“If a Negro got legs he ought to use them. Sit down too long, somebody will figure out a way to tie them up.”—Toni Morrison, Beloved
Late last night I had an idea, promptly dismissed it as crazy, and went to sleep. It woke up with me this morning, settled in with me at breakfast, and has remained lodged within my cranium since. Apparently, it’s here for the long haul. The last time I had a crazy idea I ended up with the Ormes Society, so I’ve decided to entertain this visitor for as long as she plans to stick around. Allow me to introduce you…
All-Negro Comics #1 (now firmly entrenched in the public domain to be enjoyed by all) appeared in June of 1947. I’d like to publish All-Negro Comics #2. I’m sharing my idea today in the hopes that you would too.
Black people have been making comics since there were comics. A cursory look at our ancient history and you could argue that black people invented comics. But in America we were not always provided a chance to share the national stage enjoyed by creators of other races—to create works that would become our modern-day myths. The purpose of the second issue of All-Negro Comics would be to celebrate the milestones of a past long buried by the industry and carry them with us into the present in order to leave a legacy for the future. I want to show the diversity found in regards to black individuals within the comic industry: men and women who come from various professional levels, genders, generations, sexual orientations, religions, and geographical regions—creators who have been influenced by everything under the sun.
I’d like to keep the length of the comic fairly small (roughly 32 pages featuring 8-10 vignettes of 3-4 pages) and distribute the work digitally. My focus is on reaching a large number of lower-income readers who desperately need to hear black voices but may not have the capability of finding a local comic shop or the funds to spend four dollars on a comic book. Donating one or two dollars to a Kickstarter project would likely be all they could handle, but a large number of small donations would allow for an acceptable page rate to be offered. Also, starting off small would enable me to gauge how receptive fans would be to this type of project and make it easier for creators to contribute and introduce (or reintroduce) characters they could take with them to other projects. Even better, it would allow for further issues by all-new creative and editorial teams. The brand could be passed from one to another as if a totem, a badge of honor, or simply a way to link generations.
Q: Hey, if I created a character, who would own it? Who would own my artwork?
A: Each creative team would make their own agreement as to how the ownership of new intellectual properties would be shared. Artists would own the artwork they produce; writers would own their scripts. Point blank—creators own their creations. If you wanted to use an existing character that you already own, you would be welcome to do so. Creative teams would be welcome to publish their work elsewhere if they so desire! Yes, even in print! I’d only ask that you wait until March 1, 2014, if you plan to share your work elsewhere (website, sketchbook, script archive, another anthology, etc.)—and provide All-Negro Comics #2 with a one-time, first appearance credit.
I think it would be a wonderful idea to honor those who came before us by using public-domain characters (Ace Harlem, John Henry) or gods (Anansi, Papa Legba). It’d be nice to make sure these characters were not forgotten, but could live on and be reinvented like Thor or Wonder Woman. (I’m curious to see if someone could snatch Breezy back from Chris Brown.) And, of course, the lead character in each vignette should be black. It’s All-Negro Comics, folks!
Q: So, black lead characters and black creators, huh? Any other story requirements?
A: Your work should be suitable for ages 16 and older. That’s it. You are black, so your story is as well. Sci-fi, western, romance, war, noir—it doesn’t matter. In fact, the more diversity the better.
Q: If you want diversity, why not open the project up to people of all races?
A: Because it is important to showcase black voices that have been silenced elsewhere. Honestly, black storytellers are dealing with specific anti-black stereotypes that argue that (1) they are not intellectually capable of professional literary work and (2) they have an agenda to denigrate white people with their creations. These are negative stereotypes perpetuated by fans and professionals that creators of other races simply do not have to deal with (though there are certainly other difficulties to be encountered). Places where black writers can combat these stereotypes are insanely rare. We must cherish and protect each platform we are given. For readers, I wanted to provide inexpensive stories where black people could be seen and heard. Both are vital.
Q: So, what would campaign contributors get? And creators?
A: Readers would get a 32-page digital comic with no advertisements for the very low price of one or two American dollars. I wanted this to be a project for the people, a project that even the kid who works at Foot Locker or the woman who works at McDonald’s could be a part of. I’d edit the work free of charge and there would be no printing costs. Funds raised would be provided to the creators.
Q: Your heart is in the right place, but it’s not feasible given ______.
A: Is there something I haven’t taken into account? I’m certainly open to hearing the feedback/wisdom of others! Please let me know.
Q: I’d love to help, but I am so not black! What can I do?
A: Plenty! One, you can help to spread the word by linking to this page! You can also blog about black creators that you would love to see more of in the future or would like to see honored by the industry. If you are an artist, feel free to promote the project by working on a pin-up of a black creation of the past (Torchy Brown, “Jive” Gray) and share it on your site (or donate it to be offered as a limited-edition Kickstarter bonus)!
Q: I’d love to help, and I am so black—but I’m swamped! How can I help?
A: See the answer above! (I’d also suggest angling for a cover spot or providing the afterword or foreword.)
Q: Anything else?
A: You tell me! This week has been set aside for discussion. Would you want to read a project such as this? Who would you want to contribute? Would you like to contribute? Talk amongst yourselves—or with me! (My people—those who’ve emailed me before–hit me up on the direct line.) If all goes smoothly, we’ll move onto submissions and art samples next week! If not? Well, we’ve had some good discussions about some great creators who definitely deserve our praise.