Category: Michael Davis

Michael Davis: Not The American Dream

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.

Nope.

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.”

But…

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.

Really.

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?

Everything.

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.

As if.

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.

Until we act differently— are we just as fake?

Michael Davis: Weekend Without Bernie

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.

Enough stalling.

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.

Another stall.

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.

Years later…

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.

That stung.

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.

Michael Davis: If & Hope

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.

From NPR:

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.

Yep, 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.

Love.

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.

They will get it done, I’m sure of it,

It’s a given.

Michael Davis: Stan Lee – The Man Now And Forever

No Sex On The Good Ship Lollipop, part 3

From our last installment…

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

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

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

Together the three may have saved my ass.

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

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

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

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

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

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

She didn’t get the hint.

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

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

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

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

“Adah!!”

“What?”

“Ya wanna pick up that box you dropped?”

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

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

“I know Stan pretty well…”

Crash!!!

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

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

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

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

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

Those were the days indeed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I told Stan about the comic book reading program.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not true, I thought.

Stan will be with us forever.

Michael Davis: President’s Day

Today we celebrate the birthdays of two great Americans.

I realize for many celebrating on a day called President’s Day is now just a day to be off work.

The current President of the United States is all the reason some need to never celebrate on President’s day again. How can some support the racist comments and actions coming from the now leader of the free world?

No idea, but many seem embolden by these activities – including the hotel I’d thought was making a change for the better.

Maybe what’s wrong with America is we keep looking for what’s wrong with America.

I try to look at what’s right and work to make what isn’t so.

A bit over a year ago I was thrown out of a Hilton in Orange County California for what can only be a racist reason. I gave them the benefit of the doubt they would do the right thing and they did for a bit.

Then they stopped but before they did for my pain and suffering I got a tin of cookies, but that’s another story and I’m telling it very soon but not today.

Today I am going to celebrate the birthdays of two great Americans.

The first of the two great Americans I speak of is Dwayne Glenn McDuffie born Feb. 20, 1962.

Dwayne lived his life looking for solutions to problems such as what befell me and no doubt others at that Hilton. He was good a writer as anyone and better than most.

He was also a good friend and partner. I’m thinking of Dwayne today… but others as well.

The look of sadness on this man’s face when in 2011 I invited him to sit on the Black Panel at San Diego celebrating the incredible life of an amazing man his best friend Dwayne still brings tears to my eyes.

That’s why I’m thinking about Matt Wayne today.

When I saw that big and bad ass SUV in the Target parking lot, I had to do a double-take. I couldn’t believe that was Dwayne getting out of the driver’s side. When he first arrived in L.A, for months, I chauffeured that huge mofo around in my two-seater sports car.

Not only did he not have a car in a city you must have a car in he couldn’t drive so I was very surprised he was, but when I saw him open the passenger side door, I was even more surprised.

Stepping down from that monster truck bringing the biggest smile I’d ever seen on the big guy was his new bride.

That’s why I’m thinking about his widow Charlotte Fullerton today.

Because I know they are hurting badly now and will be tomorrow the anniversary of Dwayne’s death I bear no ill will on this day.

That’s why I’m thinking about Derek Dingle and Reggie Hudlin.

What he wrote in Entertainment Weekly was a tribute as great as I’ve ever seen.

That’s why I’m thinking about Joe Illidge today.

Then there’s the man who started it all.

I think how we spent the day of Dwayne’s funeral not bitter but better because we talked about just how Dwayne was more Milestone than all of us. The better wore thin when the pain returned. A pain he tries to hide but can’t, not from me.

That’s why I’m thinking about Denys Cowan today.

The other great American I celebrate today born Feb. 20, 1939, my mother, Jean Davis. Static’s mom, Jean Hawkins, was modeled after my fantastic mother.

With all due respect to the character, I created the comic book and the TV show. Jean has nothing on my mom.

I was eight-years old; it was Christmas Eve, and we were leaving Getz Department store on Jamaica Ave. in Queens New York. This little white girl darts out of the building making a beeline towards the street.

My mother grabbed her coat by the neck right before the bus that would have surely hit and killed her sped by us. The little girl fell on the snow-covered sidewalk and started crying.

My mother was rewarded with a punch to the back of her head. The father hit her and was about to kick her when someone screamed “She stopped her from getting run over by a bus!”

