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.
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.”
live the saviors of Motown.”
saviors of the entertainment industry!”
NAY THE WORLD!!”
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.
we were out of earshot, Denys stated; “GQ cover models? Yeah, right.”
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.”
moments later we were both on our knees before royalty chanting in unison.
” WE’RE NOT WORTHY.”
is a true story.
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.
among you believe the part about being on our knees before royalty chanting in unison?
WE’RE NOT WORTHY?
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
get that? RUTHLESS RECORDS.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
More than 20 years ago my swagger caused a rift between DC Comics and myself and that caused problems between DC and Milestone.
The pressure was put on Milestone to silence me. Silence me from what you ask? Calling DC Comics on their shit is what.
I gave up a significant income to concentrate on Milestone. DC was in breach of my deal, and as a result, I lived more than a year on my savings waiting for these people to pay me.
I did well, and my lifestyle conveyed that. My wife and I moved three times in just as many years. Our space got more luxurious until I found a loft, so dope (throwback slang it means fucking fantastic) thought I’d never want to leave there.
If Milestone wanted to impress anyone those meetings took place in my new loft. That lifestyle was not because of comics my principal revenue source was from my work as a mainstream illustrator and speaker.
It’s important to the story to remember my standard of living when I decided to be part of Milestone. Yes, I would take a big hit financially to follow Denys’ dream, and I did so willingly as did Christopher Priest, Derek Dingle, and Dwayne McDuffie.
Priest left for an editorial gig at DC. Derek, Dwayne, Denys, and I stayed. We all signed pay or play agreements. Simply put, DC would guarantee income to the Milestone partners to sustain their standard of living in the event Milestone could not. Denys, Dwayne, and myself would be paid for our creative work on the comics and not take salaries. In other words, my “salary” would be for writing and drawing Static, Denys’ income was for illustrating Hardware and creating the Milestone covers, Dwayne from writing Icon and Hardware.
In the event, any partners had to utilize our ‘pay or play’ option DC had the choice of assigning us to work or just writing a check. Hence the meaning ‘pay or play’ either way they had to pay us for something or nothing.
While still in development a young artist in my mentor program had gotten so good I suggested he draw Static. John Paul Leon’s unique style fit much better than my photo-referenced artwork. I was to move over to Blood Syndicate, that was perfect for me. I would still write Static but join Ivan Velez Jr. on Milestone’s super gang book, so both streams of income still in place.
Then walked in Robert Washington.
Robert was so much better than I for Static. His energy and ideas were simply incredible. I may have created the Static Universe, but no doubt whatsoever it was John and Robert’s world. Dwayne asked, and I readily agreed to let Robert do the first story arc.
My Milestone income was cut in half then cut to zero when the decision was made for Larry Stroman to draw Blood Syndicate. I worried not because I could always petition DC to use my pay or play and I did.
I never got paid, but DC did try to play me.
Unless you’re my wife or lover girlfriend or mistress fist date or Salma Hayek, you don’t get to screw me. DC tried by ignoring me for months the clear message was to make me leave.
Back in the day, I was sure DC’s problem with me was growing pains and after some time would be resolved. With the future in mind, I committed all to my role at Milestone and got to work
It’s more than fair to say I earned all that money DC didn’t pay Milestone to pay me. I worked tirelessly and was happy to do so.
Happy until I came home one day saw my wife sitting on the couch crying.
After years of telling her not to worry she allowed herself to believe we were not living beyond our means. That day she got a call from the bank she had bounced a check. I never told her about the Milestone money issue or how much less I would be making if. I had plenty of money in the bank and the pay or play so why upset her?
Just like that, it was a year later and that money in the bank all but gone.
My ex-wife is Cuban, first generation to be born in America. Her parents were wonderful, hardworking people who barely escaped Castro with their lives. They came here wanting nothing but a chance to give their children a better life in the greatest country in the world. I sat beside her explained what happened to all our money and promised to do whatever she wanted.
What she wanted was to leave the loft, which I LOVED but not nearly as much as her.
There were a million ways I could have kept that space. But I knew it wouldn’t matter if Ed McMahon showed up the next day with a Publishers Clearing House check for ten million dollars. To her, that loft was an extravagance we didn’t need.
The next day I told Derek Dingle to fix whatever fucking problem DC had with my deal. I was livid, and he knew I was a step away from calling those motherfuckers directly.
