Back in the days of “I am Curious Black,” a 1970 Lois Lane story about Lois using a machine to become a black woman; she does so to see what it was like to be black.
Back then the good folks at DC did not think twice about a black artist or writer. Now, if a story with a black character comes down the pipe, the net is in an uproar if black creators are not involved.
Me? I say the white boys have at it. A good story, like a good character, is colorblind. Trying or even wanting to ban white people from writing black characters is as horribly short sided, stupid, and as prejudiced as banning Muslims from America.
A white writer telling a story featuring a black character is one thing. Telling a story where they try and define the black experience on some level is quite another. To do that… well is not easy. However, it can and has been done. Stephen Gaghan pulled it off in the film Traffic. That is a textbook example of the black experience written wonderfully by a white person.
On the other hand, the English writer Mark Millar, one of the great comic book writers of his or any generation, gave us Tyrone Cash. Tyrone started out Dr. Leonard Williams, a renowned, brilliant African American scientist who figures out how to gain the powers of The Hulk while retaining his intellect.
What does Dr. Williams decide to do with his newfound power? Why, he does what any black brilliant scientist would do after figuring out how to gain the power of the Hulk yet retains his intellect.
He changes his name to Tyrone and becomes a drug dealer.
As a child, I was happy to see black people in a comic book. Happy even after my mother read the Lois Lane story and asked me, “Why didn’t they make Superman black?”
“Because it’s Lois Lane’s comic!” I said with pride, I mean duh.
If this was such an important story, then why indeed didn’t they make Superman black? That’s what she was saying that my eight-year old brain couldn’t grasp. Seeing such, she moved to the next best thing.
“Why don’t you make a black Superman, Michael?”
“Because DC Comics would commence a legal proceeding against me for copyright infringement. They have the means and the will to do so. My God, woman perhaps you should stop working seven days a week at those silly two jobs and get with the program.” I said.
I didn’t say that I was eight. To me copyright meant copy something right.
What I did say was “Because Superman is white.”
Turns out decades later I co-created Icon, a black Superman if ever there was one.
Icon, Static, Hardware and the Blood Syndicate were met with overwhelmingly positive reviews from most. I heard ‘its about time’ so often I was convinced people thought the books were about a black Doctor Who.
Many met these heroes with a deep anger and resentment. Nobody talks about the hate mail received but as always when black people make significant inroads into a category once denied then made difficult there’s always a “stay in your lane nigger” component when finally, people of color arrive at then enter the door.
Those letters were scary, but what was scarier was the attack those heroes took from other black creators, attacks that were brutal, horrible, and damaging. The company line was never to respond. I didn’t agree then, and I do not agree now. I feel you cannot let others define you.
That’s why I’ve spent the last 20 plus years setting the record straight.
I realized something the last time I spent part of my weekend in jail.
Yep, you read that right.
I was in a restaurant in a lovely neighborhood – mine. Two white guys ran across the floor and attacked me. Little known fact: although it’s called something different, California has a stand your ground law not unlike what they have in Florida.
I stood my ground, and I was arrested.
I realized something while I was unjustly locked up (again, yep again) I realized no matter why we were there, we united like brothers. Black or brown, it didn’t matter.
There was no beef between anyone; no one acted like they owned the place and no one pulled rank. A few hours later, a well-dressed white kid around 20 was let into the cell. It had taken around 12 minutes before he was beaten to a bloody pulp.
No. That did not happen.
The white kid was led to a private cell, we all stopped and looked as the guards walked him pass. “No handcuffs.” Someone noted. I said “They only make them in black or brown.” Even the black guard bringing us our grill cheese and diarrhea sandwich laughed then said; “Maybe if you used that quick wit for something you wouldn’t be here. Ya think?”
Or maybe the powers that be could look at the video and listen to eyewitness accounts instead of arresting the black guy who was defending himself.
No one got upset when the white guy was given a private cell, although nothing would have happened to him if placed in with us. Why would it? No one was upset the white guy received special treatment because we all knew this was the way it was.
Back in the days of Lois Lane’s “Black Like Me” moment DC and Marvel gave little if any thought to black creators when deciding to do a story about a character of color. They didn’t have to; they do now.
I am glad they do now if Marvel and DC would stop giving the general pubic the impression they are the kings of diversity that would be nice. The so-called black Avengers, black Captain America, black/Latino Spider-Man, black Batman, black Superman and the rest did not issue in the modern age of diversity.
Icon, Static, Hardware and the Blood Syndicate did that, 23 years ago and Brotherman did it 25 years ago.
Notwithstanding a full quarter century of remarkable black content, the perception among most black and white young fans is still, if Marvel and DC don’t do it, it matters little if at all.
That’s important; I’ll revisit that later.
There exists a serious movement among some in the black comic book community to bring black comics to black and mainstream audiences. Notable among those fighting the good fight, Mala Crown Williams and MECCA Con, the Black Age of Comics Convention, Ryn Ryonslaught Fraser and his wonderful World of Black Heroes website… and no one works harder than John Jennings. Still, there also exists an insufferable discord among some black creators.
Now is the time for that shit to stop.
Back in the day when successful black comics received hate mail black creators were in charge of their voice. If we responded or didn’t, we had a choice to do so or not. That was our right. That a right many of us take for granted
When DC Comics ran the Lois Lane story “I am curious Black,” that was a noble attempt to show people what life was all about in the community. DC Comics spoke for us because we had no voice to do so.
Yeah, we had a ‘right’ but no voice within comics to speak for ourselves.
I had little choice but to love seeing Lois Lane as a black woman. Love it or leave it was my only option there was nothing else out there for me.
Some choice exists now in comics for kids, and I’ve always had a choice rather or not I’ll be arrested again.
I can stay out of restaurants where I’d be one of a handful of people. I could avoid specific concerts, plays, sporting events or anywhere where being an African American man would be an issue.
I could just stay home.
That’s my choice and the choice of every man. But I have a right to live where I want, eat where I want and do what I want within the law. That sounds grand, but the reality is the ‘law’ hasn’t worked for me.
I love America and “truth, justice, and the American way” is a nice slogan, but the sad truth is I think twice about running for a bus. I expect no justice, and the American way is a myth to me.
The comic book industry, such as it needs to face some serious certainty. Yes, we can voice our opinions but even today those of us who create African American content for the mass market are taken less seriously unless it’s from Marvel or DC.
Bitch all you want. Them’s the facts.
Donald Trump has a real shot of becoming President. Once thought of as a joke that joke is no longer funny. However, it’s not Trump that scares me. What scares me is the massive support of a man who denounces the KKK only after days of defending reasons he didn’t denounce him.
He’s insulted Mexicans, Muslims, African-Americans, women and the physically challenged. He’s never once apologized for insisting President Obama show his birth certificate which is just another way to have a nigger show his papers.
Who supports that kind of person for President? An awful lot or people.
That guy may become President we may be well on the way to the days when Lois Lane and Superman have to speak for us again because what little voice we have now will be even less. What little power we have as comic book creators will be even less than that.
I was in jail six hours before my lawyer got me out. The guard first walking to the white guy’s cell assuming he was “Davis.” When he finally got to me I said “I’m mistaken for short blond white guys often.” No laughter this time.
Leaving the cell, I felt instantly less empowered. You would think I’d feel more empowered. Nope. Locked up, I was part of a group of people who regardless of why they were there were united. Out of jail, I can’t run for a bus if a white lady is ahead of me doing the same.
Regardless of our differences, the comics community would do well to consider what we have to lose if there are so many who want Trump to win.
One last word about Tyrone Cash. Millar should be forbidden to enter America until we figure out what’s going on.
My mom died thinking she threw away a copy of Superman number one from 1938.
Yes, I do indeed realize just how lame that must sound, and it would be if I gave a flying fish about that book with regards to my mother. I don’t but it’s important to the story I’m trying to write and just so I’m crystal clear, I’d happily burn the last copy left on Earth to spend just a minute more with my mother.
It was Superman number two she tossed out, and you can read the whole story entitled A Comic Book Tale on ComicMix.
I told her it was number one while trying to make the point that she should never throw out another comic book of mine, ever, and she never did. I have been keeping that my secret weapon for when I needed a real ‘gotcha’ to use on my mom. She was always just to quick for me when it came down to… well… to anything.
I’m a funny guy, but she was funnier and smarter than me, and I’m a smart guy. Despite what you may have heard, I am not a loud mouth, thug, tasteless or immature. Bizarre is a matter of opinion as is nauseating and although a 160 IQ does not preclude me from being stupid (been there, be back soon) I’m nobodys’ moron.
I know. I didn’t believe it either.
All my life my mother said goodnight to me one of two ways: “Goodnight genius child of mine” or ” Goodnight Bartholomew.”
“Bartholomew’ was my mom’s way of stopping me from asking the same question repeatedly, such as “Why don’t I have a middle name?”
