Facing reality with FaceDate.

For someone who doesn’t date I am strangely fascinated by both matchmaking and dating apps. My latest focus of interest? FaceDate. The FaceDate app forgoes following in the footsteps of popular apps such as Tinder and social media platforms such as OKCupid. Instead of taking text profiles or socioeconomic categories into account, FaceDate matches people solely on the basis of physical attraction. In layman’s terms, you tell FaceDate the celebrities you find attractive and the app scours your location for potential mates who possess the same features you find alluring amongst your favorite starlets.

What intrigues me about FaceDate is that I believe that by shirking profiles and statistics to hone in on facial features the app will do a much better job battling the bigotry that plagues its competitors. There are no sliders to weed out individuals of a certain race, body type, class, or religion. One is judged strictly by one’s phenotype and skin care regimen.

“Friends who use Grindr complain there’s a lot of racist ‘whites only’ requests on there. Let’s say a guy only enters in photos of white men. Would he only be shown white men, or would FaceDate’s algorithms leave race behind?”Sophie Wilkinson

“It’s a good question. I think by default, it should leave the race behind, because I don’t think it’s that easy to say you can learn a race based on photos. Different people have different faces, it’s not like a race has the same model face. As a scientist I would need to test it, though.”Cristian Borcea

As a brown-skinned black woman I am all too familiar with statistics that label me persona non grata on various social media sites and dating apps—hence my swiftly removing myself from the dating scene. Many are quick to state their preference for a particular race, not realizing they are including countless individuals who aren’t their “type” and are excluding many they would find extremely attractive. A heterosexual man who is enamored by large eyes, full lips, and long streamlined noses would find himself drawn to both Rosario Dawson and Angelina Jolie. Yet should he adjust his settings to only search for white women, he would never discover a Dawson doppelgänger. Racism has its consequences even at the most superficial level!

FaceDate would force individuals to actually see the beauty (or plainness, to be fair) of an individual before assumptions based on race could sway one’s judgement. In the past I have discussed the breathtaking subversive beauty of Rihanna, who has allowed the world to appreciate full lips and broad noses by cloaking those attributes in the fair skin deemed acceptably feminine by the masses. I am amused to think of how the straight men using FaceDate will respond when those who have stated their admiration of Rihanna are met with a selection of brown-skinned women with beautifully broad noses and adorable bow-shaped lips. I believe many will have to face their own bigotry and decide how to come to terms with it going forward. I believe many more will be surprised to discover they have a “type”—one that includes a different assortment than they believed it would.


“Keep your politics out of my comics!”

Comic books have always been political. Comic books have always made a cultural statement. Much like a fish is not aware of the water surrounding it until the creature has been removed from a lake or an ocean, readers are often not aware of the political statements and cultural agendas promoted in the work they consume until those agendas no longer adhere to the ones they hold dear. A slow-witted Mammy in a Tom & Jerry cartoon was deemed benign by non-black audiences prior to a shift in American attitudes about African Americans. Captain America punching Hitler was deemed acceptable for generations until a resurgence of white nationalists grew increasingly distressed that such depictions were encouraging people to (rightfully) respond to their bigoted desires for genocide and the revocation of civil rights with violence.

While I believe that work that champions the hatred and denigration of a group for whom they inherently are has no place in the art we consume, to remove politics (or in layman’s terms, to remove propaganda or a cultural agenda) from one’s work is wholly impossible. Even something as innocuous as a 1980s sitcom such as Growing Pains championed the traditional nuclear American family. And so long as there is room for other families to be depicted, what is wrong with that?

Absolutely nothing.

I find that there are two distinct groups clamoring for an imaginary era when comics were not political. The first group is comprised of reactionary individuals deeply angered by the presence of subcultures that are not their own in the work they consume. They are your typical racists, homophobes, anti-Semites, misogynists, etc.  However, there is another group that I believe does not wish to whitewash or censor an industry, but is having difficulty expressing what it really wants, which is a curtailing of ham-fisted depictions of current events or thinly veiled lectures disguised as story arcs.

Sadly, I believe the second group is much smaller than the first. However, it exists and its grievance is a valid one. I’ve enjoyed the work of creators possessing cultural viewpoints and political agendas that differ wildly from my own—and it certainly wasn’t because men like Frank Miller and Chuck Dixon are somehow adept at not letting their agendas and viewpoints bleed through their work. In fact they are absolutely terrible at it! But as long as one is not terrible at crafting a good story, one can enjoy work like Team 7 or Sin City: Hell and Back as much as one enjoys Bitch Planet or Empowered.

And I do.


Twitter Rundown: Nice to tweet you.

I’ve been spending far too much time tweeting and not nearly enough time focused on long-form writing. Or perhaps I should say I’ve been cutting up said writing into 140 characters. I use Twitter in two ways—to hold conversations and to dispense essays. Really, Twitter should be used for self-promotion, but I started off using Twitter as a glorified chat room and old habits die hard. My account is private—and while the digital padlock blissfully cuts interactions with strangers to almost nil it makes it difficult to share one’s work.