With that, he helped my mother up apologizing over and over.

No.

No, he didn’t.

He bent down took his time fixing his kid’s coat while my mother lay there in the dirty snow while people walked past and over her afraid to stand up.

Later when I finally stop crying, I started yelling how much I hated that man. My mother put me to bed and told me; “Santa won’t come to a house with hate in it.” She would not have me hate anyone.

My mom took the hits when it came to her. When my sister or I were on the receiving end, she cared little for herself and would not let us be harmed or disrespected in any way. In the fourth grade, it seemed I was getting my ass beat daily. My teacher repeatedly told me to turn the other cheek.  My mom said for me to deal with a bully this way; “Michael, the next time that big kid hits you, pick up something and knock him over the head with it. Make him respect you. ”

The something was a metal backed chair. The head belonged to Ronnie Williams. I could have killed that kid, I didn’t, but he stopped fucking with me out of respect.

Jean Davis and Dwayne McDuffie are not here anymore. They would not stand for what’s happening in this country to people of color nor will I.

If I did, that means they can and will do it again. Why not? Cookies are cheap.

Happy Birthday, Jean.

Happy Birthday, Dwayne.

Michael Davis: No Sex On The Good Ship Lollipop 2…

… Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Black Panther take me to lunch!

This article features part one in its entirety. If you’d prefer to skip it scroll down to the paragraph break CORE BUSINESS- it’s all caps and in bold. If you can I’d like you to read this from the beginning. I’ve made some changes albeit small ones I feel were warranted.

My apologies for the long delay.

The Black Panthers were at one time the number one target of the FBI in the 60s. They were viewed as terrorists and J. Edger Hoover the longtime leader of the most powerful police force in the world was hell bent on getting rid of them by hook or by crook.

Yep, hook or crook.

It’s no secret the United States Government from time to time will ignore the law. It’s fair to say it goes on often and as far as we know it goes on all the time. When caught those, who swore to uphold the constitution offer apologies for actions that dismissed the law like Trump denies any negative press.

But it’s all bullshit.

If not caught these people may have stopped breaking the law, but it’s doubtful they would have been sorry. I gather few are sorry for wrongdoing that benefits them. How many people have you seen come forward to admit how sorry they are for gaming the system when they have no incentive to do so?

I’ll wait.

The FBI broke all sorts of laws to accomplish their Black Panther agenda. As always don’t take my word for it Google that bitch. Unless you’re blind to the truth backed up with a few court rulings the war on the Panthers was a one-sided American tragedy fueled by a lie and driven home by a liar by the name of J. Edger do I look fat in this dress Hoover.

Yeah, I can talk a lot of shit from my cozy little home in suburban Los Angeles. I can talk smack because I’m secure in the knowledge I’m protected by:

  1. First Amendment Right Freedom of Speech
  2. What I wrote about the F.B.I was true.
  3. I’m just not that important, and neither is ComicMix or Bleeding Cool to anyone in power that may object to my point of view.

I’m not as naïve as the above list would suggest. I’m fully aware my rights are subject to the will of the arresting officer and temperament of the D.A. regardless of my innocence if arrested for a crime I didn’t commit.

Been there had that done to me. Twice.

My circumstances notwithstanding in 2017 there exists a reasonable chance that someone may be believed if they claim police brutally or unjust treatment.

In 1966 the odds of a Black person being believed, slim. I would wager a Jewish person would face the same type of incredulity and given what happened to the three Civil Rights workers in Mississippi June 1964 the same dangers.

From Wikipedia:

In June 1964 in Neshoba County, Mississippi, three civil rights workers were abducted and murdered in an act of racial violence. The victims were Andrew Goodman and Michael “Mickey” Schwerner from New York City, and James Chaney from Meridian, Mississippi.

All three were associated with the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) and its member organization the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). They had been working with the “Freedom Summer” campaign by attempting to register African-Americans in the southern states to vote.

This registration effort was a part of contesting over 70 years of laws and practices that supported a systematic policy of disenfranchisement of potential black voters by several Southern states that began in 1890.

The three men had been arrested following a traffic stop in Meridian for speeding, escorted to the local jail and held for some hours. [1] As the three left towns in their car, they were followed by law enforcement and others. Before leaving Neshoba County their car was pulled over, and all three were abducted, driven to another location, and shot at close range. The three men’s bodies were then transported to an earthen dam where they were buried.