The last time she said goodnight to me I was in her hospital room during what would turn out to be her last two weeks on earth. “Michael, you are a genius. However, I have forgotten more than Scooter ever knew. So keep that in mind.”
That was brutal. Mortal Combat fatality, your 90-year old sweet as sugar grandmother, shouts Ooooooooh Shit all up in your face, brutal.
Scooter, the childhood nickname for my world renowned artist cousin William T. Williams.
Scooter once told me he had forgotten more than I would ever know. He said this to me after I refused to concede a point during a discussion about Picasso.
“Picasso can’t draw!”
I boldly told this to a man whose paintings hang in some of the world’s greatest museums. So badass is he when DC’s long-time publisher (and former art critic) Jenette Kahn found out he was my cousin she insisted on meeting him. In my defense, I was 12 or so when I threw down such stupidity, but the fact of the matter is his statement made today would still ring true.
In those two weeks with Jean (yes I call my mother Jean) I’d let her have her fun recounting my childhood antics then, always before any visitor departed, I’d hit them with the Superman #1 story. That tale always brought a smile to Jean’s face, and she would follow with an embarrassing story of my youth.
Without fail those accounts began with her patented; “Mike and those comics of his…”
It turns out a great many of my mother’s favorite stories had to do with my love for comics, like the time my sister got me to cease my evil little brother antics for an entire week after her friend Yvette promised me ‘lots of new comics.’
Damn Yvette and her evil lying demon eyes!
I was amazed at the amount of remembrances conjured up in that hospital room with comic books the lead or supporting a narrative. I always thought my comic book hobby was, like me, a wee bit annoying to my family.
It appears I was not paying attention.
My cousin named one of his paintings Batman, which at the time, I considered the coolest thing ever and that’s saying something because that was the year I discovered girls. One day I had a choice between seeing Sadie Jackson’s boobs or debating with Julian Butler, my then-best friend, why Swamp Thing was much cooler than Man-Thing. I choose to argue with Julian who I thought would forever be my best friend.
Then one day he just punched me in the face and ran away. That’s true, and I had no idea why. Damn, that keeps happening to me and still no explanation or Sadie Jackson titty action.
I never realized how comics played a part with others in my family.
It was my mom who turned me onto the original Captain Marvel and taught me the art of the comic book deal, buy two, trade one. It was another cousin, Greg, who sold me seven golden age comics including that Superman number two for a buck.
Those and other memories, once among my most cherished are now painful to relive. Without my mom to co-sign, my trip down that lane brings little joy these days.
I once loved the comic industry with a passion almost incomprehensible but that industry I loved so is gone. What remains is a fat out of shape ghost of its former self. A snake oil salesman selling a yearly new everything hoping fans will consider it a glorious new tune.
But it’s the same old song.
I watch as new universes are considered original ideas and wonder who else thinks the same characters in a different setting, i.e., ‘universe’ isn’t new?
Tom Sawyer in another setting is a new story to be sure, but it’s still Tom Sawyer. You make Tom a black kid and he’s still Tom. You put Black Tom in another setting where he’s painting a fence; he’s shot by the police who take his white paint covered brush for a gun, but he’s still Tom.
It’s most likely just me but that ‘new universe’ thing now feels fake and a lazy way to avoid trying anything new. No, originality is not dead in comics, but most of what are unquestionably original concepts are happening far, far away from where I live which for better or worse is DC and Marvel.
That same old song is a problem, but it’s not the problem.
Some of the brightest people in entertainment are in comics, so this too shall pass I’m sure as it always does.
What slays me and I fear will destroy us all is how we see, speak and represent ourselves.
Character assassination over a creative decision. Damning a company, creator or content because someone wrote or drew something someone took issue with, rumors perceived as news, news handled like press releases were all once virtually repudiated as just being silly.
Like the once King of Rock & Roll, I fear comics have left the building for perhaps the last time and like the king will die on the bathroom floor face down in the shit we’ve made.
Dan DiDio may be one of the most hated men in comics and for what? For doing his job? Back before Dan was running DC, he was a network executive at ABC. I sold Dan and his partner at ABC Linda Steiner an animated show called “Monkey But…” That’s not a typo – that’s how the title of the show is spelled; it was a nutty idea. The best way to describe it was how I pitched it: Animaniacs on crack.
Dan and I spoke every day and got pretty friendly. Then Disney bought ABC and Dan, and Linda’s jobs were in play. The Hollywood game was to wait until Disney settled on whoever would be running ABC Saturday mornings, I made it clear I wanted Dan and Linda on the MB team even after it became apparent Disney did not.
When Dan and Linda were let go, I called to offer support keeping in mind talented people always end up somewhere else. Dan ended up at DC Comics and although we’ve had two project meetings getting them were, let’s say, not as easy as you would think given our history.
Yeah, that sucks.
I thought he and I had become friends and have the emails to back that thought up. I thought the same of Bob Wayne, who for a brief moment in time was my DC Comics running buddy, until he wasn’t.
In today’s comic industry climate, I’ve ample reason to dislike or even hate Dan, Bob, Paul Levitz and others if I rolled like that… but I do not.
Dan brought a TV series from me; Bob took me to the single best convention ever in Texas no less… and Paul was an extraordinary mentor and friend.
I couldn’t hate these people if I were paid too and trust me people have tried. I’m just not that guy. That’s not who my mother raised. Each of those men represented a piece of my comics’ journey, and largely it was good.
I’ve voiced what issues I’ve had with each of them at some point but hate them because of such? I’m an adult with what I hope is a bit of integrity so, no.
Dan, Paul and Bob all love comics, in fact, I know not one single person who got into comics just as a job. Everyone I know who writes and draws comics got into it because they loved comics.
A few months ago I had dinner with Len Wein and his lovely wife, Christina. Anyone looking would have thought it was just three friends having a meal.
But across from me sat the man who has created more iconic characters than anyone with the possible exception of Stan Lee. Stan usually gets the nod outright, and his work is the work of legend to be sure. That said consider the following, Len has created A-list characters both at Marvel and DC. Although he ran Marvel for a year, most of his creative output as a writer had to find a home whereas Stan’s creation already had one.
Stan is still the man the man his mark on comics and pop culture so high it’s doubtful anyone ever reaches it. The same could easily be said for Len. Len’s been in the game for over 40 years; I’ve known him about 20.
In all that time I’ve never heard Len rant against anyone, and if anybody has a right to pitch a fit, it’s Len Wein. Whatever issues Len has if he voices them the goal is never to harm anyone. Len still talks about comics as if he were still a kid going taking the DC comics tour with his best friend, Marv Wolfman.
Both were hoping against hope that they would be discovered and start to work in comics. They were, and few creators can match what these two have done in comics.
What they haven’t done is take offense to someone’s work because they don’t agree with the person who did it. They don’t call creator’s horrible names or damn an entire company because they don’t like what one individual is doing.
Len, Marv, Mike and Paul all still talk about comics as they once did, with love and respect for the medium. Those guys have done more for the industry than every hater who is talking shit combined.
Be you a new fan who brought your first comic today or a superstar creator in the industry for 40 years jumping on a bandwagon of hate, bitching about something other than story or art adds nothing and takes away much from an industry already thought of as childish and immature.
I understand and support if attacked then by all means have at it. But piling on a creator because it’s the flavor of the month? It’s that sort of thinking that keeps us Hollywood’s bitch.
The movies making the most money are from our house. But we’d rather bitch about Dan DiDio still running DC than applaud Eric Stephenson, publisher at Image Comics. Eric gave the greatest comic book speech since Stan Lee told Peter Parker that with great power comes great responsibility.
“I’d like to talk about the future, but first, we’re going to do some time travel, back to a time when there was no Internet, no Twitter, no Facebook, no Instagram. A time when there were no comic book stores.”
That was Eric’s spectacular opening and it got better from there. We should still be talking about it. The industry coverage of that speech?
Almost none. Perhaps if Eric had started his speech with the following, we would still be talking about it.
“I’d like to talk about the future, but first, we’re going to do some time travel, back to a time Dan DiDio wasn’t screwing up DC, Marvel didn’t suck, and there was no Dark Horse because there shouldn’t be any damn Dark Horse.”
Yep, we’d still be talking about that.
I believe, and I could be wrong its love that motivated the modern comic book industry. We live in an age where artists and writers have become publishers and owners; love guided them in, and it’s that love that’s been forgotten.
The love my mother showed by indulging my comic book passion became clearer to me during those two weeks with her. She explained how happy my reading made her and happier still when comics lead me to art. No easy thing to co-sign for a woman raising two kids by herself in the projects.
The Jon Cnagy; learn to draw art set was an early art gift from Jean. Soon I graduated to Dr. Martin’s 16 color starter kit, black bound sketch books and about a thousand Rapidograph pens. Not essentials by any means but my mother made sure if I wanted something for my artwork I had it.
