The 4 Pages | 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape anthology series is a celebration of where true diversity exists in this industry. Curated by Griot Enterprises publisher Jiba Molei Anderson (The Horsemen), this anthology celebrates the work of BIPOC creators from mainstream to independent, webcomics to print media and everything in-between.
“In February 2014, I was invited to take part in a roundtable discussion on a podcast,” Anderson begins. “During that time, an almost annual discussion began on social media where many fans were clamoring for some sort of unified front. ‘Why don’t we have a new Milestone‘ or ‘We need some sort of magazine to let people know about us‘ were some of the most common statements. “
“We brought that topic up in the roundtable. We discussed the logistics and perceived difficulties of putting something like that together. I was the one who said that all one needed was the connections to the various creators in the game, the wherewithal to bring all these diverse personalities together, the technical and marketing acumen to create the product and a certain lack of ego to play a bit of a back seat in order to push the movement forward.
And, since I opened my big mouth, I knew that I had to be the one to make this thing happen…”
Contributors for the previous five volumes included Quinn McGowan (Wildfire), Micheline Hess (Diary Of A Mad Black Werewolf), Roosevelt Pitt (Purge), John Jennings (Kindred), Chuck “Dragonblack” Collins (Bounce), Tim Fielder (Matty’s Rocket, Infinitum), Anthony Piper (Trill League), Roye Okupe (EXO: The Legend of Wale Williams), Nigel Flood (The Globalists), David Walker (Power Man and Iron Fist, Naomi), Robert Love (Bayou, Fierce), Sanford Greene (Bitter Root), Ray Anthony-Height (Midnight Tiger), Sha-Nee Williams, Khary Randolph (Excellence), Greg Anderson Elysée (Is’nana The Were-Spider), Ed Williams (Mayke), Robert Jeffery (Mine To Avenge), Dorphise Jean (Spirit’s Destiny) and Uko Smith.
“4 Pages | 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape is more than an anthology series of great comics,” Anderson continues. “Each 126- page volume is a portable gallery of some of the finest creators of color, past present and future. It’s an academic document recording the evolution of diversity in the medium. It’s living history!”
Volume 06 – The Feel will include creators the likes of George Gant (Beware of Toddler), Jamal Yasseem Igle (Supergirl, Black, The Wrong Earth), Moana McAdams (The Adventures of Nakoa and Nohea), Albert Morales (Samurai Señorita) and Amber Denise Peoples.
“Comics are Hip Hop,” Anderson states. “The work in 4 Pages | 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape is diverse, dangerous, political and inspiring. Like Hip Hop, Comics have the ‘mainstream’ and the ‘underground.’ Like Hip Hop, the underground or ‘independent’ scene of Comics is where true innovation and experimentation exists, where you’ll find cats grinding out with passion, creating their own labels and selling their wares out of the trunks of their digital cars searching for that special fan to purchase what they have to offer. “
This Kickstarter for 4 Pages | 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape Volume 06 – The Feel begins February 15. Click here for more information.
Yeah, it’s a grind for real. I’ll say this: writing a business plan before starting to draw page one has allowed me to navigate the game thus far. But yes, I am ready to advance to the next stage…
Now, let me address (once again) the feasibility of the oft-mused about “Black comic book company.”
I’ve seen some people try to take on the task of creating a huge comic book universe with dreams of a bunch of artists and writers coming on board to make this vision come true. Most times, it’s one person who wants to be the architect of this vision with the idea that they would become the next “Stan Lee,” the epicenter of this grand creative enterprise…
And, such thoughts lead, unfortunately, to nowhere or worse (feelings of betrayal, bitterness, clique-forming, etc.). Why? I’ll tell you…
Today, creators want to tell their own stories, build their own universes, and they can. Nothing is holding them back not even economics if they have the skill set to make their IP come to life (or create fundraisers on platforms like Kickstarter to raise capitol).
