Michael Cray, Wildstorm, and the 6.

Michael Cray #1I have discussed the new Ellis-helmed Wildstorm line before and my concerns regarding an art direction that has veered so sharply from its predecessor. Gone are the cinematic layouts, unique fonts, lush colors, and perhaps overly rendered figures giving the work a three-dimensional pop. The art in early Wildstorm was busy and complicated and I truly miss it. It was representative of an eager creative class that wanted to make its mark on the world by bringing in new influences not shared by the men who came before them—a perfect blend of classic American cartooning and dynamic East Asian visual storytelling. A collection of men who cherished Neal Adams, Walt Disney, Ryouichi Ikegami, and John Woo.

But Wildstorm has had various maestros over the years and the art direction shifts to match their preferences. Jim Lee is no longer at the helm. Warren Ellis is.

I am frustrated…but also understanding? Today’s audiences do not have any nostalgic reverence for Wildstorm’s early incarnations. Given the line’s meager sales during the World’s End era, those early fans are long gone. And so Ellis leans on what he and his fans have nostalgic reverence for when selecting creative partners. The stamp of Watchmen is clearly evident in the first issue of The Wild Storm, as I have stated in other short pieces. And in his personal newsletters Ellis reminisces on the British illustrators of his youth and their impact on his creative partner Jon Davis-Hunt.

“From #7 to #12 we are to expect covers reminiscent of 1970s science fiction paperback covers, or basically, my father’s bookshelf when I was about six, naming the likes of Peter Elson, Jim Burns and Angus McKie.”Warren Ellis

The new Wildstorm is wholly British now, in both its literary and visual expressions. I think the sweeping aside of the line’s Asian and Asian American roots does Wildstorm a great disservice—akin to a removal of Milestone’s African American foundation. And if you replace a publishing house’s cultural lynchpin, what remains? Can it really be a continuation of what came before?

Michael Cray #1And so enters Michael Cray to further cloud these murky waters. Ellis has tapped black creators Bryan Hill, N. Steven Harris, and Dexter Vines to work on the next Wildstorm series (along with Milestone founder Denys Cowan on covers). The series features a new iteration of Deathblow, now black and more intelligent and successful than his white predecessor. The work perhaps lampoons that fact in its early pages; we see Cray given a speech all too familiar to black children—Bryan Hill’s version of “twice as good for half as much.” The new Wildstorm universe will blame Michael Cray for more and give him less.

It is a bitterly hilarious comment on a black man’s place in the new Wildstorm, in the comics industry, and in American society. Hill is a black screenwriter, not a comics-industry alum, and is yet another instance of the mainstream’s preference for recruiting established black writers from other mediums for minor projects instead of allowing black comic writers to work their way through the ranks as scribes from other racial groups do. I also predict sales of this work will be a fraction of the original Deathblow series even though the creators involved are phenomenally talented and the character is already more intriguing than his alternate-reality predecessor. Twice as good for half as much.

I have questions! (I always have questions.) I have repeatedly praised Wildstorm and Milestone for their ability to successfully build truly multi-cultural publishing houses instead of using members of marginalized groups as “seasoning” for primarily white institutions. But are founders who are men of color necessary for that success? Can you create a multi-cultural line from a world envisioned and rebuilt by a British white man? Can fans put their trust in a new imprint when its first public act was to jettison its Asian artistic roots? I’m wary.

But let’s drill down. I have discussed the lionized nine-panel grid and its current prominence in the universes beneath the DC umbrella. I have noted how it is linked in the collective memory of the industry to European works. The number nine has significance, but I am a writer, not an artist. And so it eludes me. It is a mystery within the new Wildstorm universe (and DC as a whole) that my brain doggedly pursues. And it has been made worse with the addition of the six-panel grid repeated throughout Michael Cray. Six and nine.

Nice.

Six-panel grids are as American as apple pie and their presence in a wholly black work for a line recreated by a British white man is odd, subversive, and delightful. What is it doing here?! What is the message being conveyed? I’m stumped.

Jughead #193When I think of a six-panel grid I immediately think of Archie. I consumed Archie’s Double Digest at an absurd rate in my youth and the layout of the first page of Michael Cray instantly brought that comic to mind. And while the Archie line is currently a rainbow coalition of characters it was initially very straight, very Christian, and very white. So what in the world is this layout—known for its overwhelming presence in historical humorous comics for and about while children—doing in a work about a black assassin working within a technologically advanced dystopia? That is weird. And fascinating. For, Lord knows, blackness is as American as apple pie too, but America is loath to admit it. And so inserting blackness into American comics in this manner, reweaving it and us back into its cherished patterns, feels like the righting of a great wrong started long ago as the industry built itself upon racist black caricatures and chased black men such as Orrin C. Evans out of publishing.

