Author: Michael Davis

Michael Davis: Viva La France

I’m in Paris.

I’ve been here for a week and I must say it’s quite the experience. I’m on record as having said I hate the French so this is quite interesting. Allow me a moment to explain where that ‘hate’ sentiment came from…

About, maybe, 20 years ago I was at DC comics delivering some work. I was in the lobby having a running conversation with Clark Kent and using the free phone that sat next to Clark to call just about anyone and everyone I wanted to talk to at the time.

Mostly I would just call girls trying to impress them with the fact I was calling them from DC Comics where I hanging with Clark while I waited to have my important meeting with an editor who was just crazy about my work. It never really dawned on me until much later that unless you want to be in the comic book business or you are a fan of comics, no one and I mean no one is impressed with anyone who works in the comic book industry.

In my youth, let’s see 20 years ago I was five, I just assumed that everybody thought the comic book business was the place to be and the world was impressed with my being involved in it.

That is about as true as my Jewish heritage.

For the most part the industry was looked upon as a place where grown ups waste their hard earned degrees in art or literature drawing or writing ‘funny books.’

If you wanted respect in regards to your comic career that respect could only be found at a few places such as comic conventions, comic book stores, art schools or on movie lines waiting to see films like Star Wars or Raiders Of the Lost Ark.

I’d heard back then that in France and Japan comics were truly looked upon as a respected form of art. The only real and true American art forms are Rock and Roll (thank black people for that) jazz (ditto), the musical and comics. I admit not knowing who is responsible for the musical but I suspect that came from an enlightened white person, but for comics you can thank Jewish Americans.

But, (Peter, next SDCC dinner is on me) I digress. So, as to the reason I started to hate the French…

As I was hanging with Clark and and running up DC’S phone bill I began to hear a fairly loud yet strange sounding voice, not strange as in I did not recognize the person (I didn’t) strange as in foreign.

Trust me, I know a bit about being loud but the loudness in this voice had a pleasing tone to it so I was intrigued as to the origin. The speaker was a French artist and he was talking to another French guy…in French.

They were having a grand time, talking in French and laughing really hard. When they paused a bit one of them turned to me and asked (in English) where the subway was. I told them then I asked what was so funny.

When I asked that, they looked at each other and started to crack up again.

Finally the guy who asked for directions said “Your American comics are light years behind where we are in France with our books.”

Oh, no, he didn’t.

“What,” I began in a slow and measured voice, giving him the benefit of the doubt that what he said was not what I heard, I mean he was speaking in a foreign tongue, “do you mean?”

Well, what he meant was what he said, which was in effect that American comic books sucked. Then he proceeded to tell me that America sucked also on a few fronts.

This motherfucker…

I let him finish then I reminded him ever so softly with respect in my tone that America created the comic book and America had the best writers and artists in the world…

You know, I remember exactly what I said (because I keep a journal) so I’ll just recount that…

“You are out of your pussy French mind! We created the comic book, we have the best goddamn artists and writers on the planet! You know how I know that? Nobody is making movies and TV shows out of your bullshit content motherfucker! As far as America’s standing in the world I remind you it was us that saved your butt when the Germans were peeing all over your punk ass, bitch!”

I had a bit more to say but it just so happened that Jenette Kahn walked in and invited me to her office… in other words she stopped me from bitch slapping that asshole and/or embarrassing myself further with my all too loud tirade.

So, that is the reason that I’ve hated the French all these years. That one incident tainted my judgment for decades. Over the last few years I’ve come to realize that a lot of my thought process was wrong, I’ve admitted that I’ve been an asshole on many subjects. The one thing I’ve never let go no matter how silly it was for me to hold on to was my hated of the French.

That moment in time with that pussy at DC really made me madder than most things had before or since. If you really know me or read my rants on Michael Davis World (plug!) you know that, that’s some kind of mad!

I was wrong.

I was dead wrong.

The French are decent people and as far as comics go they respect the medium like the art form it is. To this day in America the mainstream does not give the kind of respect to the comic industry that we deserve. Yes, it has gotten much better but still “I work in comics” will most likely get you little respect, if any, and may get you ridiculed or worse.

Not here in Paris.

Every bookstore not only has a huge comic book section, but every bookstore also displays comics in their windows. I’ve never seen the latter in the states. I’m talking real bookstores, not comic book stores.

Now. About their comic book stores…W O W!!The comic book stores here in France are off the freakin’ chain!

That means “incredible” to those of you that don’t know any black people.

I was asked for an autograph in a Paris comic book store. I thought the person asking thought I was someone else but no…

“ I think you are mistaking me for someone else.”

“‘Michael Davis? Milestone, oui? Etc., oui?”

Hell yeah, you French hottie you!!!!

No, I didn’t answer her like that but she was hot.

So, I was wrong and I was stupid not to see it before I came here. I’ll be here another week working on a project and before I leave I’m going to make it a point to talk to as many French people I can about comics. I also have another reason to now love the French they all seem to adore Obama.

I’m not kidding. They love that guy and hate Mitt.

Lastly, if by chance the French artist I met at DC all those years ago is reading this I’d like to say that you were right about one thing. The French are light years ahead of America when it comes to respecting the medium.

That said, you can still kiss my ass.

You don’t come in our backyard and talk shit about us no matter how cool your people may be.

U.S.A, motherfucker, U.S.A.!!

BTW, I was not kidding about sitting next to Clark Kent at DC. There was a life sized stature of old Clark sitting in the reception area and I’d sit there and make free phone calls. Those were the good old days…

WEDNESDAY: Gold… Mike Gold. A.K.A. Doctor Know

 

Michael Davis: Visible Only To The French

Hi, there. I’m not Michael Davis. I’m his editor. Yeah, that’s not a good sign, is it?