Making the comic is the easy part, the “fun” part. Handling the marketing and business of promoting the comic is where the real work lies. Building a fandom is a beast. That takes marketing, consistently putting out a quality product (not monthly, necessarily, but consistently), having a web presence (not just Instagram or Facebook but an actual website), going to conventions, pressing the flesh… The game ain’t for the faint of heart nor part-time players.
The good thing about Diamond when I got in the game was that they demanded seeing three issues before soliciting the first one. So, one had to have a complete arc from jump.
A lot of neophyte creators don’t plan for the long haul. Too many focus on that one issue hoping it will hit before doing a second one. I think some people need to focus on creating a solid story (beginning, middle, and end) as opposed to creating universes from jump. Universes come with time and consistent output. But first, you need to get a story out there to build the universe on.
Let me also say this on the creative end: don’t wait for your universe to be built before launching your title.
With The Horsemen, I did have the makings of a comic universe based on a couple of concepts that were percolating when I was an undergrad at U of Michigan back in the day. this existed before I even thought of The Horsemen themselves. Those concepts didn’t begin coming to fruition until my graduate studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where my thesis project birthed both The Horsemen and the 4 Pages 16 Bars project.
When I decided to enter the game, I knew that waiting until I had everything fleshed out creatively or skill-wise could mean that I’d be waiting forever. In other words, I knew that I would get in the way of my work seeing the light of day. Getting the book out was the most important thing.
I stopped looking at comics from a fan perspective and started to really look at them as an art form and as a product. I knew I had the skill set to make it look and read comparable to the industry standard package and design-wise. I also knew that the more I did it, the better and more sophisticated the work would become. It had to be good, but it didn’t have to be perfect. The point was to get the property out to the world, to “plant my flag” and to keep coming with new product.
On the creative side, I allowed the universe to grow naturally bringing those concepts into the story as the story progressed. I also kept myself open to new ideas as they popped up. By the time I published Mythos: The Official Handbook of the Horsemen Universe and Lumumba Funk, I realized that I had my universe with the characters, worlds and rules intact. I also found out that I established at least two spin-off properties from that world if I so choose to do that. It took 20 years, but in that 20 years, I put out The Horsemen so that readers could take the journey with me.
The reason why I created the 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape series is for people to sample different works from creators of color and guide them to said creators’ websites and such to purchase those books. Somewhat of the same concept as a company without the hassle of needless “continuity” between disparate creators and their own publishing/transmedia goals.
When it comes to bringing different properties under one banner, a business model similar to the Image Comics of 2019 is more feasible than a shared universe. Reason being, as stated above, building a cohesive comic book universe takes time. For example, DC’s multiverse exists because of acquisition (i.e. absorbing the properties of other comic book companies like Charlton, Fawcett,Wildstorm, etc.) whereas Marvel’s was more cohesive with a singular writing architect (initially Stan Lee) with equally creative artistic input from visual storytellers like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, etc. Even then, that took years to build.
Initially, all that creating the Image Comics’ model would take is a number of books carrying the same brand logo similar to the Image “I.” In addition to carrying that brand on the selected properties, said books would cross promote each other’s properties via social media, free ad swaps in their books, pooling resources to get small press tables at conventions, much like Hip Hop crews like the Native Tongues (The Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Queen Latifah, Monie Love, Black Sheep, etc.), the Soulquarians (D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, Common, J Dilla, The Roots, etc.), the Wu-Tang Clan and others whose similar sensibilities added to the success of the individual groups or artists.
I have a plan for that and a symbol…
And yet, you still find people complaining about the lack of representation in comics.
The real issue is that, simply, some people call themselves comic book fans when really, all they only read is either DC or Marvel comics instead of really looking for what’s out there. Even when they say they read comics from other publishers, it’s either early Image (Spawn, Youngblood, etc.) or Milestone, which hasn’t published a book since 2010.
