If You’re Not There, You Just Won’t Get It, Part 2, by Michael Davis
This is part two of the Milestone Media story I began last week. What follows is a brief overview of last’s week article.
Read last week’s article. End of overview.
Denys Cowan, Christopher Priest, Dwayne McDuffie, Derrick Dingle and myself started meeting about building Milestone a few days after Denys rallied the troops. I remember that Priest was a freakin dynamo! This guy would show up with reams of information at every meeting. He was also very inpatient, if we were stalled on something Priest would present a variety of different ways something could work, just to move the process along.
I loved his energy. I loved how he saw the importance in every detail and even when we butted heads (which was often) I respected his point of view. Dwayne wanted to make sure that our books were the best they could be. He stressed professionalism and excellence over everything. He dismissed with respect what was being done in comics then as “What they are doing. Not what we should do.” Derrick was all about the business; he wanted to make sure that we were protected and smart about our business plan. Denys was focused on the magnitude of Milestone – what we could be and our sense of history. Me? I wanted to make sure that we brought new talent into the industry that included people of color.
Yes, Derrick wanted the business to work on a grand scale. Dwayne wanted excellence in everything we did. Denys to make history. Priest to create a dynasty. I wanted to find talent that could make Milestone the absolute best place to be. All of these made up Milestone. Notice that none of these objectives had anything to do with keeping the company black or excluding anybody with regards to race. Shit, we were too busy trying to make this a GREAT company to worry about it being a black company.
Oh, and there was a non-black member (although unofficial) to Milestone. Her name was Chantal d’Aulnis. Chantal was a V.P. at DC Comics and a friend who gave us invaluable advice in the beginning. No, she did not create any characters, or write any (creative) bibles, her advice was along the lines of. “Look at the way that deal was done.” Or “Maybe you should ask that question of so and so.”
This was important because she gave us a matter-of-fact look at who we were. One of the BIG misconceptions about Milestone is that we were owned, created by or part of DC Comics. Over the years we have tried to answer that clearly but somehow it never quite took, so I’ll try and say it clearly here. MILESTONE WAS NEVER OWNED OR CREATED BY DC COMICS.
Or to put it the Michael Davis way: THAT’S BULLSHIT!
Chantal worked for DC but never ever talked to us about DC policy or DC business. In fact from what I remember we were leaning towards doing a deal with Marvel weeks before we decided to give DC a call. Once we started talking to DC Chantal STOPPED talking to us, period.
Before any Marvel or DC meetings the Milestone guys met… a lot. We met at everyone’s home except Dwayne’s. I don’t remember why we never met at Dwayne’s house. Or maybe we did and I missed that meeting. Regardless of where we met, everyone was there most of the time. I know I missed some meetings for a variety of reasons but when I did Priest would more than likely show up at my house (sometimes at 3 in the morning) and give me the notes. Itold you he was a freakin dynamo! I remember a lot of meetings at a Manhattan coffee shop. A lot of meetings at McDonalds and whenever we happened to all be at one place at one time that would turn into a meeting.
These meetings produced a company overview and a Milestone logo. That logo the Milestone ‘M’ was designed by Priest…yeah dynamo. When I saw the logo I asked him; “Is there anything you don’t do, because you can design your ass off!”
Everyone contributed to the creation of the Milestone Universe. I kidded Derrick a lot about his contributions. Truth be told he had great ideas but I would often make light of what he said and how he said it. Derrick has a very low-key matter-of-fact voice. So when he pitched an idea it was very mellow.
VERY mellow. A typical Milestone creative meeting would go like this:
Priest: (speaking very fast and excited) HELL yes! Static should be able to kick ass and talk smack at the same time!
Cowan: (faster) Maybe he could have bolts of energy come out his eyes!!
McDuffie: (even faster) NO! Not his eyes! His chest! That way we showcase the emblem on his suit!!!
Davis: (faster still) His emblem could glow a different color depending on how much smack he is talking!!!!