But while Asian men such as Kevin Tsujihara and Jim Lee hold the highest positions one can achieve at both Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment, I cannot help but lament the lack of their presence at Wildstorm. And I do not think Wildstorm can be Wildstorm sans the presence of Asian men within the imprint’s new foundation.


Wonder Woman? Oh, brother!

Wonder Woman #31James Robinson is an incredible writer. And yet placing him on Wonder Woman for a six-issue arc focused on Wonder Woman’s brother is incredibly tone-deaf. I certainly understand the bind DC’s editorial department finds itself within. Fan favorite Greg Rucka has left the company to pursue creator-owned work. That leaves an open slot for a writer on Wonder Woman. And James Robinson is a writer whose strength resides in crafting cinematic adventures with a historical bent. Were I an editor at DC I would immediately wish to place him on Justice Society of America. However, the JSA is currently indisposed.

So what is an editor to do? I wouldn’t want to let a writer of Robinson’s caliber slip through my fingers. And yet there is no way I would entertain the idea of a man writing Wonder Woman given the current cultural climate and miniscule number of opportunities for female writers in the industry—especially on a story arc focused on a male character. But I would have six months to keep Robinson occupied until I could place him on JSA as well as an open Wonder Woman slot to attend to. What to do?

Partner up. DC has recently announced that select books will feature writers from the DC Talent Development Workshop paired with established writers for small arcs. Why not continue down this path and pair Robinson with Vita Ayala? It’d ensure that Wonder Woman possesses a female voice, cement a positive relationship between writers of different generations and cultural backgrounds, and raise the profile of a younger creator. In six months one could separate the two, leave Ayala on Wonder Woman, and move Robinson to JSA.

Status quo. Another option would be to leave writer Shea Fontana on Wonder Woman and allow Robinson to tell his Wonder Woman story elsewhere. Where? Justice League. But what of Bryan Hitch? Well, I would certainly want to hold onto him! And so I would encourage Hitch to create a title for DC’s Dark Matter line.

Relaunch. Nothing like pairing a hot creator with a brand new #1 issue, no? And so one could seek out a low-selling book to quietly cancel and place Robinson on a new Catwoman series. This would loop Robinson into the all-powerful Bat-house and create yet another solid mid-list title for DC. As for Wonder Woman? That title could again be left to Fontana.

King Kirby. Another possibility would be to use Robinson to help boost the profile of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World characters and build a brand around them. Robinson could work on a limited series featuring Darkseid or Orion—one that meshes well with Tom King’s and Mitch Gerads’ upcoming Mister Miracle project.

I believe the options listed above would help to keep both Robinson fans and Wonder Woman fans content, strengthen DC overall, and provide opportunities for marginalized creators.


Ignorance is bliss.

“There’s some people who they don’t even need to kick out because they’re never going to let them in the front door of the mainstream anyway.”J. A. Micheline

“Nobody owes you a job.”Standard Internet Response

After listening to the Ignorant Bliss podcast I participated in I just wanted to elaborate on a point that I brought up during the discussion. Comics—storytelling—is a rough and insular business. And it is that way for every novice writer regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender—a fact that is brought up frequently when individuals attempt to discuss anti-blackness within the industry. Anyone with even a superficial understanding of the industry would not dare refute that, for rejection is ubiquitous within any entertainment field. You try repeatedly and hope for the best, but sometimes—often times—things just don’t pan out.

Black writers are not demanding jobs “owed” to us, but are requesting the opportunity to apply for jobs—to pitch. The industry does not accept blind submissions. You must be invited to pitch by an editor. I have received one invitation to pitch. And luckily, my pitch was accepted and resulted in an 8-page story. I cannot begin to impress upon you how rare that opportunity is for black women. And I am honored and humbled to have received it.

Because the application process in comics is not blind and uniform but is dependent on an editor taking notice of you and wishing to establish a rapport with you, it is deeply impacted by a large number of societal factors that have nothing to do with one’s skill level. And yes, race is one of those factors.

Black individuals are not in the social circles of those in the position to hire creators. This means that black writers are denied the opportunity to “work our way up through the ranks.” To be frank, editors only briefly consider black writers when there is a story about a black character that is deeply defined by one’s racial or ethnic identity. At the moment, there are two characters who fit that description—Black Panther and Luke Cage. And given that both are A-list characters, they cannot and should not be handed to novice writers or writers without large fan followings. And so books featuring these characters are understandably handed to older established black writers (of which there are only two men—Walker and Priest) or black celebrities from television, film, music or non-comics publishing circles. I can’t find fault with this process when men like Coates and Hudlin are the result.

