Tagged: Geppi Entertainment Museum

Michael Davis’ Smoking Gun – A Series of Unfortunate Events

milestone-creators

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.

Abhay Khosla’s response’ to my Why are we still complaining about Dan Didio article and some trollish posts took a second to bother me but finally it did, and I stepped back.

Some thought I’d gone too far when I wrote my response.

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 2 Dr. 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.”

static_shockWhen 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.

Err, no.

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.

Err, no.

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.

Joke.

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:

https://www.comicmix.com//2014/11/03/michael-davis-the-milestone-contract/

https://www.comicmix.com//2014/10/06/static-shock-comes-to-the-big-screen/

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?

Perhaps you’ll buy the following, On July 23 of this year Jim Lee gave this reason the Milestone books were late.

I said the same thing four months before.

Still not convinced?

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 am the undeniable driving force behind each.

Like I said. Funny.

Mark Wheatley Teams with Will Eisner for CBM Retailer Exclusive

CBMYB-15 Spirit cover by Mark Wheatley and Will EisnerFor the conclusion of Diamond Comic Distributors Retailer Summit and for the opening of Geppi’s Entertainment Museum’s new exhibit 75 Spirited Years: Will Eisner and The Spirit on Friday, September 25, 2015 – four top creators were asked to provide their interpretations of a concept sketch that had been created by Eisner but never before finished.

One of those creators was Mark Wheatley, the Inkpot, Mucker, Gem, Speakeasy, and Eisner award-winning writer-artist perhaps best known for his successful and often cutting-edge collaborations with fellow writer-artist Marc Hempel. Wheatley will see his piece based on Eisner’s sketch featured on the cover of a limited edition of Overstreet’s Comic Book Marketplace Yearbook 2015-2016. This version will be given to retailers who attend the closing party for the Retailer Summit, which is also the official kick-off of the Eisner exhibit.

“I’m thrilled to have been asked to posthumously collaborate with Will Eisner on this project. Will’s sketch left a lot open to interpretation, but really evoked the tone of The Spirit to me,” Wheatley said.

Wheatley will sign copies of the limited edition cover at Geppi’s Entertainment Museum on Friday, September 25, from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Retailers attending the opening will receive one copy each free of charge and will be able to purchase additional copies. The two standard versions of Overstreet’s Comic Book Marketplace Yearbook 2015-2016 are scheduled to go on sale at shops on October 7, 2015. The 192-page, full-color, trade paperback-size publication carries a $12.95 cover price.

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Michael Davis: 28 Days Of… Afrofuturism?

It’s Black History Month!

Here’s a list of some of what’s happening in comics to celebrate the annual spotlight on Black America!

Let’s see now…

Over at the fantastic website Comic Book Resources (CBR) my friend and Milestone Media alumni Joe Illidge is doing a wonderful series of articles called The Color Barrier. I just finished a three part series over at Bleeding Cool titled Code Black.

Milestones: African Americans in Comics, Pop Culture & Beyond, the major exhibit currently showing at the Geppi Entertainment Museum, has Black History month programs planned although I’m not sure why.

The exhibit itself is history all year round so I fail to see why special programs are needed for an already special exhibition. I can’t see it but by NO means does that mean Black History month should not be recognized as such at the gallery. I don’t see it but don’t go by me—I didn’t see the need to disclose to a woman that I once dated her mother.

THAT was a mistake.

What else is happening in comics for Black History Month?

Well, on February 12th Denys Cowan and I will be part of a round table discussion at Loyola Marymount University. The topic is: Milestone, Graphic Novels, Animation and Afrofuturism.

Afrofuturism?

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“Milestones” spotlights African-American comics, pop culture

Michael Davis and Tatiana El-Khouri pose with contributors to Milestones at Geppi’s entertainment museum

Milestones, the new exhibit at Geppi’s entertainment museum in Baltimore premiered last Friday night with a gala that presented the collection in grand style.

The exhibition, assembled and curated by Michael Davis and Tatiana El-Khouri, showcases both the work of not only black creators, but black characters in comics, Such as Storm and Black Panther, rightly described as one of the most iconic black characters in the medium. Don Mcgregor, classic writer of Black Panther (and co-creator with Paul Gulacy of Sabre) was a guest of honor for the evening, along with a broad selection of comics creators.

