle the personal interaction and direct sales to potential fans…

In short, we as creators don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

What the consumer needs to do is click on that post, read that article, come to the cons to see cats who look like them doing this thing well and purchase the books that speak to them. Then, they need to tell their people about it and support the movement in their way.

We do it for others, but we don’t do it for ourselves. Instead of blaming the creators, why not take your fellow consumers to task? Why not shout from the rooftop about that new book you picked up that no one is hip to yet?

Why is it so hard for the consumer of color to do their part in making this grow? They do it for less… Why they scared?

You keep talking about solutions when the solution is staring at you... Right in yo' face...
You keep talking about solutions when the solution is staring at you… Right in yo’ face…

With 4 Pages 16 Bars, each contributor gets access to order print copies of the book through my printers at my printing costs. In addition, they also receive a copy of the digital issue for free to sell on their websites. I’ve already implemented what you proposed… It ain’t new. That’s Cross Promotion 101.

4 Pages 16 Bars is Cross Promotion 101, a place for those who don’t know to sample what we have to offer with links to the websites of those participating so that we continue to build on the community… Emphasis on continue.

The simple fact is, everything you say Black Indie Creators should be doing, we are doing. What you, the fans, need to do is stop and take a look.

One.

http://www.griotenterprises.com

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

They all want to be Number One...
They all want to be Number One…

Are geeks, especially African American geeks, elitist?

That’s something to ponder.

I’ve found that those who are most elitist are the most ignorant with a very limited pool of information to draw from. Lack of knowledge, context and history will do that to a person. I think that some would like to be thought of as the Wise Old Man on the Mountain, but quickly find their knowledge pool challenged when they come up against someone with a deeper knowledge pool to draw from.

Don’t get it twisted… Geek Knowledge Kung-Fu is real. It’s like immortals challenging each other in Highlander or Scanner battles.

Because they are embarrassed by what they don’t know, then it becomes personal and ugly and extremely uncool. They start grasping for allies and, when they don’t have numbers to back up their view, it gets all hotep (for my uninformed readers, look up the term), people get all sensitive and it gets very nasty.

Another issue that I have a serious problem with geek culture, especially African American geek culture, is the culture of complaint and entitlement. It’s like no one is satisfied with a cot-damn thing nowadays and people go out of their way to shut a thing down before even experiencing it.

Case is point: the news that Milestone Media is coming back into the publishing game. Those same people waiting for not only pop-culture salvation, but pop-culture validation as well met the thing that fools hoped for, wished for, prayed for, and ignored others, who have been carrying the torch for, with skepticism.

My man from the Comic Nerds of Color Edward Eugene steps to the mic:

You go, gurl!
You go, gurl!

Another example I can give is when news broke of Vixen getting her own animated series.

Get that. A woman—a Black woman—getting her own animated series. A really good and underused character at that finally getting the shine she’s deserved since JLU was cancelled. But what happened? The complaints started falling in without hesitation: “So Arrow and Flash get a mask, but she doesn’t?” “So Flash and Arrow can get a live action show, but ole sista girl isn’t worthy of one?” Are you serious?! DC has some of the best animation around. They could have easily stuck Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl, or some other female character in that spot but they chose Vixen. And here y’all go nitpicking over some of the silliest things I’ve come across in 2015 so far.

Thanks, Edward… I’ma take it from here, bruh…

Those are just two examples of this problem. From television to film to animation to the creative field in general, I’ve seen this happen with increasing frequency. I wish that people would seriously analyze and think before responding. I wish that people would respect other people’s opinion if that person made a logical conclusion from that same analysis. I wish some people operated with a little more class. I wish people supported, or revolted, with their pocketbooks instead of bitching.

It’s interesting how people are hoping that DC Entertainment would give Milestone back their characters when Milestone has owned them from jump.

It’s also interesting that people still feel that Milestone fell off due to poor business practices.

It’s also interesting how some people feel that now Milestone is back, indie creators should go to them to have their books acknowledged.