But the sad reality is that to have a career in comics as a black writer or to even be considered for the opportunity to apply for a job you must first become famous somewhere else. It is a rule that applies solely to black individuals. How insane and arbitrary it is that in order to write an 8-page story, one-shot, or miniseries about a D-list character I must first establish a career as a journalist, screenwriter, producer, rapper, academic, politician, or poet—one long and fruitful enough for an editor to consider my social status a desirable asset. But it is what it is.

The purpose of this post is not to effect change amongst editors and publishers. I honestly don’t believe that is possible any longer. But it is my hope that it results in a change in how fans and non-black creators respond to black writers who discuss the matter. Because we are often met with anger and are accused of demanding handouts when all we desire is equal access to be considered—to be treated like everyone else.


Island in the stream.

First things first, I love that song. Second things second, Julian Lytle’s Ignorant Bliss is my all-time favorite podcast and Lytle is perhaps one of the most insightful interviewers in the field today. Ignorant Bliss provides the rare chance to hear artists of color discuss their lives, the industry, and the creative process. So, of course, the minute I had the chance to be a part of it I was all in. Clearly operating in circles above my station, I discuss the cover to Island #15 with a crew of award-winning critics and creators—Darryl Ayo, Jonathan Gray, J. A. Micheline, and Ronald Wimberly. We also dig into issues of race, representation, and networking within the comics industry. Feel free to listen in.


Twintelle-ing on yourself.

It’s amusing to me to watch American video game journalism outfits dance around labeling Twintelle—the new fan-favorite character found in the upcoming Arms game from Nintendo—as black. After all, it seems as if Nintendo’s development and marketing teams took great care to ensure that American audiences would identify the character as such. The character comes equipped with a handful of well-known “soft” stereotypes regarding black American and Caribbean women. There’s the curvaceous build with an emphasis on the character’s ample ass and thighs. There’s the dark skin tone. There’s the unique name with a randomly attached French suffix or prefix. There’s the incredulous tea sipping pulled directly from slang and memes originated by black women and black gay men. And finally there’s the oversized jewelry—those are damn near doorknockers, folks—curly, colorful hair, and skin-tight attire taken straight from your average Instagram baddie or cookout-attending cousin. I’d be annoyed by the blatant pandering if the character wasn’t so recognizable—and adorable.

My God, is the character adorable! I’m so mad.

I’m sure for East Asian audiences Twintelle has a different name and is considered a young Japanese star enamored by and participating in a Ganguro renaissance (which apparently entails dressing like you escaped from a Bad Boy video circa 1997). And that is just fine, absolutely correct, and a clear example of Nintendo’s marketing savvy that the company can create such mutable characters that blend seamlessly into multiple subcultures and ethnicities.

TwintelleI’m certainly not one to label every dark-skinned character appearing in an East Asian animation or video game as black. In fact, I’d argue that a sizable number are actually meant to be read as dark-skinned Asians or Pacific Islanders by Asian audiences and American audiences. But there are simply too many context clues regarding Twintelle to believe that Nintendo had zero designs on tapping into the brand loyalty and overwhelming support that black audiences provide when approached with positive representation. Black individuals are recognizing themselves in Twintelle because that is exactly what I believe Nintendo wanted to occur. His mama named him Clay, I’mma call him Clay.

What is sadly familiar is the backlash from those who profess to be “beyond” race but seem determined to squelch the joy of any black girl or woman who sees a link between a positive image in the media and her own blackness. The response is repetitive, intrusive, and shows that said individuals are not the impartial observers they claim to be, but are very much the product of centuries of successful anti-black propaganda. Were this not the case, identifying blackness in something that is considered good by the masses would not trouble them so. For them, blackness is to be emphasized and reserved for criminal suspects and objects of ridicule alone.

Ignore them. Celebrate. Embrace every pleasant surprise in the media you find. And brush up on those combos before June 16.


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.


Wildstorm designs.

The Wild Storm #1As I have said before I am excited about the relaunch of the Wildstorm universe, though I do have some concerns. Those concerns do not reside with Warren Ellis, whose breakdowns of the key players and organizations of the Wildstorm universe have only intrigued me. No, rather it is Ellis’ views regarding the art direction for the upcoming The Wild Storm and other untitled tie-in works he plans to launch that have raised warning flares.

I often compare Wildstorm to Milestone. I have an extremely high opinion of the two imprints and I believe the diversity contained within both had a huge impact on the quality and type of work released. Wildstorm and Milestone were clearly multicultural in nature. They made comics about everyone for everyone. However, the story direction at Milestone was led by African American men. The art direction at Wildstorm was led by Asian American men. And it—no pun intended—colored the work. If one is to relaunch Milestone (as Lion Forge has done in spirit with Catalyst Prime) or Wildstorm effectively, I believe this must be duplicated. The heart of both imprints reside with men of color. It is that simple.

