MICHAEL DAVIS: What’s your problem?
For the past few years I have hosted a panel at various conventions called The Black Panel. Before that, every so often I used to be a part of a Blacks in Comics panel.
I started the Black Panel to try and avoid all the “Marvel and DC are racist” dialogue that seemed to be the theme of some of the “Blacks in Comics” panels.
As you can see from the stunning photo that accompanies this column, I am a black man. I am a black man but I do not speak for all black people. Nor do I expect any other black person to speak for me. My views are my views and I am solely responsible for what I say. To that end I have a question to ask some of my fellow black creators:
What’s your problem?
I am very proud to be a black man and I hope by my work I have done my race proud. But here’s what I try not to do. I try not to diminish by words or actions anything that other black creators are trying to do. In other words I don’t talk bad about other black projects regardless of if I think their projects are any good or not. I am proud and glad that other black creators are doing some great work in this field. But they are responsible for what they do, not me.
That said, I have been hearing quite a bit of rumblings about my Black Panel. The complaint I hear the most is that my panel is exclusive. Some black creators have been complaining about not being represented. Well, yes it is exclusive. I put the panel together; I bring it to the con. I am responsible.
Here’s a reality check. If I don’t know you (or your work) how am I to include you? And frankly why should I? Should I include you just because you are black? Just because I drive a sports car, should I be able to race in the Indy 500?
No, you have to earn a spot on my panel. Who makes that decision? Me. It’s my panel. Just like the party I throw every year at Comic Con International; it’s invite only.
There is a convention called “The Black Age of Comics.” I hear it’s very cool. I don’t know first hand because I have never been invited. I have a pretty good résumé when it comes to my career. I think that being a founder of Milestone alone should have garnered me an invitation in my view. Forget my mentor program; forget bringing Motown, Magic Johnson Entertainment and Simon & Schuster into the comic book business. Forget the fact that I am the first (and maybe only) creator black or white to get a comic book program in the American School System that is taught as a curriculum. Forget the TV shows I have had on the air forget all of that. Milestone Media alone should have gotten me an invite to a black Comics Convention in my view. All that said – I have never been invited. Is there a reason they have not invited me? I think (hope) that they simply do not know how to get in touch with me. But let’s assume that for whatever reason they just don’t want me there.
You know what? That’s OK.
It’s OK to hate me or/and what I do. That’s the great thing about America; you don’t have to like every person. It’s a freedom we all have. That is part of what makes this country so great, our ability to agree to disagree.
You think all black people think alike? We don’t. Case in point. I live in L.A. and I hate the Lakers. It’s my right to hate them. Just because I live in L.A. do I have to be a Laker fan? No, I don’t. Just because I’m black do I believe O.J.? Do you? Well if you do, would you let him date your sister?
With regards to The Black Age Of Comics, I don’t put on that convention nor do I have any dealings with the people that do so I have absolutely no right to assume they should invite me. Would I go? Sure. In fact if I can swing it I would love to go this year, invite or not.
Let me be clear. I’m not saying they don’t want me there. I’m saying if they don’t they have a right to that opinion. They run that show, they put up the money, they make the decisions.
Again, all black people don’t share the same views. I was recently at a wedding where this white lady got really mad at me because I told her I had not made up my mind as to who I was going to vote for in the presidential election. She could not understand why I simply would not just vote for Mr. Obama. I told her I had to know more about him. She was stunned. I then told her I preferred oysters to watermelon and I thought she would faint.
I don’t know a lot but, here’s what I do know:
1. You are responsible for your actions.
2. Character is defined by what you do when no one is looking.
3. Your character is defined by your actions.
I don’t speak for all black people. I can’t.
Unlike what Hollywood would have you believe all black people can’t dance, we are not all Democrats, we don’t all live in the “Hood,” we don’t all drive cars with rims that spin, we don’t have to like each other and we don’t all share the same agenda.
Nor do I (or you) have to be inclusive when putting an event together.
In my view it’s about respect. I respect anyone who comes correct at me. If you want to be included in something make an effort to do so. Complaining about it serves what purpose? Your ass is still sitting in the cheap seats, and complaining gets you nowhere except talked about in my column.
Here’s where I get in trouble. There are a whole lot of people who have a real sense of entitlement. These people expect to be given something and when they don’t get it they would rather complain about it than try and change it. They would rather complain than do the work it takes to get what they want.
Let’s say you have not been asked to be on my panel, or anyone’s panel. What’s to stop you from putting your own panel together? In fact what’s to stop you from doing anything you want to do? I have no right to complain if you decide to do another blacks in Comics panel. You can do that, you just can’t call it the Black Panel. I own the domain name to that title.
Now what about helping people to get to the next level? What about giving back? FYI some of the biggest names in comics have come through my mentor program. I have helped numerous people get their start or a break so I got that covered. So yes, I do give back in a big way.
I created the Black Panel so fans and new professionals could better network with major players and bring positive content to the market place. If you think you can hang with those playas and have something positive to bring, then by all means I would like to see you represented.
If you want to complain about what Marvel and DC do in regards to black characters or lack there of, then this is not the panel for you. Marvel and DC are not responsible for your issues nor or they responsible for the creation of black characters or content. That’s my job. And if you are a black creator then it’s your job also.
I’m not saying that there is not a time and a place to hold some companies’ feet to the fire. I am saying I would rather spend this panel hour helping the next kid who wants to know how he or she can create a Milestone or a Sony or a DreamWorks.
You want more black characters? Then create some. You want a black panel at a comic book convention? Do what I did, do what everybody does, talk to the convention people and see if you can get one.
There are some conventions that will simply say OK; with others you may have to work a little harder. Why should it be easier for me? I have put in 20 years and have the résumé to show for it. I have earned the right to put this kind of panel together with whomever I want. The conventions let me do it because of whom I can get on that panel and who I am. Nobody gave me a damn thing.
My greatest wish would be to see many panels that deal with people of color. I’m doing my part. You want to be down? Then stop bitching and do your part.
Michael Davis is a comics creator and the founder of the Guardian Line series of comics as well as being a television producer and writer. He was a co-founder of Milestone Comics and his artwork has appeared in Wasteland, Green Arrow: Shado, Green Hornet and The Question, among others.
The 6th Annual East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention will be held Friday, May 18 and Saturday, May 19, 2007 at Temple University’s Main Campus, in Philadelphia, PA, and we’ll bet Michael would love to be there.