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.
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.
I met Wayne Brady in 2005 while head writer and segment producer on the Tom Joyner syndicated television show. That sounds like I had some sway but the real head writer and power on most TV shows is the Executive Producer. I was as far away from EP as Trump is from humble.
Even then, Wayne was a big star as evident by his choice of performance for the show. He decided to sing a song. That may not sound like a big deal, but it is. If known for comedy in Hollywood you’re booked to do comedy.
But if you’re a big enough star you can do whatever your little-overblown ego made you think was a good idea. Thank god most big time actors and singers don’t try and do stand up. That seldom ends well the big names realize to them acting is easy to everyone comedy is hard.
This was also the Tom Joyner Show.
Tom is among the most influential people in media and he knows his music. Do if you can’t sing then, you won’t be singing on Tom’s show no matter how big a star nobody is stupid enough to mess with that kind of pull.
As always the bigger the star, the dumber the haters. The knock on Wayne – he wasn’t black or black enough. The Uncle Tom tag at times bothered him to such a point he decided one day to do something about it. Something people would not expect, and the day I met Wayne was that day.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Wayne Brady!”
The announcement prompted the studio audience to applaud with much enthusiasm which soon turned to a stunned silence when Wayne walked over to a mammoth of a man and punched him in the face. “Are you crazy?” The wife of the big man yelled. Wayne looked at her and said; “Shut up or will Wayne Brady have to choke a bitch?”
But I digress.
BTW, Peter, I was told this joke had run its course… as if.
Wayne sang a song and he killed.
“Killed” is a show-biz term that means, oh hell just read the small print at the bottom. Wayne is an exceptionally gifted singer.
His critics think he’s not black enough. Why? Because he works clean? Any comedian will tell you it’s much harder to make people laugh working clean. I often write articles chock full of profanity. Some have labeled me a thug or worse. Somehow they completely ignore the work I’ve done within the educational and Christian markets where there are no bad words – only good ones on loan from non-thugs.
Sadly, it’s not remarkable people refuse to look at facts and much rather stick to a lie. Wayne’s actions over his career counter all Uncle Tom comparisons yet are ignored. Doesn’t matter who vouches for Wayne that tag sticks.
Just like the following has held …
Elvis was a hero to most
But he never meant s**t to me you see
Straight up racist that sucker was
Simple and plain
Mother f**k him and John Wayne
Public Enemy / Fight the Power
A bigger Public Enemy fan than I would be hard to find as would a bigger lie than the above. Chuck D., Public Enemy’s front man conceded that when confronted with facts.
It didn’t matter people still think Elvis said: “The only thing Negroes can do for me is to buy my records and shine my shoes.” He not only did not say that, he was never on the radio show where people swore is where they heard it.
Some just can’t graduate from Sheep School. As evidence you need look no further than the hordes of those who will go to their grave convinced Obama was born in Africa, Milestone is owned by DC, and Trump is sane.
I mentioned Wayne is a talented singer. He’s also an accomplished actor remarkable dancer, and as a comedian, few if any can match his exceptional quickness or insightful intellect.
Wayne’s a huge deal in Hollywood. To be such, you must do big things. Talent alone does not guarantee the type of projects offered Wayne. Each time he commits it’s as if he’s just landed his first role.
Late last week he landed another big performance, comic book writer. Wayne co-wrote a story with his long-time collaborator Johnathan Magnum that runs in Spider-Man Annual # 1.
“How did the book come out,” I asked Wayne while we were having breakfast. “Don’t know have not seen it yet.” He responded. I took from his short answer he wasn’t all that interested in talking about the comic.
Wayne is always running to somewhere important but wherever he was off to this morning seemed to weigh heavy on his mind. So, it was no surprise when he asked for the check after only a few minutes. It took few moments to get my doggie bag (Hey! Never leave free food!) then I followed Wayne out onto the street. The street was there, but Wayne was nowhere to be seen, but I could hear him.
I followed his voice to Earth 2, one of the coolest comic book stores anywhere. Located in Sherman Oaks CA, you couldn’t ask for a better store or nicer people.
Then with lightning quickness it hit me. Wayne’s important meeting was with Peter Parker. He fled the restaurant as soon as Earth 2 opened so he could buy his book. I had wondered why he picked the breakfast spot he had it was a wee bit out of the way. He picked it because it was next to Earth 2 that’s why.
The store only had six copies left I grabbed two leaving four for Wayne. “Hey let me get those for you,” Wayne said. Free food and free comics? The only thing that could make my day better was Wayne flying me to the Bunny Ranch in Nevada so I could get a new pet rabbit.
Nothing short of punching a hater in the face could make his day any better I thought. When Wayne finished paying for our books he held up the comic and greeted a man walking in with “I have a story in here.”
“Good for you!” The man said with a real delight.
I stood a few feet away from Wayne now placing his books in Mylar bags and talking to the young lady behind the counter. Walking towards me was the guy Wayne had shown his book.
“I wish your friend much success.” He said still smiling,
“That’s Wayne Brady,” I said.
He whipped his head around so fast I thought it would fly off his neck and hit me in the face.
I’m not over exaggerating; the good people of Earth 2 will confirm my every word. Wayne acted as if writing comic books was all he ever wanted to do.
He’s known the world over has a following in the millions does big things still the only thing I’ve seen surpass this excitement is the way he talks about his family. On this day, he wasn’t an international superstar, he was a published comic book author finally living his dream.
Early on in this piece, I noted Wayne has the distinction of being less than black to some. Much of this idiotic criticism because he works clean. That also gives the impression he’s a punk.
At SDCC about five years ago while walking the floor, I spotted some guys who had given Tatiana El-Khouri my former Special Projects Director a hard time. Wayne likes Tatiana a lot, and with a Chappelle show gaze said; ” I’ll go over and talk to them see if they still got a problem after I do.”
He went. They didn’t.
Just because Wayne manages to stay out of damaging career situations doesn’t use bad words doesn’t mean he’s anyone’s bitch. No, that would be Chris Christie.
Standing up for a friend, however, is not the total sum of a black man, or any man.
As Wayne said to Arsenio Hall in 2015. “You don’t know me so don’t judge me on being black because being black is not a monolithic thing. We have many, many ways of being black.”
Make no mistake. Wayne’s a great guy. I was honored to be there when he broke his comic book cherry, but he’s not a saint.
He kept one of my comics, and I’m sure did so on purpose.
This article contains satire and is provided as is without any guarantees the stupid won’t believe it. Michael Davis makes no warranties of any kind, either express or implied, including but not limited to warranties of giving a flying fish if some don’t get the joke or think Trump gives a shit about poor black gay or disabled people. Reading anything by Michael Davis is at the reader’s risk. Not as big a risk as the next four years, but who knows just how stupid some are. In other words, Wayne did not punch or kill anyone. Duh. Yeah, I Know the big deal part was weak so am i!!!! I think Wayne took my leftovers.
I was so stunned by the election I just couldn’t bring myself to write a damn thing for the last few weeks. Hell, in the case of Bleeding Cool it’s been months that I blame on my depression and trying to figure out how to fix a problem no one sees yet but with depression I couldn’t care less.
Then something magical happened. Call it a Thanksgiving comic book miracle. It was no less than that. So I hope to be reset at Bleeding Cool, ComicMix and my site Michael Davis World. MDW had an outstanding and loyal following.
I messed that up big time a week after I began talks to partner with a massive site. Shit. That was stupid.
Stupid, stupid, stupid. My depression was/is a motherfucker.
Once I become fixated on something I just kept at it regardless if I’d achieved my goals. I’d change or add new goals. I’m told this allows me to spend less time thinking about putting a bullet to my head.
I haven’t written for my site in almost three years, and one by one lost every columnist except for Martha Thomases. She singlehandedly kept MDW afloat. I haven’t told her thank you. I can’t muster up the balls to call because (it sounds nuts) but as long as Martha is owed my gratitude I’ve got a marker and I never welch on a promise, a bet and especially not a friend.
Or in Martha’s case… family.
She’ll read this and think it’s a thank you. In a way it is, but to me it’s a promissory note. I’m not 100% well and never will be, but I know I can do a bit better and besides it’s almost Christmas…
I do know that Martha does love a ridiculous MOTU story and Lord knows in three years there has been few. Well, thanks to Joe Illidge here’s one just for you Martha consider it a down payment.