Derek resolved nothing; it got much worse.
It didn’t help voicing my indignation either. Doing so was putting Milestone in a less than ideal position. I was a pain. DC wanted me gone, and my three former partners were in no position to do anything but co-sign.
DC Comics got their way…or so they thought. When the word got around I was available offers came in from Disney Universal and Motown. I decided to go with Motown. But there was a hiccup. During my background check, a letter sent to Motown was meant to destroy my deal.
Business Affairs at DC sent a letter saying I was still under contract at DC. That was an outright LIE and sending that information was perhaps criminal. DC was given copies of my Milestone release which they happily signed off on it months before.
Knowing I had every right to negotiate with Motown, yet sending a letter stating I couldn’t, certainly looked unlawful. Illegal or not, that was an atrocious thing to do. Clarence Avant, then Motown’s Chairman of the Board, got the letter and phoned me, outraged.
The person who ordered that letter once again underestimated me. I assumed character assassination so my references were impeccable and all my contractual information was forwarded to Motown’s business affairs long before DC tried that shit.
Included was my release from Milestone. DC never paid a cent on my pay or play, they were in breach. Funny— it may have worked if they had not made my wife cry.
Why would DC and Milestone and kill my new deal if they wanted me gone?
Warner Bros. got wind of my Motown deal and sent a scathing letter to DC berating them for allowing me to set up a competing comic book company. After getting that rammed up his ass the power that was had to do something.
Let’s be clear CRYSTAL CLEAR. Yes, I just wrote that DC Comics tried to illegally prevent me from taking a position at Motown because of a directive from Warner Bros.
That’s slander if I can’t prove it. Think I’m worried?
Wondering why I won’t out by name the people at DC who disliked me so? What’s the point? They will never respond to anything, there is no upside for them to do so, and frankly, I’m not a cruel person.
Here’s the rub. I wasn’t going to do a comic book line. My deal was to develop film and television, but then someone at DC had to go and fuck with me. They put themselves in the position WB was pissed about.
DC is a different company now. I bear them no ill will. They were and still are my favorite universe.
Reggie Hudlin, Denys Cowan, Derek Dingle and myself decide to honor Milestone’s greatest partner Dwayne McDuffie and relaunch Milestone. On a late February evening Milestone, 2.0 (M2.0) was born. That date is crucial, and not just because of the partnership.
Milestone 2.1 announced to the world. Milestone is back! One of if not the biggest comic book stories of 2015.
I find out on that day I was no longer a part of it.
Since then, little has been heard. No press, interviews and no books.
I have no knowledge of the inner workings at DC or Milestone, nor has anyone at DC or Milestone ever told me ‘why’ I was excluded.
That said, here’s my two-cent conclusion.
Milestone 2.0, in my opinion, is dead for four reasons.
Except for Denys Cowan, comics are not a priority for the partners.One partner runs a filmed entertainment empire, the other oversees a mainstream financial news publishing juggernaut. You think making comics is more important than interviewing the head of the Federal Reserve or producing the most famous award show in the world? Of the four of us, only Denys and I would answer yes.Comics is where we live and dream and have all our lives. Denys and I were more than just fans of comics we chose that as our life’s work and pursued it. There’s a massive difference between the other M2.0 founders and us.That’s not a dig, that’s a fact.
The second reason Milestone is dead and why I wrote the events of 20 plus years ago is corporate bullshit like what happened to me. Someone at DC or Milestone is holding fast to a way of doing things and because of such everything stops until the problem is resolved or made to go away.Who do I think is holding up the deal by insisting things get done a specific way? Looking at the playing field, it’s obvious DC does not need Milestone that’s a fact. So much of the fact that DC just announced another push into diversity with Dark Matter.And the way they are doing it is gangsta.I may be wrong, but DC seems to be going after that diversity dollar with a wee bit of help from those who have come before and know how to do it.Lion’s Forge Comics has been vocal about their diversity for years. When Joe Illidge came on that kicked it up another level. Those in the know call Lion’s Forge ‘the Forge.’
In June 2017 DC releases, Dark Days: The Forge.
Most likely a coincidence as in the Dark Matter tagline: “Forged From Metal, the New Age of Heroes.”
The Black Age of Comics is the tagline for the East Coast Black Age of Comics and has been for almost two decades. It’s also the unofficial name for the movement within the Black comic space.