And, the whole excuse of “we can’t find them” is complete and utter bullshit as we creators are promoting our works every single day on social media. Point blank period, the DC/Marvel acolytes ain’t checking for them because of the fact that those books aren’t from DC or Marvel.
The point is this: if you just read DC or Marvel comics, that’s fine. We all read DC or Marvel. They’re the “fast food” of comic book companies especially today.
But, if you complain about a lack of Black characters or Black creators, and only look at DC or Marvel as salvation as opposed to at least exploring offerings from independent creators, that’s a problem.
The whole “dreaming and wishing” phase has long past with so many creators and properties getting shine and making waves. Unfortunately, it seems that its only Black fans, the loudest complainers honestly, who refuse to be up on the game…
I think that’s partly because those cats don’t need to “invest” in DC/Marvel properties like they do the indies.
They can talk about what DC/Marvel does all the live long day subconsciously knowing that the “Corporate Two” ain’t really listening to them. Also, they don’t necessarily have to buy “Corporate Two” books because of close to 100 years of market saturation.
With indies like us, first they have to buy our books. There’s no workaround from that. Second, they know whatever they say will get a quick response, which isn’t necessarily a good thing (seriously, some cats need to get out of their feelings).
Also, there’s a fear factor involved in the sense that those who yap and create aren’t ready to hear critiques of their work (for real, get out of your feelings).
Finally, the “Corporate Two” stans want to feel like they are a part of the “mainstream” comic book community. That’s why they bitch so much about a Blue Marvel or John Stewart flick because they feel “if ‘mainstream’ fans (read: you know what I mean) watch it then I am, tangentially, of value.”
Yeah, I said it. I said that shit.
I’ve heard this same argument or plea or solution for the past five years. And, even though I personally made inroads to solve this problem, the fact is that if cats want the Black heroes, they think DC or Marvel should be making, they need to look outside of DC or Marvel to find them.
I see way too many people wish for the “Corporate Two” to make the type of Black characters or books that some #BlackComix creators have already made. I see too many fans wish for some sort of mainstream “approval” when there is more than enough material we created to build and support our own fandom.
Just like Jazz, Hip Hop, and Rock & Roll, we as Black folk have the opportunity to be ahead of the curve by supporting great indie Black Comix which would lead to more books which would lead to the “mainstream” wanting that content.
But until that day comes, I’ma keep making comics and celebrate other great books from Black creators like Crescent City Monsters, Excellence, Is’nana the Were-Spider, the upcoming Bass Reeves and more because they deserve more of my support and energy than a book from the “Corporate Two.”
A blueprint has been laid out. Question is: will someone follow it?
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.
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.
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’sJessica 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’sStorm 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…
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).
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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…
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.
Now, coming back from MECCA Con, I was pleasantly greeted with this news:
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.
On the flip side, this article popped up yesterday in the Huffington Post:
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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…”
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.”
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:
The Operative Network
The Glyph Awards
4 Pages 16 Bars
Exo: The Legend of Wale Williams
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.
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?
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.
“It was all a dream, I used to read Wizard Magazine…”
– Paraphrasing ‘Juicy” by The Notorious B.I.G
Pssst… Guess what?
Comics are Hip Hop.
Of course, if this were written in the 20s, I would have said, “Comics are the Blues.” If this were written in the 40s, then Comics would be akin to Jazz. In the 60s, Comics would be considered Rock and Roll…
You get the idea.
Comics started out as a sort of gutter hybrid art form of image and text, which (for the most part) were crudely drawn, crudely written disposable fair printed on cheap paper for the unwashed masses, mostly children, to enjoy.
Comics are hood. Back in the day, nobody who considered themselves “true” artists or writers would claim comics as a legitimate art form. Artists wouldn’t claim comics, using that work as a stepping-stone while they pursued “legitimate” work from advertising agencies.
Hell, Stanley Lieber created the pen name Stan Lee initially to distance himself from comic book work for the day when he would write The Great American Novel.