It features art from both major publishers and independents, well-known and cult characters, and a wide array of black writers and artists.   Artwork includes Ken Lashley’s covers for Justice League of America, Shawn Martinbrough’s work on Thief of Thieves, and the Black Dynamite mini series Slave Island. Kyle Baker’s contributes art from his graphic novel King David, and Denys Cowan‘s careers is prominently featured, including some of Cowan’s initial designs for John Henry Irons, AKA Steel.

The work of the eponymous Milestone Media is included, including a tribute to the late Dwayne McDuffie; a portrait by Davis and an essay by Milestone President Derek Dingle.

A video presentation features interviews with Orlando Jones, Wayne Brady, Reginald Hudlin and more, all discussing the historic and modern contribution of black creators to pop culture.

Milestones runs from December 14th 2013 to April of 2014.  For more information, visit the museum’s website, or milestonestheshow.com

Michael Davis: Does @UPS Care About Missing Denys Cowan Art?

DenysCowan UPS_Page_1

Brown Can Act Like They Give A Shit.

That’s what Brown can do for me.

“What can brown do for you?” Was the once massively successful slogan for United Parcel Service (UPS) that’s been replaced by “We Love Logistics.”

If you ask me both slogans suck.

“Who can Brown screw for you?” Now that’s truth in advertising.

Instead of writing about the fantastic opening of Milestones: African Americans In Comics Pop Culture & Beyond last Friday the 13th at The Geppi Entertainment Museum I’m writing about a devastating lost to superstar artist and my best friend Denys Cowan.

Thursday the 5th of December 2013 Denys Cowan and I sent, via UPS, our artwork for the Milestones show. The work was to be shipped for overnight delivery.  That was the plan but Brown screwed that up. When called the UPS location where the work was sent from gave the wrong cut off time for east coast overnight shipments. So the art was scheduled to arrive on Saturday instead of Friday the following day.

There was an omen if ever there was. It was two packages but one shipment. My assistant James was smart enough to request two different airbills to make any tracking easier.

Bad stormy weather on the east coast was headline news much of the week so the art was wrapped in plastic, sealed with tape, then placed in size related cardboard boxes and that was sealed with at least 3 layers of packing tape. Professional artists KNOW how to ship their art.

Denys sent 28 original pieces of not just art but history. Included were irreplaceable work from original Milestone concept drawings to Batman #400 pages other works from both before and after those career highlights.

My work (some of it) arrived at the Geppi on Saturday. Denys’ did not. On Monday UPS says it tried to deliver Denys’s package but the Geppi was closed because of a snowstorm.

On Tuesday Denys’ box arrived. In that box was some damn fine art. Problem was 27 pieces of Denys’ 28 pieces of art were NOT in the box.

Gone. Perhaps, forever.

For some reason that has yet to be explained to me Denys’ package sat for two days in the UPS Kentucky hub. BOTH boxes left and arrived at the UPS location in Kentucky at the same time. My box was scanned and arrived in Baltimore on Saturday.

I’ve placed numerous calls to UPS and have made it crystal clear what was missing was the art of the man whose idea it was and from which the Milestones show sprung. I made it extremely clear that if this was a show on cubism they had ‘lost’ Picasso’s art.

The woman I said that to didn’t get it. “The Jackson Five exhibit without Michael.”

THAT she got.

Didn’t matter.

I spoke to 11 different people during the week.  All were extremely nice; all were as useless as a condom worn on an ear.

What was made clear to me was the repeated UPS reason why 27 of 28 works of art were not in the box. The package was somehow sealed wrong and the art, ‘fell out.’

Really?

So, the packing tape (used by professional MOVERS among others to keep boxes SEALED-hence the name PACKING TAPE) somehow came loose, every layer simply came apart the plastic sealed art then fell out, the plastic opened 27 pieces of art with it but one somehow crawled back in the box and was able to make the trip from Kentucky to Baltimore.

BULLSHIT.

When arriving at the Geppi the box was sealed (badly) when opened both the art and the plastic around it was gone, say ONE.

HOW can that be? How can 28 pieces of art wrapped in plastic become ONE piece of art?

The art was either stolen or ‘fell out.’  I’m sure it was stolen, someone opened the box, opened the plastic took the art except for one, resealed the box, badly and sent it along it’s merry way.

I can’t say that for a fact because I was not there when it went missing. I also can’t say for fact slavery is bad as I’ve never been a slave but I’m pretty sure it is.


As of today, Monday Dec. 16th nothing has been done to find the artwork of Denys Cowan.

