This past weekend I saw Spider-Man Homecoming with my friend Chap. We went to the theater right by us early in the afternoon on Saturday. It was the best experience I’ve had seeing a Spider-Man movie in theaters since I saw Spider-Man 2 with fellow ComicMix writer Arthur Tebbel back in 2004. That was thirteen years ago.
So much of what makes this movie work is Spider-Man himself. Tom Holland (no relation to Alec Holland, a.k.a. Swamp Thing) manages to nail playing both a boy with a superhero physique with enough awkward mannerisms to make it totally believable that he would be perceived as big nerd even by nerd science school standards. He handles the social anxiety and doubt of a teenage Peter Parker better than just about anyone else I’d seen play it or write it. Tom Holland approaches the character with a neediness, desperation, love, and affection that really elevates Spider-Man into being a character that’s unique in this overcrowded superhero landscape which should help make this franchise stand out in future movies. I imagine Tom Holland will also be getting a lot of offers to play roles that Michael Cera would have been offered ten years ago.
Michael Keaton is a stellar villain here, and after Kurt Russell in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 shows a course correction on Marvel’s part in terms of making better villains. This has been one of the shared universe’s weakest points. Keaton elevates a silly, gimmicky comic book villain into a character with nuance and strong motivation. The downside here is that if you want to go read a comic with a good Vulture story, good luck finding one as good as this.
Many of the background characters were people of color, which was very refreshing. Peter’s best friend, his love interest, Flash Thompson, the high school gym teacher, the principal, Shocker and many others were non-white. These movies need to do this more often in order to keep them fresh and timely. Yes, not all of these characters were nonwhite, but many of them were created fifty to nearly eighty years ago and the times they are a changin’. They also gavespecial thanks to Dwayne McDuffie in the credits, as he created Damage Control. I made it a point to look for his name.
Needing more of a Spider-Man fix this weekend I took my copy of Kraven’s Last Hunt off the shelf and read that as well. It’s a very different kind of Spider-Man story; the exact opposite of what was offered in Spider-Man Homecoming. The optimism was replaced with cynicism, the love and affection coming from Kraven in his own sick way as Spider-Man, through the fate of circumstance, is reduced to a damaged shell of his former self; at least for a time. The stakes are higher and the villains more lethal.
Kraven’s Last Hunt is a thoughtful work exploring life, depression, and how we move past trauma. It’s one of my favorite Spider-Man stories, but in part because of how untypical it is for a Spider-Man story. If the character went down that direction more often, it would lose its impact. While it’s a darker place, it’s the kind of story I do think this new Spider-Man movie franchise could tackle towards the very end.
I know that I was saying earlier how this movie makes Vulture a more interesting villain than he typically is, but in all honesty, the most depressing thing that comes from watching Spider-Man Homecoming is that no Spider-Man story is like it. If you weren’t reading the comics and now you wanted to, I cannot recommend a single Spider-Man comic that feels the same way. The closet might be Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man which will always have a special place in my heart for bringing me back to Marvel Comics, but even then it’s much different.
You like Ned? Too bad! You like Liz? Oh well! Do you like this Flash Thompson? Go somewhere else! Does this Spider-Man speak to you more than any others you’ve seen in the movies or on TV? Sorry, but you’ll have to wait until the next movie because he’s not like this in any of the comics.
I really love the character. I want to love the comics so badly. I haven’t liked the comics in years. In many years. It saddens me that a character I grew up loving so thoroughly and was excited to talk about and get immersed in through comics and games as a kid has so thoroughly alienated me. The character has been diminished through clones, copycat characters, alternate universes, gimmicks, clumsy resets, body swapping, and moves to go backward instead of forwards.
I know some people are enjoying the current Spider-Verse and I’m glad they are. Not every comic should be written for me. However, after seeing Spider-Man Homecoming I have some hope that maybe, just maybe, the comics will restore some of that magic that’s been lost over time in the same way that Tom Holland showed me that Spider-Man is still spectacular.
I was always trying to impress at Milestone. I tried to impress a lot of people in those offices back then, but Dwayne was the one hardest to impress, who gave the fullest most reassuring responses when he was impressed.
As noted by his wife Charlotte, if you could get him to laugh or be impressed it was like you’d single handily flown to the moon under your own power.
He was also up for that sort of mental/creative back and forth. He was game. Not everyone could do that. Very often he’d allow anyone to pitch a thought just to help you walk through the logic or lack of logic likely to result in acting out your thought.
Sometimes these were squarely related to comic books. Something I painted in Icon, for example. Or the story idea one of the production crew brought to him. Sometimes he’d entertain social philosophy, and very often he’d allow the most outlandish suggestions of physics; quantum and basic. To that point, it makes me smile to remember the time I was certain that based on simple physics (and probably way too much Captain America comics and kung-fu movies) I thought that I could run, football running back style, and knock Dwayne out of my way.
Dwayne stood at 6’6” and weighed around 260 lbs. At that time I weighed 141 soaking weight and was more than a foot shorter than him.