Here’s the deal. Michael wrote the first part of his latest life-shattering saga Why Does Michael Davis Still Read Comics? We ran that last week; if you doubt me, click on the link. Then, according to Michael, he wrote the second part, scooped up his wife, and caught an airplane to France. That’s pretty cool, if you happen to like France. Evidently, Michael doesn’t. He doesn’t like flying even more. He likes his wife, and I suspect he likes the work he’s doing out there, and he probably changed his mind — in part — about France after some good old-fashioned American tourism. 

Please note, I did not say “Michael sent me the second part of his series and then caught an airplane to France.”  This is because he didn’t do that. Michael said apologetically he was in such a rush he forgot. This is entirely possible. It’s a human thing. We all do it. Unfortunately, one of the things I do is mock my friends given any opportunity, which is why I will no doubt be found floating face down in that dirty ol’ river next to Patches some day. But, to quote Michael when he rips off Peter David, I digress.

(By the way, did you know that Peter David’s last name is really Davis and he is Michael’s father? There’s a reason that story doesn’t get out much.)

Here’s the thing. The last line of Michael’s column reads “End of part one!” It does not say “continued next week.” Hmmmm… Makes me wonder. 

Anyway, Michael told me he’s having a lousy time, possibly so I wouldn’t get jealous. He says the bacon sucks, and I believe that part. Did you know that in France, French bacon is called liberté de bacon? Go know!

Since Michael is over there and not over here and evidently there’s a law against him contacting his assistant and having her e-mail me the missing column (it’s amazing what technology can do these days), Michael says he will probably go to a French comic book store and write up his experience there for next week. We’ll see. Personally, I’m doing a Kickstarter to raise his bail. 

Love you, pal. Enjoy your trip.

In spite of yourself.

WEDNESDAY: Mike Gold Gets Serious

 

Why Does Michael Davis Still Read Comics?

I started reading comics in the fifth grade. I still have the very first comic book I ever brought: The Avengers #43. I won’t bore you with the heartwarming story of how I pretty much learned to read with comics. I’ve told that story a billion times and I’m sure (although I can’t remember) I’ve written about it on ComicMix so just assume I clued you in, dry your eyes and say a silent “thank you for the heartwarming story Michael Davis shared with me” and move on.

Oh, if you find the article I’m pretty sure the issue number of the Avengers is wrong. When I looked at the issue I was surprised it was issue 43. All this time I was thinking it was later…

I was a serious comic book collector in grade school and by the time I got into high school I had over 100,000 comic books, including the complete silver age of Marvel and almost a complete silver age DC Comics collection. DC was (and is) my favorite universe but I couldn’t bring myself to go all out for copies of Bob Hope, Lois Lane and some of the other DC comics, which in my 10-year-old wisdom I considered kid stuf’.

I was a lucky so and so when it came to my comic book collection. Not once, not twice but three times I was the lucky benefactor of someone else’s collection. Three times when I was a kid someone in my life gave me his or her comic book collection. I got one collection from a cousin who had grown out of it. I got another from an 8th grade friend named Karl McKenzie. Karl was moving and his father refused to take those ghetto trash books to his new home.

It occurred to me later that Karl’s dad was moving from the hood to a nicer (white people lived on the block) place and no son of his was going to be reading that ghetto trash among white people who read Look and Life magazines.

The funny thing about that was I saw Karl about a year later and he told me one of his new friends on the block was a huge comic book fan as was the kid’s dad. Karl told me that his dad now thought that comics were cool.

Clearly this was an attempt on Karl’s part to get me to return his collection.

Nope. The chances of that happening was, lets see… zero.

I think the word back then was “Indian giver.” I may or may not have called Karl that; I don’t remember. I do remember regardless how I thought Karl was going about it, he was not getting back book one. If his grandmother was dying and the only thing that would have saved her was a couple of books from the collection it surely would have been bye, bye, Grandma.

The third comic book collection I inherited was from a then girlfriend’s mom whose husband collected comics but one day the mom decided she didn’t want them in the house anymore. Guess who volunteered to lift that heavy burden from her shoulders?

My comic book collection was so badass that a local newspaper ran a story on me when I was about 14.

I loved comics and collected like an addict up until my first year at Pratt Institute.

My first year at Pratt pretty much killed my desire to read comics.  I had attended the High School of Art & Design (A&D) before Pratt and when asked what I wanted to major in I had to choose between comics and illustration. My cousin, William T. Williams, had a long talk with me about my major would be at A&D. He said to me at the end of our talk the following; “If you choose comics as a major you will stave and die.”

My cousin was my mentor and the only real father figure I’ve ever had in my life so I listened to him. I kid him about the success of Milestone and all the other comic related things I’ve done but I’ve never ever regretted that decision to major in illustration and not comics.

FYI, my cousin is not just a relative who gave me good advice, he’s also one of the premier artists on this planet and one of his paintings cost more than my house and I have a nice house… in a white neighborhood!!

That is not a joke.

So with little fanfare I left my comic collection and my desire to become a comic book artist behind. I still collected a bit in high school but by the time I got to Pratt, I was completely comic book free.

For four years of undergraduate at Pratt and two years of graduate work at another school I didn’t pick up nor was I interested in comic books. That’s six years without giving a thought to what was going on in comics and even less thought about what was going on in the industry.

Then one day like a sign from above I was back…

End of part one!

WEDNESDAY: Mike Gold Attacks Mars Attacks! Still!

 

Michael Davis: A&D

A&D is the way my fellow classmates refer to the high school we attended, The High School of Art and Design in New York City. A&D is without a doubt the greatest high school on earth.

Really.

I know for a fact that my high school is the greatest high school in the history of the world. If you went there, you would think so also. Oh, before I forget, fuck the High School of Music and Art. They were our rivals as were those mofos from the High School of Performing Arts as well as the High School of Fashion industries can all kiss my ass.