Two of the three men killed for trying to do the right thing were Jewish.

In the 50s and 60s, certain parts of the deep south were deadly. Those who sided with Black people treated as if they were well, Black people often that meant death. It’s one thing to risk your life for your rights another thing indeed to do so for another’s.

In my mind, that’s the textbook definition of noble. That takes a whole other level of balls and commitment.

In 1966 the F.B.I was on a mission to destroy the Black Panther Party and woe be on to those who got in their way.

Marvel Comics was all the rage on college campuses in the 60’s. Stan The Man Lee was the captain of one of the hottest pop culture ships to ever set sail in the ever changing 60s sea. His first mate Jack King Kirby navigated just as much of the Marvel boat as Stan, together they ruled comics, campuses and cool.

Stan wasn’t content to just cruise. He continuously looked to change the comic book landscape he had already transformed. DC wasn’t without some cool stuff, Wein and Wrightson’s Swamp Thing, Adams and O’Neil’s Green Lantern / Green Arrow were a stellar addition to the cool that Stan ushered in. Alas, those came in the late 60s / early 70s.

DC held its own in sales, but in the cool department they were outclassed at every port. Seen by most as still just for kids DC may have sold as much or more but Marvel was- to use 60’s slang- where it’s at.

Put another way, DC was the Good Ship Lollipop… and Marvel was the ever-loving Titanic.

Like the actual Titanic, Stan and Jack faced an Iceberg. Unlike the doomed ship they looked for that potential death dealer on purpose. Those two Jewish guys were about to take a stand and strike a blow for civil rights. Not for themselves for African Americans and doing so rather they knew it or not chuck a serious fuck you to Hoover and his crew.

A Black Panther with a serious attitude showed up in New York and preceded to win over the masses with his message. If J. Edgar wouldn’t wear white after Labor Day, Hoover wanted to do something he was powerless to do it.

That’s because this Black Panther wasn’t real. Stan and Jack made him up out of thin air, or did they? In 2017 it’s hard to imagine meeting someone who had not heard of Donald Trump’s:

Take your pick.

  1. Wall
  2. Tweets
  3. Hair

The Black Panther Party was a regular item in print and broadcast news. The year was 1966 what you read in the newspaper or watched on TV was damn near (for many it was) gospel.

Ya think Lee and Kirby just happened to create a character with the same name as the most wanted radical group this side of the Weather Underground with no knowledge that group existed?

Stan was as tuned in to what American college kids were doing as anyone over 30 could be. He spoke at many universities, and Marvel’s mail was an endless stream of hip American youth feedback.

The question is, did Stan, and Jack create the Black Panther to make a buck or a difference?

I know the answer because I asked my man Stan and his reply affected me… but not in any way you may think.

Part 2: CORE BUISNESS

In 1996 I left Motown Animation Filmworks where I served as President CEO and started my development deal with Viacom companies. My goal was to develop content across the many media businesses Viacom-owned.

Among Viacom’s holdings were Paramount Pictures, MTV Networks, Simon & Schuster, Nickelodeon and more.

My deal was structured under Simon & Schuster where my first project was set up was 20 years in the making. Developing a comic book reading program with a universe of characters I created had been a dream of mine since high school.

Comics in the classroom sounded like a no-brainer. I thought I was a 17-year old genius when first I had the idea. How no one thought about this idea before I did was beyond belief.

It took me another 20 years to find out why.

While at Milestone I put together an overview and presented it to the partners. Derek Dingle, co-founder and President of Milestone, had final say on any new business and he said it sounded like a good idea.

He also maintained we should revisit it after the launch. He was right; many new ventures fail for various reasons, but chief among them is not paying attention to the core business.

Put another way; when you start your comic book company do the best comics you can before deciding to put significant effort into other media or enterprises make sure to handle your core business.

As for me, life is what happens while… you know the rest.

If you don’t know that Lennon quote do yourself a favor and Goggle it. Truer words are rare to find my friend.

Life is what happened to me as such; by the time the books launched Milestone was in my rearview mirror. When our books premièred I was still at the company but had already begun to think outside the box determined to avoid another DC bullet.

Doing so meant I was going to keep my school idea to myself.

