Category: Columns

UPDATE: Michael Davis victim of prank death hoax

UPDATE: Michael was hacked badly, with messages sent out to family and friends. He’s alive and well.

We are incredibly sad to report that Michael Davis, longtime columnist for ComicMix, committed suicide one day before his birthday.

We can list all his accomplishments in the comics field and go through his history and impact in the field, from his mentoring of numerous up and comers in the industry to his co-founding of Milestone Media and Motown Animation & Filmworks AND The Guardian Line AND The Black Panel at San Diego Comic-Con AND… but the best way to hope to understand and know Michael is through his words and his works.

There will be more to say later about him, but right now we’re too shocked to be coherent. Please, if you or someone you care about are considering self-harm or suicide, contact the Suicide Prevention Hotline.

We’re sorry we couldn’t have helped you more, Michael. Rest easy.


Black Lightning Gets It Right

As high-ranking executives at the most famous record company in the world, it was essential for us to project the utmost professionalism at all times. We talked in hushed tones nodding politely at staff whom, when we approached lowered their heads once pass the whispered comments began.

Denys Cowan and I were walking the halls of Motown Records. Denys had just joined me at Motown Animation and Filmworks as Senior Vice President. I was giving him the ten-cent tour of Motown’s brand spanking new offices as we discussed plans to take over the world.

“My god, they nodded at us.”

“We’re so blessed.”

“Long live the saviors of Motown.”

“Nay, saviors of the entertainment industry!”

“NAY NAY THE WORLD!!”

“WHY Y’ALL KEEP SAYING MY NAME?” Said, Nay Nay.

Nay Nay commented that we “Looked like GQ cover models.”  Denys was in Armani, I wore Boss— we both got a bit of a chuckle out of that.

When we were out of earshot, Denys stated; “GQ cover models? Yeah, right.”

“As if we would stoop that low,” I answered. “GQ would bow down before us, “he stated. “Damn Skippy.” was my reply. “Who do we bow down to, my good man?” That I said in my best English accent. Denys responded in kind, “Us? Why no one my good sir.”

A few moments later we were both on our knees before royalty chanting in unison. ” WE’RE NOT WORTHY.”

That is a true story.

Mostly.

All of the above happened except for the bowed heads savior talk whispered comments GQ model reference English accent etc. Denys was in Armani, I did wear Boss. I was giving him a tour of the new Motown offices he was starting work at Motown.

Who among you believe the part about being on our knees before royalty chanting in unison? WE’RE NOT WORTHY?

Really?

Y’all think Denys Cowan perhaps the most underrated yet still influential person to ever grace comics and Michael Davis may be the most undervalued personality in comics would bow down to anyone?

Y’all tripping. 

The rest of this narrative I assure you is all true…

Denys and I settled outside the executive suite studying some Al Hirschfeld originals. Motown has fantastic work from renowned visual as well as recording artists on their walls.

After a moment, we decided to say hello to our bosses— Jherl Busby, then Motown’s President and CEO and Clarence Avant, Motown’s Chairman at the time. Their offices were next to each other, and if we were lucky, we’d be granted an audience.

This is the real world, you don’t just walk into the offices of two of the most powerful men in entertainment no matter what you see on TV. We were met by Charisse Browner and Tomica Woods— guardians of the gate so to speak.

“Clarence isn’t in, and Jherl is with somebody,” Charisse said.  Jherl’s door was open, and we could see the back of someone talking to him but couldn’t make out who.

Tomica chimed in with, “I’ll check back with you later after I put you on their schedules” That was that. Denys and I were leaving when I happen to glance again in Jherl’s office, the man talking to Jherl’s had turned I could see him clearly now.

Royalty.

I tapped Denys on the shoulder and nodded towards the figure. When Denys saw who it was, he both looked at each other and knew what we must do, in doing so we would risk our lives.

Trying to get past one BLACK WOMAN you risk bodily injury we had to get past two. This was over 20 years ago— today Charise runs a serious media business, and Tomica runs Ruthless Records.

Y’all get that? RUTHLESS RECORDS.

The ladies sensed something was up by the stupid way Denys and I were eyeing Jherl’s guest. Before they could act, we bolted from our spot just beating Tomica into the office.

“WE’RE NOT WORTHY.”  “WE’RE NOT WORTHY.”  We shouted kneeling in front of one of the greatest filmmakers who ever yelled “CUT!”

The Duke.

Mr. BILL DUKE.

I did write “Y’all tripping” when I asked who believed Denys and I would do that, I NEVER said we didn’t. Hell yeah, we did. We did because we knew then just how badass Mr. Duke is. 

Most know Mr. Duke as a powerful actor, and he is that.

Starting with Car Wash where he portrayed fierce young Black Muslim revolutionary Abdullah Mohammed Akbar (formerly known as Duane). His acting work has graced American Gigolo, Commando, Predator, followed by Action Jackson, The Limey, Exit Wounds, Menace II Society, Bird on a Wire, Payback, X-Men: The Last Stand, National Security, Get Rich or Die Trying, Bad Country, and Mandy.

