Category: Michael Davis

The “Black Panther” Problem

Black Panther has seven Academy Award nominations.

Damn.

I saw Marvel’s game changer the first week it was in theaters.  I stopped going to movies during the first-week decades ago, but I know so many people who directly or indirectly had some input. I wanted to check it out asap.

Black Panther did something few movies accomplish becoming a pop culture “have to.”  Much like E.T., the question was “What did you think of Black Panther?” Not “Did you see Black Panther?” The film is a massive success, and frankly I have witnessed few pull off what this one did— namely, become a national conversation. 

And the original flick wasn’t bad either.

I enjoyed the movie, but my admiration was for the overwhelming effect it had on people, particularly Black people. Never in a million years did I EVER think a Black grandmother and I would be talking superheroes standing in line to buy popcorn.

Most of the older people of color I know regard comics as just for kids. This 80-year young woman first took her grandkids to see it with the intention of seeing another film while they were watching BP. Noticing mostly adults and a few kids, she decided to sit in to make sure it was age appropriate.

I met her at her second screening— this time, no kids. She had come with some from her church group. What she thought she knew about comics wasn’t new to me. 

  • She was amazed at the amount of Black superhero content out there.
  • Marvel Comics was the only comic book company she had heard of.
  • Superman Batman Wonder Woman were all from Marvel she thought.
  • DC was the District Of Colombia.

These beliefs play an essential part in comics diversity and the lack of such there seems to be, but I’ll cover that in “The Ugly Side Of Comics Part 3.”

The major takeaway was how happy she was that Black Panther would pave the way for Black Superheroes (read: Role Models) in the not too distant future. 

There is renewed excitement in the Black Comic community, some who likewise believe THIS is the moment for BLACK SUPERHEROES from Black creators.

What could be a better time with Black Panther nominated for not just an Academy Award but SEVEN, including BEST PICTURE? The expectations are growing that the hunt is on for the next Black superhero and for good measure it should come from a Black creator, so it’s authentic.

White guys can play in the Black pop culture space, but it’s not easy. Authenticity is key. As an example:

  • Eminem: Authentic
  • Vanilla Ice: Nope

Regardless of all this Black Panther buzz, it will never win Best Picture, and frankly, I don’t want it to win. Why? We are not ready as an industry for what would come, and I suspect neither is the Academy.

What would happen?

The planet would explode from the massive number of haters in America who see superheroes like the grandmother did, as kid stuff.

In all the articles on Black Panther nominations, I’ve seen the writers never fail to mention it’s the first superhero film to be nominated. The interesting thing about that is seldom did I see ‘first comic book’ film to be nominated. Another result of a comic book movie winning: producers would look to produce comic book movies that could also be nominated for prestigious awards.

Think Lobo staring Daniel Day-Lewis.

America as a whole still thinks about comics as they do the slinky toy—stupid and useless. Both good only to entertain those not old or smart enough to appreciate what real art is. Americans see reading as something they must do (I have to brush up on…) or want to do (…just want to lay in bed on a beach in front of a fire on a desert island, etc. with a good book). Comics have no place in either of those categories.

The Academy has faced all sorts of drama over diversity, and lo and behold, look at the Best Picture nods this year— three out of eight feature Black story lines.

Black Panther, BlackkKlansman and Green Book and another Black themed film If Beale Street Could Talk received three Oscar nods, including Regina King for the best-supporting actress. That’s not a coincidence by any means. Hollywood wastes no time when it comes to image.

Image, that’s one of the reasons Black Pantherwill not win Best Picture.

I liked Black Panther, but it’s not the best picture out of a field that also features Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Roma, A Star Is Born and Vice.

The odds-on favorite is Roma. I have not seen it and know zero people who have. Why this film isn’t in the Best Foreign Film category is beyond me— that aside, it seems the type of message film Hollywood likes to showcase as a way to cement their ‘fine art’ persona.

Black Panther won’t win because Hollywood wouldn’t knowingly take a cultural hit by defending a ‘comic book’ movie.

I think the film to beat is BlacKKKlansman. That sends a message that the Entertainment industry is diverse, and pimp slaps the Trump Administration as a bonus.

Sadly, I think those in the Black comic space waiting for Hollywood to make their creation the next Black Panther are wasting their time. More on that in “The Ugly Side of Comics 3.”

To recap:

  • Black Panther will not win Best Picture
  • The Industry isn’t ready if it does
  • Hollywood isn’t ready so it won’t

Now the good news.

This is a glorious opportunity to DEMAND from Hollywood the RESPECT comics deserve.

  • Credit on screen with the power players
  • Mention the creators in all press across all media
  • Industry involvement in charitable events
  • Hollywood support for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

There is a comic book property up for SEVEN ACADEMY AWARDS— now is the time we start acting like the creative genius’ we are.  Or we can go on complaining about silly shit. Shit that never leads us any closer to the promised land of respect.

Bill Maher is a prominent voice of common sense to some on the left and a bleeding-heart liberal to some on the right. Regardless of how you feel about him, there is no denying he carries a lot of media weight. You would think a guy as current and hip as Bill would know that comics can be serious literature. He didn’t know or didn’t care— regardless, his influence is vast and he thinks comics are juvenile tripe. He passed that along to his viewers. Since his first comments were met with a bit of anger Bill has doubled down when called on his stance.

Time Magazine thinks comics can be significant works of literature which is why Watchmen is on the Time 100 Greatest Novels list. Just click the smiley face and see for yourselves. Somebody get that info to Bill.

One last thing: last year a Marvel executive said, ‘Diversity does not sell.’ Black Panther features an all-Black cast begins in Africa ends in an African American hood is dotted throughout by Black inside jokes and has hard Right-wing haters.

Can’t get much blacker than that.

The film made a BILLION dollars in less than four weeks and is the biggest grossing superhero movie of all time.

Hey Marvel, diversity does not sell? Oh well, Black Panther may be a fluke.

How’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, working out for you?

Michael Davis: Stan Lee – The Man Now And Forever

(In honor of The Man’s passing, Michael Davis asked us to rerun his column from last year. We are happy do to so. —Ye Olde Editor)

No Sex On The Good Ship Lollipop, part 3

From our last installment…

The Los Angeles neighborhood of Westwood is home to The University of Southern California, better known as U.C.L.A. It’s a trendy area filled with upscale shops and expensive restaurants.

I’ve never been a fan of Westwood U.C.L.A or trendy, expensive restaurants. I doubt if I ever will be. But because God gets a kick out of such things my new Viacom offices were in Westwood, the reference library I was compelled to use was at U.C.LA, and a trendy, expensive restaurant was where I was on my way to have lunch with Stan Lee.

Stan was kind enough to bring with him Jack Kirby… and the Black Panther.

Together the three may have saved my ass.

Showtime Networks and Marvel Productions were both housed in the same Westwood high-rise. I was just moving into my new offices at Showtime; helping me do so was Adah Glenn.

Adah is a fantastic artist I met some years before. She used her considerable wits to land herself a gig at Motown Animation when I was not hiring. That I assure you is no easy feat.

Adah was placing a box on my desk with one small problem. She missed the casually.

Crash!!! The unmistakable sound of breaking glass when the box hit the floor filled the room.

“I hope that wasn’t my Tiffany lamp,” I said.

“I think I just saw Stan Lee in the lobby” she said, not hearing or not caring about my statement. I gazed over to the box then to her. I did that repeatedly knowing she would get the hint and pick up the box.

She didn’t get the hint.

Instead, she looked at me with no indication whatsoever she’d dropped the box.

“I wish I’d thought of something to say to him. Do you know Stan Lee?” she asked.

Flipping my eyes back and forth as fast as I could I told her; “Yep.”

Nothing. It was like the girl was in a trance, and I’d had enough.

“Adah!!”

“What?”

“Ya wanna pick up that box you dropped?”

She looked down and was surprised to see the box at her feet.

“I do that? My bad.” She bent down to pick up the box and said; “Mike, do you know Stan Lee?”

“I know Stan pretty well…”

Crash!!!

When later that month I was sitting down with Stan over lunch I recounted that story. He has a hard time believing anyone would react that way. I had a hard time believing Stan didn’t know how he rolled.

I’d met Stan as a fan in the 80s. Although it was a while before we became friends, it was memorable when it happened. I saw Stan walking across the San Diego Comic Con Convention floor in 1993, the first year Milestone had a booth.

Hey Stan Lee! come on over; you’re the first contestant on The Price Is Right!” I yelled. Why? I meant just to say “hey Stan Lee come on over” but the rest just came out.

Stan, much to my surprise, came over. “What do I win?” He said with a huge smile. The Milestone partners all scampered over and said hello to Stan who gave Denys Cowan a “There he is.” When shaking Denys’ hand acknowledging to all there he and Denys knew each other. That made Denys BMOC (big man on campus) and HNIC (ask a black person) for a bit.

That is until Derek Dingle asked Stan “How do you know Michael?” Before he answered I chimed in with “Stan and I were in the Crips together.” Stan co-signed with; “Those were the days.”

Those were the days indeed.

Stan and I had just done a drive by when we decided to ditch the car and ran into the woods. It was dark as such we were taking care not to make any noise less so we were not discovered. At one point Stan whispered “Something just landed on me.”

It took my eyes a second to adjust to the darkness, but once it did I saw what it was and informed Stan; “It’s a spider…man.”