The conversation on the topic of who could stop who went back and forth. I played high school football and felt that give me some authority on the topic. Dwayne did too, and I didn’t care. Ah, youth.
Eventually the talking about tackling had run its course. Dwayne offered to let me prove myself wrong.
We stood in the offices of Milestone Media, in the bullpen, having this debate. Around us were desks, a couch, and many drafting tables were the production crew applied word balloons, designed cover layouts, interns tried to look like they weren’t uncertain about something, and editors either sought a clear head or coffee, or both.
And before you could say “hike,” Dwayne and I were in that bullpen, both getting down into three-point football stances, squaring-off at about two or three feet of distance from one another.
The fact that this happened isn’t so remarkable for a comic book company. Stranger things by far happened at Milestone and elsewhere. What still fills me with joy, besides the fact that Dwayne made sure not to break my clavicle or do anything else easy for him like drive my head into my chest cavity until it burst out somewhere else, is that he was game.
He was wearing one of those suits – I think it was one of his tan ones – with a tie, and those tinted prescription glasses! In a suit, with loafers, and he was in a three-point stance on a heavily lacquered office floor squared off at someone who by comparison would fairly be described as a mental and physical midget. It was fantastic.
I didn’t know him until I was 20 and I got to be on his staff and then his friend for almost that long. He still inspires me to be game for anyone willing to be bold and enthusiastic despite how foolish the thought may seem… or be.
I’m so grateful. I’m happy for your birthday everyday Dwayne. Thank you.
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.
I was 16, coming home on the subway from a party in Manhattan. It was 2 or so in the morning, and I was on the A train. Regardless of what romantic notion you may have of the A train because of Duke Ellington’s immortal song “Take the A Train,” that train is the last place you want to be at 2 in the morning.
What took my situation from bad-to-worse, the A train is (or was, this was 30 plus years ago) a local at that time in the morning. For those of you who deprived of the sheer delight – or utter dread – of an NYC subway ride, a local train stops at all stations on the line.
No matter where I boarded, I was going to the end of the line.
The “end of the line” on the A train on two occasions was not just my destination, but nearly a bad New York Post headline. One night while waiting for the A train I was stabbed during an attempted mugging. Another time while trying to defend a young white girl some thug put a gun to my forehead, pulled the trigger, but his gun jammed.
For asking him to be cool, I almost get shot in the head.
Take the A train? No. The Duke, a musical genius? Yes. Giver of great advice? No.
On this particular early morning, I was sitting alone with my feet up on another seat. My feet were up for a couple of reasons; the first was so I could look hard. Hard in a “do not mess with me because I’m hard and may have a weapon on me because I’m hard” kind of way.
The second reason my feet were placed on the seat next to mine was to discourage people from sitting there. Before the Rudy Giuliani era in New York, the subway was a Mecca for the homeless, and you don’t want a New York City homeless person sitting next to you.
After all these years I’m now a bleeding heart liberal, and I feel for those less fortunate than I. These days’ homeless people sadden me.
That’s these days.
At 16 what I felt for the homeless was an evident scorn. I may have felt that way because my mother, sister and I were truly just a grandmother and a paycheck away from being homeless ourselves. That perhaps hardened my heart towards homeless people. Maybe I didn’t want to be reminded that there for the grace of God go I… yada, yadda, yadda…bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, yadda, yadda and yadda.
I’m not that deep now, and I certainly was not that deep at 16.
The real reason I did not want a homeless person sitting next to me is that they stank.
You have not smelled stank until you smell an NYC homeless person. The smell is beyond horrible. Somehow NYC homeless people all manage to stink the same. The smell is indescribably bad to the point you’d almost rather die than get even a small whiff of it.
So, there I was, 16 years old at 2 in the morning riding the A train trying my best to look hard so a smelly homeless person would not sit next to me and force me to deal with my mortality.
At the Howard Beach stop a black man in his mid 20s boards the train. He made a beeline right to me even though there were plenty of empty seats. “Can I sit here?” He asked very nicely. I moved my feet so he could sit down. Frankly I was glad he asked because the train was waiting at the Howard Beach stop for some reason or another and since we were the only two black people on the train at that point I welcomed the company.
Howard Beach was known as hardcore crazy white boy territory during the time I grew up. In 1986 a young black man was beaten to death by a mob of white boys in a racially motivated attack. There have been incidents before and since. Black people knew not to mess with those crazy white boys in Howard Beach and not just because of racist attitudes there.
Howard Beach was also the home of John Gotti, the then-head of the Gambino crime family. I don’t like fish, so the idea of sleeping with them was not one that appealed to me. This was a place where African Americans had better fear to tread. I did indeed welcome this guy’s company because clearly we were on enemy ground.
Brandon was his name, and we clicked immediately. That may have been because we were both keenly aware that any minute a gang of crazy white boys could board the train and lynch us both. Our getting along so fast, I’m sure, was due to the fact we wanted to present a united front. Both hoping that would give the illusion we were two badass motherfuckers and any lynch mob should think twice about harassing us, strength in numbers and all that.