It’s extremely interesting that people are still fronting that these brothers, that changed the game an inspired a generation to do for self and create your own, that created classic characters like Static, Icon, Hardware and more.

The Silverbacks have returned... We're ready for you...
The Silverbacks have returned… We’re ready for you…

Y’all make me laugh sometimes. You really do…

At the end of the day, my question is: what happened to embracing your culture? What happened to self-definition, self-determination, self-love and self-respect? Why are so many people still defining themselves through another’s lens?

Sorry… I’ve got my bowtie on and holding the Final Call in my right hand at the moment.

I feel that geekdom, especially African American geekdom is, to some extent, an exercise in passive creativity. Meaning, not everyone has the ability to create, but everyone has the ability to imagine. Now, the process of imagination, especially in this country and in our culture in particular, is stamped down at a very early age. We’re taught that the ability to not only imagine, but to create, is for those who have the resources and time to create these notions of fancy for all to enjoy.

And because our natural ability has been stunted, and because so many of us still seek our self-worth through the other’s lens, we tend to never be satisfied. We’re always hoping and praying and always expecting to be let down all at once.

Don't trust them new ni%^#s over there...
Don’t trust them new ni%^#s over there…

I know, I know… “You getting too deep, Jib.” But dag, y’all. I’m looking at the current entertainment landscape and I am seeing some very diverse interpretations of us, from us and from others.

Yeah, you may not dig Tyler Perry or Lee Daniels, but you have Ava Duvernay. You may not dig Scandal, but you’ve got Blackish and Sleepy Hollow. You may not dig Power or Empire, but you had The Divide (how many of y’all saw that show). You may not dig Mighty Avengers or the new Captain America, that’s why you’ve got Concrete Park, Wildfire, The Horsemen, Hunter Black, Bounce, the Legend of the Mantamaji, etc.

In other words, if people stopped complaining for a minute and really used the internet as the dearth of information that it is and not be lazy about it, if more cats flexed a little critical thinking and less knee-jerk opinion, if more people stopped looking for acceptance and accepted themselves, ourselves and the diversity of OUR culture (and it is mad diverse), if we were more active rather than passive participants, I think we’d all be in a lot better shape.

To be clear: I am ecstatic that Milestone is coming back to the publishing game. I am over the moon that this company, which inspired me to create not only my own properties (thank you, Denys Cowan) but also my own company, is coming back in full force. I am proud to be sharing the space with the company that started it all.

I ain’t scared. I’m ready. A lot of us are. The real cats are ready to share the landscape with their spiritual elders. The game done changed. The space done changed. This is what is supposed to happen. Not a monolith, but a group of publishers, focusing on proper representation, at different levels, working the marketplace.

Keep... Keep bouncing!
Keep… Keep bouncing!

This is how you challenge the Corporate Two. This is what the Black Age of Comics is supposed to look like…

We are the sun, stars shining brightly in the firmament… With the Silverbacks back in the game, we are the standard and we are the solution. We not only stand on the shoulders of giants, We are the giants

For real, though… Just like the New Black Movement… It ain’t about one leader, it’s about many leaders doing for self, showing true diversity of content, insight and viewpoint.

Just like the African Diaspora has many countries and cultures, so do Black Comix and so does Black Creativity.

Damn bowtie… Y’all buy the pies… They’re sweet potato…

http://www.griotenterprises.com

4 Pages|16 Bars: An Evolution

Print

The Black Age of Comics.

This is the term visionary Turtel Onli coined in 1992.

This is the evolution of that vision.

With the emergence of Milestone Media, Brotheman, Love and Rockets, Tribe and other properties in the Eighties and early Nineties, the artist of color’s presence in sequential art could not be denied.

20 years later, the book Black Comix became the link that brought us artists of color together as a community. This exhibition is a celebration of where we came from and where we are going in this art form.

Each of the artists, known in the mainstream and independent comic book scene bring a unique, but shared viewpoint in the creation of their work.

