MICHAEL DAVIS: Not What You Think
Years ago I wrote a column for Comics Buyers Guide (CBG) called Picture This. I actually started writing that column even before Peter David started writing his. Being the professional he is, Peter has been able to sustain his column But I Digress for well over a decade. I lasted a few months before I simply stopped writing it. Demands on my time and personal life caused me to abandon what truly was a great gig for an even greater magazine.
Now I’m writing this column and have managed to keep my deadlines (except for one little itsy bitsy time when I got my column in late and it had to run on Saturday instead of Friday) for twenty weeks and I am having a great time.
There are some people who still remember my Picture This column. If you think I am a raving manic now you should have seen me then. I pissed off more people than Katharine Harris did during the 2000 election. In my career I have also written guest columns in a few magazines as well as a few editorials over the years in various outlets. Those people who know me know that I am a shameless self-promoter. That said, in all of the hundreds of articles I have written I have never plugged a current deal that I was involved in. I may have mentioned what I was working on but never with any eye towards getting people to go out and watch what I was doing on TV or buy what I was publishing in the comic stores. In fact in all my ranting over the years I have only written about one subject more than once.
That subject was rumors.
I just heard a recent rumor that has compelled me to write about a current project I’m involved in, The Guardian Line (TGL)
I was recently talking to Lovern Kindzierski on the phone. Lovern is one of my best friends and we are working together on TGL. I have a book open and I’m looking for an artist and asked Lovern if he knew of anyone. He then mentioned that there is a creator in a comic book chat room saying that UMI (TGL’s parent company) does not pay their creators.
At this point I would usually launch into a tirade and make a few cleaver attacks on the unnamed creator.
Not this time.
This time I will address this so there is no misunderstanding. UMI has NEVER not paid any creator.
In fact, I defy this unnamed creator to come out of hiding and address this publicly.
He won’t. He can’t.
Because it’s all just made up in his little mind. For the sake of this column let’s call the little coward Mr. Chat Room. Why grown ups act this way is so beyond me. Why people make stuff up with no basis in fact is just so damn junior high. This idiot is telling an outright lie. Period.
This kind of Junior High antics is what keeps the comic book industry in the bush leagues in regards to the rest of the entertainment business. We all know at least one creator who has all the good gossip. For the most part it’s harmless banter but when it affects how a company does business or how a free lancer makes his living then it can be dangerous and in some incidents, invite a lawsuit.
Right about now Mr. Chat Room is thinking "So what?"
The comic book industry really is a great place to work. For the most part we all know each other and for the most part like each other. But consider this. If there were a creator in a chat room saying that Disney did not pay their bills do you think that would be ignored? Maybe, unless this rumor started to affect the way they do business then you can bet that Mickey and company would body slam this person with a cease and desist. As you know that means: You keep this up and we will sue you, so stop.
Right about now Mr. Chat Room is thinking, “I’m not talking about Disney. This is comics.”
As I mentioned before, rumors is the only subject I have written about numerous times. Let me give you a few examples as to why that is. What a lot of people don’t know about my Milestone tenure is I did not have an exclusive deal at Milestone. I was a founder and worked there every day but I did NOT sign an exclusive deal. One day, I will say why (and it’s a hell of a story!) but this is not that day.
While at Milestone I was negotiating my Motown deal (which was my right) and someone floated a rumor that I was under an exclusive deal at Milestone. They not only floated a rumor, they wrote Motown a letter saying that. Now, let me tell you something about corporate America. NO American company wants to get into a pissing match with another company and end up in court fighting over something like this. In other words, if Motown was under the impression that I could not legally talk to them they would have simply pulled out of my deal. Not a big deal to Motown not a big deal to Milestone but a HUGE deal to me.
I was lucky enough to find out who it was that was talking smack about me right before Motown pulled the plug on me. I was shown the letter written by this person to Motown by a friend of mine. My lawyer then sent a letter to this person which said, in effect, “You are about to be CRUSHED.”
Right about now Mr. Chat Room is thinking, “ Oh spit.”
The person who started the rumor and wrote the letter to Motown went away and Motown was given documentation that stated I was legally able to talk to them. This whole thing almost cost me that job at Motown. That little rumor could have stopped me from getting one of the most important appointments of my life.
Let me fast forward to Christmas Eve some years back. Static Shock had been pitched but was not picked up yet. In fact Denys Cowan, Dwayne McDuffie, Derrick Dingle and I were all on pins and needles waiting to see if Static Shock would be on air.
So this particular Christmas eve I’m having an early dinner with my friend Mike Stradford and another person who’s name I won’t mention. We were sitting at a pizza parlor in L.A. when this guy says “Static Shock is dead at Warner Bros.”
This guy was a pretty high-ranking animation executive (he did not work at Warner) and he was pretty adamant in his statement. I asked him how he came by this knowledge. He told us that his “sources” within Warner Bros. had told him.
