Author: Michael Davis

MICHAEL DAVIS: Art School Confidential

MICHAEL DAVIS: Art School Confidential

The one thing you can count on in the comics business is people want to get in. By this I mean there are a zillion people who want to make comics their lifework. To some “comic books’ is a silly way to make a buck. Well forget them. Tell them to have a ham sandwich and shut up. I’m talking to all the young creators who want to make this their careers. I know a bit about this and if you allow me I would like to share some of what I know with you.

The first step on the road to comic immortality is education. I want to talk to the young artists out there. I will let my good friend Mike Baron in a guest column talk about becoming a comic book writer (Mike, please write a guest column for me!).

There are a lot of young artists who think it’s smart to simply copy Image Comics from the nineties and that will give them the art background they need. It won’t. By the way, Image does great books and Jim Valentino has a fantastic nose for good content. I’m sure that Jim would agree that the books Image is doing today are vastly different from the ones they were doing when they revolutionized the comics industry in the nineties. There are a great many young artists who think that copying Todd McFarlane or Rob Lefield will give them the tools they need to be the next Todd McFarlane or Rob Lefield – again, it won’t.

There are no sure fire ways to break into the comic industry as an artist. The industry is filled with self-taught artists-some of these self taught creators are superstars. However, most people can’t simply draw themselves into the field. For the majority of you I think a good art school is a great first step, the first step you will need to establish your own way in a very competitive comics business. How do you choose a good art school?

Very carefully.

An art school should not just teach you art, it should equip you to navigate the business. You want a school that will deal with you as an aspiring professional and not just an artist. A lot of schools don’t do that. Some of the best schools have working professionals teaching there. You would think that will be a great place to go right?

NOT necessarily.

Some instructors will share with you every single thing they know. Some won’t. Why won’t they? Because you will be their competition in a very short time. Because they will someday fear you.

Oh. Nobody told you that?

Look, the professional art school is a business. Before I go on let me be clear: I’m not talking about teachers in fine art curricula. Those teachers teach students who want to make art for art’s sake. Those students want to bring their vision to people for no other reason than to make their personal statements. I’m talking about teachers of Illustration, Cartooning, Animation, Graphic Design or any commercial art course. Chances are if your teachers are working professionals they will not share with you all their contacts or their knowledge. Or to put it another way, if you were an rookie on The New York Mets and your position was center field, do you really think the veteran who held that position would tell you all he knew?

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MICHAEL DAVIS: The Emperor’s New Clothes

MICHAEL DAVIS: The Emperor’s New Clothes

I don’t really have a subject for this week, which explains why I’m writing this on Thursday afternoon with a Friday morning deadline. Sorry, Mike. Nothing really ticked me off or got me excited this week. That’s an issue for me because when I took this gig I made a promise to keep it current and to always have a definitive point of view.

Well, what follows are some random thoughts that I may as well get off my chest. None of these things really warrant an entire column (yet) but they all have my interest,

Remember the story of the Emperor’s new clothes?  Well that seems to be what is going on with American Idol. Major newscasts like the Today Show (who made my greatest list last week) are all saying that this kid Sanjaya Malakar can’t sing.

HELLO!!!!!????

Even before America stared to vote this kid beat out thousands of other singers to make it to the show. Now everyone is saying he can’t sing. Why? Because one person said he could not sing after one bad performance and now everybody is saying it. What is up with people? People are just sheep! He is clearly not the best singer on the show, but the kid can sing. Why are people such sheep? Why, why, why?

Sheep, sheep, sheep!

In other random thoughts, in case anyone is interested I will be speaking at the Biola Media Conference April 21st at Biola University and at Cal State Northridge on April 23rd. Maybe the person who sent me the angry email will want to come down and heckle me.

What angry email? The angry email that I was sent in response to The Black Panel article I wrote. They told me “You are a Uncle Tom who does not care about Black People. We have a right to be represented and you should let any black person on the panel who wants to be there.” They also said that I was…” one of those uppity (N-word) who only dates white woman!” (My Asian lady loved that one.)

Well, fellow and or gal (I don’t know what you are because you sent the email anonymously – how brave, by the way), if you are feeling strong come on down and take your best shot. Hey wait. Why don’t you speak at the conference or at Northridge. I’m sure they will just let you walk in off the street and talk about your work or whatever you want to talk about. I mean you are entitled right? Wait! Now that I think about, it why don’t you just walk on to the Tonight Show? I’m sure they will just let you be a guest. Wait! What am I thinking?? Why doesn’t ABC just do a special on you? I mean you have certainly earned the right to have your own show right?  Wait, wait wait!!! Not a show –you deserve your own NETWORK!!! I mean why not? Wait, wait wait, wait, why don’t they just hand you your own galaxy? 