We sat at Howard Beach for another quarter hour when the doors finally closed and we could relax a little. The next stop was Broad Channel. Broad Channel was not nearly as bad as Howard Beach – it was more akin to crazy white boys lite, but still crazy white boys.
I realize I’m throwing “crazy white boys” around a lot. Back when I was 16 “crazy white boys” were my mindset and referring to white people in an all-white neighborhood where black people feared to tread was how I saw things.
After Broad Channel was the beginning of the hood, so Brandon and I needed just to chill (chill means just to be calm, but you knew that from reruns of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, didn’t you?) until the perceived danger was past. Broad Channel came and went as did our gangster conversation.
Brandon asked where I was getting off, and I told him. Beach 60th Street. “You want to come hang at my house?” Brandon inquired. That made me a bit uncomfortable. The Howard Beach threat over, I now returned to my general suspicions of those not from my hood.
“I’ve got stuff I’ve got to do at home,” I said. Yeah, I had to get into my bed and give the impression that I was home all night before my mother got in from working the midnight to 8 in the morning shift at the nursing home this after she had the 3 in the afternoon to 11 at another job. She would be in no mood to lecture me or even hit me, after her 16 plus hour day she would go straight to the .38 and shoot me.
I couldn’t come out and say to Brandon “my mommy would kill me if I’m not home” that did not fit my hard-core persona.
“Come on. We can have some real fun.” Brandon said, his hand now on my leg. That hand was slowly but steadily creeping up. He seemed to be talking in a much softer voice and was smiling in a strange way.
Where had I seen that kind of smile before? Shit, I know where! I’ve seen it on me whenever I happened to glance in a mirror while alone in my room with some Vaseline and a Penthouse magazine.
Now I get it!
Brandon was a faggot and he wanted to ravish my young sexiness. Yeah, I said the ‘F’ word, I was 16, remember? Unfortunately, that was my mindset then.
Brandon still had his hand on my leg, and it was still creeping up. “What the fuck are you doing?” I said, trying to sound real hard. I wanted to look thuggish, but I was scared, so my voice rose and I sounded like I girl.
Not just any girl. Shirley Temple. So, imagine Shirley Temple saying “What the fuck are you doing?”
“Come on; it’s cool.” He responded even more softly than before. “Get your motherfucking hands off me, faggot!” screamed Shirley Temple. I was hoping, this time, he could see I was pissed and back off.
Nope. He squeezed my crouch. I guess he was into hardcore black boys from the hood with Shirley Temple voices. Then again, who isn’t?
I leaned back as far as I could on the seat and kicked him squarely in the chest. I wanted to kick him in his face but felt at the last moment if I leaned back any further I would have fallen off my seat. I hit him so hard he fell off his seat landed on the floor his head slamming against the subway floor. I may have sounded like Shirley Temple, but I kicked like Bruce Lee.
“Motherfucker, I’m not a goddamn faggot!” I shrieked at the top of my Shirley Temple lungs while looking to land my next kick right between his good ship lollipops. Brandon sat up his hands in front of him making a “no more” gesture. He looked up at me and said “Jesus, man what is your problem?”
It was with that I realized most of what I thought was going on, wasn’t. His hand was on my leg, but it wasn’t slowly but steadily creeping up. He did not grab my crouch nor had his voiced gotten softer. I had turned an innocent most likely accidental touch into a full on man rape in my mind.
So absorbed in my own horribly tainted view of the world I had imagined this was what was on his mind. To make matters as worse as they could be I then kicked away any guilt I felt at being wrong by responding; “Get the fuck away me.”
That was over 30 years ago. Today I would never use the ‘F’ word to describe a gay person. I hate to use the cliché some of my best friends are gay, but… some of my best friends are gay. My attitude towards gay people changed when I changed high schools in the 11th grade. My new school, the High School of Art & Design, had a diverse student body and being gay there was not a big deal at all. But being stupid was.
Stupid I was when I said something so gross my first week at Art & Design it could have tainted my entire time there. It was a gay guy named Frank who saved my ass by laughing at an insult giving the impression to everybody present I was making a joke. I wasn’t and Frank knew I was wasn’t. He whispered “You’re not in Kansas anymore, Michael, grow up.”
Thank god, I did.
After meeting and getting to know many gay people in my new school it dawned on me that they were no different than I was. They just happened to like sex with the same gender. Hell, in high school outside my loving relationship with the girls of Penthouse I was not having any sex at all, so they were one up on me.
Accepting gay people, having grown up in the severe anti-gay atmosphere of a black housing project was not as hard as you would imagine for me. My mother had a “no prejudice” rule in our home. Remarkable when you know just how dreadfully bad her encounters were with racists growing up.
Changing my position on gay people wasn’t hard, but it was still a huge deal for me because of my environment. It represented the first of many sea changes for me in my existence.