Lion Forge has risen to the challenge. Though its selection of writers for Catalyst Prime is diverse, Christopher Priest and Joseph Illidge, both black men present during either the creation of Milestone or its flourishing, are at the helm. Lion Forge is poised to replicate what made Milestone unique in the marketplace—a multicultural band of talented creators building a world envisioned by black men.

Given the dominating presence of skilled writers such as Warren Ellis, Alan Moore, James Robinson, and Mark Millar, it is clear that Wildstorm’s story direction was overwhelmingly Anglophilic in nature even though the imprint’s roots reside with writer Brandon Choi. This is certainly not a negative, but a positive—the works produced were wonderful—and this setup has been reproduced with Warren Ellis’ return. What has not yet been duplicated, and something I think should be duplicated if this imprint is to successfully recapture the “heart” of Wildstorm, is to have Asian American men at the helm in regards to art direction.

Now just as Milestone hired writers of myriad backgrounds, so should Wildstorm have a diverse selection of artists. After all, men like J. Scott Campbell, Matt Broome, and Lee Bermejo all thrived there. But they did so under the watchful eye of Jim Lee. Wildstorm’s artists had multiple influences, of course, but one can clearly see that Asian and Asian American artists were not only among them, but in the early days those influences perhaps dominated.

“When Jim launched WildStorm, the look was best-in-class for commercial superhero comics—computer-assisted colour, pinsharp printing, great paper. We can’t replicate that, and, frankly, I can’t think of a technological way to top it. So let’s try something else. Stripped-down, stark and authentic.”Warren Ellis

Looking at the preview art released it appears as though Jon Davis-Hunt wears the UK on his sleeve. His work is lovely, and in the panel layouts and body language depicted one can see strains of Dave Gibbons and Steve Dillon. But an Anglophilic writer paired with an Anglophilic artist leaves one with an imprint highly reminiscent of Vertigo, not Wildstorm. And to follow in the footsteps of Vertigo does a clear disservice to what Wildstorm was and could be again—a marriage of the UK and Asia nestled in a multicultural American setting.

Academi GRS OperatorsI will paraphrase what I’ve said elsewhere in conversations with friends in regards to the stripped-down, desaturated, and spot-color approach to art and design in the new Wildstorm universe: I am not a fan though I understand its presence. It is my hope that the art and color in The Wild Storm apes multiple styles as a nod to the design wars taking place within the story—Academi (formerly Blackwater) versus Apple versus rogue street tech. I want to see heavy black mecha, sleek white tools, and the inventions of children of color who are working with the vibrant branded refuse discarded by our society.

“By the end of it I’d want an explosion of color as the universe drills down to the street. Renzi on Loose Ends. Or Bellaire brightness.”Cheryl Lynn Eaton

I think that vivid kinetic faction is where Asian and American artistic influences should make their presence felt. And if or when they do, Wildstorm will have truly become Wildstorm.


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.”


Fragility of the ghost in the shell.

Ghost in the Shell is an irritating instance of racism.

To use the term racism seems harsh, but to use the other term that has been bandied about—whitewashing—doesn’t seem correct. I don’t believe that taking a notable work and changing the setting or race of the characters is an issue if you are using said change to make a point about a specific culture or spotlight a particular aspect of said culture. That applies to white people as well as people of color.

The Handmaiden, a Korean drama which pulls its plot from the novel Fingersmith, does not use Korean actors for a Victorian tale. It does not put an Asian face upon a European cultural product. Instead it reassembles a new work upon a neutral frame and uses it to tell a fascinating story about Korea during colonial rule as well as explore Korean-Japanese relations in the past to shed light on relations today. It is a commendable work of art.

As is The Wiz, which borrows from The Wizard of Oz to showcase African-American culture in an amazingly beautiful way. I would also add the tale of Cinderella, which takes the basis of the Chinese Ye Xian and places it in a European setting. And one cannot forget one of the most modern successful examples in the show Friends, a white American version of the African American Living Single.

But the upcoming Ghost in the Shell is not like the projects listed above. It is an embarrassment, for its attention to detail simply results in Asian cultures being used as a backdrop for a white ingénue. It sends a sinister message—that the cultures of people of color are acceptable, but the autonomous presence of people of color is not. It sends the message that white Americans can reproduce foreign cultures more skillfully than said foreigners because they are inherently better than them.

Blade RunnerThe movie’s one potential saving grace is that it might handle race and culture in the same manner as Blade Runner, in which predominately white characters maneuver through a Los Angeles that is overwhelmingly culturally Asian and Latino. Blade Runner told a story about race, about whiteness—perhaps inadvertently—through its near lack of characters of color. It touched upon the paranoia of poor and working-class white people through their placement in a fantasy world where they are subjected to the inhumane treatment and alienation that immigrants and abductees of color once faced (and currently face) in the United States.