“Dark Matters” has a strikingly close ring to ‘Black Lives Matter. Now all of this is most likely coincidence.
You must admit it’s a little freaky.
What is certainly not a coincidence: Dark Matters is a major line with diversity at its core and Milestone isn’t mentioned anywhere. That’s a ‘we don’t need you’ if ever there was one, so it does look like the holdup is DC.
I don’t think so— for my money, it’s someone at Milestone and that brings me to number three.
Milestone has no infrastructure. There’s no central hub no office no staff. Two of the partners have nice big spaces they work from, with employees but the work done there isn’t Milestone unless something has changed since I was involved.Also, one guy is doing movies; another guy is running a magazine, and he’s doing that from New York. DC is in Los Angeles, so any face to face must wait until they are all available.Denys Cowan’s is the only person whose business is creating comics, but with no central Milestone infrastructure behind him and his partner’s crazy schedules, there is no way in Hell he can do all that needs to get the deal done by himself.
January 2018 will mark three years since DC and Milestone made that historic announcement. That’s a long time, right? No. Not really. Not if you’re making movies and putting out magazines. But to the fans?
It’s a fucking eternity.
It’s also not correct. Milestone 2.0 formed in Feb 2011. The first meeting with DC was a few weeks after that.
January 2018 will mark SEVEN years since DC and Milestone had their first meeting. My thoughts on why Milestone is dead is conjecture. Those dates are real, and yes that’s a long time.
But to the fans?
It’s a fuck you.
I don’t think any Milestone partners feel like that. But with silence from Milestone, it may seem so. I haven’t talked to Denys, but I know this is killing him.
Hell, it’s killing me.
The fourth reason I think Milestone is dead can also be the reason they don’t have to be.But that will have to wait until next time.
This past weekend a giant of entertainment left us. Chuck Berry was 90 years old, and I must admit I would from time to time wonder if Little Richard, Chubby Checker or Chuck were still with us.
I’ve not only had the pleasure of meeting each of these legends, I spent time with them. I worked in the music industry running the film and television arm of Motown Records for a click. Although a fantastic dancer and unbeatable in a lip-synch battle, I have no real musical talent, and at Motown I had almost zero to do with the core business.
Didn’t matter. Motown provided me access to anyone and everyone in the music industry. The music business can be very much like you see in TV and movies.
Sex drugs rock and roll complete with groupies’ wild parties and wilder people. What you see in the media does indeed happen, folks. Been there, done her, got video. I have, in my musical narrative, played many roles. What you may find hard to believe is this to some is commonplace and necessary to do their jobs.
I’ve seen a record company executive put coke on his expense account. I’ve done that as well, but my Coke came in a bottle. On occasion I’ve been cast as a witness-alibi-go between- victim-judge-jury-referee-bodyguard and bodyguarded. I’ve had some crazy days and nights.
None were crazy as when I met Chuck Berry.
I planned on telling that tale today, but as John Lennon kinda said, “life is what happens while you’re making up shit to stall so as not to write something that will tear your heart apart.”
This was to be the week I went back to running different articles on Bleeding Cool and ComicMix. I don’t like running the same article on both sites I tried running some articles part one here part two there and vice versa but neither Rich Johnston nor Mike Gold over at ComicMix said rather or not that was ok.
I like the idea of funneling readers between both sites. I think it’s a win-win, but I fixate on rather or not it’s OK and nobody wants to tell me it isn’t. Oh, I’m told who is not my bitch, but I’d better leave that be less I risk saying something that will not end well.
Yep. Still stalling.
If you’re wondering why I just don’t tell the Chuck Berry story, I don’t blame you.
That story is a perfect mix of real life craziness comics and return to the swagger that will inevitably invoke my haters on BC to chime in with why they hate me.
But as much as I like pushing people’s buttons to tell that story before I related this story would be inappropriate.
As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Bernie Wrightson died over the weekend. For my money, Bernie was just a big a star in comics as Chuck Berry was in music.
Swamp Thing #7 guest-starring Batman turned me on to Bernie’s work, and in turn, I took a significant leap in my education, and I do mean education when it needs it most in grade school.
I never wanted to draw like Jack Kirby even though I loved Kirby’s art. As a kid who loved to draw, I never thought I that I copied artists. When I would copy from comic books, I’d copy characters, not artists. It didn’t matter who drew it if the character was in an excellent pose that’s what my grade school mind was telling me I was copying.
