Tag Archives: Griot Enterprises

YOU KNOW THE ANSWER

The question.

The eternal question.

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

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

IS THERE A BLACK COMIC BOOK INDUSTRY?

And, here is the short answer:

Yes, there is.

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

How so, you may ask?

Well, let me school ya…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…The hell did he just say?

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

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

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

COMIC BOOKS ARE AN EXERCISE IN GRAPHIC DESIGN

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

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

This leads into point two of this particular rant:

COLOR IS NOT CONTENT

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

Their creators are.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This leads me to my final point:

CHANGE YOUR DEFINITION OF SUCCESS 

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

And, leaving money on the table.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking of community:

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

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

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

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

Get on board.

www.griotenterprises.com

LOOK AT ALL THESE RUMORS, SURROUNDING ME EVERY DAY

Some people let the whatifferly fly when they saw this image…

Rumors.

People LOVE rumors.

People love rumors so much, they want to make them truths…

Like the Protocols of Zion, the Willie Lynch letter or that white supremacy is another term for mediocracy (well, that one is true).

Here’s the current rumor that’s gotten Black comic book fandom’s nature to rise:

https://wegotthiscovered.com/movies/denzel-washington-being-eyed-for-magneto-x-men/

Let’s get this out of the way:

Stan Lee did not create Professor Charles Xavier and Magneto of the X-Men brand as analogies for Martin Luther King Jr. and Malik El-Hajj Shabazz (Malcom X). Don’t believe me? Check out this article:

Y’all really think that the way Magneto was written in the 60s was meant to represent Brother Malcolm? Really?

https://vocal.media/geeks/actually-stan-lee-didnt-base-marvels-prof-x-and-magneto-on-malcolm-x-and-martin-luther-king-jr?fbclid=IwAR38ZsaGkl3kpZ1BqmN20hJfKcxb6-vGtD6TSI5a5aTxgY9eTDbEqm4f2UQ

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. 

Stevie Hunter was “John Byrne-drawn” foine and y’all have completely forgotten about her…

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.

A truly transformative story and the true beginning of the X-Men seen as an allegory for Civil Rights…

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:

https://www.empireonline.com/movies/features/x-men-wolverine-jean-grey-chris-claremont-five-key-storylines/?fbclid=IwAR0BLdRisE24AzR342KXU8NvlORVgwXn5F7rZYlIx-uz1yMkHr8z_AUaKuc

Have I sufficiently pissed some of you off, yet?

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. 

Oh, you think you can just throw that word around like it was nothin’, Kitty? From X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills released in 1982.

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:

https://www.history.com/news/stan-lee-x-men-civil-rights-inspiration

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?

I mean, the first Black mutant appeared in a book that was cancelled before being relaunched in 1975… And, y’all still think that Stan Lee was really thinking about Civil Rights when the X-Men first dropped in 1963?

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 CageBlack LightningBlack 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.

Now, here’s an original new Black hero free of legacy or “race swapping” from DC Entertainment. Naomi is an interesting addition to the DCU. How many of y’all are checking for her?

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 RootWorld of Asunda, etc.).

Real talk, if this book wasn’t on your radar and you’re complaining about representation in comics, I can’t take any of your commentary seriously…

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 WeinChris ClaremontDave CockrumJohn ByrnePaul SmithTerry AustinGlynis Oliver and Tom 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 team of Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larazz, R.B. Silva, Adriano Di Benedetto, Marte Garcia, Clayton Cowles and Tom Muller are becoming the true heirs of the 80s Claremont crew with the House of X and Powers of X mini-series

So, you sufficiently pissed off, yet?

https://www.griotenterprises.com

Don’t Call It A Comeback: The Horsemen Have Returned To Save Us All

THE HORSEMEN: DIVINE INTERVENTION (20th Anniversary Edition)

ISBN: 978-1941958001

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

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The first family of Afrofuturism in comics…

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.”

Declaration(Web)
They have returned to save us all… Whether we want it or not…

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.

Please contact www.griotenterprises.com for inquiries and more information.

