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.
Earlier this week, Disney decimated the competition with the reveal of their 2021 content season and beyond. Star Wars fans alone will be gorging on content for years. They’ll be barfing it up like Grogu (Baby Yoda) barfs up blue macaroons.
In the MCU, the abundance of content will give the Marvel fan the same sense of satiation. Loki, What If, Shang-Chi, Eternals, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision, Black Widow, this list goes on and on…
But there was one announcement that divided fandom, specifically Black comic fandom:
Black Panther 2, to be released in 2022, will not feature T’Challa, but rather focus on the country of Wakanda itself and other characters from the first film. This announcement was made because Chadwick Boseman, the superlative actor who brought T’Challa to life, passed away unexpectedly a mere two months ago.
Of course, the obvious go-to would be Shuri taking over the mantle of the Black Panther from her brother. The comic books themselves have shown Shuri as a Black Panther. However, some people (Black men if we’re being completely honest here) are up in arms with claims of Black man emasculation because the MCU will not recast the role of T’Challa nor use CGI to continue Brother Chadwick’s visage, if not performance, in this next film.
Ok. My two cents:
Yes, major characters like the DC Trinity have had multiple people play the various characters. However, there was always a sufficient amount of time between the “changing of the guard” so to speak. Examples include:
Superman: from George Reeves in the 50s to Christopher Reeve in the 70s to Dean Cain in the 90s, etc.
Batman: from Adam West in the 60s to Michael Keaton in ’89 to Christian Bale in ’05, etc.
Wonder Woman: from Lynda Carter in the 70s to Gal Gadot in 2018…
Point being, there were decades in between new actors taking on these roles for new generations.
Now T’Challa, specifically Chadwick Boseman’s performance, has elevated the role of Black Panther to that same mythic status. He made the role his. His performance is forever iconic. And, let’s keep it a buck, no matter who will eventually become the next T’Challa will be scrutinized and compared to Brother Chadwick’s performance… especially for BP2.
In other words: it’s too soon.
Of course people are gonna compare actors who took on the role like the late Sean Connery’s James Bond vs. Daniel Craig’s interpretation of the character. That’s natural.
But again, we’re dealing with generational comparisons. Brother Chadwick passed, what, two months ago?
It is simply too soon.
In addition, though T’Challa opened up Wakanda to the rest of the world doesn’t mean the next film will focus on that. Keep in mind, the MCU is now five years ahead of “regular” time thanks to Avengers: Endgame. It is possible to do a “back in time” BP movie without Chadwick to learn more about the nation and the mantle of the Black Panther (think the third Underworld film Rise of the Lycans) and then go forward in the third movie with a new T’Challa.
The thing is, some folks think T’Challa and Chadwick are the same person, which is not true. Besides, the MCU isn’t dumb enough to kill off a character because an actor passed. T’Challa is making them a lot of money. But I think they are sensitive enough to mourn. And, keep in mind, the whole cast and crew of BP (who are mostly returning) are still in mourning as well. They became a family on set and they are probably not ready to replace their champion.
This is actually a smart move, emotionally, to have BP2 focus more on Wakanda. Maybe the movie would be about other Black Panthers throughout Wakanda’s history. Maybe it’s about young T’Chaka. In any event, BP2 would act as a bridge for the next actor to fill Chadwick’s shoes in the role of T’Challa…
And I would love to see a flick about those who wore the habit of the Panther before the current King of Wakanda.
Of course, this is all speculative. None of us own the character and The Mouse will do what The Mouse does. We’re just gonna have to wait, see, and consume (or not) what they give us.
August 17 is the day that this #MeanOlLion makes his annual solar rotation. The only thing I ask for my birthday is…
Buy a Griot Enterprises product.
Want to read some great stories but don’t know where to begin? Then enjoy this affordable sampler of titles from Griot Enterprises!Return to the black & white format that put the company on the map with the 48-page one-shot Contrast: Blackness In White! Eshu, Navigator of the Crossroads travels the 256 Paths to recruit heroes from the dimensions of Black Comix in 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape presents The Union! And enter the worlds of The New Mythology with Griot’s flagship title, The Horsemen!
