Dear black producers,

We need a remake of The Wiz immediately.

Please start making calls.

Love, Cheryl Lynn


There’s no place like home.

New York City has often been referred to as its own major character in the series Sex and the City. While I don’t agree, the importance of New York to the series cannot be denied. New York—any city—has an impact on its denizens, shaping them to fit the existing culture within its borders. To move to a new area, not as a tourist or transient figure, but as a settler, is to assume the customs and lifestyle of one’s neighbors that are necessary to survive and maneuver efficiently. If not, problems quickly occur. For example, Brooklyn-born, the excessive socialization required amongst strangers while in Atlanta is still disconcerting. Privacy and solitude are at a premium in New York and are not to be relinquished without great reluctance.

Good fiction requires cities to have their own cultures as well. The character of a region is shown by how the landscape and structures are depicted. It is also reflected in the temperament and appearance of its citizens. For these reasons, team-ups and crossovers must be created with care. Unless the “hook” of a tale is to show a “fish out of water,” a mish-mash of incompatible worlds and characters is confusing and distasteful to the reader. One cannot build the foundation of a good story on earth that is not firm.

Seemingly rebroadcast at least once yearly, the crossover between Homicide: Life on the Street and Law and Order is fantastic. Both worlds are clearly defined, and characters from both series find themselves as strangers in a strange land. Another tactic that works is to simply create a new world for all the characters in question. This has been successfully executed repeatedly in comics, the Amalgam universe (depicting blended versions of Marvel and DC characters) likely being the most lucrative example.

With DC Entertainment’s New 52 initiative, the DC, Wildstorm, and Milestone universes have been folded into one world. As a former fan of Wildstorm and Milestone characters, the development is frustrating. It is frustrating because I do not feel that a new world was developed that was hospitable to all characters; Milestone and Wildstorm characters were simply plugged into the DC universe. The number of Milestone characters appearing has been minimal, so a fish-out-of-water approach could have been successfully taken with Static and Xombi. However, given the sheer volume of Wildstorm characters inserted and the incompatibility of the former DC and Wildstorm universes—one an idealistic place with nearly black and white depictions of good and evil, the other a more sinister place with various shades of gray—results have been dreadful. DC fans have largely ignored Wildstorm characters. Wildstorm fans, given a strange world that in no way exploited already weakened nostalgic ties, had no reason to stay. I am apprehensive about what will occur should more Milestone characters make an appearance.

DC’s recreation of Earth 2, a world that could have easily been shaped to fit Wildstorm and Milestone characters, is essentially the existing DC universe with different characters plugged in. The culture remains the same—charmingly idealistic. In contrast, Marvel’s Ultimate universe began as a world that was much darker and cynical in nature compared to the existing Marvel universe. As of now, the two Marvel worlds are largely similar, and a large event featuring a rebooted world containing the most popular characters and concepts from both would work fabulously—though given fan resistance to change, it would probably be best to test the waters with a temporary revision akin to Age of Apocalypse.

But, uh, back to the lecture at hand: how does DC solve the problem of compatibility? There are three options: remove the Wildstorm characters from the DC universe; alter the Wildstorm characters to fit the DC universe; present the Wildstorm characters as part of DC’s underground, an off-the-grid assemblage of cynical characters largely not in contact with DC’s icons.

I’m curious to see which path DC decides to choose.


Hope and change.

The San Diego Comic Convention has come and gone. Many have taken the time in the days following the convention to reflect on the current state of the industry and ponder what the future holds. I was thrilled by some accounts and disheartened by others, but I still see a future for the industry that is strong and sustainable, and one where women and people of color play a part in it.

No, I am not sacrificing realism for optimism. I am aware of Marvel’s “leaking” of hints of a Black Panther movie that shows no signs of coming to fruition—leaks that conveniently occurred after fan grumbling over the marketing of minority characters (a choice example being the debut of sneakers paying tribute to Marvel’s famed Nazi villain the Red Skull and Z-list X-Man Chamber, while characters such as Luke Cage, Shang Chi, and White Tiger are denied any type of product placement). I am aware of claims from Marvel representatives who discuss the difficulty of translating Wakanda to film, and yet indicated no difficulty in bringing Asgard to the silver screen. Yet I am also aware that these representatives do the best they can, wading through red tape and battling bigoted executives, to make even minor changes in how we tell stories and shape worlds. Tied hands can only do so much. White lies are given so that consumers do not bear the brunt of the brutal racism these men and women encounter in the boardroom.