When I discovered Bernie, all that changed and Batman swinging across the pages of Swamp Thing #7 changed it. I had to draw that way. I kept that book as part of my never trade and would kill you your mother sister father dog and cat if you even asked me.
When Ronnie Williams bullied me though 2nd and 3rd grade, I had finally had enough when he took my Fantastic Four # 73 in the 4th grade. I picked up a metal backed wooden chair and cracked him over the head with it.
If it had been Swamp Thing #7, he took from me my weapon of choice may have been the Saturday night special (a cheap handgun) my sister said I should use on Ronnie – jokingly. My mother acquired the gun to keep in the house after a series of robberies in our building.
She thought my sister Sharon and I didn’t know where she hid it. We knew, under the mattress along with the shells. Everything my mother hid we found.
Parents, that’s what kids do they find shit.Get a fucking gun safe.
I just want this fucking pain to go away, and anger may help, but I can’t get there from here so my apologies.
This article is as hard a thing for me to write as any tribute I’ve ever written.
Bernie’s artwork made me read comics that had no superheroes in it and by read, I mean read look at the words try to pronounce them and figure out what they meant. I was already becoming a decent reader from the horrible how the fuck do I spell ‘I’ student I was.
I was beginning to like reading, but all I liked to read were comics. Bernie’s work on House of Secrets which I sort out had no superhero in it.
Seeking out that book was dangerous and enlightening. I lived on Beach 58st in Far Rockaway Queens. I got my comics from a mom and pop store on Beach 51st.
There was another store on Beach 40th and one on Beach 77st. Yeah, that’s a lot of beaches. All stores were a quick bike ride away but only (B51) was in my hood. If I wanted to go to the others, I risked a beat down or worse my bike stolen.
So, I walked. Looking for more of Bernie’s art was well worth a black eye.
Nowadays you hop on the computer and you can find anything. Back in my day, I had no idea if there was even any other Bernie art out there. I had no clue what Swamp Thing was. I purchased the book because I saw Batman on the cover.
I mentioned Bernie’s art helped my education here’s how. My sister had a cheesy romance novel paperback which featured a cover font very similar as the title of the House of Secrets comic book.
I thought it was. Because there were no superheroes in the comic somehow my mind thought it was possible this featured some Bernie artwork.
When I discovered it didn’t and had no art at all, I did the unthinkable.
I read it anyhow. All I can tell you is my little mind was blown.
Who knew there could be that much adventure and excitement in a book where nobody was drawn? All I had to do was skip all the girly parts, and I had discovered a new love, paperbacks.
Then I found Conan in paperback no girly parts to skip over and Frank Frazetta on the covers. From there I began reading hardcover books and spent my entire first paycheck ($10 bucks working for my cousin) on a hardcover book, All in Color for a Dime.
Bernie started all that.
Denys Cowan and I were leaving DC Comics in 1988. We were going to grab a bite to eat. As we were departing in walks this guy. “Hi, Denys,” the man said. “Hey!” Denys said.
“Bernie, I want you to meet my friend, Michael Davis. Michael, this is, Bernie Wrightson.”
I lost what little mind I had.
Bernie was there for a meeting and was rushing. I did something I have only done three times in my life, and he was the first: I asked for an autograph.
I’ve met some of the most famous people in the world and only asked for an autograph three times. Each time I had something for them to sign. Jack Kirby signed a comic book, James Brown a CD cover.
I had nothing for Bernie to sign I didn’t care I just wanted something to remember the moment.
I didn’t get it.
Bernie apologized but was late for a meeting, so he ran in.
All though our meal Denys kept telling me what a great guy he was and not to worry I’d see him again yadda yada yadda. I was thinking; yeah… right.
I realized with a start while looking for something for Bernie to sign I’d left my portfolio upstairs at DC. I told Denys I’d be right back and hurried to get it. When I entered the office there by the statue of Clark Kent was my case and coming out of the door to the inner offices was Bernie.
There was a God!
“Hey Bernie!” The voice came from behind him calling him back.
And he hates me.
I grabbed my case left the reception area to wait for the elevator which quickly arrived with a ping!
“Hey hold it,” Someone said. I was in no mood to hold the elevator and make small talk with someone, and for a moment I considered being a dick but slapped the door to make it recede nevertheless.