Thanks Joe. BTW – My New Boo, Lois Lane copyright Michael Davis 2016
Joe asked this question on Facebook: As a writer, name one thing you would do with Lois Lane in the comics, if you could do anything.
So here’s my answer:
MY NEW BOO, LOIS LANE
…or how I gots me a white woman
Lois is pissed. Instead of date night with her, Superman choose to save Donald Trump from a crowd of angry maids upset because he said “Cleaning is for losers; those domestics chicks are ugly, fat, most likely Mexican rapist criminals who are responsible for the one missing sock from the dryer. I mean who else could it be?”
Lois would be hurt and Michael Davis the black new owner-publisher of the renamed Mostly Daily Planet (remember, black new owner-publisher) would be there for her.
Then one night listening to her sob stories I would give her the real skinny…
“Why, oh, why didn’t he do what any sane person would do? Let those maids tear his little hands to bits? I mean miss date night??” Lois said this while sipping on what she thought was a wine cooler. It wasn’t. It was 100 proof down right up right Colt 45 I kept next to the wine coolers. She’d been crying, so it was apparent to me with bleary eyes she may mistake one for the other.
No, I didn’t tell her when she did and when asked why it tasted like beer, I said I didn’t know and I don’t. Do I look like a damn brew master?? No idea WTF barley is and if it there is no hip in front of it I could give a fish what a hop is.
“He’s just not into you Lois.” I began while refilling her class with Mad Dog 20 20, the wine cooler of the hood. I continued “I hear, not that I have a problem with it. I just like pussy; he’s into men. I’m convinced he’s doing Clark Kent. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Clark running into a closet tugging at his belt and tie while unzipping his pants. I’m a man Lois, only two give or take situations make us run like that while taking off our clothes it’s the ole S and P index someone gotta take a shit or someone giving up some pussy…or in Clark’s case…well you know.
What? Were you were expecting Standard and Poor’s? You foolish reader, this is a Michael Davis article. There are no standards because I grew up poor.
Yeahhhhhh, that was a pretty broad reach for that yuk.
But I digress. Yeah Peter, I used it. So what? You killed Jean Dewolf, so what? Denys Cowan and I killed Jason Todd. Robin! Not only that we did it from a phone in DC’s offices. Gangsta.
But I Digress… Lois inched closer…because I was slowly pulling her now drunk ass towards me. Keep your mind out of the gutter if not she would have fallen on the floor.
I proceeded. “Now, I’ve come close to shiting in a closet only once in my life. Then I decided the hell with that. She said her husband wouldn’t be home, but there he was. I ask you, Lois, why should I have to crap like an animal in a cage when she got his schedule wrong? I simply opened the closet door, picked up my Black and Decker condoms from under her pillow said, “Send me some of those photos,” smiled at her husband and left. I’m not an animal, so unless Clark is one filthy nasty mother sucker, then he and ‘Kal-El’ be knocking them red boots because guess who comes flying out the closet fixing his belt?”
“Yep, the man of ‘steal.’ Yes, Lois. Steal. Why? Because he’s out the door maybe two seconds after Clark runs in. Clark comes out of the closet sometimes minutes sometimes hours later looking like he’s been in a fight and seems like he carrying a weight of massive, dare I say, super load of tension with him.”
“Why can’t I be in love with Batman?” Lois slurred as I poured her some vintage Thunderbird an extraordinarily expensive and rare wine made by Hindu monks but drank only when lighting hits a bird on Budda’s Birthday.
Most of you won’t get that. I wrote it for my boys in the hood. So just assume it’s true. I mean y’all idiots think Donald Trump is fit to be President so what the hell do you have to lose if you don’t get the joke?
“Batman??” I said not believing my luck; I’ve waited years for this moment!
I reached under the couch for a copy of Seduction Of The Innocent. I kept one there as well as under my bed I have a travel copy also.
I found the page where Batman had Robin locked in a deep French kiss (What?? So I took it upon myself to illustrate the damn thing). I then looked at Lois with sad eyes and told her “Oh Bats is ooooh sooooo gay. Not that there is anything wrong with that; I just like a side order of tits to go with my main course of well you know.”
“Oh poo!” Lois spits out while looking at my closet. “Pussy, Lois, not poo, pussy,” I said. But just in case she meant poo I spoke while pointing to the bathroom and front door simultaneously not taking any chances she was not one filthy nasty mother sucker.
Now she was lit, and I was looking for some matches to do the same in case she was with fart. She looked at me and said “I can’t have Batman?” Well, she literally said, “Eyes clamp clad atman” but I speak drunk.
“Cope bults dew cam clad blazman.” (Nope but you can have Blackman). I told her and she smiled.
“Clump fluLks zee bigger!” She screamed.
I won’t insult you with the translation. I responded “Oh, shit! You must be out of your damn mind you crazy drunk ass female puppy dog!”
I said that but she heard “I love you and always will.” That’s advanced drunk. It’s harder than Japanese and you have to have game to begin with so no. No fan by, no. So far only Joe Illidge and I have mastered it, so you have no chance nor a girl so you really don’t need it remotes don’t speak drunk.
No, I didn’t take advantage of her that night. Only a punk ass bitch would ply a woman with drinks or regale them with tales of wealth to pry their way into their undergarments, flip a tick tack into their mouth, or kiss a woman without her permission.
I don’t grab pussy. It grabs me.
However telling her someone is gay is perfectly acceptable as is inventing a wife and family he deserted. I don’t use those tactics but Joe Illidge…
Lois and I are doing very well. But damn if that sister, the new Iron Woman don’t be looking kinda foxy. That could be the kind of gal that will make a brother an egg sandwich or Clark some … Martha wait for it… wait for it … wait… for… it…
That’s not my line above; it’s from Woody Allen’s film Annie Hall. Allen told his friend he heard a television exec ask him that in a meeting. His friend said he was paranoid.
In the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, a Jewish man accidentally killed one black child and injured another when he lost control of his car. Black residents surrounded and beat the driver. The news reported everywhere. What was not reported is the act of an unidentified black man who led a Jewish passenger to safety.
A privately run Jewish ambulance responded and those paramedics began attending to the surviving child stilled pinned under the car. When an NYC-operated ambulance arrived, the scene coordinator instructed the Jewish team to evacuate the Jewish driver from the accident for his safety.
There was a police car already on the scene. Why didn’t the cops take the driver away? My opinion: A decision based on fear and a stupid coordinator. Rumors quickly flooded the black crowd; tales of the Jew being taken away in an ambulance thus abandoning the injured black child were rampant.
One of the horrible outcomes of this event was a mob of black youths fatally stabbed a young Orthodox Holocaust researcher just hours after the accident. No doubt rumors and young men’s bravado played a part in the killing.
Crown Heights endured three days of rioting and in New York City battle lines were drawn between blacks and Jews.
Most of the rioting was based on rumors; I know because I lived in Queens and passed through Crown Heights every day.
At that time any rumor was more than enough fuel in New York City at that point to light a racial fire.
New York’s mayor at the time did little to calm the racial embers, in fact, he flamed them.
That’s Rudy Giuliani even today. The Giuliani era was so close to Jim Crow some of us wondered when the cops would start wearing sheets.
The Crown Heights incident is among many that had contributed to the breakdown of Black and Jewish relations. It started way before Crown Heights. Black people and Jewish people have a joined history that is almost as old as this country.
In 1915 a Jewish man named Leo Frank was lynched in Georgia. He was found guilty of killing a 13-year-old girl. The fact he could not have done the murder because he had numerous witnesses placing him somewhere else did not matter. He was Jewish, and the next best thing to lynching a nigger was a Jew.
That event caused a lot of Jews to find a kinship with blacks. The same event caused a severe fracture between some blacks and Jews because at one point during the trial Frank’s defense attorney tried to pin the crime on a black janitor, calling the janitor, “…a lying nigger…” amongst other things.
Both African Americans and Jewish leaders have said some pretty damning stuff over the years about race. I’m well aware of the rhetoric on both sides, but it seems (at least to me) that the two above examples may illustrate at least part of why blacks and Jews have a somewhat intoxicating relationship like an alcoholic who wants to quit, but something always tips he or she off the wagon.