At Motown Animation & Filmworks, where I went after leaving Milestone, I put the idea on my short list produced another up to date business plan and was about to partner with a mainstream publishing company.

Then core business reared its ugly head yet again.

Motown’s core business is music my film and television division although successful in the two plus years we were there was doomed. At the time Motown’s parent company was Polygram and the powers that be decided Motown would return to core business despite having its best year ever.

Motown Animation was doomed, but I was very much alive with options. Chief among them: I had a sweet golden parachute.

From Wikipedia:

A golden parachute is an agreement between a company and an employee (usually upper executive) specifying that the employee will receive certain significant benefits if employment is terminated. Most definitions specify the employment termination is because of a merger or takeover, also known as “Change-in-control benefits” but more recently the term has been used to describe perceived excessive CEO (and other executives) severance packages unrelated to change in ownership (also known as a golden handshake). The benefits may include severance pay, cash bonuses, stock options, or other benefits.

OPTION 1.

I could transition over to Polygram Films for the remainder of my contract. If my deal were not extended at terms end, my golden parachute would still be honored.

OPTION 2.

I could sit out the balance of my contract watching All My Children at home and still receive full salary. However, that also came with a non-compete.

A non-compete means I could not work with another company doing what I was doing at Motown.

“You’re a fucking idiot!”

That’s what my agent at the William Morris agency told me when, like Captain Kirk, I changed the rules of the game.

I opted for a third option. I left. Left the deal, left the Golden Parachute, left the Polygram job. Left it all for a long shot at a dream. It felt good for about two days until it became clear I fucked up with a capital Fucked Up.

First, William Morris dropped me… followed by my manager and entertainment attorney.

Just that quick I went from Playa to played.

I was told later William Morris may have stood by me if I had not responded in kind when called me a fucking idiot. Really?

Hollywood is very much like the movie. Some (not all) people think because they have a certain amount of power they have the right to belittle you when the feeling hits them.

I’m a grown man and unless I’ve done something to warrant you addressing me like I’m a child the odds of you getting away with talking to me like I am are zero.

On the other hand, I’m not perfect and on occasion have been a fucking idiot indeed and deserved to be called on the carpet. However, me making a hard decision about my life isn’t one of those occasions.

This has cost me both money and opportunities and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t regret my actions in some instances. That said, I can’t see myself continuing to deal with someone who berates me for no other reason except they can.

I don’t cast judgment on those who tolerate it. I just don’t.

Check out this review.

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

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

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

Together they may have saved my ass.

Next Time: The End

 

Michael Davis: No Sex On The Good Ship Lollipop

In the 1960s, the Black Panthers were the number one target of the FBI. They were viewed as terrorists and J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime leader of the most powerful police force in the world, was hell bent on getting rid of them by hook or by crook.

Yep, hook or crook.

It’s no secret the United States Government from time to time will ignore the law. It’s fair to say it goes on often and as far as we know it goes on all the time. When caught, those who swore to uphold the constitution offer apologies for actions that dismissed the law like Trump denies any negative press.

But it’s all bullshit.

If not caught these people may have stopped breaking the law, but it’s doubtful they would have been sorry. I gather few are sorry for wrongdoing that benefits them. How many people have you seen come forward to admit how sorry they are for gaming the system when they have no incentive to do so?

I’ll wait.

The FBI broke all sorts of laws to accomplish their Black Panther agenda. As always, don’t take my word for it. Google that bitch. Unless you’re blind to the truth backed up with a few court rulings the war on the Panthers was a one-sided American tragedy fueled by a lie and driven home by a liar by the name of J. Edgar do I look fat in this dress Hoover.

Yeah, I can talk a lot of shit from my cozy little home in suburban Los Angeles. I can talk smack because I’m secure in the knowledge I’m protected by:

  1. First Amendment Right Freedom of Speech
  2. What I wrote about the F.B.I is true.
  3. I’m just not that important, and neither is ComicMix nor Bleeding Cool to anyone in power that may object to my point of view.

I’m not as naïve as the above list would suggest. I’m fully aware my rights are subject to the will of the arresting officer and temperament of the D.A. regardless of my innocence if arrested for a crime I didn’t commit.

Been there had that done to me. Twice.

My circumstances notwithstanding in 2017 there exists a reasonable chance that someone may be believed if they claim police brutally or unjust treatment.