When I was not in school, I was still a resident of Edgemere projects in Far Rockaway Queens, which at the time was well on its way to being one of the worst projects in New York.
I was living a double life, and I intended to keep it that way. There was no way in Hell I would have ever acknowledged that I no longer found gay people repulsive to anyone in Edgemere.
Oh no, that would certainly not do. Why not stand up for my beliefs?
In the African American community where I grew up, there was little love for individuals who accept gay people. I may as well have stood up for and proudly proclaimed the Klan as the greatest group since The Temptations. Repealing my position on gay people would have gotten me branded as such, my ass kicked or worse in Edgemere.
At 16, noble I was not. No longer being able to participate in any reindeer games would have had a profound effect on me. It did not occur to me till much later that may have been a good thing.
I don’t want to give the impression that all black people I grew up with condemned the gay lifestyle, not the case at all. Many saw gay people as having every right as anyone else. But even today unfortunately among some in the African American community I’m in the minority, at odds with those, still light years if not eons away from embracing gay people at least in public.
“I gotta find this guy.”
Dwayne McDuffie said as he and I searched the corridors of a New York City comics convention in 1992. We were looking for Ivan Velez Jr., the remarkable writer of Tales of the Closet. The book was a look at the high school lives of gay and lesbian students and what they experienced.
Exceptionally written and drawn with a simple yet effective style the book instantly drew me back to A&D and thoughts of Frank and his crew. Ivan is a man of little words outside of what he puts on the page. He’s a big, gentle, quiet soul who lets his work do the talking for him. However, when he feels he has something to say few can match his oratory abilities, so it’s best not to engage him on the wrong side of an issue.
I thought about Frank, Ivan, the creators and fans of Prism Comics and my brother from another mother Andy Mangels when I heard the news of the Orlando massacre. I thought about how it must feel just to want to love who you want and be slaughtered for it.
This outrage was an attack on Frank who I haven’t seen in 30 years, Ivan who thinks I don’t like him, Andy who knows I love him and another, Billy who avoids me but protects my future ex-wife.
A friend lost to time, another lost to differences, one here forever, and the last not a friend but I’ve got his back also.
Each has a right to live their life, regardless of their opinion of me or mine of them.
Ivan and Billy are wrong about me, but I’ll take a bullet to defend their way of life as I’m sure they would supporting mine.
I was wrong about Brandon; I was also sixteen, young, selfis,h and stupid.
In 2016 those who would deny, suppress or kill someone’s love for another have no excuse and I’d say stupid would be a step WAY up.
I thought about how stupid I was at 16 and wondered how on earth some who claim to love their God can commit cold blooded murder on his behalf. I wonder how Donald Trump could brag about predicting another attack then hours later issue a more humane statement and not express his outrage or even mention the LGBT community then blatantly lie about the murderer being born in Afghanistan.
He wasn’t. He was born in the good old USA.
So was I and as far as I know most of the people at the Pulse nightclub, that night was born here also.
This was an attack on a lifestyle, an attack on America and an attack on freedom everywhere. Yes, it was all that.
It was also an attack on Frank, Ivan, Prism Comics and Andy. It was an attack on my friends. If you fuck with my friends, you fuck with me because unlike some people I know I stand with my friends no matter what.
No matter what.
If you don’t, soon they will come for you. They will because no matter who you are or what you believe in, you’re at risk. If you let this horror go then the next before long knowing you stand for no one but yourself, then those who disagree will know you stand alone.
Malcolm X said a man who will stand for nothing will fall for anything.
Some weeks ago a Hilton manager made a very big mistake. Once Hilton Corporate realized who and what they were dealing with, I was asked what I wanted. This question, always asked in situations where litigation is an option, is a ploy devised to test you. Your answer determines their resolve, your intelligence and rather or not a hotel offers you $50.00 off your next stay or $50 million for you to go away.
Back in the early 2000s two people swore I was at the DC booth during the San Diego Comic Con loudly calling DC racist. So loud and vulgar was my purposive verbal assault the result was to kill a merchandising deal I had with Warner Bros. Consumers Products.
I don’t want to give the impression DC Comics acted against me as a collective in a conspiracy to take me down. They did not. It was a different time and they were a different company and shit like this was handled a different way.
DC Comics is and was under no obligation to be in business with me. It was and still is their house. Almost a decade before the SDCC “incident” I joined Denys Cowan, Derek Dingle, Christopher Priest and Dwayne McDuffie in setting up shop at that house. The original Milestone deal with DC was considered groundbreaking and it was. It was also terrible for Milestone.
Except for editorial, every move inside and outside comics DC had to approve. I didn’t sign that deal, that deal was as crazy as some say I am. I can’t prove I’m not crazy. I could prove I was in NYC the morning I was supposed to have been that nigger at SDCC. Whoever wanted to set me up looked at the SDCC program and surmised I was still in town because I was listed as a guest on a Sunday panel.
Amateurs. Fucking amateurs.