Horrible events both to be sure, nevertheless notable actions by blacks and Jews towards each other occurred. But command one of the media is not the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. It’s if it bleeds it leads. A positive does not sell as many papers.
Blacks and Jews, it’s one step forward and 12 steps back.
The black-and-Jew subject is the basis for my one and only conspiracy theory. That theory is that somehow The Man deliberately causes a rift between Black Americans and Jewish Americans. For more on The Man, read my upcoming book Uppity: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Black People But Were Afraid to Ask. You’ll find all you want to know about the Man in the chapter “The Man and other convenient ways white people think we blame somebody else when choked to death for selling loose cigarettes.”
American blacks and Jews are two groups of people who overcame slavery, continue to fight bigotry, and who have a rich cultural history. The fact that both groups of individuals continue to defy the odds should bond them. If that’s not enough, then we should at least come together because there is no better ethnic joke than a black or Jewish one.
What’s the object of a Jewish football game?
To get the quarterback.
Why did the police shoot the black man?
Because when they shouted “Get down” he started dancing.
I don’t think anybody laughs harder at jokes aimed at themselves than blacks or Jews. That may be because we see the bigger picture. We have to laugh, or all we would ever do is cry.
Those who make light of our history and exploit stereotypes to divide us fear what our two groups could accomplish if we were united.
Given the similar history and related roadblocks that blacks and Jews share, why is there this tension? What makes it more perplexing to me is in the not-so-distant past, blacks and Jews were a united front. If you watch those early civil rights marches of the Sixties on film, you will see scores of Jews arm-in-arm with black marchers.
What happened? Where and when did the road fork and we decide that our paths were better traveled separately? Not only separate but shooting affronts at each other while doing so.
In some African-American communities, there is a hatred of Jews that is almost palpable and the same hate for us in some Jewish neighborhoods.
I am not an expert on race… far from it. All of what I write is from my bittersweet experiences in life. These are my opinions to be sure. But somewhere buried in myself absorbed rants, there may be a glimmer of an answer to the bigger picture of the black and Jewish issue.
Surely some will think I’m just talking shit and have no business commenting on the black and Jewish issue. You may think I’m ill-equipped to deal with such a complexed issue. But just like those who thought Mrs. Trump wrote her speech you’d be wrong as in incorrect because I was raised half Jewish!
My mother would be surprised to hear that since she raised me alone.
I’ll explain with a tale of my youth…
I was a latchkey kid. For those among you too rich or too obtuse to know what that means, I’ll school ya: every day after school; I came home to an empty apartment in the projects. My mother was working three jobs most days.
Where was my father?
The chapter in my book you want is “Where’s Daddy?” After reading that chapter, for further clarity, read the chapter “Who’s My Daddy?” After that, turn your attention to the chapter “Are You My Daddy? Somewhere in there, you may find the answer to that question. Oh, if you do, please tell me.
As a latchkey kid, I would let myself into the apartment after school, remove the dinner from the refrigerator my mother left for me, park myself in front of the TV and stuff my face. Sometimes my sister Sharon would be home, and we would do what all loving siblings did with mom not home: Try and kill each other.
My sister was four years older than me and would always find ever more innovative ways to hurt me. Once when I was six, Sharon picked me up, held me by my feet and proceeded to bang my head on the floor…hard.
Another time she decided she would be a good girl and be nice to me.
She asked if I wanted some tea. I said yes surprised at the bizarre niceness of my mortal enemy. She got out the tea set she received for Christmas, poured in some tap water and placed it on the stove. After lighting the stove, we both sat down and waited for that magical moment when the teakettle would whistle.
That was a huge deal with us. We were at that age where those kinds of things were full of wonder. After a very few moment, we noticed that instead of hearing something we smelled something. We then noticed that the Teakettle was moving.
This took a second to register. My mother’s teakettle whistled, but, Sharon’s had, it seems magic!! It moved! I was smiling like a crack addict who just made friends with the CIA distributor to the hood! When I looked over at Sharon, her face looked like it did when we snuck in to see The Exorcist.
I soon joined her horror when I realized plastic teakettles melt… all down the stove. Wow, who knew plastic was not fireproof? Her teakettle looked just like the kettle my mother used except that it was pink and had pictures of Barbie all over it. Except for that, it looked the same.
Sharon turned off the stove and with the help of a dishtowel she removed what she could of the teakettle from the stove. What she managed to remove was microscopic. The plastic had melted all over the stove dripped down onto the floor, and the apartment smelled terrible.
Then in walked my mother. She stared at the stove and screamed, “What happened?!?” I remember thinking that this was a good thing. I had not put the kettle on the stove. I had not messed up the stove, and, it was not me that made the apartment smell bad. Then I remembered all the times Sharon had beat me up when my mom was not around. It seemed that the devil was finally about to get her due. My mother repeated what she had screamed before, but this time directed it right at my sister.
“What happened?” Sharon looked right into my mother’s eyes, and with a look so sincere I almost believed her when she said, “Michael did it.”
What happened next is so ingrained in my memory, it’s like it happened yesterday. But to properly share that moment with you I must explain a bit about who I was at six years old. You may find it hard to believe from some of the things I write, but, I was a very cute adorable and well-behaved child. I never talked back; I never cried, and I never used a bad word in my life.
Now? I cry at the very mention of some things. The other day someone mentioned my all time favorite film My Best Friend’s Wedding. Immediately my mind’s eye saw Julia Roberts yielding the man she loved while giving a speech at his wedding!
What about bad words? Give me a fucking moment, will you?
Back in the day, my mother made it crystal clear that those ‘naughty’ words were not for her son. Nope, not her baby. I was a good boy. My mother looked at me after Sharon spoke her nasty lie. Before she could say anything, I focused my big brown puppy eyes and promptly descended to the dark side.
“BULLSHITTTTTTTT!!!!” I yelled!
After my mother had got over that outburst she, decided that both my sister and I were at fault. She made us both promise to be more careful and to underscore that point she shot us both in the chest. (For more on this, see the chapter “Angry Black Women”) but somehow Sharon and I survived.
OK, that did not happen. My mother did not shoot my sister or me in the chest. What kind of mother would that make her?
She shot us in the leg.
You got me, that did not happen either but, we did get punished and never pulled a stunt like that again. I often think what may have happened if my sister and I had not sat down to wait for the whistle of the kettle. What most likely would have happened is a horrible tenement fire in the least. I shared the above story because it’s relevant to the very real dangers facing latchkey kids and underscores the importance of the angel about to enter my life.
Because we were poor, even a mishap like that could not stop my mother from working all the jobs she had to work to support my sister and me. So a few years later, I was still a kid living in the Edgemere projects in Rockaway Queens. 434 Beach 58 Street Far Rockaway Queens Apt. 8B, to be exact. Back when we moved into Edgemere, they were lower income projects and the families living there were mostly Jewish older people. One fateful day, I was sitting in the hallway outside my apartment waiting for my mother to get home.
I had forgotten my key. So there I sat reading comics and starving. Man, was I was hungry. My hunger made worse by the knowledge I had no idea when Sharon would be home, and it was hours before my mother would.
Every time I would hear the ding of the elevator I would whip my head around hoping to see my sister. Instead, I would see neighbors enter their apartments paying me no never mind, or worse giving me the ‘You must be up to no good’ look. This sad ritual continued for a long while.
After a time I did not even look up when I heard the sound of the elevator. I dozed off and awoke to see a pair of feet. I lifted my head; this white lady was staring down at me.
I stared up at her in silent wonder. “What are you doing?” she asked. “I’m waiting for my mother. I forgot my key.” I answered. She looked down at me and thought about my reply. “Come with me,” she said as she started to walk towards her apartment door. I stayed where I was. I had seen this woman before, but I did not know her, so I stayed put. Many times I had been told to stay away from strangers, and, I was staying put.
She turned back to me while she put her key in the lock and asked me, “You coming?” I said, “My mother told me never to go with strangers.” “That’s good advice, but I’m not a stranger. I live down the hall from you.” That made a lot of sense to me, but, I was staying put.
Nope, I was not going anywhere with this lady. I was not going to end up killed and stuffed in a hamper in her bathroom. “You want something to ea…?”
I was in her apartment faster than a speeding Rodney King.