My tweets have increased as Trump has usurped the presidency and fascism has taken root in the mainstream. My social circle is comprised largely of folks from marginalized groups (or those who love them) and we are all concerned to say the least. To tweet is to stay in touch, to make sure we are all getting up every morning, and that we know that our getting up is helping someone else get through.

What follows are my tweets regarding the events of the last few days—Trump’s inauguration, the Women’s March on Washington, and how Nazi leader Richard Spencer became an international joke in the span of a few seconds with a mere punch from an Antifa rebel.

On Nazis and not-so-Nazis:

“I know calling regular ol’ American racists Nazis makes white people feel better but if y’all refuse to acknowledge this ish is homegrown and was around long before Nazis ever existed you aren’t going to be able to properly combat it. Right now there’s some dude who voted for Trump and doesn’t think he’s a problem. I mean he’s not a Nazi. He just doesn’t want black people living in his neighborhood. He just doesn’t want a mosque in town. He buys comics at your local shop. He dated your oldest cousin. No Nazis here. He just goes to his job at the school, or the bank, or the plant and pours his poison out unawares while deciding folks’ futures. ‘Russia’ couldn’t have gotten in, ‘Nazis’ couldn’t have gotten in if American bigots (majority of racists here) hadn’t left the door open. And you guys still refuse to shut and lock it. Or even admit there is an opening. Y’all are screwed, because this is a huge weakness—one you broadcast internationally to the world on the regular. And this obsession with Nazis and Russia is like hunting down a fly that got into a house infested with roaches. I don’t like flies either, but at least spray some Raid with the hand that’s not holding the flyswatter.”

Regarding Donald Trump’s comment on “peaceful” protests and the Women’s March:

“Please note the ‘peaceful.’ He is trying to bring as many white women back over to his side as he can with that. ‘Peaceful’ will be used as a wedge to separate the issues that affect white women from those which specifically affect women of color. The former will be addressed—after all the white women were ‘peaceful’ and asked so nicely—the latter will not. He is hoping you will turn your backs on us. That when you see black and brown women being brutalized for pleading for their children’s lives you will smugly assume that we did something to deserve it. That we weren’t ‘peaceful.’ Please don’t fall for this. Don’t gather up the birth control and equal pay he might give you and step over our broken bodies to leave.”

On the presence of young anarchists at political protests:

“You want to fight fascism? Whoo, man! That’s great. I’m excited with how down you are. But I just want to make something clear to you before you run out in the street to bash Nazis. This is not Nazi Fucking Germany. This is America—land of Klansmen and black scapegoats. Every brick, every punch, every fire? You own that shit with your skin. Don’t you dare hide behind peaceful black people. Don’t you come to our well-organized protests and throw wrenches into our shit. Nobody sent for you. It’s hard—especially when you are young and especially when you have privilege—to see this as a game or a saga. To put yourself in the role of savior or freedom fighter. Marginalized people aren’t your sidekicks though. Not your princesses. Your passion is appreciated. But these are folks who have been putting in work in arenas you know little about. Let them lead. And speak. And, of course, speak for yourself (no need for translators) in the places those groups can’t access. And that is the work that is hardest to convince the privileged to do. To speak at the dinner table instead of the street. Nobody hands out awards for that. No retweets or photos. Just the quiet work of making your circle better. It’s worth it though.”

On Trump versus the American news media:

“Trump’s whole appeal is making white people feel like winners through his successes. Can’t do that without the platform they are huddled around. And without actual success. Right now the people who wanted confirmation via Trump that whiteness made them inherently good see Trump being humiliated. Trump is a loser and if cable news starts being honest about that those folks will pick a new white person to live vicariously through. Dear God, hopefully Evan McMullin or someone similar. The ‘alt-right’ media (and Trump) pushed a lie to white people that they were inherently better but also unwanted, unappreciated, and enlisted in a culture war. One they could win by voting for Trump. And cable news refused to push back on those lies. The truth is there’s no war and they have a seat at the table. We’d just prefer they’d stop breaking glasses and stabbing folks with shards. We just spent two days marching and laughing about punching Nazis together. If the news media keeps stressing that? The empire falters.”

On the recent debate about engaging Nazi leader Richard Spencer—physically or verbally:

“We should also stress that it is okay and morally right to shun a Nazi. Nazis do not get a spot on the debate team. You do not have to hear them out. Groups who in between murdering print up little garbage booklets advocating genocide do not get airtime. This man was being interviewed by ABC. That is shameful. How many marginalized groups will never have the privilege of that platform? America was about to give a Klansman a reality show. When is the last time you saw a Native American dude on one? Not everybody is built for punching and I’d like all y’all not to go to jail over these losers, but the next time some message board schmuck is like ‘Even Nazis should be heard’ and that ish is not immediately shut down that is a moral failure that needs addressing. There is a thin line between fedoras and swastikas and the right thing to do is build a giant wall there. Shun early. Block often.”