In 1966 the odds of a black person being believed were slim. I would wager a Jewish person would face the same type of incredulity and, given what happened to the three Civil Rights workers in Mississippi June 1964, the same dangers.

From Wikipedia:

In June 1964 in Neshoba County, Mississippi, three civil rights workers were abducted and murdered in an act of racial violence. The victims were Andrew Goodman and Michael “Mickey” Schwerner from New York City, and James Chaney from Meridian, Mississippi.

All three were associated with the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) and its member organization the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). They had been working with the “Freedom Summer” campaign by attempting to register African-Americans in the southern states to vote.

This registration effort was a part of contesting over 70 years of laws and practices that supported a systematic policy of disenfranchisement of potential black voters by several Southern states that began in 1890.

The three men had been arrested following a traffic stop in Meridian for speeding, escorted to the local jail and held for a number of hours. As the three left town in their car, they were followed by law enforcement and others. Before leaving Neshoba County their car was pulled over and all three were abducted, driven to another location, and shot at close range. The three men’s bodies were then transported to an earthen dam where they were buried.

Two of the three men killed for trying to do the right thing were Jewish.

In the 50s and 60s, certain parts of the deep south were deadly. Those who sided with black people were treated as if they were black people often that meant death. It’s one thing to risk your life for your rights; it’s another thing indeed to do so for somebody else’s.

In my mind, that’s the textbook definition of noble. That takes a whole other level of balls. It’s gangsta with a capital G.

In 1966 the F.B.I was on a mission to destroy the Black Panther Party and woe be on to those who got in their way.

Marvel Comics was all the rage on college campuses in the 60s. Stan The Man Lee was the captain of one of the hottest pop culture ships to set sail in the ever changing 60s sea. His first mate Jack King Kirby navigated just as much of the Marvel boat as Stan and together they ruled comics, campuses and cool.

Stan wasn’t content to just cruise. He continuously looked to change the comic book landscape he had already transformed. DC wasn’t without some cool stuff, Wein and Wrightson’s Swamp Thing, Adams and O’Neil’s Green Lantern / Green Arrow those books along with others were DC’s stellar addition to the cool that Stan ushered in. Alas, those came in the late 60s early 70s.

DC held its own in sales, but in the ‘cool’ department they were outclassed at just about every port. Seen by most as still just for kids DC may have sold as much or more, but Marvel was – to use 60s slang – where it’s at.

The age of sex, drugs and rock and roll embraced Marvel. although they featured none of the above. Neither did DC.

The difference was a bit like the shower scene in Psycho. People swore they saw the knife plunge into Janet Leigh. There was no sex drugs or rock and roll in Marvel books, but fans thought there was.

Over at DC you didn’t have to be in collage to know Lois Lane may have had the title “Superman’s girlfriend” but everyone knew Clark wasn’t hitting that.

Put another way… DC was the Good Ship Lollipop and Marvel was the ever lovin’ Starship Enterprise.

Like another ship, the Titanic, once people heard about Marvel they couldn’t wait to jump on board. Likewise, the Titanic, Stan and Jack faced an Iceberg.

Unlike the doomed ship they looked for that potential death dealer on purpose. Those two Jewish guys were about to take a stand and strike a blow for civil rights. Not for themselves – for African Americans and doing so, whether they knew it or not, chuck a serious fuck you to Hoover and his crew.

A Black Panther with a serious attitude showed up in New York and preceded to win over the masses with his message. If J. Edgar won’t wear white after Labor Day, Hoover wanted to do something he couldn’t just bum rush the place he knew the Panther would be.

That’s because this Black Panther wasn’t real. Stan and Jack made him up out of thin air. Or did they? In 2017 it’s hard to imagine meeting someone who had not heard of Donald Trump’s:

Take your pick.

  1. Wall
  2. Tweets
  3. Hair

The Black Panther Party was a regular item in print and broadcast news. The year was 1966 what you read in the newspaper or watched on TV was damn near (for many it was) gospel.

Ya think Lee and Kirby just happened to create a character with the same name as the most wanted radical group this side of the Weather Underground with no knowledge that group existed?

That’s as likely as a character called The Birther showing up out of thin air.

Name: The Birther!

Tag Line: He Came Out of Thin Not American Air!

Mission: Kill Grandma!