Her name was Mrs. Tannebaum and looked around 60. She sat me down at her dining table and went into the kitchen no doubt for a knife to kill me. I just hoped she fed me first. Her apartment walls filled with photos and what I would later learn lots of Jewish works of art and other artifacts.
Mrs. Tannebaum came back into the dining room with a bowl of soup, or so she said. To me, it looked like a giant white ball floating in some strange looking liquid. “What’s this?” I asked. Mrs. Tannebaum said,
“Matzo ball soup. It’s good. Eat it.”
At that moment, every single thing that my mother ever said could happen to me flooded my mind. I knew the soup was poison. It had to be. Look at it! There was a giant ball in the middle of it. What crazy person puts a ball in food? Mrs. Tannebaum must have realized the reason for my hesitation because she picked up a spoon, scooped some soup from my bowl, ate it turned around and walked out of the room.
I continued to stare at the soup. OK, it was not poison but, there was still a giant ball in the middle of the soup. Mrs. Tannebaum returned with a plate full of…. cookies! Now we are talking! She placed the cookies on the table I reached for one, but in a lighting swift move she slapped my hand and withdrew the cookies from my grasp.
“Eat your soup; then you can have a cookie.” I was starving. I wanted those cookies. I slowly placed my spoon in the soup, then my mouth. My imagination kicked in this surely would taste like dirt dipped in doo-doo.
The reality? Oh, My God!!! It was great! I could not believe this! This was the best thing I had ever eaten except for candy. I devoured that soup like Fox News would an Obama sex tape. When done, I asked for more. She filled my bowl, and I sucked it down just as fast. Mrs. Tannebaum asked for my phone number called my mother who happened to be home now… darn it.
My mom came over and got me. She spent a few moments talking and thanking Mrs. Tannebaum, and homeward we went. The next day, there I sat waiting for my new best friend. No, I had not forgotten my key again… but she did not know that. Mrs. Tannebaum once again opened her home to me. This was now my daily ritual, and after a while, my mom would just pick me up from there. I realized when I got older that Mrs. Tannebaum was happy to have my company and I was glad to be there.
At first, I was just going over for the eats, but after a while, it occurred to me that I would rather be over at Mrs. Tannebaum house talking to her than anywhere else. She spent lots of time telling me about the Jewish people, and I found it absorbing. I remember when she said about the eight days of Hanukkah. That night I told my mother I wanted to be Jewish. “Jewish kids get presents every day for eight days! All we get is a lousy one day for Christmas!” I told my mother who just looked at me with a smile. “What do you want for dinner?” she asked me still smiling. I answered without missing a beat; “Bagels and lox!” My mother’s smile turned into a laugh, and eventually, my reply turned into one of her favorite stories, much to my annoyance. Most of the times spent at Mrs. Tannebaum were very cool. She had a quick wit and a winning smile and color TV! Batman was blue?
I noticed she would always have on a sweater no matter how cold or hot. One day as she was walking into the living room, I saw a faded tattoo on her forearm as she was putting on one of her sweaters. ‘Cool tattoo,” I commented. Mrs. Tietelbaum stopped in her tracks and looked straight at me. She then sat down beside me.
This move freaked me out. She would never sit down when I was over. She would always be up doing something: Cooking, cleaning, always something.
So when she sat down beside and held my hand, I knew this was serious. Even today, decades later I can see the pained look on her face. She told me how she and her family were at Auschwitz and what that meant. As she spoke, she started to cry because she was crying, I began to cry. Most of what she told me I will never forget.
“My mother, father, and brother were in the camp. It was a terrible place, run by terrible people. They killed many there just because we were Jewish. My family survived, but many I knew murdered because they were Jewish.” I recall being a little confused because of the word “camp.” Mrs. Tannebaum explained to me that this was an entirely different kind of camp and indeed it was.
This was a dangerous place with evil people the counselors. That day I left her apartment determined not go back there the next day.
My mother must have been surprised to find me home. A few days afterward, Mrs. Tannebaum left some soup for me, and my mom told me to go over and thank her. I did not want to go over there. That talk about the camp freaked me out and made me feel strange. However, when my mom told me to do something, I did it. I knocked on Mrs. Tannebaum door and was met with a big smile. “There’s my friend!” She said with glee.
This floored me. I had never had a grown-up call me friend before. “Where you been?” I gave her some story about something and then proceeded to thank her for the soup. It was my intention to say ‘thank you’ then get out of dodge, but I sat down when she asked me to, and we had quite a nice visit…(there were cookies!) Mrs. Tannebaum did not bring up the camp and we settled down into our routine again.
Some years later during a social studies class, I amazed my teacher when I was able to name one of the Nazi concentration camps. Later that day, I knocked on Mrs. Tietelbaum’s door and told her about my star moment in class. Over the years, I stayed close to her, running errands hanging out at her house, exchanging Hanukah gifts. She was delighted that I was doing well in school and we talked in more detail about her stay in the camp. Years later during a screening of the movie Schindlers’ List, I thought about Mrs. Tietelbaum for the first time in years.
As I watched the film, I started to cry as I am now, I had to leave the theater for a few minutes. Yes, I told you I cry at movies. I’m a 6 foot 2, 200-pound black man, and I cry at movies. Trust me no one should see that and when I watch My Best Friend’s Wedding… oy vey!
Mrs. Tannebaum attended my grade school, junior high, high school, and undergrad graduation. She was a loving woman despite a life peppered with nightmares. The horror she endured never more than a few nights sleep away. She would delight in pointing out the similarities between our two races. What she instilled in me was a high regard for Jews pride in my blackness and respect for all people.
“Even Germans?” I asked her one day. “Yes.” She said. “German people are not bad. They had a bad leader.”
I’m not an expert on race relations by any means, but I don’t have to be to know my relationship with that wonderful Jewish lady is the America we are supposed to be. When I was sitting on her couch, I was just a child she was an aging woman, and we were happy not just in each other’s company, but in each other’s life.
Four years ago I created the Hidden Beach Universe. I wrote about it here. It’s about a man who became president from a lie. Once in power, he lived up to his promises which meant American citizens who were not his idea of America had to go.
One way or the other.
Women punished for their choices.
African Americans stripped of hard fought liberties.
Gays told to return to the closet in and out of the military.
Americans divided by race, the government fueling the discord.
It’s so goddamn close it feels like I wrote Trump’s story four years ago, and although it forecast with pinpoint accuracy the coming of the Donald so to speak, I thought it might have been a little over the top with its Hitler-like view of what America would become under such a rule.
It makes for an excellent graphic novel, but in real life it’s a horrible idea.
Today is election day. The three women – my mother, sister and my dear friend are all gone, as are their votes. Good riddance some of Trump’s supporters would say. No, not all not by a long shot but many and you can spin that shit any fashion you want, they exist. Any number more than zero is too many of that kind of support.
To that type of folk, they were three votes from two niggers and a kike.
Wrong again. That’s three Americans who lived their life helping not hurting others. Removing walls not building them. Freedom and liberty as one people not hate and intolerance was how they saw life in the USA because that’s what America says it is.
If you don’t believe in that stop quoting anything the founding fathers and Lincoln wrote because that’s pretty much all they say.
Trump’s America is not the America that would have liberated Auschwitz or freed the slaves. Trump’s not the American that should be President of the United States. He should note be trusted with our children future.
“Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
Robert Oppenheimer the father of the Atomic Bomb.
“Why would we make them if we’re not going to use them?”
When I wrote about numerous other options there certainly are. The four I list are ones I can speak about from a personal perspective.
Find a major publisher
Go outside the box.
The vast majority of top tier creators in the industry use option number one. Presentation to publishers differs from creator to creator. My process varies depending on the entity I’m pitching to.
I covered two and three last week. I stopped thinking about number one more than twenty years ago. I started thinking about number two after talking to Mike Gold a year or so ago.
That brings up to numbers three and four, financing yourself and getting out of the box but before I continue I want to make something clear.
This isn’t bravado, it’s business.
One of my many criticisms I get is that I tout my résumé too often. I don’t, but when I do it’s for one or two reasons. The first, I talk to parents of kids interested in careers in the arts as well as give advice in my columns. Many of those parents are from disadvantaged communities, and no example works better than an example that works.
The second reason is to piss off my haters. Not nearly as important, but it sure is fun.