And again as writer Nick Spencer entered the debate:

“The thing about Nick Spencer is while everyone is all ‘Dude, how can you write Cap?’—they don’t understand it’s Falcon that’s the issue. Comics is literally chock full of these white moderates speaking for and over black people through black characters to the point where I feel like I can’t breathe. And every week a new lead is announced with some white person grinning ear-to-ear about it like it helps. This is ruining black characters for me because white moderates are the ones allowed to bring you a simulation of African American culture. It’s not black people. It’s never black people. We get the pretend African country as if it’s not safe for one of us to show you black American thought, love, families, culture. As if these things have to be filtered through white hands like guards handle convict mail. And it makes for terrible books. It makes for a terrible universe the way you silence us—but softly through a lack of opportunity and a refusal to network with us instead of a punch or a law. No wonder you get so bent out of shape with people actually calling out violence with violence. If we go ‘eye for an eye’ we might turn our backs on your work as you’ve turned your backs on us.”


Donald Trump’s escape hatch.

Donald Trump does not want to be president, for Donald Trump does not want a job that is difficult and extraordinarily tedious. What Donald Trump wants is to humble Barack Obama, the Bush family, the Clintons, and every individual he believes has wronged him. Donald Trump also wants money, attention, and respect—as do many people, to be fair.

He can get all of those things by relinquishing the presidency—and would not have to work for any of it. He can only get money by being president. And he will have to toil and suffer for every penny of it. His life would become a nightmare of protests, public humiliations, heckling, and constant media scrutiny. No more extramarital affairs, no more extended vacations and complete freedom of movement. For once in his life, Donald Trump would have to answer to someone—the American people. And for all the galas and television cameras, for all the pomp and circumstance, the truth is that being president is an excruciating job physically, mentally, and emotionally—much of it done quietly, sans fanfare, while sitting in an office. The greatest presidents have been those with a drive to serve and make America better. The worst have done it for prestige, money, or the obligation of nepotism. And America has suffered greatly for the latter.

A petition has been created begging the assigned Electors of the Electoral College to buck the trends of their particular states and vote for the candidate who won the popular vote. A lovely idea, but it is one that will never come to fruition because rich white men would never place the health of the country over the continued strength of white supremacy and racism.

And the truth is that America overall is in danger. For Trump is considering a collection of the most corrupt and incompetent people to ever venture into politics to serve in his cabinet. A man who cared about America would assemble a team of capable conservatives with a host of successes found within their resumes. Christie, Jindal, Carson, Palin and others are colossal political failures held in disdain. They are unfit to serve and would cause untold damage.

Unless Donald Trump does not become president. And should he have the presidency stolen from him by rogue Electors, his life would improve considerably–all while maintaining his status as a “winner.” The focused disgust that over half of the country has expressed towards him would vanish in relief the moment Clinton became president. Clinton would likely be so grateful that Trump would be able to operate for the next four to eight years with a blanket pardon in his back pocket. He would attend any Clinton event he wished as an honored guest. Some would be held at his hotels. Not only would he be amongst respected celebrities and the political élite, but for once they would legitimately be delighted to see him. Because he was willing to play nice when it counted the most. I’d rather be seen as an incorrigible but talented entrepreneur seated next to Beyoncé than be a harried and despised president of a faltering country who could only get Scott Baio and Rudy Giuliani to come to my events. I suspect Trump would rather have fame and mainstream adoration instead of the hate and fear of a majority of the populace too. His entire career has been the selling of his name. His presidency would ensure a four-year boycott of Trump products by more than half of the populace—more importantly, by the élite.

A Clinton presidency would be the magic wand that erased Trump’s misdeeds, but what of the overwhelming number of racists—some of them violent—who voted for him? Well, they would be an absolute treasure trove for Trump and others to exploit. Trump TV would decimate FOX News. Clinton would grimace as Trump used his preferential treatment to savage her in the press, but she’d bear it. For she knows how to play the game too. Trump would make untold sums from his media investments. Cable news is far more lucrative when conservatives are the underdog. And he would barely have to lift a finger. Money without having to work for it? That’s of more interest to Trump than slogging through a president’s daily itinerary.

Clinton winning by an Electoral College upset would benefit Trump and Clinton (and benefit America overall), but it would be a bittersweet victory even though I want desperately for it to happen. For I know that as a black woman my safety would be in danger. Gun sales would skyrocket. And though there are a plethora of assaults occurring now, I am certain that Trump’s white supremacist supporters would resort to murder during a Clinton presidency. I could be murdered.

I could be murdered, but I would take that risk to salvage our educational system. I could be murdered, but I would take that risk to keep Muslims and Latinos from being deported. I could be murdered, but I would take that risk were Native sovereignty validated and the health of our environment preserved. I could be murdered, but I would take that risk to keep LGBT marriages and adoptions intact. I could be murdered, but I would take that risk so that young women could maintain reproductive freedom. I could be murdered, but I would take that risk so the lower and middle classes had safe working conditions and health insurance. I could be murdered, but I would risk it all again and again and again, first and foremost, to stop black disenfranchisement and death.

Yet we will have a Trump presidency on December 18, and the demise of American excellence soon after, because white Americans want to once again feel as though they are inherently better than people of color and be able to point to a racist white president to validate it. They have proven it with their votes and the Electors will prove it with theirs. For through all of the country’s economic ups and downs that is what made America great to them. They will give up their money. They will give up their health. They will give up their safety. They will give up their privacy. They will give up the lives of the marginalized. All so that they can sit smugly no matter their poverty, addictions, battered and broken bodies, stunted children, scarred uteri, ghost towns, poisoned water or crumbling roads, and delight in the fact that they are not a nigger.