That’s when I created Spider-Man, but Stan will never acknowledge that or his illegitimate son Spike.

That’s how I opened the Stan Lee Roast at a 1994 convention event. By that time Stan and I were on a friendly basis. In 1995 Stan was kind enough to come by the Motown Animation booth at SDCC to wish me well and take some photos.

“You drive that thing on the street?” Stan asked as we stood in front of the Motown / Image Comics Van. The way he asked the question was so funny I couldn’t answer from laughing so much.

Stan and I talked about our history among a great many things over lunch, but mostly we talked about my new venture at Viacom. Since the deal closed the feeling I had made a major blunder was growing. “I gave up my golden parachute to follow a dream, and I’m beginning to think it was a mistake.” I said to Stan.

I told Stan about the comic book reading program.

“That’s a good idea but a hard sell.” He said.

“It’s sold, but now I’m not so sure it’s a good idea,” I responded.

“It’s a great idea. I should know because I did it when I was in the army,” Stan said. Then he told me how he produced the line of instructional comic books for the armed forces. Years later when at Marvel he tried to get comics in the school system but couldn’t crack that market.

Stan Lee couldn’t crack a market? I’m thinking gethefuckoutofhere!

I was convinced he told me that to make me feel better. He assured me he was serious and explained how it was a big deal to get into the schools.

He told me following a dream is rare for most people and said my dream was a noble one because it involved making something to benefit others namely kids with problems reading.

“You unquestionably helped a million kids with a problem reading I’m sure. You certainly helped me.” I told Stan that and how in the fourth grade he and Jack Kirby almost made me kill Ronnie Williams when I slammed a metal backed chair over his head.

“Why on earth did you do that?” Stan inquired through his huge grin. I explained how Ronnie took my copy of Fantastic Four # 73 and I wanted it back. Jack Kirby and he (and some advice from my mother) gave me the strength to get it back.

“Don’t forget the chair.” Stan deadpanned.

I realized this was a good a time as any to tell Stan something else he helped me with, my self-esteem. “Thank you for creating the Black Panther. How much flak did you get back in the day?”

He looked at me for a sec and then said; “Some, but it was the right thing do we thought.”

That may have been the understatement of my comics career. The Black Panther was all my comic book buddies, and I could talk about when we discovered him. Then it was the Falcon, Luke Cage, the Prowler and on and on.

It goes without saying Stan and Jack paved the way for Brotherman and Static, inspiring black creators of today with black heroes from our yesterday. I don’t know any creators of color from my generation who would not give those Lee and Kirby creations at least a nod.

Stan and I made lunch a pretty regular thing while we were both at that Westwood high-rise. Stan moved on launching Stan Lee Media where I almost ended up heading “Stan Lee Kids,” but that’s another story. I moved on not long after Stan left the building.

Stan was right. Comics in the schools were a good idea. My Action Files over twenty years later is still in schools. Some time back they started selling on Amazon (without the Teacher’s Guide), and to my knowledge, the program is still the only curriculum based comic book reading program sold in American schools.

In my mind, Stan has a real place in the history of current black comic characters. Those who don’t think so are welcome to that opinion.

The sheer guts it took to create the Black Panther during the time Jack Kirby, and he did so is enough for me.

They didn’t have to, but they did because ‘it was the right thing to do.’

The last time I saw Stan, it was bittersweet. He was the same old Stan holding court in the lobby of the Marriott. But when I shook his hand and looked into his eyes it was evident my Stan was gone. He didn’t remember me.

“Stan is pushing 100. He can’t remember everything and everybody” I was told this by one of Stan’s entourage who meant well but dropped me even to a deeper sadness. As I started to turn and walk away, this young lady must have seen the grief on my face and touched my arm stopping me.

She said; ” With age, God wipes away many things to lessen our burden. His long life may soon be over that’s not a bad thing he must be exhausted. He may leave us, but he will be at peace.”

Not true, I thought.

Stan will be with us forever.

Michael Davis: Confessions of An Uppity Negro, Chapter 1

From now on
These eyes will not be blinded by the lights
From now on
What’s waited till tomorrow starts tonight
Tonight
Let this promise in me start
Like an anthem in my heart
From now on
From now on 

Except from ‘From Now On’ written by Justin Paul & Benj Pasek

I am lucky
I am a con man
I am a fraud
I am uppity 

I AM LUCKY: 

“You’re very lucky to get even that.” The late Neal Pozner said that to me while handing me a ‘fill in’ job. It was a Captain Atom 10-page story an assignment given to me as part of my pay or play agreement with DC Comics while with Milestone Media.

Part of the agreement with DC was in exchange for devoting all our time to Milestone our standard of living would not suffer. If my Milestone income wasn’t sufficient, I could petition DC for freelance creative which they could provide or not. Either way, we got paid.

The word came back from Neal that no editor liked it and as such, they would not hire me. That’s when I knew the fix was in and I would never do work for DC again.

FUN FACT: I laid out thumbnail sketches but other than that I didn’t touch that job. John Paul Leon, Bernard Chang, and Charles Drost did the actual artwork.

“Frankly Michael, the word is that you’re not a very good artist.”

Nooooooo, John Paul Leon, Bernard Chang, and Charles Drost were not very good artists, and we KNOW that is bullshit. You may not be familiar with Charles’ work (Chuck to his pals) he’s a fine artist animation producer and director, but he’s as talented as they come, and everyone knows Bernard and John Paul are two of the biggest talents working in comics today. All three were part of my Bad Boy Studios.

So, yep the fix was in.

When Neal told me, no one wanted me because I sucked as an artist I wondered why on earth did they offer me two deluxe format projects and pay me well over a hundred grand before my name went the Moses route and was stricken.

DC: Let the name of Davis be stricken from every book and tablet, stricken from all comics cartoons stricken from every monument of the industry. Let the name of Davis be unheard and unspoken, erased from the memory of men for all time.

This surprised me because Neal and I were close until one day we just were not.  I met Neal at a Gays in Comics mixer at a convention. He came over shook my hand and said, “It’s not many straight guys in comics who would attend one of these.”  NO IDEA how he knew I was straight, but we ended up talking and becoming friends. After that, we would hang out together whenever we ended up at the same event.

When Neal died, I contributed his coldness to more substantial matters that affected how he treated trivial shit. He was a good guy I liked him nevertheless he was part of the DC Machine that was fucking up my shit.

I AM A CON MAN: 

“Michael, I see you’ve conned yourself into yet another rather nice deal.”

Bob Wayne said that to me at Comic-Con International in 1994. I’d just been named President and CEO Motown Animation and Filmworks. I went over to the DC booth to say hello to Bob. He was loud enough so all those within earshot could (and what I thought his purpose) would hear.

This REALLY surprised and hurt me because Bob and I were buddies until one day like with Neal we weren’t.

I gave Neal a pass-why? I liked him and ‘pay or play’ means assignment or not DC had to pay me.

They didn’t. But that’s another story, and here we were talking about Bob Wayne.

Yeah, Neal got a pass. Bob, on the other hand, did not because I was livid. When I returned from Comic-Con, I wrote a very detailed letter to Bob’s boss explaining how unprofessional Bob was and how I was offended.

Realizing Bob may have destroyed any opportunity to work with another influential entertainment company Bob’s boss fired him. That act so impressed me I licensed the entire Gerry Anderson catalog to DC for a dollar. Polygram was a sister company, and I was given Thunderbirds, Stingray, and Captain Scarlet among other properties to develop. Yeah. Bob was out of a job, and I entered into a publishing deal with DC that has produced the most successful Black character in DC’s history.

HA! That will teach anyone to fuck with me.

Then I woke up.

The publisher of DC didn’t even respond. He and Bob most likely laughed their asses off.  OH, wait a sec, you’ll don’t know Thunderbirds, Stingray, and Captain Scarlet was among the universes I had dominion over?

I AM A FRAUD: 

At the very same convention that Bob Wayne thought he had dominion over me, I ran into Howard Chaykin. Howard was a friend who I idolized when younger.  Not just because of his fantastic work his badass take no prisoner attitude had a significant influence on me

His reaction when I told him the news of becoming President and CEO of Motown film and TV. Hell, he was a friend— what do you think he said to me?

“What? But you’re a fraud!”

Well, I thought he was a friend.

I AM UPPITY:  

“You get in people’s faces.”

“You’re loud.”

“Who do you think you are?”

SOOOOOO many people pros and fans alike have said the above to me and MUCH MUCH more.

Howard Chaykin invented getting into people’s faces. No one is louder than Todd McFarlane.

Who do they think they are?

I’m willing to bet those guys don’t get questions on their pedigree.

There are two distinct differences between Howard, Todd and me.

  1. They are way more well-known than me.
  2. Really? Do I have to say it? OK, I will, my dick is bigger, and I can dance. (watch some idiot not get the joke)

Now there are those will say they are more accomplished than me.

Maybe.

Maybe not.

Depends on how you measure accomplishment.

Now would be a good time to tout my resume. Nah. Not gonna do it. I’ll just ask is there a Howard Chaykin auditorium somewhere or do they only give those to frauds?

Just askin’.

Here’s my question-what gives anyone the right to call me a fraud when they have no fucking idea what I’ve done? Or call me lucky when made aware something I’ve done?

Or say:

“You get in people’s faces.”

“You’re loud.”

“Who do you think you are?”

All that my friends are code for uppity, short for Uppity Nigger. Fraud? That’s when people have no respect for you. I can’t explain why Howard said that to me and that shit HURT. What did I say?