Many know the films he’s directed— The Killing Floor, A Rage in Harlem, Deep Cover, Hoodlum, The Cemetery Club, and Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. Those are just off the top of my head, there’s many more, among them his A&E Network original film, The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery. In 2007 he directed the reenactments in the award-winning, PBS-broadcast documentary Prince Among Slaves produced by Unity Productions Foundation.

Mr. Duke is a serious part of Pop Culture— I’m glad to say even if the general public isn’t aware of that, comic book fans are. Mr. Duke is the only person the Black Panel (TBP) at San Diego Comic-Con International has ever devoted an entire segment too.

That’s a big deal not as big as being nominated for the Palme d’Or France’s film honor, but a big deal nevertheless.

Ask the Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2014/jul/28/comic-con-black-panel-african-american-culture

There was quite a buzz at Comic-Con when Bill, (who couldn’t walk 6 feet before a fan stopped him) appeared on TBP. Comic book and fans of pop culture have great respect for Mr. Duke and know all his work well.

Most can’t name another well-known actor who’s acting work is as well-known as his directing effort. That’s part of why I love comic fans. We know our stuff.

If you want to know the influence of Mr. Duke among comic fans, ask any fan who delivered the line “You done f***d up, you know that don’t you?” They will know who. The general public may not know the man, but they know the line.

In my opinion, Mr. Duke’s pop culture star is brightest when you watch his groundbreaking films Dark Girls and Deep Cover and read his remarkable book Bill Duke: My 40-Year Career on Screen and behind the Camera.

This makes the casting of Mr. Duke as Agent Percy Odell in Black Lightning a genius move by the CW. That shows respect for Tony Isabella’s creation, respect for comic books and most importantly respect for fans of comics.

I’m often critical of how Hollywood treats comic book content, and its creators. Perhaps I should amend that to say Hollywood movie studios treat comics like crap because TV studios seem to do it right. That awareness makes me believe only the sheer stupidly of DC Comics keeps Static (Shock) off the air.

DC Comics: “You done f***d up, you know that don’t you?”

Note: Those of you who follow my writing know I don’t edit swearing, although I face a constant roar of those, who say I should clean up my act. I tried to defend it by pointing to writers who also use profanity and why it’s relevant in their work and mine still, the chants endure. Now I tell those who seek to PC my work to kiss my Simon and Schuster imprint.

No doubt you’ve noticed the *** instead of the word.  Before anyone gets very happy (or sad), I edited my words on the off-chance Mr. Duke will read this. He doesn’t much care for profanity unless the conversation story or narrative clearly calls for it.

I can’t debate that because like I said: when it comes to Mr. Duke, I’m still not worthy.

ComicMix beats Dr. Seuss; federal court has found fair use

Summary judgment at last we’ve received,
And our victory has been finally achieved.
The judge ruled at last that our book is fair use
And so we’re allowed to mash-up Trek and Seuss.
We don’t want to brag. And we will not gloat.
Allow us instead, to gratefully promote—
We thank the lawyer who brought sound defeat
To DLA Piper— we think Dan Booth’s sweet!
Michael Licari helped us out as well,
And Ken White lit his signal, which really was swell.
We thank all our backers who gave us their aid,
Which helped us to battle our legal crusade.
You all gave support as the motions dragged on,
Without you it’s impossible to have boldly gone.

The “Black Panther” Problem

Black Panther has seven Academy Award nominations.

Damn.

I saw Marvel’s game changer the first week it was in theaters.  I stopped going to movies during the first-week decades ago, but I know so many people who directly or indirectly had some input. I wanted to check it out asap.

Black Panther did something few movies accomplish becoming a pop culture “have to.”  Much like E.T., the question was “What did you think of Black Panther?” Not “Did you see Black Panther?” The film is a massive success, and frankly I have witnessed few pull off what this one did— namely, become a national conversation. 

And the original flick wasn’t bad either.

I enjoyed the movie, but my admiration was for the overwhelming effect it had on people, particularly Black people. Never in a million years did I EVER think a Black grandmother and I would be talking superheroes standing in line to buy popcorn.

Most of the older people of color I know regard comics as just for kids. This 80-year young woman first took her grandkids to see it with the intention of seeing another film while they were watching BP. Noticing mostly adults and a few kids, she decided to sit in to make sure it was age appropriate.

I met her at her second screening— this time, no kids. She had come with some from her church group. What she thought she knew about comics wasn’t new to me. 

  • She was amazed at the amount of Black superhero content out there.
  • Marvel Comics was the only comic book company she had heard of.
  • Superman Batman Wonder Woman were all from Marvel she thought.
  • DC was the District Of Colombia.

These beliefs play an essential part in comics diversity and the lack of such there seems to be, but I’ll cover that in “The Ugly Side Of Comics Part 3.”

The major takeaway was how happy she was that Black Panther would pave the way for Black Superheroes (read: Role Models) in the not too distant future. 

There is renewed excitement in the Black Comic community, some who likewise believe THIS is the moment for BLACK SUPERHEROES from Black creators.

What could be a better time with Black Panther nominated for not just an Academy Award but SEVEN, including BEST PICTURE? The expectations are growing that the hunt is on for the next Black superhero and for good measure it should come from a Black creator, so it’s authentic.