Moving The Needle

Print
Don’t sleep… We have been activated…

Imani Lateef, owner of digital comic book store Peep Game Comix and Todd Johnson, co-creator of the seminal independent Black comic book Tribe started a spirited discussion on Facebook. The conversation was a subject that I had written a few articles worth over the years. You can view them here and here.

Sparked by the upcoming Black Panther film, Mr. Lateef posed this simple question:

“Will Black Panther help Black Comix? Why or why not?”

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

This prompted Mr. Johnson to start a post on his own page. This is how his thread began:

“Thinking about a recent post from Peep Game Comix’s Imani Lateef regarding would there be any financial blowback of the Black Panther movie into the other African American comic properties my short answer was NOPE.

 IMHO, opportunities for this market to penetrate will not be successful by solo efforts for a multiple of reasons that could be discussed and debated ad nauseam. Conflicting mindsets, experience, business acumen, street smarts, egos, finances, time dedication present unique leadership conflicts.

 But I would offer that a Think Tank model would be successful in formulating best practices, coop purchasing, marketing strategies, information hubs, mentorship/partnership possibilities, etc.; a representational body from many areas.

 The pioneers: Arvell Jones, Keith Pollard

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

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

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

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

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

This list by no means is all just some I thought of off the top of my head as an example. A think tank model harnessing a group such as above and more could do some damage on many fronts.”

The responses to both posts were immense and varied, from professionals and fans. The pros and practitioners, for the most part, were picking up what both Imani and Todd were laying down. But, in some parts, the conversation disintegrated into well-worn conceits of DC and Marvel Comics’ wish fulfillment of representation or the tired musing of some monolithic entity like Milestone Media controlling the flow of content and information. Some also cite Image as an example of independent success easily replicated. And that thought spooked a creator or two. It was as if the participants in the thread were having two conversations.

I wonder if they watched the Image episode of Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics on AMC. The Image of today is WAY different than the early days. Even then, the early success of Image was based on the star power the creators established at Marvel.

It’s hard to have people think and operate collectively in a more productive way than just wishing out loud.

Some cats love to dream, but the reality is too much for them. Some of them are fans playing professional. A lot of them think that DC and Marvel are the end all be all of comics. Most of them don’t know comic book history, especially when it comes to the Black presence in comics. So, becomes a perpetual “Johnny Come Lately” situation.

Being a fan of DC or Marvel comics does not make you an expert on the business of comics

Icon 2.0
Milestone 2.0… Good to have you back

One of the issues, I feel, is that some desire a Black Comix monolith using, mistakenly, Milestone Media as the model for such an entity when the truth is the Black Comix movement is more akin to Hip Hop: different viewpoints and concepts while emulate different aspects of the culture. Hip Hop is not only East Coast/West Coast or Def Jam or No Limit or Death Row. It’s all of those entities, artists, journalists, etc. contributing to the culture. Why should the Black Comix movement be any different?

It’s not about controlling creativity. It’s more about how we can market effectively. Again, folks flow in different spaces beyond the creation of comics. It’s not a question of conforming to one mindset, but more of how can we collectively continue to spread the word and celebrate the diversity of the movement.

We also have to step away from the gaze and operating practices of the “other.” I feel as if some think that the current of comics’ business affairs, audience and structure is the only way to go when that is so not the case. The current business model doesn’t really work for us financially or creatively. So why stick with a faulty model?

 

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

As creators of content, part of our responsibility is to grow the market. To pursue a classic comic book market model (i.e. monthly pamphlets, Diamond distribution, comic book shops, etc.) is a losing battle. That model requires a major influx of funds to compete in a stagnant space dominated by corporate-owned entities with the resources to maintain their control.

What I’ve found way more successful is the pursuit of the wider book market / educational route. I’ve found the signs of much bigger success there. Parents and teens enjoy the representation they see because it’s not Marvel or DC. And, there’s a growing niche field of study concerning comics and pop culture thanks to the emerging interest in Afrofuturism.