Not a damn thing.

I’m nobody’s bitch I’m not afraid of Howard but he may have forgotten the snowed in night at UP START STUDIOS when he spent a great of time giving me advice and showing real concern.

It was just he and I from around 9pm until well after midnight. This stands out as one of the best memories of my best memories because all the time he was talking to me he was inking AMERICAN FLAGG.

FUCKING WOW.

He may have forgotten, I haven’t.

So, no I didn’t say a word.

There’s a company that took their objection to my swagger personally. I say company because when the little bitch who started it all left the company, I thought the stupidly went with him. I just found out it didn’t.

This asshole produced a document that is so damning he thought when I signed it he had successfully killed my career. Why would I sign such a document?

Because MY lawyers who come from one of the most powerful law firms on the planet say it’s unenforceable and those who produced it were fools to do so. It shows an absolute bias against me.

Right now, the punk ass bitch who put this shit together is thinking ‘statue of limitations’ That would be a concern if I signed outside of those limitations.

What, me worried?

It’s not like I had called the character Tyrone Cash Super Nigger. Cash was a brilliant black scientist who gains the powers of the Hulk, KEEPS HIS INTELLECT, then decides to give up his job as a brilliant scientist TO BECOME A DRUG DEALER.

He solved a problem that Dr. Doom, Reed Richards, Hank Pym and every other big brain in the Marvel Universe couldn’t. That makes him the smartest person in the Marvel Universe. That means the most intelligent BLACK person in the Marvel Universe thinks being a fucking DRUG DEALER is a worthy endeavor.

This idea was created by superstar creator Mark Millar.

It’s not like I called Mr. Millar’s creation ‘Super Nigger.’ THAT would be a reason to worry.

Shit. I did call Tyrone Cash, Super Nigger. But Mark, if you’re reading this, don’t get mad. It’s not like I called you a fraud or asked who you think you are.

BTW-does one stupid character negate your other work?

No. You’re still a brilliant writer, but TC is as FUCKED UP as FUCKED UP can be.

But (HOWTHEHELLYOUDOINPETERDAVID?) I digress.

Am I worried about outing the nincompoops who think they have the right to treat me like my name was Toby?

Nah.

I’m looking forward to their explanation. Then they can also explain why they produced that document AFTER two employees SWORE I’d called their company racist. Funny thing about that those representatives of this massive entertainment corporation. They were not mistaken, they were not wrong they were not incorrect.

They were LIARS.

It was a setup. Yes, I’ve got proof and so does Ropes and Gray.

Explain THAT.

Why am I dealing with this at all when I let it go for so long?  Truth is this isn’t the first time I’ve written about these things— this time it’s different because I made a promise to my cousin Regina a few months ago.

After reading my articles for the last 25 years, she noticed I’m no longer ‘getting in people’s faces when they fuck with you.” She also noticed I’m not happy nor am I, “Being the badass take no shit from no one we all love and shake our head at.”

She said it was my duty to show young kids of color if wronged bring attention to that wrong. People always want Black men to show their papers we both agreed that was still a problem, if not you’re a fraud or lucky and if you’re confident about your ability, you’re uppity.

Regina was my biggest fan, she was family.

On the one-year anniversary of Len Wein’s death, before I could post my article marking that sad occasion my beloved cousin, Regina Keesley passed from this earth.

I made a promise to Regina that I would no longer tolerate those who question my intelligence or doubt my resume.

OR are stupid enough to FUCK WITH ME.

Ice Cube said; “I’m the wrong nigga to fuck with” and so am I.

I’m off to NYC for Regina’s service. I intend to tell her face to face I’m gonna keep my promise.

Funny, I’m going to show some folk my papers, just not the ones they expect.


I’m trying not to duplicate what I write. Bleeding Cool, ComicMix, and Pop Culture Squad have all run the same article at times. Not my intention— I want each entity to have exclusive content from me.

This article is exclusive to ComicMix.

I’m writing a series of articles called “The Ugly Side of Comics” at Bleeding Cool. I see “Confessions of An Uppity Negro” as a sister series but as original to ComicMix as “The Ugly Side of Comics” is to Bleeding Cool. I hope to start a series at Pop Culture Squad soon. Working title “Not Me.”

—Michael Davis  
LAX, 9PM, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2018 

 

Michael Davis: The Truth About Harlan Ellison And The Lie He Told Us All

Note number 1: I wrote this first part in 2014. What’s below took me two weeks as I’ve been battling depression blah blah blah blah poor me etc.

Twenty minutes after I first met Harlan Ellison he handed me a signed blank check.

I’ll get back to that.

I found out what kind of friend Harlan was, and it’s essential to me people know the type of sway his friendship carries with it.

When I was very young, in the summertime my sister and I were sent to Alabama to stay with my stepfather’s parents. My stepfather would drive us from New York, and I looked forward to that two-day trip until one night I will never forget made me never want to go south again.

In thirty years of baring my soul as a writer, I have never written about that experience. I do so now to underscore the importance of Harlan’s influence in my life.

My stepfather Robert Lawrence was an alcoholic well before it was designated an illness. At six years old I would not have cared if it was an illness or a ring given to him from The Guardians of the Universe. Robert (yes I called him Robert, it’s a Black thing) could do no wrong— he was my idol. It’s astonishing we were not killed during those sometimes 100 mph trips to Dalton, Alabama.  Robert was always drinking, and driving two kids cross country was just another thing to do for him.

We had just entered North Carolina sometime after midnight. Robert had stopped to take a nap. My sister and I were in and out of sleep, and for years the following seemed like a bad dream. The taps on the windshields were loud but the voices— “WAKE UP NIGGER!” were more emphatic.

Surrounding the car were six huge white men. Robert woke up.

“GET ON OUT HERE.”

Robert opened the door and stepped out.

Although he wasn’t hit, he was none the less beaten badly. Those men said the kind of things that put Robert on his knees. The one thing I’ll repeat was this: “Boy, we the Klan.”  They had no robes or hood, but we all knew it was true. My hero was reduced to what I thought then was a coward. As I got older, I realized he wasn’t.  He did what he had to do to save my sister and I. It was years before I understand this event wasn’t a bad dream.

I didn’t know what a vow was, but I made up my mind never to go south again. However against my better judgment and fears, I went back to the south twice the second time I wrote about in the 2014 article linked above.

Both times, something terrible happened to me— both times, Harlan made it OK.

I was asked to be the auctioneer at a function to benefit battered women at Dragon Con in 1995.  Giving myself the “oh I was a child it couldn’t have bad” talk, I arrived in Atlanta early so I could go to the Civil War Museum. I am a big fan of American history, and I’m sure the Civil War Museum in Atlanta is all I heard it was.

I may never know.

My then girlfriend at the time and I got as far as the parking lot when it was made clear we should keep on getting on. I’ll spare you the details, but note to Black men who love history, here’s a tip: if you’re planning a trip to the museum leave your white girlfriend home.

To be fair, that was 1995, things may be different now that Trump is Presiden…shit. Just don’t go.

After the events in the parking lot, both my girlfriend and I were severely shaken.  I was determined to just go back to New York, but I owed the benefit organizers an in-person explanation at least.

Nothing was going to stop me from getting on a plane, or so I thought.

Harlan did.

He heard I was bowing out found me and did the second kindest thing ever done for me. He co-auctioned the event and in doing so showed me the people of Atlanta were terrific kind folk unlike those who tore into me with such hatred earlier that day.

The two hours Harlan and I spent going at each other trying to get bidders to go higher and higher is why Dragon Con is my single favorite convention experience.

Yep.

I love San Diego Comic-Con and would take a bullet for any staff member, but the single best time I’ve ever had at a convention was Dragon Con, and I’ve only been there once.

A lot has been written about Harlan’s brash in your face attitude. Many think that as a famous writer he was playing a role. His antics more ‘character’ than real.

Some even going so far as to say he believed little of what he preached.

I wish some people were smart enough to realize how stupid they are.

Harlan Ellison was a 20-year-old brand new writer in Hollywood when the biggest star in the world got in his face. Nobody and I mean nobody fucked with Frank Sinatra.  Frank got in Harlan’s face, Harlan  got right back into his.

Sinatra was the most powerful man in Hollywood at the time; Harlan was a writer and didn’t care. Give that a long hard thought. That as they say in the hood is ‘gangsta.’ Read the article “Frank Sinatra has a cold” and you’ll learn something about being true to yourself.  It’s all talk for most, not Harlan.

I mentioned what Harlan did for me at Dragon Con was the second kindest thing ever done for me, here’s the first: when I met Harlan he was leaving a party at Len Wein’s house; I had just gotten there.

We hit it off immediately.

“Give me a call, let’s grab a bite,” Harlan  said. “That would be great!” I responded and gave him my card. Harlan  looked at the card then gave it back. “You’re calling me, remember?”  For a moment I thought he was pissed, but I managed to utter, “Card?”

“Man, I don’t do cards.” He half yelled while digging around in his briefcase.

He produced a checkbook ripped out a check and gave it to me. “Whoa!” I stammered while looking at his name address and phone number printed on the front.  “Don’t you want to write void or something on this?”

He grabbed the check from me making a show of writing something on it. “Man, you’re like a little girl.” He tosses the check back to me and says in a much lower voice; “I’m sure I can trust you, but just in case you ever need help with anything…”

I didn’t get that at all, I folded the check and put it in my wallet. Something stopped me from returning my billfold to my back pocket. Instead, I unfolded the check and looked at what Harlan had written.