White guys can play in the Black pop culture space, but it’s not easy. Authenticity is key. As an example:

  • Eminem: Authentic
  • Vanilla Ice: Nope

Regardless of all this Black Panther buzz, it will never win Best Picture, and frankly, I don’t want it to win. Why? We are not ready as an industry for what would come, and I suspect neither is the Academy.

What would happen?

The planet would explode from the massive number of haters in America who see superheroes like the grandmother did, as kid stuff.

In all the articles on Black Panther nominations, I’ve seen the writers never fail to mention it’s the first superhero film to be nominated. The interesting thing about that is seldom did I see ‘first comic book’ film to be nominated. Another result of a comic book movie winning: producers would look to produce comic book movies that could also be nominated for prestigious awards.

Think Lobo staring Daniel Day-Lewis.

America as a whole still thinks about comics as they do the slinky toy—stupid and useless. Both good only to entertain those not old or smart enough to appreciate what real art is. Americans see reading as something they must do (I have to brush up on…) or want to do (…just want to lay in bed on a beach in front of a fire on a desert island, etc. with a good book). Comics have no place in either of those categories.

The Academy has faced all sorts of drama over diversity, and lo and behold, look at the Best Picture nods this year— three out of eight feature Black story lines.

Black Panther, BlackkKlansman and Green Book and another Black themed film If Beale Street Could Talk received three Oscar nods, including Regina King for the best-supporting actress. That’s not a coincidence by any means. Hollywood wastes no time when it comes to image.

Image, that’s one of the reasons Black Pantherwill not win Best Picture.

I liked Black Panther, but it’s not the best picture out of a field that also features Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Roma, A Star Is Born and Vice.

The odds-on favorite is Roma. I have not seen it and know zero people who have. Why this film isn’t in the Best Foreign Film category is beyond me— that aside, it seems the type of message film Hollywood likes to showcase as a way to cement their ‘fine art’ persona.

Black Panther won’t win because Hollywood wouldn’t knowingly take a cultural hit by defending a ‘comic book’ movie.

I think the film to beat is BlacKKKlansman. That sends a message that the Entertainment industry is diverse, and pimp slaps the Trump Administration as a bonus.

Sadly, I think those in the Black comic space waiting for Hollywood to make their creation the next Black Panther are wasting their time. More on that in “The Ugly Side of Comics 3.”

To recap:

  • Black Panther will not win Best Picture
  • The Industry isn’t ready if it does
  • Hollywood isn’t ready so it won’t

Now the good news.

This is a glorious opportunity to DEMAND from Hollywood the RESPECT comics deserve.

  • Credit on screen with the power players
  • Mention the creators in all press across all media
  • Industry involvement in charitable events
  • Hollywood support for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

There is a comic book property up for SEVEN ACADEMY AWARDS— now is the time we start acting like the creative genius’ we are.  Or we can go on complaining about silly shit. Shit that never leads us any closer to the promised land of respect.

Bill Maher is a prominent voice of common sense to some on the left and a bleeding-heart liberal to some on the right. Regardless of how you feel about him, there is no denying he carries a lot of media weight. You would think a guy as current and hip as Bill would know that comics can be serious literature. He didn’t know or didn’t care— regardless, his influence is vast and he thinks comics are juvenile tripe. He passed that along to his viewers. Since his first comments were met with a bit of anger Bill has doubled down when called on his stance.

Time Magazine thinks comics can be significant works of literature which is why Watchmen is on the Time 100 Greatest Novels list. Just click the smiley face and see for yourselves. Somebody get that info to Bill.

One last thing: last year a Marvel executive said, ‘Diversity does not sell.’ Black Panther features an all-Black cast begins in Africa ends in an African American hood is dotted throughout by Black inside jokes and has hard Right-wing haters.

Can’t get much blacker than that.

The film made a BILLION dollars in less than four weeks and is the biggest grossing superhero movie of all time.

Hey Marvel, diversity does not sell? Oh well, Black Panther may be a fluke.

How’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, working out for you?

Review: Oberon #1

You might already know that Aftershock Comics is on a roll. In just three years, they’ve won Diamond’s Publisher of the Year award (for publishers under a certain market share) and have pushed several properties forward to media deals.  It’s a publisher that seems to attract smart talent and then provides the support and freedom to create strong work.

Aftershock Comics’ tagline is “The Year of Reading Dangerously.”  That has the sense of urgency and the zing that the entire industry needs.  In fact, I’ve been hearing John Siuntres talk about Aftershock on his excellent Word Balloon podcast (Aftershock is a sponsor).  An interview with creator of Moth & Whisper inspired me to pick up a series I probably wouldn’t have otherwise, in fact.

One of Aftershock’s most recent debuts was Oberon #1.   The king of the fairies, Oberon, may be best known for his role in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream, but it turns out the character was a part of mythology long before that.  

This story is about the journey of a smart young girl, Molly, who is introduced to the world of fairies and finds an alternative to her humdrum life.  But all isn’t as it seems, as both Molly and the readers struggle to understand the truth and the reasons behind all the character’s seemingly-sinister motivations.

Writer Ryan Parrott weaves an adventure that has the threads of many tales.  But with his urgent pacing and true-to-the-ear dialog, he never lets the reader feel as if it’s simply a rehash of anything we’ve read before.

