No, that’s not the total truth. The truth is that so many of the things have happened in the past almost-year I’ve written about before…
“But what about Hidden Figures? What about Get Out? What about the #45thRegime? What about Wonder Woman…”
Yo, there have been so many think pieces about all of that, and more, I felt that I would just be adding noise to the ether, especially when so many of those pieces touched on themes I would touch on but in, some cases, a more eloquent way.
Then, Friday happened.
Here’s my response to that. Art and words by yours truly…
I will be giving you more of what (I hope) you remember me for soon and frequently. For the New Jacks checking this out for the first time, welcome.
“So, honestly, I love Milestone Media, Inc., what it was for me as a younger man and extending into the present. Their heroes are my heroes. The founders are my mentors, friends, and allies. But instead of someone asking me ‘When is Milestone coming back?’
I’d prefer they know the answer.
I’d prefer the answer be ‘I am the next Milestone.”
– Joe Illidge, former editor at DC Entertainment and Milestone Media
We only value ourselves when others value us first.
Brother Joe Illidge wrote an amazing article for his The Mission segment at Comic Book Resources. You can check out the original post here.
I remember when Black folks were frontin’ on Milestone Media in the beginning… Now, they sing its praises.
With my Halfrican ass, it’s the equivalent of being called an African Booty-scratcher when you were 8 only to have to same fools rock Africa medallions when you got to high school…
The thing that people forget is that when Milestone first launched, people fronted on it as well. But, thanks to a great marketing campaign, quality product and perseverance, Milestone became legendary.
The creative market is much, much more than just the American market. There is a global market that most Americans, especially African Americans, tend to ignore, largely based on the American arrogance that we are the center of the world.
For example, Detroit Techno is a global musical force on par with Hip Hop, which, of course, originated in New York. Artists like Derrick May, Carl Craig, Moodyman and others are considered gods in Europe and Asia. The Movement Electronic Music Festival in Detroit is the equivalent of the San Diego Comic Con amongst the Electronic Dance Music crowd.
Yet, Derrick and his brethren are virtually unknown in the mainstream American music market. In fact, they can walk, in large, free from paparazzi in their home town because of the lack of awareness, knowledge and coverage in the larger American Media. It doesn’t matter, however, because they have flourishing careers and stay paid thanks to foreign dollars.
Remember, the Euro carries a higher value than the American dollar.
Now, the comic book scene is a global one as well. As we all know the massive influence manga has not only in Japan, but over here in the States as well, the UK, France, Italy, India, Nigeria and other countries have extremely healthy scenes that go well beyond the “Corporate Two.” Superheroes do not rule those industries over there as they do in the States.
If we, as creators, realize this and navigate the global waters, we could quite possibly find greater success… International success. In addition, the “Columbusing” effect (because some folks love to say that they discovered something that existed for some time) would occur as well as these successful “foreign” concepts would make enough noise for the home team to finally pay attention.
Case in point: my man Felipe Smith. A mash-up of Jamaica and Argentina, Felipe and I met at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. We were both comic book fans and burgeoning creators. He had an interest to create original manga. So much so, my brother went to Japan, found huge success with his creation Peepo Choo, and Marvel came calling to hire him as the writer for Ghost Rider…
He is the first brown writer of color for the “Corporate Two” since 2009.
We’re currently experiencing the groundswell of the next movement in comics by creators of color. And, we CoC are facing the same challenges that Milestone faced during its inception:
We only value ourselves when others value us.
Here’s my question: when are fans of color going to stop looking to others for approval of their buying choices? When are fans of color going to start giving proactive, not reactive, attention to those who look like them and represent a true diversity of the African American experience and vision that the “Corporate Two,” by the sheer fact of that corporate structure, cannot give them with any amount of satisfaction?
In short, when are y’all gonna stop begging for crumbs from one table, when a full-course meal is waiting for you, made with love, on the next table?
Genius. Concrete Park. Rat Queens. Wildfire. One Nation. Watson and Holmes. The Horsemen. T.A.S.K.Shaft. Midnight Tiger. There is so much more out there.
To my comrades in the game, stick to your guns and keep exceeding the standard that’s been established, fam. BGSS is real and the grind continues…
To the rest of y’all, in the words of Wu-Tang Financial…
Diversify yo’ bonds.
I heard the call loud and clear years ago, fam.
Speaking of, The Horsemen: Divine Intervention, Manifesto: The Tao of Jiba Molei Anderson and Chronicle: The Art of Jiba Molei Anderson are now available for the Kindle. Each title only $9.99. You can cop them right here.
Comic book illustration is cool, but the knowledge gained by drawing from life combined with comic book exaggeration takes the work to a whole ‘nother level…
My statement is about enhancement, not constriction.