He signed the check.

I’d known the man for twenty minutes, and he had given me a signed blank check.

I ran after him with the intent of giving back the check. I reached him in about 30 seconds deciding at that moment to keep it realizing the message behind the gesture, this man wanted me in his life and wanted me to know he’s not fucking around. “I could be homeless and hungry; I’ll never cash it.”  Harlan  made a look like he had no idea who I was but before the front door closed, he hit me with a smile.

I had the check framed the day I heard Harlan passed.

The truth about Harlan is he was exactly who he said he always told the truth— except for this massive lie. He once wrote, “For a brief time I was here, and for a brief time, I mattered.”

Bullshit, nope, nada, bullshit again.

Harlan Ellison will always matter.

Note number 2: To my loyal fans (both of you) I’ll try and stick around this time, but the thing about depression is it’s depressing so there. Harlan’s article I hope will be the last shared by all the outlets that carries my bi-line.

To my haters, I’M BLACKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK.

That last one was for you, Harlan.

Michael Davis: Hello. Goodbye.

This is my last ComicMix article.

Pity.

This place saved my fragile sanity on more than one occasion and that’s not a joke. I suffer from severe depression, and although I am doing well today I was doing better yesterday, and that’s why this farewell is a prelude of sorts warning young artists and writers

I’d much rather my last CM article be a warm trip down memory lane; yesterday it would have been.

I was better then. Instead, I begin a tale that will benefit any bright-eyed creator because it’s true.

Forces at DC Comics led by one man conspired to destroy my career – 25 and again 15 years ago.

It appears that same person (no longer with DC) is trying to do so again. That I can’t be sure of (second-hand information) so I won’t state the latter as a fact nor name him. I will convey every bit of cold-hearted treachery from decades ago, that I can prove.

It’s as cold as Trump is white and as easy to prove as water is wet.

15 years ago two DC Comic “witnesses” claimed I was at the DC booth at the San Diego Comic-Con calling DC racist. LIE.

25 years ago a letter was sent from DC to Motown Records saying I was under contract with DC and was prohibited from talking to Motown about running their film and television division. LIE.

Back then I let things go, I was a young man who forgave quickly. I’m no longer young.  All my immediate family is dead, and former friends might as well be.

I have little patience for most people none for those who pass judgment on me for no other reason than they can.

With depression, I can’t allow people to interfere with my mindset. I put a gun to my head and pulled the trigger once.  I’ll probably do so again, but next time the chamber won’t be empty. I’d like to avoid that for as long as possible hopefully forever.

People who deem my swagger an affront to them be warned that water under the bridge guy is gone. Meet the wrong Nigga to fuck with.My time at ComicMix is done. I’ll miss it and miss those people who make up some of the best minds in comics. Bleeding Cool will run my series, The Ugly Side of Comics.

My best to all the ComicMix fans family and friends. It’s been an honor.

Michael Davis – Len Wein: A West Side Time Travel Story

I’ve said many times no one was more Milestone than Dwayne McDuffie. Denys Cowan’s larger than life idea created the company. Dwayne showed up with the details for that idea.

Milestone has made an impact on the comics world to be sure. Most would say comics have had an impact on the world and I would agree.

Just as no one was more Milestone than Dwayne, there was no one more ‘comics’ than Len Wein. That may be my opinion, but I defy anyone who knew Len to prove me wrong. Comics at their best induce moments where you’re living within the world you’re reading about. As an adult, if you’re lucky that feeling will last a few minutes if you achieve it at all.

As a child, those moments lasted hours maybe even longer depending on your level of interest and in my case your level of pain. Some of my childhood memories are as vivid now as when I was eight years old. Some thankfully are faded one memory so horrid I repressed it only to have it surface in a series of dreams (nightmares) later confirmed by my mother as a memory.

Don’t get me wrong I had a wonderful childhood except for the times it wasn’t. Then it was bad, hence the repressed memory. But remembering any occasions reading comics was, as we say in the hood, All Good.

Len’s presence always made me think back to when I was a kid. For most kids in grade school, there was nothing more important than Saturday, Sunday and summer any time away from school.

Kids who loved comics were a wee bit different.

Yeah, we loved summer but where I grew up no two days were as important than Tuesday and Thursday. Those were the days the new comics came in. I lived on Beach 58st, Far Rockaway Queens. The store that sold comics was on Beach 67th street. I could walk there in about twelve minutes or bike there in about three.

Since it was in my ‘hood’ odds were I’d still have my bike and comics when I exited the store. That may not be the case with the comic store located at Beach 40th street-not my hood. We called it the 40. The 40 had a much better selection and a spinner rack! Until then I’d never seen one before, and yeah it was a big deal.

My grade school best friend Julian Butler and I were distraught one comic book Tuesday because Silver Surfer #1 was not in the new comics. We prayed for what must have been the longest two days of our young lives it would come on Thursday.

Nope.

“I’m not going to the 40,” Julian told me. “You’re stupid if you do.”

Julian had been beaten up his bike stolen at the 40. My friend Earl and I were chased from there my mother told me never to go back.

Julian was so right.

Going there would be stupid, and I almost never disobeyed my mother.

I was stupid I went there and I did say ‘almost.’

What else could I do? Comics were magic and my first love. When in love people do stupid things. Yeah, it was stupid, but it felt like magic.

Each moment I spent with Len Wein I was blessed with the magic of time travel because it felt like I traveled back to that time when I’d risk a beat down for a comic book.

At his graveside service, Len wanted a joyful sendoff, and his family and friends didn’t disappoint he got one. Fantastic Len stories genuinely funny were plentiful. I’m a hilarious guy, but I couldn’t speak let alone tell a humorous tale I was so heartbroken over his passing.

Others were just as heartbroken they were stronger than I and I’m glad they were. Still I think Len would have liked me to tell an amusing tale or two.

I’ll try and do that now.

Len’s life force was pure love. If you were fortunate enough to know him, you felt that. Always positive upbeat joyful and there for you. Len never brought you problems, but few were better with solutions. His cool calm and enlightened manner made his advice damn near spiritual.

That manner also cost me a Hugo Boss jacket.

“I know who you are,” I said with deadpan seriousness.

We were having lunch at an Oakland restaurant during Wonder Con. Len stopped looking for a waiter to look at me… like I was crazy. “Brilliant, changing one word of your teachings and who would ever think Buddha was a Jew?” I said as I looked attentively into his eyes.

He laughed so quick and hard whatever diet soda he was drinking ended up all over my Hugo Boss. He got the joke before I finished telling it. During the con whenever I would see Len talking to fans I would greet him by bowing my head and asking him to honor me with an autograph on; Len and the art of motorcycle maintenance, the way of Len, etc., etc.

You get the idea, but it took you a second. Len was quicker on the upbeat than anyone I knew. Len insisted he pay for the dry cleaning of my jacket and I should have let him. I left Oakland forgetting my blazer was in the cleaners.

Any time spent with Len was memorable. Some so outrageous if others were not involved no one would believe me. There was the time I drove some of the biggest names in comics to a party along the way we encountered both police then a car full of gangbangers.

Both confrontations featured loud blasting music from my truck. Not the Hip Hop you’ll expect from an early 30ish Black man but show tunes.

Yeah, I like a good musical, surprised?

“Maria” from, the West Side Story soundtrack greeted the cops when I slammed to a stop alongside them. I was speeding and did not see the patrol car until last minute.

Len was riding shotgun he shot me a ‘be calm’ look. I calmly asked the cops for directions which they gladly gave no doubt Len’s broad smile putting them at ease.

The cops drove on, and the music resumed with ‘America.’ My car was full of white people who all started singing at the top of their lungs.

I like the island Manhattan. 

Smoke on your pipe and put that in! 

I stopped at a red light glanced to my right, and my heart stopped.

Right next to us was a car full of gangbangers.

Latino gangbangers.

I like to be in America! 

O.K. by me in America! 

All at once I turned off the music, and everyone stopped singing. I’m praying these guys were not fans of musical theater. Len rolled down his window smiled and said. “Know it?” The banger behind the wheel nodded slightly then said. “Everything free in America.”

There was a beat of utter disbelief before both vehicles broke into laughter. I threw up some look like gang signs and shouted “West Sideeeeeeeee!” Without missing a beat Len added; “Story.”

Get it?

Yeah, that happened.

When I was around Len beautiful things like that happened all the time. His presence made me time travel to my younger self. I became the kid who couldn’t wait to buy new comics every month couldn’t wait to see what happened to Spiderman when he grew six arms. No way I could stay calm after Oliver Queen walked in on Speedy with a needle in his arm.

How could anyone be patient after seeing the ad for Swamp Thing # 7?

I felt I was in the fourth grade back to PS 105 when around Len.

That was always a good thing even if I’m too stubborn to see at times. The odds of a fourth grader no longer hating but becoming friends with a reformed bully are the stuff of After School Specials. That’s what happened after I almost killed Ronnie Williams. I hit him in the back of the head with a chair when he took my Fantastic Four #73.

I forgave Ronnie but kids forgive like they eat candy, they could care less how sick it makes them.

The odds of a now successful middle-aged black man from the hood with the chips stacked against him (on his shoulder) disregarding a history of conflict with the former (gone to his) head of a major comic book company?