Dingle: (mellow, slow) The…color…could…be…red.
I loved messing with Derrick. But make no mistake, Derrick was as involved as any of us just easy to mess with. That is until you pissed him off then watch out. You think Kahn had a wrath? HA! If the Milestone story is ever made into a movie it could be called Milestone: The Wrath Of Dingle! Derrick was low-key, but he took no crap.
BTW, if Milestone is ever made into a movie Denzel Washington would play me…if he were better looking.
When we started meeting with DC I did not attend those meeting… at first. Some in the Milestone group considered me a loose cannon.
Me? Little ole me? A loose cannon? Nooooo…
Yeah, I was a loose cannon and I’m proud to say I’m still a loose cannon. I also have a résumé that is beyond belief filled with the deals I’ve done withoutpartners. Yep, I’m a bit bitter about that loose cannon thing.
Now this was 15 years ago and we were all a lot younger then. I was a team player so I did not protest that decision. I should have paid a bit more attention to that, as we will see later. There were some initial meetings with all the Milestone principals (except me) then Derrick took over and started to have a bunch of meeting between just him and DC. Derrick and Denys really spearheaded the business deal and before long we had a deal memo from DC Comics.
Then Priest called a meeting. The meeting was about my status at Milestone. As I mentioned above I was and am a loose cannon. What that means to me is that I don’t settle and I will not back down. What it means to others is that they have NO idea of what I will or won’t do. I am well aware of how others see me. I am well aware of those people who think I’m just a big mouth mofo with no redeeming value.
I’m going to try and explain the way I am for the first and last time ever. This is important for the Milestone story and I hope will shed some light on my decisions with regards to Milestone.
I have a big sense of humor. Because of all the tragic events in my life, I find laughter keeps me from crying. I don’t take things too seriously exceptions are business and personal choice issues. People either get me or they don’t. I’m loud, I’m in your face and I’m real good at what I do. I’m also really smart. So smart that I see how people see me and know what to expect from them. Here’s why I’m successful at what I do: I tailor my pitch to the decision maker of the deal. Most people who don’t like me are mid-level people whose ass I don’t have to kiss so I have no use for them. I have zero ZERO tolerance for people who are mean spirited just for the sake of being mean spirited. I’m also really nice to any new person I meet. However there have been many people who from the second they meet me just don’t like me. I’m fully aware of that… and could give a shit.
Also I’m NOT the guy to screw with because I have a scorched earth policy for people who do so. One of my motto’s is Nothing too good to do for my friends, nothing too bad to do to my enemies.
Yeah, when I want to be I can be THAT Negro.
I’m also a GREAT friend and loyal like a puppy. A cute puppy with big brown eyes. The only patience I have left in life is for young people who want to be artists and work in this great field of ours. My other motto is Each one, teach one.
I have other positive things I can say about me but the above description of my personality makes up what gets me in trouble so I listed those. If you judge a man by the friends he has then I’m a great guy because I have great friends.
I’m really not the same guy I was in 1991. In 1991 I would lose my mind if someone called a meeting just to talk about my behavior. I felt then (and now) that a guy like me with an over the top personality is warranted and needed in a creative deal. The last thing any creative endeavor needs is everyone acting the same or having similar personalities. Let me be clear: YOU must do your job, but to assume that other companies will not deal with you because you have a member on your team that is “a loose cannon” is fair only up to a certain point. Dennis Rodman, John McEnroe, Colin Ferrell, Simon Cowell and Sir Richard Branson are just a few “loose cannons” that not only do their job but also made watching them fun and INCREASED revenue of their business because of their skill set and antics. I’m taking about a CREATIVE business. Look comics are cool, comics are fun but comics are a BUISINESS.
When it came to Milestone or anything else in my career I have done my job and created revenue.
My description of myself above is important because I fully understand why some people think what they think about me. So on a faithful day, I walked into a Milestone meeting and was met with a pointed finger and this statement directed at me “I cannot work with this man.”
That was the high point of the meeting. It got worse from there.