Tips for Donald Trump’s new America.

You should probably learn the following during Donald Trump’s stint as president: a second language, home repair, car repair, and how to grow food. Things are going to get very expensive and the more you can do it yourself and barter the better. I’m expecting things to get 1970s New York City bad. And that was pretty damn bad. But our families survived it, so prepare. And if you’re thinking 1970s New York City doesn’t sound that bad—congratulations on being white and straight, I guess. Also, a friggin’ lot of us are going to have zero health insurance soon. Do maintenance care—zero slacking on that. Whatever procedure you’ve been putting off? Book it. Minor surgery? Get it done while you can afford it.

Now would be a good time to get adoption papers in order. Every T crossed and I dotted. Double check it. And get a passport.

Swing by to see your union representative if your job has a union. See what you can and can’t be fired for and what protections you have from harassment.

And it is perfectly okay to quietly jettison any bigots or their enablers out of your social circle for your own safety.


On pre-ordering comics.

I do not pre-order comic books and do not plan to. I only purchase trade paperbacks and digital comics. I have a mild fondness for Marvel and DC brands, but do not feel the need to purchase comics from either company in order to engage with said brands. I am a casual reader. I wasn’t always, but I have become one.

And I feel absolutely no guilt about it.

The comics industry will continue to be here. No matter how bad a company’s business practices might be, they cannot kill off a method of storytelling—a medium. Should Sony fail? Songs would still be sung. Should Rockstar Games go under? I would still make the safe bet that there would be compelling video games left to play.

That said? I am concerned. I am worried that perhaps the larger comic companies have painted themselves into a corner akin to the one that the conservative American news media currently finds itself within. And now the extraction process will be a messy and haphazard one.

Both have placed themselves within a cordoned-off area (cable television/specialty shops), narrowed their focus considerably (“alt-right” narratives/superheroes), and appeal to an aging and shrinking market. However, that market is a zealously devoted one willing to pay a higher price for material that could easily be found elsewhere at cheaper cost. So perhaps concerns should not be heeded until the last 40-year-old is no longer willing to pay $4.99 for a new issue of Deadpool and the last reactionary septuagenarian discovers he can read Breitbart for free rather than pay for cable.

And yet Americans are not averse to pre-ordering. We pre-order games, sneakers, novels, graphic novels—why not comics?

I can only speak for myself. Convenience is of the utmost importance. I can buy a pair of shoes from Amazon and the site is kind enough to let me know that I’ve bought 6 Empowered trades from them and a new one is on its way. Would I like to buy it now and have it shipped to me upon its release? Why, yes! And look at that. No rifling through Previews. No pit stop in a specialty shop. Comics right to my door.

Celebrity and exclusivity will also push me to pre-order. Look, if Puma had given me the opportunity to pre-order a pair of Rihanna’s Fenty slides? Done and done. It’s Fenty. It’s Rih. I’d be willing to devote the extra time and effort involved in obtaining said product. Especially when said product is so rare. And lastly, reliability is also a factor. I would never blanche at pre-ordering an album from an artist I had followed for years because I could be fairly certain of the new album’s quality by examining older works.

As for Marvel and DC? I can be entertained by their brands for free or nearly free by turning on my television or computer. Leaning on exclusivity is not an option when your characters are everywhere in nearly every medium. Reliability is not a given considering the frequent changes in creative teams. And there is currently only one celebrity (Ta-Nehisi Coates) employed at either company who is notable enough to motivate me to pre-order. Luckily, I don’t have to pre-order Black Panther because I know that given Marvel’s printing habits scarcity will never be an issue. And I can buy my trade today from Amazon.

On sale.

All I ask of the comics industry are books I want to read in the format I most enjoy. And yes, I am willing to pay in advance for them as long as the company is a reputable one. I think the larger comic companies realize that. But I also think those companies also realize that the “Wednesday crowd” feels the exact same way—which is why the direct market currently exists! Blithely telling members of either market (direct/digital) to “get with the program” and change their purchasing habits is absurd. If you want someone to give you money for a product? You do the adjusting. DC and Marvel must find a way to appeal to multiple markets—which I hope both are trying to do behind the scenes—rather than blatantly ignoring one or forcing it to change.


HeroesCon 2016.

If you are a creator of mainstream comics who is situated in the East Coast, South, or Midwest, HeroesCon is your convention. It is a decidedly inexpensive event to attend. Table costs are fairly low for the size of the convention, hotel rates are very reasonable, and one doesn’t have to compete with a bloated Hollywood machine for the eyeballs of attendees. Everyone who is there is there for comics. It’s a convention of readers.

The host hotel—the Westin—was surprisingly and stunningly swanky. I am extremely picky about hotel rooms. If it isn’t quiet and the fixtures aren’t up-to-date then I am going to be unhappy. Even with construction going on directly across the street I was able to get an uninterrupted night’s sleep every night. And the bathroom was bubble-bath worthy. Four stars all the way.