The reason why Michael Jordan is one of the greatest basketball players of all time is because of his solid foundation in the fundamentals of the game, not just because of his aerial dexterity when making a slam dunk.
Art is no different. For example, Joe Maduriera’s work resonates in large part because of the “steak” of his work, the fundamentals. His construction is rock solid and his knowledge of anatomy comes in extremely handy when he’s exaggerating those elements; the muscle forms still make sense. The “sizzle,” or style, is his personal interpretation of the fundamentals (i.e. the aforementioned construction, anatomy, proportions, etc.) and rendering technique (hatching, bold contour lines, positive/negative space, etc.).
It’s not an “either, or” situation when it comes to comic book illustration. It’s both.
Too many people have been duped into thinking it’s style over substance and that’s what prevents them from growing as artists. There are too many people out there trying to perfect a look without knowing the fundamentals first. Only by knowing the rules, really knowing the rules, would you then be able to break them.
I am as influenced by “fine art,” “street art,” classic illustration, graphic design, etc., as I am by comic book art. My influences range from George Perez to Eduardo Risso to Bill Sienkiewicz and I’ve gleaned something from each of them (and more). When one’s influences are diverse (and beyond the realm of comics), it helps in finding one’s own vision, one’s own “style.”
Diversity in knowledge leads to individual development. If one only looks at anime or (G_d forbid) Rob Liefeld, then that work is only going to look like a pale imitation of that influence. If one diversifies their reference pool, in addition to learning the fundamentals, they will eventually establish their own visual language.
Liefeld’s success was totally based on being at the right place at the right time, not his talent. Don’t get me wrong, he was smart and got his money, but very few people are asking “When is Liefeld gonna drop a new joint?” these days. He’s completely locked in the early 90s… And it’s 2014.
To be clear, I am not saying that his talent didn’t get him in the door. However, it wasn’t his talent that made him a mega star… That was the Spike Lee 501 commercial.
As for an artist, like, Bill Sienkiewicz, he comes from a fine art/classic illustration background that makes his work not only far more interesting, but far more versatile as well. In addition to projects like Elektra: Assassin, New Mutants and Moon Knight, he also did the Jimi Hendrix graphic novel Voodoo Child and album covers for Hip Hop acts EPMD and the RZA. People inside and outside the comic book industry check for him, and he stays in demand.
At the end of the day, cats like are the artists I respect and patterned my career after…. And I thank the Higher Power for that…
What I am saying is that Sienkiewicz’s work is way more versatile, allowing him to be successful in both the comic book industry and beyond.
His understanding of the fundamentals is so tight; he’s able to go into different styles beyond comics, such as post-modernism, collage and more, which creates his idiosyncratic style. That makes him much more appealing, and marketable to different audiences. His work is just at home in a fine art gallery as it is on the printed page.
That’s kind of my point. As an artist, you shouldn’t limit yourself to one market, especially a market as small and as competitive as the comic book industry. If you do, you may very well starve. I peeped game very early on. I knew I wanted to be a commercial artist at the age of 7 and my whole education was dedicated to that goal.
Yeah, comics are my root influence, but they’re not the only one. Because of that, I have been able to carve out a diverse career, which includes comics, but graphic design, animation and education as well. And sure, the reason why I get calls from a diversity of clients is because of the comic book root, but it is as such that these clients see how my work can benefit their projects.
In the words of Wu Tang Financial: Diversify yo’ bonds…
M.E.C.C.A. Con is only three days away! I’ll be there selling books, moderating panels and, hopefully, meeting old friends and making new ones…
Speaking of… I’m offering The New Mythology Pack for the con! For only $50.00 you’ll get The Horsemen: Divine Intervention, Issues 1 – 3 of The Horsemen: Mark of the Cloven (written by Jude W Mire), Chronicle: The Art of Jiba Molei Anderson and 2 Horsemen art prints! Can’t beat that with a stick! Hope to see the Detroit fam there!
This was written by my good friend and collaborator on The Horsemen: Mark of the Cloven Jude W Mire… Peep game.
I’m behind deadline on Issue Four. Part of it is due to visiting relatives, busy summer schedule, and the day-to-day of trying to write around running a business and having three daughters.
Another part of it goes a lot deeper.
To fill you in, in case you don’t know, I’m working for Griot Enterprises on writing a serial novel set in the comic book world of The Horsemen created by Jiba Molei Anderson. It’s a black comic (not an African American comic. If you don’t know the difference, message me).
Now, in this comic, the Horsemen, a group of super-heroes from Detroit, imbued with the powers of Yoruba gods, destroy a portion of Nigeria, unify Africa, and start building a technological utopia there. The U.S. has become repressive, outlaws emigration, and is basically a police state.
