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.
America still has a problem with accepting comics as anything other than kid stuff. There may be millions of “regular” people hiding their comic book lifestyle. This cannot stand and has to stop.
As you’re reading ComicMix, most likely this will not apply to you. Pass this on to a friend who you suspect may need it. If you’re trying to stay in the closet, yes this will help you avoid getting caught but consider the damage you may be doing to yourself.
For god’s sake – stop living a lie!
Don’t see any comic books around his or her place? Somehow they manage to have seen or “has a friend” who has viewed that “stupid” superhero movie? If you’re dating anyone who spends considerable time and or money on things you just can’t understand, chances are you’re in love with a comic book person.
Here’s a few simple tests and topics to find out if someone is hiding a comic book past.
Ask them to name a Captain. Any Captain. If they describe Captain Action, Captain America, Captain Kirk or Captain Nemo, chances are they’re comic book people.
If Captain Morgan is the first name out of the box and they slur, droll and or lick their lips while doing Captain Morgan pose you’re dating a comic fan… and an alcoholic.
Most fans of comic books are fans of movies, bookstores, and bacon. They either like Star Wars or Star Trek a few of us like both but if pressed will pick a side.
A comic book fan will respect both the Beatles and Jay-Z, both Public Enemy and Paul Simon. Yes, different music but all icons. Symbols are important to comic book people. Even if we don’t love what they do, we have an appreciation for what they represent.
Ask if they know anything about Dark Horse Comics, Kevin Eastman or an Apple product besides an iPhone. See if Norman Rockwell or the Wu-Tang Clan sparks a gleam in their eye. If you know anything about those subjects, try and act they like you don’t. We do so love to hear how smart we are or at least how cool we sound.
If the above questions or secondary inquiries don’t work for you, then hit them with one of the following:
Tell them (name of someone with basement or attic) was about to throw out a box of old comics from the 30s they found. You had no idea Batman had real pointy ears and carried a gun back then.
Ask if anyone they know wants an ancient Superman comic with him lifting a car over his head while running.
Say “Some crazy guy named Stan has a flat tire in front of our house. Seemed OK until he said he created Spider-Man…”
If none of the above gets a reaction, they are in deep denial or don’t read comics. If there is a response, stand clear of the door because you’re about to be run over.
Being a closeted comic fan takes work. That fan is often placed in the “never get a mate” or “mentally challenged” category, so he or she hides their obsession.
As an example, I have a mint in the box Japanese G.I. Joe. An ex-girlfriend of mine brought her little brother to see my toy collection.
This 10-year-old little snot opened my display case and was a second away from tearing open the box and 2 seconds away from ever reaching 11.
I yelled no! so loud the Hell Spawn dropped the box and started crying.
My ex, she who must not be named, girlfriend could not understand why I had reacted that way. In what I thought was a well said and reasonable explanation of my behavior I explained to her just what little Satan was about to deface.
All she heard was blah blah, I don’t want anyone else playing with my doll, blah blah. She asked me what I would save first in a fire, her or my “doll.” I said, “Not the doll…the action figure.”
She said she didn’t think that was funny.
Hell, neither did I but I’m smart enough to know I was talking myself into a cold shower. I said I’d save her and would if there was sufficient time to do so after I got Captain Action to safety.
Rarely are folks like us understood by those who don’t share our love for comics and related stuff. Trying to explain why we do something to those who don’t is like yelling at someone who does not speak English.
No matter how loud you get, they still won’t understand you.
Comics needs all the support we can get, and you in the closet will come out once that respect is granted you won’t have to hide.
Nonetheless, we need your voices too, but no one can hear you with the door closed.
This was written for Bleeding Cool and a version of it will appear there. I decided a while ago not to run the same article on both Bleeding Cool and ComicMix. Two different audiences is not the reason I write individual articles for each website. My voice remains the same regardless.
I write a different column for each because it’s an honor to write for each and both deserve an original effort from me. That is unless I happen upon a subject that I think is important enough to share on both.
Like… this one.
When I’m absent for lengthy periods of time, I feel it’s my responsibly to give you an explanation. I try to write what my readers will have a response to and not just what gets my goat. That doesn’t always work, but I do attempt to step back and breath a bit before committing words to iMac. So to that end; I have not written any articles in well over a month. Almost two. At times I wish I could, but I just can’t phone it in.
Writing a quick and dirty article using a trending subject the journalistic equivalent of the easy out isn’t my cup of coffee, tea or me. Although I held the standing high jump record in high school (in 1973 I set the high school standing high jump record at Beach Channel High School until another kid broke it about a minute and a half after I did), I don’t jump through hoops or on bandwagons.
Did I go too far? Was my use of language over the line? Fuck no sir, I didn’t and it wasn’t. No one has a right to rewrite my words then pass it off as something serving their double-dealing purpose… a.k.a. Mrs. Donald Trump.
Also, just how upset I should be is not up for discussion.
Just when I thought it was safe to go back, another brick from the why me wall fell on my head when asked to comment on a Milestone story – specifically on a business item.
What appears to be a smoking gun regarding Milestone’s treatment of me has landed on Rich Johnston’s lap over at Bleeding Cool. How smoking? Jack Ruby’s smoldering .38 comes to mind, and when I saw it, I was beyond pissed. In comparison, what I told Mr. Khosla was how to get to Sesame Street. I set out to compose a tour of Elm Street with enough nightmares to keep my former friends and partners awake for decades.
Over & Done: Part 1, published on June 28th, then Over & Done: Part 2Dr. Phil Brings Me Breakfast ran on July 6th here at ComicMix. The last segment (this one) complete with a massive Cilo Green fuck you and fuck him too would run in Bleeding Cool July 16. I’d also make it a topic for the Black Panel (TBP) at the San Diego Comic-Con that morning. Friday, July 16. was when I would settle all family business.
Another call and then some thoughts changed things. And just like that, it wasn’t a big deal at all. I’ll tell you why in a bit.
The document Rich has is the 2013 Milestone 2.0 overview/presentation package. I told Rich I’d seen that material. Nope, turns out I didn’t see the one Rich saw. I’m not included as part of Milestone 2.0, in this version of the package, but the three people with whom I started Milestone are. In other words, it appears my former partners decided back in 2013 I would not be involved.
By itself, that’s bad enough. But for years I continued to work toward a goal only to learn via the Washington Post I was not required to do any work because I was out. Did they set out to do something so despicable by design? That would be vile done to anyone but a friend? An unforgivable act of cruelty if ever there was one.
I’ve been called a fool for refusing to declare they used me almost four years on purpose. They still refuse to talk to me, which I think is both good and bad for them. It’s good because I cannot say with absolute certainty they planned this with malice and forethought. It’s bad because it’s a real dick move.
I hold out hope this may have been a series of unfortunate events. Perhaps a perfect storm of circumstances preventing each partner from telling me I was not going to make the team I’ve been working towards, most times alone for 15 years.
In a 2000 meeting with Bob Johnson at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. During that meeting, I was asked if I could “Create another Milestone.” Mr. Johnson was at the time head of Black Entertainment Television (BET). Although I had no obligation to bring anyone in that deal I ended up refusing to pull the trigger on a Milestone publishing imprint at BET because all the partners were not involved. I said to the partners at the time; “If not all of us, none of us.”
