No, that’s not the total truth. The truth is that so many of the things have happened in the past almost-year I’ve written about before…
“But what about Hidden Figures? What about Get Out? What about the #45thRegime? What about Wonder Woman…”
Yo, there have been so many think pieces about all of that, and more, I felt that I would just be adding noise to the ether, especially when so many of those pieces touched on themes I would touch on but in, some cases, a more eloquent way.
Then, Friday happened.
Here’s my response to that. Art and words by yours truly…
I will be giving you more of what (I hope) you remember me for soon and frequently. For the New Jacks checking this out for the first time, welcome.
Straight up, this is the Black nerd’s Lemonade right now.
For the first time in history, a comic book featuring an African superhero, written and illustrated by African Americans, is the highest-selling title from the Corporate Two. Yeah, having the character steal the show in the best comic-book related movie this year and a major marketing push definitely helped, but this is what happens when you #BetOnBlack…
The Black Panther marketing plan should be taught in schools. It’s actually a pretty textbook marketing strategy. They got the right team, did the proper product placement and marketing and got a winner on their hands.
Furthermore, they respect the importance of the character that is in their stable, a character, which encapsulates the hopes and dreams of a marginalized demographic. They actually heard this fan base and gave the character its due respect, steeped this character in its culture (fictional, but based on an amalgam of existing cultures from the marginalized demographic) and gave this character the necessary agency this character, and the marginalized demographic it represents, deserves. Because of this, Marvel produced yet another profitable situation that they, and their parent company, will benefit from greatly. This bit of good will is, in fact, good business.
In short, Marvel created the climate in which the Black Panther could be Columbused. We are seeing the effects of this as I write these words.
This should be a call to arms of what happens when you produce a fantastic product and market a great property.
Too bad DC Entertainment wasn’t in class that day… If you’re in the minority that DC has kept it on point cinematically, read this article written by Verge Entertainment bigwig and former Milestone and Batman editor Joe Illidge:
This information puts to bed a lot of superfluous “explanations” of why product featuring and created by people of color doesn’t sell. Independent creators should use this fact to push our products to the forefront…
Some people want to bring up Spawn as a counter to my statements. To that I say…
I am way more excited about this development than I ever was with the introduction of Spawn in the early 90s. In fact, if you wanna be real Image about it, I will always hype Tribe way more than Spawn as it was the first comic book featuring characters, and created by people of color, Todd Johnson and Larry Stroman, that sold over a million copies, which adjusted for inflation is on par with BP’s sales.
In other words, I’d rather celebrate the whole cake rather than just the frosting…
This should be inspiring to a lot of us independent creators of color and we need to capitalize on the climate. In fact, a number of us are.
We have seen an increase in coverage concerning independent properties dealing with the discussion of diversity (i.e. Black, The Legend of the Mantamaji, Niobe: She Is Life, Watson and Holmes, Exo: The Legend of Wale Williams, Solarman, etc.) exactly because these cats had their marketing game down and went beyond the perceived market to find their audience.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that these projects are expertly created (i.e. writing, art, etc.), but creating is the easy part. Marketing is where the work comes into play.
This is the kind of work we should continue to push and purchase in addition to showing love to the “Corporate Two” when they “get it right.” Way more than being a DC or Marvel fan, I’m a fan and practitioner of the art form.
Interesting times indeed.
So, let me know if you are interested in more than just enjoying this historic moment in representation. Let’s keep it going. Let this be more than just a moment. Let’s make this a fact of life.
Speaking of, I’m going to be teaching a course on this exact subject through the International School of Comics starting in July. Granted, this class will be in Chicago, but if there is enough interest, I would possibly take this bad smoker into the remote teaching realm.
P.S. Personal note to the brothers Johnson and Stroman, c’mon fellas. We need to do a Tribe trade so that people can experience the loveliness that book was and can be again. Get at me.