Funding Yourself? Should You?
Funding yourself is just that. Unless you have considerable bank coming up with the money to capitalize your idea isn’t as easy as you may think. Many young creators only reflect on the comic book. The fact is the comic is the easy part.
Do You Have a Realistic View Of Your Idea and Ability?
Your parents and friends love you. Well, some of them do. One moment you’re singing a happy song and the next you’re on a milk carton after a unpleasant encounter with grandma. That’s my way of saying you never know what’s in your future or where problems may pop up from.
I’m sure you believe grandma does not want to bust a cap in your ass and you think I’m just silly. You know she and the rest of your family loves you, and most certainly do. There is no better support system than friends and family… and no better way to end up on that milk carton.
Unless grandma is a Marvel editor, mom and dad write and draw for DC, or your sister is the new publisher at Dark Horse you better find someone who has some professional experience. Listening only to those who care about you will give you a false sense of greatness.
They love you, but they have no clue what good is.
What Are You Not Considering?
Although much consideration is given to praise, little is given to what makes a successful project. Among the factors left to chance by many are distribution, marketing and all that comes with those concerns.
Put another way: all that shit cost money.
Always remember the comic industry is dream filled but reality based.
Let say you have ten thousand dollars to spend. That’s a sexy sum to most. I’ll make it even sexier – don’t include payment for the comic in that ten G’s. That’s not improbable at all, numerous projects have been produced with the creative team taking a back-end (paid later) deal.
If you want to self-publish something just for your friends and family, then ten grand is more than enough. You want to reach a broad audience and compete with the big boys ten grand maybe covers your printing, and that’s an enormous maybe. Again if you have dead presidents just hanging around while you play weatherman with a stripper, then this isn’t an issue.
If after making it rain you can’t pay your rent then do not get into the comic book business as a way to do so. No matter what that stripper says to you the moment your money runs out, you’re done and that’s probably not the done you were looking for. Yep, those strippers can be some cold bitches. Just like the comics industry.
Ten thousand dollars is a lot of money for many things. Promoting and marketing a comic book may not be on that list. I say may because nothing I write and nothing you create means a thing unless you know what your goal is.
What Is Your Goal?
Knowing my goal accounts for every business decision I make.
If that family comic book is your aim, then it makes perfect sense to use your money or lacking the capital perhaps borrow or ask your family to invest in your dream.
New creators looking to compete at a major level can do so and that has been done. Despite the sarcastic title of this series, killing your dream isn’t my goal. Quite the opposite.
Self-funding your project comes with incredible perks. If you can afford to take that risk, there is no downside and what I call the it side is plentiful.
It’s yours; you own it.
No one can tell you shit because you control it.
Money? You deserve it.
You get to tell your haters to eat it.
Here’s something that will come as a surprise. There have been a great many new creators who have self-funded their projects with no financial risk and achieved greatness doing so.
I’m speaking about damn near every celebrity who decided they wanted to do comics. What? You don’t know of whom I speak? Now, why do you suppose that is? The answer is simple. It’s not their lane. Comics are littered with the bodies of famous people not knowing when to stay in their lane.
No amount of money or name recognition will make something bad into something good. Just ask the guy with the name a duck screams about Batman V Sucked.
There was every reason to assume a major star becoming Batman would make that movie work. Nope. On the flip side, the film is closing in on (put pinky next to mouth) one billion dollars, so old Ben did all right. A major movie superstar in a major film is not a guarantee of box office gold. Mr. Hanks and Mr. Howard can tell you about that their flick Inferno was more of a box office campfire.
I have no say except my opinion when it comes to movies, but when it comes to comics I can say with authority: being a star in another medium means absolutely nothing in comics.
There are some notable exceptions. Matt Groening, Kevin Smith, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels and perhaps the most successful big star to come to comics, Reggie Hudlin.
Reggie and I have some tainted history but as an example of someone coming from another area he’s the gold standard. He’s a good writer, loves the medium and – most important – knows how comics work. A bit of phone etiquette would be nice (inside joke), but you can’t fault his abilities.
Should You Self-Fund?
Do you know your goal?
Have the money to lose?
Have a realistic view of your idea?
Seeked out a professional?
Understand creating your comic is the easy part?
Are you considering everything you need?
New creators who are lucky enough to fund themselves may want to give the folk I listed above a Google. My advice once was never to use your money if you don’t have too. Been there, done that, got burnt, swore I’d never do it again.
Did it again but with a small difference that should have been a no-brainer.
That, boys and girl, is called knowing the game. Those who don’t shouldn’t play. So despite being blackballed by one of the big two how was I able to thrive?
Alternative means of finding distribution, budget and happiness.
The vast majority of top tier creators in the industry use one option.
There are numerous more, and I’ll touch on those next time.
As well I will break down what option was preferred and why for the project I’m using for this series. I’ve been in the game for a long time. What I use as examples are not intended as a ‘how to’ to get into the comics biz. If so the series would be named ‘how to ruin your career.’
The underlying point is to look at the big picture when entering this field. I believe with every fiber of my being one should always look to do the right thing. Comics are a very small industry and to have a real shot, it’s counterproductive working on how well you write or draw without working on your relationships skills.
Put another way, when people tell who they are and what they are about, trust but verify.
“The vast majority of top tier creators in the industry use one option.There are numerous more, and I’ll touch on those next time.”
It’s next time.
When I wrote about numerous other options, there certainly are. The four I list are ones I can speak about from a personal perspective.
Find a major publisher
Go outside the box.
The vast majority of top tier creators in the industry use option number one. Presentation to publishers differs from creator to creator. My process varies depending on the entity I’m pitching to.
The Comic Book Companies: Who & Why?
I’m not an idiot. This is a pop culture site heavy into comics. As such a significant amount of this, many readers will know. That’s great, but those who know will be surprised to learn many and by many a mean most of the newbies looking to get into the business have clue zero regarding the publishers in the industry.
There are well over two hundred publishers in the United States and thousands worldwide. For our purposes, we should know the players that meet your criteria for your project. The competitive rules are distribution, brand recognition, and marketing clout. What follows are the current major power brokers of the industry in my opinion.
Marvel Comics is one of the big two. Marvel has a lineup of some of the world’s greatest comics. They include The X-Men, Fantastic Four, The Hulk, and of course, Spider-Man. When Disney acquired Marvel, the industry thought the mouse would destroy Marvel. Nope Marvel did change but for the better. Marvel is the undisputed superhero king in the mainstream because of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. DC has yet to catch the kind of fire Marvel has on the screen.
DC Comics is the other half of the big two and despite my rocky history with them still my choice universe. Time/Warner owns DC, but as of this writing, the noise is AT&T is about to buy Time Warner.
When Disney purchased Marvel, I was one of the few voices that thought this was a good thing and it was. They were smart enough to let Axel Alonzo and other key playa’s stay and soon fear turned into faith. I also correctly predicted DC would oust Paul Levitz and move operations to the West Coast. This is not to say Paul was an obstacle to DC; he wasn’t. He was problematic. His influence spanned three decades and for better or worse Time Warner knew for DC to compete with Marvel Paul had to go.
In my opinion, and I do so hope I am wrong, if AT&T buys Time Warner and DC Comics is part of that deal (it may not be) then DC Comics may be fucked.
Disney is in the content creation business, and even James Bond can tell you nobody does it better. AT&T is in the telecommunication business and realizes within the high stake arena of telecommunication, they are far from the only game in town. What AT&T has is the ability to deliver content better than anyone. What they don’t have is content they own outright. If they buy Time Warner, they get the mother of all content and instantly become the biggest pimp in town. So big Comcast becomes their bitch, and even Disney had better recognize.
As most of you know, the DC lineup includes Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash. DC further has a mature reader line of books called Vertigo. The Vertigo books have a suspense and horror tilt. Recently DC entirely rebooted their entire 78-year continuity with a revamping and retelling of all their major characters twice. The New 52 did not do the kind of numbers DC was hoping for but Rebirth is very strong and the talk of the industry. Outside comics Marvel may be king in the movies, but on TV it’s all DC.
All good right? No. Not really. If this deal happens all it takes is one high powered mofo to say; “What do we need comic books for?” Remember Disney got Marvel because of its superheroes.