When I left Milestone in 1994, there was bad blood caused by an outright bullshit of a lie memo sent to Clarence Avant Chairman of Motown Records. Sent during my negotiations with Motown the memo (which I still have) and Mr. Avant still remembers stated I was forbidden to talk to Motown because I was exclusive to DC and Milestone.
Undoubtedly the memo could have derailed my negotiations, and that’s precisely what it was supposed to do. It didn’t only because I was smart enough to keep detailed records or everything sent me by DC and Milestone. Among those records were my creative release from both companies which by the way they wanted.
Man, was I pissed. But I got over it.
In my first official act as CEO of Motown Animation & Filmworks, I gave Milestone a Nintendo video game deal. Like I said: I got over it.
I spent thousands of hours and dollars on the rebirth of Milestone 2.0. I never thought about the money I could have spent elsewhere nor about the time I will never get back; the betrayal is what fucked me up. After what I’ve done for Milestone and the way they have been proven wrong during the 1994 fiasco as well as other events no doubt they hope I don’t recall, you would think they would embrace me.
Betraying a friend for any reason is an alien concept to me. Being able to sleep without guilt worth far more than dollars. A lifelong friend pointed out Judas couldn’t buy peace with his 30 pieces of silver. I added his chances of getting into heaven pretty slim as well, but he had a chance if he braced himself. “If you brace yourself…” Don’t get it? Ask a black person. Then brace yourself…
This made us both crack up with laughter. A laugh I needed more than I’ve ever needed any laugh.
Until that exchange, I’d spent months in agony, but thinking of Judas brought me some comfort. While I was dwelling on that, feeling a bit better, I realized with a start the signage I granted M2.0 on a major gallery exhibit would become part of their legacy, not mine. So much for Judas.
Bad Boys: African Americans in Comics, Pop Culture, and Beyond was to be a retrospective show of my Bad Boy Studios and mentor program held at the world famous Geppi Entertainment Museum. I shifted the public narrative away from my studio to Milestone so we could announce our return at the opening. When interviewed while promoting the show I underscored Milestone was featured prominently but other creators and their influences were still the emphases. Hence Milestones is plural, not singular.
Nonetheless, so many of my students have done remarkable groundbreaking work with Milestone it was both a tribute to Milestone and Bad Boy Studios with one big exception I decided Bad Boys would not be part of the title.
I did this because Milestone failed to announce its return at our 20th-anniversary panel at SDCC. Although that decision made me angry, all was forgotten when surprised with an Inkpot Award at the panel.
The Milestone party I threw that evening celebrating our two decade birthday was pregnant with the promise of our high-minded possibilities. I decided right then my day in the sun could wait. Milestones was born from that pregnancy. It was a painless birth, a beautiful child. The pain would come four years later when the little bastard grew up and stabbed me in the back.
I did a massive amount of work for the venture, and everyone knew it/ Yet still, no one said I should stop. Many will find it surprising that I find it reasonable to assume this simply got away from my former boyz.
Doubtful but reasonable.
But why no word since? Because of this word… Lawsuit.
Why are they worried about that? Suing at this level is by no means cheap. It would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and I have no doubt the partners at M2.0 have the bank. No way I could contend with the combined resources of those guys. That’s also been the rumor as to why I haven’t sued.
Nope, as we say in the hood, that ain’t it.
I’m no lawyer, but I have a cousin who is at one of the most influential and powerful law firms in the world. Not a distant cousin; she couldn’t be closer to me if she were my daughter. She’s been a character in novels I’ve written, a television show I created, a radio show I produced and every single comic book universe I’ve imagined. Even the Static Universe.
I call my cousin Captain Picard because if I wanted to sue she would make it so.
That’s funny, but it’s no joke.
Her fee? I’ve already paid it. When she was twelve, I sat through the film Betsy’s Wedding with her at the W. 4th St, theater in Greenwich Village. She owes me.
So why not battle this in court? Why won’t I sue? The same reason I didn’t sue the Hilton when thrown out of their hotel for uttering the words “lower Alabama.” There was no reason in the world good enough for the actions of a front desk manager and what they did to me is on tape.
I didn’t sue the Hilton because I’d much rather affect real change than just benefit myself. I was promised real change, and I take them at their word. I can’t talk to young kids of color and say money isn’t everything if I don’t have the strength of my convictions.
Yes, I’ll settle for the change. Let others take the cash.
I’m not suing the men who in a very real sense may hold the key to finally creating a dominant and sustainable black superhero impression for black kids from black creators. Besides it’s not in my nature to discount all good from those who do me bad. I still hold love for a former best friend and artist, past friend and director and once friend and partner.
Suing a former best friend saddens me beyond belief. The last thing any disheartened person needs is any additional misery. Unfortunately, I’m way beyond disheartened. I’ve been diagnosed with severe depression.
I was there the moment of creation. I, Michael Davis, co-signed one of the greatest moments in black pop culture and the biggest event in black comics history.
Michael Davis sues his former partners at Milestone will not be my legacy. I will not be another black man at odds with other black men. What was done to me fuels the “Nigger Business” argument, I don’t run on that gas so I won’t go there.
My mother said to me quite often “Just because your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” I would proudly say no I would not. So, no lawsuit. Someone has to set an example.
Somebody tell those boys not talking to me will stop a lawsuit like wishing on a star will make your dick bigger. On the other hand, some say because of what they did to me there are no bigger dicks in comics.
So why write any of this? I’m not suing, so why?
I need some closure.
You would think since I’ve danced around this in articles and forums for nearly two years Milestone would have talked to me and I’d have my closure. No. The last contact I had with Milestone, I was told a press release would be forthcoming to explain to the world I had decided to pursue other projects.
I asked them to do such because I did not want to deal with what I knew would follow: speculation, gossip and rumors which if left unchecked would become fact. I’ve fought that for years on Milestone’s behalf. I was the only one fighting that fight. No other partner ever addressed any rumor, bullshit or straight-up lie.
Because of me, fewer people think Milestone is owned by DC comics. Dwayne McDuffie created Milestone and hired Denys Cowan, Derek Dingle, Christopher Priest and myself. The argument I made (make) consistently is that you can’t let stuff like this stand. If let alone it will become fact in the minds of many and affect your ability to get something done. The more important that something is the more damage done.
You don’t think so? Still wondering how a Muslim born in Kenya who hates America and wants to kill your grandma is still President?
I rest my case.
I try and inject humor when I can, but depression is no fucking joke. I need peace from this, I need closure. These kinds of emotional blows (especially from those I thought cared for me) can be very dangerous to my health.
Before some asshole tweets something dumb let me be clear: no one at Milestone is responsible for my depression and would not be even remotely at fault in the event I make the news one day for taking a walk off a bridge.
The fault would be the election of Donald Trump.
The fault would be mine and mine alone.
Since they won’t deal with me, I’ll deal with this by myself
To disregard totally any thought of what something like this could do to somebody would be an act of severe cruelty, and frankly, I don’t think these are cruel men. Putting aside the four years as a series of unfortunate bullshit, why did they do this?
Maybe it’s just business bullshit.
If twenty plus years of friendship and an undeniable record of professional support I’m then terminated without a word as to why I’d rather not be involved in that kind of company. Faced with standing by a friend or taking a check, I’ll take the friend every time not doing so was never an option.
Although I’ve written critically of M2.0 over almost two years since they discarded me on purpose or not the overwhelming things I’ve penned, have been positive because I still believe in Milestone 2.0.