School pride… yeahhhhhh!

All of the high schools I’ve mentioned are in New York City. None of them are as good as A&D but clearly they have something to offer. All of the schools I’ve mentioned are magnet schools for the arts. Remember that movie Fame?

Fame was the story of the High School of Performing Arts, or as they referred to it in the film, P.A. I have to admit I really liked the film but P.A. can still kiss my ass.

School pride… yeahhhhhh!

I won’t bore you with the list of bad ass comic book and other artists that graduated from A&D but it’s as impressive as shit. Check out this link if you care to know just how A&D rolls.

I’m not writing this just to brag about A&D and put down our rivals, I’m writing this because the arts in this country are under serious attack. The GOP is threatening to pull funding from art programs like the National Endowment Of the Arts and the first thing cut in any high school budget are the music and art programs.

What kind of goddamn country would this be without art? What kind of comics will there be in a generation if comic artists don’t have places like A&D to attend? Like I said, all of the high schools I mentioned are in New York City.

New York leads the world in the arts. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

America needs and quite frankly wants the arts. The mega popular show, America’s Got Talent, had two – that’s two – artists in the finals.

If the comic book and related industries just turn a blind eye to the assault on the arts then we will get what we deserve. That’s work that sucks and leads to a continuing declining fan base and the death of comics.

Lastly, I’m sure you know I did not mean all the rude things I said about the rivals of A&D. They are great schools and I have nothing but respect for them. In case anyone is wondering I did my undergrad work at The Pratt Institute and I’d just like to say, fuck Cooper Union, the School of Visual Arts, Parsons and a special fuck you to Art Center.

School pride… yeahhhhhh!

WEDNESDAY: Mike Gold and Archie’s Sex Change

 

Michael Davis: Don’t Mess With Bill

Michael Davis: Don’t Mess With Bill

No, no no, no…. That’s the title of a very famous song by the Marvelettes. You may be too young to know it by just the title, but I’m pretty sure if you heard it you would recognize it. If you or your parents own any greatest hits albums by Motown then this song is bound to be on there.

If you are really young and a geek fan boy (as am I) let me save you some time. Don’t bother goggling the Marvelettes. They were a singing group, not an all girl or gay men superhero group from Marvel. Now that I think of it, that could work…

But (Peter, I swear I’m writing you a check) I digress.

After the great speech Bill Clinton gave at the Democratic National Convention, “Don’t mess with Bill” could easily have been the heading of a piece about Clinton. Alas, as hard as I tried I could not think of any way to weave a comic book narrative from his speech. Well, I could but that would have meant I’d have to be clever and after the week I’ve had clever would be pushing it.

Trust me, you don’t want to know.

The Bill I’m talking about is my dear friend for over 20 years (since I was five, Jean) Bill Sienkiewicz.

I met Bill when he was doing Moon Knight. I was not a fan; I thought he was one of a long line of artists who were doing their best to copy Neal Adams.  We met at Marvel Comics one day when he was bringing in pages. I think it was Denys Cowan who introduced us and Bill showed me some of his work. I remember thinking two things. The first was the comic book reproductions did not do his work justice. His originals were far and away much better to look at. The second thing I remembered is, yes, his work looked a lot like Neal Adams but that look was just surface deep. There was uniqueness to his work that was all Bill.

After that meeting I went and brought all the back issues of Moon Knight I could and, yeah, by “bought” that means I asked one of my contacts from Marvel to hook me up. Yeah, I got them free, but I would have paid if I had too.

The next time I saw Bill at Marvel he was delivering a painting. It was a New Mutant cover all I could think is; “Shit, this motherfucker can paint also!”

Yeah, I was a bitter bastard. Age and good living has mellowed me, and by mellow I mean “tequila.”

Bill and I had a cordial if not friendly relationship… until one day at some industry event we started talking about illustration. That’s when we clicked. Bill was not a comic book artist who wanted to be an illustrator Bill was an illustrator who was doing comics.

That’s common in the industry now. What people seem to forget is that Bill started that trend. I say without hesitation Bill Sienkiewicz’s art changed the way comic art was done and if not for Bill and his pioneering bad ass work the industry may look different today.

For my money Bill is the artist/illustrator who paved the way for comics to have the depth and artistic reach they have today. Yes there have been comic artists that have painted covers or done innovative designs within the story lines but Bill’s cover work and later his graphic novels elevated the art form to another level. Unlike those who may have dabbled in comics as mainstream illustration up to that point what Bill was doing stuck and spread.

Andy Helfer was a big time editor at DC in the 80s. Denys introduced me to Andy and I showed Andy my painting portfolio.

Andy looked at my work and said “You could be our Bill Sienkiewicz.” Andy was not saying that because my worked looked like Bill’s ­– it didn’t – he was saying it because the kind of work Bill was doing over at Marvel was in a class by its self. That was said by one of comics leading editors working at one of the two biggest comic book publishers during the second silver age of comics.

That’s like giving props to John, Paul, George and Ringo before they became the Beatles. Andy saw clearly that Bill was changing the industry.

I look at all the new talent and groundbreaking work being done today and often think, yeah, that’s nice but Sienkiewicz did that shit 20 years ago.

As with anyone, if you are so good for so long some people tend to not really acknowledge you as you should be acknowledged. And when I say some people I mean young stupid artists. Some people even resent your success if you are the best at what you do and have been doing it for a while. Case in point: people don’t just dislike the Yankees, they hate the Yankees.

I’ve have not run into any people who hate Bill but at this year’s Comic Con I did hear this young artist dismiss Bill’s work and even say “He’s no Alex Ross.”  True. But with all due respect to Alex, if there was no Bill Sienkiewicz there may have been no Alex Ross.