Stan was as tuned in to what American college kids were doing as anyone over 30 could be. He spoke at many universities, and Marvel’s mail was an endless stream of hip American youth feedback.

The question is, did Stan, and Jack create the Black Panther to make a buck or a difference? Did they risk aliening some fans becoming an FBI file and possible violence?

I’m sure a lot of you think you know the answers but I most certainly do. Mine came straight from the man himself.

Stan The Man Lee.

End, Part 1.

Michael Davis: Seduction Of The Not So Innocent.

In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Brown v. Board of Education which overturned Jim Crow racial segregation in the public schools. That mattered little in most of the country when white privilege was normalized, and white supremacy went unchallenged. Black people had no real say. Whites controlled most everything, as they still do to a great extent.

Since the 1950s black and brown people have been demanding their rights and as expected in a nation of so many different viewpoints there has been push back.

This time a distinction between the past is evident. It appears the soon to be the leader of the free world Donald Trump is now leading any pushback on racial resolutions. His actions over time and in particular the last few years support this.

Some of the Trump race record includes:

Attacking Muslim Gold Star parents

Claimed a judge was biased because “he’s a Mexican.” (In fact, he was an American)

The Justice Department sued his company ― twice ― for not renting to black people

Refused to condemn the white supremacists who were campaigning for him

Never apologized to President Obama for saying he was not born in the United States

He encouraged the mob justice that resulted in the wrongful imprisonment of the Central Park Five.

From The Huffington Post

In 1989, Trump took out full-page ads in four New York City-area newspapers calling for the return of the death penalty in New York and the expansion of police authority in response to the infamous case of a woman who was beaten and raped while jogging in Manhattan’s Central Park.

“They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes,” Trump wrote, referring to the Central Park attackers and other violent criminals. “I want to hate these murderers and I always will.” The public outrage over the Central Park jogger rape, at a time when the city was struggling with high crime, led to the wrongful conviction of five teenagers of color known as the Central Park Five. The men’s convictions were overturned in 2002 after they’d already spent years in prison when DNA evidence showed they did not commit the crime. Today, their case is considered a cautionary tale about a politicized criminal justice process.

Trump, however, still thinks the men are guilty.

The Voting Rights Act, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on August 6, 1965, aimed to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented African Americans from exercising their right to vote under the 15th Amendment (1870) to the Constitution of the United States. The act significantly widened the franchise and is considered among the most far-reaching pieces of civil rights legislation in U.S. history.

That was then.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court effectively struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by a 5-to-4 vote, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval.

That’s happening, in fact, it already happened.

It’s becoming harder much harder for poor people and people of color to vote. That’s been tried but this time every branch of government is under one party.

One party under the control of a man who lies without the slightest remorse. Don’t take my word for it: here’s the record.

This record clearly shows he has no “great relationship with the blacks.”

Debating facts isn’t my thing. Is it possible Trump has the kind of respect he says he does for black people? Sure, it’s possible, but as a black man I’ve got too much to lose to pretend what he’s done and said before just don’t exist.

Feel free to disagree but do so with facts. Opinion is not fact and what I’ve attributed to Trump isn’t opinion.

My opinion is he is a liar and perhaps a racist the facts clearly show he has acted as both on many occasions.

With notable exceptions, the comic book industry, after trouncing Thump when thought he couldn’t win, has been silent after his did.

In 1954, psychiatrist Fredric Wertham cautioned the world comic books were damaging to young minds and a serious cause of juvenile delinquency.

He did so in his book Seduction of the Innocent.

To say the book was influential would be an understatement. Taken so very seriously at the time parents and teachers joined to combat this attack on the youth of America. Fueled by the televised lynching of American freedoms brought on by McCarthyism attacking comic books was a no-brainer.

•     •     •     •     •

Gerard Jones, a comics writer whose career includes writing Green Lantern and The Trouble with Girls and writing and co-creating Prime for Malibu, has been arrested on suspicions of putting child pornography on YouTube.

Full disclosure, I knew Gerald and was shocked by these charges. That being said I am not here to defend nor am I here to condemn him. He’s accused of a horrible crime, but I’ll wait until he has his day in court to pass judgment.

I will say this; it never fails to amaze me how those who swear by the ‘law of the land’ always seem to ignore any presumption of innocence.