Apparently, despite my accomplishments, they don’t believe in me. That’s their loss.
Some will say I should have known better. I did. I foresaw this coming.
From February 2011 to January 2015 different dates were chosen for the Milestone 2.0 announcement. Each date was canceled at the last minute. Each time I objected. It made no sense to set times then cancel always at the last moment unless there was another play at hand.
As my suspicions grew from time to time, I’d put something in writing and publish it. See for yourself the following were all posted well before Milestone’s announcement in January 2015:
The Milestone Contract was a tongue in cheek look at admittedly what I thought was a far-fetched plan to exclude me. Written as silly satire it details what happened to me months before it happened. Static Comes to The Big Screen also written as satire foretold the WB live action Static Shock announcement which was to follow weeks later.
No one at M2.0 or Warner Bros. said a word to me about Static becoming a show. I found out when the rest of the world found out. Again I saw this coming. Not buying that?
I unofficially voiced my suspicions to Jim Chadwick at DC Comics, Marge Dean at Mattel, Mike Gold, editor at ComicMix, Steve Geppi, CEO Diamond, Jeffery Wright CEO Urban Ministries and some other media heavyweights. Except for Mike Gold, most thought it far fetched and frankly so did I. Mike told me what I tell those who seek my advice: trust but verify.
Why did I tell these power brokers anything and why unofficially? If I were right, anyone who casts doubts on my narrative would not dare challenge those folk listed above. If I were wrong I could just nod and wave it away.
I saw this coming. Whether or not I believed it fully didn’t matter I was prepared. Playing me is almost impossible, as I told a partner in a heated phone call and a follow-up email. I insisted Milestone let me know if there were any issues with my partnership because any other role at Milestone wasn’t something I was interested in.
Not a word was said, but somehow I was excluded from meetings and updates which I found out about anyhow so ousting me was a reasonable expectation and I voiced as much. I was ready with a strategy to get them to commit or not because this stupid game of “Don’t tell when asked” was a waste of my time. Unfortunately, horrible events in my life created yet another perfect storm that put me way off my game.
My diagnoses left me broken, my mother’s death destroyed me, people who loved me left me I don’t blame them anymore. Depression takes a lot out of you and those around you. Add about a dozen other incidents in a run of bad luck that Job would lose his faith over.
When Milestone dropped their bomb, the timing couldn’t have been worse for me or better for them. I know what you’re thinking. Yes, a case could be made the timing was precise to take advantage of my damaged mental state. They knew just how bad a shape I was in.
One early Sunday morning I was visited by a partner who along with another read something I wrote and wanted to make sure I didn’t try and kill myself. So, yes, that case could be made moreover If made by a persuasive lawyer from a gigantically influential law firm…
Never. Never in a zillion hundred billion years would that be true. The timing had nothing to do with me or my depression. I just wasn’t able to cope. Evident by my total breakdown at my annual SDCC Dinner. In front of 52 of the most powerful people in the entertainment arena, I just lost it.
I said I was off my game but in truth, I’d already quit the game, almost for good. Say for the help of a once loved confidant I’d be as dead as some WB executives if Wonder Woman tanks.
Anger, resentment, and despair will kill me as sure as a bullet, so I have to get back to the brilliant Dick I once was. Nothing but anguish is gained obsessing about M2.0, and I can’t go there anymore.
So, this brings me here. Milestone is a remarkable achievement. Those books deserve your support and yes they have mine. There needs to be an Icon movie, a Static television show a Hardware novel and a Blood Syndicate musical or any combination of such. Yes, a Blood Syndicate musical.
I mentioned earlier a call then some thoughts stopped me from venting my anger. The call was with a friend and after talking to him I couldn’t publish a “fuck you pay me” article or announce a major deal at SDCC. That energy would devour me. Bad energy leads to more bad energy enough of that would kill me.
My friend’s in a fight, and I’ll need all my strength and power to assist him with his conflict. Ya, hear that MFDJ? We’re going to do great things together; we’re going to make history, help a lot of people and have a lot of fun. I then started to think about a buddy who’s mother is suffering from Alzheimer’s. He drives her back and forth from Queens to Connecticut three, sometimes four times a week. When in his home in Connecticut he will look for signs she has become disoriented. When this occurs, he will drive her back to Queens to be in a familiar setting. He could put her in a home. Yeah, he could he’s got more than enough money.
Sometimes money isn’t everything.
This wonderful man finds time in his day to call me and say, “What’s up, Michael, you OK?” That’s the kind of black man I aspire to be.
Funny. Milestone took my name off the presentation package then ultimately removed my name and me from the company. They haven’t said a word as to why. There’s also an effort to reduce my role as creator of the Static Universe to “one of five guys in the room.” As if “Static was Michael’s baby” was not a quote from a Milestone partner frequently until it wasn’t. I keep everything, and that’s on videotape.
I removed my name from the Gallery show. Ultimately, this removed acknowledgment for what was my doing. This as well to benefit Milestone. I told people why I did so; it was out of love. Milestones: African Americans in Comics, Pop Culture, and Beyond is the most successful show in the history of the Geppi Entertainment Museum.
Static is the most successful property Milestone has and the most successful African American character ever created by African-Americans.
Let me make some things clear. I bare no ill will towards Milestone 2.0. I’m doing what I need to do to deal with my bouts of depression and because my business requires I do so now.
What is it I need to do, exactly?
Telling what transpired so to destroy any and all doubts, there was something unprofessional about me that caused my former partners and friends to dismiss me with not a word before or since as to why.
Derek Dingle gave a hint (before he hung up on me) that when I left Milestone 20 plus years ago. It was my lawsuit that prompted it all. OK, that’s revisionist history if ever there was.
There was no lawsuit. And even if there had been, so fucking what?
Derek if you’re reading this I suggest you take a look at the memos from that time. If you lack some, don’t worry I have them all. Including the letter from DC and Milestone that Clarence Avant called me enraged over.
You know the one it involved my status at Milestone and DC. I was speaking to Clarence not too long ago about that very letter; he’s not too happy about it now either.
Like I said, I’m not looking to hurt Milestone; for almost two years I’ve written very supported articles. Yeah, some digs but much more positives. The only public statements attributed to them concerning me was I was not lead creator on Static I was ‘one of five guys in the room.”
Well, I can prove otherwise. Can they?
As I said I’m not trying to hurt them, I just want to help me.
I’m also not telling my side of the story. I’m saying what happened to me; there’s a difference. Everything I write I can prove with validation.
But not today.
This was to be another installment of my Milestone 2.0 narrative. I’d like to get what happened to me on the record before Rich Johnson goes live with his story but this is trivial shit compared to what’s crucial in Black America, chief among that the recent crop of unarmed Black men killed by police.
I thought I’d attempt to explain to those readers at ComicMix how it affects us as comic book creators but more importantly as black men.
Regardless if it’s a huge misunderstanding or horrible decision making the odds of Derek Dingle, Reggie Hudlin, Denys Cowan and Michael Davis coming together are slim to you must be out of your motherfucking mind.
That does not mean I don’t care about them. I do.
We may not be on the same page regarding Milestone but as black men, we are united because we are all seen as one in eyes of some in law-enforcement. If one of those men were felled by a policeman’s bullet, it would hurt me beyond measure.
And I would know, I would know without a shadow of a doubt they were wrongly targeted. Because they live the kind of life that defy that ending to theirs as do I.
