Tagged: Kwanza Osajyefo

Joe Corallo is Late To The Party

As I’m writing this column on Monday the 27th, it’s my grandpa’s birthday. He’s turning 80 and a lot of the family is flying down to Florida later this week to see him. In the mean, I’ve been working closely with some of the ComicMix team to get Mine! out the door which is in Previews as well as on BackerKit for pre-order. I’ve also been reading some comics I’ve been way behind on!

I got to finish the first volume of Black over the weekend. The team of Kwanza Osajyefo, Tim Smith 3, Jamal Igle, Khary Randolph, and Sarah Litt over at Black Mask Studios put together a book that takes on racial tensions with a superhero backdrop and absolutely no chill. Over the course of six issues we follow a young black man, Kareem, as he discovers not only does he have super powers, but so do many other black people. And that only black people have super powers.

For me, it takes until about halfway through issue two before the story really picks up a steam. Once the story gets moving though, the pacing gets very consistent and from issue four to the end you’re not going to want to put it down. Jamal Igle’s art in grayscale is absolutely gorgeous and helps make a few otherwise slow paced scenes of people sitting in a cell or an office very engaging. While the story is more likely to preach to the choir than to get some bigot to reexamine their backwards way of thinking, it’s still a great read and since the comic has been optioned you’ll wanna read it before the movie hits so you can be one of the cool kids.

Another series I finally got to crack into was Super Sons over at DC. Now, I was a little late to the party when Peter Tomasi was tackling Damian Wayne with the New 52’s Batman and Robin with Patrick Gleason. Peter’s work on Damian is honestly the best portrayal of the character I’ve read, and I say this as a huge Grant Morrison fan. The first arch of that Batman and Robin run had me sold and I kept up with that title for quite a while after, so seeing Peter back on Damian in Super Sons put this book on my radar right away.

Joined by the incredible artist Jorge Jimenez, Peter Tomasi tells us of the adventures of young Jon Kent a.k.a. Superboy and Damian Wayne aka Robin as they try to prove themselves to be just as capable as their super parents. As excited as I was to finally read this comic, it honestly surpassed my expectations.

Jon Kent is the perfect foil to Damian Wayne. The way the two interact with each other in their playful rivalry creates a fun dynamic that I wish I saw in more comics. Jon’s youth, height, and natural abilities get under Damian’s skin, but handles it better than the less mature Jon who wears his heart on his sleeve. As the two try to a nefarious plot, we watch as the two rib on each other. Jon has taken it personally that he wasn’t asked to be in the Teen Titans despite being a ten years old. One of my favorite moments is when Jon points out a mistake that Damian has made and he responds by saying he learns from his mistakes better than anyone.

Between the fantastic story and the gorgeous, fluid artwork, I can’t possibly recommend Super Sons enough. If you’ve been loving DC’s Rebirth and haven’t picked this title up yet, get on it. If you don’t read DC Comics, you seriously should consider picking this up too. And while there is some violence, it’s definitely more appropriate for some younger readers than a lot of other Big 2 comics out there.

Look, I know I was late to the party here. Luckily with trade paperbacks and comiXology you can never be too late to the party when it comes to comics.

Joe Corallo: Terrified

As of my typing up this column, DC Comics employee of over twenty years and Superman Group Editor Eddie Berganza has been fired from the company in relation to the sexual harassment and assault allegations raised against him for nearly a decade. This is in large part due to the Buzzfeed article that hit this past Friday, the amazing journalism of Jessica Testa, Tyler Kingkade, and Jay Edidin, former DC editorial staffers Janelle Asselin and Liz Gehrlein Marsham for speaking to Buzzfeed on the record, and all of the other victims who spoke anonymously out of fear of the very real fear of retribution. Since the release of that article, Molly McIsaac has also come forward about her encounter with Eddie Berganza’s sexual harassment.