Comics are dangerous. Along with Jazz, along with Rock and Roll, along with Hip Hop, Comics were once, and according to some, still considered the bane of existence; a poison of the mind that would lead to delinquency, crime, homosexuality, and murder. Frederic Wertham made his bones by putting the fear of comics into the hearts and minds of good, hard-working, American folk with his ode to ridiculousness Seduction of the Innocent.
Comics are gully. They have the ability to tap into our base instincts. They allow some to engage in power fantasies of strength, sexual illusion and dominance, fulfilling wishes to be overly-muscled, gritted teeth savage demigods who can kill with impunity, cruelly reducing women to disposable plot devices only useful for fulfilling carnal needs or a tool for motivation in their mutilation or death by exotic and tragic means.
The Comic Book industry knows beef. From the eternal struggle for dominance by DC and Marvel to the conflict between Milestone Media and Ania (a rift that echoed the East Coast/West Coast war without the death of its representatives), to the dearth of flame wars pertaining to every aspect of comics in social media, it’s a wonder that we’ve never seen scuffles on par with the Source Awards at the San Diego Comic Con.
At the same time, Comics are conscious. Comics can uplift. Comics can inspire. Comics can show us at our absolute best. We love Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Black Panther, Storm and many others because they illustrate who we want to be. Two Jewish men for the purpose of punching Hitler, and the ugliness of Nazism, in the face, created Captain America. Spider Man shows that an ordinary schlub could rise from his nebbishness and become a hero because, of course, with great power comes great responsibility. The X-Men fight for equality in a world where not only are they not wanted, but are outright persecuted for being different.
Like Hip Hop, Comics are experimental, have different styles, represent different regions, and are global. East Coast is different from the West Coast, which is different from the Midwest and the Dirty South, yet no matter if you rock Nas or Rakim, NWA or the Souls of Mischief, Common or Eminem, Outkast or T.I., it’s still representing the culture that is Hip Hop. By the same token, no matter if you’re Justice League or Avengers, Hellboy or Saga, Blade of the Immortal or Archie, you’re still knee deep in that comic book culture.
Comics and Hip Hop share the mastery of elements in order to be truly down in the game. The practitioners of Hip Hop are the MC, the DJ, the B-Boy & B-girl and the Graffiti artist. The practitioners of comics are the Writer, the Penciller, the Inker, the Colorist and the Letterer.
And, just like Hip Hop, money has come in and changed the game. Before 2008, one could say that DC and Marvel were in the same boat as Dark Horse, Image, Dynamite, IDW, Boom, etc. Even though DC and Marvel were “bigger labels,” they were still in the comic book family.
Like Hip Hop, Comics had cinematic success well before recent memory. For instance, one may be able to call the 1978 Superman film the Beat Street of comic books movies. Furthermore, Comics and Hip Hop have borrowed from each other as well as had moments of symbiosis (i.e. the Wu-Tang Clan, MCs using their rap monikers like secret identities, rappers creating comic books, Brotherman, etc.).
Real talk, 1997’s Blade, in tone, attitude and execution, was as close to a Hip Hop influenced comic book movie as you were gonna get.
However, once Iron Man and The Dark Knight made big money, the Mouse (Disney) bought Marvel, the Rabbit (Warner Brothers) doubled down on DC and changed the whole game. Now we’ve got the Corporate Two trying to dominate, and sublimate, an industry that thrives on innovation and diversity. For them, it’s not about creating good stories, but exploiting IP.
Same thing happened in Hip Hop. Before Dr. Dre’s classic The Chronic, you could have A Tribe Called Quest, EPMD, Salt N Pepa, Public Enemy, Arrested Development, 2 Live Crew, MC Hammer and more rock the airwaves and all be considered Hip Hop. After The Chronic, it became all about blunts, guns, sex and keeping it real. It became all about the clothing deal or schilling products before even getting the record deal. It became less about speaking your truth and more about fattening your bank account…
In other words, Hip Hop became more about Drake and less about Kendrick Lamar.