A career in art wasn’t on the list of jobs that would lift you out of the ghetto. But it was all part of the plan to keep me off the streets and alive. Comics lead me to art which brings me to apprentice in my cousin’s studio which leads to a career in professional art.
I once loved my profession with a passion, now not so much and that just fucking sucks. I can use as much love as I can get these days, hell who couldn’t?
Like I said, I think it is love that’s missing from our industry. Love of our craft, love of our history and most importantly a love of ourselves.
No idea how to fix it, but somehow I’d very much like to get back to feeling about comics the way I did when I teased my mother. The way Len, Stan, Paul, Marv, Eric and yes Dan still talk about comicsL with love and hope for the future.
Bitch and moan all day about the work that’s the right of anyone who buys comics. That right does not extend to slandering, threatening or spreading rumor as fact, leave that to the Donald.
While many in the industry continue to turn on each other, some even creating another tempest of hatred once the last storm has lost the wind that propelled it Len Wein just writes another story creates another character all done without a hateful word towards his fellow creators.
That’s not to say Len can’t create a storm. He has. She’s in the X-Men.
Most may think my creative output over the last few years has been little more than bitching about that company that must not be named. Not true. Not true at all.
I have been busy creating some of the best work of my career…only to have them stolen.
Stolen I say! Taken from me by those who have duped you all into thinking it was they who created such masterworks.
My first creation, the Overstreet Guide to Cosplay says on the cover it was written by Melissa Bowersox, Eddie Newsome and Carrie Wood.
Ha! I say ha! I’ve been cosplaying since I was a young boy growing up in the south back in the 1930s. I remember when I came up with the idea to cosplay; I was around oh I don’t know some age when I said out loud; “I have invented cosplay.”
Melissa Bowersox, Eddie Newsome and Carrie Wood were walking by the Trump Plantation where my family had worked for decades teaching the Trumps’ real estate at just that very moment.
They heard me and started being nice to me. They picked my brain of all my cosplay knowledge and once I told them I was going to write a book they made sure I told no one but them of my brilliance. And brilliant it is! With well over 200 pages of just about anything and everything you want to know about my invention, Melissa Bowersox, Eddie Newsome and Carrie Wood have stolen. A great book indeed!
Alas, I wish I could say they were the only people who ripped me off but, no, my genius has been pilfered yet again!
While vacationing in Cuba in the 1950s after realizing the mistake my family made teaching the Trumps real estate (which we only did as a way to teach them to read), it occurred to me I should create a black superhero that would set the standard for all black superheroes.
I was some age at the time and remembered, first I would create the “graphic novel,” then I would create Brotherman, then I would combine them using my talent to write, draw and color.
I did so and the result was Brotherman Revelation.
This massive volume contains a long awaited return to Big City and continues the saga stolen from me by Dawud Anyabwile, Guy A. Sims and Brian McGee. I can’t tell you how I trusted those three believing them when I was told they just wanted to “…hear what I had in mind…”
What I had in mind was a graphic novel truly worthy of the the medium and I achieved it only to have it ripped away from me as if I had nothing whatsoever to do with it!!
They cleverly waited 50 plus years to release my work under their names. My original work was set to be published in 1954 but was not to be. The House Un-American Activities Committee prevented my ground breaking work by blacklisting me!!
So hurt was I by this it took me until 2016 when I was this age to once again venture into my creative mind. But this time I would be smart. This time I would tell some friends my idea and they would work with me to protect it!
So, I created A Vampire in Hollywood! An incredible romp through the world of Alanna Wolff and Jeff Byrd lawyers to monsters! Genius! I know, I’m a genius!
This time I’m going to get my due! I told no one but Batton Lash and Jackie Estrada…
Some weeks ago a Hilton manager made a very big mistake. Once Hilton Corporate realized who and what they were dealing with, I was asked what I wanted. This question, always asked in situations where litigation is an option, is a ploy devised to test you. Your answer determines their resolve, your intelligence and rather or not a hotel offers you $50.00 off your next stay or $50 million for you to go away.
Back in the early 2000s two people swore I was at the DC booth during the San Diego Comic Con loudly calling DC racist. So loud and vulgar was my purposive verbal assault the result was to kill a merchandising deal I had with Warner Bros. Consumers Products.
I don’t want to give the impression DC Comics acted against me as a collective in a conspiracy to take me down. They did not. It was a different time and they were a different company and shit like this was handled a different way.
DC Comics is and was under no obligation to be in business with me. It was and still is their house. Almost a decade before the SDCC “incident” I joined Denys Cowan, Derek Dingle, Christopher Priest and Dwayne McDuffie in setting up shop at that house. The original Milestone deal with DC was considered groundbreaking and it was. It was also terrible for Milestone.
Except for editorial, every move inside and outside comics DC had to approve. I didn’t sign that deal, that deal was as crazy as some say I am. I can’t prove I’m not crazy. I could prove I was in NYC the morning I was supposed to have been that nigger at SDCC. Whoever wanted to set me up looked at the SDCC program and surmised I was still in town because I was listed as a guest on a Sunday panel.
Amateurs. Fucking amateurs.
Consequently, when it became clear the loud mouth person who loudly called DC, racists, wasn’t me (or even existed) once again I was asked “What do you want?” What did I want? I wanted black kids to play with a Static Shock action figure.
“I just want the deal reinstated.” Easy, right? No harm no foul. All is good in the world, right?
It wasn’t, because DC said no.
Why on earth kill a deal that would generate revenue? Brand Milestone and DC in the black ad space? Create an action figure based on the mega hit TV show Static Shock? Certainly spark a lawsuit? Last and most important to me, give kids of color a hero to play with? Who knows? I never got an answer, but my top guesses are:
1) Because they could. It was their house. I was loud.
2) That was then, now Milestone has another deal at DC and again they don’t want me.
3) I’ve been loud. I am loud. I’ll be loud.
Some at DC or even Milestone may have floated the rumor that I can’t be vetted for future business when asked to explain my absence. Saying my loud persona and profanity-laced opinions will drive serious business away.
That’s just plain silly. Those profanity-laced opinions have been very very good to me. In fact, they have been very very good to every single Milestone partner past and present.
Then there’s the matter of my resume, my resume doesn’t add value?
Combined, the Milestone partners have not reached the markets or generated the revenue in comics I have by myself.
Here’s reality. Until revealed otherwise, Milestone’s core business is comic books. Without Diamond (via DC) they have no distribution outlet. My distribution for my educational imprint, The Action Files, reaches American schools via Pearson Learning. Pearson, the biggest educational publisher on earth, likes very much what I have done. My Guardian Line imprint has direct distribution into African American churches that additionally gives me direct access into the black household via Urban Ministries Inc.
UMI is king in the Black Christian space. Think Diamond but with its own comic book line.
My relationship with Pearson is in its 20th year and I just celebrated my 10th year with UMI.
Combined that’s 30 years of cash, resources, brand building and maintainable customers Marvel, Dark House, Image, IDW and DC would love to have.
Pearson Learning matters. Urban Ministries matters. Simon & Schuster matters. Those are no joke playa’s. The moment it was suggested DC come in as a possible partner, (and it always does) out DC went as a possible partner. Nothing bad was said, all I said very quietly was “no.”
Those deals were and are my house.
How’s that for loud?
The church is the most powerful force in Black America. Milestone’s distribution into the very market Denys created Milestone for was assured when I was in the mix. I didn’t need Diamond or DC to reach the educational or black market on a grand scale nor did I need Milestone. And as evidenced by their actions, they clearly think they don’t need me.
But they do, to get into the African American space directly on this scale, they most certainly do.
Only an idiot would dismiss those markets willingly without as much as a word as to why. It doesn’t take a genius to know those guys are not idiots.
No, there is another play here.
They do need me, they just don’t want me. Something is brewing and they see a problem with my involvement. Could some guy still hate me and have sway over at DC? Could that be the reason?
I could see that but just how much of a little bitch would you have to be to let that be a factor? Nah, there’s s something else, something big that negates comics and uses a different gage to reach African Americans.
The play? I’m thinking TV & film.
Or maybe it’s a Milestone partner who thinks I’m too loud and causes to much trouble. Happened 23 years ago; why couldn’t it happen again? Makes sense right?
Here’s the problem with that argument I don’t cause trouble. When that shit was pulled then I ended up running Motown Animation and Filmworks and Milestone jus… ended.
Trouble kills deals, I close deals. Trouble loses money, I generate revenue. Trouble drives away talent, I find and nurture talent.
Now what about being loud? What about my language? Ok, let’s say I’m loud. So fucking what?
Name a black creator or any creator who has worked harder and contributed more than I to bring people of color into comics. Not inspired it, or talked about it or sold a series of books marketed for it. Name any creator with an educational imprint (not book, imprint) at two major mainstream publishers and another at a Christian publisher.