Many people are rightfully asking why did it take so long remove Berganza when his sexually abusive behavior has been an open secret for nearly a decade? For better or worse, the answer is that in a post Weinstein world we are taking these accusations more seriously. This happened because Buzzfeed reported on it. When people tried to put pressure on DC Comics to act in April of 2016 in the aftermath of Shelly Bond’s dismissal – including myself – it wasn’t taken seriously outside of comics press and the story died in the wake of Dan Didio deleting his Twitter account and DC Entertainment honcho  Diane Nelson sending out a memo assuring us that DC Entertainment cares about the safety of their employees. The memo didn’t even mention Berganza’s name. It was a heavy slap in the face to comics journalist, pros and fans all over that helped to reassert the notion that victims are the problem and abusers will always be protected until it is absolutely impossible to continue protecting them.

Make no mistake; DC Comics did what it did because there was absolutely no way to continue protecting Eddie Berganza.

As of my writing this, DC Comics has not addressed Bob Harras’ role in seemingly and allegedly ignoring filed complaints with HR and assisting in Berganza’s rise in the company at the expense of many women within DC and countless more that were denied opportunities as a result of his continued employment or didn’t even attempt to throw their hat in the ring because of Berganza’s presence. Nothing will salvage the comics careers of all of those women, some we know and some we don’t, who fell in love with these adored characters as kids and grew up to learn that you would need to be willing to endure sexual harassment, propositions, and compromising your ethics to work in – of all places – the Superman office.

And Eddie Berganza isn’t the only person to make that statement true.

An open letter to Dan Didio has been circulating for over a week that not only brings up Berganza, but Mike Carlin, as a known harasser that inappropriately touched a female staffer. Like Eddie, Mike has been both a Superman Group Editor and an Executive Editor at DC Comics with his greatest achievement being The Death of Superman. Mike Carlin’s name is printed in literally millions upon millions of comics. He’s had lines wrapped around stores waiting for his signature. Unlike Eddie, Mike was able to allegedly harass his way to further promotions. He was promoted out of the comics division and currently works as the Creative Director of Animation for DC Entertainment. As of this writing this there has been no indication that Bob Harras covering for Eddie Berganza or Mike Carlin’s alleged harassment are being looked into.

Comics professionals including Rafael Albuquerque, Gail Simone, Cliff Chiang, Tee Franklin, Lilah Sturges, Sophie Campbell, Tony Isabella, Kurt Busiek, Tini Howard, Sina Grace, Kate Leth, Amy Chu, Tamra Bonvillain, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Christopher Sebela, Matthew Rosenberg, Kwanza Osajyefo, Tess Fowler, Mark Waid, and so many more stepped up to make their voices heard in the aftermath of the Buzzfeed article dropping on Friday. This is important not only because we should be standing up for victims of abuse, but because comics professionals are terrified of retaliation against them by DC Comics.

Terrified.

I want to make this crystal clear to people reading, as fans and casual readers may not be aware of or understand the reality of all of this. Speaking out against the brass is more than looked down upon; it’s disqualifying. Rafael Albuquerque mentions this in his statement on Berganza. Other professionals including Kwanza made it crystal clear on Twitter that speaking out could mean getting blacklisted, but it would be hard if we all ban together. Maybe in a post Weinstein world speaking out to defend victims won’t get you blacklisted like it has in the past to rising stars like Nancy Collins, but I talked to many comics professionals off the record during all of this with Berganza and many freelancers are still terrified. That should be alarming, but also sobering to everyone reading this that standing up against serial sexual assaulters can lose you work, but turning a blind eye to victims can get you a gig on a Superman book.

We might have the power now to change the dynamics at DC Comics and much of the rest of the entertainment industry if not all industries. We may be at a tipping point where we will no longer be a society that protects abusers, but rather one that stands up for victims. We need to be that society, and we may not be there just yet but we might be close. The only way we can do it is if we stand together. They can’t blacklist us if we all protect each other.

To quote Sinead O’Connor, “Fight the real enemy!”

Joe Corallo: Diversity, Comics, and the Culture War

There are so many things that have happened in the past week that I’d love to talk about. I’d love to talk about our successful Kickstarter campaign for Mine! which raised $9,360 over our goal. I’d love to talk about what I thought of Runaways #1. Unfortunately, what I need to talk about is Aubrey Sitterson and Diversity and Comics.

