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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.”
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?
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.
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.
Except for Denys Cowan comics are not a priority for the partners.
Milestone has no infrastructure.
Here’s reason number four and the biggest reason Milestone is dead and will remain dead:
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.
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.
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.
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.
When faced with what’s important, DC will always get the nod. ALWAYS.
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?
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.
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.
Access to new talent.
A forum that champions their message and destroys perceptions.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I don’t think so— for my money, it’s someone at Milestone and that brings me to number three.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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 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:
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.
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.
When I was eight years old, I was racing my new Tonka toy truck up and down the concrete sidewalk on my block. I was doing so by bending over and pushing the truck as fast as I could with both hands.
The truck slipped out of my hand, and my momentum carried me quite a bit before I came to a stop.
I was fortunate my clothing protected most of me. Unfortunately, most of me did not include my face. My head skidded face down. As a result, the sidewalk tore much of the skin off my face.
My mother had just learned to drive and wasn’t very good at it.
I didn’t help I was screaming and crying as was my sister. She was screaming and crying not so much because my face looked like it had been through a meat grinder but because my mother was screaming and crying.
That was a first, and it freaked us both out.
Somehow, she got us to the ER left me with my sister in the car and ran to the nurse at the desk to plead for her child to be seen.
“How will you be paying?”
People think the discolorations and marks on my face are the remnants of severe teenage acne.
My scars are my constant reminder of a Tonka truck a sidewalk and a horrible woman who for the better part of an hour let me sit while others with stomach aches or hangovers saw the doctor.
My mother took my stepfather’s car his pride and joy a spanking new 442 without his permission. That could have been a suicidal move— my stepfather was an alcoholic and had hit my mother before. Years later he would split her skull with another Tonka Truck leaving her for dead.
At the time, she was driving me to the emergency room she had been beaten enough times to know taking his car would certainly result in an ass whipping.
She didn’t care. We could have walked to the free clinic, my mother decided otherwise. I was made to wait because we went to the hospital in the nearest white neighborhood. I think that women at the desk would never have let me see a doctor, but one saw me. When he did, he came over stooped down and examined my face. “What happened? you get into a fight with a cheese shredder?”
I didn’t get it, but my mother laughed as if it was the funniest thing in the world.
No idea what drug he gave me or what he put on my face it smelled funky but reduced the pain a lot. He wrote a prescription handed it to my mother gave her a sample of the painkiller and sent us out to the monster to check out.
My mother placed the sample of the meds on the desk while she filled out ’promised to pay’ papers. The front desk Nazi took them.
When my mom recounted this to me years later the look of absolute abhorrence on her face when she mentioned that woman was unblemished.
Jean (yes, I called my mother by her first name. It’s a Black thing) brought me a shit load of comic books to take my mind off the pain comics aspirin and the watchful eyes of my sister. Mother and grandmother were all I had.
When my face had healed somewhat, and the pain was mostly gone I was overjoyed to learn I could go to summer camp. Every morning my sister and I would board a bus and venture to some part of Long Island to attend a camp run by Catholic Charities.
CYO Camp provided low cost or free enrollment to many who could not afford to pay. I had been looking forward to a fun experience since I heard the words ‘camp!’
It was terrifying.
This older kid, Steven Hillard (yeah you bastard I remember you) would tell me every day my face which looked like a jigsaw puzzle would never heal and I would be like that forever.
Each evening I fled by bus to the safety of my imagination in the pages of those comics. Each morning my dread would return the moment I stepped off the bus. Steven would make sure it stayed with me until I reach the safety of the bus then home to my comics.
Often, I still wake up with what doctors call a phantom pain. For what feels like an eternity but can’t be more than a nanosecond at most that phantom pain was the ghost who walked over my imagined still scraped face.
For that nanosecond that pain is real, I know it’s not, but it is.
What is, however, true is my trepidation and anxiety towards hospitals. Try as I might I could not bring myself to see Len Wein for two weeks. Len is recovering from spinal surgery and is like family to me. The best I could do while getting up my nerve over the last two weeks is call a big hospital bigwig I know who promised to cut through any red tape if any arose.
That’s a poor excuse for not sitting with a friend, but it’s all I got right now.
And after two weeks I finally manage to drive to see Len spurred on by his dear friend Bernie Wrightston’s death.