It won’t matter, any black men is subject to capital punishment no matter if talking to friends, selling cigarettes or reaching for what an officer asked for.
Mothers of young inner-city black boys’ have one thought over all, how to keep their child alive. Poor parents of any race face the same problem. Black parents face the added danger of protecting their sons from those who are entrusted to protect them, the police.
Soon, very soon, I will be off probation. Why was I on probation? Two white people harassed me all night at a Karaoke bar. I ignored what they were saying. Their goal for was for me to engage them.
As I was leaving, I heard something along these lines: “Don’t forget to bring your grandmother and sister some crack.”
That’s not an exact quote (music was playing), however sister and grandmother I understood.
There was no way they could know both my sister and grandmother died horrible deaths at someone’s hand it was just another series of insults to them.
I didn’t give a fuck. They went there.
I waited for the music to stop and the applauds to die down before I went here:
“Fuck you and your families.”
They ran across the floor towards me punched me in my face a couple of times and wanted to hurt me badly that was clear.
The man currently residing in a tree lined lovely community left, and the guy from Far Rockaway, and South Jamaica Queens showed up.
That was the wrong nigger to fuck with as they found out.
Once they met that guy they pussied away. Just as quick the person from the tree lined block returned, saying goodbye to the bartender and my waitress who both asked me if I was alright telling me those guys are never coming back.
I was under the impression the bartender was going to call the cops. I told him if he needed a statement from me I’d be happy to oblige and the moment I said that I regretted it.
Rule # 1: If A Black Man, Never Talk To The Cops Unless You Absolutely Have To.
Then I thought, I had not done anything wrong, plus the whole thing was captured on tape. I went home secure in the knowledge I’d done nothing wrong and had ample proof to such.
A warm send-off from the staff?
I was the one attacked?
The deck was stacked extremely high in my favor. What possibly could go wrong? I thought of every conceivable way it could go south and came up with only one answer.
I was black. When I was asked to give a statement some days later I was accompanied by my lawyer. Witnesses, videotape, warm send off from the staff and a high priced attorney. Now that’s what I call stacked!
As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about, exactly what I thought would happen, happened.
I was arrested. Did I mention the whole thing captured on tape? The tape that showed they attacked me? I did say that right?
This incident is not unusual at all to black men. Those who had no doubt I was lying included the two who attacked me, the police and DA.
The only people on my side was everybody else in the bar. That includes a witness from Japan, and I’ll never forget her name: Sony Camera.
So, I looked forward to my day in court so I could quickly take a plea.
Why did I take a plea? When the D.A. refuses to look at the videotape but is ready to go to trial the two witness statements used to arrest me were written by the two people who ran across the room and attacked me and all other eyewitness accounts are ignored, if you’re a black man it’s time to take a plea.
I took a plea because I could afford what a good lawyer charges. I can’t afford what the criminal justice system may cost me. No black man has that kind of wealth. When a black man with the means to fight goes to court, he may be found innocent, but we’re suspects all our lives.
Michael Jackson was considered innocent in the eyes of the law, but every effort is being made to ensure he remains guilty in the eyes of history. Now they find kiddie porn? Ya think that would have been useful during the trial?
Name a famous black person once acquitted not still thought of as guilty.
They found kiddie porn now?
That’s some Tyrone Cash bullshit and by Tyrone Cash bullshit I mean stupid. Cash is a Mark Millar creation. In a nutshell, he’s a genius scientist who figures out the formula that gives him the powers of the Hulk.
When his brilliant mind becomes a simple one he no longer understands the complex theories of gamma radiation all he wants to do is smash, like the other Hulk Dr. Bruce Banner.
Sorry, I forgot Tyrone Cash is black.
He retains his intellect and uses his Hulk powers to become a drug dealer! Why? The same reason some police would shoot an incident hard working man reaching for his identification, it’s easy to believe all we are is thugs. That’s what FOX News tells everyone, we’re thugs on television, we’re criminals in the movies, and now the Republican Party Nominee is telling the world African Americans are thugs.
In other news, as soon as I’m officially off probation I’m suing some individuals over what they did to my life. In civil court they won’t refuse to look at the tape and all those witness reports will also come into play.
It’s a little thing but someone needs to answer this question, I was attacked, so why I was arrested? I’m going loud on this with a little help from some well-placed friends. I’m not Tyrone Cash I’m not a thug nor is most black men. So why must we fight and die to prove it?
Writer’s note: Why after almost two years am I bringing this to a head? Because I’ve tried and tried to reach these guys and still nothing.
I’m also sick, and this was consuming me making me sicker. I reached threshold when Rich Johnson of Bleeding Cool asked me to comment on some verifiable information he now had.
And I’ve had enough.
Eighteen months ago my world, already rocked by a series of devastating events, was almost destroyed.
Milestone 2.0, the new company founded by Denys Cowan, Reggie Hudlin, Derek Dingle and myself hit the world. The initial story broke in the Washington Post a newspaper with a global reach underscoring how big deal this was.
The announcement landed on the comic book press like a bomb, with the explosion killing me. Yep. I’m dead.
That morning I was returning from somewhere I can’t remember where when I noticed substantial activity on my cell phone. I get a lot of texts but rarely does anyone leave voice mails as I don’t listen to them. Who does in this age of ridiculous back and forth texting?
I’m guilty as are most people I know of this utter stupidity. One question asked could result in a 20-minute exchange whereas the same inquiry could be answered in a 20-second call.
My excuse is I detest talking on the phone. That morning I realized I’d have no choice, something important was up, and only a maroon would
forgo a voice for type.
Without listening to any of the voicemails, I decided just call everyone back. I started with my former director of all things cool, Tatiana El-Khouri. If the calls were connected, she would have the scoop.
She had the scoop… and then some.
“Hey, are you all right?”
Any concern in Tatiana’s voice is rare. I’ve known her for 10 years and seldom does her Vulcan-like coolness show cracks of sentiment. This time in her voice I could clearly hear her increasing trepidation.
“Why? Who died?”
She told me that in the massive amount of Milestone 2.0 press blowing up all over the industry, nowhere was I mentioned. She seemed to think I knew about the launch.
I had no idea.
Likewise, no idea about the Washington Post interview with Reggie Hudlin. Given no clue of the press release from DC Comics or any of the dozens upon dozens of other news impressions, unmistakably part of a well put together time-consuming plan.
No one at Milestone 2.0 said a word to me. After four years of working towards this moment, they just discarded me. Despite my considerable efforts on behalf of M2.0 that excellent plan did not include me, I was never included. When I’d asked Tatiana “who died” I never dreamt the answer was me.
I was not only dead. To them it seems very much like they want to bury me as well.
After receiving news of my death, I called Reggie in heated anger. I said some horrible things, feeling justified since such a horrible thing had been done to me.
The truth is the vile things I said to Reggie were not just my reaction to my death at Milestone it was my response to years of hooking Reggie up and being treated with no respect.
I’ve supported Reggie in countless ways since we’ve met. I’ve thrown parties for him, arranged speaking engagements, put together panels as well as personally vouched for him with Urban Ministries Inc., who vet anyone and everyone they bring into their church space.
And believe me, when I say their church space I mean their church space. When Viacom and BET thought they had significant juice to allow them last minute booth access at SDCC they found out they didn’t. I did, and I gladly did so for him.
