Black Lightning Gets It Right
As high-ranking executives at the most famous record company in the world, it was essential for us to project the utmost professionalism at all times. We talked in hushed tones nodding politely at staff whom, when we approached lowered their heads once pass the whispered comments began.
Denys Cowan and I were walking the halls of Motown Records. Denys had just joined me at Motown Animation and Filmworks as Senior Vice President. I was giving him the ten-cent tour of Motown’s brand spanking new offices as we discussed plans to take over the world.
“My god, they nodded at us.”
“We’re so blessed.”
“Long live the saviors of Motown.”
“Nay, saviors of the entertainment industry!”
“NAY NAY THE WORLD!!”
“WHY Y’ALL KEEP SAYING MY NAME?” Said, Nay Nay.
Nay Nay commented that we “Looked like GQ cover models.” Denys was in Armani, I wore Boss— we both got a bit of a chuckle out of that.
When we were out of earshot, Denys stated; “GQ cover models? Yeah, right.”
“As if we would stoop that low,” I answered. “GQ would bow down before us, “he stated. “Damn Skippy.” was my reply. “Who do we bow down to, my good man?” That I said in my best English accent. Denys responded in kind, “Us? Why no one my good sir.”
A few moments later we were both on our knees before royalty chanting in unison. ” WE’RE NOT WORTHY.”
That is a true story.
All of the above happened except for the bowed heads savior talk whispered comments GQ model reference English accent etc. Denys was in Armani, I did wear Boss. I was giving him a tour of the new Motown offices he was starting work at Motown.
Who among you believe the part about being on our knees before royalty chanting in unison? WE’RE NOT WORTHY?
Y’all think Denys Cowan perhaps the most underrated yet still influential person to ever grace comics and Michael Davis may be the most undervalued personality in comics would bow down to anyone?
The rest of this narrative I assure you is all true…
Denys and I settled outside the executive suite studying some Al Hirschfeld originals. Motown has fantastic work from renowned visual as well as recording artists on their walls.
After a moment, we decided to say hello to our bosses— Jherl Busby, then Motown’s President and CEO and Clarence Avant, Motown’s Chairman at the time. Their offices were next to each other, and if we were lucky, we’d be granted an audience.
This is the real world, you don’t just walk into the offices of two of the most powerful men in entertainment no matter what you see on TV. We were met by Charisse Browner and Tomica Woods— guardians of the gate so to speak.
“Clarence isn’t in, and Jherl is with somebody,” Charisse said. Jherl’s door was open, and we could see the back of someone talking to him but couldn’t make out who.
Tomica chimed in with, “I’ll check back with you later after I put you on their schedules” That was that. Denys and I were leaving when I happen to glance again in Jherl’s office, the man talking to Jherl’s had turned I could see him clearly now.
I tapped Denys on the shoulder and nodded towards the figure. When Denys saw who it was, he both looked at each other and knew what we must do, in doing so we would risk our lives.
Trying to get past one BLACK WOMAN you risk bodily injury we had to get past two. This was over 20 years ago— today Charise runs a serious media business, and Tomica runs Ruthless Records.
Y’all get that? RUTHLESS RECORDS.
The ladies sensed something was up by the stupid way Denys and I were eyeing Jherl’s guest. Before they could act, we bolted from our spot just beating Tomica into the office.
“WE’RE NOT WORTHY.” “WE’RE NOT WORTHY.” We shouted kneeling in front of one of the greatest filmmakers who ever yelled “CUT!”
Mr. BILL DUKE.
I did write “Y’all tripping” when I asked who believed Denys and I would do that, I NEVER said we didn’t. Hell yeah, we did. We did because we knew then just how badass Mr. Duke is.
Most know Mr. Duke as a powerful actor, and he is that.
Starting with Car Wash where he portrayed fierce young Black Muslim revolutionary Abdullah Mohammed Akbar (formerly known as Duane). His acting work has graced American Gigolo, Commando, Predator, followed by Action Jackson, The Limey, Exit Wounds, Menace II Society, Bird on a Wire, Payback, X-Men: The Last Stand, National Security, Get Rich or Die Trying, Bad Country, and Mandy.
Many know the films he’s directed— The Killing Floor, A Rage in Harlem, Deep Cover, Hoodlum, The Cemetery Club, and Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. Those are just off the top of my head, there’s many more, among them his A&E Network original film, The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery. In 2007 he directed the reenactments in the award-winning, PBS-broadcast documentary Prince Among Slaves produced by Unity Productions Foundation.
Mr. Duke is a serious part of Pop Culture— I’m glad to say even if the general public isn’t aware of that, comic book fans are. Mr. Duke is the only person the Black Panel (TBP) at San Diego Comic-Con International has ever devoted an entire segment too.
That’s a big deal not as big as being nominated for the Palme d’Or France’s film honor, but a big deal nevertheless.
Ask the Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2014/jul/28/comic-con-black-panel-african-american-culture
There was quite a buzz at Comic-Con when Bill, (who couldn’t walk 6 feet before a fan stopped him) appeared on TBP. Comic book and fans of pop culture have great respect for Mr. Duke and know all his work well.
Most can’t name another well-known actor who’s acting work is as well-known as his directing effort. That’s part of why I love comic fans. We know our stuff.
If you want to know the influence of Mr. Duke among comic fans, ask any fan who delivered the line “You done f***d up, you know that don’t you?” They will know who. The general public may not know the man, but they know the line.
In my opinion, Mr. Duke’s pop culture star is brightest when you watch his groundbreaking films Dark Girls and Deep Cover and read his remarkable book Bill Duke: My 40-Year Career on Screen and behind the Camera.
This makes the casting of Mr. Duke as Agent Percy Odell in Black Lightning a genius move by the CW. That shows respect for Tony Isabella’s creation, respect for comic books and most importantly respect for fans of comics.
I’m often critical of how Hollywood treats comic book content, and its creators. Perhaps I should amend that to say Hollywood movie studios treat comics like crap because TV studios seem to do it right. That awareness makes me believe only the sheer stupidly of DC Comics keeps Static (Shock) off the air.
DC Comics: “You done f***d up, you know that don’t you?”
Note: Those of you who follow my writing know I don’t edit swearing, although I face a constant roar of those, who say I should clean up my act. I tried to defend it by pointing to writers who also use profanity and why it’s relevant in their work and mine still, the chants endure. Now I tell those who seek to PC my work to kiss my Simon and Schuster imprint.
No doubt you’ve noticed the *** instead of the word. Before anyone gets very happy (or sad), I edited my words on the off-chance Mr. Duke will read this. He doesn’t much care for profanity unless the conversation story or narrative clearly calls for it.
I can’t debate that because like I said: when it comes to Mr. Duke, I’m still not worthy.