For example, books like Sheena C. Howard’s Encyclopedia of Black Comics, John Jennings’ & Damian Duffy’s Black Comix & Black Comix Returns and my own 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape anthology series are concentrated texts that show the diversity of the movement. We all can big up these projects as examples of how we get down. A few articles about these books in different spaces as well as social media and cons like M.E.C.C.A. Con, Sol-Con, BASM, ECBACC and others can bring more eyes to what we’re all doing.

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

In essence, we’re creating cultural artifacts more so than just a new line of comics. So, we should think of, and market, them as such.

In terms of creating a sales metric of the movement, I think we could use successful Kickstarter campaigns and book sales of the Black Comix projects that received a great amount of grassroots marketing exposure. I’m thinking of books like Black, Trill League, Midnight Tiger, etc. along with the Catalyst Prime line as a baseline starter.

It would take all of us to promote each other. We all have fan bases, some shared, some unique. So, why don’t we promote each other more than sometimes wanting to be the G.O.A.T? Teamwork makes the dream work. That’s one of the ways Hip Hop became a dominant cultural force.

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

If we did a full-court press cross-promoting some of the best that the Black Comix movement has to offer, beyond Facebook or Twitter, we could make an impact and move the needle.

It would take a series of articles that would focus on known books like Niobe: She Is Life, Black, the Catalyst Prime line, Milestone 2.0 etc. as well as projects like Bounce, Project: Wildfire, The Horsemen, Is’nana: The Were-Spider, DMC and more published in places like Afropunk, IO9 and “mainstream” outlets as well as CBR, Newsarama, etc, but I think that this will bring awareness to what we do.

We’ve got the network in place. We just need to flex it properly and unapologetically.

It’s ours for the taking. Hip Hop didn’t look for approval and built its audience the old-fashioned way: one person at a time. Then, the “mainstream” came in and co-opted aspects of the culture. We can do the same. We have the tools…

Of course, we should avoid the whole co-opting thing, though. Because as Paul Mooney said “Don’t have too much fun, or they’ll take you too…”

Currently Griot Enterprises has a GoFundMe campaign happening. Your contribution will help us keep this train moving and you can cop some cool rewards for your donation. So please, become a part of Griot Enterprises and a part of the future of entertainment… We tell great stories!

www.gofundme.com/GriotEnterprises

www.griotenterprises.com

All I want for X-Mas…

GriotGoFundMeBumper

Hi. I’m Jiba Molei Anderson: writer, illustrator, designer and educator. I’m also the creator of The Horsemen, curator of the 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape anthology series and publisher for Griot Enterprises.

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.

HorsemenGoFundMeBumper
The New Mythology

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 LifeExo: The Legend of Wale WilliamsBlack 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.

4PagesGoFundMeBumper
4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape

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),

Philadelphia, PA

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…

Cheers!

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http://www.griotenterprises.com

The Power of Myth

Creating mythology is a tricky thing.

Curating mythology is even trickier.

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.

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The Jackie Robinson of comics… Looking good at 51…

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.

This article was cause for a bit of uproar:

https://www.bleedingcool.com/2017/11/22/ta-nehisi-coates-black-panther-167/

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.

BP vs. Doom
The monarch beef is real…

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.

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A Call to Arms

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.

BP_The Client
My favorite iteration of the Black Panther mythos…

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.

BP_New Avengers
Doing the unthinkable… Because that’s what rulers do…

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.

Black-Panther-HC-Cover-1
From struggle, a new nation is born…

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.

BP and Storm
A good run, but not my favorite. However, Hudlin did fulfill the wishes of the Black Panther and Storm’s many fans…

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.

Miles Davis Doo Bop
The last recording from a legend…

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?

No.

Do I think his run has been great?

No.

Do I think Coates is a superlative comic book writer?

Hell, no.

But, do I think he has an agenda to “bring down” the Black Panther as a character?

No.

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.

BP_TChalla
King… Hero… Legend…

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.

http://www.griotenterprises.com

 

 

 

 

The Promise

BPMoviePoster02.png
The King of Wakanda is coming

I have always been a fan of the Black Panther.

However, the Black Panther also used to frustrate the hell out of me.