That rant is just a few high and mighty “look I’m great” and some “so fucking what” thrown for my hard core fans. Think of my stuff like an old Marvel or DC comic after a while you wonder where the fight is. I’m sure some were wondering where all the ‘fucks’ were.
DC wrote me a check which covered my lawyer and little else. That’s what I wanted when it became clear DC would rather risk a massive lawsuit than give me back my deal.
I was livid and was about to bring the noise when I realized something. The two Warner Bros. people who brought me into the deal were at a real risk of losing their jobs. So, to protect them I settled for little of nothing. As a result, nothing is what happened with Mattel and others.
Yeah, I am loud. That’s so people hear me. I have a singular goal, reach as many kids of color and help them realize their worth. What I absolutely will not do is play stupid when faced with stupidity and because of such some see me as a problem after they have used my resources that is, however I’m not the problem. The problem is one Black Hollywood has had for years.
The problem is fear.
Fear of drawing attention to subjects best left alone or risk looking less professional or less white, take your pick. Black Hollywood has arrived in comics and with it the pursuit of the dollar above all else.
Milestone has closed ranks to avoid or minimize a lawsuit, but they can’t. Nobody can. Can they win? Can I? Winning a lawsuit at this level really comes down less on who’s right and more on who’s willing to go to the wall screaming; “I don’t give a fuck” and has deeper pockets.
I’ve been told Milestone is under the impression my resources are limited which is why I won’t sue. They arrived at that notion I assume because I haven’t sued. I’ve also made no secret I don’t care about money so I must be broke.
I don’t care about money. That’s true, however, the banks that hold my mortgages won’t take food stamps nor will any other lender or service. Membership does have its privileges until you miss a payment. All that said, I can’t compete with the kind of bank the Milestone partners would bring to the table, not even close.
Could I sustain a lawsuit with my current resources? I’d wager better than they could. How so? Because my hourly billing from one of the most feared law firms in the world is a hug as my representation is free. I’ve always said I know good people it just so happens I’m related to some also and the firm believes in her and she believes in me.
So I could go to the wall screaming “I don’t give a fuck” but as evident by my actions that I do give a fuck. I didn’t sue DC, I didn’t sue the Hilton when I had them dead to rights some weeks ago and I’m not suing Milestone. I don’t operate on that level. The only benefit would be to me. Black kids wouldn’t be reached but I’d be able to buy some more shit I don’t need. I don’t need any more shit in my life, I needed a call from three guys but that ain’t happening.
I’ve reached out to Milestone 2.0 from day one of this bullshit; still not a word. So, I’m done. Except for an interview I’ve asked be held up on the off-chance I’d hear something, this will be my last public statement about Milestone.
I’ll go my way and they will go their way. Pity, another riff between two black playas. No wonder we can’t win at this game, seldom are we on the same side.
There will be those who believe me a fool for taking this stance, well that may be true. It’s also true that without Paul Levitz there would be no Milestone. Paul and I butted heads, but the fact remains: no Paul no Milestone. It would be easy to change that narrative for personal gain.
Reggie Hudlin has wanted to be part of Milestone since Day One and I’ve defended him against claims he just jumped on the bandwagon after Dwayne died. No Paul, no Milestone. Reggie down since Day One – that’s the truth and that’s what I say.
My Milestone history is written down and public. Once completely co-signed by Milestone now (no doubt fear of litigation) it’s being rewritten. That is a bad move. A very bad move, because I will go to the wall screaming about that. Both the talent program and the Static Shock Universe were created by me and like everything I write I can prove.
The thought of having to do so is sickening and was 23 years ago when I gave Milestone a gift. It was sheer stupidity that turned that gift into a lost.
I’m not motivated by much these days in fact my Bad Boy Studios and Static Shock family legacy may be all I give a fuck about. Keep the fucking money; leave my mother and sister my mother and sister.
23 years ago I foretold what would transpire and I was right. I see this future also and wish it was not to be but it already is. Like I said, pity.
I still want Milestone to succeed. I would still help them do so but I’m not pretending to be anything I’m not.
What I am help create it, who I am won’t help destroy it.
I have a serious problem with Reggie Hudlin. I’ve known Reggie for over 25 years and although we’ve never been the best of friends, I liked Reggie and considered him a friend. Denys Cowan introduced me to Reggie when he took me to a party at Reggie’s downtown New York loft all those years ago. The loft was badass but when asked by this incredible looking woman “Isn’t this the nicest living space you’ve ever been in?” I said, “Nope, my cousin has a nicer loft, but this is cool also.” “Yeah, sure he does. Where in the projects?” was her reply.
She assumed my cousin was named Ray Ray and lived in the hood, in reality my cousin is William T. Williams, one of the most important artists in the 20th and now 21st Century. Don’t take my word for it that’s according to the Janson History of Art the definitive art history reference book and acknowledged authority on the subject.
In looking over my journal entry from that night I wrote the woman (now a fairly well known actress) was rather chilly towards me the rest of the evening. Maybe what I said got back to Reggie and when you’re riding high as a new hotshot director in your 20s that sort of shit brothers you. Perhaps that’s what’s prevented me from ever becoming real tight with Reggie, he heard his loft wasn’t the nicest living space I’ve ever been in.
Reggie was riding high after the massive success of his first movie, House Party. I couldn’t wait to tell him how much I was enjoying his house party two, get it? I thought I would get my chance when the circle of worshipers around him cleared for a moment and I said:
“Hi, thanks for having me. I’m really enjoying this House Party tw…”
“Excuse me. This isn’t the nicest living space you’ve ever been in?” Reggie interrupted.
“Well, no. But it’s very nic…
“EXCUSE ME, I’M TALKING! You said your cousin Ray Ray has a nicer living space?”
“I never said his name was Ray R…”
“EXCUSE ME, I’M STILL TALKING! How dare you not agree, this is the nicest living space you’ve ever been in!” Reggie then withdrew a small caliber gun and shot me.
Or more likely that’s my over imaginative imagination running a way with me. Except for the woman becoming a bit cold towards me because of my answer, none of that happened.
At the same party I met Reggie’s producer-brother Warrington. Warrington and I got alone well.
So well in fact when I purchased my first loft Warrington was one of my first guests.
Nowadays I seldom see Warrington but my relationship with Reggie has been constant. I’ve arranged events at San Diego Comic Con International (SDCC) the New York Comic Con as well as introduced opportunities and people to Reggie all with the goal of supporting whatever he was doing.
Reggie Hudlin is an important Playa within black arts culture. His contributions on the film side are legendary both as a producer and director. His comic book work although respectable was not on the same level as his film and television work.
But it’s about to be.
On January 21 2015 Reggie Hudlin, Denys Cowan, Derek Dingle changed the world of comics when Milestone 2.0 was announced. Reggie is now at the head of the most recognized African American name in comics, Milestone Media. Flanked by Milestone’s creator Denys Cowan and Milestone’s keeper for the last 20 plus years Derek Dingle it’s hard to see how this could be anything other than ground shaking. The addition of Jim Owlsey on any level makes Milestone’s potential almost scary.
Reggie is also producing The Academy Awards. The very same Academy Awards being boycotted by some serious people and the boycott has gained worldwide support. Reggie and host Chris Rock are under real pressure to quit.
It would be so easy to join that chorus. Reggie and Milestone, as Desi would say, still got some ‘plaining’ to do. It’s been a solid year since I was ignored and still not a word as to why. I’ve got more reasons to hope Reggie and Milestone fail than Trump has hoping his supporters never learn to read or write.
A dear friend of mind sent the following text:
Your boy is in the middle of some real serious 1965 shit. What did you do? Payback’s a motherfucking Bitch! LOL!
What did I do? I sat down to write what will surly get me some more haters.
The Academy Awards is 95% plus white, that’s the running narrative in the press. The insinuation is the academy is racist because of that. Is it? The part missing from those reports is the Academy is made up of mostly people working in the industry. You would think that’s general knowledge it’s not, far from it.
Many people think The Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences are like the Guardians of the Universe.
That’s the universe, not the galaxy.
From Wikipedia: The Guardians (of the Universe) evolved on the planet Maltus, and were among the first intelligent life forms in the universe. At this time they were tall greyish blue humanoids with black hair, who roughly resembled humans except for their skin color. They became scientists and thinkers, experimenting on the worlds around them.
Many think the Academy spawned from such a (albeit not so comic book) myth. No, the members of the Academy are mostly working professionals in Hollywood. That’s important and here’s why-If you’re an Academy member and you’re worked on a nominated film would that not be the film you vote for? If your film wins you now have an Oscar winning film on your resume. Put another way, how do you not vote for your film?
That alone seems like a screwed up way to conduct a fair vote.