“Here you go,” Bernie said with a smile. He reached in and handed me a sheet of DC stationary with his autograph and a quick ball point pen picture of Batman.
He then ran back into the offices. I never even got a chance to say thanks.
Bernie and I became friends over time and as such would grab a bite at a convention or a NY deli if we ran into each other in Manhattan.
As always, he would brush it off my gushing over him with sincere thanks but clearly didn’t think he was such a big deal.
Then I ended all of that and started to refer to him as simply Mr. Living Legend. I didn’t think he liked it, so I stopped.
The last time I saw Bernie was walking the SDCC convention floor with Wayne Brady. When we ran into Bernie, I introduced Wayne with a “Wayne, this is Bernie Wrightson.” Bernie put his hand on my shoulder gave me an affectionate squeeze and said “That’s Mister Living Legend, get it straight Michael.”
Wayne, who loves comic books said gleefully; “Yes sir, you are indeed a legend.”
A legend yes without a doubt.
Also an inspiration to a poor black kid the man he became and the one he hopes one day to be.
Today we celebrate the birthdays of two great Americans.
I realize for many celebrating on a day called President’s Day is now just a day to be off work.
The current President of the United States is all the reason some need to never celebrate on President’s day again. How can some support the racist comments and actions coming from the now leader of the free world?
No idea, but many seem embolden by these activities – including the hotel I’d thought was making a change for the better.
Maybe what’s wrong with America is we keep looking for what’s wrong with America.
I try to look at what’s right and work to make what isn’t so.
A bit over a year ago I was thrown out of a Hilton in Orange County California for what can only be a racist reason. I gave them the benefit of the doubt they would do the right thing and they did for a bit.
Then they stopped but before they did for my pain and suffering I got a tin of cookies, but that’s another story and I’m telling it very soon but not today.
Today I am going to celebrate the birthdays of two great Americans.
The first of the two great Americans I speak of is Dwayne Glenn McDuffie born Feb. 20, 1962.
Dwayne lived his life looking for solutions to problems such as what befell me and no doubt others at that Hilton. He was good a writer as anyone and better than most.
He was also a good friend and partner. I’m thinking of Dwayne today… but others as well.
The look of sadness on this man’s face when in 2011 I invited him to sit on the Black Panel at San Diego celebrating the incredible life of an amazing man his best friend Dwayne still brings tears to my eyes.
That’s why I’m thinking about Matt Wayne today.
When I saw that big and bad ass SUV in the Target parking lot, I had to do a double-take. I couldn’t believe that was Dwayne getting out of the driver’s side. When he first arrived in L.A, for months, I chauffeured that huge mofo around in my two-seater sports car.
Not only did he not have a car in a city you must have a car in he couldn’t drive so I was very surprised he was, but when I saw him open the passenger side door, I was even more surprised.
Stepping down from that monster truck bringing the biggest smile I’d ever seen on the big guy was his new bride.
That’s why I’m thinking about his widow Charlotte Fullerton today.
Because I know they are hurting badly now and will be tomorrow the anniversary of Dwayne’s death I bear no ill will on this day.
That’s why I’m thinking about Derek Dingle and Reggie Hudlin.
What he wrote in Entertainment Weekly was a tribute as great as I’ve ever seen.
That’s why I’m thinking about Joe Illidge today.
Then there’s the man who started it all.
I think how we spent the day of Dwayne’s funeral not bitter but better because we talked about just how Dwayne was more Milestone than all of us. The better wore thin when the pain returned. A pain he tries to hide but can’t, not from me.
That’s why I’m thinking about Denys Cowan today.
The other great American I celebrate today born Feb. 20, 1939, my mother, Jean Davis. Static’s mom, Jean Hawkins, was modeled after my fantastic mother.
With all due respect to the character, I created the comic book and the TV show. Jean has nothing on my mom.
I was eight-years old; it was Christmas Eve, and we were leaving Getz Department store on Jamaica Ave. in Queens New York. This little white girl darts out of the building making a beeline towards the street.
My mother grabbed her coat by the neck right before the bus that would have surely hit and killed her sped by us. The little girl fell on the snow-covered sidewalk and started crying.
My mother was rewarded with a punch to the back of her head. The father hit her and was about to kick her when someone screamed “She stopped her from getting run over by a bus!”
With that, he helped my mother up apologizing over and over.