Where do they build this utopia? Right next to the crater of the city they destroyed to wake up Africa. A place they considered the epicenter of the continents problems and wiped out; Abuja. You know Abuja? Of course you don’t. What Americans really know the names of cities in Africa? I’ll give you something you do know though.
Bring back our girls.
We put our fictional city that represents hope; literally, on the same place that Boko Haram militants went and stole almost 300 girls from their school. When the news came about what happened I recognized all the places. Where the school was, where they’d been taken, where the military was ineffectually responding from, all because of my researching the region for the book months earlier. And now, while I was writing about an idealistic dream for Africa they were simultaneously being raped, beaten, and sold into slavery. The dream and the reality are so very, very far apart. It was excruciating. More than half the characters in the Horsemen are women. Brave, intelligent, funny, amazing fictional women, meant to inspire girls, specifically black girls. Like the ones that were taken. Girls not so different from my own daughters.
Chapter Three, which I wrote during that crisis, was incredibly hard to write. The sadness, the desire for the world to be different, to change things, was difficult to deal with. I pushed through it and Jiba and I made the best issue of the series so far. Then I moved into Issue Four.
Eshu and a Chicago cop partner up to deal with a problem with the Underground Railroad leading to Africa. So in the previous issue, I was writing in Abuja when the girls were kidnapped. This issue, I was writing a white cop protagonist when Ferguson explodes. And I’m transfixed. What the fuck is going on? To say that I’m stunned is an understatement. Jiba and I created a proto-military America as an exaggeration! A goddamned example of an extreme to illustrate a problem. But for some reason, here it is, happening for real. Reality just caught up with our doomsday vision of America. Oh sure, not entirely, but here, in the microcosm of Ferguson, I’m watching what we created as the terrible future manifest itself. The same horrible thing that the Horsemen created hope in Africa to counter. And again, the dream collides with reality.
As an author, I want to create things that mean something. Jiba likes to say, Everything I create is protest art. As a black man surrounded by a white industry, he’s absolutely right. I, on the other hand, don’t automatically create protest art just by creating. I’m not a woman, or a minority, and there’s no shortage of guys like me creating all manner of stuff all the time. I’ve got to do it intentionally. While many of my short stories are “fluff” and lack themes, overall, the work I’m most proud of are the stories that illustrate the human condition, make a statement, or reveal something about ourselves. It’s one of the things that has always drawn me to horror writing. Much of the human psyche is governed by fear and horror allows a writer to poke the uncomfortable areas. It inspires self-introspection, growth, and awareness. It’s why, despite being very different subject matter, I was drawn to the Horsemen. It does the same. For some reason I thought it would be easier than horror. I was dead wrong.
For as difficult as they are to write, at the end of the day, horror stories are personal. The difference with the Horsemen is that it’s personal and cultural and global. A personal fear or issue is yours to control. Cultural? Global? That shit is out of your hands. Those horrors remain. They’re real. They stand in the world and point guns at you, steal your children, and fire tear gas. The best you can do is band together with others and hope to god you gather enough of you to fight them, because alone? Alone, they swallow you. They bury you. They end you.
It can really make you want to quit. It feels futile, hopeless, like tossing pennies into the Grand Canyon to make a bridge. It is so small in the face of the real world. Next issue has to do with prisons. I don’t even want to guess how the real world intersection might happen there because the American prison system is already a terrible thing.
But no matter how small it is this book Jiba and I are writing is fantastic. It promotes diversity, inspires hope, busts stereotypes, and all of that is good. Seriously good. Whatever comes, Jiba and I aren’t stopping this project. This protest. It doesn’t matter how big the tide of darkness reality swells over us or how wide the canyon is that needs crossing. You don’t stop fighting just because your opponent is bigger than you. This world makes me sad and angry and vengeful and the tools I have to combat it are tiny but you can bet your ass I’m going to use them. How do I keep going when the beasts of mass rape, police murder, and civil injustice smash your hope? You get stubborn.
I just keep telling myself; “How do you eat a whale?”
DISCLAIMER: It may seem like I’m going in on the man, please believe that I am not. I do not know him personally and hold no ill will towards him…
It’s not like he’s paying attention anyway…
The reason why Rob Liefeld was/is popular is because he drew like a hopeful trying to get in… And still does.
He got lucky, flat out. He became famous thanks to a Levi 501 jean commercial directed by Spike Lee. THAT put him in the public eye. NOT New Mutants, NOT Hawk and Dove. Thank the director of Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X and Bamboozled for that.
Also, No one… NO ONE will ever get hired by a major company following his “style.”