Consequently, when it became clear the loud mouth person who loudly called DC, racists, wasn’t me (or even existed) once again I was asked “What do you want?” What did I want? I wanted black kids to play with a Static Shock action figure.
“I just want the deal reinstated.” Easy, right? No harm no foul. All is good in the world, right?
It wasn’t, because DC said no.
Why on earth kill a deal that would generate revenue? Brand Milestone and DC in the black ad space? Create an action figure based on the mega hit TV show Static Shock? Certainly spark a lawsuit? Last and most important to me, give kids of color a hero to play with? Who knows? I never got an answer, but my top guesses are:
1) Because they could. It was their house. I was loud.
2) That was then, now Milestone has another deal at DC and again they don’t want me.
3) I’ve been loud. I am loud. I’ll be loud.
Some at DC or even Milestone may have floated the rumor that I can’t be vetted for future business when asked to explain my absence. Saying my loud persona and profanity-laced opinions will drive serious business away.
That’s just plain silly. Those profanity-laced opinions have been very very good to me. In fact, they have been very very good to every single Milestone partner past and present.
Then there’s the matter of my resume, my resume doesn’t add value?
Combined, the Milestone partners have not reached the markets or generated the revenue in comics I have by myself.
Here’s reality. Until revealed otherwise, Milestone’s core business is comic books. Without Diamond (via DC) they have no distribution outlet. My distribution for my educational imprint, The Action Files, reaches American schools via Pearson Learning. Pearson, the biggest educational publisher on earth, likes very much what I have done. My Guardian Line imprint has direct distribution into African American churches that additionally gives me direct access into the black household via Urban Ministries Inc.
UMI is king in the Black Christian space. Think Diamond but with its own comic book line.
My relationship with Pearson is in its 20th year and I just celebrated my 10th year with UMI.
Combined that’s 30 years of cash, resources, brand building and maintainable customers Marvel, Dark House, Image, IDW and DC would love to have.
Pearson Learning matters. Urban Ministries matters. Simon & Schuster matters. Those are no joke playa’s. The moment it was suggested DC come in as a possible partner, (and it always does) out DC went as a possible partner. Nothing bad was said, all I said very quietly was “no.”
Those deals were and are my house.
How’s that for loud?
The church is the most powerful force in Black America. Milestone’s distribution into the very market Denys created Milestone for was assured when I was in the mix. I didn’t need Diamond or DC to reach the educational or black market on a grand scale nor did I need Milestone. And as evidenced by their actions, they clearly think they don’t need me.
But they do, to get into the African American space directly on this scale, they most certainly do.
Only an idiot would dismiss those markets willingly without as much as a word as to why. It doesn’t take a genius to know those guys are not idiots.
No, there is another play here.
They do need me, they just don’t want me. Something is brewing and they see a problem with my involvement. Could some guy still hate me and have sway over at DC? Could that be the reason?
I could see that but just how much of a little bitch would you have to be to let that be a factor? Nah, there’s s something else, something big that negates comics and uses a different gage to reach African Americans.
The play? I’m thinking TV & film.
Or maybe it’s a Milestone partner who thinks I’m too loud and causes to much trouble. Happened 23 years ago; why couldn’t it happen again? Makes sense right?
Here’s the problem with that argument I don’t cause trouble. When that shit was pulled then I ended up running Motown Animation and Filmworks and Milestone jus… ended.
Trouble kills deals, I close deals. Trouble loses money, I generate revenue. Trouble drives away talent, I find and nurture talent.
Now what about being loud? What about my language? Ok, let’s say I’m loud. So fucking what?
Name a black creator or any creator who has worked harder and contributed more than I to bring people of color into comics. Not inspired it, or talked about it or sold a series of books marketed for it. Name any creator with an educational imprint (not book, imprint) at two major mainstream publishers and another at a Christian publisher.
That rant is just a few high and mighty “look I’m great” and some “so fucking what” thrown for my hard core fans. Think of my stuff like an old Marvel or DC comic after a while you wonder where the fight is. I’m sure some were wondering where all the ‘fucks’ were.
DC wrote me a check which covered my lawyer and little else. That’s what I wanted when it became clear DC would rather risk a massive lawsuit than give me back my deal.
I was livid and was about to bring the noise when I realized something. The two Warner Bros. people who brought me into the deal were at a real risk of losing their jobs. So, to protect them I settled for little of nothing. As a result, nothing is what happened with Mattel and others.
Yeah, I am loud. That’s so people hear me. I have a singular goal, reach as many kids of color and help them realize their worth. What I absolutely will not do is play stupid when faced with stupidity and because of such some see me as a problem after they have used my resources that is, however I’m not the problem. The problem is one Black Hollywood has had for years.
The problem is fear.
Fear of drawing attention to subjects best left alone or risk looking less professional or less white, take your pick. Black Hollywood has arrived in comics and with it the pursuit of the dollar above all else.