$5.00 for Digital, $20.75 for Print… 40% off the cover price!
Obatala, The Creator. Yemaya, The Protector. Oshun, The Light. Oya, The Catalyst. Shango, The Avenger. Ogun, The Architect. Eshu, The Trickster.
The Horsemen is the story of seven ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances, as the gods of ancient Africa possess them. They have been chosen to protect humanity from itself…whether humanity wants them to or not.They combat those who control the fate of the planet. Through their actions, the world would never be the same. Read the groundbreaking Afrofuturistic saga from the very beginning and discover who controls the Eight Immortals but the number Seven!
$26.00 for Digital, $73.00 for Print… Over 40% off the cover price!
Oh, and what’s this?
The 4 Pages | 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape trade paperback series is a celebration of where true diversity exists in this industry, a sampler for potential fans to enjoy unique intellectual properties, a showcase for existing and upcoming talent as well as a source guide for those fans to purchase these books.
Each of the artists and writers in this series bring a unique, but shared viewpoint, in the creation of their work. The comic book industry is more than DC or Marvel. The scene is more diverse than Image or Dark Horse. This is visual Jazz, Rock, Funk, Hip Hop and electronic music. This is art for the people.
“I’m hella uncomfortable at any attempt at glorifying the “sambo” image…” – Someone who hasn’t read the book
“I’m good on this. Consider a name change…” – Someone who hasn’t read the book
“And this is why people don’t take Black people seriously in the world of literature…” – Someone who hasn’t read the book
Imagine what they would say if they actually read the book?
He rose up against those who oppressed his people. Using an image meant to denigrate a race, he united a people and created a mighty nation. Now, he must rise again to save the nation he created from the corruption within.
Incendiary, triggering and revolutionary, JBD: The Devil’s Due Definitive Collection, written and created by La Morris Richmond, featuring the art of Jiba Molei Anderson, Seitu Heyden & Barton McGee is available NOW from Griot Enterprises!
$4.00 for Digital… %50 off the cover price and the full trade paperback (with extras, natch) will available in Print ($24.99) and Digital ($9.99) formats August 23!
This is Leo Season! It’s a celebration! Drink up, be merry and grab some books from Griot Enterprises to build your collection of Black Comix!
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?
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.
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 Comics, YouNeek 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 Onyxcon, MECCA Con, ECBAAC, Blerd Con, BCAF 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 Coffeehouse, First Aid Comics and Third Coast Comics, you damn right Black Comix exists not only as an industry, but a movement as well.
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 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 superstar status 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 Root, Niobe: She Is Death, Is’nana: The Were-Spider, Crescent 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 of marketing the creative team, the Black women who are a huge part of said team, gave added legitimacy to the brand.
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 Woods, Alithea 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.
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.
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.
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 Jean, Robert Garrett(RIP), Quinn McGowan, William Satterwhite, Terance Baker, Tyrell 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.
Yes, y’all. Though Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the X-Men concept, they were not so forward-thinking as to make the book an allegory for Civil Rights, LGBTQ Rights, hell not even the right to wear white after Labor Day.
You need proof? The first mutant, if not character of color, in the X-Men universe was introduced to The X-Men in 1975. Her name is Ororo Munroe AKA the Wind-Rider AKA the Goddess AKA Storm. Though in the 80s you would see another Black woman, retired dancer Stevie Hunter as a supporting character (the dance teacher of Kitty Pride who the internet has completely forgotten), the young Brazilian mutant Sunspot in the New Mutants and the introduction of First Nations mutant inventor Forge, the mutant representation of color was, and still is, few and far between.
It was Chris Claremont, steward of the mutants from the late 70s to the early 90s who gave The X-Men the cultural gravitas that so many are drawn to. The X/King analogy began with the release of the 1982 graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills, which was illustrated by Brent Anderson who would go on to be the seminal artist of the classic Astro City.