Len was gone. Moved to another hospital— don’t I feel like a goddamn fool. Now I’ve got to get up my fucking nerve again.
Len’s in a great hospital and in good hands.
I wish I could say the same for all Americans if ever in need of care.
24 million men women and children would have and may still lose their health insurance if the GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare ever becomes law.
I love my country, but frankly, it is not that great to me, and I’m far from alone.
Trump says he wants to make America great again, but his vision of greatness is a selfish wet dream for those with wealth power and who selfishly want to keep it all.
His American dream is far from the American Dream this country is founded on, and I wonder does he even know what the actual American Dream is?
Well, here’s what it’s not.
It’s not Truth, Justice and the American Way.
No. That’s from a Superman TV show.
It’s not Baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet.
Nada. Chevy commercial.
It’s not a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.
Nope. Campaign Slogan.
It’s definitely not 40 Acres and a mule.
That was just another not so little white lie.
James Truslow Adams defined the American Dream in his 1931 book Epic of America this way:
The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it.
It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”
Nowhere does it say screw the poor, elderly and non-white it means the opposite when it states “…regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”
Making the least fortunate among us suffer from savage cuts to programs such as meals on wheels for the elderly after school programs in the inner cities is not the American Dream. Raising insurance premiums creating severe financial hardship for seniors is completely contrary to the American Dream.
Since January, every step taken by our government has been contrary to that dream that should be America.
Mr. Adams says… “everyone with the opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”
That access to the American Dream is in a deck is stacked against Black people from birth. The Far Right controls the government, and to my knowledge, no one in a position of power has done much but refuse to acknowledge anything is wrong.
Yes, those in the inner city can work hard and hope to get an academic scholarship by being the best and the brightest from the ghetto. Yes, that does happen. But that deck keep getting stacked higher and higher, and it’s going on more and more.
The answer to many on the Far Right is refuse to acknowledge an obvious disadvantage then expect us to achieve the American Dream.
Those who repeatedly say we have the same opportunity as everyone else born in America is either an idiot, liar racist or all three.
Yeah, I count you as a fool if you’re an adult and refuse to learn about a thing before you damn it.
Saying we have the same opportunity as everyone else by birth is injudicious, to put it mildly. Given boxing gloves for your 18th birthday won’t give you the same opportunity to survive a severe beating if put in the ring with Mike Tyson.
Tyson could be 60 years old and still beat the living shit out of anyone 18 years old because he’s Mike Fucking Tyson.
If the system isn’t rigged why are Black men jailed three times longer for the same crime as white men?
How’s that for having the same opportunity?
I’ll give you a perfect example of how the deck is stacked against us on purpose.
Dismissing the following real fact will no doubt come from many. But to deny it proves my point even more.
Betsy DeVos is now Secretary of Education, and she has zero credentials for that position. Her views on education leave no doubt the inner city will suffer more under her.
Dr. Ben Carson is now Secretary of Housing and Urban Development with even fewer credentials than Betsy DeVos. The man who thinks slaves were immigrants runs ‘Urban Development.’
Give that a sec.
Say what you will about Carson, he’s a smart guy. That ‘immigrant’ statement was a blunder, but he’s no dummy. I’ve met him a couple of times— the truth is I like the guy.
Through a spokesman, he issued the following; “Dr. Carson feels he has no government experience, he’s never run a federal agency,” Carson’s close friend Armstrong Williams said. “The last thing he would want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency.”
I guess Trump convinced Carson that he wouldn’t cripple the presidency, leave that to Trump. Dr. Carson can just cripple Black people.
Omarosa Maniqault is White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs. She is expected to continue the work she started as Director of African-American Outreach where she reached no African Americans.
But she is living the American Dream. She said so:
“Truly, I am living the American dream because of Donald Trump. Look at my career, the wealth, and exposure that I’ve had. It’s difficult to make the argument that Donald Trump doesn’t like Black people and Black women.”
No, it’s not. It’s easy even without a Google search.
The clear majority of African Americans think Trump’s Black Cabinet picks are working against their best interest. Let’s say they’re not (YEAH RIGHT) working against African Americans. Tell me what possible reason is there to put Black people neither respected or liked by the clear majority of other Black people in positions so important to our community?
D. L. Hughley said of Omarosa; “If you’re going to send a black person to talk to black people make sure it’s someone we don’t want to throw a rock at.”