I took a moment to look at the artist’s work and told him he was neither Alex Ross nor Bill Sienkiewicz and talk is cheap, like the portfolio his work was in. I was a bit harsh, but in my defense I was out of tequila…

There really should be an admissions policy to get into artist’s alley. I mean…ugh.

Take a moment to reflect on the immortal words of Dr. Dre…

Nowadays everybody wanna talk like they got something to say

But nothin comes out when they move their lips Just a buncha gibberish

And muthafuckas act like they forgot about Dre…

People forget that Bill changed the game. And he is still changing it.

Bill is one of the greatest artists who have ever worked in comics. I don’t say that because he’s like family to me. I say that because it’s true.

Bill, if you are reading this (and I know you will be because I’m posting it on your Facebook page) if I told you this every day for a year it still would not be enough. You, my friend are a true living legend and I’m proud to be your friend.

But…the next time I give a party at Comic Con and your ass doesn’t show up I’m posting those photos (you know those photos) on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the Society of Illustrators website.

WEDNESDAY: Mike Gold Gushes Poetown and Teases An Announcement

 

Michael Davis: Be Careful What You Wish For… If You Suck

Ever see a movie or read a comic book that just sucked? Ever wonder how that god-awful piece of shit came to see the light of day?

I have. Not only have I wondered how something so terrible can get made, I’ve done stuff and wondered how in the hell I managed to pull it off something so bad and someone paid me for it.

I vowed never to make that mistake again, which is why all my current projects are at least two years in the making. I just signed a deal to write another novel and my first novel has yet to come out. I could write any book in three months but I’m smart enough (now) to take the long road when it comes to content. My latest book deal calls for me to deliver the first draft in a year. Do I need a year? Nope. Will I take the year? Yep.

I’ve learned the hard way that just because you can do a thing in five minutes does not mean you should do that thing in five minutes. Ask any woman, if you get my drift.

Some creative people do as much as they can as fast as they can for a variety of reasons, chief among those reasons, particularly for new creators, is money.

Money is the reason, in my humble opinion, that some new creative people find themselves with a wonderful opportunity and completely fuck it up. Case in point…

Some time ago someone called and told me of the sweetheart deal he had made with a major entertainment company. Frankly I was very surprised because the idea (in my opinion) was just horrible and all the work this person had done that I knew of was just not professional enough to warrant the sort of deal he was talking about. But what do I know?

I have no right what so ever to judge what anyone creates or what some company wants to pay for. My opinion as to what is published or made into a TV show or movie means nothing except to me in reality.

But… as a person who is in the position of green lighting projects for the various production and publishing companies, my opinion matters if you bring something to me. Even then I may not the final decision maker depending on the type of deal I’m in with what company. All that said, the project I’m talking about I would not pitch to anyone I have a relationship with. Besides, the person who has the project somehow secured a deal with a major player and they don’t need me anyhow.

The way the project is being handled it’s only a matter of time before the company writing the check will either pull funding or replace the creator who brought it to them. The project is ripe with production problems and personalities that will cause the funding company to bail or take away all the decision making from the creator who sold his rights to the funding company.

Why has this not happened already? Because the company writing the checks is new to the comic book business and they don’t know what’s bullshit and what’s not. But no one can keep up a smoke and mirror con job forever, eventually someone in the funding company will not give a fuck about the potential of the idea. They will start to wonder why the creator and his team have missed every deadline and call someone outside of the creator’s team to see what the fuck is up.

Sensing he was in trouble, the creator called me and asked me to be involved. I listened to the pitch because the company they had the deal with is huge. After the pitch I took a meeting with the team putting it together and realized that these guys were way out of their league. I explained to them where I saw real problems and cautioned them that the funding company would eventually see the same problems as I and grasp that the business plan and projections the creator and his team presented were unattainable at best and just bullshit at worst.

My comments were met with scorn and disbelief. Who was I to criticize them? They were the people with the deal. They were the people who were now in business with a major entertainment company. Who was I to rain on their parade?

I was the guy the entertainment company called a few weeks later and asked to take over the project.

I declined. It’s just too much trouble, I don’t have the time and working with the creator whose days are numbered would be a nightmare.

This really is a dream project for the creator and rather he listened to me or not I do so wish it works out. I hope that the funding company does not get to a point of no return and decide because they already spent X amount of money they have to publish to recoup at least some of that money back.

That, by the way, is one of the reasons you see shitty product in the entertainment marketplace. Corporate decides that although the product is shit someone will buy it and instead of losing one million dollars they lose nine hundred thousand.

I hope I’m wrong and as bad as the project is it does gang busters in sales. I hope if that happens and the creator is still involved with the project he will count his blessings and not make the same mistakes again.

I also hope for a threesome with Salma Hayek and Angelina Jolie while Jennifer Lopez makes me a egg sandwich and Kim Kardashian feeds it to me. I think that has a better chance of happening.

WEDNESDAY: Mike Gold Takes On The Fish… Again

 

 

Michael Davis: Milestones – African Americans In Comics, Pop Culture And Beyond, Part 3

Please read parts one and two before this installment.

The Comics Code Authority (CCA) tried its best to stop EC from publishing a particularly offensive (to them) comic book. The book they were trying to stop was Weird Fantasy #18 (April 1953); the story was called “Judgment Day.”

What was objected to was not a gory scene of a space monster under orders from a criminal ripping to pieces an earth girl who, clad in scant bra and panties, was an obvious sexual tease for 50s era yikoung boys.

What was objected to was the main character, an astronaut, was revealed on the last page in the last panel to be a black man. Wow, who knew that the Tea Party was alive and well in 1953 under the name Comics Code Authority?

Why am I surprised at this? The GOP thinks that a woman can’t get pregnant and everyone knows that’s science fiction but (sorry Peter) I digress…

The CCA demanded the story removed or the last panel changed to a white boy. ECs editor William Gaines, the publisher of Weird Fantasy, responded to that demand with “Fuck you.”