His sources had no name, no paper trial, no evidence what so ever. They were just his sources. I really let him have it. I was raw, to put it gently. Before I left I told him under no circumstances should he continue to spread this rumor. The last thing I wanted was Denys, Dwayne, and Derrick Dingle to deal with this sort of crap over the holidays.
Not to long after the New Year Static Shock was picked up… by Warner Bros. Wow, I wonder what happened to the “sources?”
Later, when I saw this guy at a party he simply dismissed it as a little something that he had passed on from something he heard. Well that “little something” could have ruined a few peoples’ holiday season at the least or at the most become something that may have given the folks at Warner cause to think twice about Static.
Right about now Mr. Chat Room is thinking, “I’m a idiot.”
Ask yourself this, what good comes of making up stories with no basis in fact? What? Everybody spreads some kind of gossip. It’s human nature. There really is no harm in silly conjecture about what you think Frank Miller will do with his next movie or what he may or may not be spending his money on. That is a great distance away from stating as fact; “I know that Frank Miller killed a man who did not like 300.” That sort of thing is just not right under any circumstances. Not under any circumstances. All it takes is one person to believe this type of crap to destroy a career or worst, destroy a dream.
When I was a kid around 8 or so I remember there were two candy stores on my block. One was run by this fairly young man the other by a very old lady. The rumor on the block was that the old lady’s store was full of rats and other vermin. I was convinced that was true. I remember once going into the young mans store and him telling me that the old lady spit on all the candy. My mother and I went in the old lady’s store one day because my mom needed stamps. I was horrified to be in that store. I mean really really scared. My mother asked me if I wanted any candy; I said no. She could not believe that her 8 year old was turning down candy.
An 8 year old turning down CANDY!?
She asked me why and I told her that the old lady spit on the candy. I will never forget the look on the old lady’s face when I said that. She looked so sad. My mother brought some candy and eat it in front of me. Later (when I knew it was safe) I asked for some and she told me if I wanted candy to go to the old lady’s store and get it. I did, but I never admitted to my friends that I went into the cootie store.
Some time later I heard the old lady died. She was in her store a week before they found her body. It never occurred to me until years later that this old lady was most likely put through Hell. I mean how messed up is it to have a candy store and all the kids in the neighborhood think you spit on the candy?
That is messed up big time.
While I’m at it let me set the record straight on TGL, what it is and what’s it hopes to become.
1. A company called Urban Ministries Inc. (UMI) publishes the Guardian Line
2. UMI is a publishing/media company that has been in business almost 40 years.
3. TGL idea was conceived over 10 years ago when I was running Motown Animation.
The idea was to create a comic book universe that would work in the church as well as the mainstream market. I had success with a comic book program I created for the school system called The Action Files. I figured out the best way to distribute into the school system was to forge a relationship with a major publishing company that had distribution into the school system. I found that partnership with Simon and Schuster. The next step for me was to find that same kind of distribution within the churches. Try as I might I could not find that company. In retrospect I’m certain the time was not right then.
Some years after I left Motown I was attending a television convention. Imagine San Diego Comic Con but for the television industry and you get the picture. At this convention I met Jeffery Wright, President and CEO of UMI. Jeff and I became fast friends and I talked to him about comics and suggested he do some. His company was exactly what I was looking for when I tried to get into the church market at Motown. I talked to Jeff about it but I was running an entertainment division for another company and could not do the deal.
Jeff and I lost touch until two years ago when we were both on an unrelated conference call. What are the odds? We reconnected and The Guardian Line was born. The idea behind the Guardian Line is very simple-you get some of the best talent in comics and you let them play in a universe where God is a factor. The line’s slogan is “Not what you think, more than you expect.” That is exactly what these books are. The comics could be summed up in three ways:
1. There is a clear line between good and bad.
2. Faith is important.
3. People of color are represented.
That’s it. These books read like Marvel or DC books except that our heroes have faith in God. Most Americans say they have faith in God however most people don’t preach or insist that you follow their faith. That’s The Guardian Line, we don’t preach nor do we hide what most Americans say they believe and that is there is a greater power in the universe than us.
I’m very proud of this line. Why? Because it dares to be different. It dares to take a stand for something and with the talent we have on the books that something is spectacular.
The last thing I will say about the line is this: in an industry where the fantastic is commonplace but no one really believes in superheroes, is it not time for a comic book line where the superheroes believe in the fantastic, and most of us do to?
As far as Mr. Chat Room, I hope he reads this and thinks twice about the next time he decides to just make something up. I should not be too hard on him. I heard a rumor that he’s in the hospital.
He’s having his foot removed from his mouth.
Hollywood’s own 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 is a co-founder of Milestone Comics and his artwork has appeared in Wasteland, Green Arrow: Shado, Green Hornet and The Question, among others.