Six years earlier in 1960, 17 African nations gained independence from their colonial overlords. Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, two men of Euro-American Jewish descent, famously introduced The Black Panther in Fantastic Four #52 dated July 1966, three months before the revolutionary Black Nationalist organization of the same name.

I don’t know if the upheaval in the continent influenced the creation of T’Challa, but the introduction of the Black Panther was a revolutionary moment.

To have the first mainstream Black superhero in comic book history come from the continent, from a country (though fictional) that was technologically ahead of the Western world, to have that hero not only as competent as, but superior, to his white counterparts (he defeated the Fantastic Four in his first outing), was as radical as the Civil Rights Movement and as resonate as the African Independence Movements. The Black Panther was ahead of his time…

Too far ahead.

I will say that Don McGregor is a cornerstone in the development of the Black Panther’s world. McGregor would build T’Challa’s court including W’Kabi and Taku as well as creating, arguably, T’Challa’s greatest adversary in Erik Killmonger as well as his first great love, African American musician Monica Lynne.

Jungle Action
Panther’s Rage by Don McGregor & Rich Buckler

The story was called Panther’s Rage, which ran as a 13-issue story arc in the bi-monthly Jungle Action title from 1973 – 1975. Recognized as the industry’s first “graphic novel,” Panther’s Rage was an epic tale set in Africa. Beautifully illustrated by Rich Buckler, Gil Kane, Billy Graham, Klaus Janson, P. Craig Russell and Bob McLeod, Panther’s Rage was dense, complex and sensuous.

T’Challa was depicted as a man of great passion and determination. Killmonger was more than just a standard mustache-twirling villain, but a revolutionary wanting justice for his father who died laboring in the vibranium mines (the fictional metal of the Marvel Universe and the source of Wakanda’s vast wealth). T’Challa and Killmonger’s rivalry was personal and brutal. Every victory was hard-fought and hard earned in this story. McGregor was able to infuse the world of the Black Panther with some realities of life on the continent giving the story and the character a resonance that one would think made the Black Panther a character to be reckoned with, an A-list property if you will…

Then…

Despite McGregor’s Panther vs. The Clan follow-up arc to Panther’s Rage, the Black Panther failed to gain substantial traction as an ongoing series. Oh sure, he would pop up in other titles, sometimes as a guest star, but mostly stayed in the background, the veritable “Franklin” of the Marvel Universe.

The mainstream comic book industry was, and is, dominated by white men. It’s majority-cultivated fanbase, until relatively recently, was geared towards white male power fantasy. In the late ‘60s and early 1970s, creators of color, especially writers of color, were few to none. Though this period saw the emergence of Black comic book artists the likes of Billy Graham, Arvell Jones, Trevor Von Eeden and others, the voice of Black superheroes was the voice of the other

And, T’Challa suffered from it.

From the age of ten, I knew that I was going to be a comic book creator. I became enamored with the medium the second I opened the first comic book my father gave me. My love for the medium was beyond mere brand loyalty. DC, Marvel, Atlas, Charlton, First Comics, it didn’t matter. I was a nerd in the classic sense. In addition to comics, I was interested in science fiction and mythology. This love of mythology, coupled with the awakening of my political philosophy and Diasporatic African identity, led me to study the ancient faith systems of the continent. This largely untapped subject matter became the well from which my eventual contribution into the industry would spring forth. I was an Afrofuturist before the term was coined.

And, it was in this emergence of my creative self that my frustration with the Black Panther began.

BPMarvel Fanfare
The Black Panther in Marvel Fanfare

Though the character would be the focus of various mini-series by Peter B. Gillis, Denys Cowan, Don McGregor, Gene Colan and Dwayne Turner, I felt that the character was underutilized and that the Black Panther was a treasure chest of untapped potential and untapped exploration…

The Black Panther became a promise unfulfilled.

I erroneously thought that all creators tapped into the same wellspring of creation, that we all studied the same points of interest and Marvel had dropped the ball by not making Black Panther an ongoing series thereby giving these creators the opportunity to utilize the revelation of story ideas that the exploration of African history, politics, culture and mythology had provided me.