Three years later, Gaines reprinted the story in the final issue (#33) of Incredible Science Fiction.

William Gaines was gangsta.

Like Branch Rickey, the man who brought Jackie Robinson to professional baseball, William Gaines was a civil rights pioneer. Both were white men and although Gaines rarely gets any kudos for his civil rights stance, certainly not the way Rickey is remembered.

That shot fired in 1956 started a war in the comic book industry over black story lines, black characters and black creators and that war continues today. A war not nearly as difficult as it was in 1956 but a war nevertheless.

1956 meet 1993 meet 2012…

In 1993 Denys Cowan, Dwayne McDuffie, Derek T. Dingle, Christopher Priest and myself founded Milestone Media.

Milestone was a worldwide phenomenon making history with its ground breaking deal with DC Comics. At the time the deal with DC was the biggest joint venture deal ever done in comics.

The deal was not the reason Milestone was heralded. Milestone was rocketed in front of the public because the founders were four African American men. We were four because Christopher Priest left the company before Milestone published.

In the almost 20 years since Milestone came on the scene the company is still thought of as the penultimate African American comic book company.

That’s good.

That’s bad.

It’s good because Milestone accomplished something that was a long time coming. Milestone put black content on the map. Black creators, black characters and black story lines were propelled to the forefront of the American comic industry. Never before in comics long history has African American content captured the imagination of fans, retailers and the press.

It’s bad because Milestone is almost 20 years old and still the penultimate African American moment in comics. As a founder of Milestone that gladdens me as an African American creator it also saddens me.

Where is the next wave?

Within the African American comics’ community there exists splits’ that mainstream comic book readers for the most part are not aware of. Among most black creators Milestone is respected, but there are some young black creators who see Milestone as sellouts, Uncle Toms or worse. Some in the black comic book community have gone so far as to brand Milestone, House Niggers when discussing our groundbreaking deal with DC Comics.

This is the state of the very real divide within the black comics community.

There is a thriving independent group of young black creators who are doing bold and wonderful work. They publish with small indie houses or they self-publish. The stories they are creating are mostly Afro-centric, mostly positive but there are some which are anti-establishment, a.k.a. anti-white.

On the flip side of that there is a contingent of black creators who reject all other forms of publishing unless a major publisher publishes them and by major publisher I mean the two big boys, Marvel and DC. Lastly there are those black creators who would not publish with Marvel or DC if their lives depended on it, seeing both companies as comic’s answer to plantations.

With all the seemingly inexhaustible black talent out there I ask again…

Where’s the next wave?

Why is a new black anything (comic, creator, character) at Marvel or DC still seen as a breakthrough 20 years after Milestone and 58 years after Judgment Day?

Case in point, Marvel’s new half black, half Latino Spider-Man. That was a huge story, which captivated numerous news cycles. The recent cancellation of DC Comics’ New 52 Static Shock after only six issues sent shock waves (pun intended) throughout the industry.

The outcry from fans on the net went from, oh no Static was cancelled to Static was cancelled because he was black.

Here’s what Denys Cowan and I, co-creators of Static Shock and both black creators think, Static was cancelled because this hit, cool, teenage hero was fighting a giant fish.

Up until now there has been no serious attempt to showcase African Americans and the creative excellence, which has been a mainstay of the industry for as long as comics have been an American art form. Unfortunately at the beginning of the American comic book business, African Americans were depicted most often as horrible stereotypes.

I’ve seen that movie; Milestones: African Americans In Comics, Pop Culture And Beyond will not be that kind of show. 

Yes, there will me a nod or two to the depiction of those sad and hurtful images. However, this show will be about the vast talent and wonderful innovation that came from or were influenced by African Americans.

From the faceless contributions of those like William Gaines almost 60 years ago to the constant search for African American talent by Mike Richardson to the acknowledgement of contributions by people like Jenette Kahn, Marv Wolfman, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby this show will embrace the totality which is black comics.

Make no mistake; the overwhelming focus will be on black creators and their art. But let’s face it there would have been no Static Shock without the Black Panther.

It’s my hope that the show will feature not just the work of mainstream black creators but also work from those who consider themselves outside the mainstream as well as those who want nothing to do with the mainstream. I’d like the major comic book companies like Marvel, DC and Dark Horse to have sections devoted to them and their efforts to level the racial playing field but also let’s learn from the mistakes they made.

Independent and new companies will be invited to participate as long as the work from that company is quality. Let’s face it; some independent publishers simply suck.

I don’t care if you are the son of Malcolm X. If your work sucks you will not be represented in the show and I’ll keep you out by any means necessary.

Damn, I’m witty!

Writers from within and outside the comics industry will be called upon to write essays and reflections on the fight for acceptance and the triumph of arriving and exceeding expectations.

In America it’s no secret that African American culture is pop culture so it’s my objective to showcase that. I may fail, I may not be the guy that should have been chosen for this wonderful event but from the bottom of my heart I swear I will do the best I can.

If I fail, it’s my fault…and the Tea Parties…what?

WEDNESDAY: Mike Gold, Passion and Wonder

 

Michael Davis: Milestones – African Americans in Comics, Pop Culture and Beyond, Part 2

Please see last’s week part one.

Although closeted in the interim report of the 1954 comic book hearings, race was not an issue that America really wanted to deal with and perhaps that above all is why race had been given little more than a nod in the hearing.

Race was however one of the major reasons that 2.5 million black Americans registered for the draft between 1941-45. Hoping that by helping their country win the war the United States would at last make the “Four Freedoms” a real part of their lives and not something they had to aspire too. Freedom of speech and religion, freedom from want and fear were offered to every American by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in one of the greatest speeches in the history of the United States of America.