Still, just like real Hip Hop, real Comics endure. Like Hip Hop, Comics have the mainstream and the underground. Like Hip Hop, the underground, or independent scene of Comics is where true innovation and experimentation exists. That’s where you’ll find cats grinding out with passion, creating their own labels and selling their wares out of the trunks of their digital cars (POD, websites, Comixology, Drive Thru Comics, Kickstarter, etc.) searching for that fan with discernable taste to purchase what they have to offer.
And, just like Hip Hop, the work is diverse, dangerous, gully and uplifting. These Comics represent our base fears and our wildest dreams.
Remember when Nas said, “All I need is on mic?” The Comic creator could say, “All I need is one pen, or one pencil, or one stylus…”
This is where the future exists. This is where we exist. We are 4 Pages | 16 Bars, and we came to rock the house.
Protect ya neck.
4 Pages | 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape presents Sequential Graffiti is available for print ($14.99) and digital formats ($5.99) now at Amazon and Drive Thru Comics. Think of it as a 66-page EP celebrating some of the Visual MCs and Literary DJs who help make comics a cooler place to be. It’s all leading up to Vol. 01 of 4 Pages | 16 Bars: A Digital Mixtape. It’s called The Symphony for a reason…
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:
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.
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.
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.
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…
No, that’s incorrect. 2014 was a year of great revelation.
2014 was the year that we witnessed a man thought to be the definition of fatherhood brought low by indiscretions and heresy proclaimed guilty by the court of public opinion.
2014 was the year that we saw injustice happen every 28 hours, the year that African American lives were terminated with extreme prejudice and that their murderers saw no repercussions for their actions.
2014 was the year that those who were charged with protecting and serving their public committing the greatest sign of disrespect by literally turning their backs to the ones that they must answer to.
2014 was the year that we, as a country, had our rose-colored glasses severely smudged, that the fallacy of superiority was just that, a straight-up fabrication; the ultimate marketing tool if you will.
2014 was a year of great denial in the overwhelming face of truth; a year where many people willfully shoved their heads into the sand clinging desperately to an ideal that never was.
2014 was the year that the majority realized that they were not the cool kids anymore.
2014 was the year that, despite complaints to the contrary, diversity reared its glorious head.
2014 was the year of Captain Marvel, She-Hulk, a Muslim Ms. Marvel and Storm taking the comic world and turning it on its ear.
2014 was the year we saw Sam Wilson flying high in The Winter Soldier and taking the shield as Captain America.
2014 was the year that we would cheer for a talking raccoon and his walking tree.
2014 was the year that a woman held the hammer of Thor.
2014 was the year they announcement that in 2017 the King of Wakanda will arrive on the big screen and our Hero for Hire will have bullets bouncing off of his chest on Netflix.
2014 was the year that the Multiversity of the DCU showed the potential for diversity in the DCU.
2014 was the year we would see that Barry Allen was raised in a male single-parent African American household with strong moral values to help him on his journey to become the fastest man alive and that Oliver Queen would depend upon and support a brother in his time of need who’s only secret identity is that he has a good job, good credit and a gym membership.
2014 was the year that the history of Gotham City became a little more interesting with the introduction of mob boss Fish Mooney.
2014 was the year that another vision of Milestone Media would be realized with the announcement of a live-action Static Shock project.
2014 was the year of the independents taking real chances with books like Low, Black Science, Velvet, Lazarus, Ragnarok, Sirens, Day Men and East of West.
2014 was the year of the creator of color flourishing beyond the Corporate Two. Writers and artists of color produced amazing, groundbreaking work beyond the sphere of the mainstream.
2014 was the year of Genius, Concrete Park, Midnight Tiger, Rat Queens, Cannon Busters, Watson & Holmes and the Legend of the Mantamaji.
2014 was the year that a sister would win the Eisner Awards for her book Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation.
2014 was the year that our Stan Lee, Dwayne McDuffie, would have an award named in his honor.