It is very hard… very hard for me to give this kind of assessment. I’m tighter with ratings than The Source used to be. With that being said, this is a 5-mic film. Any criticism would be some extreme nit-pickiness bull-caca. Anyone fronting on this movie is a hater, plain and simple…
I feel those fans who find criticism complain about the what-iffery of certain elements in the film, great elements that bring color to the narrative, not coming to fruition even though they weren’t supposed to. A few points (SPOILER-ALERT):
1.) I appreciate that at the end of the day, the “Civil War” was a very personal conflict that dealt with the loss of families (Zemo’s, Stark’s & T’Challa’s)
2.) That Zemo, basically Bin Laden-style, did to the Avengers that Loki, Ultron and Hydra couldn’t do… Destroy them.
3.) Because of the personal nature of the story, we didn’t need to see those other Winter Soldiers in action against our titular heroes. Then, it would have been Universal Soldier: Regeneration wasting the emotional currency, which drives the film.
4.) Storytelling was on point. Things followed through logically and I felt that all of the important elements in the film had organic conclusions. Even with Spider-Man’s inclusion at the eleventh hour didn’t feel tacked on and yes, just like Jon Bernthal made the Punisher his character, Tom Holland IS Peter Parker. And, I am a big fan of Marisa Tomei as a modern Aunt May. There were no plot holes.
5.) CW was a sequel for two movies, Captain America: Winter Soldier and the Avengers: Age of Ultron, and a fine one for both.
6.) Everything made sense. Everyone was true to character. Every character had their moment to shine. The battles were top-notch with each character’s physical language as unique as the character themselves.
7.) CW is the rare instance that the film was better than the mini-series… Yeah, I said it. Also, remember that Thor and the Hulk weren’t around during the mini-series either.
8.) Just the hint of the Dora Milaje, along with the taste of Wakanda was enough for me. I’m gonna get all that goodness in the Black Panther solo film.
9.) According to Dwayne McDuffie’sRule of Three, this is the MCU’s Blackest movie to date… And it was so on point with the diversity and agency of Black folks from Alfre Woodard’s brief, but crucial scene, to War Machine, the Falcon and, of course… This is the rare movie I would pay full price to see again in the theatre… Immediately.
10.) The secret sauce in making this delicious meal is Nate Moore as Executive Producer for the MCU. Yes, the characters would have been there eventually, but having a brother as an exec. producer helped to ensure that said characters did not come off as stereotypical ciphers, but rather fully realized people making their ethnicity natural, yet crucial in the MCU.
Realize, there is no one representation of “Blackness” in the MCU, nor do we just add color to the background. From War Machine to the Falcon to BP to Nick Fury, etc., each character is unique, each character has agency, each character is authentically Black in their own way.
Brother Moore has made sure that we haven’t been seen as a monolith, but in a rich tapestry more in line with how we really are as opposed to how the Other often portrays us.
These reasons, and more which I’ve mentioned in previous posts, is why not only is Captain America: Civil War a more satisfying film-going experience than Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, but also why Marvel has all but decimated the DCCU.
Quite simply, Marvel trusts and cares about their properties, DC does not. Marvel has been playing chess in unfolding their universe, taking time to craft their cinematic universe so that it has the same resonance as the comic book universe.
DC has been playing checkers, rushing product and blowing their wad repeatedly on half-baked measures which treat their properties as cash-grab ciphers rather than respecting the history and mythology of the characters to craft tales which speak to the human condition using the superhero as an analogy to inspire and make us seek out our better selves.
Here’s something to chew on: when people start writing think pieces on your film discussing the deeper ramifications of what your heroes represent in the larger world context rather than judging success or failure of your project based on how much money it makes, you’ve made a better film. When you respect not only your hard-core fanbase, but also can make your properties resonate with the casual viewer, you’ve made a better film. When you focus on storytelling rather than spectacle, you’ve made a better film. And, said film is steadily going to make a lot of money rather than suffering a near-90% drop in viewership the second week of release.
Personal point of order… A few years ago, I got caught up in a what-iffery tread about a potential (at the time) Black Panther movie in which I broke down how I felt Wakandan self-image should be portrayed.