The following is from the Producers requirements for membership into the Academy:
From Academy Bylaws:
Article III, Section 1. Membership shall be by invitation of the Board of Governors. Invitations to active membership shall be limited to those persons active in the motion picture arts and sciences, or credited with screen achievements, or who have otherwise achieved distinction in the motion picture arts and sciences and who, in the opinion of the Board, are qualified for membership.
Minority representation and respect in Hollywood is laughable. It’s very much like the representation and respect comic creators get in Hollywood with one blaring exception. Hollywood isn’t stupid enough to shun black creators of film and TV without trying to appease that segment of the industry when that segment becomes pissed.
That segment of the industry has a voice that carries beyond any award ceremony. You’re hearing that voice now. If you listen carefully you’ll also hear the voice of comics demanding respect from Hollywood for all we’ve done for them…nah, you won’t but that’s another story.
Is the exclusion of people of color racist or self-serving? The answer most likely lays somewhere in the middle. I’d say; having run some entertainment divisions its more the latter than the former but clearly each exists. Regardless if it’s one, the other or both it’s unfair and something drastic has to be done.
The Academy and Hollywood needs to be taught a lesson. That lesson must be loud and clear. That lesson must be bold and take no prisoners. It’s for that reason I support both Chris Rock and Reggie Hudlin.
Yeah, like Chris Rock says, I said it. A billion-person audience is exactly what the world needs to see just how people of color roll. African American culture is the world’s culture. There is no bigger influence in pop culture than us.
Reggie and Chris are well equipped to carry that message. That message can’t be subtle, understated, indirect, or delicate. That message must be brash and filled with swagger. Our intelligence and confidence must be painfully obvious as is our talent. A billion people and then some should have no doubt that we are indeed all that a bag of chips.
To that end, once successful in conveying that message we must then turn inward and tend to our own house. Even if for the boycott don’t throw insult at those who are opposed.
If opposed don’t belittle those who disagree. A disagreement is no reason to treat someone badly. An opinion is no reason to dismiss someone’s contribution. Telling yourself there are no common ground then acting on a decision without talking to the other party is one of the ways African Americans have been marginalized in America.
We should know better than to do this to ourselves. But there’s always a few or as Forrest Gump says, “Stupid is what stupid does.” I’ve said before, I support Milestone and I now support Reggie’s and Chris’s decision to stay the course with the Oscars.
Yes, it would be easy and some would say warranted to go the other way. But I’m not now nor have I ever been that guy. I can’t disregard everything someone does because I disagree with some things. That’s the current state of our two political parties.
Last year I wrote an article called the Middleman. ComicMix and Bleeding Cool ran versions of the piece. Written during a time the news was full of accounts of unarmed black men and women being killed. I was also diagnosed with severe depression during that period. My article was my account of what series of events may end my life. I firmly believe as an African American man my life can be cut short by simply exercising rights that white men take for granted.
White men can say anything they want at any time without giving it a second thought. Once, Denys Cowan and I were told “carry our bags” by two white guys in a Texas airport. They were joking and thought the whole thing hilarious. If we were joking with them Denys and I would have been the first to laugh. We weren’t and we didn’t. What could we do? We were two black men in Texas.
A few weeks ago I saw this white guy get out his car, throw his keys on the ground, and then rip up the ticket a cop had just given him while the cop watched. All the time screaming at the cop like a maniac such gems like, kiss my ass, fuck you, and I’m not paying shit!! Nothing happened to him, the cop just calmly wrote another ticket,
Me? I’m so distrustful of the way black men are treated by the police if I simply utter the words Lower Alabama with someone I was joking with, the cops may be called to arrest me. Yes, I know that’s far fetched, ridiculous, preposterous and simply outrageous.
And that is exactly what happened to me at a Hilton in Orange County California.
I was told I had 20 minutes to leave the hotel or the cops would be called and charges would be pressed because, I said, “To me, L.A. means Lower Alabama.”
Why? Somehow these two words insulted a pretty white lady’s grandfather, that’s why. The grandfather was not there and I was talking (and laughing) with the woman moments before, I don’t believe him but even if true clearly it was a misunderstanding and what of it?
I’ve had great relationship with Hilton Hotels all my life with wonderful memories of my stays there. It was at the New York Hilton I sat with one of my idols the artist Ernie Barnes while still a student at the High School of Art and Design. The New York Hilton was also where Clarence Avant, Chairmen of the board Motown booked a suite for my then wife so she and her friends did not have to travel to New Jersey after the 1993 Janet Jackson concert at Madison Square Garden. It was her birthday but Mr. Avant wanted me in L.A. for an important conference. I thought my wife would feel slighted. Mr. Avant sent her six front row tickets to the concert and I wasn’t missed at all.
Who am I to be summoned by one of the greatest and most powerful man in music? I’m the guy kicked out and threatened with arrest for daring to utter the words Lower Alabama.
When asked what hotel I’d like her in, without a second’s hesitation I said the New York Hilton. There was never really any other choice. My life long BFF Lee Speller and I would often gaze out the window of our job at the Hilton. We were hoping to see some booty and very often we did. Lee and I were Pinkerton guards in collage. One of our few shared posts (assignments) was the J.C. Pennys corporate office building at 1301 6th Ave. right across the street from the Hilton.
The Grand Central Hilton was the spot my brother from another, Bill Sienkiewicz, and I met every so often just to hang. Most times Bill would take a later train to Connecticut so we could talk bit more. That’s where Bill and I fell in love…
I can rarely speak of Bill without inserting some humor and although this gets dark in a moment thinking about those days with my friend, now one of the greatest illustrators of our time makes me happy. Not as happy as a returned call, text and occasional booty call, but happy nevertheless.
A caution, my humor love of friends and a promise made are all that have kept me from falling deeper into a despair where more than once I wondered if my solution was a bullet to my head. A smile and some silliness over cherished memories do in no way lighten this narrative.
My Hilton memories span over 30 years and one of the highlights was sharing the stage with Orlando Jones at the 2015 Eisner Awards at the Hilton San Diego Bay Front. I’m a Gold Hilton Honors member with more than a few stays in Presidential Suites at a Hilton. Some of those stays were complementary upgrades and anyone with access at Hilton can verify what I’m saying.
In fact, everything I say is easily verified.
Who am I to get kicked up to the Presidential suite for free? I’m the guy kicked out and threatened with arrest for daring to utter the words Lower Alabama. I’m the guy just caused unimaginable harm who’s considering which of the resources I have at my disposal to utilize.
What kind of resources do I speak of? The kind I used when UPS made the mistake of dismissing me. They lost a valuable package of art and tried at first to claim it was the sender’s fault. I was told it was impossible to track 26 pages of what they assumed was now scattered over some never to be found land.
The art was from Denys Cowan, one of the greatest black comic book artists in America, and was to be showcased at a galley show. That show, Milestones: African Americans In Comics Pop Culture & Beyond has since become the most successful show at the Geppi Entertainment Museum and one of if not the most successful show on African American Comics and Pop Culture.
Who am I to be chosen by a world-class museum to curate such an important show and significant piece of black history? I’m the guy kicked out and threatened with arrest for daring to utter the words Lower Alabama.
UPS found every single impossible to find page. They did so because corporate saw a bigger problem and made their people do the right thing. There was no silly Lower Alabama catch phrase for anyone to rally behind. Nor was there any video that tells the entire story like exists here.
Do not take my words, video, or narrative for gospel. Everything I speak of can be found on-line and as far as what happened at the OC Hilton I’m sure the powers that be at the Hilton will use their own videos and check my account against the front desk managers and I’m counting on that.
I fully support that and cannot wait to see them for I’d wager the film is vastly different than any report done before this article and that will be hard to explain. The tapes going missing will be hard to explain, the lack of a report will be hard to explain any additional narratives added to the front desk managers ‘report’ will be hard to explain. If there is any editing done to ‘cover up’ something (I’m not saying there is), now there is a reason to call the police. That’s would be an attempt to deliberately alter a report with the aim of doing me harm.
Oh, and UPS? Nowadays I can send a thought and UPS will make sure it gets there.
2016 begins my third year of unbelievable suffering. It seems each time a light bulb of hope appears above my head it goes out. The bulb doesn’t dim or fade or even ‘click’ off. It’s stamped out, smashed, the shattered shards of glass cutting my face making sure I remember just how damaged I am.
This all started when I called and asked for a late check out. As a Gold Honors member that’s a guarantee if possible. I was under the impression this would not a problem. It was. They gave me an hour pass the usual checkout time noon. I then asked if they had a short stay rate and what would that rate be until 4 p.m. I was told that rate would be the exact same rate as if I booked another night and get this – I’d still have to vacate the room.
I hate to rush, so I booked the room for another night to avoid the drama of having to deal with this anymore although I planed to leave after my next meeting, still a few hours because I had to get home.