I have no sympathy for those who prey on children. For that there is no excuse, none. There is also no reason for damning a person before all the facts are known. I’m pretty sure some will take what I just wrote as defending Gerald. I clearly wrote I am not doing so.

If found guilty he should get and deserves jail. I’m not afraid to say that nor am I afraid to say I find the charges hard to believe. I pray he’s innocent, but I allow that he may not be.

The facts will be revealed in court and not on Twitter, Facebook or Bleeding Cool.

There’s a real threat to comics no matter what the outcome of a trial.

Every branch of government is poised to follow the lead of the next President Of The United States.

It will only take one inquiry into this case to give rise to a new comic book investigation. Kids, sex, and comics?  That’s a dream come true for an extreme Right Winger with a hankering to clean up the depravity in Hollywood.

The turning back of the clock has already begun on black America. Can what we watch read or write be far behind?

•     •     •     •     •

In 1954 much of what Wertham told the public was bullshit and lies.

From Wikipedia:

Wertham “manipulated, overstated, compromised, and fabricated evidence” in support of the contentions expressed in Seduction of the Innocent. He intentionally mis-projected both the sample size and substance of his research, making it out to be more objective and less anecdotal than it truly was. He did not adhere to standards worthy of scientific research, instead of using questionable evidence as rhetorical ammunition for his argument that comics were a cultural failure.

Sound familiar?

Congress convened hearings on the comic book industry and the industry folded like a bitch and as such the Comics Code was born.

Perhaps folding like a bitch was harsh. It was a different time and America was in a different place, and so were we.

But It appears it’s a place our next president wants to return us to. If they come for us, will we go?

Michael Davis: A Long Time Ago In A Hood Far, Far Away…

It was 1977. Lee Speller and I had just hopped (read: rode free) the subway to Manhattan. No easy feat at any subway station. You’re gambling an undercover cop won’t be among the passengers watching you break the law. You run the risk of getting an expensive ticket or getting arrested, but in Far Rockaway, Queens, you can add getting killed to that list.

The trains are elevated, so we had to climb the outside of a three-story stairwell, jump down onto the platform which was going the wrong way, and cross the tracks. Now being the geniuses we were, instead of simply going downstairs and crossing over to the right side of the platform, we crossed the tracks which included the 50,000-volt third rail. One slip, just one touch, and we were dead.

It never occurred to us that the tollbooth attendant would never have known if we just climbed onto the platform.

We thought little of the third rail on any of our trips to Manhattan. We were going to the movies and needed all our money for a ticket and snacks. Lee and I couldn’t wait to see the film we had been talking about since we saw the commercial on TV.

We saw the 8 pm show; and afterward, we hung out a bit on 42nd street so we could look at hookers. (Look, we were kids from the hood had no money and these women had on next to nothing. Hell, people, this was our cable TV.)

It wasn’t long before this beautiful Latino lady started talking to us. “You looking for a date?” she asked.

“Sure, but I only have a dollar,” I said.

“A DOLLAR?” she said, while motioning her fellow ladies of the evening to come over. This always happened. These girls would be bored so they would look for some young gawker to ridicule to bide away the time. Lee and I had been the tool more than once.

This time we were ready.

“He’s only got a dollar, girls!” she shouted this so everyone could hear and join in our verbal beat down.

I waited a few minutes allowing some in the crowd to join in with the usual remarks about being poor, small penis, etc.

Then it was my turn.

“Yeah, I only have a dollar— just wanna make sure you have change,” I said.

“Yeah. Lee joined in. Seventy-five cents way too big a tip.”

Lee and I cracked up— the ladies? Not so much. In fact, they were so unhappy they summoned this huge guy over to kick our ass. We took off running and this gorilla looking mofo did so also. Unfortunately, the ladies were posted in front of our subway station, and the baboon didn’t look like he was tiring.

After a few blocks, Lee and I saw a long line of people waiting to get into a movie theater. The guy most likely was just trying to scare us, OR he was going to bust a cap in our asses. Regardless, he wasn’t about to do anything in front of a group. The crowd started moving into the building. Lee and I smoothly joined the front of the line and with a few ‘hood looks’ dared someone to say something.

No one did, well no one but us. “THAT GUY JUMPED THE LINE!” We pointed out our pursuer who was quickly stopped by ushers. We had no idea what movie we were going to see and were fully prepared to jet (leave) if it was some On Golden Pond type of shit.