The last thing I was told was NOTHING could be done to expedite the ‘process’ because UPS treats every single ‘lost’ package the same they are all of equal importance.

REALLY?

UPS is Johnny on the spot when someone shoves a TV camera in their faces.

Every package is the same my ass. You mean to tell me UPS would not move any faster if the Academy Awards were to be broadcasted on a Friday and the Oscars statures ‘fell out’ of a box Tuesday?

BULLSHIT.

The artwork of Denys Cowan deserves a lot more respect than a ‘tablet’ and to that end UPS is about to get a lot more than a TV camera shoved in their faces.

Michael Davis: The Teacher Who Changed My Life

Renee-Darvin_0002

12/10/2009

Hello,

If by some chance you are Ms. Darvin from Beach Channel High, my name is Michael Davis and I was at Beach Channel the VERY first year, I transferred to The High School Of Art & Design at the end of that year.

I was in your art class, I was black (still am) wickedly funny ( still am) and had a running rivalry with another student named Robert Stein.

Long story short-I’m now a huge success on so many levels ( and modest) and I’m reaching out to you because today I was being interviewed (told you I was a success) by CNN and they asked me who was the most influential teacher in my life.

I said Renee Darvin.

So, if you are that Renee Darvin please contact me so we can catch up. You told me once you would never forget me and I said the same to you…see I kept my promise.

If you are not THAT Renee Darvin…never mind.

Nah– I kid, I joke! if you are not THAT Renee Darvin I wish you well and please know that Columbia is one of the few schools (and I’m REAL picky) I respect.

Have a wonderful new year!

12/13/2009

Michael,

I am indeed THAT Renee Darvin, who remembers you fondly and very well for all your sass and talent. How bittersweet that your email came on the heels of the news that the city is closing Beach Channel as a failing school! It was my Camelot, in so many ways.

I am delighted that you are a success on many levels, and even more so that the success has not affected your modesty. I would love to catch up with you. Shall we plan coffee/lunch/dinner/telephone/hugs???? Its your call…..and thank you for remembering me in your personal art history. It warms an old teacher’s heart.

Let me know when the CNN interview airs …. I hope I havent missed it. I look forward to hearing from you.

Renee

12/5/2013

Ms. Darvin,

I’m sorry if this is reaching you late or if you are receiveing it twice. Hard copies were to go out some time ago it seems some did most did not. I’m not taking any chances, not with the single greatest teacher I’ve ever known.

I know it’s a trek if this is short notice but you played an VERY important part in my life and perhaps in a very real way if not for you my career and this show would simply not be.

“Michael, if you go to (the high school of) Art & Design, you may become a very different artist, just don’t forget what makes you, you.”

I never forgot that and never forgot you.

information about the show can be found here: http://milestonestheshow.com

If you have a moment please go the following link and look under ‘D’: http://www.comic-con.org/awards/inkpot

Ms. Darvin, I beg of you from the bottom of my heart if there is ANY way you can join me please, please do.

Lastly-yes I’m still an artist. I’ve attached two works of mine, hope you approve. Take care and I hope to see you soon…like in a week. ;-)

Attached to the last email, along with the two pieces of art, an invitation to the opening gala of Milestones: African Americans in Comics, Pop Culture And Beyond. That’s the show I’m curating for the Geppi Entertainment Museum. The opening is this coming Friday the 13th.

The email bounced back, no big deal I thought. It’s been a while since she and I reconnected so I just figured she moved on from Columbia’s teachers college. I was too lazy to look up her personal email she had given me when we spoke so I figured I’d look her up on Facebook since it was already open.

No luck there, so I Google her name and with a quickness realized it was more than a while since we talked.

It was a lifetime.

Published in The New York Times on May 21, 2010

DARVIN–Renee, 80, passed away on May 19, 2010. Beloved wife of Jerry, loving mother of Debbie, Michael and Peter, mother-in-law to Mark, Linda, Marisol, grandmother to Michael, Liza, Emily, Theo, Henry, Mariana and Julia, sister of Marcia and Barbara, sister-in-law of Neil. Devoted over 60 years of her life to teaching Art and Art Education, most recently at Teachers College at Columbia University. Former Director of Art for the Department of Education of NYC.

Former Chair of Art Department at Beach Channel High School. Former Art Teacher at Tilden High School. President of the Student Art and League.