Luckily, there are a slew of individuals with hands no longer bound. And we are at a point where the industry is at its most fluid. The line between creator and consumer has blurred—no longer visible. At Davis’ Black Panel a woman lamented a lack of characters reflecting her life and world. Just as Davis indicated, she has the power to change that. She can write. She can sponsor projects that intrigue her via Kickstarter. She can search for existing books that are simply waiting for her eyes to light upon them. We can have the comics that tell our stories. No, they may not come brandished with a recognizable logo on the cover, but why is a logo so important? Logos can no longer buy the security of a built-in audience; a list of recently cancelled titles provides evidence of that. And while the backing of a major company can help in regards to marketing and access to consumers, there are alternatives available to self-publishers.

At the last convention I attended, the New York Comic Convention, I was thrilled by the diversity I found. There were individuals of all backgrounds creating comics, bringing their unique perspectives to the medium. And the collection of consumers was equally diverse. Rich Johnston indicated in his post-convention review that this has carried over to San Diego’s festivities, and I certainly do not doubt his account. However, I keenly remember at NYCC that the diversity I found behind the table was located away from the main exhibitions in areas such as Artist Alley. Moreover, the credits in mainstream comics recently produced have shown no indication of change. If larger publishers are hiring black individuals in greater numbers, those men and women certainly are not determining who Black Panther shall battle next month, who Spider-Man shall kiss, or whether Luke Cage will lead his team to victory. We are not hired to shape worlds. Should a black writer at a mainstream publisher be found—one that is not currently on a book hurtling towards cancellation—I will gladly withdraw my statement.

In the past this would have concerned me greatly. Today, mainstream publishers no longer provide benefits unavailable elsewhere. The number of exclusive contracts has dwindled. There is no health insurance to enjoy. Creative freedom has given way to editorial edicts. So why not hone one’s skill via self-publishing through Kickstarter or use a smaller, alternative publisher to build one’s name?

I am aware of the importance of mainstream visibility—for men and women of all backgrounds to be seen as heroes and have their stories told. But given the success of individuals such as Tyler Perry and Shonda Rhimes, I have to wonder if established channels are the route to achieving said visibility—especially when we are clearly not considered part of the establishment. No matter what the medium, there are other options available waiting to be chosen.

Choose.


No offense, Chris…

…but Scott Evans looks way more like Cap than you do. Look at him! You need to pass your brother that shield.

Scott Evans

You still fine though, boo.


General disinterest.

I watch soap operas the way other people watch sporting events. Yes, you hope for an engaging performance when you sit down in front of the ol’ set, but there’s also the drive to root for a player or a team, the need to align your hopes with those of another. And occasionally, or frequently, if you are lucky, you are rewarded with that moment of mutual celebration that comes with a win.

In sports, you cheer when your favorite player dunks on an opponent. In soaps, you revel in the satisfaction that comes when your favorite character gets the upper hand—which brings us to the reason why I no longer watch soap operas. I’ve endured poorly written and poorly acted episodes, but I simply can’t abide the fact that my favorite characters never seem to win. How do you root for a perpetual loser? How do you continue to follow the exploits of one who you know will never succeed? You don’t. You stop watching. One Live to Live lost me the minute it jettisoned perpetual third wheel Evangeline Williamson. And General Hospital has now lost me with its treatment of Jasper Jacks.

There are only so many times you can watch a man get cheated on by his wife, be browbeaten by his ex, or lose an argument to his enemy. This character never saves the day, is treated as a joke by his peers, and is merely an afterthought to his loved ones. While I don’t expect to be treated to an idyllic world where my favorite character does everything right and nothing bad ever happens to him (which would be rather boring, no?), I do want to see some checkmarks in the win column. It’s the uncertainty that keeps one excited, and the “wins” provide the pleasure. Without both? You’ve lost your audience.

The ratings prove it.

I wanted this to be a comics-free post, but one or two of you might be wondering how I can be fond of a character like Empowered if I won’t follow characters who are losers. Simply put, Empowered will save the day just often enough to keep me interested—and keep me rooting for the character’s future success. Plus, though she is massively unsuccessful in her professional life, Empowered’s personal life is firing on all cylinders.

Funny. The only good soap operas left are comic books! Perhaps comic book companies should start courting women who are pretty unhappy with the status of their soaps right now, and soon won’t have any soaps at all to watch.