Black people were well aware that those freedoms were not being offered to us, not without some serious mind changing by many in the country. Enlisting and fighting in World War II was going to change those minds that at least what a great many black people believed or wanted to believe. During WW II Japanese propaganda ridiculed America’s so called great society by pointing out the hypocrisy that existed therein. They pointed to the exclusion of black players from baseball, the national past time, as proof of that hypocrisy.

And they were right.

The great society that was America where “all man are created equal” and where “land of the free, home of the brave” originated was anything but to black people in the United States. Other American ideals such as opportunity, rights, liberty, democracy and equality were a rallying cry from America to the world. Baseball has been the national pastime almost since the first ball was thrown out at the first game. Nothing says America like Baseball.

Japan’s propaganda aside, WW II saw the best of America. The war produced many heroes and many more books and films based on those heroes which trilled the American public.

During World War II there were plenty of black heroes, but even today those heroes are slow to be recognized. As late as 1993 there were no black Medal of Honor recipients. That was rectified in 1997 when Bill Clinton awarded the medal to seven African American World War II veterans. This only after an Army commissioned study that showed clear racial discrimination in the awarding of medals.

Perhaps with an acknowledged black hero from the war the civil rights struggle would have been given the push that could have garnered patriotic pride in the county. That push may have given way to needed awareness that blacks were just as American as the next guy. Unfortunately, the war was not to be the event that would level the playing field for black people.

Perhaps the playing field needed to be an actual field.

Baseball had that black hero that would be recognized. Hell, he had no choice but to be recognized. He was the only black man playing in the major leagues.

That hero would be Jackie Robinson and 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of Jackie’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Jackie Robinson was the first black player to play professional baseball.

Wrong. If you believed Jackie Robinson was the first black player to play professional baseball, and after Robinson it was easy for blacks in the majors, then you are in for a bit of a surprise.

In 1867, just two years after the end of the Civil War, organized baseball made its first attempt to ban blacks. The National Association of Baseball Players refused to allow an all black team from Philadelphia to join the league.

In what was the brave new world of Post Civil War America it’s puzzling (at least it is in retrospect) that the great state of Pennsylvania where the railroad system, iron and steel industry, and its vast agricultural wealth contributed greatly in the North’s victory did not protest this snub.

Maybe, now that I think of it, it’s not so puzzling after all since there are currently some funny voter restrictions going on in the once great state of Pennsylvania. But (Peter, I love you dude) I digress…

Bud Flower is the first known professional black baseball player. He played on an integrated team in 1878. During the next twenty-five years, more than 50 blacks managed to play on white teams and John ‘Bud’ Fowler was the first when he joined a white professional team in New Castle, Pennsylvania in 1878.

Being able to “play” was clearly a double edge sword.

Making a living as a black man playing a game must have surly been a dream come true in an era when having a career and not just a job was a dream realized by very few in the days following the Civil War. To many, having any income and not just trying to live off the land was a godsend.

However, post Civil War America after blacks were freed was anything but the Promised Land that blacks thought it would be.

In the south, lynching black people was not only a possibility but in some areas it was an assurance. Blacks had little to protect themselves with while playing a game that was ripe with racism and danger for most if not all of them. Some players made it a habit to carry a bible as a way to comfort them. It’s not known if Bud carried a bible, however, what is known is Bud is credited with inventing the first shin guards. White players were spiking him so often that he began to tape pieces of wood to his legs to protect himself.

Religion to many African American slaves was sometimes the only saving grace that could be embraced with little fear of outrage from their masters, when freed, African Americans continued to embrace their faith for the strength they would need facing Jim Crow America.

Upon his entrance to the game many blacks considered Jackie Robinson a savior of sorts. Jackie’s arrival on the world stage, lifting them out of the bondage of separate but clearly unequal treatment at least in baseball.

Jackie Robinson was the first black player in the modern age. The end of the golden age of radio and the advent of the age of television helped usher in this ebony knight in shining armor. Much like the early days of baseball, an African American making a living in the beginning of the comic book or related industries would have been a dream come true.

What, pry tell does this have to do with comics?

This…

Baseball, with its barriers to entries, talent, skill and perseverance to name but a few mirrored the comic book business regarding race. Baseball has moved on and so has comics but there still exists a great many who think those obstacles are still in full effect for blacks in comics.

America during the 50s and Jackie Robinson’s story is a perfect parallel for African Americans in the comic book industry even today.

Too many fans of the great American pastime there was nothing more offensive than a Negro ball player. When Jackie broke the color barrier in 1947 there were organized revolts around the country as well as within baseball. By 1954 Jackie had pretty much won over baseball fans and a great many Americans. In spite of the fact that victory was being waged and won on the baseball field, African Americans were still fighting on many other fronts.

Some of those battles were public, a great many more private and some in utter secretly.

Like Jackie Robinson and his journey but deep in the background so far off the radar of anyone black or white was the battle over blacks in comic books. Utter secretly may even be an understatement. It’s safe to say that in 1954 people concerned about civil rights be they black or white were not giving any thought to comic books as a tool for social change.

Except there were a few people in comics who were fighting the very fight that Branch Rickey had fought for Jackie Robinson. At the forefront of that battle in 1956 was the two-year old Comics Code Authority on one side and EC Comics on the other.

The Code tried its best to stop EC from publishing a particularly offensive (to them) comic book. The book they were trying to stop was an issue of Incredible Science Fiction the story was called “Judgment Day.”

What was objected to was not a gory scene of a space monster under orders from a criminal ripping to pieces an earth girl who, clad in scant bra and panties was an obvious sexual tease for young 50s era boys.

What was objected to was the main character, an astronaut, was revealed on the last page in the last panel to be a black man.

Perhaps they wanted to see his birth certificate…

End Part 2. Continued next week.

WEDNESDAY: Mike Gold, Doctor Who, and What?