I also really liked Reggie. I knew he didn’t care all that much for me when we first met, but I grow on people. I assumed since I’ve shown him nothing but love I’d grow on him. He’s an Ivy League-educated man smart enough to see where my heart is and understand my swagger may be annoying at times, but I’m a good brother. I’m an Ivy League-educated man smart enough to see he’d come around.
Parents, save your money. Send your kids to a good state school. Neither of us was smart enough to avoid this bullshit.
The thing I think I was lividest about when I let loose my fury filled tirade on his voicemail was the realization I chose the wrong side when a rift developed between a former brief protégé of mine and Reggie.
Aaron, I fucked up, and I’m sorry.
I continue to regret my words and although I was still livid that morning I called back and apologized. I also sent a text and to my utter surprise, he responded with what seemed genuine concern.
I called Derek Dingle next.
Derek didn’t pick up, so I left a message. Not an outraged one, although still angry and horribly so. I had to get it together. I loved Derek and he would fix this.
I had so much respect and love for Derek that when SDCC did not invite him for Milestone’s 20th Anniversary I told them unless Derek was there Denys and I wouldn’t be there either.
I needed to calm down, so I called my mom. She didn’t answer either, and my call went to her voicemail. It takes me a moment to remember my mom had moved, and I didn’t have her new number in Heaven.
I forgot she was dead, and that’s not the first time I did. Nor the last.
Now I’m crying uncontrollably. Lucky for me I’m no longer alone. My friend Dr. Phil had just knocked.
I call her Dr. Phil because she always giving me advice. She had come by to check on me and bring me breakfast before she went to work. Having survived a parallel depression, she pops in from time to time. She saw the Washington Post story and decided this was one of those times to pop in.
She was right.
Derek calls back, and I felt better. The last time I saw him, he stood beside me in front of my mother’s casket.
“Michael, we’re family. We’re going to do great things together.”
I tell Dr. Phil this is all about to be cleared up. I say to Derek “Tell me who’s colossal screw-up was this? What happened? What’s going on?”
“Michael over 20 years ago when you began the lawsuit against us…” Derek said this in slow, measured tones.
I lost it.
“I did what????” That’s all I got out before my friend shouted:
“You don’t talk to me like that!!! I won’t stand for it!!”
Then he hung up.
NEXT WEEK: 20 Years Ago They Did The Same Thing… Only Different
My disdain started when a rumor damn near became fact. The rumor spreading like a Donald Trump lie was that Milestone stole their business plan from Brotherman. It damn near broke my heart.
But then, the show of support for Milestone was overwhelming!
I could hardly contain my tears of joy so much was the love I felt from the thousands of fans who stood by us. So with all the love shown us why was this the beginning of the end for me?
Because there was no love, the above paragraph was an invention just like the rumor.
Instead of love many, some thought to be friends, jumped on the fairytale co-signing the notion the Milestone partners were thieves. This not too long after Dwayne McDuffie passed away.
One moment the Black comic book community universally saddened over the death of one of the greatest comic book writers there ever was showed the kind of love that inspires books and movies.
The next moment there was universal hatred of Dwayne.
Didn’t those motherfuckers realize that if you call Milestone thieves you’re saying that of Denys Cowan, Derek Dingle, Christopher Priest, myself AND Dwayne McDuffie?
Yeah, they knew. They didn’t care. Shit, why the fuck should they have? Except for me no one and I mean no one fought those kind of battles. With not one exception no other Milestone partner old or new continually fought the rumors surrounding the company.
I kept Milestone alive in a culture where some are so dense they forget what day we celebrate the Fourth of July. Some may be OK leaving rumor alone to become fact not me. Branding Milestone liars and thieves are NOT the same as some bullshit gerbil stuck in an actor’s ass story.
No one is going deny a big time player a role even if that gerbil story is true, unprovable if it is. If promoting a movie at Comic-Con, no will stand up and ask; “What about the accusations made by three hamsters, a gerbil and Stacy Dash?” Unless said, actor decides to write a tell-all book entitled; It’s My Ass, She’s My Gerbil & I Love Her Up There, it’s safe to bet that won’t define a spectacular career.
But stealing the idea for the greatest African American comic book company? You don’t address that type of shit, and it sticks. Then when Dreamworks is looking for great African-American superhero content they are not looking at Milestone.
Yeah, it’s like that in Hollywood.
So, I made sure any and all bullshit surrounding Milestone was addressed LOUDLY.
Those who doubt that I don’t blame you. But click the link below and scroll down a bit. What are you looking for? Believe me; you will know it when you see it.
FUN FACT: The Brotherman crew got some bad information and some dates wrong. That shit happens to everyone and that includes me. They admitted as such and we’re MORE than cool.
So cool in fact a meeting is planned in the near future. Funny, we talked, we worked it out. Nobody ignored the other. They have treated me with a TON more respect and love than M2.0.
Like I said, funny.
Back to the rant, I’ve gotten no encouragement or support from the community I’ve spent more time creating opportunities for others than myself. Nobody writes me a check for my Bad Boy Studio mentor program or the Black Panel or Dream City, my management company. All of those are set up to provide access to young people of color. I charge nothing; it’s called giving back.
I write the checks to make sure young people of color get the encouragement and support they need. No support from that community was horrible slight and the spark which began this decent.
Being treated by Milestone 2.0 like I had not contributed most of the now superstar talent, oversaw the massive press and groundbreaking convention presence and created the universe of its most successful character, Static, lit the fire.
Being used and then rejected at the lowest point IN MY LIFE without a word as to why beforehand, without a word afterward or (GET THIS) without a fucking word in the almost two years since. Oh, while you’re getting THAT, get THIS, “We’re family. You’re family. We’re going to do great things.” That was said to me in front of my mother’s casket from a member of my “family.”
Then days ago delivered to Bleeding Cool’s Rich Johnson from an unnamed source, (THANK YOU MASKED MAN!) was what some would call the smoking gun.
It’s pretty fucked up.
I’d call it the big bang rather than a smoking gun. So to paraphrase Dr. Dre, FUCK COMICS YOU CAN HAVE IT BACK.
The above (all of it) was an excerpt from the article I was going to run called Michael Davis has left the building.
Then some people showed me a better way so I’m not going to do that.
I had another piece all ready to go, but I’m just too anal to let stuff run if it bugs me. What I usually do when faced with a decision to let something I don’t feel like running just has a blown deadline.
I’m suffering from severe depression and not giving a hoot is easy when you actually don’t give a hoot. The truth is I don’t give a hoot if I meet a fucking deadline or finish an article, design a poster, fix a painting, edit a chapter, respond to Comic Con or meet with anybody.
I have no motivation to do anything for myself. Especially when faced with days like this.
Today is the 21st of June, but I’m writing this the night before.
Two years ago in the early hours before most people go to work I’d just returned from the hospital where I had spent the night at my mother’s bedside. I still have a residence in NYC maybe 10-15 minutes from New York Hospital but was staying at Martha Thomases home which was even closer.
Yes, I loved my mother so much I elected to stay with Martha to be five minutes closer to my mom. The bonus was Martha, who took care of me by staying up watching movies, drinking tequila and talking comics. Not an easy feat as I suffer from chronic insomnia.
Depression and insomnia is a hell of a burden to have to endure, and that’s no way to live I will admit. However, let’s get real. The hardship is sometimes worse on those who are around you. Now throw in migraines and imagine the songs you can come up with.
Depression, insomnia, and migraines, oh my!