Look at all AT&T gets:
Warner Bros. Pictures
New Line Cinema
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
You see comics on that list? Nope. DC Entertainment, yes. Comics, nope. You don’t need comics if you own the property already. Far-fetched? Maybe, but so was AT&T buying Time Warner a month ago.
Image Comics started in the early nineties. They quickly rose to the number three position in the industry. They have a consortium of studios that all contribute to the publishing line. Many creators do creator owned books under the Image banner. Their publishing deal is as follows authors deliver the book Image manages the publishing distribution and marketing.
When I ran Motown Animation & Filmworks, my comic book division had its publishing deal with Image.
Dark Horse Comics
Dark Horse Comics have lots of success with taking their comics to movies. The Mask, Time Cop, Barb Wire, Mystery Men, and Hellboy to name a few. All of those movies were Dark Horse comics first. Their CEO and publisher also owns a chain of comic book stores. They have the most “Hollywood” take on the comic book business. Dark Horse has a history of working with maverick creators and Mike Richardson publisher is one of the smartest men in the industry.
Idea + Design Works (IDW) was formed in 1999 by four entertainment executives and artists, Ted Adams, Alex Garner, Kris Oprisko and Robbie Robbins. They decided to create a company that would allow them to work with a variety of clients on the things they liked: video games, movies, TV, collectible card games, comic books and trading cards. They have produced some of the best-looking books in comics.
NBM is a graphic album publisher. They rarely do superheroes but do science fiction, fantasy, horror and what they call Eurotica. They are more of a mainline publisher in the way they conduct business. NBM has published many graphic novels in comics stores with a second window in mainstream bookstores such as Barnes and Noble. Smart people run NBM, and they don’t suffer fools on any level so before you pitch to them, or any publisher make it a point to know what they do.
Dynamite Entertainment focuses primarily on comic book adaptations of existing properties, with most of their original holdings being new interpretations of the classics. They hold or have held the rights to publish titles based on films (Army of Darkness, Darkman, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, RoboCop, and Highlander), television series (Xena: Warrior Princess) and literature (Sherlock Holmes, Alice in Wonderland, Dracula, and Zorro). Other properties include Buck Rogers and Sherlock Holmes.
Lion Forge Comics
When Lion Forge added Joe Illidge as senior editor they changed the game. That move should put a certain landmark publisher on notice. Or put another way, you slow you blow.
Crowd funding the second option was at one time something I was not at all interested in attempting. I thought there was no formula to speak of and I don’t do maybe or hit and miss in business.
What many people fail to realize is once funded they assume all the roles that go along with a crowdfunding gig. It’s true that some notable people (Spike Lee for one) have crowd funded projects. It’s easy with that kind of name recognition and people at that level have an existing infrastructure.
Funding must cover marketing creative, printing, and fulfillment of whatever incentives promised those who chip in. That alone is a massive undertaking. To reach a mass market would in my estimate take funding of between $30,000-$70.000.
There is a growing number of companies that will handle the undertaking for you. Some for a small fee some for a huge stake in your creation. I’m rethinking crowd funding mainly because I found a gem of a project which wasn’t moving. Taking a chance, I funded it all myself then brokered a deal for the property at a mainstream publisher. I don’t own it, didn’t create it but the creator can now think about just doing the work and let someone else do the heavy lifting selling.
What do I get? Right now nothing but the future isn’t built on right now.
Next week I’ll break down funding yourself and try and get you out of the box.
Please read the first two installments in the series if you have not done so.
From Dream Killer 2:
Full discloser: For two decades I was not welcome at DC.
“What did you do?” I’ve gotten that question countless times. “What did they do?” Not as many have asked, but more than a few. What’s the difference between those who ask the first question as opposed to the second?
And why and how despite being blackballed by one of the big two was I able to not only survive in the industry but thrive?
What did I do? I refused to accept unjust treatment and called attention to it often. That was my right.
What did they do? They got fed up with dealing with me. That was their right.
I haven’t any idea rather or not I’m welcome at DC Comics these days. The perception is there is a feud between Milestone and me. DC is in a deal with Milestone, so that may mean I’m not a desirable. There isn’t a feud; there is an incident.
Milestone made what no one is disputing a real dick move. Not telling me they were moving ahead with plans without me was as fucked up as can be. Now add they were supposed to be “friends.”
That is as horrible a thing. An absolutely disgusting thing.
Well, to me it is.
Except for a few brave souls, there has been not a peep of anyone giving a fuck.
That’s OK. Pity isn’t my thing. My thing is to do what’s right. I’m doing that by not creating a front page Black vs. Black lawsuit and not detailing events that go back 20 years.
Milestone is the single most important event in the history of black comics. For over two decades I’ve led a campaign to keep Milestone relevant and make sure the phenomenal history of Milestone is correct and accurate. More people are aware Milestone is not owned by DC Comics and was Denys Cowan’s idea because of me.
I’ve devoted more to that effort than the three partners combined. My struggles to create opportunities for people of color in comics also dwarfs their collective work in that area. The talent program they now tout as their own was created by me, as was the universe for their most successful character Static Shock.
All of the above is easy to verify.
All that said, Milestone, the idea is more important to African Americans kids at large than anything I’ve done. A chance for black kids to see themselves represented fairly in the media is much more significant than Michael Davis.
Character counts in this world. Some think my character is lacking because I use words like fuck, shit and nigger in my written narrative. Many believe that somehow dilutes my good character. I think those individuals should get a clue.
Here’s a hard truth about this industry. People talk the talk, but few walk the walk. When it’s time for my annual San Diego Comic-Con party, everybody’s my buddy. When there was a rumor that Milestone stole its business plan a great many of my buddies were quick to co-sign that bullshit.
When my heart lay in a broken heap two years ago over the Milestone slight, there were those who said it was my behavior that caused Milestone to do me like they did.
Really? That’s the same behavior every single partner at Milestone as well as countless others benefitted from over many years.
I write and say what I think. When I think I’ve been used like someone’s bitch, I say so. I also say something when others are prescribed the same medicine.
Milestone’s treatment of me is relevant to the black comic book industry. How we treat each other is essential to future generations When black people are good to each other which is the vast majority of the time rarely does it make the news when those uncustomary moments are demonstrated black kids see integrity and leadership when bad it’s the lead story on Fox News.
Why use my account of the Milestone story when it’s so negative?
A few reasons. As said earlier it is only negative to me but used as the example why relationships are important it’s a grand one, and in the big picture, it’s positive.
I still support those books and the company. Regardless of what they did, I’m going to do the right thing.
That brings me back to DC Comics.
Dwayne McDuffie died in 2011. I was invited to I write a piece for the Static Shock tribute issue. My last published work in a DC comic was over twenty years ago. My exile ended officially two years before in 2009 when Diane Nelson took over as president. I’d met Diane ten years before that at Warner Bros and liked her immediately and vice versa. She assured me I was welcome back at DC and I have had a meeting there since.
That’s all cool on the surface but so is thin ice. Once you fall through, it’s colder than most can stand.
Let’s recap. I have an excellent relationship with the most influential person at DC Comics. Still, I don’t know my status. That’s because of Milestone. Why? DC has a relationship with Milestone in the bullshit world of Hollywood once you reach the boss and recount your tale of wrongful woe all is right in the world.
Why don’t I just call Diane and use her to pave the way for any project I may want to do at DC?
Respect for Dan Didio and Jim Lee, comics are their lane and going to Diane is as disrespectful as I could be.
Respect for Diane Nelson. Sidestepping Dan and Jim is calling them incompetent which they are far from being. Also doing so calls into question her judgment which I’d never do.
Respect for myself. I couldn’t sit in a room with Jim and Dan without addressing the Milestone elephant. Why resign them or me to that drama? If I weren’t already suffering from depression, that would do the trick.
That, boys and girl, is called knowing the game. Those who don’t shouldn’t play. So despite being blackballed by one of the big two how was I able to thrive?
Alternative means of finding distribution, budget and happiness.
The vast majority of top tier creators in the industry use one option.
There are numerous more, and I’ll touch on those next time. As well I will break down what option was preferred and why for the project I’m using for this series.
I’ve been in the game for a long time. What I use as examples are not intended as a ‘how to’ to get into the comics biz. If so the series would be named ‘how to ruin your career.’