Some time later I get a call from the front desk manager. She said I had to leave the room because they had booked someone else in it. Now, how is this my problem? I’ve already booked and confirmed another night. I’m already in the suite and that should have been that. A guest being asked to leave a room they had booked and confirmed? I’m sure that is not Hilton policy and I’m also sure if pressed the manager would have to concede the point.
I consented to move but told her it makes no sense for me to move into another room for another night when I only needed the room I’m in for another hour or so. That said, I asked what could be done so I’m not being taken advantage of?
I was told to check out, come down and she would take care of me. I told her it would take me a moment because I had to pack up a great deal of computer and camera equipment.
I explained this and she seemed OK until she called back and told me “you must vacate the room!” She sounded angry but had no leave to speak to me in that manner and it was my intention to tell her so. Once everything is out of the suite I’m on the line to see the front desk manager, she’s pointed out, I ask if I can have a moment but although she’s looking right at me she turns her back and leaves. I won’t suggest she did that on purpose, she was leaving for the day and most likely did not register my inquiry. I found this out from the front office manager who took over.
He was very professional and as such I asked if I could talk freely and rather he would be offended if I did. He said he had an open mind and wanted to hear what I had to say. I explained the rude manner the previous manager spoke to me and that its something I simply don’t tolerate. He listened closely so much so I told him I appreciated him taking the time to hear my vent and told him this.
I showed him the contact I had for the CEO of Hilton Worldwide whom I had met and although he and I were not boys (friends) by any means and the chances he remembered me were slim. This was done for no reason than to give an indication I knew of what I spoke. My objective was a simple one: for him to please tell that manager her tone was unacceptable and if I wanted to I certainly could with a bit of an impact, have her called on the carpet.
I then asked my iPhone what my name was to underscore the point was and add some humor. No idea if he thought it funny because after I played it I stepped away to allow someone to speak to him. I did that for anyone who formed a line behind me and there were a few. Two such people waiting on line for the front desk were a white couple who struck up a conversation with me. I found them charming and likable. Unless howling laughter means ‘screw you’ where they are from they found my company just as charming.
We talked for bit and they asked if I was from L.A. I said I was from New York and although I had a residence in Los Angeles to me L.A. means Lower Alabama. I then turned back to the front desk manager who clearly was no longer the calm pleasant human being I kept thanking for his time. His tone was now hard and he seemed angry.
“What is it you want? I’m not comping you a room, so what it is you want?” He asked.
“Where this coming from? A second ago we were fine. What is this?” I said.
“That was before you insulted a guest.” He told me this and I’m thinking, he’s kidding. He was not. I ask what he thought I did. He pointed to the white couple and told me I had insulted the grandfather of the young lady.
“Her grandfather is from Alabama!”
I see things clearly when faced with crazy. There was no grandfather there, the couple didn’t say a word to me about being upset and looked like they were fine. This was crazy. I told him I had done no such thing and I was just going too leave.
My present headspace had no room for this kind of stupidity. The best thing for me to do is distance myself from any and all drama hence I was leaving before crazy got crazier.
Too late, the front desk manager said, “You have 20 minutes to do so.”
What processed him to say that is beyond me. I was alreadyleaving my back was to him. I turned back and asked, “Or what? You call the police?”
The front desk manager said he was going to call the police because I insulted a woman’s (I was talking and laughing with) grandfather (who was not there) because I said; L.A. stands for Lower Alabama.
You don’t have to be a genius to know I insulted no one.
verb |inˈsəlt| [ with obj. ]
speak to or treat with disrespect or scornful abuse: you’re insulting the woman I love.
1 a disrespectful or scornfully abusive remark or action: he hurled insults at us | he saw the book as a deliberate insult to the Church.
a thing so worthless or contemptible as to be offensive: the present offer is an absolute insult.
2 Medicine an event or occurrence that causes damage to a tissue or organ: the movement of the bone causes a severe tissue insult.
The front desk manager then proceeded to beat me like he had a right to do so.
To be clear, no one touched me. A punch never landed on me for there was none thrown but it felt as if I was beat with a brick. I’d done nothing but that’s not where the pain came from. The pain came from the realization this man thought so little of me he could have the police arrest me over something any reasonable person would find silly.
The pain was because he was most likely right.
The front desk manager came from behind the desk and summoned some big white guy and both came towards me. The white guy had a kind face and clearly his heart was not into the bum rush I was about to endure. I backed out of the hotel repeating (taking care not to sound to blackish) “I did nothing.”
I backed out while at the same time trying to use my cell phone video. I got some but there are others who videotaped the entire thing. In my car I sat for a few moments trying to calm down then with a shock realized the manager had likely called the police. I did nothing, but a for a black man, doing nothing meant nothing if the cops are called.
I was sure I’d be arrested or worse. I had to get out of that parking lot. As soon as I exited a quickening heartbeat and hyperventilation began and I thought I was going to die. I fear the police because an injustice has more than once been the result of my dealings with them. I had done nothing but my heart would not stop pounding and now my tears are starting to flow because I’m livid I have to endure this unjust bullshit.
The Middleman was a suicide note written for every black man. The note taken from what would have been mine. I’m suffering from severe depression and each day is a challenge. I stay home; I stay off of the net stay away from the news stay away from social media. So when I’m told I have 20 minutes to leave a hotel one I have a long wonderful relationship with because I somehow offended a guest with a silly sentence or the cops will be called that is just as real as telling me I may be shot if I don ’t leave in 20 minutes.
Once the police arrived I would have insisted I had done nothing wrong and demand the manager show cause why I was being treated in such a way. I would not make any move nor issue any threats. That may not have mattered I may have been beaten, or shot.
Think that far-fetched? It is. But it’s a distinct possibility as any black man falsely arrested or black woman who just buried her 12-year old son shot for playing with a toy gun in a playground will tell you.
I’d say less far fetched than having the cops arrest you because you may have insulted someone you just met. Insulted them with two words you had no way of knowing were insulting. Insulting someone who felt her grandfather was somehow wronged in the way you used those two words even though he wasn’t there to hear it in the first place and by had no idea it was insulting.
Far-fetched has a different meaning when you have to fear your lighthearted conversation at the Hilton may get you arrested. Your freedom of speech during such a conversation ignored. It was a private conversation, ignored, I was a guest, and a Hilton Honors member to boot all ignored.
Don’t know if the young lady was an honors member but I do know she was white. I may be wrong but I don’t think she was upset at all, but if she was why was this the business of the Hilton? We were talking having a lighthearted conversation if something said, was off putting why tell the front desk manager? There was no dispute, no intimidation no danger of Lower Alabama hurting more innocent victims or their grand daddy’s.
Let’s flip it. What does the front desk manager do if I made the complaint?
“That woman just insulted my grandfather although she has no idea what she said or who he is or why it should be hurtful!” “She did what? I’m giving her 20 minutes then I call the cops and have here arrested!” Yeah, right. At most I would hear, “I’m sorry sir but there is nothing I can do about that.”
What that front desk manager did was wrong. Who he did it to was unfortunate for him but no one should be subjected to that type of completely bias and in my case potentially dangerous management.
Orange County California has a reputation of being racist. Again, don’t take my word for it, do the research. As a black man I can tell you the climate is not welcoming but I’ll also be the first to tell you that ‘climate’ is nothing tangible and not something to hang a ‘racist’ tag on an entire community. I’ve been to the OC many times with no problem but then again when you’re a black man you tend to ‘watch your step’ places where you know the climate does not favor you.
That doesn’t change the fact that I’ve never had a problem within the OC community. That is until a certain front desk manager decided the police had to be called because I had insulted a pretty white girl’s grandfather when I stated, ‘L.A. stands for Lower Alabama.’ What’s funny is the line is actually positive towards Alabama (where my stepfather was from and where I spent my summers) and the south as a whole.
I was threatened with arrest because I insulted someone with a riff from a James Brown song, a riff celebrating the south.
James Brown. Where’re you from, Albert?
J.B.: What part, man? Georgia’s got a big—. What?
Albert: Macon, Georgia.
J.B.: Macon. Don’t say it so low, bro. You make me think you don’t want the people to
hear you or something. …
Fred, where’re you from?
Fred Wesley: L.A.!
Band: Uh oh! Uh oh! [Laughter.]
J.B.: What you say?
J.B. L.A.? Oh no man! We may have to make some changes.
You can find that riff in most live recordings of Escapism and/or Make It Funky. The riff may change a bit but the L.A. punch line is always there. The point? To celebrate the South. Any implied ‘insult’ came from the mind of that young woman or more likely from the front desk manager? I said, to me L.A. stands for Lower Alabama. Where’s the insult?”
This one incident does not make the OC racist. Although I doubt if calling the police over such trivial bullshit would be done if the front desk manager was not sure the cops would be supportive. I also doubt the cops would have been called if I were white. In my opinion this type of ridiculous misuse of authority is the reason The San Diego Comic Con International will never and should never move to the OC.