Those ladies will have to get their fantasy and romance from somewhere. How many times will Marvel and DC watch other genres muscle in on an audience that should rightfully be theirs? If I worked at Marvel or DC, I’d be annoyed each time I heard a woman mention Game of Thrones or True Blood. I’d also have my interns hijacking soap opera message boards to post the more romantic elements of my best comics. I’ve seen women who started watching new shows when fellow posters started regularly posting YouTube clips of romantic scenes of a certain couple on message boards. I’ve started watching new shows due to this. Why couldn’t this tactic work for books? Why aren’t these companies locking on a method of advertising that is free?

It’s so frustrating to see these wasted opportunities, I swear.


Can’t sleep.

So, it’s the perfect time to blog, no? I headed down to the comic shop on Free Comic Book Day and picked up Love and Capes, Amazing Spider-Man, and Captain America/Thor. Though all three were good, Amazing Spider-Man was the only one that seemed to “click” for me. Reading Love and Capes was like stumbling onto a soap opera for the first time. Unfortunately, soap operas only attract new audiences through (1) long-term exposure or (2) a shocking event. Sadly, unlike General Hospital, new free issues of Loves and Capes don’t show up in my house Monday through Friday at ten. And the habit of reading the book hasn’t been handed down for generations either (though the book does have the benefit of being well written—unlike General Hospital). Without long-term exposure to get me attached to these characters and no shocking event to make me eager for the next issue, it’s not a book I plan on searching for.

Captain America/Thor was charming, but seemed to be geared towards a younger audience. I found it a bit dull. If I’m reading a Thor comic, I don’t really want lighthearted humor. I want an epic. I want Sons of Anarchy and the Iliad thrown in a blender. Of course, that’s not the kind of comic to be given away on Free Comic Book Day. And it certainly wouldn’t be the type of book to give to new, younger readers. Captain America/Thor is just right for that nine-year-old boy out there who will hopefully pick up this comic after I leave it in the library.

Amazing Spider-Man dished up a heavy dose of nostalgia and it worked. A character I’ve been fond of for years (Spider-Man), plus an art style that reminds me of the style dominant when I first started buying comics, plus a featured character that I feel never gets enough attention (Shang Chi)?

Yup, that’s pretty much the best way to drag me back in.

And I realized something in that comic shop filled with grown-ups in their twenties and thirties. It’s not about developing new readers. It’s about winning back people like me—people who wandered away. The only new reader that I knew would come from FCBD wasn’t even in the comic shop. It was the son of the woman who was digging through the dollar manga bin with me. As I was snatching up volumes of Path of the Assassin, she asked me what would be good for her son. And I had no idea what to tell her! Hopefully, she picked up something good.

But hey, the day worked, right? That lady and I both wandered out with an armful of manga that we paid for. And Marvel found a fresh vein to stick it in. Yeah, I’m not going to be buying Amazing Spider-Man, but later that day I saw Misty Knight over a friend’s shoulder as he flipped through Heroes for Hire and immediately wanted to know what the character had been up to. Who was she loving? Where was she living? And much to my annoyance, I know I’m going to pick up the next issue of Heroes for Hire to find out—especially since I’ve stopped watching General Hospital and have been on the search for “comfort storytelling” to replace it.

Oh, one more thing! I’ve been checking out pages from Jennifer Blood over on Scans Daily and it looks like something that would be right up my alley. And yet when I saw it in the store, the cover was so off-putting that I couldn’t buy it. It irritated me just enough that I couldn’t pay money for it. So, I guess I’ll keep reading free snippets online.


Chromatic Casting?

Rashida Jones as Lois Lane? That’s not chromatic casting. That’s just good casting. Chick looks enough like Lois to me. And I am one hell of a stickler for actors looking like the characters they portray.

That’s a bad photo of her on the Racialicious site though. She’s way hotter than that. But I’ve gotta go to work. Do your own Googling, son!


My! Oh, Maya!

Here there be spoilers. General Hospital spoilers.

So, Annie Ilonzeh is gone, off to play the straight-laced, no-nonsense Kate (obviously a nod to Kate Jackson’s character, Sabrina) for the upcoming Charlie’s Angels reboot. Perfect casting, I must say. But what happens to Maya Ward? While I never thought that the character clicked well romantically with Ethan, I still think that Maya is a great addition to the canvas. I enjoy her friendships with Ethan and Johnny, and I was looking forward to her forming family bonds with Brook and Michael. But if the actress is on her way out, what can you do?