As her former students and colleagues would attest, teaching was a joy and a privilege she cherished. She leaves behind a family, large circle of friends and colleagues and students who will forever be graced by her legacy.

 We will always love and miss you. Funeral services May 21st at 10 am Riverside Memorial Chapel.

I read the first few lines and had to stand up. Then I couldn’t stand and fell back into my chair, hit by a wave of sadness so intense I didn’t just start to cry I wailed like a wounded animal.

Even now, days later as I write this tears just won’t stop pouring from my eyes.

I’ve mentioned my love for the High School Of Art & Design on many occasions. Ms. Darvin was the only thing that gave me pause to apply and if admitted not go.

She taught me a lot more than art, she taught me to always be who I was.

Beach-Channel-High-SchoolMy hood, Edgemere Projects, my address 434 Beach 58th, Far Rockaway, Queens was as far away from my school located at 100-00 Beach Channel Drive, Rockaway Park.

Another city. Another world. Another place.

The distance between the upper middle class white people of Rockaway Park and the poor Black people of Far Rockaway was great. The distance may have been great but travel time was around five minutes.

It’s a straight shot right up Beach 58th until around Beach 90th street. Magically Beach Street changes to Beach Channel Drive!

Just like that? Just like that. Why the change in the names?

No poor Black people could afford to live pass Beach 75th so I guess 90th street was a good a place any to let you clearly know you were no longer in Kansas, welcome to OZ.

Far Rockaway, far away where the poor black people were. Rockaway Park, a park where the rich white people were.

No idea if it’s still liked that but was when I lived there.

The grass was not just greener there it was ONLY there.

Grass in the projects was brown dirt with small pockets of dandelions that every kid in the hood thought was beautiful.

Beauty in Far Rockaway was atypical at best, yet in Rockaway Park they had splendor to spare. So much so our beautiful dandelion if seen was killed for fear it would overrun and destroy the entire garden.

Sound familiar?

Hopefully not.

But that’s exactly what I thought and felt as a black teenager now going to school in Rockaway Park. Then I met and fell in love with the one and only Renee Darvin.

I will always remember the day Ms. Darvin helped make me who I am. I was asked to open my locker by the school cop. No reason. None. He simply came into the class selected me (one of 6 Black kids not in the class but in the school) and had me open my locker. I did-he found nothing so I walked back into Ms. Darvin’s class pissed but said nothing-what was the point? I was a Black kid in a Rockaway Park High School.

He came in told me he was not done with me and for me to come with him.

I was done, screw him. I let loose with a relentless series of ‘your mother so ugly’ jokes and ended with a ‘fuck you I’m not going anywhere.’ I was freaking hilarious. The only person not laughing was the cop.

He came for me.

Didn’t get within a dozen feet of me.  Ms. Darvin blocked his path and told I was NOT leaving with him. PERIOD.

From the front of the room, the cop’s path still blocked by her small frame she said in a loud PROUD voice so everyone especially the cop could hear; ” Michael if you go to (the high school of) Art & Design, you may become a very different artist, just don’t forget what makes you, you.”

I never did.

I’d just made a fool of and screamed at a policeman two words, which could STILL get you shot TODAY and because of the injustice of his actions my teacher who at the very moment became my life long friend validated who and what you see today of that I have NO doubt.

As a teacher there is no doubt I’ve done good work but compared to my 10th grade art teacher and lifelong friend Renee Darvin?

I’m not the Master Of The Universe, I’m not a badass teacher, I’m humbled and proud, very, very proud to have been and will forever be, a student of hers.

Renee-Darvin


To Ms. Darvin’s Family my deepest LONG over due sympathies. I guess I thought Ms. Darvin would always be around because I’d always need her to be. She was everything I ever needed in a teacher a mentor and a friend.

Milestones: African Americans in Comics, Pop Culture and beyond is as much Renee Darvin’s show as it is mine. She guided me, she saved me, she taught me and she helped make me.  I dedicate the show to her and pity the fool who has a problem with that.

There you go, Ms. Darvin, there’s that ‘sass’ you loved so much. I hope (I KNOW) I still make you laugh.

When we reconnected you asked me to do something and I said ‘one day’ I would. It just felt funny to me (still does) regardless today is that day.

Never for as long as I live will I ever forget you and will always love you, Renee.