The underlying point is to look at the big picture when entering this field. I believe with every fiber of my being one should always look to do the right thing. Comics are a very very small industry and to have a real shot, it’s counterproductive working on how well you write or draw without working on your relationships skills.
Put another way, when people tell who they are and what they are about, trust but verify.
I was attending The Pratt Institute and needed all the bank I could get. Pratt’s one of the world’s great art schools and cheap it was not. I had to come up with most of the tuition because no one talked to me about how financial aid went away if grades fall below a C.
I was a poor black kid from the projects talks like that rarely happen in inner cities. Those lucky enough to raise above our assigned station in life have to fend for ourselves. Our talks revolve around staying away from drugs, gangs, and cops.
American families middle class or above think nothing of seemingly little things like dad or mom talking to them at dinner about their college life.
Mum: My dear sweet Reginal you’ve many things to look forward to while at college!
Reginal: What were some of your favorite things? Do tell mummy!!
Mum: Why raindrops on roses and whiskers on kitten’s bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens brown paper packages tied up with strings don’t drop below a C, or you’ll have none of those things.
My freshman year I had no idea what to expect there was no “when I was in college” talk. For most poor people there is no talk of college, period. Most of the people I grew up with had no father in the house. My older sister, mother or grandmother – none of those people went to college.
“I can’t believe he’s related to you.”
Betty Blayton Taylor said to my cousin William T. Williams. They were on a phone call discussing my employment. He politely listened as Betty told him how I jetted at 4 pm on the nose from the Children’s Art Carnival how loud I was and assorted other things she saw as problems.
Betty, an acclaimed artist, co-founded the Children’s Art Carnival (CAC) where thanks to my cousin I was working that summer. Her partner at the Carnival? The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).
Betty was a young, black woman and that, dear friend, is a triple minority. Yet by sheer force of will and a real life super power, she created a life experience in the arts for thousands of children of color. She did that with the full ($) weight of one of the most prestigious arts institutions on the planet.
Then she convinced them to set the school up in Harlem.
To do such in the late 60s early 70s when being black and a woman was second only to being black and a man on the “your name is Toby” list was an unheard of achievement.
The odds of a pulling that off today?
Doable… but so is Salma Hayek but try as one might the closest they will ever get is cosplay… alone. Back in the day and all through her life Betty Blayton was gangsta. Betty’s superpower?
Information and access.
If made aware of the C rule there would have been no need for a second job so no need to leave at 4 pm every day. Betty didn’t like clock watchers, nor did she think I was funny. She thought I was annoying and wanted me gone.
During her call, Betty told my cousin she was going to fire me.
Not because my cousin asked her not too but because he gave me the information and access to such that allowed me to make a convincing case to stay.
When Betty asked me what I had to say for myself, I used my cousin’s advice, I told her the truth. We had a come to Jesus moment (ask someone black) and although she dropped the hammer on my ass, I kept my job and came away with a friend.
A few years after graduating from Pratt I returned to the Carnival. I wrote the curriculum for what would become the Communications Arts Department and was made its director. That became the foundation for my Bad Boy Studio Mentor Program.
Coming back to the Carnival Betty still couldn’t stand my swagger, but she grew to love it after I made the Communications Arts Department a success. “Keep doing what you do.” Betty said; “It’s ridiculous but I can’t deny it works.”
It worked so well that Betty put my name up to become a board member. Betty now loved me. Her follow board members, not so much.
She was met with such vile feedback I asked her to withdraw my name.
“Michael!” She yelled when I picked up the phone. I’d often get late night calls during what I called her whine moments. “These motherfuckers don’t like you but have no problem using what you’ve done when asking for funding! It’s just ridiculous!!”
FUN FACT: ‘Motherfucker’ and ‘Ridiculous’ were two of her favorite words. This from the woman who not only founded the Art Carnival but co-founded The Studio Museum in Harlem.
The More You Know…
“They keep asking me why do you have to be so loud?”
She said this raising her voice mid-sentence to imply loudness. This cracked her up. Me? Not so much. I was miserable, having already told my cousin I was going to be on the board.
You know what I told them?” Betty said.
“He’s loud so those kids can hear him!”
She hung up but two days later a vote was taken, and I became a board member.
My relationship continued long after I left the CAC, no longer being able to justify spending so much free time away from my wife. On top of that, I stopped accepting a CAC paycheck insisting the money go to the programs. Try telling your wife that little tidbit. Ha! I never did. Ha!
She left me anyhow.
When I made the move to L.A, I’d speak to Betty often. Last night I talked to her for a few and remembered a call from about a year ago when Betty called about a young artist she met on the subway.
“She was reading a comic book so I asked if she knew who you were. She’s a big fan.” Betty said. “So.” I began. “That’s where my one fan is.” Betty took a second to get it then she laughed her infectious laugh. We agreed I’d call the young lady who Betty told me was having a hard time within her household. That often happens when poor kids (black or white) express interest in the arts as a career.
She and I went down memory lane until she asked how my mother was, unaware she had died. She was saddened at the news then she told me “She’s looking down at you very proud of you. You drive people crazy, but you have a good heart you’re a good man.”
Good man? I hope so.
Drive people crazy? Without a doubt.
Good heart? Some days, but not today.
Today my heart is broken.
Basil, one of Betty’s Carnival Kids, contacted me to tell me Betty died a few days ago.
What many don’t know is Betty has a comic book legacy. Brett Lewis, Shawn Martinbrough, Kevin McCarthy, John Paul Leon, Bernard Chang, Chuck Drost, Chris Sotomayor and countless others are Carnival Kids.
As I sit here sobbing, I realize so am I.
I have no doubt if I would have lost the CAC job Pratt would have followed. No CAC, no Pratt, Bad Boy Studios, Milestone or Black Panel. Odds are I would have returned to the projects. Best case scenario I’m a security guard. That was my second job in college. It gets a bad rap from some, but it’s noble career, and I loved it.
Worst case scenario, I’m dead or in jail. There but for the grace of God…
Betty was a mentor and a friend not just to me but to countless artists who found their voice because of Betty. She died over a week ago, but I still talked to her last night.
I said to say hello to my mother, sister, and grandmother. Look up Malcolm Jones, Dwayne McDuffie, Curtis Johnson, Marvin Haynes, Carol Kalish, Archie Goodwin, Kim Yale, Mark Gruenwald, Don Thompson and Linda Gold.
Betty loves to talk to great people, and she won’t find a better group of people than are on that bittersweet list.
Anyone who thinks otherwise all I can say is that MOFO is ridiculous.
From last week’s editorial: I’ll use examples of two deals that I’m working now. One project is a graphic novel I’m doing with a well-known personality, and the other is an ongoing or limited series. Neither has sold yet, and it’s entirely possible they won’t.
I’ll break down the graphic novel deal on Bleeding Cool and the series on ComicMix.
No matter how successful you are, unless you’re bankrolling the venture soup to nuts no is always a possibility.
Mentioning the editor I’m pitching the limited series to and the personality for the graphic novel would be nice, but I haven’t cleared this with either nor am I sure revealing who the playas are is a good thing. I’ll tell you a bit about them respectfully, but I’ll keep certain vital information to myself until when and if I get the green light and I decide it’s a good thing I’ll spill.
In the meantime, it’s entirely possible someone will guess the company and the celebrity. If that happens I reserve the right to lie. Nah, I wouldn’t lie. I’d own up to it…one day.
I’ll sprinkle some clues here and there such as both the publisher and the person are known and respected for what they do all over the world. The publisher has had success in movies as well as comics. An artist from their stable is a minor subplot in a major motion picture.
The well-known personality is black.
If you’d like to know more about the personality, you will have to read the Bleeding Cool piece. If you feel like I’m using my voice at ComicMix to lead you over to Bleeding Cool, I’m not… denying that. Those mofos need to come to a site where ‘fuck you Davis’ isn’t the main theme of the comments.
If it will make you feel better the BC audience gets the following: The publisher does comics.
OK, mofos was a dig at my Bleeding Cool haters. I’ve got some fans over there, also, why just the other day I got an email from her.
Give that a second.
So to business. During last year’s San Diego Comic-Con International I ran into an old friend. Once a creator now an editor (that’s a clue), he asked why didn’t I do more work as a creator. I like this guy; I always have so much, so he was spared my usual answer of ‘Blah, blah, I’m too busy, blah.’