Is it any wonder that after enduring six days of sleepless nights with each of those afflictions operating in concert I put a gun to my head and pulled the trigger?
I did, but I missed the deadline.
After a shower that June 21st morning I listened to a message left for me by my mother. She told me she no longer wanted to live, and she didn’t blame me for anything. I must have gotten back to the hospital in less than five minutes.
My mother did not talk like this. Nope. My mom did not give up. This was Jean Harlow Davis, the inspiration for Static’s mom Jean Hawkins. When her mother was killed, she didn’t give up. When her daughter Sharon, the inspiration for Static’s sister, Sharon Hawkins, died she didn’t give up.
Hearing that message, it sounded like she had given up. I knew what I had to do.
This was a job for Superman.
When I was 10-years old, my mother threw out seven golden age comic books that meant everything to me. Sometime later while watching a news report about Superman #1 selling for six figures she asked me why didn’t I have a comic worth that kind of money.
I told her I did, in fact, I had that issue of Superman #1.
I didn’t. She did throw away Superman#2, but that didn’t carry the amount of weight seeing something on TV did.
I was saving the actual story for a moment when I needed her to laugh when I didn’t think anything else would do the trick.
I was saving it for the one and only gotcha I would ever have on my mother.
I returned to the hospital where my mom looked so peaceful in her sleep. I figured I’d go back to Martha’s grab some sleep myself and bring Superman with me upon my return. What great laugh this would be!
I found out later, the joke was on me. She wasn’t sleeping, she was dead.
Sunday was Father’s day.
I have no idea who my real father was or is. Never met him, never wanted to (unless he was Bill Gates) and couldn’t care what happened to him. My stepfather’s name was Robert Lawrence. I loved that man so much that I changed my name to Lawrence for the Shado series I did with Mike Grell.
Robert was the inspiration for (you guessed it) Robert Hawkins Static’s father.
I loved that man until one day I didn’t. I remembered something so horrible he had done to my mother I cut him out of my life. He died not knowing why I refused to see or talk to him for ten years.
My mother forgave him. I should have forgiven him. I do now, but that will ease none of the pain he must have endured wondering why I had cut him out of my life.
My thoughts of him are no longer dark. Instead, I think about the time he braved a rainstorm to get me a copy of Spider-Man #101. Man, I just had to have that book.
I forgave him the day I realized some people who betrayed me 20 plus years ago were forgiven and in that 20 years, I have done my best to be both a good friend and colleague.
That effort didn’t matter; they betrayed me again.
Earlier I said no motivation was within me to do anything, especially when faced with days like this. That’s very true, but that’s when it comes to me. When it comes to others who have been there for me, that’s another story entirely.
My thanks and love go out to those who pretend it’s easy to deal with the sort of mess I can be. I’m getting better I assure you. There are days that test you, this was one with any luck tomorrow won’t be.
I was 16, coming home on the subway from a party in Manhattan. It was 2 or so in the morning, and I was on the A train. Regardless of what romantic notion you may have of the A train because of Duke Ellington’s immortal song “Take the A Train,” that train is the last place you want to be at 2 in the morning.
What took my situation from bad-to-worse, the A train is (or was, this was 30 plus years ago) a local at that time in the morning. For those of you who deprived of the sheer delight – or utter dread – of an NYC subway ride, a local train stops at all stations on the line.
No matter where I boarded, I was going to the end of the line.
The “end of the line” on the A train on two occasions was not just my destination, but nearly a bad New York Post headline. One night while waiting for the A train I was stabbed during an attempted mugging. Another time while trying to defend a young white girl some thug put a gun to my forehead, pulled the trigger, but his gun jammed.
For asking him to be cool, I almost get shot in the head.
Take the A train? No. The Duke, a musical genius? Yes. Giver of great advice? No.
On this particular early morning, I was sitting alone with my feet up on another seat. My feet were up for a couple of reasons; the first was so I could look hard. Hard in a “do not mess with me because I’m hard and may have a weapon on me because I’m hard” kind of way.
The second reason my feet were placed on the seat next to mine was to discourage people from sitting there. Before the Rudy Giuliani era in New York, the subway was a Mecca for the homeless, and you don’t want a New York City homeless person sitting next to you.
After all these years I’m now a bleeding heart liberal, and I feel for those less fortunate than I. These days’ homeless people sadden me.
That’s these days.
At 16 what I felt for the homeless was an evident scorn. I may have felt that way because my mother, sister and I were truly just a grandmother and a paycheck away from being homeless ourselves. That perhaps hardened my heart towards homeless people. Maybe I didn’t want to be reminded that there for the grace of God go I… yada, yadda, yadda…bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, yadda, yadda and yadda.
I’m not that deep now, and I certainly was not that deep at 16.
The real reason I did not want a homeless person sitting next to me is that they stank.
You have not smelled stank until you smell an NYC homeless person. The smell is beyond horrible. Somehow NYC homeless people all manage to stink the same. The smell is indescribably bad to the point you’d almost rather die than get even a small whiff of it.
So, there I was, 16 years old at 2 in the morning riding the A train trying my best to look hard so a smelly homeless person would not sit next to me and force me to deal with my mortality.
At the Howard Beach stop a black man in his mid 20s boards the train. He made a beeline right to me even though there were plenty of empty seats. “Can I sit here?” He asked very nicely. I moved my feet so he could sit down. Frankly I was glad he asked because the train was waiting at the Howard Beach stop for some reason or another and since we were the only two black people on the train at that point I welcomed the company.
Howard Beach was known as hardcore crazy white boy territory during the time I grew up. In 1986 a young black man was beaten to death by a mob of white boys in a racially motivated attack. There have been incidents before and since. Black people knew not to mess with those crazy white boys in Howard Beach and not just because of racist attitudes there.
Howard Beach was also the home of John Gotti, the then-head of the Gambino crime family. I don’t like fish, so the idea of sleeping with them was not one that appealed to me. This was a place where African Americans had better fear to tread. I did indeed welcome this guy’s company because clearly we were on enemy ground.
Brandon was his name, and we clicked immediately. That may have been because we were both keenly aware that any minute a gang of crazy white boys could board the train and lynch us both. Our getting along so fast, I’m sure, was due to the fact we wanted to present a united front. Both hoping that would give the illusion we were two badass motherfuckers and any lynch mob should think twice about harassing us, strength in numbers and all that.
We sat at Howard Beach for another quarter hour when the doors finally closed and we could relax a little. The next stop was Broad Channel. Broad Channel was not nearly as bad as Howard Beach – it was more akin to crazy white boys lite, but still crazy white boys.
I realize I’m throwing “crazy white boys” around a lot. Back when I was 16 “crazy white boys” were my mindset and referring to white people in an all-white neighborhood where black people feared to tread was how I saw things.
After Broad Channel was the beginning of the hood, so Brandon and I needed just to chill (chill means just to be calm, but you knew that from reruns of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, didn’t you?) until the perceived danger was past. Broad Channel came and went as did our gangster conversation.
Brandon asked where I was getting off, and I told him. Beach 60th Street. “You want to come hang at my house?” Brandon inquired. That made me a bit uncomfortable. The Howard Beach threat over, I now returned to my general suspicions of those not from my hood.