Emails can be viewed @ http://mdwp.malibulist.com/2013/12/are-you-the-renee-darvin-from-beach-channel-high-by-michael-davis-straight-no-chaser-333-mdworld/

Michael Davis: An Open Letter To Debbie Allen

Michael Davis: An Open Letter To Debbie Allen

Next week, Milestones: African Americans in Comics, Pop Culture and Beyond opens at the Geppi Entertainment Museum. The show features unbelievable art from amazing artists and have been in the works for almost two years.

I was fortunate enough to be asked to curate a show on African American pop art by Missy Geppi, the president of the museum. I was and still am humbled to be chosen for such an honor. I immediately reached out to Tatiana EL-Khouri and John Jennings. Tatiana as co-curator John as adviser. I’ve known both Tatiana and John since the start of their careers. I was a mentor to Tatiana and I’ve advised John over the years and now he’s advising me.

Every now and then Tatiana or John will, out of nowhere, thank me for something or other I’ve frankly forgotten about. It’s always nice to hear and although I may have forgotten exactly what I did or said they are referring to they always remember me.

I’ve been in L.A. since 1994 and it seems I’ve been reminding myself since then to look up and thank Debbie Allen. Debbie’s former husband Win Wilford, then head of publicly at CBS Records, gave me my third professional job. I designed and illustrated an invitation for a Luther Vandross after party. The party followed Luther’s first performance as a solo act opening for Chaka Kahn.

Debbie Allen is an actress, dancer, choreographer, television director, television producer, and a member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

She’s done remarkable work from choreographing the Academy Awards for ten years, six of which were consecutive to developing and producing Amistad directed by Steven Spielberg.

Below is an edited version for ComicMix of a letter I sent to Debbie. I’ve taken out all my career highlights so as to focus not on what I’ve done but why I was able to do it and that was because of words of encouragement from people like her.

Dear Debbie,

I’m sure many in emails, letters, and social media have told you how much of an inspiration you have been.

Although you may not have met them you have reached them as you reached me. In fact I can remember the very moment when you did. I was in your Mount Vernon home for a New Year’s Eve Party (81? 82?) sitting by myself in your kitchen.

I was a young artist at the start of my career attending a party filled with all sorts of successful people. An artist, (a broke ass one at that) was not, I felt a worthy enough occupation to roll with those I’d seen on TV or who’s music I’d heard on the radio.

You came into the kitchen, saw me sitting there and asked me why that was. I’d like to say I spent at least some time trying to avoid sharing my self-pity…nope.

I started to tell you how I was feeling but after a few (if that many) sentences you stopped me and said what to this day I’ve never forgotten; “Michael, Win and I invited you because you are a talented artist, we like you and know you will be a success. You belong here and would not be here if we thought otherwise.”

What you said next is what I hope will make you remember me. “I didn’t drive all the way to Queens to pick you up so you can sit in the kitchen.”

Yep.

You and a driver who’s name I don’t remember drove to my apartment in Queens on New Year’s Eve to pick me up.

Your former husband Win, commissioned a number of paintings from me. One, a large watercolor of a proud 1930’s black man was the centerpiece in your Harlem brownstone even before the renovation was done.

I had no idea it was framed and displayed such as it was until I came to your new home to show Win sketches for a new commission. I was blown away.

“Debbie choose that spot.”

Yep. ;-)

I’ve been blessed in my career thanks in no small part to you, Win and a handful of others.

I’ve wanted to reach out to you for years. Something always came up. Well, I’ve never been as busy as I am now. It’s Thanksgiving Debbie and I’m thankful for your part in my life and career. So, yes I’m busy but this thank you is just as important and long overdue.

I’d love to sit and catch up and if you like I’ll pick you up. I owe you a ride ;-)

From the very bottom my my long winded heart,

Thank you.

Win Wiford took an interest in me and because of that he and Debbie were my first and only patrons. One year, the sale of art to them was my only income.

Without that income who knows what decision I would have made as to my career choice? If Debbie had not spoken those words to me maybe my self-pity would have gotten the best of me and the next day I’m applying for some job I didn’t want doing something I didn’t love.

That didn’t happen and what did happen Debbie was a part of and for that I’ll be forever grateful.

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold

THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil

 

Michael Davis: C.P. Time

Davis Art 131112Nobody talks more smack about black people than other black people.

There are about a zillion different ways black people describe another black person screwing up. Many of these definitions are stereotypes that would get a non-black person pimp slapped if spoken.

Not being black and telling someone who is that their watch is set to C.P. time or that Obama is the H.N.I.C will surly produce at least a “you looking to get your ass kicked” stare but more than likely a pimp or a bitch slap.