But eventually, I realized that T’Challa’s development, as a character was, ultimately, not my concern. Though I had affection for the Black Panther, I did not own the character, he was not my “child,” so to speak. I had to use my resources and influences for my benefit, for my creative process. I had to use the elements that were “forgotten” in the Black Panther’s development for my own purposes.

HorsemenComicBookPage
From Wakanda to Lumumba City, a page from Mythos: The Official Handbook of the Horsemen Universe

I had looked to the promise of the future that would be labeled as the Black Age of Comics, or Black Comix movement, for my inspiration. Inspired by the emerging voices that Milestone Media, Brotherman, Tribe and others brought to the industry, I forged ahead with my exploration and development of my property, infusing my nascent universe, The Horsemen, with the elements I felt missing from the Black Panther.

In reality, the only thing that T’Challa needed were Black voices to tell his tale.

BPVol.03
Enemy of the State by Christopher Priest and Mark Texeira

Christopher Priest found T’Challa’s voice in his silence. When Black Panther Vol.3 debut in 1998, Priest (along with artists Mark Texeira, Joe Jusko and Mike Manley) made T’Challa the epitome of detached cool. The Enemy of the State arc made T’Challa, and Wakanda, a force to be reckoned with in the Marvel Universe. A tale of espionage, Priest created State Department attorney K. Everett Ross to be the white reader’s entre into the Black Panther’s world. More importantly, Priest introduced the Dora Milaje, T’Challa’s personal guard of women warriors, which added a much-needed feminine strength and energy to the world of Wakanda.

Black_Panther_Vol_5_1
Who Is The Black Panther? by Reginald Hudlin & Ken Lashley

Following Priest’s impressive 62-issue run, a new Black Panther series was launched in 2005, which ran for 41 issues. Scribed by Hollywood writer and producer Reginald Hudlin (Boomerang, House Party, Django Unchained) and illustrated by John Romita, Jr, Hudlin’s Who Is The Black Panther arc introduced a neo-Kirbyesque Wakanda that was never conquered, defiant and untouched by the taint of colonial influence. More so, Hudlin’s arguably greatest addition to the Black Panther’s mythos was the creation of Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister who would become the ruler of Wakanda and a Black Panther in her own right following T’Challa’s incapacitation.

BPVol.6
A Nation Under Our Feet by Ta’Nehisi Coates & Brian Stelfreeze

In 2016, author and journalist Ta’Nehisi Coates would create a Wakanda rooted in a less romantic, more fact-based context reflecting the reality of the African continent. Though somewhat controversial amongst long-time Black Panther fans, Coates’ A Nation Under Our Feet arc tapped into the wellspring of African mythology, philosophy, culture, politics, and social issues I thought abandoned by other creators save myself. With a sense of novelization rivaling the earlier work of Don McGregor, Coates weaves a Wakanda exclusively from Afrofuturistic cloth, fulfilling the promise of a Black Panther I thought would never be realized.

This promise will be further made good come February 2018 when the Black Panther hits the big screen. Thanks to director Ryan Coogler, lead actor Chadwick Bosemen, Danai Gurira and the rest of the cast and crew, This will be the first time that audiences worldwide will see a vision of Wakanda and the Black Panther that had always existed in my mind, but will be new and exciting for the majority of a people who have been historically denied the ability to imagine a fantasy world where they play front and center.

BPMoviePoster
You ready for this? I don’t think that you are…

In 2017, I attended the annual Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) not as an exhibitor, but as a fan. I strolled the convention taking in the sights and visiting the creators’ tables in Artist Alley, something I rarely had the luxury of doing since I began to attend comic book conventions over 20 years ago. Brian Stelfreeze, artist of Ta’Nehsi Coates’ inaugural run on the title was in attendance. I was able to strike up a conversation only to be surprised and humbled that an artistic hero of mine followed my work.

But, the best part of our exchange?

We acknowledged that we were drawing from the same wellspring for inspiration…

T’Challa has lived up to his promise. All hail the king.

http://www.griotenterprises.com