As for the host city? Well, Charlotte honestly leaves much to be desired. The region is pleasant, safe, affordable, and walkable, but is also rather dull and mainstream. Every event tied to HeroesCon was held at Buffalo Wild Wings. To have a party in the same commercial venue every night, one that is the height of pedestrian, was frustrating. I’d advise the showrunners to branch out—perhaps with themed parties in the Westin or a street fair at the Latta Arcade. But the final post-show wrap-up at Heroes was amazing. And honestly I was a bit envious. If I had a comic shop of that quality near me I wouldn’t have to depend on Amazon and Comixology for everything. And, good Lord, I had a pulled pork grilled cheese sandwich there that I still think about fondly a week later.

Convention reviews don’t usually talk about this, but I’m going to discuss it. As a woman and as a black person? I felt comfortable there. And I spotted other members of marginalized groups who looked happy and content as well. This is important and is something that isn’t reflected in all conventions. And honestly, showrunners can neither take the credit nor the blame. That safety and comfort is tied not to the comics community, but to the local community. And I was pleasantly surprised to see how welcoming it was.

2016 was my second time attending HeroesCon and the crowds seemed a bit thinner than the last time I attended. During my time in the beautiful—and too cold!—Charlotte Convention Center it seemed spacious and at times downright sparse. While the lack of a Hollywood presence was blissful, I think the absence of major comic publishers impacted the convention negatively. I believe those big-name booths have the power to boost crowd numbers. While publishers should not put the amount of money into HeroesCon that they would reserve for SDCC or NYCC, company representation on the floor would allow editors to scout for new talent that simply can’t afford to attend larger conventions—and I’ll get to that in a separate entry! Three tables, two editors, and a large number of digital freebies and knickknacks would suffice. And I believe knowing DC and Marvel would be there would increase fan interest and attendance.

I promise to get to the event itself next, but I wanted to take a moment to talk about the surrounding city and host hotel given the impact both have upon a show. After all, guests are shared by everyone, but it’s the local flavor that makes a convention unique!


NYCC ya!

When I’d heard that four-day passes to New York City Comic Con had sold out, I scrambled to purchase whatever tickets remained available. Unfortunately, the only tickets remaining were passes to Thursday’s show. Reluctantly, I decided to plunk down forty dollars for a ticket. After all, a chance to attend one day would be better than missing the show entirely.

Or would it? To be honest, New York City Comic Con has largely been a terrible experience. The commute from New Jersey to New York is expensive, time-consuming, and unpleasant. My time during the show is spent alone, for friends are required to work to cover exorbitant table and traveling costs. Nearby food is stale and overpriced. I am on my feet for the entire day, sans any hotel room to rest or freshen up. I am unable to socialize for long after the show—friends are often corralled into meetings or dragged to office parties by employers and I am unable to stay late due to a need to catch the last train back to New Jersey.

Do I want to spend ninety dollars, eighty minutes commuting each way, and seven hours on my feet to talk to twelve people I adore for six minutes each? I ask myself this each time I purchase a ticket to this convention. Previously, the answer was always yes. This time? It’s no.

I’m going to cut my losses, raise a glass to the NYCC showrunners for smartly separating me from a couple of my Jacksons, and spend tomorrow catching up on Sleepy Hollow. See you at the next ComfyCon! (Someone should really get that up and running again.)


‘Ello there!

We are all aware of Ello, yes?

Slowly my Twitter list has been making its way to the new social media outlet. Having opened an account last night, I’ve spent the better part of the morning poking through the accounts of friends, amusedly observing their interests and acquaintances. It’s nice to see Ello reinforce my belief that I’ve surrounded myself with a number of smart and sweet people.

But what of the site that contains said people? Compared to its competitors (Facebook and Google Plus), Ello appears unfinished. I’d like to see features such as verification, customization, and a stringent policy regarding harassment added. In fact, the lack of customization—the ability to alter my profile page to match my main website—has kept me from utilizing Facebook and Google Plus, and has soured me considerably on Twitter. If I can’t have my pink and purple? Well, I just don’t want to be there.

However, I’ve given Ello considerably more leeway simply because it contains the people I like. (This is also why I continue to cling to Twitter.) Ello is Facebook or Google Plus sans the conservative bent and microaggressions that are often found on the two more mainstream social media sites. Ello is new and experimental—which means there is little obligation to interact with every distant relative and former coworker or classmate. Communication is limited to those with whom one has something in common. Connections are fostered through respect and interest rather than rote recognition.

I am extremely cautious on Twitter (to be fair, I don’t trust many), limiting my interactions to those with an interest in talking to me (rather than the motive of wishing to use me as a resource). My Twitter list is miniscule, and guided by the answer to one simple question: would I invite this person to a dinner party in my home?

Yet Ello is clearly reminiscent of Facebook rather than Twitter, and allows for less personal connections. It is the public soirée to Twitter’s private discussions over cocktails. I’ve wrestled with the decision as to whether or not to interact with new people on Ello and have yet to make a commitment regarding how I will use the site. However, I am leaning towards being more open—sociable. After all, is that not what social media is for?


Rose City.