 

Michael Davis: Milestones – African Americans in Comics, Pop Culture and Beyond,  Part 1

Michael Davis: Milestones – African Americans in Comics, Pop Culture and Beyond, Part 1

Starting in February 2013 I will have the honor of curating what I hope will be a wonderful exhibit of African American comic art and related pop culture. The show will run for a year at the Geppi Entertainment Museum and the Reginald Lewis African American Museum. I’m at a lost for words for just how proud and overwhelmed I am for being asked.

Helping me with the show will be many people and chief upon them will be Tatiana El-Khouri, John Jennings and the wonderful Missy Geppi. I wrote some thoughts down in advance of the show to try and give myself a reason and a scope from which to work from. What follows in my next series of ComicMix articles are those thoughts, reasons and insight as to why I think this is important, with the occasional rant so you don’t forget my boyish charm…

In 1956 the two-year old Comics Code Authority (CCA) tried its best to stop EC Comics from publishing a particularly offensive comic book. Founded in 1954, as part of the Comics Magazine Association Of America the CCA was created in answer to an uneasy American public fed up with gruesome, shocking images and stories in comics.

Simply know as “the code” within the field, the CCA took to the task of cleaning up the comic industry like the new sheriff in town taking to the task of ridding said town of whore houses so decent people could live in peace. The Comics Code just would not stand for America’s sons being subjected to the evils of comic books. EC Comics was among the top targets the moment the code was formed.

Pushing the limits of what at the time was considered obscene was nothing new to the publisher of explicit horror books. The mainstay content of EC was carnage, viciousness, crime and a productive heaping of gore thrown in for good measure.

To some, an above-reproach case could be made even today that EC was glorifying criminals and their actions as well as violence for the sake of such. This, years before we see the same argument being used against Rock and Roll and decades before we see it used against Rap and Hip Hop music. Crime and violence aside, the Comics Code also took great offense at sex. To be fair, what would the 1950s be without someone objecting to sex?

With the moral backdrop of the 50s and the onslaught on standards deemed obscene by mostly old white men regarding everything from juvenile delinquency to portraying married couples in the same bed on TV its no surprise there were senate hearings on comic books. Those hearings, spurred on in no small measure by Dr. Fredric Wertham’s book, Seduction of the Innocent, took place April 21, April 22 and again on June 4, 1954.

Wertham’s book said in effect that comics would lead America’s kids down a path ripe with crime, violence, homosexuality and a hated for all things patriotic. It was clear to Wertham and he made it clear to the rest of America, if your kids read comics they would most certainly end up anti-American queer murderous criminals.

Because of Wertham, his book and the Senate investigations less than three months after the hearings ended the comics industry decided to regulate itself in advance of Congress doing it.

So, enter the code.

What’s completely overlooked in the sanctification of the 1954 Senate hearings on comic books is how they dealt with race. The thunderous judgment most people took away from the hearings was the focus on sex, crime and violence.

Almost hidden in the interim report on Comic Books and Juvenile Delinquency was a passage on racial stereotypes.

The following passage from the Comics and Juvenile Delinquency interim report of the committee on the judiciary/ a part investigation of Juvenile Delinquency in the United States:

One example of racial antagonism resulting from the distribution of American-style comic books in Asia is cited by the former United States Ambassador to India, Chester Bowles, in his recent book, Ambassador’s Report. He reports on page 297 the horrified reaction of an Indian friend whose son had come into possession of an American comic book entitled the Mongol Blood-Suckers. Ambassador Bowles describes the comic book as depicting a-superman character struggling against half-human colored Mongolian tribesmen who has been recruited by the Communists to raid American hospitals in Korea and drink the plasma in the blood banks. In every picture they were portrayed with yellow skins, slanted eyes, hideous faces, and dripping jaws.

At the climax of the story, their leader summoned his followers to and attack on American troops. “Follow me, blood drinkers of Mongolia,” he cried. “Tonight we dine well of red nectar.” A few panels later he is shown leaping on an American soldier with the shout, “One rip at the throat, red blood spills over white skins. And we drink deep.”

Ambassador Bowles commented: The Communist propagandists themselves could not possibly devise a more persuasive way to convince color sensitive Indians that American believe in the superior civilization of people with white skins, and that we are indoctrinating our children with bitter racial prejudice from the time they learn to read.

13 Bowles, Chester, Ambassador’s Report, New York, 1954, p. 297.

It’s refreshing to see that some American lawmakers in the 50s were concerned about racial stereotypes, at least in principal if not in practice.

Ambassador Bowles statement really underscored that as Americans we would not tolerate any sort of racial bigotry. Yes, his remarks were hidden in the body of a report that focused on crime, sex and violence but they were there nevertheless.

Because of the public outcry caused by the hearings the CCA was enjoying major influence over the comics industry. When they began calling the moral shots in the comics business most publishers bent like a weed in the wind under the pressure. Some publishers simply adapted some cancelled books and a few went out of business altogether.

Above all else the CCA was intended to be a moral angel sent from above. The task made easier as this was that America after World War II, a country faced with many ethical dilemmas. The youth of America had returned from war but no longer were they young.

They were a hardened group of men and women who were determined to steer their children in the right direction in the choice between rather America would be a Heaven or a Hell for their children.

Heaven was the America they just fought for.

Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet.

Hell was the impending darkness of the Communist menace.

By 1954 the Red Scare was firmly in the mind of the American psyche. The Red Scare with its focus (mostly imagined) on the United States of America being infiltrated and ultimately taken over by Communism. These were the issues that kept the good citizens of this great nation up at night. If they were not kept up all night dreading the coming apocalyptic death of the American Dream they would be as soon as they heard Senator Joe McCarthy.

McCarthy’s crusade against subversion and espionage within the United States government made him at one point arguably the most powerful man in America. Certainly the most feared.