However, I think the two movies that Ghost in the Shell could have been would have been infinitely more effective and important to our society than the movie that has been produced. A Ghost in the Shell featuring Asian characters in a culturally Asian city would have allowed for Asian American actors to have the opportunity to showcase their talents in an industry that often ignores them. It would have given Asian Americans a chance to explore what it means to represent oneself as Asian and American in a world increasingly impacted by technology, augmentation, and globalization—and share that with American people.

The other movie that has been lost is a purely American adaptation featuring an American cast in a culturally American city—a futuristic one with elements of dozens of subcultures. This movie still could have featured Scarlett Johansson in the lead role and allowed for a fascinating exploration of what it means to be white in a world where one’s image is wholly changeable. What does it mean to be white in a world shaking off the last vestiges of white supremacy? So many American movies center white people and whiteness without any examination of it—a lost opportunity to create powerful life-changing art. A project that centers whiteness sans examination is a celebration of it. To have all projects center whiteness sans examination is dangerous propaganda.

However, there is still a chance for those two lost movies! And though they would not be able to assume the benefits of an internationally known brand, they would still have an opportunity to be successful. Who knows? Perhaps one of those movies is already here.


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.


Bully for you.

A screenshot from ManhuntI’ve never been a fan of Westerns, but the many Americans who are will soon be able to enjoy the return of Red Dead Redemption to their consoles and computers. Rockstar Games sits upon a deep bench of intellectual property, and while I adore the Grand Theft Auto series, I believe two additional cult favorites should return—Bully and Manhunt.

Manhunt should be revived because America is in desperate need of a cathartic release. Much in the same way that the 1970s vigilante and Blaxploitation hero have made a resurgence, the time is right for a character that gives voice to those who believe they are voiceless. It is the perfect point in time to provide a powerful avatar to the disenfranchised (or merely disgruntled)—one that they may live vicariously through. Were I at the helm of such an undertaking, I would make certain that the lead character be mute and fully customizable. And as much as I clamor for female leads (especially for the Grand Theft Auto series), I would make the character male to best fit the initial setting of a privatized prison for men. The villains of note? Avaricious elite who use the marginalized for profit and corrupt officers who abuse them for sport.

While I would stress full customization, I would in no way ignore the impact that race, nationality, religion, and sexuality have on one’s life—especially in prison. These elements would affect gameplay, altering alliances, opportunities, and privileges. I would lean heavily on real-life data in design, and would hope that players would discuss said data as they shared tips and commented on unique walkthroughs. The goal would be to create a work that allows individuals to see themselves and have their grievances validated, but also see “the other” as human. In fact, reaching out to the other—by either playing as a different type of character or having a conversation with one who did—would allow one to enjoy different cut scenes and exclusive side stories. In real life we don’t have much of an incentive to step into the shoes of another. Our games—our stories—can provide that incentive.

A screenshot from BullyWhere Manhunt would pinpoint where we are devoid of power and provide an emotional salve for said lack, Bully would highlight the areas of our lives where our actions leave an impression. It would show how much speaking out and speaking up can change things for the better—both personally and for the community at large. Harassment is a topical issue. And I think the more we only encounter people who are different as static images and words on a screen, the easier it is to abuse them. It is ironic that a connection to virtual characters might allow children to be more empathic to peers in real life, but if our technology allows for that, should the option not be explored?

I wouldn’t back away from sensitive issues. If today’s teens are experiencing it, creative adults should be brave enough to confront it—and be able to do so with humor, honesty, and grace. To provide not only an amazing and entertaining game, but also a “life simulator” for the more socially disconnected to explore potential consequences would be highly beneficial—and lucrative.

It would also be controversial, but Rockstar Games has never been one to back down from controversy.


Spider-Woman: Frank Cho, Milo Manara, and marketing.

“Milo Manara, master artist and storyteller, came in at the last ten minutes of my Art and Women panel and handed me a special gift in appreciation for fighting censorship—an original watercolor painting of Spider-Woman. The packed auditorium went wild.”Frank Cho

Frank Cho and Milo ManaraIllustrating cheesecake is not a fight against censorship. No one has censored Frank Cho—not DC, not Marvel, not even the American government. To state otherwise is a lie. It is a lie put forward to market to men who feel that their rights have been taken from them because the companies they adore have begun to market select products to focus groups that do not include them.

Frank Cho and Milo Manara are well within their rights to create cheesecake featuring Marvel and DC superheroines. Selling said images at conventions is a gray area, but I’d argue that Marvel and DC should look the other way in regards to the practice in order to maintain a friendly relationship with freelancers. Marvel and DC are also well within their rights to decide that employing controversial good-girl artists for books that will be heavily marketed to feminist readers seeking empowering stories is no longer profitable for them.