Leia WeathingtonThe day after Rose City Comic Con I had brunch with creators Leia Weathington and Karla Pacheco. I had salmon cakes; Leia and Karla dined upon the souls of men.

Rose City is a smaller con, placed just below Heroes in terms of its quaint and homey nature. The exhibitor floor was pleasantly crowded, but far from claustrophobic. Panels provided the ability to learn more about creators and their independent projects rather than issue a rundown of the basic plot points of upcoming mainstream events. Because of its location in Portland, the convention had an amazing array of West Coast talent with creators such as Jeff Parker, Gail Simone, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Matt Fraction, and more.

Given my previous posts analyzing conventions, it’s safe to say this post isn’t a write-up of my vacation, but a brief look as to whether Rose City is a welcome addition to the convention circuit. I’d say yes. For those already on the West Coast, Rose City is a fairly inexpensive opportunity to showcase wares to a welcoming audience. More importantly, the oppressive media maelstrom that encompasses the DC/Marvel machine has yet to descend upon the event. (Just wait three to five years.) Creators launching new independent works, for example the delightful Caleb Goellner and Jim Gibbons of Birch Squatch, have a place to speak directly to potential audiences without having to wait until everyone has gotten their full of discussions surrounding Batman and Wolverine.

Yet while Rose City provides an amazing platform to sell material and interact with fans, it provides limited networking opportunities for creators who are not already established. The convention is nestled in the heart of “Comics City.” After the sun goes down? Everyone goes home. There is absolutely no “bar con” to speak of. The large raucous gatherings of conventions like Emerald City have been replaced by charming get-togethers for long-term friends and colleagues. It is not a place for meeting new people but for forming even tighter bonds with those one admires or holds dear. Creators should not expect an opportunity to chat up an elusive editor; fans should not expect to seize an opening to buy their favorite artist a drink. Still, given the low-key nature of the convention, fans have ample opportunity to chat up creators at tables during the day. In addition, aspiring creators can seek advice and portfolio reviews. Rose City is the one convention where you can have a pleasant unhurried conversation with a writer such as Brian Michael Bendis or Sam Humphries. That is a rarity on the convention circuit now.

Should you go to Rose City? Well, it truly depends on the region you call home. Located in the Pacific Northwest or California? Yes. If not, there are other mid-sized conventions elsewhere that provide a similar experience.


Conventional wisdom.

Emerald City Comicon is my absolute favorite comic convention. Unfortunately, I can no longer attend it. It has finally become large enough to cross the threshold where the experience can only be afforded by locals, those appearing at the event for work, and those willing to spend exorbitant amounts on what may perhaps be a fun experience—but with no guarantees.

The hotels surrounding the Washington State Convention Center have changed their policies regarding the convention, demanding a non-refundable deposit for any individual booking a reservation. The Emerald City showrunners have placed tickets for sale more than six months prior to the convention—well before an adequate number of guests have confirmed their attendance. The organizations involved demand money from attendees for a show they provide little information about. For those who do not live near the convention and must rely on hotels and airlines to experience the event it is simply too much of a financial risk to take.

It seems the pie has been divided, with different conventions assuming dominion over different regions. Guests may be shared—invited celebrities and creators freely bounding from one region to the other; convention-goers are not.

Unlike theme parks, which pride themselves on repetition and nostalgia—providing the same experience year after year—comic conventions make an effort to showcase a new crop of entertainers and creators each year, making each show a unique experience. However, that uniqueness—essentially instability—makes the convention difficult to invest in for fans who are not locals, especially when they are expected to purchase tickets and hotel rooms with only a handful of guest announcements made. For locals the draw is the spectacle—outlandish costumes, revelry, and the superheroic—convention constants. However, those who are not from the region attend to see very specific people—artists, writers, and actors. I can bear witness to spectacle at home; Dragon Con takes place merely a short drive away. But should I wish to get a particular comic signed? Well, I can’t attend just any convention. I have to attend the one the creative team in question attends. And if tickets for that convention have sold out months before the creative team has even announced their appearance? Well, I can’t attend the convention at all.

Every large convention, San Diego Comic-con, New York Comic Con, Dragon Con, and now Emerald City Comicon, requires attendees to purchase tickets prior to knowing what they are purchasing tickets for. A show with a paltry, partial guest list is no more than a mystery prize. One cannot expect fans to risk hundreds without knowing what is behind Door #3. Showrunners know this and do not care, for there are many locals who are more than happy to merely risk a couple of twenties. That risk is most certainly worth it.

I am excited to be attending Rose City Comic Con next week—and New York Comic Con the following month!—but the experiences will be bittersweet. New York Comic Con will likely be the last comic convention I ever attend, and the chapter will have closed where it began.

To watch the evolution of the convention industry has been astounding. What started in the musty basements of churches and tiny recreational halls has now become a phenomenon that fills vast convention centers each season. I do believe the comic convention has reached its “final form,” that of an impressive indoor carnival to delight different regions once a year.


The A-game.