No.

No, I’m not going to tell you what C.P. time is nor what H.N.I.C means or the difference between a pimp and a bitch slap. The “you looking to get your ass kicked” stare is unmistakable, so much so, Helen Keller would get it.

If you don’t know these things, you’re clearly not black. I’m thinking that most non-black comic fans, at least those here at ComicMix, are pretty informed as to what means what and who and who not to say it to.

That’s here at ComicMix. Over at Bleeding Cool where I write another column it’s another story.

I’m convinced that the vast majority of those readers are, well cool. Some however, a small but very vocal group, would read up to the word “time” in my title and with a quickness The Flash would envy, post a comment explaining to me that Captain Planet is not a time traveler. After reading the first sentence the comment would continue with “nor is he black.”

Now, remember, I said the vast majority of Bleeding Cool readers are cool.

I fully expect somewhere on some “I’ll never get any pussy” comic book forum to see a raging discussion about how Michael Davis said all Bleeding Cool readers were…hell I don’t know what they will say I called them. I didn’t word that paragraph like a Dick & Jane book so I’ll get dozens of different takes on how I offended them.

But I digress (sorry Peter). If you want to know the 411 of any or all of the above have someone else ask a black person. Preferably someone you’d like to see get pimp slapped… one of those Bleeding Cool clueless haters would be my choice.

“Hey my main man, you’re black right?”

“Excuse me?” said the man whose skin color makes Wesley Snipes look like Edger Winter.

“Yo Holmes, you H.N.I.C on C.P. time? And if so what does that mea…”

PIMP SLAP!

No. That phrase was just wrong.

BITCH SLAP!

Better.

Shit.

I just realized I couldn’t really get my point across without divulging what C.P. time is. Well, I could but I’d have to be a lot wittier than I am up to. I just flew across the Pacific Ocean and boy is my penis tired!

What, were you expecting the punch line to that old ass joke to be…and boy are my arms tired?

Nope. Don’t get the penis joke? Black guys do. But you can find out without putting anyone at risk for a beat down. Ask a fat white girl. They get it.

Because I’m just exhausted from lack of sleep, jet lag and fat white girls I’ll tell you what C.P. Time means.

It means Colored People Time, a none to subtle insinuation that black people are always late. It’s a silly outdated stereotype and within the black community we use it mostly in jest.

Mostly.

There’s always an exception to every rule. In the case of the massive show I’m curating for the Geppi Entertainment Museum, Milestones: African Americans in Comics, Pop Culture & Beyond, that exception numbers three.

So far.

That’s three artists whom I reached out to months and in one case over a year ago with the show info. They all accepted and they all have… lets just say been late.

The amount of work submitted on the call for entries website was staggering so I didn’t have to call a soul. Big names submitted, new talent submitted, new stars established journeymen, you name it we saw it on the website.

So like I said, I didn’t have to call one mofo (ask).

Out of respect I contacted a few select artists because quite frankly these people are just so fantastic they were invited by me to show without having to submit and be juried.

Most of those people are TCB (ask) and all is good in the world.

But, oh, those three…

Those three are working my last nerve. Look, I’m 100% positive that I’ve overlooked someone whose work deserves the exaltation this show will bring him or her. It’s bound to happen. I’ve seen hundreds of artists work but I may just have missed someone who should be an obvious choice. The people I called were on a very short list and I have not heard a peep from these people in months.

OK. I’m sure (really) they won’t let me down after I extended my personal invite so I’m sure all will be right in the world…

But if it isn’t…

They will kick themselves when the show opens and becomes an international phenomenal success.

If it doesn’t it’s all John Jennings fault. “I don’t want any artist in the show whose skin is darker than a paper bag.” I can’t believe he said that either. But Tatiana El-Khouri (who will surely be as responsible as John) said “I don’t want any women in the show taller or prettier than me, and they must all be illiterate.”

Hey, I know, simply unprofessional. But what could I do? I was unaware of any of this as I was waiting to hear from these three artists…

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold

THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil

THURSDAY AFTERNOON: The Tweaks!

 

Michael Davis: The Possible Dream

Davis Art 130917So here’s the deal.

Over a year ago Missy Geppi and the Geppi Entertainment Museum in Baltimore honored me by asking me to curate a show showcasing African American pop culture in comics and related media.