The art is compelling and fresh.  Serbian artist Milos Slavkovic employs a breezy, engaging style that propels the story along and is gorgeous to view. He’s not much on inky blacks, but his various line weights delight the eye. He offers a varied visual texture for fans who want to either rush through the adventure or just leisurely linger. It’s all evocative of Michael Kaluta, Walter Simonson and J.H. Williams, with a veneer of Terry and Rachel Dodson to give it all a silky smoothness.

Slakovic also provides innovative panel layouts, without being overwhelming. He also offers a lovely pallet of colors, especially leveraging a lot of purples, and oranges to set Oberon apart from the crowd.

Of note: Aftershock provides several pages of their next series, Stronghold, as a preview so it feels as if there’s a back-up story in this comic.   This marketing tool gives the whole thing a little more substance and value to the reader.

All in all – a compelling first issue. I’m a bit worried about Molly and will keep reading to ensure she’s all right. But I’m not entirely sure she will be.

To: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment; Re: “The Grinch™”

To: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Re: “The Grinch”

Dear U.P.H.E., we got your press release...
Afraid we can’t run it, thanks to legalese.
For as much as we might want to promote “The Grinch™”
The Seuss folks won’t budge here, not even an inch.
See, Dr. Seuss™ sent us a cease and desist
An action which, you understand, has us… peeved.
They told us, “Use any Seuss IP? No more!”
Not just Seuss/Star Trek mashups; Grinch™ hype too! Then... war.
They proceeded to sue us, making wild claims
of willful infringement, a charge that defames.

We're not sure that we’d want to, in any case,
assist making money they'll shove in our face
as they continue to file legal motions
and otherwise show very hostile emotions.

Our defense costs us thousands, and now you beseech:
“Please use your platform, extend Seuss's reach!
Help them make more moolah, which they’ll utilize
to stifle your speech so you can’t criticize!
Push their retelling! Please help us to coax!"
Their chutzpah is stunning. The nerve of these folks.

We don’t hold it against you, we know that it’s rough—
pushing “Grinch™” weeks after Christmas is tough.
We’d normally help; after all, ’tis the season
but we obviously can’t and now you know our reason.

If you’ve just heard about this suit, and if you think
that you’d like to contribute, please do! Here’s the link.

We’re now in the summary judgement last stages,
the judge has the filings with which she engages.
Our request for judgment should stand on its own,
the facts are all in, there’s no need to postpone.
Our motion is clear for the trained legal reader
although we admit that it’s not done in meter.
We think our case strong, we trust the judge concurs,
and fervently hope that our win she confers.

And to everyone following our long fair use fight:
Thanks for all your support... and to all a good night.

How I came up with the idea behind “Once Upon A Deadpool.” No, really.

“I’ll tell you the truth and its up to you to live with it.”
William Goldman, The Princess Bride

This week, I found myself at the center of an internet storm where every entertainment news site and blog I’ve ever heard of has been debating how I predicted the framing device (and selling point)  of the new ‘Once Upon a Deadpool’ recut of Deadpool 2, several months before the writers even wrote it. Little did anybody know at the time that all of my ideas involve kidnapping Fred Savage.

He might want to look into a restraining order.

Hello, I’m ‘Some Guy’, AKA ‘A Guy’, AKA ‘Some Bloke’ AKA ‘A Fan on Twitter’, A.K.A. Michael Vincent Bramley. I’m a comics writer and an artist from Queens and this is the strange story of how I spent my Thanksgiving vacation.


This all started in 2017 when the buzz on the internet was that if Disney successfully acquired Fox, then the beloved R-Rated Deadpool series may have to adapt for the PG market or possibly die. I personally love that Deadpool is R-Rated, but seeing as how I was raised on Deadpool comics and am acquainted with some of the talented people who have written and drawn for them over the years, I also know that a PG Deadpool definitely can work. It always has worked. There had to be a way to make it work for the movie version without betraying the current fan base.

These are just the kinds of thought experiments I occupy myself with when I’m bored.

The first idea that sprang to mind was to replace all of the swearing with absurd TV stand-ins, like the infamous ‘find a stranger in the alps’ line from Big LeBowski. The second (though not mutually exclusive) idea was to have Deadpool directly address the censorship by kidnapping former child star Fred Savage and forcing him to reenact his role in the classic 1987 movie ‘The Princess Bride’. This seemed much funnier, so I tweeted it at Ryan Reynolds.

I’m not sure what exactly possessed me to send that tweet. It’s not something I’ve ever done before. I don’t usually use Twitter. I barely know how. Most of my tweets are things I share from my instagram or my scarcely used blog, with the occasional retweet peppered in.

You know, a surprising number of strangers have been asking me, if I had the idea first,  why didn’t I make it myself? I really hate to say it, but they’re absolutely right. I really should have made a multi-million dollar PG Deadpool movie co-starring Fred Savage instead of sending a tweet to Ryan Reynolds. That one is on me.

My point is that ideas I can’t do anything with myself aren’t worth a whole lot to me. And for the many, many people who have tweeted at me about how you shouldn’t pitch creative ideas on Twitter, yep, I know. The way I saw it, I wasn’t so much pitching a movie as I was making a joke. When I have good ideas that I can actually use, I make them into weird independent comics for weird people who like comics written by even bigger weirdos.