No, he didn’t.
He bent down took his time fixing his kid’s coat while my mother lay there in the dirty snow while people walked past and over her afraid to stand up.
Later when I finally stop crying, I started yelling how much I hated that man. My mother put me to bed and told me; “Santa won’t come to a house with hate in it.” She would not have me hate anyone.
My mom took the hits when it came to her. When my sister or I were on the receiving end, she cared little for herself and would not let us be harmed or disrespected in any way. In the fourth grade, it seemed I was getting my ass beat daily. My teacher repeatedly told me to turn the other cheek. My mom said for me to deal with a bully this way; “Michael, the next time that big kid hits you, pick up something and knock him over the head with it. Make him respect you. ”
The something was a metal backed chair. The head belonged to Ronnie Williams. I could have killed that kid, I didn’t, but he stopped fucking with me out of respect.
Jean Davis and Dwayne McDuffie are not here anymore. They would not stand for what’s happening in this country to people of color nor will I.
If I did, that means they can and will do it again. Why not? Cookies are cheap.
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.
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
For me as a black man, this was one of if not the ultimate “where were you at when such and such occurred” moment.
When O.J. was acquitted, I was in the conference room at Motown. The Rodney King verdict in my office and (this is not a joke) I let all the white people on my staff go home early.
I was in bed with a five-alarm migraine praying for death or sleep, whichever came first. It was sleep and when it came it seemed to last about a second before my phone woke me. I ignored the call but soon it became apparent that was the first of many. My phone played my “wrong nigga to fuck with” ringtone so often I dreamt LAPD had arrested me again.
I picked up determined to destroy whoever it was.
“Prince is dead.”
My heart joined my head in unbearable pain. The same kind of pain I felt while at Xenon a New York club that rivaled the famed Studio 54 for a time where I was when John Lennon was shot.
I’m sure most people can remember where they were when something earth-shattering happened. However; can you remember where you were the day after the earth shook?
I can, for one day.
The day after John Lennon died I was in Barron Storey’s illustration class at Pratt Institute. Baron brought in a small organ then instructed the class to “create something moving” in remembrance of the slain Beatle while he played Beatles tunes.
Yeah, that happened.
On 911 I was in my Los Angeles home. Denys Cowan and I, both transported die hard New Yorkers, watched the news reports all day from separate houses, neither of us capable of hanging up the phone and driving the 10 minutes to the others home.
An Atlanta Hilton was my location when the news came about the first World Trade Center attack in 1993. My wife at the time had taken her class there on a field trip that very day. Somehow I knew when I couldn’t reach her she was there when the bomb exploded.
I was unable to book a flight home and spent one of the longest days of my life terrified. At 2 a.m. she called and explained how everyone had to shelter in place until they were escorted out.
All those events remain etched in my memory. Except the first WTC bombing, none nearly etched as deep as when Barak Obama won the Presidency.
Once again I was with Denys Cowan, but this time at his home. We were overjoyed, to say the least. As it turned out, so was the comic book industry.
To say the industry was supportive would be a massive understatement. There were special editions from Marvel, Image, Devil’s Due and Fantagraphics to name a few among the many. Hell, Alex Ross did a tee-shirt many of Hollywood’s A-list wore and damn for a time that shirt was as big as the ‘Hope’ image.
The comics industry embraced Obama with a passion.
Almost eight years, two terms and 96 months of crazy shit later it’s possible the polar opposite of Obama may be elected.
One of the traits shared by politics and comics are evil opposites.
There is always an evil counterpart to great heroes. It’s not hard to spot them they tell you who they are.
“It all fits somehow, his coming here to Metropolis. And at this particular time. There’s a kind of cruel justice about it. I mean, to commit the crime of the century, a man naturally wants to face the challenge of the century. – Lex Luthor
Now that we know who you are, I know who I am. I’m not a mistake! It all makes sense! In a comic, you know how you can tell who the arch villain’s going to be? He’s the exact opposite of the hero. And most times they’re friends, like you and me! I should’ve known way back when… You know why, David? Because of the kids. They called me Mr. Glass. – Elijah Price a.k.a. Mr. Glass
Two other great comic book foils, the Reverse Flash and Bizarro, were thorns in the side to their counterparts Flash and Superman. The Reverse flash is straight up evil I have no idea if he’s still around in whatever universe DC is entering or was around in the last universe or the universe before that. I know back in the day when Barry Allen was the Flash, the Reverse Flash was a great character and genuine evil bastard.