Crying censorship simply because you are unhappy with the consequences of your actions is dishonest. Carly Rae Jepsen isn’t being censored because she didn’t receive an invitation to perform at the Hip Hop Honors. She makes delightful pop music. As a result, her work isn’t considered for certain venues and is prioritized at others. Cho is a talented good-girl artist. He should be considered for jobs where pin-up art is required. However, his continued needling of feminist consumers may have rightfully made companies wary of taking him on as a freelancer much in the same way that Twitter has struggled to find buyers given its problems with harassment. We have reached an age where subpar social skills can override immense talent. It is much easier to hire a freelancer who is an asset both behind the desk and on a panel.

I have a collection filled with the work of Warren, Conner, Linsner, and Barbucci—all highly recommended—so I am certainly no stranger to cheesecake. However, the actions of Cho and Manara have consequences. Their work and behavior have made a Marvel character an embarrassment. Unlike Wonder Woman, a character with decades as a feminist icon under her belt, Spider-Woman is in no way a strong enough character to bounce back from this. No matter how many female creators attempt to salvage the mess these two men have created, this character is now best known as a mean-spirited industry in-joke made at the expense of women and girls seeking an aspirational heroine to believe in.

Perhaps the best bet for Marvel would be to simply acknowledge the joke Cho and Manara have made of Spider-Woman (at Marvel’s expense and their own profit) and sell the character accordingly. What other options does the company have left? Of course, Cho and Manara have proved absolutely incapable of launching the charm offensive needed to sell a sex-kitten anti-heroine that doesn’t belittle or infuriate feminist readers while simultaneously refraining from shaming straight male fans of pin-up art. And it can be done—with the right creative team.

It is absolutely fascinating how Frank Cho has fed off Marvel characters given that he is not a Marvel employee and has actively interfered with Marvel’s marketing strategy in regards to wooing female readers! And for all his cries of censorship he has surprisingly suffered absolutely no consequences for it. I wonder how many other freelancers plan to follow in his footsteps. How easy it would be for a famous artist to loudly claim that Marvel wishes to rid itself of all cheesecake (it doesn’t) and rake in the cash of frenzied collectors by pumping out pornographic images to buy at conventions. Then leave Marvel to put out the PR fires ignited by the images being spread all over social media.

Of course the real money is in helming a Harley Quinn—a character that draws dollars from feminists and misogynists alike, a character that allows one to draw cheesecake at conventions and draw checks from a mainstream comic company, a character that allows for a much wider range of material that is deemed appropriate by all. But the quick money is in outrage. As Frank Cho is only too aware.


Power fantasies.

I’ve been thinking of power fantasies a great deal lately—about how they are shaped and formed along different lines. Race. Gender. Socioeconomic status.

Superman is of course the prototype. The first hero. Created in a society that was—is—deeply racist and patriarchal, he is a visual representation of those who are in power. He is male. He is white. And vitally, he is an immigrant. An alien. And that status was aspirational to the first- and second-generation white Americans for whom assimilation and acceptance were a key part of becoming American. A real American. The ones for whom status is not conditional upon subservient performances for white and Christian countrymen.

Superman’s physical and mental might are off the charts, for where does one set limits for a group of children who were well aware that they would inherit the power structures that lead the world? That subjugate others? You must set those limits in the stars.

Luke Cage’s are set in the streets. That is not an insult. It is a statement to show the changes that are made to our heroes in order to tailor them to the group that is being targeted. In Luke Cage’s case? It is African-American men. In a country where blackness is demonized and hunted by officers and representatives of the very same systems that purport to protect all Americans, to be unbreakable is a fantasy that provides blissful relief. Impenetrability is merely one of multiple assets in Superman’s arsenal. For Luke Cage, it is the lynchpin of his existence. Kal-El’s parents gave their lives to send their son to a new world that welcomed him with open arms once it discovered the wonders of which he was capable—a classic tale of immigrant success. Luke went from Harlem to the hell of “the system” and back again. Hardened by his struggles, he was not only able to rebuild, but thrive. That is not an immigrant’s success story. It is the journey of the persecuted innocent. It is the story of the slave—families extinguished due to treachery and avarice, members shipped down river and tortured, rebuilding as best one can once the worst of the horror is over. Knowing that there are more troubles to come, but that one is stronger now. United with others. Invincible.

But race is not all that shapes us, moves us—or hinders our movement.