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MICHAEL DAVIS: The Davis List

MICHAEL DAVIS: The Davis List

There seems to be a whole lot of people who get to tell us what they think we should see, what they think we should buy what is the best, worst, the must haves and the stay away froms. Most of these experts put out a list so that we can revel in their genius. How many lists are we subjected to? Let’s see, off the top of my head…

David Letterman’s Top Ten List, the only list I pay any attention to

The Top Ten Movie List

The Hollywood Power List

The richest people in the world list

Blackwell’s worst dress list

The Sexiest Man List (I can’t believe that I have not made that one)

Joan Rivers best / worst dress list

The New York Times Best Seller list

AFI greatest movies of all time list

Rolling Stones greatest albums ever list

These are just the ones I can think of while waiting at LAX for a flight to Chicago. There are a multitude of lists out there. Everybody has a list, every magazine, every TV news show, every critic, every commentator, every Tom, Dick and Harry has a list. Well why can’t we have a list? You, me everybody? What makes Rex Reed’s list better than yours or mine?  With all due respect to Mr. Reed, I seem to remember he hated Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Need I remind everybody that that film is one of the greatest Sci-Fi films of all time. Well I think that it’s time we all have a list. Let’s start with mine.  My list will not be a Top Ten list. Nope. I’m twice as cool, so mine will be a top 20!

Comics:

1. The greatest comic book ever: Avengers #66 (My first comic!)

2. The greatest superhero ever: Batman

3. The second greatest superhero ever: Captain Marvel (Shazam!)

4. The greatest super team: 60’s Teen Titans

5. The greatest superhero fight ever: Hulk vs. Thing

6. The second greatest superhero fight ever: Hulk vs. Sub-Mariner

7. The greatest team up ever: Spider-Man and Superman (the first one)

8. The greatest graphic novel ever: Watchmen

9. The second greatest graphic novel ever: The Killing Joke

10. The third greatest graphic novel ever: The Death Of Captain Marvel

11. The fourth greatest graphic novel ever: Marvels

12. The saddest event in comic books: The death of Gwen Stacy

13. The saddest event in the comics industry: The death of Jack Kirby

14. The greatest writer in comics: Denny O’ Neal

15. The greatest artist in comics: Jack Kirby (DUH!)

16. The greatest publisher in comics: Milestone

17. The second greatest publisher in comics: DC (love them or hate them, they do great books)

18. The smartest man in comics: Mike Richardson

19. The guy with the best job in comics: Paul Levitz

20. The sexiest man in comics: Michael Davis (finally!)

Movies:

1. The greatest movie ever (Tie): My Best Friend’s Wedding / Team America (long story)

2. The greatest movie superhero ever: Batman

3. The second greatest movie superhero ever: Superman

4. The greatest movie team: The Magnificent 7

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MICHAEL DAVIS: What’s your problem?

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?

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Michael Davis: Model Behavior

Michael Davis: Model Behavior

I have to apologize to my editor Mike Gold for this column upfront. Sorry, Mike, I told you I would write an article about education and empowerment and I will, I promise! But I have to write this article because, well, you will see why…

A few days ago I was at the Sprint store trying to get my cell phone serviced. Some idiot at the Palm Company sent me an email telling me that I needed to download some new software so my smartphone can handle the new daylight saving time.

Well let’s just say my smartphone is as dumb as a brick. When I downloaded the darn software it erased all my information on the phone. By the way, the phone automatically changed the date an hour later.

I went to the Sprint store to get them restore some of what I lost. While I was there a sweet young lady named Azy hooked me up by spending two hours with Palm technical support on my problem. She was cool but I had just wasted two hours of a beautiful day and this was first day in weeks that I had a moment to myself. Need to say I was not happy!

When I left I went to a car dealership across the street. I went there to calm down (hey, nothing calms a dude down like shopping for a new car; ladies – cars are a man’s shoes) When I got to the car dealer there, in all her glory, was a SUPER MODEL! I won’t tell you who it was because this is about to get ugly, but you would know this person. Whenever I see a celebrity, and I see a lot because I work in television, I always ask the same thing, “Can I have some money?”

Well she thought that was funny and we started talking. She was fairly nice until she noticed I had a comic book in my hand. It was the new Blokhedz graphic novel. It’s called Genesis and it’s great! She asked about it and I told her it was really cool, she looked at it for a few seconds and then she said “Comics are for kids, and stupid.”