This was just a thing that I thought was funny and because of how little I’ve bothered to learn about using Twitter over the years, I actually thought that by tweeting it at Ryan Reynolds, then maybe one or two of his followers would get a chuckle. Or that maybe he himself might see it and laugh. Maybe there was a Detective Pikachu’s chance in a Ground Themed Gym that it would go viral and that he or someone influential would see how perfect it was… and, of course, on some level that’s still the movie I hoped they would make, but I never really expected them to actually make it.

Then I took a Christmas shopping trip to a Michigan Mall and while I was hunting for Detective Pikachu merch (that I am now certain doesn’t exist yet), my wife (Alice Meichi Li) told me about a trailer on Youtube and my mind was fucking blown.

Watching it the first time was a truly surreal experience and I’d be lying if I said it was a good one. I got a sinking feeling in my gut as I tried to make sense of the matter. Four possibilities sprang to mind.

  1. Maybe Reynolds saw it and knowingly used it without telling me. Something that the law doesn’t acknowledge as plagiarism, but most of civil society would acknowledge as ‘a dick move’.
  2. Maybe Reynolds forgot he saw it and unknowingly copied it. It’s called cryptomnesia and it’s apparently fairly common among creatives (although that one could have applied as much to me as to him until I found from an article that he pitched the idea in May of ‘18).
  3. Coincidence. As unlikely as it seems, synchronicity actually happens. As an Englishman, I grew up knowing that there were two Dennis the Menaces. They both exist because the UK and US versions were released on the same day by two different creators in two different countries. They’d never met or had any way of knowing what the other was working on. It’s rare, but possible.
  4. Something with time travel. Just trying to cover all the bases here.

It might seem counter-intuitive since it’s exactly what started this mess in the first place, but I started tweeting at Ryan Reynolds again.

I started suggesting several different ways Ryan and I could settle things;

Other suggestions I made elsewhere included things like ‘Hugh Jackman’s phone number’, ‘a staring contest with Fred Savage’ or ‘plain old hand stuff’.

I also retweeted my original tweet and accompanying facebook post, then eventually went to bed.

The next day I woke up to a topsy turvy world where my name was in a SYFY article and then Newsarama and then Screen Rant and so on and so forth until a steady stream of strangers were tweeting support, rage and unsolicited legal advice at me. I watched the comments coming in and this formed a weird echo chamber of sorts where the people who thought that I should sue somebody and the people who thought I shouldn’t sue somebody convinced themselves that I was trying to sue somebody.

If I even had a case (I didn’t), I wouldn’t have the will, the energy, or the money to fight a legal battle against Disney, Fox, or Ryan Reynolds. I half-jokingly/half-seriously asked for things, sure, but I literally never even considered suing as a viable possibility.


That first Syfy article posited that this may all be part of a viral marketing hoax and by the time io9 put their article up it had developed into a full on conspiracy theory citing the timing of when I posted my Domino painting on Instagram as suspicious. By this point, none of this felt unsettling to me any more, it was just really fucking funny.

‘Lucky Me’ © 2018, look closely and you’ll find several clues as to the whereabouts of the holy grail.

On Thanksgiving, shortly after internalizing a metric tonne of Chinese food with my wife and her family and after I tweeted a disclaimer about how little interest I had in suing anybody, Ryan Reynolds slid into my DMs.

Deadpool Spider Man GIF - Deadpool SpiderMan Marvel GIFs

I’m not going to share what he sent me here, but I will say that it was a respectful friendly message where he acknowledge that they had come up with the idea independently seven months after I did and that yep, I’d gotten there first, but that no; he hadn’t and wouldn’t ever use an idea without permission.

I don’t know what the odds are, it seems incalculable, its like winning the weird lottery. But I guess that lotteries are won every week. And remember there were two Dennis the Menaces. These things can happen and it makes sense that if it were to happen to me, it’d happen with the film series that seems to have been tailor made for me in the first place.

We had a brief conversation, maybe I’ll have more to say on the subject down the line. I did ask if he would sign a photo of Fred Savage for me and we’ll see where that goes.

Since the last tweet I made on the subject didn’t inspire a dozen follow up articles and only a handful of Twitter users still want me to know that I’m a dickhead, I can only assume that things are getting back to normal now and that for the time being I can close the big Deadpool/Princess Bride book on the subject.

Besides, I don’t know anybody else who can say that the exact movie they asked for got made or that it profited a deserving charity in the process. And I’ll know that whether directly or indirectly, I really did crack the PG Deadpool code.

For movies. I cracked it for movies.

Michael Davis: Stan Lee – The Man Now And Forever

(In honor of The Man’s passing, Michael Davis asked us to rerun his column from last year. We are happy do to so. —Ye Olde Editor)

No Sex On The Good Ship Lollipop, part 3

From our last installment…

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

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

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

Together the three may have saved my ass.

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

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

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

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

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

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

She didn’t get the hint.

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

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

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

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

“Adah!!”

“What?”

“Ya wanna pick up that box you dropped?”

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

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

“I know Stan pretty well…”

Crash!!!