It was Star Wars.

The moment Princess Leia showed up on screen any thoughts of leaving vanished. “DAMN SHE FINE!” I said way too loud but couldn’t care less because she was. That woman that movie that night changed my life as I was young stupid and reckless way back when. I often think about risks I took— stepping over 50,000 volts and pissing off a pimp were just two in a long list of foolishness. Hindsight, they say, is 20/20, and I do regret most of the near life ending acts I participated in growing up.

Yeah, most.

That night Lee and I risked death twice but saw Princess Leia?

Totally worth it.

Michael Davis: Jump

It’s the same voice thought that … you’re standing at a precipice and you look down, there’s a voice, and it’s a little quiet voice that goes, ‘Jump…’” • Robin Williams

Last week on Bleeding Cool someone posted a one-word comment meant as a commentary on my depression.

Jump.

I couple of years back I almost did.

I put a loaded gun to my head and pulled the trigger. There was no shell in the chamber as life, not luck, would have it. Life would have it before I cocked the slide I answered a phone call. A dear friend could tell the pain I was in made me promise to “stay here.”

That stopped me.

On my twenty-fifth birthday, a gun was put to my forehead. When my would-be murderer pulled the trigger, the gun jammed.

That saved me.

There’s a big difference between being saved and being stopped.

I didn’t then, nor do I now, want to die. I just wanted the pain to go away.

I write about my depression for the same reason Wayne Brady and Robin Williams and so many others talk about their depression because it may help someone else deal and help us cope.

Both Wayne and I are still fighting the good fight victories and setbacks along the way are part of the conflict we both know that. Robin lost his battle on August 11, 2014.

He spoke about his depression yet was likewise stricken by dementia with Lewy bodies, a type of dementia that gets much worse over time. I can’t imagine living with that kind of hell.

It pains me to think Robin endured it for as long as he did.

Yes, this is a pop culture website, and there’s an argument to be made my sort of personal reflection does not belong here. On the other hand, I write editorials and opinion columns and It’s because of my opinion, so many of you have found an easy target to voice your opinion.

Unless someone totally mispresents my point or is rude just for the sake of being rude, I take time responding to even the harshest of my critics, and I do so with respect.

In return, I mostly get people trying to school me on my swagger.

Telling a depressed person “jump” and isn’t something you screw around with those who do play with fire. If all you want when you visit sites like Bleeding Cool, ComicMix or any pop culture website is to discuss comics movies or whatever there is nothing at all wrong with that.

I get that. More over I’m not interested in a “very special” episode of the Muppets. I have zero interest in Kermit facing his battle with depression, grabbing a gun high, and tailing it up to the roof of 30 Rock intending to blow his brains out. So, yes, I get that.

If I did end up watching I doubt I’m posting on the Muppet website how I wanted to see Kermit shoot himself.

However, making such a comment while pretending you’re just scoring points in the hate Michael Davis game is cruel heartless uncalled for and can be dangerous.

I could care less about me, My focus has always been on young people.

Mental illness is still a big taboo in the African American community.

What happens if some black 15-year-old girl suffering from severe depression posted a reply in support of my struggle and got a “jump?” As is often the case what happens is she was subject to the troll pile on mob attack? Most likely nothing happens.

This, however, did happen the mother of such a young lady sent her daughters post to me directly. Having read some BC comments, she was smart enough to think better of having her daughter post at Bleeding Cool.

Say what you will about anything I write – even my depression if you’re sick of hearing about it. I get that; I get all of that. But for god’s sake have some regard for those who may read such as an act of cruelty directed toward them and on a bad day that’s all it takes.

If you don’t like what I write, don’t read it. Shit, I can’t stand fruit cake so why the hell would I ask for a slice, hate it even more, then ask for seconds?

If you’re of such character that you feel ok posting that type of darkness over a silly story about Lois Lane, I’d rather you take your business elsewhere. If this community continues to support this sort of stuff, I’ll go elsewhere.

It’s not worth it.

I didn’t out that person and have no idea if the comment is still up. More than likely was meant to be funny and not hurtful. If there, I’ll ask please that no hurtful comments or hateful rhetoric be directed at him or her. I reacted last week without thinking that the writer may be young, despondent or both.

Thanks, Sandy. I loved the note, enjoy the books.