Milestone has closed ranks to avoid or minimize a lawsuit, but they can’t. Nobody can. Can they win? Can I? Winning a lawsuit at this level really comes down less on who’s right and more on who’s willing to go to the wall screaming; “I don’t give a fuck” and has deeper pockets.
I’ve been told Milestone is under the impression my resources are limited which is why I won’t sue. They arrived at that notion I assume because I haven’t sued. I’ve also made no secret I don’t care about money so I must be broke.
I don’t care about money. That’s true, however, the banks that hold my mortgages won’t take food stamps nor will any other lender or service. Membership does have its privileges until you miss a payment. All that said, I can’t compete with the kind of bank the Milestone partners would bring to the table, not even close.
Could I sustain a lawsuit with my current resources? I’d wager better than they could. How so? Because my hourly billing from one of the most feared law firms in the world is a hug as my representation is free. I’ve always said I know good people it just so happens I’m related to some also and the firm believes in her and she believes in me.
So I could go to the wall screaming “I don’t give a fuck” but as evident by my actions that I do give a fuck. I didn’t sue DC, I didn’t sue the Hilton when I had them dead to rights some weeks ago and I’m not suing Milestone. I don’t operate on that level. The only benefit would be to me. Black kids wouldn’t be reached but I’d be able to buy some more shit I don’t need. I don’t need any more shit in my life, I needed a call from three guys but that ain’t happening.
I’ve reached out to Milestone 2.0 from day one of this bullshit; still not a word. So, I’m done. Except for an interview I’ve asked be held up on the off-chance I’d hear something, this will be my last public statement about Milestone.
I’ll go my way and they will go their way. Pity, another riff between two black playas. No wonder we can’t win at this game, seldom are we on the same side.
There will be those who believe me a fool for taking this stance, well that may be true. It’s also true that without Paul Levitz there would be no Milestone. Paul and I butted heads, but the fact remains: no Paul no Milestone. It would be easy to change that narrative for personal gain.
Reggie Hudlin has wanted to be part of Milestone since Day One and I’ve defended him against claims he just jumped on the bandwagon after Dwayne died. No Paul, no Milestone. Reggie down since Day One – that’s the truth and that’s what I say.
My Milestone history is written down and public. Once completely co-signed by Milestone now (no doubt fear of litigation) it’s being rewritten. That is a bad move. A very bad move, because I will go to the wall screaming about that. Both the talent program and the Static Shock Universe were created by me and like everything I write I can prove.
The thought of having to do so is sickening and was 23 years ago when I gave Milestone a gift. It was sheer stupidity that turned that gift into a lost.
I’m not motivated by much these days in fact my Bad Boy Studios and Static Shock family legacy may be all I give a fuck about. Keep the fucking money; leave my mother and sister my mother and sister.
23 years ago I foretold what would transpire and I was right. I see this future also and wish it was not to be but it already is. Like I said, pity.
I still want Milestone to succeed. I would still help them do so but I’m not pretending to be anything I’m not.
What I am help create it, who I am won’t help destroy it.
When he first came to LA from New York, I was the one who drove him around for weeks. He didn’t drive. Who does in New York? I took him shopping to the barbershop, comic book stores, wherever. If he needed to go somewhere, I was his ride.
His first Christmas in California, Dwayne was my date for director Bill Duke’s Christmas party. He and Bill became the center of the evening engaging in a conversation so riveting everyone – everyone – who went into Bill’s huge ass kitchen stayed and listened. In the African American community the kitchen is always the center of a holiday dinner, regardless if you live in a small apartment or a mansion.
This was something else beyond the holiday tradition. Dwayne and Bill were engaged in conversation that made black Hollywood stop put down the chicken and listen.
Black Hollywood giving that kind of attention to some guy they never met? Rare.
Putting down the chicken? If I didn’t see it for myself…
Dwayne McDuffie and I were not just friends. We partnered on projects after Milestone. We had projects at Dark Horse and DC. Here’s a kicker. I created those projects, and I brought Dwayne on to write them.
I sold DC President Jenette Kahn a limited series Keith Giffen called the greatest idea since Watchmen. Keith wanted to write it and I wanted Keith to do it but the more I talked to Jenette about the project it became clear to us both this was a Dwayne project if ever there was one.
I told Jenette I was going to ask Dwayne, she was overjoyed, as was I when he said it was a great idea and would write it.
All was good in the hood until the DC editor assigned to the project said “Love this… just not with Michael Davis.” Yeah, I get that a lot. The editor suggested DC buy me out. Dwayne told the editor it was my project and he was not doing it without me.
I took it to Dark Horse and sold it there. Mike Richardson and Dwayne went back and forth as to what the direction the series should take until Mike realized the historical backstory was the story he wanted told. Dwayne didn’t want to tell that story, although I did.
The beauty of Mike Richardson’s insight was the original superhero story was still a doable project. A few years later Dwayne took it back to DC and for a while it was a go, until it wasn’t. This was the when Dwayne was retooling the Milestone and DC relationship and there was real talk and excitement of Milestone entering the DCU.