“I wrote an e-mail two years ago that was inappropriate and offensive. I trivialized our fans by making clichéd assumptions about their interests (i.e., hip hop vs. country, white vs. black cheerleaders, etc.) and by stereotyping their perceptions of one another (i.e., that white fans might be afraid of our black fans). By focusing on race, I also sent the unintentional and hurtful message that our white fans are more valuable than our black fans.”Bruce Levenson

The poor attendance found at Atlanta Hawks basketball games makes a great deal of sense after reading controlling owner Bruce Levenson’s letter decrying the team’s inability to convince corporations and white men aged 33-55 to buy season tickets. Levenson’s own bigotry, his dismissive attitude toward African Americans, led to inadequate marketing tactics—which then led to poor ticket sales.

Atlanta is a black city. Black people make up 54 percent of the population as of the 2010 census. To target your marketing to middle-aged white men in a city that is majority black is woefully inept. And if your product can be enjoyed by all nearby residents? Racist. Levenson erroneously targeted white residents due to the belief that black residents do not possess the disposable income required to purchase tickets and other Hawks-related material. His beliefs were off base. Atlanta is home to a large number of affluent and famous African Americans—Americans Levenson should have been targeting instead.

Atlanta is the home of black celebrity, and celebrity sells tickets. The Knicks, currently excelling only in their ability to be mediocre, routinely play to packed houses. Knicks ticket prices are astronomical. Why? Because celebrities attend on a regular basis and the stadium is safely nestled within the city’s largest tourist trap. The rule of celebrity remains even when the coasts change. When the performance of the Los Angeles Lakers slips in quality, fans still attend Lakers games to see and be seen. A Lakers home game is an event—fashion show, networking conference, photo opportunity, and speed-dating service in one.

Hawks home games must be events in the same manner. If black celebrities routinely attended Hawks games, and pictures of their attendance were disseminated on various gossip blogs, fans—of all races—would follow. And ticket sales would increase. Perhaps it is even worth the investment to pay Atlanta-based celebrities to appear initially—real celebrities, not reality stars. The third Captain America movie will be filming in the city soon. Footage of Anthony Mackie and Chris Evans appearing regularly at Hawks games would do more for ticket sales than a Hawks winning streak.

Finally, celebrity must not only be found in the stands, but on the court as well. Sadly, we are no longer in an era where simple skill is enough. Americans want quality hoops, yes, but they also want showmen. LeBron and Kobe are more than players; they are personalities. The Hawks need a player that fascinates fans off the court as well as on—a charmer worthy of “Black Hollywood.”

All eyes are on the Hawks now due to Levenson’s antics. Perhaps a new owner with a vision unclouded by racism will be able to see the potential in the Hawks and craft the quality franchise Atlanta’s residents deserve.


Ferguson.

I forced myself to go to sleep at a decent hour last night. I hadn’t gotten a good night’s sleep since Mike Brown’s lids had closed forever—every waking moment since his last spent refreshing screens and consuming information and caffeine in likely dangerous quantities. A complete abandonment of any kind of long-form writing occurred; my words, angry and erratic, were quickly shot off via Twitter and Tumblr.

I’m still angry—for the obvious reasons. I’m angry that black life is worthless to people who are not black in America (and to some who are). I’m angry that Americans believe that we deserve the inequality heaped upon us for the crime of simply being black. The murder. The harassment. The silencing. The erasure. The blackballing. The punishment. I’m mad that many Americans still view black people as solely an inexhaustible resource to exploit, leeching from black communities and black cultures while promoting anti-blackness and purporting to speak for while speaking over black people.

But for the first time in a very long time I am also grateful. Because for all the comparisons between Ferguson and Selma, Ferguson is very different. Technology has provided black people the ability to burrow past the mainstream media and allow for black people to have a voice. And that voice is strong and unfiltered on Twitter and on Tumblr and in personal journals. And yes, the voice contradicts itself because black people are not a monolith and have a beautiful and infuriating and brilliant array of ideas.

We have never had a situation where black voices could not be crushed or warped beyond their meaning before. The television stations are owned by white people. The movie studios are owned by white people. The newspapers are owned by white people. The music labels are owned by white people. The radio stations are owned by white people. The publishing houses are owned by white people. They are owned by those who have been taught that black life and black cultures are worthless. And their teachings show in their word choice. It shows in the promotion and overexposure of negative depictions of black people. It shows in the dearth of positive voices. It shows in the selection of only black employees and clients who will mimic the tropes regarding black people that they have come to hold dear—the big black buck, the Jezebel, the tragic mulatto, the Sapphire, the Mammy, the minstrel—or it shows in the selection of no black people at all.

And for a very long time? It worked, churning out anti-black propaganda for centuries like a well-oiled machine, with black people having little recourse to combat it because we owned next to nothing. We stood on soap boxes, screaming to anyone who would listen that we were human and of worth, while those who opposed us controlled screens and airwaves across the nation.

That is thankfully no longer the situation we find ourselves in. When the mainstream media erroneously claimed black looters had taken control of Ferguson last night, black people were able to effectively use modern technology—affordable to most Americans—to show young black people protecting stores, not looting them. Pictures of black men using their own bodies as barriers with police nowhere in sight or on site to provide assistance, popped up across Twitter, gaining power with each reblog, barreling into the public consciousness. While Fox News is able to alter reality for a segment of old, technology-averse people salivating for tales of the black savage, their children and grandchildren are pulling up apps to hear directly from black men themselves. That is new and so very necessary.