I said; “I’ve got some stuff (projects) you might be interested in. I’ll send them to you.” I didn’t send them to him right away. Once back home, I called to run the projects by him. Here’s why this is important: odds of someone not liking or liking what you do should be 50/50 for everyone who has the capability to work professionally.
Let’s assume you’re a good artist or writer with a project you would like to pitch; you can increase those odds simply by finding out a little more what the publisher does and particularly what the editor wants to develop. Publishers don’t sit around waiting for ideas to hit them or a creator to show up with the next big thing. A publishing plan is already in place, often years before the public sees it. Marvel’s Civil War didn’t start when you read about it on the net. To that end whatever they are planning next is well under way now.
Contacting those you plan to pitch beforehand has no downside. The most you could achieve is a head’s up on rather or not you and your project would be a good fit. The least you will come away with is the respect of the editor. That respect will be yours no matter what you pitch.
Let’s imagine your pitch to Marvel is a graphic novel about their Avengers and DC’s Justice League joining forces for the sole purpose of building Donald Trump’s Mexico wall.
But wait, there’s more! It turns out both teams are in reality Mexican! You know what that means don’t you? They pay for the wall as well!
But wait, there’s more! You propose Marvel not to ask or tell DC about anything. You just use their characters without permission.
We both know there is no way Marvel would do that. It’s just my silly way of saying most editors will appreciate a creator who thinks ahead, showing respect for the one thing all working in editorial value above all:
Sending an email with a brief overview of such will save you and the editor valuable time and gain you two things, respect and the open invitation to come back.
Wasting time on a project there is no way they will publish will greatly decrease any chance you have of going back.
Most people may think talent is the most important thing for a new creator, nope. In fact, I’m willing to bet most don’t know what is most important in developing a new relationship with a company. It seems a small thing I believe it a big thing.
That thing is the ability to go back, more on that later.
During the call, it turns out there is one hidden gem (that’s another clue) they are very interested in, and afterward it occurred to me there are a few things that may work there. I put them together in tidy little digital presentation package that I have yet to send.
I need to take a very hard look at my time and current workload beforehand. Why don’t I deliver the package anyhow? That way the publisher isn’t waiting. That can’t hurt can it?
As we say in the hood; “Why yes, yes indeed it may be cause for concern.”
Didn’t see that one coming, did you?
Let’s say the publishing house loves something they see and wants to do it. Committing to that without a realistic evaluation of my time and frankly, my headspace could be a terrible mistake
“Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings, and somebody in comics loses a project.” That was the original dialogue spoken by Clarence the angel in It’s a Wonderful Life.
Fun Fact: The original premise of the film saw George Baily as an aspiring cartoonist who gets his first comic book job. He can’t quit the Building & Loan because his pappy just kicked the bucket, so he tries to do both. The original title of the film was ‘It’s a wonderful life except for those who thought they could do both.’
Blown deadlines are the number one reason I will remove a creator from a project. One way or another many come to the conclusion the 18 credits they were taking at school or the 40 hours they were working at would magically become things they could do in their sleep.
Having constraints on your time is one thing, but people often make the mistake of trying to manage the unmanageable such as an illness. Bad idea. Trust me. I know. I’m not implying someone passes on a deal because they have other shit to do. I’m suggesting they make sure they work out (with the editor) a realistic schedule.
A schedule is not a deadline although it’s often confused as such. A deadline is typically the date when the project is finished. A schedule calls for targets to be met before the final product is due.
I always ask newbies to give me the date they can deliver the work. Nobody blows deadlines they set for themselves. Sorry, that came out wrong. I meant to say; nobody blows deadlines they set for themselves like comic book people.
With regards to why I think being able to go back is the single most important element new creators need, you’ll have to wait until next time for that also. Full discloser: for two decades I was not welcome at DC.
“What did you do?” I’ve gotten that question countless times. “What did they do?” Not as many have asked, but more than a few. What’s the difference between those who ask the first question as opposed to the second? And why and how despite being blackballed by one of the big two was I able to not only survive in the industry but thrive?
The what, why and who are all significant and I think worth the price of admission.
When you know those answers, you will be ready for a grand career in the arts. But before I can answer you must first snatch this pebble from my hand.
Every few years I write a real world advice article for young creators. My Bad Boy Studio mentor program has produced some exceptional graduates working in comics, television, illustration and related media.
I’ve also taught and/or lectured at The Joe Kubert School, Pratt Institute, The School Of Visual Arts, Rhode Island School of Design, the High School Of Art & Design and yadda, yadda, whatever.
Quick note; Yogi Berra said it best: “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.”
So save your “Davis is bragging bullshit” comments for someone who hasn’t done what I’ve done.
You do that, and I’ll spare you how I wrote the curriculum for the Art School of the Museum of Modern Art and how my name is on a arts magnet school in East Orange New Jersey and, no, I didn’t write MOTU187 in spray-paint on the building.
Every few years I do a recurring “art of the deal” series a step by step retelling how some of my ventures were born. The title was a complete rip from a man I once had a lot of respect for, Donald Thump. I thought I’d use the title of his book to pay tribute to the man.
I now regret that and have since I called out any black contestant for appearing on his television show The Apprentice. I’ve been on a Fuck Trump campaign way before he started running for president beginning years ago when Trump started his birther bullshit. After a few interviews where he demanded the first black president of the United States of America “show his papers,” I’d had enough.
Needless to say, I’ll no longer be calling my series on deal making the Art of the deal. It could have been worse I could have called it Mein Kampf 2, which people tell me is the title of Trump’s next book.
Believe it or not, my focus is and will always be educating young creators on the very real way business is executed in a very hard creative field.
Trying to navigate from home to an unfamiliar place is hard enough, made a lot easier with GPS. The sad fact is many young creators, particularly those of color, don’t have such a GPS. Shit, for that matter most don’t have a car. Since many parents lack the resources to allow their sons and daughters to “follow their passion” on what they consider a hobby or see as a pipe dream, learning the correct information just won’t happen.
Put another way the arts in the inner city isn’t considered a “real job.”
That’s the number one response from parents of young artists when asked what they think of a career in the creative arts. Lacking the support and motivation to push the issue, these young people enter a private world where all by themselves without guidance try to become the next Jim Lee, Karen Berger or Denys Cowan.
That self-contained place leads many to develop an unrealistic view thinking talent is the only thing needed to break into comics and parallel careers.
Further, from reality, these kids will never be.
This fantasy world made worse when the artist, actor, writer or photographer meets someone in the field they admire. If that person shines them on, their idealistic view filled with hope is validated. That false hope does more harm than good ten times out of 10.
My very first advice column written for The Comic’s Buyers Guide some 20 plus years ago received a loud chorus of Shut The Fuck Up from some pros. One pretty well-known artist said I was “killing dreams.” People thought telling young men and women to show up for appointments groomed and on time was somehow a bad thing.
I’m not kidding.
Because as you no doubt know, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings and every time an artist takes a shower a Davis kills a dream.
Those who voiced their opinions were quick to point out I knew nothing about the comic book industry and these kids should ignore my suggestions and just have fun. All they need is a little talent and love.
By that logic, anyone who can hit a free throw and loves basketball is a candidate for the NBA. Perhaps starring in a reality television show makes running the country something anything any lying racist can do.
If you love to watch porn, that won’t get you a porn star girlfriend. Only hairy palms and bad eyesight. Oh I’m sorry, did I kill your dream of getting a porn star to be with you? Trust me, it’s not that big a deal. Been there, done her and her friend.
You need considerably more than talent, and I’ll share what that is once again but with a twist. Instead of using an example of what I’ve done and how I’ve done it. I’ll use examples of two deals that I’m working now. One project is a graphic novel project I’m doing with a well-known personality the other is an on going or limited series.
I’ll break down the graphic novel deal on Bleeding Cool and the series on ComicMix.
Neither have media deals yet, and it’s entirely possible they won’t.
No matter how successful you are, unless you’re bankrolling the venture soup to nuts “no” is always a possibility.
You’ll know why they didn’t sell or why they did as you’ll be there from start to finish. My hope is these articles help make a dream of working in comics come true for someone.
Then I can kill that dream by telling them about deodorant.