The project was at one point considered the initial starting point of the combined universes. That Milestone reboot didn’t happen and although there was some movement on the project even after Dwayne passed, the New 52 prevented any further talks. DC was all about the New 52 and this did not fit.
It’s important to me to get these events into the public record because of the narrative forming that erases my contribution from Milestone’s history and left unchallenged that narrative will become truth to most. It’s only a matter of time before Dwayne McDuffie’s problem with Michael Davis bullshit makes its way to a black comics forum. All it takes is someone pointing out I didn’t attend his funeral for a senseless rumor to become a certainty to the sheep who live for such trivialness. After a million sheep blog it so, it becomes so.
I didn’t not attend his funeral, not because there was an issue between Dwayne and I but because I decided to stay with a friend who was asked not to attend. I stood by my friend, I always did.
Those who spread poison about me should understand by now I can prove each and everything I say and just as easily disprove what they say. I see things clearly beforehand because I’m smarter than they are.
They will simply look at this preempted strike as just another stroke of luck on my part.
I’ve been betrayed, stabbed in the back, lied to and about, I’m depressed, alone and if not for the kindness and love of some friends most likely I would be dead. Thinking I’m lucky makes “stupid” too polite a word to use on them.
The truth can be bought. The truth can be killed. The truth can be jailed, silenced, controlled, and changed.
However, I can not be brought, I’ve been jailed, I won’t be silenced nor controlled. Unless you kill me the truth can be proven. I keep everything, forget nothing, and fear nobody.
The day before he died, Dwayne emailed me. He wanted me to see the prototype of the adult Static action figure. Keeping in touch with an enemy especially from your hospital bed isn’t something people do. They do that for friends.
Saturday, I met a very nice young man named Moses in my local comic books shop. We got into a conversation about *duh!* comics and he was very frank in stating that he was not buying many DC comics because – and I’m paraphrasing here, since I didn’t happen to have a tape recorder on me – everybody in the office is white so it’s impossible for them to understand the black experience. I told him that I didn’t agree with any part of that, but that is Moses’ perception, and perception is everything. Isn’t it?
Yesterday, I read Marc Alan Fishman’s latest column here at ComicMix, Affirmatively Actionable Comic Equality, in which he referenced J.A. Micheline’s August 4th piece over at Comics Alliance titled Why I’m Boycotting Marvel Comics, which I linked to and read. In her own words:
“Marvel, you and I are taking a break. It’s not me; it’s you – and you made the decision really easy. In the past two to three weeks, I have watched you disrespect and disregard marginalized voices and I’ve had enough.”
Then I Googled “diversity of comics creators” and found an article by Laura Hudson published over at Wired on July 25th of this year: “It’s Time To Get Real About Racial Diversity In Comics.” She writes:
“July in particular has been an interesting month to ponder that question, thanks to a series of recent events that offered a prismatic lens on the complex friction between race and representation in the field. Not only did the Marvel variants spark discussion, but this month, DC Comics announced that Milestone Media – an imprint created by black creators and focusing on black superheroes – would be returning to the larger DC Comics fold, along with most of the black artists and writers who had created it. Meanwhile, Boom! Studios releasedStrange Fruit, a comic made by a white creative team that dealt with racism in the American South, prompting discussions about when works by white creators are erasing the voices of the people they’re writing about.”
Jon Stewart asked us to do something on his last show: “If you smell something, say something.”
Okay, Jon, I will.
It’s about fucking time that people stopped creating these stupid fucking artificial lines.
To be brutally forthright – and quite politically incorrect – I don’t give a damn what color, what religion, what ethnicity, what nationality, or what sex a creator is.
The only thing I care about when I’m reading a story, the only reason I’m reading it, the only reason I continue to read it, be it comics or prose, is that I’m enjoying it, that I’m sucked in, that I can’t put the goddamn thing down, whether that means reading it at work while on a break, or at home while eating dinner, or reading it on the toilet wherever that toilet may be.
So Strange Fruit, a series about racism in the South, was written and drawn by Mark Waid and J.G. Jones, two white guys. So what? I think they should be applauded for writing about it. I think the premise, about a super-powered alien who looks like a black man in 1927 Mississippi, is great, and I’m putting it on my list to buy. And by the way, Quantum Leap did an episode in the very first season in which Sam jumped into the body of an elderly black man in the pre-Civil Rights South (“The Color of Truth”). Nobody objected that it was produced by a white man and starred two more white men.
And if a story about racism was so important to you, African-American creators, why didn’t you go out and create it?
Oh, wait. You did.
Maya Angelou. James Baldwin. Octavia Butler. Amiri Baraka. Toni Morrison. Ralph Ellison. Zora Neale Hurston. Lorraine Hansbury. Langston Hughes. Richard Wright. Alice Walker. Alan Paton.
Oh, you mean comics?
