Michael Davis: From The Edge – The Hidden Beach

This will be hard to believe, but the truth is I seek neither understanding nor accolades regarding my work here and at Bleeding Cool. The bravado and swagger I write with is, more often than not, part of the attitude I’m trying to convey in the article. Frequently, that does not come through – what does is my seemingly “I could give a damn” attitude.

Once that becomes the takeaway from what I’ve written, admittedly I do enjoy throwing fuel on a fire. That is a dick move and it’s clear I can be a dick.

That’s not hard to believe.

There is a reason and a purpose behind everything I write and how I write it. It’s not just the rewards that come with it. One day I’ll write the “Why” of what I do, but today I’d like to give my little contribution to Black History Month.

My secondary goal in the comic book industry is to grow the industry. Grow it with people of color who come in with a keen business sense and unquestionable professionalism. My Bad Boy Studio Mentor Program has done a pretty decent job at that. Unlike a great many studios that produce talent, the artists and writers who come out of my studio, don’t draw or write like me (Thank you Jesus! is now being shouted at DC Comics) that’s never been my thing. I’m about young creators being successful to that end; I’m not looking to influence anybody with my technique.

That’s my secondary goal and for years I’ve tried to do away with it as a goal, I’ve been unable to.

Surprise! Yeah, I’m tied of all that mentoring shit. What I really want to do is direct.

Unfortunately, try as I might to leave the future of creators of color to others, so I might pursue my real first love (Directing? Nope; was joke) unrestrained by the wailings of those bastards ungrateful for my invaluable teachings. Alas that is not to be, I’m simply much to good at it and vanity prevents me from leaving. Yeah, I’m vain. That cannot news to anyone.

In certain circles I have a reputation as a deal maker and I do so love to close a good deal. With that in mind, some may believe my first goal is business. How little you people must think of me if money is what above all is what I seek.

It most certainly is not.

It’s money and power.

Remember, first you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the pre-nup, then you get the woman. What?

Okay, bad jokes aside, my first goal in comics, what I delight in, is the creation of a new universe.

My greatest joy professionally is constructing worlds, building narratives filled with infinite possibilities limited only by my imagination. Yes, they feature but are not limited to characters of color, but just as important to me is making something so damn cool it boggles people’s minds that it has not been done before.

But to do that, I had to take care of some business first. A business that started a longtime ago in a housing project far, far away…

For as long as I’ve been in the industry, I’ve wondered why certain things that seem obvious to fans are seemingly impossible tasks to achieve in the industry. Since I was a kid, a shared TV and movie universe was a dream all of my fellow comic book fans wished for. We just did not understand why it couldn’t be.

The biggest superhero television moment of my life is still when The Green Hornet showed up on Batman, and that was 40 plus years ago! It’s incredible; although I was decades away from being born I remember that. What?

Almost 50 years since Kato kicked the crap out of Robin, Marvel now has a shared film and television universe and DC is trying to establish theirs. How Barry Allen showed up on Arrow was lame but I’ll take it. The comics industry only seems to act when pushed. Case in point: Disney had to buy Marvel before a Justice League film became a reality. So in a very real way, Marvel green-lit DC’s movie.

Twenty years ago, while speaking at Pro Con, I proposed to the industry we set up Ad Council. One of the things I wanted to do was a comic book TV commercial. I thought it was a real easy sale. It made sense and I volunteered to pay the entire up front costs to set up the council and the first commercial.

I would have gotten more interest if I suggested we start doing snuff comics.

I know what you’re thinking and I’m with you – I still can’t figure that one out.

What I’ve learned to do is not wait for the comics industry. That’s enabled me to get comics into markets sought after but not served by the rest of the industry. I’ve been able to get major comic book lines into the African American Church and mainstream Christian market, public schools, hospitals, and related health care facilities. The series are distributed nationwide, and in the case of The Guardian Line, nationwide and Africa.

These are really major comic book and graphic novels, produced by major comic book creators. Creative and production costs for each, The Guardian Line published by Urban Ministries Inc. and the Action Files published by Simon & Schuster and Pearson Learning, were budgeted well over a million dollars.

The Guardian Line debuted 10 years ago. The Action Files turns 20 this year. Each universe is still sold today. One of the reasons the lines were successful in aimed markets is with targeted television (gasp!) commercials and venues.

More than two decades ago at the same Pro Con I saw my Ad Council and commercial idea shot down like an unarmed black kid, I suggested targeting conventions, tradeshows, and book fairs outside of the comic book market. My Pro Con pitch to creators and publishers netted me a big “you stupid” from the audience – it simply did not add up for them.