2014 was the year of DMC.
2014 was the year of Shaft.
2014 was the year of Griot Enterprises, Action Lab, Lion Forge, and the operative.net.
2014 was the year that the world of comic books became way more interesting.
So, what does that mean for 2015?
It means that the gloves are off. It means that we will not be held back. It means that our voices will not be silenced. It means that we are once again realizing our power…
Brothers and sisters rejoice… The Jackie Robinson of Black superheroes is coming to the big screen…
And, he will be played by Jackie Robinson…
If you’ve been living under a rock with no Wi-Fi, the comic book industry was pleasantly rocked by the news from Marvel Studios. Not only has Benedict Cumberbatch has been tapped to play Doctor Strange on the big screen, not only will Marvel give us the first comic book movie with a female lead in the upcoming Captain Marvel film, but…
Wait for it…
The Black Panther is coming to the big screen in 2017, and Chadwick Bosemen (42, Get on Up) will be the King of Wakanda.
This news, on top of DC’s announcement of a live-action Static series is the equivalent of Christmas and Kwanzaa coming early to comic geekdom, in general, but Black geekdom in particular. This is the news that the brothers and sisters have been waiting for. This is the comic book version of Barack Obama being elected as president of the United States. We are happy…
We are dancing in the streets, we are patting each other on the back, and we are acting like we have finally reached the Promised Land.
Quick sidebar: remember that the evolution of the comic book movie began with a little film called Blade.
Don’t get it twisted.
Blade is the template for the modern comic book film. Without the success of Blade, Marvel wouldn’t have made Spider Man, the X-Men and Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios would not have the balls to release Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, Captain America, The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy to the big screen…
A comic book film with an African American lead, with an African American viewpoint, got the ball rolling.
As much as Black fandom has to celebrate, as much money as we are about to throw to corporations that already got our dough, a couple of questions should be raised:
Does this news mean that the “Corporate Two” will now increasingly diversify their talent pool by hiring not only more artists, but also more writers of color?
More important, what happens to the independent Black comic book scene?
Yes, the one-two punch of the Static TV series and the Black Panther movie is huge news… huge. But, does that mean that the Black comic book community is satisfied? That we independent creators of color are gonna get lost in the shuffle?
As independents, we’ve got to stop thinking like creators and start thinking, and acting, like businesspeople. We’ve got to go hard in the paint, study our competition in all arenas, and become truly ready for combat. With all that is at our disposal, social media, Print on Demand, the democratized distribution landscape, we must evolve. We must be prolific, we must market, we must grind. We must make our voices so loud that they can’t ignore us. And, our product has to be so on point that they cannot refute us.
In fact, what should happen… What will happen is that we must, and will, capitalize on this good news. We will use the momentum generated by these announcements to further our cause. We will piggyback with the notion of:
“Y’all about that Black Panther?”
“Y’all about that Static?”
“Well, check out Concrete Park, check out Midnight Tiger, and check out Ajala, One Nation, Wildfire, Witchdoctor, Genius, Miranda Mercury, E.P.I.C., T.A.S.K., Millennia War, DMC, The Almighty Street Team, The Horsemen…”
“We are that next shit.”
It’s already been done. We have our template. Brotherman, T.R.I.B.E. and the almighty Milestone Media showed us how it’s done.
Let’s rock this funky joint.
In other monumental moments in Black Comics History: Griot Enterprises, home of The Horsemen, will be distributing their graphic novels and art books through the biggest distributor in the United States, Ingram, Baker and Taylor. You can pre-order The Horsemen: Divine Intervention at your local bookstore or comic book store today.
The ISBN is: 9781941958001.
We are beyond Diamond. We are beyond the comic book store. We are officially everywhere. Griot Enterprises is global, baby.
Comic book illustration is cool, but the knowledge gained by drawing from life combined with comic book exaggeration takes the work to a whole ‘nother level…
My statement is about enhancement, not constriction.