Low.

The odds of A middle-aged successful black man with a chip on his shoulder from the hood crying like a little girl after reading the former’s gone to his head accounts of Len?

Trump becoming President of Mexico in a landslide win was a better bet.

Finishing each installment of Paul Levitz’s ‘week of Len’ on Facebook stabbed me with a razor blade of sadness. The narrative was written wonderfully, and for the briefest of moments, Len was alive. I almost made an “I never knew that…” call to him. After my mom passed, I dialed her number and began to leave a message on her answering service on three separate occasions.

To me in every way but blood Len was family and each tick of the clock believing he was still here was a gift. What Paul’s Facebook post gave me the comments took away by bringing me back to this damn reality.

He meant so much more to the world than what the press focused on. Yes, he was a fabulous writer, but he was an even better man. Len was the kind of person who cared about things that need to be cared about.

Sounds simple, but try naming five people you can truly say that about. Len didn’t need a hurricane to do the right thing.

This inadequately written offering has taken me weeks to write as I’m hurt and not seeing things clearly. I’ve been here many times. The Seven Stages of Grief are more like a ‘quick start’ guide to me these days.

I’ve lost many in the last few years just look at the tributes I’ve written then add eight.

Len’s death is different; it’s harder because Len while fighting his battle looked out for me while I was fighting mine. I tried to look out for him; I failed repeatedly.

When at rock bottom battling depression Len and his wife Christine insisted, I come to dinner with them one night. That was a night left alone I fear my inner demons may have won out.

The restaurant was six minutes away it took a Herculean effort and almost two hours to get there. They waited, called, waited, called and may have saved my life.

Whenever Len was in the hospital, I’d attempt to see him. The closest I’ve gotten was sitting in the hospital parking lot willing myself to move. I don’t see people in the hospital it’s something I just can’t do.

I spoke to Len about that he understood.

A week before Len died he called and asked me to come by his home. I called Christine to see when would be a good time.

I didn’t go.

I had every intention of going set a date took out the third row of seats in my SUV to fit Len’s wheelchair so that I could take him to lunch and then I moved our meeting date.

Len died the day before the new date.

Something in me died the moment I heard.

Len set the standard of integrity kindness fair play and honesty. He loved his fans like friends, loved his friends like family and loved his family above all. Knowing he would have understood not seeing him before he died gives me little relief.

I’ll try to be a good friend to Christine and Michael their support kept me from completely losing it when It should have been the other way around.

I loved that man; we, all of comics loved that man if you knew him or not you loved Len Wein.

I fear this is a pain I may never get over and fear my time traveling days are over.

So be it.

The time I spent with Len is well worth me staying put and trying to be a better man.

If you’re a regular reader of my work, you will notice there is no profanity in this piece out of my love and respect for Christine Michael and their family who may want to read this account.

Those new to my work who may seek out other articles by me be warned I swear and use hood slang often and I’m about to so again because Len loved this line:

Heaven, you smell that? That’s Len Wein; he’s the shit.

Rest in peace dear friend and thank you.

 

Michael Davis: Milestone is Dead 2: Long Live Milestone

This article processes some hard truths many won’t like.

The first part of this narrative, Milestone Is Dead, got a lot of people talking.

Nothing and I mean nothing in that article was new. I’ve written about what and why I thought the holdup at Milestone was many times. The only thing that was new was the title.

Every move Milestone has made I’ve predicted beforehand, and done so in writing.

But as always put a new spin on an old point, and people see something bright and shiny and want to play with it.

NOW people are paying attention.

Paying attention to see whether or not I’m going to throw more shade at my former partners. I didn’t throw any in the first place. I told the truth Milestone 2.0 formed almost seven years ago, and there are no books.

Milestone is dead for four reasons.

Three I wrote about.

  1. Except for Denys Cowan comics are not a priority for the partners.
  2. Corporate bullshit.
  3. Milestone has no infrastructure.

Here’s reason number four and the biggest reason Milestone is dead and will remain dead:

  1. Dwayne McDuffie is gone.

Milestone died the moment Dwayne went to pitch God a story.

Dwayne McDuffie left us much, but the magic that was Milestone Media is gone forever. Hope makes us think it can live again.

It can’t.

Years ago, when I heard my favorite toy from my youth Captain Action was to be recreated by Playing Mantis Toys, waves of nostalgia hit me. The day couldn’t come fast enough for me to own one.

When that day came, driving to Toys R Us, my reminiscence of playing with Captain Action when I was six years old transported me there in my mind. When I arrived home, I made a place to display my new Caption Action next to the original.

My original surrounded by a Lucite box the regeneration taken out of its box posed to stand on its own. Gone was my six-year-old self, taken away by the realization you can’t go home again. I was a middle-aged man. Captain Action was a toy, an action figure, and to those who don’t share my nerd ways, a doll.

Like George Webber in the Chet Baker novel, I found out the hard way; you can’t replace the memory with reality. That moment in time did what moments in time do.

They pass.

I doubt if those who were there during the heyday of Milestone Media will ever stop wanting those days to return magically. Alas like respect for Vanilla Ice those days are gone forever.

MILESTONE IS DEAD.

There’s a chance new readers could experience that magic. Everything old is new again and if not seen before it’s brand new.

LONG LIVE MILESTONE.

Enter Milestone 2.0— but well before 2015 when the was announcement was made.

Milestone Media was poised to return in 2000. Bob Johnson, the former owner and CEO Black Entertainment Television, was ready to do it. I put the deal together, but when it became apparent one partner was not wanted I didn’t do the deal I said then; “If not all of us, none of us.”

M2.0 was poised to debut at San Diego Comic-Con International in 2013. SDCC was to honor Milestone’s for our 20th Anniversary. Derek Dingle was not invited nor remembered. I told Comic Con we would pass if Derek wasn’t involved. “If not all of us, none of us.”

Those two examples should tell people who I am.

There are those who believe me a troubled man ripe with problems, using only my perceived brashness as evidence. Perception isn’t evidence— it’s opinion.

A Misguided perception can quickly become a reality. Spreading opinion as fact rarely helps and aimed at a person long enough can do some serious damage.

No doubt some people reading this are still under the impression that Dwayne McDuffie created Milestone. He didn’t nor was he Milestone’s first Editor and Chief. Denys Cowan created Milestone, and I was there at that very moment he came up with the idea and co-signed.

Make no mistake: Dwayne was the heart and soul of our company. Nobody was more Milestone than Dwayne.

Except for perhaps Dwayne, no one has done more to keep Milestone alive in the eyes of the public than I. Since his passing I’ve done more to keep Milestone viable than all the other partners combined.

That’s a well-documented fact, but why bring it up now?

Because the perception that I had little to do with Milestone by some taints others into believing that. I’ve said this many time I don’t let people define my brand or me with lies.

Milestone’s history, my history is important to this narrative.

I’ve stated Milestone of old is dead. What about Milestone NOW?

Milestone will publish.

Milestone will be embraced by the fans.

Milestone will fail.

Many retailers see those characters as ‘Black’ only. They aren’t, but DC will make no attempts to counter that. I don’t blame DC— it’s too risky a play, especially when they don’t own the Milestone characters.

If I’m correct, Milestone will try and get DC to handle the heavy lifting. That’s schedule, dealing with Diamond, editorial checks, and balances or put another way Milestone’s infrastructure.

I have no way of knowing but if faced with that DC may just balk. I would. Why on earth would DC devote the workforce to handle the shitty little details for characters they don’t own?

OK—let’s say they assign a team to handle Milestone’s infrastructure. No way in hell will that team works only on Milestone stuff.

Why?

Every move in any corporation has a cost to it. The cost of a DC team doing nothing but Milestone work is a non-starter. That team must come from Milestone; if such a group existed now there would be books. There are no books. If it’s a DC team, they will have to have Milestone added to their existing workload.

That’s a HUGE problem for two MASSIVE reasons.

  1. When faced with what’s important, DC will always get the nod. ALWAYS.
  2. Resentment.

Here’s some of that truth some won’t like: Milestone’s infrastructure went away when I did. I’ve produced three major universes since Milestone.

The other partners combined?

ZERO.

Motown Machineworks: Used as ‘illustrated concepts’ Machineworks books were mini-series canceled when sold into another medium. Law: Man, Against Time, was sold to FOX. Casual Heroes optioned by the Cartoon Network. Alas, all these deals died when Motown’s parent company at the time Polygram decided Motown should return to the core business. That’s OK those concepts reverted to me and in the case of Causal Heroes, Kevin McCarthy and me.

Publisher: Image.

The Action Files: Created and developed by Simon & Schuster (S&S) as a high-interest low-level reading program the Action Files (AF) has since moved to Pearson Learning and is the only curriculum based comic book program taught in the schools.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster & Pearson Learning

The Guardian Line: Created as a vehicle to reach young African Americans within the church and home. They did not preach or talk down to the reader.

They did contain good vs. evil value lessons as does the clear majority of all superhero comics.

Fun Fact: The books were killed in the direct market. Retailers saw them as preachy and corny. As I said they were not, but once again perception dictated the mindset, so retailors played it safe. The publisher is Urban Ministries Inc.(UMI) a Black Christian publisher and despite how the books looked (like DC and Marvel) and read (Like Image and Dark Horse) retailors stayed away.

My pitch for the Guardian Line was: imagine the film Devil’s Advocate but with superheroes.