“I’ve got stuff I’ve got to do at home,” I said. Yeah, I had to get into my bed and give the impression that I was home all night before my mother got in from working the midnight to 8 in the morning shift at the nursing home this after she had the 3 in the afternoon to 11 at another job. She would be in no mood to lecture me or even hit me, after her 16 plus hour day she would go straight to the .38 and shoot me.
I couldn’t come out and say to Brandon “my mommy would kill me if I’m not home” that did not fit my hard-core persona.
“Come on. We can have some real fun.” Brandon said, his hand now on my leg. That hand was slowly but steadily creeping up. He seemed to be talking in a much softer voice and was smiling in a strange way.
Where had I seen that kind of smile before? Shit, I know where! I’ve seen it on me whenever I happened to glance in a mirror while alone in my room with some Vaseline and a Penthouse magazine.
Now I get it!
Brandon was a faggot and he wanted to ravish my young sexiness. Yeah, I said the ‘F’ word, I was 16, remember? Unfortunately, that was my mindset then.
Brandon still had his hand on my leg, and it was still creeping up. “What the fuck are you doing?” I said, trying to sound real hard. I wanted to look thuggish, but I was scared, so my voice rose and I sounded like I girl.
Not just any girl. Shirley Temple. So, imagine Shirley Temple saying “What the fuck are you doing?”
“Come on; it’s cool.” He responded even more softly than before. “Get your motherfucking hands off me, faggot!” screamed Shirley Temple. I was hoping, this time, he could see I was pissed and back off.
Nope. He squeezed my crouch. I guess he was into hardcore black boys from the hood with Shirley Temple voices. Then again, who isn’t?
I leaned back as far as I could on the seat and kicked him squarely in the chest. I wanted to kick him in his face but felt at the last moment if I leaned back any further I would have fallen off my seat. I hit him so hard he fell off his seat landed on the floor his head slamming against the subway floor. I may have sounded like Shirley Temple, but I kicked like Bruce Lee.
“Motherfucker, I’m not a goddamn faggot!” I shrieked at the top of my Shirley Temple lungs while looking to land my next kick right between his good ship lollipops. Brandon sat up his hands in front of him making a “no more” gesture. He looked up at me and said “Jesus, man what is your problem?”
It was with that I realized most of what I thought was going on, wasn’t. His hand was on my leg, but it wasn’t slowly but steadily creeping up. He did not grab my crouch nor had his voiced gotten softer. I had turned an innocent most likely accidental touch into a full on man rape in my mind.
So absorbed in my own horribly tainted view of the world I had imagined this was what was on his mind. To make matters as worse as they could be I then kicked away any guilt I felt at being wrong by responding; “Get the fuck away me.”
That was over 30 years ago. Today I would never use the ‘F’ word to describe a gay person. I hate to use the cliché some of my best friends are gay, but… some of my best friends are gay. My attitude towards gay people changed when I changed high schools in the 11th grade. My new school, the High School of Art & Design, had a diverse student body and being gay there was not a big deal at all. But being stupid was.
Stupid I was when I said something so gross my first week at Art & Design it could have tainted my entire time there. It was a gay guy named Frank who saved my ass by laughing at an insult giving the impression to everybody present I was making a joke. I wasn’t and Frank knew I was wasn’t. He whispered “You’re not in Kansas anymore, Michael, grow up.”
Thank god, I did.
After meeting and getting to know many gay people in my new school it dawned on me that they were no different than I was. They just happened to like sex with the same gender. Hell, in high school outside my loving relationship with the girls of Penthouse I was not having any sex at all, so they were one up on me.
Accepting gay people, having grown up in the severe anti-gay atmosphere of a black housing project was not as hard as you would imagine for me. My mother had a “no prejudice” rule in our home. Remarkable when you know just how dreadfully bad her encounters were with racists growing up.
Changing my position on gay people wasn’t hard, but it was still a huge deal for me because of my environment. It represented the first of many sea changes for me in my existence.
When I was not in school, I was still a resident of Edgemere projects in Far Rockaway Queens, which at the time was well on its way to being one of the worst projects in New York.
I was living a double life, and I intended to keep it that way. There was no way in Hell I would have ever acknowledged that I no longer found gay people repulsive to anyone in Edgemere.
Oh no, that would certainly not do. Why not stand up for my beliefs?
In the African American community where I grew up, there was little love for individuals who accept gay people. I may as well have stood up for and proudly proclaimed the Klan as the greatest group since The Temptations. Repealing my position on gay people would have gotten me branded as such, my ass kicked or worse in Edgemere.
At 16, noble I was not. No longer being able to participate in any reindeer games would have had a profound effect on me. It did not occur to me till much later that may have been a good thing.
I don’t want to give the impression that all black people I grew up with condemned the gay lifestyle, not the case at all. Many saw gay people as having every right as anyone else. But even today unfortunately among some in the African American community I’m in the minority, at odds with those, still light years if not eons away from embracing gay people at least in public.
“I gotta find this guy.”
Dwayne McDuffie said as he and I searched the corridors of a New York City comics convention in 1992. We were looking for Ivan Velez Jr., the remarkable writer of Tales of the Closet. The book was a look at the high school lives of gay and lesbian students and what they experienced.
Exceptionally written and drawn with a simple yet effective style the book instantly drew me back to A&D and thoughts of Frank and his crew. Ivan is a man of little words outside of what he puts on the page. He’s a big, gentle, quiet soul who lets his work do the talking for him. However, when he feels he has something to say few can match his oratory abilities, so it’s best not to engage him on the wrong side of an issue.
I thought about Frank, Ivan, the creators and fans of Prism Comics and my brother from another mother Andy Mangels when I heard the news of the Orlando massacre. I thought about how it must feel just to want to love who you want and be slaughtered for it.
This outrage was an attack on Frank who I haven’t seen in 30 years, Ivan who thinks I don’t like him, Andy who knows I love him and another, Billy who avoids me but protects my future ex-wife.
A friend lost to time, another lost to differences, one here forever, and the last not a friend but I’ve got his back also.
Each has a right to live their life, regardless of their opinion of me or mine of them.
Ivan and Billy are wrong about me, but I’ll take a bullet to defend their way of life as I’m sure they would supporting mine.
I was wrong about Brandon; I was also sixteen, young, selfis,h and stupid.
In 2016 those who would deny, suppress or kill someone’s love for another have no excuse and I’d say stupid would be a step WAY up.
I thought about how stupid I was at 16 and wondered how on earth some who claim to love their God can commit cold blooded murder on his behalf. I wonder how Donald Trump could brag about predicting another attack then hours later issue a more humane statement and not express his outrage or even mention the LGBT community then blatantly lie about the murderer being born in Afghanistan.
He wasn’t. He was born in the good old USA.
So was I and as far as I know most of the people at the Pulse nightclub, that night was born here also.
This was an attack on a lifestyle, an attack on America and an attack on freedom everywhere. Yes, it was all that.
It was also an attack on Frank, Ivan, Prism Comics and Andy. It was an attack on my friends. If you fuck with my friends, you fuck with me because unlike some people I know I stand with my friends no matter what.
No matter what.
If you don’t, soon they will come for you. They will because no matter who you are or what you believe in, you’re at risk. If you let this horror go then the next before long knowing you stand for no one but yourself, then those who disagree will know you stand alone.
Malcolm X said a man who will stand for nothing will fall for anything.
For me as a black man, this was one of if not the ultimate “where were you at when such and such occurred” moment.
When O.J. was acquitted, I was in the conference room at Motown. The Rodney King verdict in my office and (this is not a joke) I let all the white people on my staff go home early.