Recast.

Simply put, I think that the character has too much potential to just jettison. I want a big soapy disease of the week where damn near every blood relation has to be tested. I want a surprise paternity story—Maya is the secret lovechild of A.J. and Keesha? You don’t say! I want heart-to-heart talks with Monica and Edward. I want tense confrontations with her birth mother. And then? I want a miraculous recovery.

But you need the right actress to carry that story—perhaps one that has a little soap cred, but not too much cred to be beyond GH’s price range. Bam! Davetta Sherwood. One, The Young and the Restless fans still think of the actress fondly. Two, she’s youthful enough to be compatible with Nathan Parsons. (After all, Annie looks at least a decade older than him.) Three, she’s a decent actress. It just might work.

And might I ask something of the General Hospital writing staff? If you do bring Keesha back, can she steal Jax away from Carly? And then get into a love triangle with Jax and Shawn? Thanks in advance!


An open letter to Bob Guza Jr.

Y’know what General Hospital needs? What-if weeks. What’s that? Let me explain. A what-if week would be a week where General Hospital would tell a radically different story based on something that had been altered in the past.

  • What if Jason Quartermaine had never suffered brain damage?
  • What if Carly had stayed with A.J.?
  • What if Brenda had married Jax?
  • What if Jason Morgan had given up the mob for Liz and Jake?
  • What if Ethan had been a Scorpio?
  • What if Luke had bedded a Cassadine and sired a child?

The alternate story would wrap up within five days and then General Hospital could go back to its regular story. The show could put out one to three what-if weeks a year as a way to keep writers from suffering from burnout and to test new couples and potential storylines without angering the core audience.

What could it hurt?


Prince of Gotham.

Y’know what’d be fun? If Amar’e repped Batman the same way that Shaq reps Superman. Then again, I don’t know how loyal the dude is to the Knicks. He may not want to have his brand tied to one city or team like that.

Still, it is a fun idea for photoshoots or promos.


So what do I want?

Last comics post, y’all. DC and Marvel do not pay my rent and I really don’t care about the health of either company when neither is making all that much (or any) effort to entertain me or others like me. Now, that could be due to clueless marketing reps rather than complete indifference. (And if so, what are they collecting checks for?) Just in case? Here goes.

I want a Power Man webcomic called “Black and Yellow” running over at Nah Right for a few weeks. I want Luke Cage to have a bomb-ass logo to put on t-shirts and jackets. Same goes for Anya. I want Power Girl (drawn and written by Amanda Conner) to give Esquire‘s Funny Joke from a Beautiful Woman for one month. I want Cassandra Cain as Batgirl. I want a Daughters of the Dragon ongoing starring Misty, Colleen, Felicia, and Angela. I want the female Young Avengers tackling an advice column in Seventeen magazine. I want a quirky photoshoot starring Power Girl in Glamour magazine. I want Norah Winters gone. I want a giant one-shot of stories about Marvel characters set to classic rap songs. I want an adorable animated Cho giving tech reviews one day on AOTS. I want a new Young Justice comic starring Static, Blue Beetle, and Batgirl. I want Marvel-inspired exclusives from Nike. I want John to get the same face time as Guy and Kyle. I want minority characters as more than window dressing. I want a Wonder Woman television show. I want at least two of the Stepford Supers to change their hair color and style. I want consistent promotion given to minority characters over a prolonged period of time. Stop recycling your heroes of color and yanking them from the spotlight after a short time so no one hero (Cyborg, Static, Batgirl, Blue Beetle, Solstice, Aqualad) ever gets a foothold. I want diversity and good comics. And cartoons. And video games. And gear.

Make it happen—now. Or don’t. I don’t have time to waste waiting. Other companies (comics, animation, video games, etc.) are already circling.


Hey, Dark Horse!

You know what would be nice? A Grand Theft Auto comic series. I would buy those comics. You should start making them. I’d ask Wildstorm, but…you know. And where’s my Venture Bros. graphic novel? Get to work!


Drive-by Blogging!

Generally hopeless. I cannot watch General Hospital any longer because the mere sight of Carly and Jax makes me want to vomit. Aside from the way the character looks, there is nothing appealing about Carly—and I can’t watch the show when all I see are rewards and accolades being heaped upon such a horrible creature. Carly gets the fabulous job. Carly gets to marry the handsome multi-millionaire. Carly cheats on her husband and he apologizes. Carly nearly destroys her cousin’s romantic relationship and keeps on truckin’. Aren’t villains supposed to eventually pay when they do villainous things? Isn’t that the point of a soap opera? Ugh. She’s the Emma Frost of Port Charles. I can’t watch. I find the character that distasteful.