I think often of Wonder Woman and of another power fantasy more clearly marked for white women in our modern era—the Whedon-helmed Kitty Pryde. Where Superman and Luke Cage are impenetrable, Wonder Woman and Kitty are untouchable save for when they—and only they—desire to be touched. Diana achieves this by retreating to a utopia where there are no men. Kitty remains within a patriarchal society, but her intangibility prevents others from physically dominating her. She is able to come and go as she pleases, to observe violence as a disaffected bystander or conscientious objector depending on mood. Both Kitty and Diana are given respected positions within the power structures they have decided to be a part of (Justice League, X-Men)—Kitty’s position is the more notable one given her rise from a subordinate child to a leader that is often deferred to. Through hard work and studious behavior she is able to ascend. It is interesting to note that Kitty and Diana do not dismantle the patriarchal societies they move within, simply achieve positions of power within them due to their exceptional achievements. And both stress diplomacy over domination. After all, why take the building down if you can simply smash the glass ceiling instead? Those stairways are useful.

For Kitty, for Luke, for Diana (but not for Kal-El) the fantasy is to no longer be a victim of violence—violence that is enacted upon them solely because of who they are inherently as people. Black men. White women. Kitty has the option to retreat. Luke has the option to fight. Diana is afforded the opportunity to do both. I would argue that Diana’s duality stems from her status as an LGBT power fantasy in addition to being one for women, but I could be wrong. (I would love for someone with more knowledge than I possess to examine that possibility!)

As a dark-skinned black woman, I have searched for a character that embraces my triality—one whose fantastic powers are a vehicle to escape the unique agony enacted upon my mind and body according to the circumstances of my birth. I’m still looking. And what I’ve discovered is that I am not looking for power within a character, but instead I am searching for a character to be treated a particular way. And for my search to be so fruitless is demoralizing and, quite frankly, makes me want to abandon the medium of comics and the superheroic genre altogether.

“If you have a work and I see the same tired trope of the dark-skinned girl being the no-nonsense butch one, the aggressor in all things, the stoic one who doesn’t need a man, the romanceless den mother? I’m done. It’s insulting and weak.”Cheryl Lynn Eaton

My power fantasy is to be loved and appreciated. And in fantasy worlds where walls are punched through like tissue paper and the skies are no limitation that must seem ludicrous. And it is. And yet black women who look like me are not easily afforded something so basic in the art we consume. Our love and acceptance are conditional—tied into shade and age and “grade” of hair. How many characters have I cherished only to wince when skin is lightened with increased popularity or lovers are written out of a character’s history (or must be doggedly pursued)? Too many. Love at first sight in art is rarely an option for women like me. Instead we are told that we must work for men to look past the sight of us. What must it be like to be loved without need for convincing and cajoling? To be someone’s first and only choice? As-is. Unconditionally. Lois Lane.

It must be nice.

I appreciate Storm’s leadership, Misty Knight’s determination, Vixen’s raw power, and Amanda Waller’s intelligence. But I see dark-skinned black women making amazing things out of nothing on a daily basis—in real life. And I see them do it tirelessly without appreciation and acknowledgement. Without kindness. I see their works and images outright stolen from them and cherished in presentations that aren’t theirs. So yes, while it is so important to find relief, even in a fleeting fantasy, from violence, showing me I can punch monsters from the sky doesn’t mean as much when (1) my community has already shown me what I am capable of and (2) I must beg someone to cheer for me when I touch back down to Earth.

I am known, often with much frustration and eye-rolling from those who aren’t black—to those in power—to stress the importance of having black women writing in the mainstream. And it is for selfish reasons. Not for my own advancement, but because I trust black women implicitly. I trust them to understand what should be so basic, but countless writers who are not black women have failed to grasp. Over and over and over—a haystack of unintentional insults. We know we are capable. We know we are strong. Loved? Well, the world could do a much better job of showing it.

This blog is ten years old. A decade. And I have been writing about society, various artistic mediums, and science fiction and fantasy for much longer than that. And I feel as though I have spent every minute of those ten long years shouting into the void only to see minimal changes and my own needs go unfulfilled. To encounter disdain and harassment. I am exhausted. I am…done. But not in anger. Frankly? My soul is just tired.


Wisdom and earth.

A lot can happen in a month!

First and foremost is that I and artist Maria Frölich will have a short story appearing in an upcoming issue of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s and Val De Landro’s Bitch Planet. I’m honored to have been allowed to contribute to the amazing world that Kelly Sue and Val have created, to work with an artist of Maria’s caliber, and to learn from an editor as skilled as Lauren Sankovitch. All opportunities are a gift, but this one came at an exceptionally trying time in my life and gave me a bit of hope in a year where happy moments have been few and far between.

2016 has made the world of Bitch Planet more ominous than satirical—a world that could easily enter into our reality via the randomness of an election or a major catastrophe (or perhaps one in the same). I am a massive fan of fictional dystopian futures and equally a fan of making sure they never come to fruition!