SDCC isn’t a convention, it’s a culture. It’s not just people in silly costumes parading around, it’s people who share a love of something that is hard to understand if you’re not one of us. In San Diego, there is no reason to think walking into a hotel lobby dressed as a character from an obscure comic book will get the police called on you. Even if said character is wearing a replica weapon and is a black man. In 40 plus years no one has been shot by the police nor has the police been called because someone was wearing a gun that looked too real during their show.
The police have talked to fans even cautioned fans about the wearing of certain items. That’s just common sense. I book between 20-50 hotel rooms a year at SDCC and have for 20 plus years. I’ve never been afraid to talk about anything at any hotel I’ve booked, nor has my staff or guests.
I’ve picked a fight with Klingons, screamed “Hey Batman, if I don’t get my money I’m telling everybody who you are!” followed by “Batman is Bruce Wayne!”
I did so knowing the management would get the joke and even if they didn’t I was safe from the police.
But in Orange County California, if I say something that’s positive, funny and no business of the front desk manager at all, I could be put in jail without even a second thought? That’s reason enough for me to think perhaps the OC is a bit racist and to oppose loudly any move of the SDCC to the OC.
I stated earlier I had to get home that day but I couldn’t. I was so shaken up by my humiliating treatment, I couldn’t drive, thoughts of police cruisers pulling me over contributed to my already screwed up head that I missed saying goodbye to Dexter, my dog of 10 years, hours earlier I learned had fallen ill and was suffering.
I had to grant permission to end his suffering to kill him without being able to hold him one last time and say goodbye.
If the front desk manager was looking for an insult, there it is.
Lastly, I was the keynote speaker at an event held in Huntsville Alabama at the University Of Alabama last year. The event
focused attention on the sexual abuse of women on America’s college campuses. The people of Huntsville were warm and welcoming to me. City officials have told me I’m to be made an honorary citizen of Huntsville and given the key to the city soon. That will be kind of achievement my mother would be so proud of if she were still here.
She lived to see her son survive the projects although her other child and mother did not. One of her greatest joys was seeing
Her daughter Sharon live on in the hit animated show Static Shock and when The Gordon Parks Academy named its auditorium The Michael Davis Auditorium.
Who am I to receive such honors? The key to a wonderful city? My name on the auditorium of a school named for one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th Century?
I’m the guy kicked out and threatened with arrest for daring to utter the words Lower Alabama in 2016 America.
Not the first but perhaps the best black superhero, Brotherman is returning in 2016.
After more than 20 years the Brothers Sims will publish what has passed cult status to become full on legend. All over the comics world people are rejoicing as this beloved Black Universe of characters gives old and more important new fans of color something all too rare for us, stories about people who look like us.
Sound familiar? It should, Milestone 2.0 announced its return at the start of this year, and now at year’s end, Brotherman follows suit. This would be the first time Brotherman followed Milestone in anything. Brotherman has always been ahead of Milestone, they published first; found alternate distribution first (something Milestone never understood fully) and realized first the revenue being ignored by the big two, Marvel and DC, namely the black market.
This in no way takes away from the vision and brilliance of Denys Cowan and his creation of Milestone. I’d say to think such would be stupid but I don’t want to insult the stupid. Denys’ idea was a black comic book company. That was a first in the modern day of comics as there have been black comic book companies before Milestone. The most notable, Golden Legacy, started in 1966 and still publishes material today.
The black market is so underserved is easy to tag someone as a copycat because there are so few black endeavors into certain areas like comics. When Image was formed I didn’t notice anyone pointing out that the founders were ripping off Marvel. Nor did anyone say Malibu was ripping off Image. There were quite a few comic book companies that sprung up around the same time as Milestone, Image, and Malibu but nobody compared those other guys to Ania a comic book company that many mistook for Milestone. When asked to comment on each other’s companies and what was the difference, Milestone’s response was-‘they do what they do we do what we do. There’s room foreveryone.’Ania’s response?
“Them be some House Niggers.”
That’s not exactly how they said it, but they did say it and that’s how real niggers talk so I wrote it that way.
Black comic book content is always being compared to each other if its black people in control of the project-it’s a knee jerk reaction so it stands to reason Brotherman would get the “following Milestone” tag.
That’s not what they are doing but it certainly will look like that to a public brainwashed to think all black people follow one another in all things.
20 plus years ago Brotherman’s creators chose family over their publishing endeavors. 20 years later they return as family. Despite hardships and outside pressure, they chose family. You can read about it here.
African Americans have faced challenges in America since we were brought here in chains. We are stronger by far when we stand as one. For many that’s hard to do. That’s one of many purposes of the song, slogan, or anthem within our culture, to strengthen resolve. Most preach courage hope and/or perseverance like these:
We shall overcome
Keep your eyes on the prize
Lift every voice and sing
Some are defiant:
Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud.
A few are hard truths:
Brothers gonna work it out
The hard truth is, we can be our own worst enemy.
“If not us, then who? If not now, then when” John E. Lewis said that. Others have used different words to say the same but it took the great Mr. Lewis to make it short, simple, urgent and easy for those to understand how completely fucked up it would be not to work it out. Brotherman did it right.
Those brothers worked it out, that’s family. Family doesn’t stop at blood. Blood or not family doesn’t come to your mother’s funeral, stand in front of her casket and say; “we’re family” then crush you without a word to you months later. Funny, I’m still grateful he attended the service because I know at that moment we were family.
Then we weren’t for reasons still unexplained, some “brother” he turned out to be. Gary Byrd said every brother ain’t a brother. Sometimes every brother ain’t a brother or a man.
I know I know I haven’t written to you in years and this is reaching you a dozen days after your birthday Nov. 10th. That’s not really that bad if you consider you’re been gone 35 years and change. Before you get all bent out of shape you’re not doing so well in the- keep in contract with your brother department either.
Even when you were alive you weren’t much of a letter writer, but you have not visited me in my dreams in well over a year. In fact the last time I talked to you in a dream was the day Jean died. I’d like to think you have been busy catching up with our 26-year-old mother. You remember the day she came home on her 26th birthday and declared loudly so the entire neighborhood heard, “Sharon, Michael, this is my last birthday! From now on I’m always 26 years old.”
She meant that too.
For the rest of her life each and every birthday card I gave her had to say “happy 26th birthday!” She picked the right age because her 26th birthday was magical. Robert actually showed up and showed up sober! He was taking us to Palisades Amusement Park and everyone including mommy was excited. Oh, tell mommy she’s been lax in the visiting her only grandson department also. It’s something how we call our grandmother Lenard, ‘mommy’ our mother ‘Jean’ our great-grandmother Sophie ‘grandma,’ our step father Robert, Robert and each other, ‘High Yella’ and ‘Dark Side.’
Dark Side, my name for you was so cool even you said it was. You asked me a zillion times where I got the name from and I never told you. still the longest secret kept beating yours by about 34 years 11 months, three weeks and 23 hours. I loved that-who can keep a secret longer- game Jean invented. Ya know, I should just tell you where that name came from…but I won’t and you know why.
I have not forgotten that long ass car ride on Jean’s birthday where everybody was so excited but nobody found the time to tell me why. You did find the time and the ideal way to torture me. I really thought you were serious when you whispered “They’ve taking you to New Jersey to leave you there.”
“That’s not true!”
“Oh yes it is. What other reason would we be going to a park in New Jersey at night?”
You knew I had no concept of any other kind of ‘park’ besides the park I played in and never ever would I be allowed there at night. You got me good that night because I absolutely stopped reading (more like stopped looking at the pictures) the Long Ranger Big Little Book I loved so much. I pleaded with you to convince everyone to keep me.
“What are you telling that boy?” Mommy snapped at you. Then I thought… wait a second…mommy loved me! Every morning she would make my cereal (sometimes with water when there was no money so no milk) and she’d tell me how much she loved me at dinnertime. Some times no one would eat dinner but us, which we both found curious. That is until you figured out why it was OK if we didn’t ‘clean our plates.’ It was because Jean would finish what we left.
“Sharon said you all were going to leave me, that’s why we’re going to New Jersey and a park at night!!”
“Sharon Davis!!” Jean yelled at you “Why you go and tell that boy that?” I was feeling pretty darn good and about to get all up in your face then Jean said, “We’re not leaving him in the park, we’re dumping him out on the highway. That way we don’t have to stop. Michael, remember, tuck and roll, tuck and roll.”
For a very very, very long moment I was scared shitless. Then I started to cry like I’d never cried before…then everyone started laughing. Which made me cry even harder. Funny Dark Side, real freakin funny.
Ha. Really funny, ha.
I remember how you kept telling me, “We’re here! Highyella, look!” I didn’t budge I was determined not to get out of the car despite everyone saying they were sorry. Nope, I didn’t need to see some park after dark I had a real good mad on and I was going to keep it and yeah, I know the story so well because you and Jean took turns telling it for years.