And even Chris Claremont, the man whose work created the analogy says that the analogy is incorrect. Still don’t believe me? Check out this article from 2016:
The myth that Stan Lee modelled Professor X after Dr. King and Magneto after Malcolm X is as prevalent as the myth that Sophia Stewart, a Black woman, created The Matrix. Even though these two myths have been debunked… Repeatedly… There are still way too many of us who continue to drink the Kool-Aid and will swear upon death that these stories are true.
Of course, like the Stewart story, it doesn’t help that after seeing this story gain traction that Stan Lee fed into the lie as the consummate huckster he was. Lee’s greatest contribution to Marvel was his outstandingly shameless marketing skills. Here’s an example of him taking credit for the concepts Chris Claremont brought to The X-Men from an article dating back to 2000… When the first X-Men movie was released:
Now, Stan Lee didn’t say this in 1963. He didn’t say this in 1975 after Giant-Size X-Men #1 dropped reviving the title and giving it some much needed diversity. He didn’t say this in 1982 when God Loves, Man Kills was released. He didn’t say this in 1992 when The X-Men cartoon debuted on Fox Television…
You see where I’m going with this?
He was P Diddy before Sean Combs was even born. But many people will rather eschew history and fact for the fantasy of white men thinking about them as an economic demographic well before they actually did start thinking about Black dollars…
Which they’re still figuring out how to get even now after Milestone Media and the beloved Static Shock, after Blade, after Luke Cage, Black Lightning, Black Panther, etc.
At the end of the day, It’s not about representation. It’s about race swapping to get said representation. That type of representation is lazy at best. It gives the impression that we, as a marginalized group would take any scrap of attention the “other” gives us in order to see ourselves on screen…
And, unfortunately, there are still too many of us that will accept race swapping as progress.
Yes, this is an old argument or gripe depending on who’s reading this. But, it has to be reiterated that still too many Black consumers hunger for representation from the “Corporate Two,” complain when they don’t receive it to their satisfaction, rail against the lack of new, compelling characters of color from the “Corporate Two,” ignore those new “Corporate Two” characters that were created (RIP Mosaic and I hope you get some big love, Naomi) and dismiss those independent creators producing amazing content because they did not create said content for the “Corporate Two” to reap the financial benefits from their blood, sweat and tears.
Let me put it to you this way, spending money does not necessarily buy you respect.
IMO, my desire to be pandered to by the “Corporate Two” is nil, especially when this whole thread from jump is based on whatiffery combined with the false narrative of the original creator’s intent of the character.
As a consumer, I don’t have to depend on, nor desire for, this threadbare attempt to take my dollars because they changed the skin of an established character to match mine.
As a creator, I’m lucky to be able to create content that properly fills the need for representation I desire.
As a fan of comics (not just the “Corporate Two”), I see more than enough content from other creators of color that satisfies my need for representation… Especially when said creators are having their projects optioned (i.e. Bitter Root, World of Asunda, etc.).
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to rain on people’s parade (not really) nor am I here telling folks what they should buy (though there is some really great work people are missing out on because of their tunnel vision). I am here to dispel myths and half-truths. I am here to give credit where credit is due…
Because The X-Men you love was the result of the work Len Wein, Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, John Byrne, Paul Smith, Terry Austin, Glynis Oliver andTom Orzechowski put into the title from the 80s. Let’s keep it really 100.
So, while other cats get caught up in the wish fulfillment of “The Man” giving out scraps like we finally got a seat at the table, I’ma be over here celebrating the people who are out there making the work I really want to consume and continue being someone who creates the work that these cats claim they really want.
THE HORSEMEN: DIVINE INTERVENTION (20th Anniversary Edition)
120 pgs. • $24.99 (print) • $9.99 (digital)
Written and Created by: Jiba Molei Anderson
Pencilled by: Jiba Molei Anderson, MCL
Inked by: MCL, Patrick Brower
Colored by: Digital Broome, Eric Pence
Griot Enterprises is celebrating 20 years of publication with the 20th anniversary release of The Horsemen: Divine Intervention.