Fresh outta luck. Do people seriously want Von Allan’s nomination revoked? ‘Cause that’s not right, y’all. Was it annoying to see white guys getting nominated for Glyphs Awards when black women couldn’t even get a chance to pitch at the companies those individuals were working for? Yes! Did that make the work of those men any less deserving of a nomination? No! Let Von Allan keep his nomination and use that nomination to (1) shine a spotlight on his work and (2) shine a spotlight on the fact that things are still not equal when it comes to gender in comics.

However, good work is good work—regardless of whether there’s a Y chromosome involved or not. And strong female characters are always needed, no matter whose head they originate in.


Last exit to Brooke Lynn.

If General Hospital is going to pair Brooke Lynn with an older man such as Nikolas, I don’t know why they just don’t go all out and have Brooke Lynn develop a flirtation with Jax to stick it to Carly (and Lois, and Ned, and the rest of the Quartermaines). I would love it. I wouldn’t love it as much as I would love Brooke Lynn and Johnny, but I’d still love it. Picture it! Jax and Brooke Lynn could run into each other at some silly affair that Nikolas dragged Brooke Lynn to, they start talking, she spills her guts about Carly, he tells her how much she reminds him of her mom (whom he was interested in pre-Brenda), and…boom! Torrid, May-December romance, full speed ahead. Add in a guest appearance from Ned and Lois and you have all the makings of a good soap. Screaming family fights (Brooke Lynn versus the Quartermaines)? Check. Awkward confrontations with past lovers (Jax versus Carly and Brenda)? Check. Nasty custody battles? Steamy love scenes? Adulterous liaisons? Check, check, and check!

And by the time all the drama is done, Brooke Lynn and Jax would finally realize that they have to rein in their feelings for each other in order to keep the peace. Brooke would move on to Johnny and Jax would be there to help Olivia mend her broken heart. See? Simple.


The meh phase.

After reading David’s blog post over at 4th Letter, I’ve realized something. I just can’t hang with shared universes any longer. The inconsistency bothers me. I don’t pick up Marvel and DC books to follow artists or writers; I do it because I’m fond of a certain character. If the character’s look and personality varies wildly from appearance to appearance—what’s the point? There’s no real character there to follow, is there? And when your favorite character is a second stringer, you can pretty much expect drastic changes to fit the story at hand. No one is interested in building a consistent brand with the B-list sidekick. I can’t blame them. Who is going to buy a Power Girl or Daughters of the Dragon t-shirt? Well, me. But will anyone else?

On the flipside, I don’t want to read an Empowered story written by anyone else but Adam Warren. And if there’s a new Dawn miniseries, I’d better find art by Linsner inside when I pry open those pages. Hmm, I guess I do follow creators. I’ve picked up Warren and Linsner’s Marvel and DC stuff too. Lord knows I’d never have any Iron Man or Black Cat of my shelf if not for those two.

Maybe that’s my real modus operandi—fall in love with a creator in the indies and follow that creator anywhere? Well, unless there’s a character I really hate. I love Canepa, but I wouldn’t buy an Emma Frost series even if Canepa’s name was on it. And Chiang on Batgirl wouldn’t get me to reach for my wallet. Unless it starred Cass, of course. I guess I’m just trying to figure out my buying habits. Aside from ordering Empowered and picking up Hellboy trades at conventions, I haven’t really been interested in buying anything. Even worse, I haven’t read one issue of the Shadowland crossover. I was really excited about that crossover too!
I guess I’m trying to figure out why I’ve lost interest in Marvel and DC. I’m not really trying to fix the problem, since it is saving me a lot of money, but I am interested in the reason. It certainly isn’t a decline in quality. I have friends enjoying the hell out of these books. It’s not the price. One, I happily spent $3.99 on an Empowered one-shot, and two, I could easily rifle through my friends’ stacks for free. Not enough diversity? Eh, maybe at DC, but that’s just the nature of their universe. Also, they seem to be trying to fix that.

I don’t know what’s wrong, but there are more posts about General Hospital here than there are about comic books. And while General Hospital is hilariously (and unintentionally) entertaining, that’s kind of sad.