Who are we? We are:

Jiba Molei Anderson (The Horsemen, Outworld, JBD)

Jiba Molei Anderson
Jiba Molei Anderson

In 1999, Anderson formed Griot Enterprises, a publishing company / creative studio and created its flagship property, The Horsemen. The first Horsemen volume, Divine Intervention was released in 2002 to critical acclaim with The Horsemen: The Book of Olorun released in 2009. He has also written the educational text Manifesto: The Tao of Jiba Molei Anderson, which focuses on the creation of comics and the books Dignity and Divinity: The Holy Bible with Walter D Greason and Jigaboo Devil with LaMorris Richmond.

In addition, Anderson continues to work as an illustrator, designer and writer recently completing illustrations for the animated music video, Start A Fight, for the rock band The Ex-Senators.

Currently, Anderson is an instructor at the International Academy of Design and Technology, teaching courses in Animation and Video Game Design while completing his next project Outworld: Return of the Master Teachers. He has also been featured in the book Black Comix and spoken at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art with The Horsemen, being included in The Smithsonian’s permanent library.

www.griotenterprises.com

John Jennings (Black Comix, Black Kirby, The Hole)

John Jennings
John Jennings

John Jennings is an Associate Professor of Visual Studies at the University of Buffalo SUNY. His research and teaching focus on the analysis, explication, and disruption of African American stereotypes in popular visual media. He is an accomplished designer, curator, illustrator, and cartoonist.

Along with his long-time collaborator Damian Duffy, Jennings has co-authored and designed the books Out of Sequence: Underrepresented Voices in American Comics, Black Comix: African American Independent Comics Art + Culture, and the GLYPH Award winning graphic novel; The Hole: Consumer Culture Vol. 1.

His new projects include the supernatural crime story Blue Hand Mojo: A Case of You and the forthcoming graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler’s classic dark fantasy novel Kindred (also with Duffy). He has also garnered acclaim for his new artist collective Black Kirby along with his co-creator Stacey Robinson.

www.buffalo.edu/content/www/eub/feature_story/black-comix.html.html

Ashley A Woods (Millennia War)

Ashley A. Woods
Ashley A. Woods

Born and raised on the south side of Chicago, Ashley A. Woods has always been immersed in anything related to video games and comics. While attending the International Academy of Design and Technology, she self published her action-fantasy series, Millennia War, which has also been featured in various gallery showings and conventions as well as the Out of Sequence exhibition in Kyoto, Japan in 2008.

There are currently 7 issues and a graphic novel of Millennia War available. Besides being an avid fan of comics and games, Ashley is also a huge movie buff.

ashleyawoods.blogspot.com

Kenjji Jumanne-Marshall (Witchdoctor)

Kenjji Jumanne-Marshall
Kenjji Jumanne-Marshall

Kenjji is a freelance illustrator and comic artist whose work has appeared worldwide. A Detroit native, Kenjji attended the College for Creative Studies. He includes 80’s television, Hip Hop and the Motor City among his influences. Kenjji continues to work on new episodes of his true Voodoo action series WitchDoctor and has recently published children’s books like Money Smart Kids and Read Roared the Lion.

kenjji.com

Tony Maldonado (P.I. Jane)

Tony Maldonado
Tony Maldonado

ChicagoRican Antonio “Tmalo” Maldonado has been working as a cartoonist for 20 years. He’s worked as a comic artist, production and storyboard artist, character designer, and game animator for companies like Comico, Moonstone, Snap2Play,UMI, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network.

Maldonado brings unbridled insanity and doodles of mass destruction to the table. Armed with sketchbook, pencil, trusty laptop, and an imagination that just won’t quit. Maldonado will conitnue to strive for cartooning excellence in order to contribute to the evergrowing world of comics.

thelonelyricechronicles.blogspot.com

As you can see, we ain’t no joke.

This is visual Jazz, Rock, Funk, Soul, Hip Hop and electronic music.

4 Pages|16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape will run from June 8 – July 7, 2013 with an opening reception on June 8 from 8 – 11pm at the Silver Room, 1442 N. Milwaukee Ave. Chicago, Illinois 60622.

We are Visual MCs… Come into our cypher and check the flow.