Christopher Priest. Michael Davis. Damion Knight. Matt Baker. Reginald Hudlin. Darryl Banks. Denys Cowan. ChrisCross. Kyle Baker. Jamal Igle, Malcom Jones III, Mark (M.D.) Bright. Billy Graham. Keith Pollard. Brian Stelfreeze. Ron Wilson. Larry Stroman.
Okay, what’s wrong with this list?
But they do exist.
Charlie “Spike” Trotman. Carol Burrell. Barbara Brandon-Croft. Afua (Lakota Sioux) Richardson. Alitha Martinez. Cheryl Lynn Eaton.
Yes, I admit, these women were a little harder to find. And that’s bullshit, too.
Still, obviously, I managed.
You could, too, if you wanted to.
I could write a whole column about that. But then I might be accused of being a white Jewish woman who has no business writing about the black woman comics creator, because, you know, that’s not politically correct.
But if any of these women would like to have a dialogue with me on these pages, you’re very welcome to get in touch with me. In fact, I’ll ask Editor Mike to be our liaison (firstname.lastname@example.org).
See, I think making it in a profession that is your passion takes talent, sweat, blood, tears, aggravation, patience, aggressiveness, stick-to-it-iveness, and luck.
A whole lot of luck.
The truth is that luck is the goddamnest wild card.
And that’s a truth that is politically incorrect to say out loud.
A few friends of mine on Facebook posted an absolutely fabulous op-edby J.A. Micheline, calling out Marvel – and declaring a personal boycott – for some recent decisions passed. It seems Blade has been handed off to a pair of white creators, Hercules is now straight as an arrow, and I assume Spider-Gwen will be replaced by a straight white male version of the character with thigh pouches or something. Upon initial reading of her thoughts, my inner-chauvinist began to itch. A deep breath, a reread, and a few bites of dinner later? I’m fully on board with her fervor.
Now, let me be clear. I myself have boycotted mainstream comics for the better part of eighteen months. I haven’t felt fiction-deprived yet. I’ve enjoyed output from Marvel and DC: Ant-Man, Avengers 2, The Flash, and Teen Titans Go have sated me just fine, sans ink and paper. My boycott though, came not because of any particular editorial mandate or creative team injunction. It came because of the continual commitment to useless event-driven editorial calendars and the retconning of great stories in lieu of quick #1 issue cash-grabs.
Thus far, I’m two for two with DC’s re-Final-Crisising-convergence, and the All-New-All-Different-All-Shuffled-Marvel’s recent releases proving me righter than right. Am I missing some great issues? Likely. But on the whole, mainstream comic collecting requires a financial commitment a father of one-plus-one-coming needn’t part with.
Reading these current malfeasances via Micheline’s article didn’t hit me as being all that surprising. If anything, they were just continual symptoms of a much larger disease. That disease is greed. Axel and company are victims of a system that presently panders to the almighty profit – what little can be made in the floppies. Changing creative teams, changing sexual orientation, changing changes that were changed for the sake of change? All done in hopes of spiking sales just a wee-bit more. But her anger is not unfounded. She’s picking away at scars that scab over yearly. As an industry why does it always feel like we’re taking two steps forward and one step back?
Blade loses its black creators. Johnny Storm is portrayed by a black actor in the upcoming flop Fantastic 4. Hercules is declared straight, and I’m sure someone in DC has recently come out of the closet. But I digress. The point that Micheline is really after is rooted in the “old boy” classicism and predictably shallow attitudes they assume when fans take umbrage over these decisions. Axel and DiDio largely act as if we’re living in the enlightened age where talent is colorless, genderless, and sexually blind. But the truth is our world isn’t there yet. And to act in that manner otherwise comes across only as being out-of-touch. Akin, say, to jamming one’s fingers in their ears and yelling loudly over the sound of people asking for a little equality.
J.A. Micheline asks for no fewer than three new gay characters in comics, as well as three new black creators to be placed on ongoing titles. She’s following Dwayne McDuffie’s “Rule of Three” – adding three members of a marginalized group into any fold will cause the perfect amount of civil unrest. It’s hard to argue with her logic. When you break the status quo, you’re going to hurt some feelings. But frankly, feelings are there to be hurt, and then repaired with time and acceptance. Make more gay characters. Hire black creators, Asian creators, Muslim creators, and everybody else. Fans who may balk at the notion… happily hand them free copies of Youngblood.
Our industry – that of the talented outcasts now coming into our own – is better than others. I say this because so much good has been made under the comics umbrella. So many emotions given clarity. So many characters shown in multiple dimensions. So many myths made modern. We are a medium that should be built on inclusion and acceptance.
What are our heroes and villains, but the id of our very outer-ness made real? Symbols of hope, of joy, of angst, of loss, and everything in between. Surely that begs for those who push the pencils of the ledgers some modicum of social justice… to balance the scales of creation to prove to the other mediums of artistry that we are the torchbearers!
Consider J.A. Micheline’s boycott as I have: not the frustrated battle cry lambasting Marvel for a lack of diversity… but as a sigil for the future of comics at large. Be blacker. Be gayer. Be prouder, Marvel.