With the publication of this story I find myself in a small, but powerful and growing league of black women writers in comics. And I could not be more pleased about it. Black women have always been here and have always been creating. What is new is the recognition—the realization that to have an organization where images of black female bodies are a source of income but black women are not invited to speak is parasitic and harmful. That realization, and the reaching back of a small handful of white women and black men who have secured a foothold in the industry, has finally resulted in a space for black women to write in the mainstream. However, it is important to note that black women created their own lucrative space outside of the mainstream long before we had become a consideration to those we championed as they pushed through glass ceilings. As I’ve said, we’ve been here.

And now we’re there. With the addition of powerful writers such as Roxane Gay, Vita Ayala, and Yona Harvey at DC and Marvel, black women are no longer voiceless in the mainstream. Flesh-and-blood black women are receiving compensation for their creativity. There is now reciprocity at these companies—black women are consumers, black female characters are profitable commodities, and black women are highly sought (and fairly paid) artistic laborers. I cannot support companies that take from black communities—black women—and give nothing in return. Thankfully, I no longer have to count Marvel and DC among said companies. And while it’s frustrating that we had to wait until 2009 and 2016 for that to come about, the fact that it has come about should be positively noted. And I hope we do not once again see a regression for nearly a decade should these women decide to return to their original creative mediums.

We are together, but unequal. While I am absolutely elated to have women such as Roxane Gay in this industry and in the mainstream it is very important to note that their presence is a clear example of “twice as good for half as much.” For only black writers must reach the pinnacle of fame in other creative industries in order to be deemed acceptable to pen a mid-list mainstream comic book. A white man or woman? Well, he or she would merely need to have written an independent comic that an editor took a liking to in order to receive an invitation to pitch. The doors are now open to everyone, but only black people have a very long and winding staircase they must climb in order to reach them. It’s okay though, we’re used to having to be twice as good to get in, only now we’re going to be damn sure to remind you of it once we get there.

As for me? I’m going to work on stepping my game up to reach that elusive 200 percent! Sadly, I can’t talk about my next step now—God, I’ve become one of those people—but poke me about it in a few months!


Diversity and Goliath redeux!

I’m thinking about this in conjunction with DC’s new talent programs and Ronald Wimberly’s comments on spec.

There are many creators of color and female creators who are at (and beyond) the talent level we see in the mainstream. And in the process of integrating the mainstream, they are being judged not by their work, but by their outward appearance. And it’s insulting. Would you ask a woman who has produced multiple books independently to join a training program? A black man with a résumé outside of the cape books that’s longer than a highway for unpaid spec work? C’mon now. We’re talking vast portfolios here.

Editors are stumbling upon the names of popular creators from marginalized groups—creators with followings and established brands—and treating them like college students who just rolled out of bed with a degree in art or English. It’s dismissive and stems from bigotry. It’s the same as the white A&R rep or label owner who rolled up to established musicians in black communities with garbage deals like they were doing an amateur a favor. Nah, son. You’re a visitor in a spot where people know what they are doing. If you have any respect and you’re serious about your company and diversity? You approach as an equal. Do the necessary research before you sit down.

Frankly, these numbers are abysmal because those in power don’t know where to look or how to act once they get there. Frat boy and good ol’ boy behavior is driving off and angering (or scaring) the very folks these companies need to be better.

So? So you step your game up and do some work. You can’t post up in a bar and wait for creators to buy you drinks at cons. Well, you can, but you’re only going to get talented white dudes that way and that’s only one element of the mosaic you need. You’ll have to go to different places and behave in new ways. And if you can’t do that? Get you some editors who can, b. Or a creator to be your ambassador. (Although since most of these creators bring up folks who look just like them—Morrisons beget Ways—you’ll need to vet those ambassadors.) And let me tell you, the last thing you want to do is go out and hire you a whole bunch of Timberlakes and Whedons and think you’ve done something in regards to diversity. You’ve done nothing but boost the voices of white men. And if you try to present it as anything else? I’m coming for your neck in the messiest of ways. (Do continue to hire them because their work is nice, but you best watch your marketing.)

Also, don’t Buzzfeed the very people you should be hiring. Biting cultures at best and actual specific marginalized creators at worst is going to bite you in the ass because those folks have a direct line to the people you want to sell to. And you’ll end up having to hire folks from those groups anyway to do immediate damage control and drown out the voices of those you originally stole from.

Don’t be afraid to roll up to someone and say you like what they do and want to build with them if you have building blocks on deck. “Let’s build” has become a massive joke amongst black creators, but because folks come to them with nothing. But if you have something? Shoot your shot.

ETA: This post was taken word for word from my Twitter account because I have got to stop bombarding my poor followers with tweet streams of this length! Journal entries over tweets!