Why is ‘killed in the direct market’ a fun fact? UMI is the biggest Black media company in America. They control because they own their distribution channels. They don’t need the direct market to sell over a million copies of the line. That, according to CEO Jeffery Wright, is a “low guesstimate”— he was in transit so he couldn’t give me exact figures. No outside advertising or marketing; all sales were generated via UMI’s database.

No idea what the numbers are on the Action Files. They must be massive because there is now a non-teacher guide version available on Amazon. The Action Files books have been in the schools for over twenty years. The Guardian Line celebrated its 10th last year.

Fun Fact: I hate the way those books look and read. They were ridiculously over art directed by people on the publisher’s side with NO CLUE how to do comics. I could not stand to see my creation butchered so I parted ways with Simon & Schuster on that project only to return on another sometime later.

When Pearson (the world’s biggest educational publisher) brought the S&S education imprints, I opened talks with them to revamp the series then I got sick and had to abandon all my creative endeavors for a while. I’m better now not perfect, but the revamp is going to happen.

MILESTONE IS DEAD. That’s the Milestone of our memory.

LONG LIVE MILESTONE. The promise of what a new Milestone Media can mean to our future.

Here are my bottom line recap and summary.

The old Milestone is dead the new Milestone has a chance to build on its legacy. That will not happen by repeating the errors of the past and not acknowledging the power of the retailors and the love of our fans. Retailers do much more than order books. They engage the fans Milestone must engage them.

Years with no news isn’t the way to engage anyone and to expect perceptions to change without reaching out to both fans and retailors frequently is just plain arrogance and stupid. Those guys are far from stupid so whatever the reason for their silence I hope they fix it and fast.

In my opinion, Milestone needs the following:

  • Mainstream distribution beyond Diamond directly into areas DC can’t reach.
  • Specialized distribution into areas that will generate additional revenue.
  • Self-contained infrastructure.
  • Access to new talent.
  • A forum that champions their message and destroys perceptions.
  • Funding resources.

Just so happens I know a guy with distribution beyond Diamond directly into areas DC can’t reach such as the Black church household and school system. This guy also has the following:

Self-contained infrastructure.

Access to some of the biggest talent in the business via Bad Boy Studios.

The Black Panel the leading pop culture forum specializing in diversity columns in Bleeding Cool, Comicmix, and his popular returning website.

Unmatched Resources and access to significant funding.

There you go, haters, I just gave you a gift, written proof that it’s all about ME because the above list is all me.

Pop Quiz:

  • Q. Treated like I’ve been why on earth would I offer any insight, assistant or help?
  • A. Here’s why it’s not about me (haters go fuck yourselves) it’s about Milestone, and it’s about love.

These two-part series are written with love— there is no malice in my heart, not anymore. I love what Milestone was and what it could be. This is an offer to help because I don’t want Milestone to fail.

All the partners must do is look at my actions as well as what’s written and more importantly what I haven’t written over the last few years.

All this may be moot. Milestone’s play may just be film and television, in that case, all they need is Reggie Hudlin and his impressive resume. There’s a genuine chance none of what I wrote is anywhere near accurate.

Here’s what’s not in dispute; the point of Milestone was to bring in readers who were not being represented. I’ve not only done that but done so in markets any sane publisher would embrace.

The following is for the partners:

I take DC at their word there is no ill will between us. There exists no business reason to avoid my help from their side. I know there is no business reason at Milestone.

If there’s issue with my loudness that’s an issue you’re going to have to own. No disrespect but I’ve been vetted by giants in both the African American and Latino media space a lot bigger than Milestone, the company I helped found.

Low overhead and high revenue are the voice they listen to most days. They also hear the voices of loyalty integrity and purpose.

In other words: yes, I’m loud, but I’m brilliant according to more than a few CEO’s.

Milestone is still the greatest African American comic book company that ever was. You don’t need me to make it more awesome, but you certainly need a guy like me.

Good luck with that.

Denys, you more than anyone know why this is perhaps the hardest thing I’ve ever written. The haters will concentrate on this line: Milestone will fail.

Milestone won’t fail.

Regardless of what I write or do. Milestone won’t fail regardless or my involvement or not. Milestone won’t fail even if the upcoming launch falters.

Milestone is you, my friend, and you will not let it.

I write an opinion column, that’s all this is.

No one can do what you can and no one ever will.

Just remember: at 4 am in the morning if you miss the Q111 at Jamaica Avenue, look for the car with the brick in the window.

He’ll take you home.

Michael Davis: Milestone Is Dead

1993

More than 20 years ago my swagger caused a rift between DC Comics and myself and that caused problems between DC and Milestone.

The pressure was put on Milestone to silence me. Silence me from what you ask? Calling DC Comics on their shit is what.

I gave up a significant income to concentrate on Milestone.  DC was in breach of my deal, and as a result, I lived more than a year on my savings waiting for these people to pay me.

I did well, and my lifestyle conveyed that. My wife and I moved three times in just as many years. Our space got more luxurious until I found a loft, so dope (throwback slang it means fucking fantastic) thought I’d never want to leave there.

How dope?

If Milestone wanted to impress anyone those meetings took place in my new loft. That lifestyle was not because of comics my principal revenue source was from my work as a mainstream illustrator and speaker.

It’s important to the story to remember my standard of living when I decided to be part of Milestone. Yes, I would take a big hit financially to follow Denys’ dream, and I did so willingly as did Christopher Priest, Derek Dingle, and Dwayne McDuffie.

Priest left for an editorial gig at DC. Derek, Dwayne, Denys, and I stayed. We all signed pay or play agreements. Simply put, DC would guarantee income to the Milestone partners to sustain their standard of living in the event Milestone could not. Denys, Dwayne, and myself would be paid for our creative work on the comics and not take salaries. In other words, my “salary” would be for writing and drawing Static, Denys’ income was for illustrating Hardware and creating the Milestone covers, Dwayne from writing Icon and Hardware.

In the event, any partners had to utilize our ‘pay or play’ option DC had the choice of assigning us to work or just writing a check. Hence the meaning ‘pay or play’ either way they had to pay us for something or nothing.

While still in development a young artist in my mentor program had gotten so good I suggested he draw Static. John Paul Leon’s unique style fit much better than my photo-referenced artwork. I was to move over to Blood Syndicate, that was perfect for me. I would still write Static but join Ivan Velez Jr. on Milestone’s super gang book, so both streams of income still in place.

Then walked in Robert Washington.

Robert was so much better than I for Static. His energy and ideas were simply incredible. I may have created the Static Universe, but no doubt whatsoever it was John and Robert’s world. Dwayne asked, and I readily agreed to let Robert do the first story arc.

My Milestone income was cut in half then cut to zero when the decision was made for Larry Stroman to draw Blood Syndicate. I worried not because I could always petition DC to use my pay or play and I did.

I never got paid, but DC did try to play me.

Unless you’re my wife or lover girlfriend or mistress fist date or Salma Hayek, you don’t get to screw me. DC tried by ignoring me for months the clear message was to make me leave.

Back in the day, I was sure DC’s problem with me was growing pains and after some time would be resolved. With the future in mind, I committed all to my role at Milestone and got to work

It’s more than fair to say I earned all that money DC didn’t pay Milestone to pay me. I worked tirelessly and was happy to do so.

Happy until I came home one day saw my wife sitting on the couch crying.

After years of telling her not to worry she allowed herself to believe we were not living beyond our means. That day she got a call from the bank she had bounced a check.  I never told her about the Milestone money issue or how much less I would be making if. I had plenty of money in the bank and the pay or play so why upset her?

Just like that, it was a year later and that money in the bank all but gone.

My ex-wife is Cuban, first generation to be born in America. Her parents were wonderful, hardworking people who barely escaped Castro with their lives. They came here wanting nothing but a chance to give their children a better life in the greatest country in the world.  I sat beside her explained what happened to all our money and promised to do whatever she wanted.

What she wanted was to leave the loft, which I LOVED but not nearly as much as her.

There were a million ways I could have kept that space. But I knew it wouldn’t matter if Ed McMahon showed up the next day with a Publishers Clearing House check for ten million dollars. To her, that loft was an extravagance we didn’t need.

The next day I told Derek Dingle to fix whatever fucking problem DC had with my deal. I was livid, and he knew I was a step away from calling those motherfuckers directly.

Derek resolved nothing; it got much worse.

It didn’t help voicing my indignation either. Doing so was putting Milestone in a less than ideal position. I was a pain. DC wanted me gone, and my three former partners were in no position to do anything but co-sign.

DC Comics got their way…or so they thought. When the word got around I was available offers came in from Disney Universal and Motown. I decided to go with Motown. But there was a hiccup. During my background check, a letter sent to Motown was meant to destroy my deal.

Business Affairs at DC sent a letter saying I was still under contract at DC. That was an outright LIE and sending that information was perhaps criminal. DC was given copies of my Milestone release which they happily signed off on it months before.

Knowing I had every right to negotiate with Motown, yet sending a letter stating I couldn’t, certainly looked unlawful. Illegal or not, that was an atrocious thing to do. Clarence Avant, then Motown’s Chairman of the Board, got the letter and phoned me, outraged.

The person who ordered that letter once again underestimated me. I assumed character assassination so my references were impeccable and all my contractual information was forwarded to Motown’s business affairs long before DC tried that shit.

Included was my release from Milestone. DC never paid a cent on my pay or play, they were in breach. Funny— it may have worked if they had not made my wife cry.