Created, written and illustrated by Jiba Molei Anderson, The Horsemen is the saga of seven ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances, as the gods of ancient Africa possess them. The gods have chosen them to protect humanity from itself…whether humanity wants them to or not. They combat those who control the fate of the planet. Through their actions, the world would never be the same.
“I wanted The Horsemen to reflect my worldview,” Anderson explains. “I was tired of the ‘famine and underdeveloped’ narrative that the continent is saddled with in the United Sates,” Anderson explains. “I also wanted to address the problems that Post-Colonialism left behind on the continent as well.”
With the release of the first issue in 2002, The Horsemen became a pioneer of the Afrofuturism movement in comics by using the Orishas as the basis for the superhero mythology. “I wanted to work with a different faith system, a system that when The Horsemen was created, no one, I mean no one, was thinking of,” Anderson says. “No one was thinking of using the Yoruba religion and its deities, the Orishas as a launch point for a comic book world at that time.”
The Horsemen would go on to become a critical, if not financial, success. Its fan base would include Hollywood talents such as Tony Todd (Candyman, Star Trek DS9 and Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings, Stranger Things) and comic book royalty like the late Dwayne McDuffie (Justice League Unlimited, Milestone Media). In addition, The Horsemen and Griot Enterprises served as the link between the independent Black Comix scene of the 90s (Brotherman, Tribe) and 21st Century renaissance currently happening in the industry with books like Niobe: She Is Life, Is’nana: The Were-Spider, Black and the entire Catalyst Prime imprint.
“We have seen many great African American superheroes in comics,
but we never saw an iconic African American superhero team,” Anderson continues. “We didn’t have our Justice League, our Avengers. We, as comic book fans of color, young and old, didn’t have a universe where our heroes reside…
… Griot Enterprises fills that void.”
The Horsemen: Divine Intervention is available at Amazon, Comixology, Drive Thru Comics, IndyPlanet and Peep Game Comix in print and digital formats. In addition, Griot Enterprises is running a GoFundMe campaign to help fund the company’s 2018 convention schedule.
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?”
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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!
Since 1997, Griot Enterprises has existed for one reason:
To tell great stories featuring diverse characters.
When Griot began, we had seen many great African American superheroes in comics, but we never saw an iconic African American superhero team. We didn’t have our Justice League, our Avengers. We, as comic book fans of color, young and old, didn’t have a universe where our heroes reside…
… Griot Enterprises filled that void.
In the past, we have paid for everything out of our own pockets. Because of this, our market saturation hasn’t matched our output and dedication to the company. However, despite our limited resources, Griot has made an impact on this industry. Our books have become educational tools and cultural touchstones. We have been celebrated as vanguards of the Black Comix movement and as pioneers of Afrofuturism in comics.
Our books can be found online at Amazon, Comixology, Drive Thru Comics and Peep Game Comix. And we have established distribution with Independent Publishers Group through our alliance with Cedar Grove Books, publisher of Young Adult books.
Now, we are in a moment where creators of color and their properties are beginning to receive their just due. From companies like Catalyst Prime to properties Like Niobe: She Is Life, Exo: The Legend of Wale Williams, Black and others, the call for diverse images and heroes has never been louder…
We’ve built the foundation. Now, it’s time for Griot Enterprises to take it to the next level and, we need your help.
We have planned an aggressive marketing and sales campaign to bring our books to the masses in 2018. We will be attending at least seven conventions across the U.S. throughout the year to build our fan base and promote our brand.
Here’s our proposed convention schedule:
April: C2E2 (Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo), Chicago, IL
May: ECBACC (East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention),
June: BASM (Black Speculative Arts Movement), Los Angeles, CA
August: Wizard World Chicago, Chicago, IL
September: M.E.C.C.A. Con, Detroit, MI
October: Sol-Con (Black and Brown Comics Expo), Columbus, OH
October: New York Comic-Con, New York, NY
The funds generated from this campaign will pay for convention appearances, printing books, production and shipping. It only takes a dollar to participate, but if you give a little more, we have a bunch of rewards to show our appreciation…
You could even become part owner of the entire operation.