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

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

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

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

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

Those were the days indeed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I told Stan about the comic book reading program.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not true, I thought.

Stan will be with us forever.

Michael Davis: Confessions of An Uppity Negro, Chapter 1

From now on
These eyes will not be blinded by the lights
From now on
What’s waited till tomorrow starts tonight
Tonight
Let this promise in me start
Like an anthem in my heart
From now on
From now on 

Except from ‘From Now On’ written by Justin Paul & Benj Pasek

I am lucky
I am a con man
I am a fraud
I am uppity 

I AM LUCKY: 

“You’re very lucky to get even that.” The late Neal Pozner said that to me while handing me a ‘fill in’ job. It was a Captain Atom 10-page story an assignment given to me as part of my pay or play agreement with DC Comics while with Milestone Media.

Part of the agreement with DC was in exchange for devoting all our time to Milestone our standard of living would not suffer. If my Milestone income wasn’t sufficient, I could petition DC for freelance creative which they could provide or not. Either way, we got paid.

The word came back from Neal that no editor liked it and as such, they would not hire me. That’s when I knew the fix was in and I would never do work for DC again.

FUN FACT: I laid out thumbnail sketches but other than that I didn’t touch that job. John Paul Leon, Bernard Chang, and Charles Drost did the actual artwork.

“Frankly Michael, the word is that you’re not a very good artist.”

Nooooooo, John Paul Leon, Bernard Chang, and Charles Drost were not very good artists, and we KNOW that is bullshit. You may not be familiar with Charles’ work (Chuck to his pals) he’s a fine artist animation producer and director, but he’s as talented as they come, and everyone knows Bernard and John Paul are two of the biggest talents working in comics today. All three were part of my Bad Boy Studios.

So, yep the fix was in.

When Neal told me, no one wanted me because I sucked as an artist I wondered why on earth did they offer me two deluxe format projects and pay me well over a hundred grand before my name went the Moses route and was stricken.

DC: Let the name of Davis be stricken from every book and tablet, stricken from all comics cartoons stricken from every monument of the industry. Let the name of Davis be unheard and unspoken, erased from the memory of men for all time.

This surprised me because Neal and I were close until one day we just were not.  I met Neal at a Gays in Comics mixer at a convention. He came over shook my hand and said, “It’s not many straight guys in comics who would attend one of these.”  NO IDEA how he knew I was straight, but we ended up talking and becoming friends. After that, we would hang out together whenever we ended up at the same event.

When Neal died, I contributed his coldness to more substantial matters that affected how he treated trivial shit. He was a good guy I liked him nevertheless he was part of the DC Machine that was fucking up my shit.

I AM A CON MAN: 

“Michael, I see you’ve conned yourself into yet another rather nice deal.”

Bob Wayne said that to me at Comic-Con International in 1994. I’d just been named President and CEO Motown Animation and Filmworks. I went over to the DC booth to say hello to Bob. He was loud enough so all those within earshot could (and what I thought his purpose) would hear.

This REALLY surprised and hurt me because Bob and I were buddies until one day like with Neal we weren’t.

I gave Neal a pass-why? I liked him and ‘pay or play’ means assignment or not DC had to pay me.

They didn’t. But that’s another story, and here we were talking about Bob Wayne.

Yeah, Neal got a pass. Bob, on the other hand, did not because I was livid. When I returned from Comic-Con, I wrote a very detailed letter to Bob’s boss explaining how unprofessional Bob was and how I was offended.

Realizing Bob may have destroyed any opportunity to work with another influential entertainment company Bob’s boss fired him. That act so impressed me I licensed the entire Gerry Anderson catalog to DC for a dollar. Polygram was a sister company, and I was given Thunderbirds, Stingray, and Captain Scarlet among other properties to develop. Yeah. Bob was out of a job, and I entered into a publishing deal with DC that has produced the most successful Black character in DC’s history.

HA! That will teach anyone to fuck with me.

Then I woke up.

The publisher of DC didn’t even respond. He and Bob most likely laughed their asses off.  OH, wait a sec, you’ll don’t know Thunderbirds, Stingray, and Captain Scarlet was among the universes I had dominion over?

I AM A FRAUD: 

At the very same convention that Bob Wayne thought he had dominion over me, I ran into Howard Chaykin. Howard was a friend who I idolized when younger.  Not just because of his fantastic work his badass take no prisoner attitude had a significant influence on me

His reaction when I told him the news of becoming President and CEO of Motown film and TV. Hell, he was a friend— what do you think he said to me?

“What? But you’re a fraud!”

Well, I thought he was a friend.

I AM UPPITY:  

“You get in people’s faces.”

“You’re loud.”

“Who do you think you are?”

SOOOOOO many people pros and fans alike have said the above to me and MUCH MUCH more.

Howard Chaykin invented getting into people’s faces. No one is louder than Todd McFarlane.

Who do they think they are?

I’m willing to bet those guys don’t get questions on their pedigree.

There are two distinct differences between Howard, Todd and me.

  1. They are way more well-known than me.
  2. Really? Do I have to say it? OK, I will, my dick is bigger, and I can dance. (watch some idiot not get the joke)

Now there are those will say they are more accomplished than me.