Maybe it’s the new math, they’re having a problem adding up. Let’s see now, take 20 years in the schools add 10 years in the African American Church and Christian market, that equals 30 years of revenue.

Who’s stupid now?

Publishers scoffed at my new market suggestions; however, some retailers embraced them. In a series of articles I wrote for Diamond Retailer, my recommendation was met with a resounding thumbs up. I received tons of thank you letters from retailers who followed my advice or were intending to do so.

Underserved markets can still be reached with very little outlay of capital.

Black Expos, Latino Festivals, Block Parties and civic organizations are ripe for the comic book market. And not just for books that feature characters of color. Comic books are great sellers regardless at these venues.

The end user is very often not who is buying the product at these forums.

Parents and grandparents buy for their kids and teens. Siblings and significant others of comic fans purchase for them. Extended family, friends, and teachers are among the many types of folk who would not typically be inclined to go to a comic book store. This approach makes sense for retailers and creators who are trying to build an audience outside of the mainstream comic book market, which is a mess. Comic book publishers still and have always cannibalized off each other. Everyone’s chasing the same buck.

Back in the day this was a concern to publishers. Now, they could care less about the comic book market. Disney didn’t buy Marvel to sell comics. They bought Marvel to sell everything based on comics. Make no mistake – the real play in comic book publishing is the movie or TV deal and the merchandising that intellectual property will generate. Comics are still the redheaded ugly stepchildren of Hollywood and their corporate parent companies.

How ugly? So ugly, Time Warner rarely included DC Comics as anything but a line item in its Annual Report to stockholders.

That ugly.

While this article and many before have focused on the comic book business, that’s a secondary objective to me. I seek alternate markets, distribution, and new talent to reach diverse audiences who continue to be underserved because the industry gave me little choice but to do so.

So, back to me my greatest joy…

My greatest joy professionally is constructing worlds, building narratives filled with infinite possibilities limited only by my imagination. Yes, they feature but are not limited to characters of color, but just as important to me is making something so damn cool it boggles people’s minds that it has not been done before.

I think I’ve done that. I hope I have.

The Hidden Beach is the story of a very near, dark future, where the government dictates music, art, literature, relationships, and worship to the citizens of the United States. Anything that isn’t sanctioned by the current administration has been outlawed.


You will pay the IRS one way or another, you will obey the law. If the police knock on your door, there’s been a mistake. They no longer knock. All government agencies regulate and enforce the new world order with extreme prejudice.

Any citizen caught enjoying unapproved music, worshiping the wrong God, loving the wrong person is subject to severe persecution. In a very real way, any free will you think you have, you don’t. The government of these United States of America wants to own what makes you… you.

America wants to own you – and if it were possible, your soul as well.

In the midst of this time of total and absolute subjugation, a talented Los Angeles singer named Angie Fisher continues to make illegal music in underground concerts, where the audience shows approval through hushed whispers of respect rather than loud applause. She’s resigned to her life of unlawful music and black market performances, but she’s heard whispered rumors of a group fighting the government and a place where she and others like her can live freely.

If they exist, the Guardians of Soul are said to be seven men rumored to have incredible abilities. Alone, they stand against the new American sovereignty with a singular purpose: to protect the one last thing the government needs to kill all hope of its citizens, the legendary safe haven for America’s soul – the Hidden Beach.

Angie prays the Guardians are real – they have to be. If not, she’s dead. The IRS is looking for her, and except for $2000, they are the only thing that can save her life.

Yeah, it’s one of those “in the not too distant future” yarns…with a twist.

Angie Fisher is a real person. The ‘7’ are real people with incredible abilities. The Hidden Beach is a real entity. Most of the supporting characters in the story are real also.

The American government I speak of is real…almost.

Think if you will what would happen if the most extreme of the extreme of any political group comes to power. It happened before in Nazi Germany and it’s happening now in North Korea and a few other places.

Both Angie Fisher and the 7, known as Naturally 7 have added something to this new universe, never done before….

Naturally 7

A soundtrack.

This is not a gimmick. This is a merger of music and comics I’ve been trying to accomplish since my days at Motown Animation.

The universe was created to be a part of the music. Indeed some music was created just for the universe. Its never been done before, except in the minds of comic book fans.

It’s got a beat and you can read to it. The Hidden Beach Graphic Novel Book One: Hidden In Plain Sight hits the stores December 2015. Angie Fisher’s IRS and Naturally 7: Hidden In Plain Sight, the album on sale now, notice the album design with artwork by yours truly and Bad Boy Studio alum Felix Serrano.

The beginning…