The reason why Michael Jordan is one of the greatest basketball players of all time is because of his solid foundation in the fundamentals of the game, not just because of his aerial dexterity when making a slam dunk.
Art is no different. For example, Joe Maduriera’s work resonates in large part because of the “steak” of his work, the fundamentals. His construction is rock solid and his knowledge of anatomy comes in extremely handy when he’s exaggerating those elements; the muscle forms still make sense. The “sizzle,” or style, is his personal interpretation of the fundamentals (i.e. the aforementioned construction, anatomy, proportions, etc.) and rendering technique (hatching, bold contour lines, positive/negative space, etc.).
It’s not an “either, or” situation when it comes to comic book illustration. It’s both.
Too many people have been duped into thinking it’s style over substance and that’s what prevents them from growing as artists. There are too many people out there trying to perfect a look without knowing the fundamentals first. Only by knowing the rules, really knowing the rules, would you then be able to break them.
I am as influenced by “fine art,” “street art,” classic illustration, graphic design, etc., as I am by comic book art. My influences range from George Perez to Eduardo Risso to Bill Sienkiewicz and I’ve gleaned something from each of them (and more). When one’s influences are diverse (and beyond the realm of comics), it helps in finding one’s own vision, one’s own “style.”
Diversity in knowledge leads to individual development. If one only looks at anime or (G_d forbid) Rob Liefeld, then that work is only going to look like a pale imitation of that influence. If one diversifies their reference pool, in addition to learning the fundamentals, they will eventually establish their own visual language.
Liefeld’s success was totally based on being at the right place at the right time, not his talent. Don’t get me wrong, he was smart and got his money, but very few people are asking “When is Liefeld gonna drop a new joint?” these days. He’s completely locked in the early 90s… And it’s 2014.
To be clear, I am not saying that his talent didn’t get him in the door. However, it wasn’t his talent that made him a mega star… That was the Spike Lee 501 commercial.
As for an artist, like, Bill Sienkiewicz, he comes from a fine art/classic illustration background that makes his work not only far more interesting, but far more versatile as well. In addition to projects like Elektra: Assassin, New Mutants and Moon Knight, he also did the Jimi Hendrix graphic novel Voodoo Child and album covers for Hip Hop acts EPMD and the RZA. People inside and outside the comic book industry check for him, and he stays in demand.
At the end of the day, cats like are the artists I respect and patterned my career after…. And I thank the Higher Power for that…
What I am saying is that Sienkiewicz’s work is way more versatile, allowing him to be successful in both the comic book industry and beyond.
His understanding of the fundamentals is so tight; he’s able to go into different styles beyond comics, such as post-modernism, collage and more, which creates his idiosyncratic style. That makes him much more appealing, and marketable to different audiences. His work is just at home in a fine art gallery as it is on the printed page.
That’s kind of my point. As an artist, you shouldn’t limit yourself to one market, especially a market as small and as competitive as the comic book industry. If you do, you may very well starve. I peeped game very early on. I knew I wanted to be a commercial artist at the age of 7 and my whole education was dedicated to that goal.
Yeah, comics are my root influence, but they’re not the only one. Because of that, I have been able to carve out a diverse career, which includes comics, but graphic design, animation and education as well. And sure, the reason why I get calls from a diversity of clients is because of the comic book root, but it is as such that these clients see how my work can benefit their projects.
In the words of Wu Tang Financial: Diversify yo’ bonds…
M.E.C.C.A. Con is only three days away! I’ll be there selling books, moderating panels and, hopefully, meeting old friends and making new ones…
Speaking of… I’m offering The New Mythology Pack for the con! For only $50.00 you’ll get The Horsemen: Divine Intervention, Issues 1 – 3 of The Horsemen: Mark of the Cloven (written by Jude W Mire), Chronicle: The Art of Jiba Molei Anderson and 2 Horsemen art prints! Can’t beat that with a stick! Hope to see the Detroit fam there!