Maybe.

Maybe not.

Depends on how you measure accomplishment.

Now would be a good time to tout my resume. Nah. Not gonna do it. I’ll just ask is there a Howard Chaykin auditorium somewhere or do they only give those to frauds?

Just askin’.

Here’s my question-what gives anyone the right to call me a fraud when they have no fucking idea what I’ve done? Or call me lucky when made aware something I’ve done?

Or say:

“You get in people’s faces.”

“You’re loud.”

“Who do you think you are?”

All that my friends are code for uppity, short for Uppity Nigger. Fraud? That’s when people have no respect for you. I can’t explain why Howard said that to me and that shit HURT. What did I say?

Not a damn thing.

I’m nobody’s bitch I’m not afraid of Howard but he may have forgotten the snowed in night at UP START STUDIOS when he spent a great of time giving me advice and showing real concern.

It was just he and I from around 9pm until well after midnight. This stands out as one of the best memories of my best memories because all the time he was talking to me he was inking AMERICAN FLAGG.

FUCKING WOW.

He may have forgotten, I haven’t.

So, no I didn’t say a word.

There’s a company that took their objection to my swagger personally. I say company because when the little bitch who started it all left the company, I thought the stupidly went with him. I just found out it didn’t.

This asshole produced a document that is so damning he thought when I signed it he had successfully killed my career. Why would I sign such a document?

Because MY lawyers who come from one of the most powerful law firms on the planet say it’s unenforceable and those who produced it were fools to do so. It shows an absolute bias against me.

Right now, the punk ass bitch who put this shit together is thinking ‘statue of limitations’ That would be a concern if I signed outside of those limitations.

What, me worried?

It’s not like I had called the character Tyrone Cash Super Nigger. Cash was a brilliant black scientist who gains the powers of the Hulk, KEEPS HIS INTELLECT, then decides to give up his job as a brilliant scientist TO BECOME A DRUG DEALER.

He solved a problem that Dr. Doom, Reed Richards, Hank Pym and every other big brain in the Marvel Universe couldn’t. That makes him the smartest person in the Marvel Universe. That means the most intelligent BLACK person in the Marvel Universe thinks being a fucking DRUG DEALER is a worthy endeavor.

This idea was created by superstar creator Mark Millar.

It’s not like I called Mr. Millar’s creation ‘Super Nigger.’ THAT would be a reason to worry.

Shit. I did call Tyrone Cash, Super Nigger. But Mark, if you’re reading this, don’t get mad. It’s not like I called you a fraud or asked who you think you are.

BTW-does one stupid character negate your other work?

No. You’re still a brilliant writer, but TC is as FUCKED UP as FUCKED UP can be.

But (HOWTHEHELLYOUDOINPETERDAVID?) I digress.

Am I worried about outing the nincompoops who think they have the right to treat me like my name was Toby?

Nah.

I’m looking forward to their explanation. Then they can also explain why they produced that document AFTER two employees SWORE I’d called their company racist. Funny thing about that those representatives of this massive entertainment corporation. They were not mistaken, they were not wrong they were not incorrect.

They were LIARS.

It was a setup. Yes, I’ve got proof and so does Ropes and Gray.

Explain THAT.

Why am I dealing with this at all when I let it go for so long?  Truth is this isn’t the first time I’ve written about these things— this time it’s different because I made a promise to my cousin Regina a few months ago.

After reading my articles for the last 25 years, she noticed I’m no longer ‘getting in people’s faces when they fuck with you.” She also noticed I’m not happy nor am I, “Being the badass take no shit from no one we all love and shake our head at.”

She said it was my duty to show young kids of color if wronged bring attention to that wrong. People always want Black men to show their papers we both agreed that was still a problem, if not you’re a fraud or lucky and if you’re confident about your ability, you’re uppity.

Regina was my biggest fan, she was family.

On the one-year anniversary of Len Wein’s death, before I could post my article marking that sad occasion my beloved cousin, Regina Keesley passed from this earth.

I made a promise to Regina that I would no longer tolerate those who question my intelligence or doubt my resume.

OR are stupid enough to FUCK WITH ME.

Ice Cube said; “I’m the wrong nigga to fuck with” and so am I.

I’m off to NYC for Regina’s service. I intend to tell her face to face I’m gonna keep my promise.

Funny, I’m going to show some folk my papers, just not the ones they expect.


I’m trying not to duplicate what I write. Bleeding Cool, ComicMix, and Pop Culture Squad have all run the same article at times. Not my intention— I want each entity to have exclusive content from me.

This article is exclusive to ComicMix.

I’m writing a series of articles called “The Ugly Side of Comics” at Bleeding Cool. I see “Confessions of An Uppity Negro” as a sister series but as original to ComicMix as “The Ugly Side of Comics” is to Bleeding Cool. I hope to start a series at Pop Culture Squad soon. Working title “Not Me.”

—Michael Davis  
LAX, 9PM, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2018 

 

The Law Is A Ass #438: Stu Went Looking For The Old Bailey

TV or, not TV, that is the question. The answer is TV.

I know, I’ve spent the past five columns writing about a TV show and not comic books, and also four out of the five columns before that doing the same. But sometimes these TV shows are just asking for it.