Aubrey Sitterson is currently writing one of the G.I. Joe comics over at IDW. He has a reputation for poking the bear when it comes to those on the right who are upset about decisions he’s made in changing characters and the roles of said characters in order to create a more diverse book that will appeal to new audiences; something that properties like G.I. Joe could always use. Last week on September 11th, Aubrey sent off a couple of tweets regarding 9/11. He talked about who has a right to be upset about what happened on that day and questioned the sincerity of some people expressing anger and grief over what happened.

While I agree with Aubrey’s politics in terms of pushing for wider diversity in comics, in comments regarding 9/11 were very inappropriate. They were not comments made to friends in private, or even on a private Facebook page; they were public statements made on his public Twitter account. I have every right to be offended by what he said as do many other people.

Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences. I’ve been disappointed to see some reporting on the left side of comics politics that make it out as if Aubrey Sitterson’s comments didn’t mean what he said they mean, and that by being upset with his words that we are somehow allowing those on the right side of comics politics to score some sort of victory. While I don’t feel that he needs to be fired or anything like that, we don’t have to act like what he said was great and unworthy of criticism either. No one wants to hear your hot edgy take about 9/11 on 9/11. No one.

That being said, if the reason you’re calling for the firing of Aubrey Sitterson is because of Diversity and Comics, then we need to talk about that.

Diversity and Comics is the equivalent of a right-wing pundit for the comics industry; think Alex Jones’ Info Wars. He came to the scene earlier this year and his following has been growing massively on Twitter and YouTube. I hadn’t been paying too much attention to what he was doing, but over time he began to make very personal attacks towards writers I admire like Kwanza Osajyefo as well as personal friends and Mine! contributors Sina Grace, Gabby Rivera, and Mags Visaggio. He has stated that he wants a Comics Culture War. This is a problem that needs to be addressed.

What Diversity and Comics does, similar to what Trump and the far right often do, is to take a universally recognized problem and spin things to find a scapegoat they can rally around using bigotry and guttural emotions. Many people would agree that the comic industry could be doing better, or at least we would like to see it do better. Diversity and Comics takes those who are looking for an answer to why comics aren’t doing better and offers up a solution; it’s SJWs, the far left, women, queer and minority creators. This results in targeting specific creators and vile, personal attacks fueled by bigotry and hate being thrown around in an effort to try to force people out of comics that they don’t like. I don’t care to share any of those attacks in this piece.

People often talk about leaving trolls alone and they’ll just disappear. In this instance, Diversity and Comics has been growing his following this whole year. He has more Twitter followers than ComicMix, a Patreon where he brings in several hundred dollars a month, YouTube channel with over 37k subscribers and over 9 million video views, with many videos over 10k views a piece with hundreds of comments. I don’t see him going away anytime soon, and his followers and subscribers have grown between this past weekend and me writing this. Many people were wrong about how much support a candidate like Trump would have, and you may be wrong about how much support Diversity and Comics has too.

This is a sizeable group of people that exist. They want comics for them; them being cishet white guys and some outliers. In their effort to do so despite having the majority of mainstream comics already catering to them, they have made many creators at best feel unwelcome and at worst feel unsafe. It’s not a sustainable way to operate in a fandom the size of comics.

Some of the people involved will never change the way they feel or operate, and that’s how it is. Some of them got caught up in the rhetoric and maybe don’t truly believe the horribly sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic and Islamophobic words used to promote the ideals of Diversity and Comics, but rather found his answers about the industry to be plausible on the surface. Those people may come back around one day as they see he does not have the real answers to the woes of the comics industry, but rather an agenda to craft a comics fan base in his own image.

Targeted creators do not want you to look at what Diversity and Comics is saying about them and reporting back. Don’t do that. It just hurts people. What you can do is if you see inappropriate behavior, nasty personal attacks, or threats to report them to Twitter or whichever platform you are using and see it on. The comics community is small, but we need to step up and help creators to feel safe and welcome.