His response to Ben Carson; “Comparing slaves to immigrants is like saying Jeffrey Dahmer’s victims were dinner guests.”
WHO does that? Who puts people in a position of authority over those who hate them?
Would you trust a Nazi to do community outreach to Jews?
What does this have to do with comics?
Although I know I’m going to get my ass handed to me once again I make a plea for the comics community to join the rest of the world. It’s time to give a shit outside of the ‘special issue’ where the proceeds go to whatever tragedy is currently being ignored by FOX so they can push their far-Right Wing Agenda.
I say the following with dead seriousness; I can’t stand FOX, but I respect them.
They stay on message no matter what.
Comic book publishing isn’t unique enough so we can just rely on that ‘special issue’ as proof we are relevant. Although many swear, that is all we need. Denny O’Neil and Neal Adam’s Green Lantern/Green Arrow books in the 70’s is just as relevant today.
They shouldn’t be.
Yeah, I said it. Those books shouldn’t be as significant decades later as they are now. What Denny and Neal did in the late 60’s and early 70’s was groundbreaking.
What was even more amazing is they were published by DC Comics.
DC was taking a back seat to the reality Marvel was bringing to comics. Just look at the Fantastic Four. While Superman was trying to get some magical little bastard to say his name backward, Reed Richards was cock blocked by Namor. Ben Grimm was dating a blind girl. Sue Richards got knocked up (take that you fishy fuck), and Johnny Storm was hitting just about every piece of ass he could.
What Denny and Neal did in one bad ass move was put that Marvel reality to shame. They hooked a major character on heroin AND showed him shooting up.
Spider-Man did the same thing, but it lacked the gritty punch of the Green Lantern/Green Arrow series.
That little piece of relevance soon disappeared from both Marvel and DC. From time to time something manages to capture that sense of genuineness but let’s face it, men in tights are still all the rage.
And there is nothing wrong with that.
But the times they are a’ changing.
Nope-the times have changed. As good as those books from Denny and Neal were there are other battles that need fighting and our ‘go to’ books for purpose should not be almost 50 years old.
We are living in a time when people are stopped from entering our country because of the color of their skin and who they pray to. We don’t racially profile white men assuming they may be serial killers, do we? The clear majority of serial killers are white men, and they have killed far more people in this country than terrorism has. Most terrorist attacks in America are brought on by AMERICANS who were born here.
The President of the United States is a liar. The President of the United States is against a free press. The President of the United States has promised to destroy any effort to combat climate change.
Hey, don’t take my word for any of this— that’s why there’s Google.
You may be OK with all this, and that’s your right. It’s the right of every American to agree or disagree with whatever they choose.
But give this a thought: how is any of what I listed above America?
The American Dream is the opposite of all this shit.
I just think the comics industry should do more.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the outstanding work done in the independent space. The real world is all there, but most are overshadowed by some super motherfucker flying by and blocking out the sun.
Yes, it’s business.
Marvel and DC are in the business of making money. Hell, so am I.
But this isn’t about business. This is about being responsible.
Both companies do on occasion light the world up with something significant enough to warrant discussion debate sometimes even a viable solution.
I love superheroes and would fight Tyson if that’s what it took to keep them flying. Fight? More like provide my face as a punching bag, but my point is I’d take a hit defending what I’ve loved from a child.
DC is still my favorite universe regardless of the friction that existed between us. I still think that Marvel’s Miles Morales is the single greatest character so far created in the 21st Century so this is not a hate on either company for what they do.
I just think they (you and me) should do more.
But I’m a realist, and they are the biggest and do some of the best work in comics. In my opinion, Dark Horse, Image, and IDW are the best but that’s just my opinion.
Being the biggest they command a massive audience and that’s needed now more than ever.
How fantastic for the industry if Marvel and DC could create a place for those independent artists and writers to tell their stories within the Marvel and DC infrastructure but without the Marvel and DC restrictions.
Yo, House of Ideas here’s one; just print and distribute works you don’t own. Most major art institutions have programs to benefit artist and comics are a recognized art form.
I have no illusion that anybody with the juice to make this happen will take this suggestion or this article seriously. I expect it to be dismissed by most ridiculed by many and denounced by some.
So why write this at all?
I love comics, I love my country, and I couldn’t give a damn what people think.
I honestly believe American comic book creators there are the best storytellers in the world. There is no higher need than now to create narratives that prove what we are so fond of saying that we are the greatest country in the world.