Like “By His Own Verdict,” the November 15, 1963 episode of 77 Sunset Strip. Okay, most of us weren’t even born when this episode first aired. And those of us who were – like, gulp, me – couldn’t shave yet. But the law involved in the story hasn’t changed in the almost fifty-five years since the episode aired. In fact, it’s been the law since 1910, which is before all of us were born. So the topic is still topical, even if it’s not timely.

Joseph Cotton played Arnold Buhler, a criminal defense attorney who was about to retire. His last case was defending Max Dent, a petty criminal played by Nick Adams who was on trial for murder. Right after the not guilty verdict, Max verified that because of the Double Jeopardy Clause of the 5th Amendment, he couldn’t be tried again for the murder. Then he told Arnold that he was guilty; he killed the man.

All of this took place in the teaser, before the opening credits. In my day, people wrote compressed stories that weren’t being padded for trade paperbacks or season-long story arcs, things actually happened. And they happened faster than a frat boy’s Friday night dash to the toilet bowl.

Arnold was upset. He had prided himself on being able to tell whether a prospective client was guilty or innocent and only representing the ones who were innocent. Max not only blemished that record but that also meant Arnold was complicit in a miscarriage of justice. So Arnold hired private investigator Stu Bailey to investigate and try to determine whether Max was truly guilty.

Stu took the case but without the usual aid of the other members of the 77 Sunset Strip team. This was an episode for the 6th season, after Jack Webb took over as producer, decided the show needed to be film noir rather than light-hearted action adventure show, and jettisoned everything that made 77 Sunset Strip 77 Sunset Strip except for Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. and the title. And the title didn’t even make sense any more. Stu’s office wasn’t on the Sunset Strip, it was in the Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles.

While Stu was helping his friend from America’s Old Bailey, we viewers were hoping what Stu would really do was find the old Bailey. Alas and alack, that was not to be. Instead of classic 77 Sunset Strip, we got a muddled story that suffered from a loss and a lack of legal accuracy.

Before Stu had finished his investigation, Arnold began, for want of a better word, stalking Max. No, not for want of a better word; there is no better word. Arnold was stalking Max. Following him around. Bothering him. And finally, hinting that he wasn’t glad to see Max, that was a pistol in his pocket. Arnold told Max that while Max couldn’t be tried in a court of law again, he could be tried by Arnold. Arnold would be Max’s judge, jury. And executioner.

Meanwhile, Stu learned Max was as irredeemable as a book of expired Green Stamps. So, just in time for the fourth act, Arnold announced he had reached his final verdict and went looking for Max.

Arnold found Max in the train yards. Max ran. Arnold chased him, usually with his hand in his pocket where the gun was. While Arnold and Max were playing Hide and Seek, Stu and Marty Kline, the DA who prosecuted Max, were looking for Arnold to stop him from killing Max.

As the doctor in the Myanmar epilepsy ward said, that’s when the fit hit the Shan. Max, after pleading with Arnold to stay away to no effect, pulled out his own gun and shot Arnold. As Arnold lay dying in Stu’s arms, he explained that he had set the score right. Arnold goaded Max into killing him. But Arnold didn’t really have a gun, so Max couldn’t claim self-defense. Max had murdered Arnold. Now Max could be prosecuted for murder again, just a different murder.

Marty the DA lamented to Stu that Arnold wouldn’t get the result he had desired. As Arnold had provoked Max, the best they could do was prosecute Max for manslaughter, not murder.

Bob, the former public defender, lamented that self-defense law must not be on the curriculum in California. Because neither Arnold nor Marty had the slightest idea how it worked.

A person may defend himself when he has a reasonable belief that there is an imminent threat of physical harm to his person. In defending himself, the defender may use the same amount of force being used by person against whom the defender is defending himself. Max reasonably believed Arnold was chasing him with a gun and was going to kill him. That’s what those of us who know how self-defense actually works, call deadly force. Because Max reasonably believed Arnold was going to use deadly force, Max was entitled to use deadly force to defend himself against Arnold.

But, wait, Arnold didn’t have a gun, so he wasn’t going to use deadly force against Max. Doesn’t that disqualify Max from asserting self-defense? Do you really think I would have wasted all these column inches, if the answer to that were yes? If the person has a reasonable belief he is in danger of being killed, he may assert self-defense, even if he is, in fact, mistaken in that belief. Like I said, that’s been the law of the land since at least 1910. Probably longer.

In order to goad Max into killing him so that Max could be prosecuted for his murder, Arnold spent a good part of the episode convincing everyone, especially Max, he was going to kill Max. Max had a reasonable belief Arnold intended to kill him. Meaning Max had a right to use deadly force to defend himself, even though Arnold never actually intended to use deadly force. Max didn’t commit murder or even manslaughter. Max didn’t commit any crime at all. Nick Adams might have been guilty of overacting a bit, but Max, he was as innocent as Dr. Richard Kimble, Jason McCord, and all of Perry Mason’s clients. Combined. (Wow, I really have to kick this fixation on old TV shows.)

Arnold, you knew less about the law than a first year student at the worst law school in the country. And because of that, like Narcissus withering away by that pool of water, you died in vain.