I tried to explain the rich history of comics; she was having none of this. “Comic books are just silly.” I tried AGAIN to explain about comics. She just gave me a “You stupid” look.

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Convention Intimacy

Convention Intimacy

I just got back from WonderCon in San Francisco, the week before that I was at the New York City Comic Con (NYCC).

These cons were fun and, for the most part, well run. I say for the most part because the NYCC people still have some work to do with regards to how they treat professionals and, more important, the fans. WonderCon ran smooth that’s because no one runs a convention better than Fae Desmond and the staff at Comic Con International. They treat each fan like they were the only fan there. The NYCC people have a good heart and I think any problems they had came from the staff at the Javis Center and not the convention people.

I had a good time at both but there is something missing from these cons and for my money something missing from all the really big cons. That something is intimacy. Now I can hear you asking the question: what does intimacy has to do with a comic book convention?

 

My answer is… everything.

Comics is an intimate medium, or it was once upon a time. Comic book fans will wait on a movie line for hours and consider it part of the experience. Comic book fans think that Star Trek marathons are cool, even if they were born decades after the show first aired. Comic book fans don’t just go to conventions seeking the issue of Spider-Man they need to complete their collection. Comic book fans go to conventions to be with like-minded people. They go there because if they want to they can dress up like a superhero and not be afraid. They can talk about a battle between the Hulk and Superman with the seriousness it deserves. Comic fans go to conventions because they are safe. Safe to be who they are, safe to say what they want.

These are important things.

Think not? Well let’s just say you are a comic book fan and you live in South Central L.A. You think you can stroll the street with your Captain Kirk outfit on without taking some flack?

You are walking down a South Central street a group of young men are walking towards you; they are members of a street gang. They approach and the leader stops and talks to you:

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Michael Davis: Brokeback Marvel

Michael Davis: Brokeback Marvel

Over the last 30 or so years some comics have tried to bring the "real world" into the medium. One of the first and best examples was written by my fellow ComicMix columnist Denny O’ Neil. His epic story about Green Arrow’s sidekick Speedy becoming hooked on drugs is a classic. That story was written over 30 years ago and could have been written today. It still holds up.

I will resist the urge to ask Denny why Speedy had to get hooked… hee hee hee.

Denny may not remember, but I often think back in fondness to a day I gave him a ride home from DC Comics. That, for me, was a good day. Denny most likely was thinking "tuck and roll" as he looked for an opportunity to jump out of the car.

That story Denny wrote was on the forefront of comics that tackled the real world. Since that comic there have been many comics that tried the real world approach — some of the finest have been Marvels, Kingdom Come and of course the granddaddy of them all, Watchmen. Now all of those comics and many others have dealt with the question, "What would happen if superheroes really existed?"

Well, none of those comics dealt with what really would happen if those superheroes existed in the real world… and tried to get a date.

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Michael Davis: Nut jobs

Michael Davis: Nut jobs

I said in my first article that I was a pretty simple guy. I see clear distinctions between right and wrong, good and evil, love and hate, and Republican and Democrat. Blah, blah, blah. To that end, I think there are some things that people don’t talk about but should. Clearly in comics there is a subject or fifty that we don’t talk about. Well I’m going to talk about one right now. That subject is… nuts.

Not the nuts that come in a can, but rather people who are nuts… as in crazy.

No, I am NOT talking about people who have a real mental illness. I am talking about those people who have convinced themselves (sometimes with plenty of help from friends and family) that they are entitled to something that nobody else sees. Or their way of doing something is the only way something should be done regardless of any logical reasoning.

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Michael Davis: I’m not that guy

Michael Davis: I’m not that guy

I’m a pretty simple guy. I see clear distinctions between right and wrong, good and evil, love and hate and Republican and Democrat. In this age of political correctness and doing the right thing I don’t make decisions because they’re popular. I make decisions because I think something is right.

Remember the days when someone punched you in the face and you could punch him  (or her) right back without having much to worry about — well, besides getting your ass kicked. After the fight (or, in my case, ass whipping) you and the other party would decide to be friends or continue to hate each other. Either way you knew where you stood with that person. NOW if someone punches you in the face — YOU may get sued — and worst, with the current state of our world you don’t know where you stand. I don’t know about you but I would like to know where I stand after I’m punched in the face.

I grew up in the projects in New York City during the days when a threat sounded like this: "I’m going to kick your ass, Davis." Back then my response was "You will have to find me first, lady." Now I simply call my lawyers.

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