The world thinks us fools because we elected one.
Maybe Trump will become the leader we can respect but if his actions are any indication we’ve got to change the perception that we all co-sign his shit.
We’ve got the power to do so and must because Trump is our responsibility. You know what they say about power and responsibility don’t you?
The President would call that fake news. Until he acts differently he’s a fake president.
This past weekend a giant of entertainment left us. Chuck Berry was 90 years old, and I must admit I would from time to time wonder if Little Richard, Chubby Checker or Chuck were still with us.
I’ve not only had the pleasure of meeting each of these legends, I spent time with them. I worked in the music industry running the film and television arm of Motown Records for a click. Although a fantastic dancer and unbeatable in a lip-synch battle, I have no real musical talent, and at Motown I had almost zero to do with the core business.
Didn’t matter. Motown provided me access to anyone and everyone in the music industry. The music business can be very much like you see in TV and movies.
Sex drugs rock and roll complete with groupies’ wild parties and wilder people. What you see in the media does indeed happen, folks. Been there, done her, got video. I have, in my musical narrative, played many roles. What you may find hard to believe is this to some is commonplace and necessary to do their jobs.
I’ve seen a record company executive put coke on his expense account. I’ve done that as well, but my Coke came in a bottle. On occasion I’ve been cast as a witness-alibi-go between- victim-judge-jury-referee-bodyguard and bodyguarded. I’ve had some crazy days and nights.
None were crazy as when I met Chuck Berry.
I planned on telling that tale today, but as John Lennon kinda said, “life is what happens while you’re making up shit to stall so as not to write something that will tear your heart apart.”
This was to be the week I went back to running different articles on Bleeding Cool and ComicMix. I don’t like running the same article on both sites I tried running some articles part one here part two there and vice versa but neither Rich Johnston nor Mike Gold over at ComicMix said rather or not that was ok.
I like the idea of funneling readers between both sites. I think it’s a win-win, but I fixate on rather or not it’s OK and nobody wants to tell me it isn’t. Oh, I’m told who is not my bitch, but I’d better leave that be less I risk saying something that will not end well.
Yep. Still stalling.
If you’re wondering why I just don’t tell the Chuck Berry story, I don’t blame you.
That story is a perfect mix of real life craziness comics and return to the swagger that will inevitably invoke my haters on BC to chime in with why they hate me.
But as much as I like pushing people’s buttons to tell that story before I related this story would be inappropriate.
As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Bernie Wrightson died over the weekend. For my money, Bernie was just a big a star in comics as Chuck Berry was in music.
Swamp Thing #7 guest-starring Batman turned me on to Bernie’s work, and in turn, I took a significant leap in my education, and I do mean education when it needs it most in grade school.
I never wanted to draw like Jack Kirby even though I loved Kirby’s art. As a kid who loved to draw, I never thought I that I copied artists. When I would copy from comic books, I’d copy characters, not artists. It didn’t matter who drew it if the character was in an excellent pose that’s what my grade school mind was telling me I was copying.
When I discovered Bernie, all that changed and Batman swinging across the pages of Swamp Thing #7 changed it. I had to draw that way. I kept that book as part of my never trade and would kill you your mother sister father dog and cat if you even asked me.
When Ronnie Williams bullied me though 2nd and 3rd grade, I had finally had enough when he took my Fantastic Four # 73 in the 4th grade. I picked up a metal backed wooden chair and cracked him over the head with it.
If it had been Swamp Thing #7, he took from me my weapon of choice may have been the Saturday night special (a cheap handgun) my sister said I should use on Ronnie – jokingly. My mother acquired the gun to keep in the house after a series of robberies in our building.
She thought my sister Sharon and I didn’t know where she hid it. We knew, under the mattress along with the shells. Everything my mother hid we found.
Parents, that’s what kids do they find shit.Get a fucking gun safe.
I just want this fucking pain to go away, and anger may help, but I can’t get there from here so my apologies.
This article is as hard a thing for me to write as any tribute I’ve ever written.
Bernie’s artwork made me read comics that had no superheroes in it and by read, I mean read look at the words try to pronounce them and figure out what they meant. I was already becoming a decent reader from the horrible how the fuck do I spell ‘I’ student I was.
I was beginning to like reading, but all I liked to read were comics. Bernie’s work on House of Secrets which I sort out had no superhero in it.