Then Robert opened the back door and the lights of the Ferris wheel hit me…
Wasn’t that a magical night?
It was the most perfect night ever. We were all together, Robert and Jean were getting along and Palisades Amusement Park was beyond anything we’d ever imagined because we had no concept (I didn’t) such a place existed
It was a dream comes true but the better dream was Jean, Robert, mommy, you, and me a family just like the Brady Bunch…and just like the Brady Bunch our ‘family’ was cancelled.
I don’t think as a child I ever saw Robert sober again did you? That was the year we moved from mommy’s house to the projects in Rockaway and that was the Christmas Eve when Robert, drunk out of his mind opened Jean’s skull with the die cast metal Tonka truck he brought me for Christmas. How on earth could you witness that at 10 years old and function Sharon? You did and you saved her. You called 911 and she survived. It all came back to me sis, 30 years later.
You were already gone but every single detail came back to me. I called Jean–she confirmed I had repressed the memory. Once she confirmed it I never saw Robert again. The man I idolized I cut out of my life because of what he did 30 years prior.
He died 10 years later never knowing why.
Cold right? I Know. Terribly cold and a terrible thing to do to someone. He had changed and I didn’t care. I was full of such anger I just couldn’t trust myself to even speak to him. I’m haunted by that…or is that you?
Yeah, I still got jokes. But funny as I am, Jean was by far funnier. I actually called her once to help me write a scene for a show I was on. Oh yeah, your brother is a HUGE writer, producer, artist, governor of New York and I’m married to Susan Day. Yep, I married Laurie Partridge my boy hood crush.
Milestone is back and Static Shock is going to be a live action television show! Your little brother is in charge of everything! You live on as Sharon Hawkins! As does our mother as Jean Hawkins and yep Robert’s there also!
Except, well…about the writer, producer, artist thing…I am all of those things and I make a good living but I’m not huge by any means. I’m also not governor of New York and I’m not married to Susan Day.
Milestone is back and Static Shock is going to be a live action television show but I’m not running the show. I’m not even on the show.
They didn’t want me and get this, I asked.
They didn’t want me on the show I created the universe for they didn’t want me at Milestone although no has worked harder than me to keep Milestone current and always in the thoughts of fans:
Yeah, I know that’s a lot of stuff but its not all I’ve written or done to keep Milestone in the public eye. Yeah sis, it floored me when I was omitted. Not a word, not a call, nothing.
But your little brother is doing OK.
The Gordon Parks Academy houses The Michael Davis Auditorium, my mentor program has been recognized on such a level I’m asked to speak all over the world. I’ve given keynote addresses at the places you would not believe! I’ll just name one, the FBI.
Yep, that FBI.
Imagine me in front of a crowd of mostly white cops without my hands being up. OH and you know I talked about that which was not to be named. You KNOW I named it. I won’t do it here as your little brother has learned not to rock the boat
Some think it takes courage to stand in front of an institution and bring to light the hypocrisy of its leader who reportedly sort out Gay Americans to discredit while he and his boyfriend vacationed on Dick Island.
The FBI gig was cool but this was cooler, Rosamond Bernier called me her inspiration and did so with a full page in the Playbill of her Lincoln Center school age lectures. Before she started lecturing to kids and teens she sort me out to see how your badass brother did it. She’s only the most important art historian ever, no big deal.
That’s just some little old stuff I do to give back. I’m also the only person in comics with distribution into the schools with The Action files from Simon & Schuster & Person Learning and the Black Church with the Guardian Line from Urban Ministries and Sharon guess what?
There’s more and nope no joke is coming. Well, the following clip has some jokes but its no joking matter. I curated a show at the Geppi Entertainment Museum called, Milestones: African Americans In Comics Pop Culture & Beyond. In the 20 plus year history of the esteemed museum, Milestones has been recognized as the most successful exhibit ever mounted. The funny thing is although it appears to be an exhibit of Milestone Media its not. Nope.
Missy Geppi the museum’s President originally contacted me to put together a retrospective of graduates from my Bad Boy Studio mentor program. Bad Boys: African Americans In Comics Pop Culture & Beyond was the original name of the show. I changed the name and focus when I was to be a part Milestone 2.0 and had the idea to announce there.
We didn’t and there were a few other places we were going to announce all I arranged and paid for. We didn’t announce at any of those places. Somewhere and somehow ‘we’ became a ‘them’ then a ‘they.’
They announced in Jan. I became a trivia question.
Our cousin’s Regina and Desiree are trying to be slick. They don’t think I notice how they conveniently hit me up on Facebook right after I say some sad shit. That’s their way of looking out for me.
Doris their mom our Aunt was Jean’s maid of honor when she married Robert. Doris reached out to me a few times to try and get me to talk to Robert. I’d tell her I would, I didn’t. Robert tried to see me often all I could think of was Jean lying on the floor blood pouring from her head and just could not.
Jean had the presence of mind to tell Robert to leave before the cops came. I made up my mind telling him to leave was not to save him from jail. In my mind she wanted him gone before he realized what trouble he could be in and killed us all. I kept that thought more than any other.
He wouldn’t have. I know that now. He was just a sad beaten man who made bad choice after bad choice. Jean forgave him and told me I needed to also, I couldn’t. Someone, I think Doris, gave him my number and he left me this last message; “Son. I’m dying. Please come see me.”
Nope. True to his word (for once I thought) in less than a week he was dead. Jean called to tell me and once again suggested I forgive him.
Fuck Robert Lawrence.
Those were the choice words I used when writing about that day in my journal. Rereading them before writing this letter dropped me to my knees and finally after 20 years I cried for Robert Lawrence and yeah sis I’m crying for him now.
When I think of Robert the image of the monster that almost killed our mother has been replaced with a moment from when he was the most important man in my world. That’s the day he remembered to buy me Spiderman number 100 and ask me why Spiderman had 6 arms.
That began the best comic book conversation I’ve ever had.
With the authority of a foreign policy expert asked to comment on developments in middle east in front of the U.N. I brought my father up to speed on Peter Parker, Spider-Man and those six arms.
Then together we read that double issue. Kinda like when you and I played together that one Christmas Eve when I let you convince me to let my GI Joe marry your Barbie.
Fun fact-I now collect Barbie. How did I go from hating them to a collection worthy of more than as few interviews? You. I wanted one to remind me of you and I found every time I buy one, for the briefest of seconds you’re with me.
Except you’re not. Yes, you’re in my dreams and memory but I wanted more. That more came when I wrote the Static creative bible used our life as the inspiration. I was not alone when Static was created. Far from it, Dwayne McDuffie, Jim Owlsey (a.k.a. Christopher Priest) Denys Cowan and Derek Dingle were right there.
I was certainly alone when Dwayne told me to write the Static bible aka the Static Universe. For over 20 years nobody from Milestone disputed that-in fact they co-signed.
Now I was just ‘one of five guys in the room.’
Funny, how it just so happens Static’s life events and family is a carbon copy of ours right down to the names. Clearly that’s an amazing coincidence.
Sharon, I wanted Jean to see you live on she had such a hard life she needed some joy so no matter the current spin your little brother created the Static Universe and co-created the most successful black superhero ever created by black people, and I can prove it.
Our mother, Jean, and you saved me. Man, I should have been dead so many times but you saved me.
I couldn’t save you.
I couldn’t save Jean.
I didn’t even try to save Robert.
I will save your legacy-the world will know where the inspiration and swagger of Static comes from. It comes from, Sharon Davis, Jean Harlow Davis, Robert Lawrence, Sharon’s little bratty brother and Regina’s cousin.
Happy Belated Birthday Sharon
P.S. OK I was late getting this to you so I’ll tell you where ‘Dark Side’ comes from. Jack Kirby created a villain called Darkseid I got it from there. I could have said nothing giving you the impression it was all me but that simply would not be right to do to anybody but family??
Writer’s note: This was to run November 10th my sister Sharon’s birthday.
I had every intention that it would, even going so far as to ask Mike Gold if I could get it to him on the day it was to post, something my editor and friend for almost 28 years would prefer not. I had written and rewritten several versions of this and was sitting on the one that I was sure I was to send Mike in one hour, give or take 167.
I re-read the piece and realized I was making a rather large mistake so once again I had to re-write it. My mother didn’t raise any fools as such I neither watch FOX nor will I announce the coming rapture to non-believers.
God help me I love the comics industry even more. My reason for this foolishness? The comics industry is full of really wonderful, wonderful (YEP TWICE) people. On the flipside, if you’ve met me you’re aware more than a few assholes stalk the floor at Comic Con.
I know it’s hard to believe but there are people in the industry who think I’m an asshole. I’m not the kind of person to label others because they label me. I’m above all that high school crap. I refuse to create falsehoods in response to falsehoods created about me. I deal in facts, people, and it’s a fact the people who think I’m an asshole fall into one of three categories: (more…)