Then, Captain America: Civil War.
It’s like the Russo Brothers read my mind. For about 35 seconds, I thought: “Man, I may not have to do The Horsemen anymore…”
Then, I got out of my fanboy phase and became even more inspired to make more work.
Trust, that is the highest of praise.
So, I’ve never fallen into one camp when it came to the “Corporate Two.” I loved DC’s icons and Marvel’s B-list. But, after Daredevil: Season Two, Jessica Jones, Captain America: Civil War and the upcoming Luke Cage…
It’s an old chestnut, to be sure. Hell, I’ve written at least five articles on this subject alone. Still, as Diversity has become the number one topic in the comic book industry (yes, more prevalent than Batman Vs. Superman and Captain America: Civil War).
The “Corporate Two” will make a big initial bruhahah about a “diverse” project, but not follow up after the first issue’s release (i.e. DC’s handling of David Walker’s run on Cyborg). In fact, if you know your A-list properties have that built-in audience that’s carrying your line, how about spending less time marketing the obvious and spend a little more money, and attention, on your “struggling” or “off-beat” properties.
Diversity is more than just the color of your character… It’s also the tastes of the reading public.
Now, back to the independent portion. Say it with me one more time with feeling, people…
You build your audience one customer at a time.
This is where conventions and social media come into play. This is where you need a plan… Marketing 101. From my experience, this is the real work.
Although time intensive, creating the book is the easy part in making comics… Because it’s fun to create. As an Indie, keep in mind that you are not going to sell DC or Marvel numbers… You don’t have to. You don’t have the same overhead that those companies do.
In addition, trying to do a monthly comic when that is not your main job is kind of not the way to go nowadays since the only brick and mortar distributor, Diamond, is not really checking for Indies. You’re better off either doing a webcomic to build your audience and then create a trade when you have enough material, or creating an original graphic novel (OGN).
This model has way more shelf life than a 32-page book and easier to sell to parents or people looking for something new. In fact, new fans aren’t checking for “floppies.” The new reader, I’ve found, prefers the trade or OGN because of the fact that there is a complete story to read rather than buying one issue and waiting 30 – 60 days for the next installment.
“Floppies” only work on the old guard of fandom as part of our culture involves collectability. The new fan, because of the emergence of digital, doesn’t have the same mindset. So, when creating and marketing your property, think of the fan yet to be than the fan that was… Does that make sense?
The thing I have to remind myself is that it took over 80 years for DC to become DC and, like, over 60 years for Marvel to become Marvel. We’re babies in this game, and it’s a long game; it’s a marathon, really. The build is slow, but as long as you move forward, not backward, you continue to gain that traction you’re looking for.
This answer is really simple: make product that meets or exceeds the standard of your average DC, Marvel, Dark Horse or Image comic.
Now, what is the standard? Look at any comic book on the stands at your local comic book store… That’s the standard. Batman is the standard. Power Man and Iron Fist is the standard. Lumberjanes is the standard. Saga is the standard, you feel me? Flat out, your product has to… has to… Stand toe to toe with those books (art, story, lettering, package design, etc.) and others because they are your competition.
You don’t have to spend 4 -6 grand a month in advertising… As an Indie, one simply does not have that kind of money. And, in all honesty, if you create a product that meets, or exceeds, the standard of acceptable industry quality, it will sell.
But, when it comes to pushing your books, that’s where being a salesman comes into play. Honestly, the market has always been saturated with good product. Today is no different. And, there is always room for more.
It’s really not that hard to sell your book as long as you feel your book is worth selling. If you believe that your book is unique, if you believe that your concept is strong, if you create the book that you want to read and feel is missing in the landscape, you will be able to sell that book.
So, where’s the best place to meet and sell to your potential audience? Conventions… With the exception of San Diego. You ain’t gonna sell jack at San Diego, but you will be able to sell at C2E2, M.E.C.C.A. Con, ECBACC, DragonCon, Onyxcon, etc. Make a plan of attack for whatever convention, or conventions, you are able to attend and execute that plan. Be engaging to your potential audience. Be courteous. Stand at your booth as opposed to sitting down. Smile. Shake hands and kiss babies. All of this seems basic, but it’s true. If you don’t have the dollars, you need to put in the time.