For 20 years, Griot Enterprises has been the future or entertainment. Help us in continuing our mission. We are a village. We will become a nation…
The superhero is a mythological construct unique to American society and the backbone of the American comic book industry. The superhero is the construct of immigrants; people from different cultures coming together to form a new nation where the unique attributes of each culture contribute to the greater whole.
As, arguably, the first immigrants (other than British and French) of America, African Americans were, initially, left out of the equation when constructing the superhero myth and were relegated to supporting roles. With the Black Panther’s appearance in Fantastic Four, African Americans were introduced into the mainstream consciousness of superhero myth.
The current curator of the Black Panther myth is Ta’Nehisi Coates, national correspondent for the Atlantic and recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship…
And some people have an issue with his handling of this particular mythology.
Personally, I don’t mind Coates’ take on the Black Panther mythos. His are the kind of stories that I, to an extent, would write. It has been slow building and it is a depiction of Wakanda as if Wakanda were an actual African country dealing with real political issues. I would argue that Coates’ run on the series will be as impactful as runs from Don McGregor, Christopher Priest and Reginald Hudlin.
That being said, some people are just not feeling Coates’ work on the title. So much so, some feel as if he is deliberately trying to bring down the Black Panther in terms of relevance and trying to destroy Wakanda in a way Namor or Doctor Doom or Thanos never could.
Which… Is ridiculous.
I understand some of us want to see T’Challa infallible, invincible, with Wakanda being the Afrofuturistic utopia of our dreams. We want our Black Panther bitchslapping Steve Rogers for putting mayo on his sandwich instead of mustard. We want to see the Dora Milaje single-handedly taking down S.H.I.E.L.D. because it’s Tuesday. We want that escapist wish fulfillment that we are not getting in our daily lives, especially in today’s political and social climate.
The problem is, utopias don’t exist. Not even in comics.
For example, did Coates force misogyny and rape culture into the mythos of Wakanda, or did he use the construct of Wakanda as a vehicle for commentary to what is happening not only on the continent, but in the world right now? Wakanda is in Africa, which has been dealing with issues concerning rape culture and slavery recently.
Have we already forgotten Boko Haram? Are we oblivious to the slave trade happening in Libya right now? Anyone?
In Coates’ interpretation, despite its majesty, Wakanda is no different than the creation of other great nations: not only African, but globally…
Well, with the exception of aliens losing their land instead of other Africans.
And, that little wrinkle in the Black Panther myth has added to the ire that some Black Panther fans have for the writer.
In reality, Wakanda has never been simon-pure. Priest had Wakanda dealing with an uprising from within at the beginning of The Client, McGregor created Killmonger in Panther’s Rage as a revolutionary whose basis for overthrowing Wakanda was tribal and personal, etc.
T’Challa, from McGregor’s run onto Coates, has always been depicted as a man torn between duty and desire. In the mythology, he has always preferred being a hero to being a king much to the chagrin of the Panther god and the Black Panthers before him (see the 1988 mini-series by Gillis and Cowan, Who is the Black Panther Pt.2 by Cowan and Lashley, the Black Panther: Man Without Fear arc by Liss and Francavilla for examples).
Besides, it’s not like T’Challa hasn’t met, or worked with, despots before. When the first Illuminati became the Cabal following the events of the Secret Invasion storyline, Namor tried to get T’Challa in to balance the likes of Doctor Doom, Loki, the Hood and Emma Frost. In New Avengers, he was working alongside Namor after Atlantis attacked Wakanda in Avengers Vs. X-Men and after Namor sold out Wakanda again to Thanos’ forces in Infinity.