Seeking out that book was dangerous and enlightening. I lived on Beach 58st in Far Rockaway Queens. I got my comics from a mom and pop store on Beach 51st.
There was another store on Beach 40th and one on Beach 77st. Yeah, that’s a lot of beaches. All stores were a quick bike ride away but only (B51) was in my hood. If I wanted to go to the others, I risked a beat down or worse my bike stolen.
So, I walked. Looking for more of Bernie’s art was well worth a black eye.
Nowadays you hop on the computer and you can find anything. Back in my day, I had no idea if there was even any other Bernie art out there. I had no clue what Swamp Thing was. I purchased the book because I saw Batman on the cover.
I mentioned Bernie’s art helped my education here’s how. My sister had a cheesy romance novel paperback which featured a cover font very similar as the title of the House of Secrets comic book.
I thought it was. Because there were no superheroes in the comic somehow my mind thought it was possible this featured some Bernie artwork.
When I discovered it didn’t and had no art at all, I did the unthinkable.
I read it anyhow. All I can tell you is my little mind was blown.
Who knew there could be that much adventure and excitement in a book where nobody was drawn? All I had to do was skip all the girly parts, and I had discovered a new love, paperbacks.
Then I found Conan in paperback no girly parts to skip over and Frank Frazetta on the covers. From there I began reading hardcover books and spent my entire first paycheck ($10 bucks working for my cousin) on a hardcover book, All in Color for a Dime.
Bernie started all that.
Denys Cowan and I were leaving DC Comics in 1988. We were going to grab a bite to eat. As we were departing in walks this guy. “Hi, Denys,” the man said. “Hey!” Denys said.
“Bernie, I want you to meet my friend, Michael Davis. Michael, this is, Bernie Wrightson.”
I lost what little mind I had.
Bernie was there for a meeting and was rushing. I did something I have only done three times in my life, and he was the first: I asked for an autograph.
I’ve met some of the most famous people in the world and only asked for an autograph three times. Each time I had something for them to sign. Jack Kirby signed a comic book, James Brown a CD cover.
I had nothing for Bernie to sign I didn’t care I just wanted something to remember the moment.
I didn’t get it.
Bernie apologized but was late for a meeting, so he ran in.
All though our meal Denys kept telling me what a great guy he was and not to worry I’d see him again yadda yada yadda. I was thinking; yeah… right.
I realized with a start while looking for something for Bernie to sign I’d left my portfolio upstairs at DC. I told Denys I’d be right back and hurried to get it. When I entered the office there by the statue of Clark Kent was my case and coming out of the door to the inner offices was Bernie.
There was a God!
“Hey Bernie!” The voice came from behind him calling him back.
And he hates me.
I grabbed my case left the reception area to wait for the elevator which quickly arrived with a ping!
“Hey hold it,” Someone said. I was in no mood to hold the elevator and make small talk with someone, and for a moment I considered being a dick but slapped the door to make it recede nevertheless.
“Here you go,” Bernie said with a smile. He reached in and handed me a sheet of DC stationary with his autograph and a quick ball point pen picture of Batman.
He then ran back into the offices. I never even got a chance to say thanks.
Bernie and I became friends over time and as such would grab a bite at a convention or a NY deli if we ran into each other in Manhattan.
As always, he would brush it off my gushing over him with sincere thanks but clearly didn’t think he was such a big deal.
Then I ended all of that and started to refer to him as simply Mr. Living Legend. I didn’t think he liked it, so I stopped.
The last time I saw Bernie was walking the SDCC convention floor with Wayne Brady. When we ran into Bernie, I introduced Wayne with a “Wayne, this is Bernie Wrightson.” Bernie put his hand on my shoulder gave me an affectionate squeeze and said “That’s Mister Living Legend, get it straight Michael.”
Wayne, who loves comic books said gleefully; “Yes sir, you are indeed a legend.”
A legend yes without a doubt.
Also an inspiration to a poor black kid the man he became and the one he hopes one day to be.
Jack Kirby created the Black Racer and his bedridden alter ego Sgt. Willie Walker in 1971. In the origin story Walker, an African American is paralyzed during a firefight in Vietnam. The army returns the young hero home where his wife resigns herself to taking care of him.