Please help all of us to have a safer, more welcoming community for creators now and well into the future.

Joe Corallo: Black Comics Matter

BLACK-teaser

This past Wednesday I joined my fellow ComicMix columnist Martha Thomases at the signing for Scout Comics Solarman #1 at JHU in midtown Manhattan. Present from the creative team were co-writer and Milestone Comics alum Joseph Phillip Illidge as well as illustrator N. Steven Harris. Martha gave a big hug to Joseph Illidge, she introduced me, and they proceeded to catch up. Dakota North even got brought up by Joseph Illidge and not Martha!

On my way home I got a chance to read Solarman #1. For those of you unfamiliar with the character, he was created by Dave Oliphant with Deborah A. Kalman and starred in two issues of his own comic book series at Marvel in early 1989. In the time since then, Dave Oliphant eventually got the publishing rights back and has now found a new home at Scout Comics.

The original iteration of Solarman was a white guy with red hair donning an outfit he clearly nabbed from the Legion of Super-Heroes HQ during a skirmish with Dr. Regulus. Chances are you can probably guess his superpowers as well.

What makes this reboot of Solarman stand out is that the character is now black. Multiple people on the creative team are black as well. And although myself and presumably most comic book readers didn’t read the original two issue run of Solarman so I can’t compare the two, this reboot is a compelling story with a rich and well developed world in just one issue.

Solarman got me thinking a lot about representation in comics. In the past I’ve talked about how at the big two we’ll see a character a woman or minority character take over for a big name like Captain America, Thor, Green Lantern, and so forth. The problem that I and many others have with this is that it is often short lived with their original straight cis white counterparts taking back the reigns. Almost as if to say you’ve had your fun, but now let’s get back to the real story.

solar-social_1A character like Solarman is a bit different. With heavy hitters like Captain America and Thor, people already associate them so heavily with their long time comic and movie counterparts that are straight cis white men. Solarman is a character that is a virtual unknown in comics and never had the opportunity to gain much of a following. By updating Solarman to be a young black man, the vast majority of readers will associate this Solarman as being the default and makes it significantly easier to see this character as staying black for the long term and being a part of long term representation as opposed to being a footnote.

mosaicThis is going beyond Solarman as well. This year has been seeing an influx of black characters in comics written by black writers. Black Panther is being written by Ta-Nehisi Coates and was the highest selling comic of the year so far. Marvel is also introducing a new ongoing with a new black Inhuman hero, Mosaic, being written by Geoffrey Thorne and illustrated by Khary Randolph.

We will also be seeing DC Comics doing something closer to what Scout Comics is doing with Solarman. This fall, DC is rebooting Vigilante in a miniseries titled The Vigilante: Southland, the once problematic by our current standards golden age hero. Vigilante has popped up time and again since then, but arguably never in any significant way. He’s been reimagined as a failed NBA player getting by in life as a maintenance man until being dragged into a conspiracy.

One of the most intriguing sounding titles involving a black hero with a black creative team coming out this September is Black from Black Mask Studios. Written by Kwanza Osajyefo with co-creator and designer Tim Smith 3, art by Jamal Igle, and covers by Khary Randolph, Black is the story of Kareem Jenkins, a young black man gunned down by the police only to find that he’s one of many black people with superpowers.

A powerful concept tackling unfortunately divisive issues like police executing citizens is important for the comics industry to tackle and I’m proud of Black Mask Studios for putting a comic like this in its lineup. It’s certainly one of the comics I’m looking forward to reading most this year.

It seems like the comic industry is starting to make a bigger push at publishers both small and large to better represent the black community both on their pages and behind them. These efforts certainly seem to be more prevalent than they were over the last few years. Of course there is always more work to do to create a better, more inclusive environment in the industry as well as its readership, but these are certainly some positive developments and they should be noted.

These kinds of positive developments will only continue if we support these books though. So please, keep an eye out for comics like Black, The Vigilante: Southland, and Mosaic this fall, catch up on Black Panther if you’re not up to date, and pick up a copy of Solarman #1 if you haven’t yet.