Straight up, I don’t have to do a hard sell at conventions for my books. That’s because I produce work that meets, and hopefully, exceeds the standards of the comic book product.
What I have to do is get people to stop and look when they walk by my table, which I’m able to do because I’m able to engage people. I use humor and shared experiences to create a sense of comfort and break the ice with the customer. Then, after introducing the book to the consumer, I let the book do its job to draw the viewer in.
I apply that same philosophy online. That’s why I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. That’s why, in part, I write this blog.
At the end of the day, there is no secret formula to success… Unless, you were rich to begin with. Even then, it doesn’t exist. Everyone’s story of getting to a modicum of success is unique to them. Make a plan of success that is unique to you. This is how it’s done. This is what you have to do.
Flat out, you are not going to get huge sales right away. Those days of the 90s are long gone. Fact is if you’re looking at comics to get paid quickly, you need to find another hustle. First and foremost, you’ve got to make your book for the love. Passion begets passion. Attention to quality begets more eyes looking at your product. Tenacity and consistency begets trust. All of these plus interaction with the buying public begets your audience… You feel me?
At the end of the day, this game is not a sprint… it’s a marathon.
I just saw Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. It was not good…
To be fair, I walked in knowing that I was going to be disappointed… Like, I was going to eat at McDonalds including the resignation of gastronomic depression and utter despair that comes with making such a decision.
It was X-Men: Days of Future Past bad… With Days being about 5% better.
Nah. It was bad… Don’t need to see it twice to change my mind. The film was a solid “C” when it should have been an “A.”
That’s not good. Especially when you have a film featuring the three most iconic superheroes of all time in one film.
At least DOFP followed one story thread. BVS was a slapdash (yeah, I said it) Frankenstein’s Monster, but less cute, crappy mash-up of three different storylines from three different franchises. Worst mash-up of The Dark Knight Returns, Death Of Superman with shades of the New 52 Justice League reboot and a dash of the video games Arkham Knight and Injustice ever.
Zach Snyder wanted to make The Dark Knight Returns, but DC wouldn’t let him. He is not a gifted storyteller. As a visual director, his work is lovely. He is the cinematic equivalent of a top-tier, fan-favorite penciller such as John Byrne or, probably more accurate, Jim Lee. He’s fine on a remake or adaptation of a well-written work (see Dawn of the Dead, 300 or Watchmen).
Original stories a la Sucker Punch for example… Not so much. He is no, shall we say, cinematic Frank Miller in his prime. He’s the “dude-bro” type of fanboy who is dazzled by flash and style. He is not known for substantive films that stay with your psyche. His films don’t really invoke the desire to see them over again whether for entertainment or because his films carry layers of nuance that one gleans through repeat viewings.
In other words, when Avengers: Age of Ultron or Ant-Man pops up on Starz, I’ll watch those films over and over because they are enjoyable, because the narratives and the characters are engaging. Even though these characters have been around for decades, the films make their intricate back-stories and histories accessible for the moviegoer who is not a comic book fan. The stories have singular focus, which means that they can stand on their own while tying into a larger narrative… Kind of like how comics from the “Corporate Two” used to be written.
It’s like this: Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman were fine visually. In terms of brief character development, WW was great. Zach Snyder wanted to do his version of The Dark Knight Returns so bad, the script straight up, word for word, lifted lines from that book like a Diddy sample.
The storytelling, however, was horrible. There was no gravitas, no reason to care about any of these characters. This film does not trust itself nor trusts the history and legacy of these characters. It’s inaccessible to the casual viewer and there is no joy in this film… At all.
I’m sick of seeing the snuff film that is the death of the Waynes over and over again. The only time I smiled is when I saw the Trinity together for the first time. It made its opening weekend money, but the film has no lasting power.