Why would DC and Milestone and kill my new deal if they wanted me gone?

Warner Bros. got wind of my Motown deal and sent a scathing letter to DC berating them for allowing me to set up a competing comic book company. After getting that rammed up his ass the power that was had to do something.

Let’s be clear CRYSTAL CLEAR. Yes, I just wrote that DC Comics tried to illegally prevent me from taking a position at Motown because of a directive from Warner Bros.

That’s slander if I can’t prove it. Think I’m worried?

Wondering why I won’t out by name the people at DC who disliked me so? What’s the point? They will never respond to anything, there is no upside for them to do so, and frankly, I’m not a cruel person.

Here’s the rub. I wasn’t going to do a comic book line. My deal was to develop film and television, but then someone at DC had to go and fuck with me. They put themselves in the position WB was pissed about.

DC is a different company now. I bear them no ill will. They were and still are my favorite universe.


2011

Reggie Hudlin, Denys Cowan, Derek Dingle and myself decide to honor Milestone’s greatest partner Dwayne McDuffie and relaunch Milestone. On a late February evening Milestone, 2.0 (M2.0) was born. That date is crucial, and not just because of the partnership.


2015

Milestone 2.1 announced to the world.  Milestone is back!  One of if not the biggest comic book stories of 2015.

I find out on that day I was no longer a part of it.

 

Since then, little has been heard. No press, interviews and no books.

I have no knowledge of the inner workings at DC or Milestone, nor has anyone at DC or Milestone ever told me ‘why’ I was excluded.

That said, here’s my two-cent conclusion.

Milestone 2.0, in my opinion, is dead for four reasons.

  1. Except for Denys Cowan, comics are not a priority for the partners.One partner runs a filmed entertainment empire, the other oversees a mainstream financial news publishing juggernaut. You think making comics is more important than interviewing the head of the Federal Reserve or producing the most famous award show in the world? Of the four of us, only Denys and I would answer yes.Comics is where we live and dream and have all our lives. Denys and I were more than just fans of comics we chose that as our life’s work and pursued it. There’s a massive difference between the other M2.0 founders and us.That’s not a dig, that’s a fact.
  2. The second reason Milestone is dead and why I wrote the events of 20 plus years ago is corporate bullshit like what happened to me. Someone at DC or Milestone is holding fast to a way of doing things and because of such everything stops until the problem is resolved or made to go away.Who do I think is holding up the deal by insisting things get done a specific way? Looking at the playing field, it’s obvious DC does not need Milestone that’s a fact. So much of the fact that DC just announced another push into diversity with Dark Matter.And the way they are doing it is gangsta.I may be wrong, but DC seems to be going after that diversity dollar with a wee bit of help from those who have come before and know how to do it.Lion’s Forge Comics has been vocal about their diversity for years. When Joe Illidge came on that kicked it up another level. Those in the know call Lion’s Forge ‘the Forge.’

    In June 2017 DC releases, Dark Days: The Forge.

    Most likely a coincidence as in the Dark Matter tagline: “Forged From Metal, the New Age of Heroes.”

    The Black Age of Comics is the tagline for the East Coast Black Age of Comics and has been for almost two decades. It’s also the unofficial name for the movement within the Black comic space.

    “Dark Matters” has a strikingly close ring to ‘Black Lives Matter. Now all of this is most likely coincidence.

    You must admit it’s a little freaky.

    What is certainly not a coincidence: Dark Matters is a major line with diversity at its core and Milestone isn’t mentioned anywhere. That’s a ‘we don’t need you’ if ever there was one, so it does look like the holdup is DC.

    NOPE.

    I don’t think so— for my money, it’s someone at Milestone and that brings me to number three.

  3. Milestone has no infrastructure. There’s no central hub no office no staff. Two of the partners have nice big spaces they work from, with employees but the work done there isn’t Milestone unless something has changed since I was involved.Also, one guy is doing movies; another guy is running a magazine, and he’s doing that from New York. DC is in Los Angeles, so any face to face must wait until they are all available.Denys Cowan’s is the only person whose business is creating comics, but with no central Milestone infrastructure behind him and his partner’s crazy schedules, there is no way in Hell he can do all that needs to get the deal done by himself.

    January 2018 will mark three years since DC and Milestone made that historic announcement. That’s a long time, right? No. Not really. Not if you’re making movies and putting out magazines. But to the fans?

    It’s a fucking eternity.

    It’s also not correct. Milestone 2.0 formed in Feb 2011. The first meeting with DC was a few weeks after that.

    January 2018 will mark SEVEN years since DC and Milestone had their first meeting. My thoughts on why Milestone is dead is conjecture. Those dates are real, and yes that’s a long time.

    But to the fans?

    It’s a fuck you.

    I don’t think any Milestone partners feel like that. But with silence from Milestone, it may seem so. I haven’t talked to Denys, but I know this is killing him.

    Hell, it’s killing me.

  4. The fourth reason I think Milestone is dead can also be the reason they don’t have to be.But that will have to wait until next time.

 

Michael Davis: It’s 25, Without a Bullet

Fair warning: little in this article has a thing to do with pop culture.  So, if your intention is to bitch about that after reading this let me do it for you:

Clueless Cow writes: Why is this in Bleeding Cool? Rich, can’t you get a writer to write what matters? He surely does not.

Live with parents at 50 writes: Davis writes an opinion column. Has anyone noticed all the views are his? Who is this guy anyway? I’d like to see my point of view expressed on ComicMix and so would my mom.

Do yourself a favor: stop reading now.

I’m writing this solely for my fans. I may joke I only have two, but I’ve got thousands all over the world. Spare me the “I’ve never heard of you” bullshit. Really? I’m the guy writing this. And you are..?

So, if you’re not a fan and are just going to bitch save your bandwidth, I’m sure you can find a Spiderman: Red or Black debate on the net somewhere.

Dear Fans Of The MOTU, I thank you for soooo many wonderful birthday wishes!  I’m all at once overjoyed humbled and as always sexy!  It’s hard to believe that I’m just 25.

25! Yeah, that’s a two and a five, as in 25!!!

Were you there? Are you my daddy? Well, if you are, where you been for 25 years? Oh, wait you’re black.

As you know – if you don’t pretend you do – people who suffer from severe depression are more likely to experience melancholy around the holidays birthdays any event where family and friends gather to celebrate.

Me? I’m only susceptible to bouts of sadness on days ending in y.

Often a small event, irrelevant to most people, triggers my downward spiral. The occurrence may not even have anything to do with me directly.

Let’s say that a racist, homophobic, women-hating straight up evil man becomes the President of the United States. That would make me crazy. What? All right damn it – that would make me crazier.

Tequila.

But let’s say the anniversary of his one-hundredth day in office is the focus all over the world and hard as I try I can’t turn the world off with a smirk like Mary Richards could with a smile.

Pills

But wait there’s more…

It’s also the anniversary of the beat down of Rodney King which triggers a “niggermoment.” A niggermoment is memories of times in my life regardless of what I’ve accomplished schools attended, or accolades heaped on me to some I’m seen as just a nigger.

Loaded gun.

Unfortunately, a great many of the “some” include the criminal justice system. Such memories like when the Anaheim Hilton threatened me with arrest because I dared utter the words “lower Alabama” and LAPD falsely arresting me twice come soaring back.

One arrest was for chasing my drunk former girlfriend out of her mind to stop her from driving. She was loaded but seeing LAPD jump out of a passing cruiser with guns leveled at my head sobered her up enough to tell them I’d done nothing but try and get the car keys. As I laid on the ground with a shotgun pointed at the back of my head all I could think was “they don’t care” and the last sound I would hear was KAPOW!

The second time I was treated to a ride in a police car two people ran across a crowded bar and attacked me while I was walking out the door. All captured on video. Every moment proving my innocent caught on tape. While I sat in jail waiting for my lawyer, all I could think was even with video cell phones, and a high-priced lawyer don’t go to trail.

I’m black, people who attacked me and white ex-girlfriend. Find an Asian person and have them do the math.

Oh, my.

Tequila

and

pills

and

gun

Oh, my!

Sooooooo I’m off to see my maker, the wonderful maker of me.

But wait there’s more!

The Trump and King anniversary could easily be more than enough to trigger a trip to the laptop to begin a new article with the title Goodbye Cruel World.

But wait, there’s more.

Both events trigger happened on the same day. Yep, the 100 days of Trump’s reign and the 25 anniversary of the L.A. riots came to a head-on April 29th 2017.

If I was in a bad mental state that, a perfect shit storm could do some significant damage.

But wait there’s more. It was also my birthday. Remember people who suffer from severe depression are more likely to experience melancholy around the holidays birthdays etc.

I’m not whole but at no time over my birthday weekend did let my heart sink my resolve fade or my hope leave.

But I did cry. Crying now, but not for me.

I cry for the young bullied gay teenager about to hang himself. The sweet Muslim girl preparing to down a bottle of sleeping pills also bullied. The talented Latina model who sits by her husband’s hospital bed every day holding his hand. Alone in a room filled with his family who continues to pull rank on her. Her family?

They had other shit to do so they did not even show up.

I cry for Malcolm Jones. Retrieving a memory of that magic Thanksgiving dinner at my Aunt’s house a thousand years ago. Denys Cowan, Malcolm, my BFF Lee Speller my mentor and cousin William T, Williams all together in a place so filled with love and happiness I’d swear Al Green was hiding in the corner so he could steal a song title.