Sorry to be so harsh, but the 90s ended 14 years ago. And granted, there are many interpretations of how to visualize the world (style), but the only way to develop as an artist is to study the basics: anatomy, proportion, perspective, composition, etc.
Eduardo Risso, Mike Mignola, Shawn Martinburough, Olivier Copiel, Khary Randolph, Ashley Woods, Afua Richardson, Shawn Alleyne, Ivan Reis, etc.
All of these artists interpret the basics (anatomy, proportion, etc.) differently…
However, all of them know the basics in order to bend the rules to their vision, not BREAK them.
That’s why all of them are great artists and great visual storytellers.
And though all of the artists mentioned work in the comic book realm, they didn’t learn that by just looking at comic book artists. Expand your view. Take a life drawing class if you can. But please, please stop idolizing Rob Liefeld…
His artwork has ruined many a hopeful artist’s development.
Actually, that’s the point of Image’s original seven… It was more so their business acumen and being at the right place at the right time with their notoriety that put them on top, financially, rather than their artistic skills.
In fact, you can thank Todd McFarlane for being cocky enough to feel he deserved a bigger piece of the pie and that he was able to convince the others to come along. But, even he has been noted in saying that if Jim Lee (not Rob, not Erik, not even himself) didn’t come along, Image would have never happened because Lee was the best artist of the bunch and the golden boy of Marvel, thanks to his work on Uncanny X-Men at the time.
Peep game: cats like McFarlane and Liefeld were popular because they were the easiest to copy. Their work was closest in competency (though, probably slightly higher) to their teenage fanbase, many of whom were/are hopefuls trying to break-in.
However, having Jim Lee on the squad legitimized Image. Hands down, his work was the most solid in terms of the basics; his work was the “prettiest” girl in the squad. Lee was the apex of what Image was artistically.
So, applaud the gang for their business, because they opened the door for the new wave of independent books. But, without Jim Lee coming on board, we’d still only be talking about the “Corporate Two”.
College professor time: What I’ve come to find is that some artists go to the “lowest common denominator” when it comes to artistic influence because, they feel its the easiest to master. You see it from the Liefeld “love” to people claiming they have an “anime” style. What they are really doing is copying the “mistakes” in their influences’ work and touting it with the attitude of “It worked for them, so it should work for me.”
That’s lazy talk, that’s lazy thinking. Again, I am not knocking anyone’s influences. As artists, other artists (that’s part of the education) influence us all. However, as artists, we must not be slaves to our influences and strive to become better, to develop our own unique viewpoint. That only comes from understanding the basics.
Now, once you’ve got that down, you’ve got to study the business of comics…
And that’s a whole ‘nother conversation…
Speaking of, my new art book, Chronicle: The Art of Jiba Molei Anderson is available now as a digital download for $9.95 at Drive Thru Comics with a print run limited to 1000 copies August 18. Grab both, send me your mailing address when you do so and you’ll get TWO Horsemen posters absolutely FREE!
Along with the creation of Motown and the birthplace of Techno, Detroit has been an influential city in the world of comics as well.
From creators like Jim Starlin (Warlock, Captain Marvel and Dreadstar) redefining Marvel’s “Cosmic Universe” to artists like Arvell Jones and Chuck Patton holding it down at DC and Marvel in the 70s and 80s, to Caliber Comics (I see you, Nate Pride) spearheading the indie comics movement and first introducing the world to the talents of Guy Davis (Baker Street, Sandman Mystery Theatre, B.P.R.D.), David Mack (Kabuki, Daredevil) and James O’Barr (The Crow), the Motor City has been a vanguard in the evolution of the medium.
Detroit has also produced two of the most influential and groundbreaking moments in comic book history. T.R.I.B.E. creator Todd Johnson hails from the “D” as well as the late great architect of Milestone Media, Dwayne McDuffie.
Cats like Kenjii Jumanne-Marshall, Mark C. Dudley, Matthew & Kevin Minor, John J. Hill, Andre Batts, Judd Winick, Brad Meltzer (U of M represent) and yours truly are part of a grand legacy.
We stand on the shoulder of giants.
Speaking of, I have a new art book coming out in time for the M.E.C.C.A. con coming in September: Chronicle: The Art of Jiba Molei Anderson.
“The creator of The Horsemen returns showcasing the work and philosophy of a new master of the medium. More than just the average “sketchbook,” Anderson also includes two tutorials on the creation of comics… A must have for any fan of the medium!”
The book will be available for download Wednesday, August 6 for $9.95 with a print option limited to only 1000 copies available August 18 EXCLUSIVELY at IndyPlanet for $19.95. Grab both versions and the first 100 customers get two FREE Horsemen posters! Did I mention that each physical copy of the book will be signed?