I was in bed with a five-alarm migraine praying for death or sleep, whichever came first. It was sleep and when it came it seemed to last about a second before my phone woke me. I ignored the call but soon it became apparent that was the first of many. My phone played my “wrong nigga to fuck with” ringtone so often I dreamt LAPD had arrested me again.
I picked up determined to destroy whoever it was.
“Prince is dead.”
My heart joined my head in unbearable pain. The same kind of pain I felt while at Xenon a New York club that rivaled the famed Studio 54 for a time where I was when John Lennon was shot.
I’m sure most people can remember where they were when something earth-shattering happened. However; can you remember where you were the day after the earth shook?
I can, for one day.
The day after John Lennon died I was in Barron Storey’s illustration class at Pratt Institute. Baron brought in a small organ then instructed the class to “create something moving” in remembrance of the slain Beatle while he played Beatles tunes.
Yeah, that happened.
On 911 I was in my Los Angeles home. Denys Cowan and I, both transported die hard New Yorkers, watched the news reports all day from separate houses, neither of us capable of hanging up the phone and driving the 10 minutes to the others home.
An Atlanta Hilton was my location when the news came about the first World Trade Center attack in 1993. My wife at the time had taken her class there on a field trip that very day. Somehow I knew when I couldn’t reach her she was there when the bomb exploded.
I was unable to book a flight home and spent one of the longest days of my life terrified. At 2 a.m. she called and explained how everyone had to shelter in place until they were escorted out.
All those events remain etched in my memory. Except the first WTC bombing, none nearly etched as deep as when Barak Obama won the Presidency.
Once again I was with Denys Cowan, but this time at his home. We were overjoyed, to say the least. As it turned out, so was the comic book industry.
To say the industry was supportive would be a massive understatement. There were special editions from Marvel, Image, Devil’s Due and Fantagraphics to name a few among the many. Hell, Alex Ross did a tee-shirt many of Hollywood’s A-list wore and damn for a time that shirt was as big as the ‘Hope’ image.
The comics industry embraced Obama with a passion.
Almost eight years, two terms and 96 months of crazy shit later it’s possible the polar opposite of Obama may be elected.
One of the traits shared by politics and comics are evil opposites.
There is always an evil counterpart to great heroes. It’s not hard to spot them they tell you who they are.
“It all fits somehow, his coming here to Metropolis. And at this particular time. There’s a kind of cruel justice about it. I mean, to commit the crime of the century, a man naturally wants to face the challenge of the century. – Lex Luthor
Now that we know who you are, I know who I am. I’m not a mistake! It all makes sense! In a comic, you know how you can tell who the arch villain’s going to be? He’s the exact opposite of the hero. And most times they’re friends, like you and me! I should’ve known way back when… You know why, David? Because of the kids. They called me Mr. Glass. – Elijah Price a.k.a. Mr. Glass
Two other great comic book foils, the Reverse Flash and Bizarro, were thorns in the side to their counterparts Flash and Superman. The Reverse flash is straight up evil I have no idea if he’s still around in whatever universe DC is entering or was around in the last universe or the universe before that. I know back in the day when Barry Allen was the Flash, the Reverse Flash was a great character and genuine evil bastard.
Bizarro isn’t evil, but he certainly plays a hazardous role.
Donald Trump is a bigger than life character. He’s great television I’ll say that. He may not be evil but he certainly is dangerous, and that’s not just my opinion it’s a lot of the globe’s as well.
The world, for the most part, was happy Obama became President of the United States. If the Donald becomes the next President?
Not so much.
From the New York Times, May 22. 2016:“Kenichiro Sasae, Japan’s ambassador to the United States, said about a possible Trump victory; “I don’t want to see that kind of United States.”
Itsunori Onodera, a former defense minister and a member of the Japanese House of Representatives, gave a lengthy list of what he characterized as Mr. Trump’s misstatements. “I don’t think there are any Trump supporters present here.”
The industry was so pro-Obama eight years ago, so I’m wondering if his opposite enters the White House race what if anything will the industry do?
It just seems if the comic book industry and frankly a lot of the entertainment world went SO buck wild over Barack Obama we should go “oh hell no!” at the thought of a Donald Trump Presidency.
Will unique issues be published showing Trump as evil?
Will Trump be featured with a wicked giant smiling grinning face on the cover of Spider-Man?
Will the Savage Dragon pimp slap the Donald?
Will he be depicted as more dangerous than Galactus? Will the Silver Surfer become his Herald sent to Mexico and the Middle East to make way for the Donald and his Ultimate Nullifier?
In Mexico, will he use the Ultimate Nullifier to make them build a wall to imprison themselves and pay for it with their pesos? Have to admit if Trump can make a country build a wall to keep their citizens in place that would be some awesome shit.
And if Mexico pays for what would be a standing insult and demeaning barrier?
If that happens, Donald Trump would be the ultimate pimp alas Trump fans. It will never happen. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. “it will never happen” is what most (including me) said about Trump’s road to the Republican nomination. Well, I was wrong, and it did happen.
The only real way one country can make another do its bidding is at the point of a gun. You think Trump is crazy enough to go to war so he can get that wall built? I do, but the American people won’t stand for it.
Then again, if he’s elected President talking the crazy shit, he’s talking now maybe they will.
But I digress. Peter David! Howthehellareyou?
What will the comic book industry do? Barack Obama may not be universally loved but people he’s a comic fan. That makes him one of us.
Will we do nothing?
There’s a saying: The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is that Good Men Do Nothing.
I am not naïve. I’m fully aware some see Donald Trump as a savior. Some see him as a confident business person and the future of America. I don’t see him that way. I see him as a very shrewd thoroughly convincing to some, egomaniac. Although I respect, everybody’s right to do what they want. As a person of color, I can’t under any circumstances support a homophobic, women hating, race baiting, KKK denying, violence inciting man who goes before the entire world and talks about his dick.
THIS IS A CNN SPECIAL REPORT:
AMERICA AT WAR!
The nightmare we thought would never occur has come to pass. America has dropped a nuclear bomb on Mexico. International reaction has been quick. The world has condemned our action. The United States of America has been kicked out of Nato as well as the United Nations. Forces are building against us, and all US citizens have been…wait a moment…we now take you to The Trump House where President Trump will address the nation.
“My fellow Americans, you know who you are. I love real Americans. Look no reason to be scared, there’s no way anyone will mess with us. Those reports of missiles heading towards us is as real as Obama’s birth certificate. The President of Spic Land, ya like that? I called it Spic land.
The President left me no choice in the matter when he insulted the United States of America. He told Anderson Cooper “Anyone who talks about how big his home is how much money he has and how big his penis is must be compensating for something.”
I hear from many many people he said his cock was bigger than mine. I told him to prove it, “Whip that tamale on out signor wetback and let’s see. If you don’t, you’ll regret it.”
He didn’t so I had to drop the big one on him. I only meant to get him but, well these things happen.
Donald Trump has used some of the very same tactics as Hitler. There are many, but I’ll just cite one, he blames a particular group of immigrants for our problems.
Most stood by and watched as Hitler proceeded to try to destroy several particular groups. Will it happen here? Can it? That, I admit is far-fetched.
On the other hand, is saying the first black President, vetted by the FBI, CIA, NSA is a Muslim born in Africa, but some guy found out on the internet that’s a lie.