The Source, Kirby’s mysterious power entity visits Walker and turns him into the Black Racer. Doing so gives Walker the power to fly, travel between worlds and with just a touch bring death instantly to anyone. The Black Racer moves between worlds via the Boom Tube, uses skis to fly, and his death touch can come from his eyes or hands.
I was as big a fan of Kirby as there ever was but this was a bit much to take. Yes, most of the powers the King bestowed on Walker my young mind accepted hurriedly. One thing was a bit much for even my fourth-grade mind to grasp.
A black man skiing? Yeah, right.
That may seem silly nowadays but back in the day, trust me, not a whole lot of brothers on the slopes.
Silly was the last thing on Kirby’s mind when he created the Black Racer. Some still think he’s the most powerful character in the DCU. Kirby’s use of the Vietnam war as a story point was as realistic a statement as any he transported into his famous Forth World Universe. Sometimes Jimmy Olsen’s book (part of Kirby’s titles) would venture a subplot on a common theme, but most of Kirby’s storytelling was grand space opera.
Nowadays any writer would be hard pressed to space opera anything featuring a paralyzed Black Vietnam vet without a realistic viewpoint deserving of the material.
A significant difficulty in telling any story featuring real world issues is the scrutiny from those living with those predicaments. They read any account with more than a passing interest. Some in that fan base may care more about accuracy than entertainment.
Put another way, you write about someone in their community you better get your shit straight.
Seldom do I see caregivers in comics do much besides listen to talk and bring food to the person they watch over. I don’t recall ever seeing Sgt. Walker’s wife was other than the origin story. It’s been a while since I’ve read New Gods #3 so I may be wrong on that score. She may have been just a voice off-panel like the parents of Charlie Brown and the rest of his Peanuts crew.
The person who cares for a confined family member is in a very real way paralyzed as well. They have use of their limbs but cannot by any means move freely tethered by an invisible but real in every other way link.
Caregivers often need help themselves many suffer from depression and anxiety.
Each day may bring with it fluctuating degrees of guilt, sadness, dread or worry. Fatigue is constant there is no eight-hour Monday to Friday schedule. Caregiving is a non-stop all day everyday commitment.
Becoming a caregiver is something that can easily ruin someone’s life. A person who isn’t mentally prepared to deal with the realization caregiving may be forever facing real peril. Some may collapse under the strain putting all they have done in life in jeopardy.
What’s more important? Your loved one or your employer? For most, it’s an easy answer, but financial strains won’t go away and will most certainly get worse if your time away from your job causes you to lose it.
The same applies to any personal relationships. The stress put upon a significant other may not seem like a lot compared to the caregiver, but it certainly may seem so to them.
I was more than willing and able to care for my mother when a sudden illness caused doctors to amputate both her legs. Just preparing to move her from New York to L.A. was a daunting task. I was in the middle of setting up a publishing imprint and never gave it another thought while my mother needed me. All my time and energy were devoted to her.
Two weeks after her surgery my mother decided the life she faced was not a life at all. She told me just that in a message left on my phone. Then because she knew I would beat myself up said she loved me and “I don’t blame you for anything.”
I left my mother’s hospital room just 30 minutes before she left the message after hearing the news was back in her room in less than 15 minutes. I was away from her a total of 45 minutes.
She was dead when I returned to her bedside.
My life has been disrupted one way or another since. People I thought would always be there for me got the hell out of dodge, and I can’t say I blame them.
I can’t imagine returning to my mother’s bedside every day had she elected to stay with me and my life returning to anything remotely healthy like it is today.
As much as I love Jack Kirby and think his Black Racer is one hell of a black character without the caretaker angle, I can’t get behind his back story anymore.
No, not since I learned of a real-life Willie Walker.
Yep, in a very real way life is imitating art.
David Rector was a longtime producer at National Public Radio (NPR), and he loved that job. To someone with his skillset, it’s easy to see how many thought of this as David’s dream job. They may have thought so because it was a great job and he was great at it.
As someone who had his dream job not once but twice I can tell you there is little that can make you even think of giving it up.
What others may think is your dream job matters little to those who hold fast to their real desire. Be that as it may, it’s not easy to give up on a great job to follow your absolute dream.
David did. He followed his dream to California. Her name was Roz.
Roz Alexander-Kasparik was the dream David waited all his life for. She wasn’t a job, but David worked hard to be with her. He asked for her hand she said yes and that would be the start of their life together.