So, after Doomwar, AVX, Infinity and Secret Wars, I would imagine Wakandans would feel some type of way about T’Challa and the court after those back-to-back tragedies. In fact, that’s referenced in the first issue of Coates’ run.
In the Nation Under Our Feet story arc, rape culture is an issue in Wakanda. Aneka and Ayo, the rogue Dora Milaje now the Midnight Angels addresses it, which brings attention to the royal court. With the rebellion and subtle coup from the confusion happening, the Midnight Angels, along with his sister Shuri (who returns from the Djallla following the “Living Death” as a more powerful and unique character), Changamire, Hatut Zeraze and the Crew help T’Challa not only quell the rebellion, but also helps to institute a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy in order to deal with such issues in the future.
And, the problem is? Apparently for some, Coates’ work taints the fantasy of an Africa we, as African Americans, wish existed.
But, what good is showing a better world without showing the struggle it took to create it? I mean the X-Men works as a concept because a marginalized people, mutants, fight for a better world that doesn’t currently exist… right?
One doesn’t have to like every iteration of a character or gush over every interpretation. For instance, my issue with Hudlin’s run was that I thought it was too light, too “comic book.” I felt he eschewed the complexity of Priest’s work for more of the wish-fulfillment aspects of Black nerdom. It was fun, but left me feeling a little flat.
A major strength of Priest’s run was, as a writer and former editor of comics, he understood the mechanics and quirks of the medium. He was able to marry the more complex themes of the book with the action that comic book fans are used to.
I think an issue with Coates’ run is that he is too serious a writer for some fans. In addition, outside of the bit of writing he does for Marvel, he’s not known as a writer of fiction. Scriptwriting, especially comic book scriptwriting is not his forte. For me, it’s akin to Doo-Bop (Miles Davis’ last album before he passed); a Hip Hop album by one of the all-time great jazz musicians, but didn’t spend a lot of time in the realm of the new music form he was trying to emulate.
Coates does bring depth and nuance to his run as a myth curator. He just doesn’t have the seasoning of good comic book storytelling to make his run more palatable. In other words, people don’t feel joy reading his stories. They are not fun. Because of this, people complain about the weight of social issues he brings to the mythology as if the mythology of the Black Panther wasn’t steeped in social commentary from his first appearance in 1966 onward.
Not only is Coates challenging the mythology, he’s not making it an easy go for the comic book reader. He’s writing the book as if it were a fictional novel written by an academic social essayist (which, he is). There’s not enough escapist water for the casual reader when the sociological meat is too hard to swallow. If Coates had a stronger comic book writing sensibility, I feel that his critics wouldn’t be too up in arms about the subject matter he’s brought to the mythos.
At the end of the day, the core issue is whether or not Coates can write entertaining comics. Honestly, comics are not his strong suit. They are not in his wheelhouse. He was brought onto the title because his name carries weight outside of comics…
Like Reginald Hudlin.
So, do I think Coates’ run is terrible?
Do I think his run has been great?
Do I think Coates is a superlative comic book writer?
But, do I think he has an agenda to “bring down” the Black Panther as a character?
Finally, for those of you getting your pitchforks and torches ready (not the Tiki torches because these fans aren’t butter-soft alt-right scrubs), you’re not going to see more of the “problematic” elements of Coates’ run in the upcoming Black Panther film. So, Coates’ detractors should take a deep cleansing breath. The ingredients for this particular dish will probably be 2 cups of Priest’s run for story, 1-¼ cups of McGregor for world-building, 1 cup of Hudlin for attitude with a dash of Coates for social relevance.
Again, I would have incorporated a number of elements Coates introduced in his curation of the Black Panther myth if I were approached by Marvel to write the book. The difference is that I understand the mechanics of comic book writing and would have incorporated more of the wish fulfillment of the fan base. It would have been, hopefully, as complex as the work of Christopher Priest and Don McGregor. It also would have been as fun as Reginald Hudlin’s work as well.
But, I didn’t. That’s why I created The Horsemen…
Because I am in the business of creating mythology.