And it is not just the news that affordable technology has altered. Black art is now able to reach the masses in an unfiltered state via online organizations such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, allowing black creators to obtain the funds necessary to compete with the output of major publishing houses and movie studios that shun or subvert them. Square allows creators to sell directly to the people. WordPress and Tumblr allow black writers to reach an international audience in seconds. The means of distribution are no longer solely owned by white people; black art cannot be papered over mere moments after its creation. The mainstream media will most certainly continue to attempt to drown out or alter black voices, but those voices have been amplified by technology and sharpened by fury and determination. The task won’t be nearly as easy.

And I’m glad.


Gawker mediates.

Jezebel, the women’s-interest dominion of the Gawker Media empire, is in the midst of a regime change. Former editor-in-chief Jessica Coen has vacated her position; young upstart Emma Carmichael, former editor of The Hairpin will succeed her. But what of the immensely capable Dodai Stewart, who has not only deftly assumed Jezebel’s day-to-day operations as deputy editor (assuming increasing responsibility during Coen’s absence), but has been a member of Jezebel’s staff for nearly the length of its existence? Why was she not picked as Coen’s successor? Is this snub an example of ageism? Or perhaps another example of the painful reality of white privilege, where loyal employees of color with key skills and experience are passed over for “greener” white candidates?

To be fair, Jezebel has a brand and reputation that Carmichael closely fits. She is young, white, urban, educated, and upwardly mobile. Should the Jezebel site have a “face,” it should no doubt be hers. Does it reinforce our culture’s clear bias that white women and white women alone should be the ambassadors of feminism and control gender discussions? Yes. Does it send the message that black women, no matter how hardworking or skilled, will watch white women climb over them to stand on a floor created by their glass ceiling? Well, yes. It does send that message. But the Gawker Media empire is not in the business of increasing diversity or creating an equal playing field. It is in the business of business. Its goal is to make money. And often one makes the most money by adhering to the existing biases within our culture. We hire those with not only the right skills, but also the “correct” look to make clients “comfortable.” And often what makes clients comfortable is what is white.

I should rephrase. White faces make white clients comfortable. But not all the clients are white. There is a clear and large market Gawker Media has not tapped. And, as I’ve stated previously, the goal of Gawker Media is to make money.

I have to wonder if Greg Howard’s excellent piece on Jason Whitlock’s “black Grantland” struck a chord with Nick Denton. Why should Gawker not attempt to grab a share of the market enjoyed by sites such as The Root, Black Voices, and Racialicious? After all, race in general and blackness in particular is America’s oldest and most lucrative obsession. And who better at the helm of a Gawker Media site dedicated to either than Dodai Stewart? Perhaps what we are witnessing is not one woman’s snub, but two women being hired for the highly influential positions that best suit them.

Only time, and Denton, will tell.


Not all men.

“The interesting thing I’ve noticed about these dudes from (1) listening to the #yesallwomen discussion and (2) being a ‘geek’ is that they’d be just as furious if women developed their own communities and completely ignored them. They don’t want to drive women out of ‘their’ spaces. They want silent women there to yell at and poke.” Cheryl Lynn Eaton

I’m not a professional in an entertainment field nor am I a noteworthy critic. My status allows me the blissful opportunity to avoid interacting with the bigots found on countless social media outlets. I feel guilty because I see women who have remained in those fields—women who I admire deeply—forced to endure the daily hateful invectives of individuals who clearly despise them. They are despised because they are women in a position of authority where they are able to influence the existing narrative. For men who feel socially impotent, the idea that one they’ve deemed to be a lesser being could earn a position greater than their own is infuriating. They wish for those in positions of power in their community to look and sound like them. As long as that status quo remains intact, their worth remains affirmed.

At first I believed these men just wanted to be left alone—that they had built a community where they were no longer socially ostracized and did not want anyone to intrude upon it. As a black woman, I certainly understand the need for a “safe space” and had no problem leaving them be. My written work is limited to my personal website. The Ormes Society has shifted its focus from mainstream black characters to devote more attention to black women working in the webcomic and indie circuit. My Twitter account is private. I am now what these men have angrily demanded—a woman who has no interest in interacting with them nor is all that concerned with changing the content they enjoy.

And yet I’ve received hate mail regarding content published on my personal website. Men have requested to follow me on Twitter for the sole purpose of arguing with me. They enter threads dedicated to women in comics to accuse women of being lesser talents set to poison the industry. I’ve come to realize that these men do not want women to “go away.” They want women to stay and silently accept their abuse. Their self-worth as men is entirely dependent upon telling women and people of color that they are lesser beings. And if women and minorities are not present to be told this these men are then forced to examine themselves and be judged upon their own merit. For the men who have been found lacking and have retreated to these communities due to being shunned by the mainstream this notion is terrifying.

I’ve no solution for these men. Their hateful behavior is going to continue to result in women choosing my path and ceasing to interact with them or storming angrily into their communities to dismantle them. No individual will willingly endure abuse when there are other options available.