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.
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