At the height of the Red Scare, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, a couple which at that moment in time were more hated than Adolf Hitler, were executed for selling the secrets of the atomic bomb to the Russians. If nothing else, the electrocution of two people who looked like your next-door neighbors certainly brought the message home. The event, based upon evidence many (but not all) find dubious, made the Communist menace a clear indication of impending disaster.

America had its hands full with impending doom, sex, crime and violence. They had to protect the kids by any means necessary.

Makes you glad that the 1954 is light years, and real decades from the what 2012 brings us. I mean who would cast that sort of McCarthy like crazy shit out there now a days eh?

Michele out of her fucking mind Bachman that’s who, but I digress.

See? There’s that occasional rant.

In 1954 this concentration on moral outrage did not leave a whole lot of time or interest to focus what many thought were second-class American citizens, African Americans. Funny, considering that treatment of African Americans was exceedingly immoral.

Yeah, I managed to use funny and immoral in the same sentence… and this is just part one.

Next week, part two.

WEDNESDAY: Mike Gold and Joe Kubert, Personally

 

Michael Davis: The Death Of Batman

From the second I saw the original Batman television show I was hooked.

Just that quick, Batman had replaced Spider-Man as my absolute favorite superhero. Bruce Wayne replaced Peter Parker, Dick Grayson replaced Gwen Stacy and the Joker replaced Dr. Octopus.

When the TV show became corny to my friends, I was still a fan. I didn’t care that they had all switched to the Green Hornet. Yeah, Kato was cooler than Robin and the Green Hornet was just, well he was just cool, but Batman was still my guy.

When Michael Keaton was cast in the 1989 film I was all in. When people started bitching that Mr. Mom was going to play Batman like a joke I didn’t care. I just wanted to see Batman on the big screen. Batman the movie was one of the first DVDs I ever brought and this was when DVDs cost a lot more than they do now.

I’ve seen every episode of every Batman animated series. I own hundreds – maybe even more than a thousand action figures. Without a doubt the single action figure I own more of is Batman.

I write this in my office under a framed 1966 Batman movie poster. To the left of the poster is a cabinet full of porcelain and bronze action figures, of the 18 figures in the cabinet there are four Batman’s and that is the only figure that is represented more than once.

I was very close once to buying a replica of the 1966 Batmobile. How close? I was filling out the paperwork when I realized I was buying a fucking Batmobile.

What kind of asshole buys a fucking Batmobile when he lives in Manhattan and rarely drives the car he already owns? Hell, what kind of asshole buys a fucking Batmobile anyhow? For about two hours I was that type of asshole and a few years later I regretted not buying the car and yes, on occasion I still think I’m that type of asshole.

I own every single Batman movie on DVD and some even on VHS. I’ve watched and own every single Batman TV episode. On many occasions during late nights in my studio I watch from episode one until I stop working. I once did more than 24 hours of watching the show. I was high on coffee and Adam West and loved it.

There has not been one Batman movie I have not seen the opening weekend. In most cases I’ve seen the movie the day it opened, except for the current one. I had every intention of seeing The Dark Knight Rises the opening weekend. I wanted to go to an all day screening of all of the Christopher Nolan Batman films with my dear friend and business partner Tatiana El-Khouri that would climax with The Dark Knight Rises but I was too busy.

I missed that boat and with it I think I missed my one chance to see the film I’ve been waiting well over a year to see. I hear the latest Batman may be the greatest yet. I fear I may never know because I have no intention of seeing it.

I was unable to write my column last week and it’s most likely a good thing that I didn’t. Undoubtedly because of the Aurora shootings and my personal experience with violent crimes my article would have been a hate filled call for revenge against the shooter and his friends and family.

Yeah. His friends and family also.

I’m well aware (now) that makes no sense, but in my initial rage it made all the sense in the world. My piece would have been filled with all sorts of reasons to just beat the living shit out of the crazy motherfucker who committed this sick act.

My heart goes out to the victims of the massacre. There is nothing and I mean nothing that can prepare you for the news that someone you love has been murdered. Trust me. I know.

Because of my history and the way my stupid mind works I simply cannot bring myself to go see The Dark Knight Rises.

I hope and pray that I’ll get over this but I fear that is not to be. I have issues and as much as I love my ComicMix audience I’m not prepared to give you the low down on the details of those issues that prevent me seeing The Dark Knight Rises because of that revolting motherfucker’s actions.

Alas, the people the madman killed and their families are what is important and what we should be thinking about. On a much and I do mean much lesser note that coward with a gun also killed Batman for me. My favorite superhero has now been corrupted in my mind.

To many I’m sure it seems silly for me to give that asswipe the power to corrupt one of my favorite things but unfortunately I have no defense over how I feel. If I associate something with something that’s bad I’m powerless to stop it as much as I try to do so.

I take some comfort in the knowledge that America has rejected the bastard and the hold he has over me is insignificant for America has made The Dark Knight Rises a big hit.

Bravo America. USA!! U S Fucking A!

My demons are mine alone and I rejoice in the fact that the film is doing well in spike of the doings of a limp dick psychopath.

I stop people from telling me about the movie. Not because of my issues but because I’m going to make every attempt to see it. If I don’t manage to see it on the big screen then I will endeavor to watch it when it’s available on pay for view if not then I’ll try and see it on DVD. If those efforts fail I’ll try and watch it on HBO.

Somehow, somewhere I’ll see that movie. That sick motherfucker may have won the battle in his demented mind, but America has already won the war and as for me, I’m determined to win my personal battle.

I don’t know a lot but I do know this, crazy sick assholes do not make the rules, they just make noise. Today that bastard may have killed Batman for me but everyone knows that killing a superhero is just temporary.

I’m sure that Batman will be back in my life and I’m just as sure that the shooter will be forgotten and his victims remembered at the same bat time on the same bat channel, forever.

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold Goes To A Party!