I cry for Paige who survived a brutal gang-rape, and like those, above choose me to confide in and then she did the bravest thing I’ve ever witness, she went public.

I cry for my cousin who could not be any closer to my heart if she was my daughter. Once she was as close to leaving this earth as I was.  Another cousin who came home one day went out to buy milk and has not been seen since. That was over 20 years ago.

She would never have left her kids. I know she’s dead. Everyone knows she’s dead.

There may have been a chance to find and save her. But back then lost black women did not appear on milk cartons. There was no 20/20 or Dateline episode on them.  Has it changed today?

Oh sure, if 20 or so black women go missing that gets a mention, and no, that is not a joke. So, I cry for Deedee.

Regina, Doris I tried to write about her a million times, but a million times I couldn’t get through it. However, she’s about to be celebrated by a character inspired by her as are you both on something wonderful you will see very soon.

Lastly, I weep for my sister Sharon.

The inspiration for Static’s sister Sharon Hawkins was my sister Sharon Davis. Left for dead in a vacant lot while people walked pass all night concerned more with the shortcut the lot provided than the girl laying there slowly bleeding out.

I didn’t know the teenagers who were bullied. They both read my Middleman column and reached out to me too – get this – tell me I wasn’t alone. My Latina friend kept me up all night with words of support on a day I was feeling sorry for myself.

Years before I did the same for her when she was fighting her demons. But, she did what she did while her husband was fighting for his life. That is gangster I talk a lot of shit, but I don’t know if I could have done that.

I saved nobody. Those above in a very real way helped to save me.

Depression doesn’t change you. It reveals you and those around you.

Suicide may not mean you want to die. It may mean you just don’t want to live.

Believe me – there’s a difference.

Thank you, my friends, for a wonderful birthday.

Next: Milestone is still dead.

The first person who gets what I just did with the above teaser I’ll give a prize, seriously.

Michael Davis: I Got Your Diversity Right Here

“What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity. They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not.” Marvel VP of Sales David Gabriel, Marvel Retailer Summit, March 2017

“Let’s find a place they say, somewhere far away, With no blacks, no Jews and no gays” The Machine, Lyrics from There But For The Grace Of God, Go I, Dec 1979

“Now the big publishing guns are on this diversity thing, but for how long? Think it’s going to last? It won’t. It won’t because it’s a trend, a ploy. It’s a stunt. This, my friend, is nothing but business.” Michael Davis, Bleeding Cool, Feb 2015

Just as I predicted the fate of comic’s only true diversity architect, Milestone Media, I said the current diversity bug would go away. I did not think it would be with such a loud send-off. David Gabriel, who I have never met but people tell me is a good guy, tried to walk back his comments.

You can’t.

You can try, but after hearing “yes, i killed that bitch and i’m glad she’s dead” no matter how many times the judge says to disregard that statement the odds anyone does are slim to none.  The only thing that stops a scandal is a bigger scandal.

It would not surprise me if David Gabriel sent the CEO of United Airlines the following letter:

Thank you!

Don’t for a moment think this was not on its way to becoming a bigger national story. Marvel is a global entertainment power, and the story had plenty of legs.

In walked or more appropriately dragged United Airlines and Marvel is off the hook.

Pity.

I say that not because I’d like Mr. Gabriel (who simply told the truth) to be put under anymore duress but because a national debate would have served comics well.

Oh well the best-laid plans, year right. For the record, I’m convinced Axel Alonzo is committed to diversity, as are others at Marvel. Alas, diversity comes at a cost and right now that like the rent seems too damn high.

The following first appeared in Bleeding Cool over two years ago. I think it still rings true.

In 2001 I sent Karen Berger, at the time editor-in-chief at DC’s Vertigo, a proposal for a graphic novel called Miracle Town. The story was about a black super-powered being showing up in Mississippi in 1932, or to put it another way; it was Strange Fruit almost 15 years ago. Along with the pitch were eight pages of detailed pen and inked art. Karen passed, saying it was “all right, nothing special.”

Now Mark Waid and J.G Jones, two white boys (said with love), show up with the same idea and it becomes the talk of the industry. Three weeks earlier Milestone 2.0 was the talk of the industry. Before that, Miles Morales, Black Superman, Black Avengers, Female Thor, Muslim Ms. Marvel, Black Human Torch, Black Captain America, yadda, yadda, whatever.

Now the big publishing guns are on this diversity thing, but for how long? Think it’s going to last? It won’t. It won’t because it’s a trend, a ploy. It’s a stunt. This, my friend, is nothing but business.

Superman will stay black just about as long as he remained dead.

Last year Mike Gold took a project of mine to an established and well-known publisher. Keith Giffen called this project one of the greatest ideas he’d ever heard. Now called Black Reign, it started life almost 20 years ago as The Underground at DC Comics. In asked Dwayne McDuffie to write it he changed the title to Glory Scroll. That lasted for a bit, but DC gave us the runaround, so I took it to Dark Horse, where it became The Underground again.

Mike Richardson’s involvement and keen insight challenged me to rethink the story. I did, and it became an entirely new story. That story with that title is still at Dark Horse, no longer a superhero story. When I pitched it to Marvel, it was called Black Power.

I sent “Black Power” to Marvel and never heard back. That’s not a slight, Axel is up to his ass in projects, and I’m simply not one to hound people. I’m never in any hurry with a pitch although I pitch so seldom. Because I spend lots of time coming up with concepts while servicing my existing projects. I let things take the time they take. If greenlit today, I couldn’t get to it for at least a year or more.

As you can see this project has been around and has had a home at three major publishers, DC, Dark Horse and my imprint Level Next. Level Next is a co-venture with Karen Hunter and Simon & Schuster. I later decided the first project from Level Next shouldn’t be a graphic novel but a mainstream novel.

So, enter Mike Gold. Mike and I happen to talk the day I made the decision to save Black Reign for a later Level Next release. Mike pitched the original superhero story, and for a second the project was called The Movement.

Black Reign BC!

After Mike Gold had pitched it for a moment, it was to be the Milestone 2.0 Foundation universe. That’s no longer happening — if it is, Lucy got some ‘splaining to do. What, pray tell, happened when Gold pitched this “incredible” (Giffen’s words, not mine) idea, rife with Black superheroes’ and filled with diversity?

He was told “Hollywood will never buy this. Too many black superheroes.” The only reason I’m not outing the publisher is the risk some people will find what he said, racist. He wasn’t racist; he was just saying what everyone is thinking.

Which is bullshit. Two words: Hancock, Blade, Spawn. Yeah, that’s three words but I went to public school, and math is not my thing.

“Too many black superheroes.”

So much for diversity, way, way back in 2014.

In 2015, there’s a debate raging whether Mark and J.G. Jones should even be doing this kind of story. Some say no because white guys can’t tell a Black superhero comic book story. What do I think? Of course, they should — Mark’s a fantastic writer and Mr. Jones is a badass artist.

The very real fact about black superheroes is white guys have always told the black superhero story, and unless a white boy does, it doesn’t count or doesn’t count as much. For my money, Mark Waid can tell any story he wants — in my book; he’s that good.

Yes, a black writer adds the certain legitimacy to black fiction. That’s not to say white writers can’t write a good black story; of course, they can. The example I hear most often about white guys in working in black areas is Eminem.

Eminem is one of the greatest rappers ever. To some, he is the greatest. To dismiss him because white is injudicious at best, stupid as shit at worse. To deny Mark because he’s white is just as silly. Few writers are on his level in comics, and that’s just the truth.

On, the other hand, Eminem doesn’t rap about being bnlack.

Regardless of your feeling towards who should write what, the debate shouldn’t be whether Mark or any other writer can tell that story.

No, the debate should be “why is diversity not a topic until the white boys say it is?”

Google any combination featuring the keywords black and superhero — with very few exceptions, the vast (as in massive) majority were created by white creators. When there were no authors of color, I will be the first to tell just how good it felt to see The Black Panther, Luke Cage, and The Falcon. Shit, as a kid all I cared about was seeing black characters in my favorite comics.

Then the battle was just to see people of color in comics, as characters and creators.

Now, African Americans as well as Latino, Asian and other ethnic groups are represented in both. The representation is small, but it’s there.

What’s not there is the acceptance of these characters and creators as A-listers. When DC or Marvel creates a black superhero, it’s embracing diversity, so when David Walker writes for DC’s Cyborg, that’s real diversity because David Walker is a hotshot, talented black writer.

David is among many writers and artists of color who have been bringing diversity to comics for many, many years. He was a talented writer well before he was writing for DC. He was also black before working at DC, in case anyone asks.

DC and Marvel will exploit diversity as the current fashion until such time it decides not to. Then, back in the closet, it will go to make way for next season’s hot designer and trendy look.

Nothing wrong with that.

It’s my hope this current wave becomes so huge that Marvel and DC stay in it. Failing that, when they get out to remember Marvel and DC don’t suddenly bring diversity to comics, this I know.

I also know diversity in comics was here before this and will be here after they leave. All you must do is Google, independent black comic books, and you can do that right now.

Comics are a business, and right now diversity is good for business. Conversely, for creators of color, diversity is not the current fashion or latest look. As much as the media would have you believe it, Marvel and DC are not the end all and be all when it comes to diversity.

How can they be? They’re not diverse enough.

Next Week: Milestone Is Dead