I actually wanted more spectacle. At least, it would have been quality junk food… If they were just honest about the film and called it Dawn of Justice, I would have been fine with that. Instead, we got this convoluted thing that, again, tries to hard to play catch-up to the Marvel Cinematic Method while still not trusting the course that DC set to establish their cinematic universe.
Meanwhile at the House of Ideas…
It’s crazy that a comic book release would garner so much attention. I mean we’re not in the 80s and the 90s anymore (even though the strip-mined “story” of BVS would have you believing otherwise)…
And, it’s not like this character has been out of the limelight for any significant length of time. I mean, since 1999, my man has been in no less than 4 successful series, at least 2 of which he was the headliner. He’s had his own animated series as well as appeared in a number of Marvel animated projects.
Yet, today is a special day. With his first live-action film appearance looming, with the massive marketing push that we have never seen for a character of color before him, with pre-sale numbers comparatively equaling the biggest-selling African American comic book of all time (I see you Todd Johnson and Larry Stroman… #TRIBE), the King is ready to claim his throne.
Black Panther #1 scripted by Ta-Nehisi Coates and illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze drops today. This is some actual pop culture history happening today, and I guarantee you’ll be more satisfied with this $4.99 expense than the money you lost suffering through BVS…
And therein lies the difference. With Marvel Studios, with Marvel Comics, this company is confident in the universe it built. So confident, they didn’t compromise what makes the Marvel Universe special to bring their characters to the big and small screens. There is no confusion, no pandering to a fickle audience that does not understand the complexity and rich history of their fictional world. Instead, because of this confidence, Marvel Studios has been able to dominate the film landscape.
Cinematically and in the printed world, DC’s footing is less sure. They constantly second-guess the strength of their brand and their properties (with the exception of The Batman). They spend too much time chasing the success of Marvel, while ignoring what makes the DC brand so special, so unique.
A bigger problem is that the Powers That Be at DC/WB have no idea how to proceed. They’re too busy playing catch-up to Marvel/Disney as opposed to laying out their own path. The benefit of Marvel Studios is that the comics dictate the stories and character developments and the films follow the lead unlike DC/WB.
The DC Universe is not a “grim and gritty” one. It is not dour, nor depressing. It does not reflect the world around us. It is a fantasy world, which strives to be a utopia. Its heroes are benevolent gods that protect the populace from the forces of evil and darkness. There is a sense of legacy in this universe, the passing of the torch from one generation of heroes to another.
In other words, the DCU is kind of corny… And that’s fine. This is what makes the DCU so fun.
On television, the powers that be get it. That’s why Arrow, Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl work. They are fun to watch. They put a smile on your face. The Supergirl/Flash team-up was cute and wonderful. There were moments of unbridled joy between Barry and Kara during their team-up as if you were watching two kids in kindergarten becoming best friends for life.
Watching Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was a chore… And, watching a superhero flick should never feel like a chore.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to prepare for Captain America: Civil War… Now, that’s gonna be a whole lot of fun.
an Italian word (literally “little puffs of smoke” in reference to speech balloons), which refers to all comics. In English, the term refers specifically to photonovels or photographic comics, a genre of comics illustrated with photographs rather than drawings. Italians call these fotoromanzi (photonovels). Photonovels are popular in Spain, South Africa, and Latin America, where they are called fotonovelas, and have also gained popularity in France.
What’s happening all.
With this post, I decided to put the dashiki aside and embrace my inner geek by celebrating this moment in time. When I was a young lad, I dreamed of the day that I would see all of my favorite heroes on the big and small screens. I’m talking not just the A-Listers, the obvious ones, but the secondary, more obscure (well, obscure to mainstream audiences) characters coming to life. I thought that day would never happen…
But, we started from the bottom, now we’re here.
So, in anticipation of C2E2 this weekend, in anticipation of Batman V. Superman, Captain America: Civil War, Daredevil and the rest of ’em, enjoy this fumetti love letter created for the twelve-year old that exists in all of us.