The show, Milestones: African Americans in Comics, Pop Culture and Beyond, has been pushed back and now opens December 6th The response from artists, filmmakers and designers have been fantastic. That’s one of the reasons the show has been pushed back.

The other reason?

Trust me, you wouldn’t believe it if I told you. That said, I’m blown away by some of the work I’ve seen but I’m not satisfied.

Let me be crystal clear, I’ve seen wonderful work from established artists and great work from up and coming artists but this show, my show has to feature something more.

Again, let me be even clearer, if the show went up as is it would be fantastic. But fantastic is not what I’m going for.

What am I going for?

A dream.

Really.

I’m dreaming of a show that just doesn’t showcase established African American artisans in pop culture, I want to see new artists that have a dream of becoming part of the comics and related industries. I also want to see non-black artists who have worked on or been influence by black pop culture.

That means you don’t have to be black to have a piece in the show.

But… You have to come correct. That means your work must have a real appreciation and genuine respect for black culture.

That means be Eminem, not Vanilla Ice.

So, to recap, if you’re an African American artist with something to say or just someone who has be inspired by the African American experience and you think you have what it takes to be part of a history making show that celebrates black pop culture we would like to see your work.

Do you have to be a professional? Good question, here’s the answer, if you just got out of art school, if you are just getting into art school, if you were kicked out of art school or if you tried but didn’t get into art school we want to see your work.

I’m looking for new artists so if you’ve never even thought of and can’t even spell “art school” but you have talent I’m looking for you.

Get it?

I don’t care if you are a 65-year-old shut-in or 16-year-old Hanna Montana fan if you think you can hang with the big boys (and girls) this is your chance to be seen by the world.

The deadline is October 14.

Here’s the website to present your work: http://milestonestheshow.com

Here’s an email to answer any questions: info@milestonestheshow.com

Finally, here’s hoping my co-curator Tatiana El-Khouri, our creative adviser John Jennings, and I make some young artist’s dream come true.

Oh and if you are a fan of Hanna Montana, keep that to yourself. I mean really.

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold

THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil

 

Michael Davis: The Wrong Stuff

Davis Art 130101A few days ago I received an email from my friend John Jennings. John is a fantastic artist and teacher and I’ve known him for a lot of years.

I was not happy with what John had to say and let him know it. What John wrote me was a pretty detailed accounting of why some in the black comic arts community were not happy with the following line from the gallery show I’m curating for the Geppi Entertainment Museum called Milestones: African Americans in Comics. Pop Culture and Beyond.

“Up until now there has been no serious attempt to showcase African-Americans in the world of comic books, and the impact of their creative excellence, which has been a mainstay of the industry for as long as comics have been an American art form.”

Man, I went (as we say in the hood) Negro when I read that that line in the press release offended some people.

My response to John was in affect, how dare these mofo’s (white people, ask someone what that means, oh wait it’s New Years Day and you are all hung over so I’ll just tell you, motherfuckers. It means “motherfuckers”) be offended??

The reason why they were offended is because that line from the press release gives the impression that Milestones is the first exhibit of its kind. I must say, I’ve written some great kiss my ass letters in the past, but the one I wrote about those people who were “offended” was so good I thought about using it for a ComicMix article.

Before I could do that, John wrote a response that pretty much put be on blast (white people, ask someone what that means…oh I forgot New Years Day, hung over, OK “blast” in this instance means you call someone on their shit. Damn! I keep forgetting, New Year, hung over…’calling someone on their shit means you dismantle their argument), John called me on my shit.

John was right.

Milestones is the latest in a line of exhibits that feature black comic book art and artists.

I’m going to give John a forum to break down what has gone before in the Black Comic Space in a guest column here (something he’s just learning right now) as no one is better equipped than John to do so.

Those who know me are well aware that when I’m wrong, I say it.

I was wrong.

I also intend to acknowledge what has come before in any future press releases, interviews, etc. I think letting the millions of people that read me on ComicMix is a good start but I can do more and I will.

I’m excited about the show, I’m excited that Tatiana El-Khouri is co-curator, John is lending his considerable expertise and talent to the exhibition and Obama beat the living shit out of Romney.

That I was right about, was I not?

On a somber note, Peter David had a stroke the other day and all I can think of is how much I love that guy. Peter is not just a friend, he’s not just a great writer, he’s a really great guy.

Get well Peter and do it fast. We all love you dude.

Happy New Year, everyone.

WEDNESDAY: Mike Gold