Bizarro isn’t evil, but he certainly plays a hazardous role.
Donald Trump is a bigger than life character. He’s great television I’ll say that. He may not be evil but he certainly is dangerous, and that’s not just my opinion it’s a lot of the globe’s as well.
The world, for the most part, was happy Obama became President of the United States. If the Donald becomes the next President?
Not so much.
From the New York Times, May 22. 2016:“Kenichiro Sasae, Japan’s ambassador to the United States, said about a possible Trump victory; “I don’t want to see that kind of United States.”
Itsunori Onodera, a former defense minister and a member of the Japanese House of Representatives, gave a lengthy list of what he characterized as Mr. Trump’s misstatements. “I don’t think there are any Trump supporters present here.”
The industry was so pro-Obama eight years ago, so I’m wondering if his opposite enters the White House race what if anything will the industry do?
It just seems if the comic book industry and frankly a lot of the entertainment world went SO buck wild over Barack Obama we should go “oh hell no!” at the thought of a Donald Trump Presidency.
Will unique issues be published showing Trump as evil?
Will Trump be featured with a wicked giant smiling grinning face on the cover of Spider-Man?
Will the Savage Dragon pimp slap the Donald?
Will he be depicted as more dangerous than Galactus? Will the Silver Surfer become his Herald sent to Mexico and the Middle East to make way for the Donald and his Ultimate Nullifier?
In Mexico, will he use the Ultimate Nullifier to make them build a wall to imprison themselves and pay for it with their pesos? Have to admit if Trump can make a country build a wall to keep their citizens in place that would be some awesome shit.
And if Mexico pays for what would be a standing insult and demeaning barrier?
If that happens, Donald Trump would be the ultimate pimp alas Trump fans. It will never happen. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. “it will never happen” is what most (including me) said about Trump’s road to the Republican nomination. Well, I was wrong, and it did happen.
The only real way one country can make another do its bidding is at the point of a gun. You think Trump is crazy enough to go to war so he can get that wall built? I do, but the American people won’t stand for it.
Then again, if he’s elected President talking the crazy shit, he’s talking now maybe they will.
But I digress. Peter David! Howthehellareyou?
What will the comic book industry do? Barack Obama may not be universally loved but people he’s a comic fan. That makes him one of us.
Will we do nothing?
There’s a saying: The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is that Good Men Do Nothing.
I am not naïve. I’m fully aware some see Donald Trump as a savior. Some see him as a confident business person and the future of America. I don’t see him that way. I see him as a very shrewd thoroughly convincing to some, egomaniac. Although I respect, everybody’s right to do what they want. As a person of color, I can’t under any circumstances support a homophobic, women hating, race baiting, KKK denying, violence inciting man who goes before the entire world and talks about his dick.
THIS IS A CNN SPECIAL REPORT:
AMERICA AT WAR!
The nightmare we thought would never occur has come to pass. America has dropped a nuclear bomb on Mexico. International reaction has been quick. The world has condemned our action. The United States of America has been kicked out of Nato as well as the United Nations. Forces are building against us, and all US citizens have been…wait a moment…we now take you to The Trump House where President Trump will address the nation.
“My fellow Americans, you know who you are. I love real Americans. Look no reason to be scared, there’s no way anyone will mess with us. Those reports of missiles heading towards us is as real as Obama’s birth certificate. The President of Spic Land, ya like that? I called it Spic land.
The President left me no choice in the matter when he insulted the United States of America. He told Anderson Cooper “Anyone who talks about how big his home is how much money he has and how big his penis is must be compensating for something.”
I hear from many many people he said his cock was bigger than mine. I told him to prove it, “Whip that tamale on out signor wetback and let’s see. If you don’t, you’ll regret it.”
He didn’t so I had to drop the big one on him. I only meant to get him but, well these things happen.
Donald Trump has used some of the very same tactics as Hitler. There are many, but I’ll just cite one, he blames a particular group of immigrants for our problems.
Most stood by and watched as Hitler proceeded to try to destroy several particular groups. Will it happen here? Can it? That, I admit is far-fetched.
On the other hand, is saying the first black President, vetted by the FBI, CIA, NSA is a Muslim born in Africa, but some guy found out on the internet that’s a lie.