Joined as one in a marriage that life would be beautiful – this they both knew.
Roz is a no-nonsense black woman who holds little patience for those who try hers. David tried hers when arriving in San Diego he quickly started making plans not for their marriage but for them to attend the San Diego Comic-Con International (SDCC). David prepared with such glee Roz, who thought the only adults who read comics were intellectually challenged, started to think it may be fun.
She loved it.
She loved it and loved David even more (if possible) for being a strong black man who had the conviction to be himself. In a world where it was harder and harder to avoid the unrelenting branding of black man as thugs here was a man determined to be who he was.
A smart, accomplished man of many talents and a comic book fan.
A big comic book fan. How big? Finding a guy with more knowledge of comics especially DC Comics would be hard to find at DC. Roz found this out when David broke down the who what why of every panel person and pop culture tie in at SDCC to her.
She loved it.
After the convention, it was Roz who started planning for the next SDCC. David (if possible) loved her even more because of that. Between SDCC ideas they also managed to get some wedding plans done. They both knew their life together as one was going to be wonderful and it was.
It was better than wonderful.
Then it wasn’t.
They missed the next SDCC, and unfortunately, they would lose quite a bit more. David suffered an aortic dissection — a tear in a major blood vessel — then a series of crises in the hospital that ultimately left him unable to speak or walk.
That killed their love affair.
Roz is a wonderful person, but she’s only human. David now needed care all the time. That does not mean 24/7. That means twenty-four hours a day seven days a week. 24/7 It’s not the same thing it’s not even close. You can’t trivialize what was happening to her; you can’t ‘spin’ it 24/7 does that.
Saying these words; twenty-four hours seven days a week – does a number on your brain does it not?
Visualize if possible what that means in real life. You are now charged with not just your survival, but another’s as well. Americans are under the mistaken impression that we have a network of fail safes to protect us.
We do not.
Just ask that person who wanders off the hiking trail then breaks his leg. No biggie you may be thinking I’ll just pick up my cellphone and make a call. Fair enough your fail safe is your phone, got it.
If you have one if not you’re a bear snack. If you do have one you hope it has a charged battery. If the battery is charged you hope, there is a signal.
I said ask the person who wanders off the hiking trail then breaks his leg, but most likely you’ll have to ask his surviving family.
‘If’ and ‘hope’ are no fail safes.
David’s plight is a terrible one, and yes, it ended the love affair.
Roz left David as soon as she found out the David she fell in for was gone. The David who could peak her interest in something as ridiculous as comic books make her laugh and bring a smile to her face had disappeared. Roz changed under these circumstances how could she not?
She became Given.
Given is the partner to Recall a.k.a. David Rector. Recall and Given is the title of the forthcoming graphic novel written by Roz Alexander-Kasparik and David Rector.
Recall is almost like an astral projection: While his body lies stricken in a hospital bed, his spirit roams around, dispensing karmic justice by projecting memories into your mind — do good and you get a dose of good memories, do bad and, well, you get the idea. At his side is Given, who’s based on Roz — and she’s called that because her love for Recall is a given. Roz says David approves all the story and art choices, and he relishes his editorial role.
It’s being called an autobiographical superhero comic book, only for David and Roz, it’s so much more. It’s the story of their life together.
I said the love affair was over and it is. Roz and David’s story is much more than a love affair because she stayed. Then, convinced David, she should. David thought of her first and just wanted her to be happy.
How happy could she be without the love of her life?
How happy could you be without the love of yours?
She stayed because that’s what love real love does.
Love doesn’t listen to some friends tell you to think about yourself. Countless reasons for Roz to leave only one reason to stay.
I feel love is measured in how you’re treated when things go bad not when everything is good.
Love is when a mother wills herself to die rather than burden her child.
Or when a friend you thought lost forever does not want you alone during the holidays, thanks Denys thanks Kathy.
Love is staying with a man who has lost everything and must now take everything from you to survive. Love is telling that man; “You take nothing it was already yours.”
David is far from helpless still smart as a tack still loving comics, as does Roz. They missed SDCC only that one time, but not since.
Roz and David chose comics to tell their story. Few things have made me prouder to be a small part of this industry. The decision to bring their love story and by doing so the love stories of others like theirs to comics floors me every time I think of it.
The journey to make this happen has been a long one. Comics are hard enough to create without the added burden Roz and David face.