All-Negro Comics #2

So, one blog entry, a few Tumblr posts, a few tweets, a dozen or so e-mails, and one week later—here we are!

Full disclosure: I received two responses in total regarding the publication of All-Negro Comics #2. Am I disappointed? Yes. However, two things console me—that creators are focused on some amazing projects dear to their heart and have no time to participate (which makes me very hopeful about the industry) or the possibility that creators would prefer another individual at the helm of such a project (easily and amicably resolved). I much prefer these two options compared to the possibility of the industry not caring about the inclusion of black voices! And I know, given the passion and talent of the black men and women in the industry right now, that the third option is not an option at all.

So, is the All-Negro Comics anthology dead? Never! The work is in the public domain and is available for anyone to pick up the torch. It is my hope that those in the comics industry will pick it up and carry it to the masses. I am not abandoning the project; I am very eager to support it as a consumer!

For any individual considering taking on this project, please note that while I only received two creator responses, the interest expressed by fellow fans was quite positive. If you have the talent to create comics and a few like-minded colleagues, you absolutely can do this! And we’ll be here to buy it!


All for one.

“If a Negro got legs he ought to use them. Sit down too long, somebody will figure out a way to tie them up.”Toni Morrison, Beloved

Late last night I had an idea, promptly dismissed it as crazy, and went to sleep. It woke up with me this morning, settled in with me at breakfast, and has remained lodged within my cranium since. Apparently, it’s here for the long haul. The last time I had a crazy idea I ended up with the Ormes Society, so I’ve decided to entertain this visitor for as long as she plans to stick around. Allow me to introduce you…

All-Negro Comics #1 (now firmly entrenched in the public domain to be enjoyed by all) appeared in June of 1947. I’d like to publish All-Negro Comics #2. I’m sharing my idea today in the hopes that you would too.

Black people have been making comics since there were comics. A cursory look at our ancient history and you could argue that black people invented comics. But in America we were not always provided a chance to share the national stage enjoyed by creators of other races—to create works that would become our modern-day myths. The purpose of the second issue of All-Negro Comics would be to celebrate the milestones of a past long buried by the industry and carry them with us into the present in order to leave a legacy for the future. I want to show the diversity found in regards to black individuals within the comic industry: men and women who come from various professional levels, genders, generations, sexual orientations, religions, and geographical regions—creators who have been influenced by everything under the sun.

I’d like to keep the length of the comic fairly small (roughly 32 pages featuring 8-10 vignettes of 3-4 pages) and distribute the work digitally. My focus is on reaching a large number of lower-income readers who desperately need to hear black voices but may not have the capability of finding a local comic shop or the funds to spend four dollars on a comic book. Donating one or two dollars to a Kickstarter project would likely be all they could handle, but a large number of small donations would allow for an acceptable page rate to be offered. Also, starting off small would enable me to gauge how receptive fans would be to this type of project and make it easier for creators to contribute and introduce (or reintroduce) characters they could take with them to other projects. Even better, it would allow for further issues by all-new creative and editorial teams. The brand could be passed from one to another as if a totem, a badge of honor, or simply a way to link generations.

Q: Hey, if I created a character, who would own it? Who would own my artwork?

A: Each creative team would make their own agreement as to how the ownership of new intellectual properties would be shared. Artists would own the artwork they produce; writers would own their scripts. Point blank—creators own their creations. If you wanted to use an existing character that you already own, you would be welcome to do so. Creative teams would be welcome to publish their work elsewhere if they so desire! Yes, even in print! I’d only ask that you wait until March 1, 2014, if you plan to share your work elsewhere (website, sketchbook, script archive, another anthology, etc.)—and provide All-Negro Comics #2 with a one-time, first appearance credit.

I think it would be a wonderful idea to honor those who came before us by using public-domain characters (Ace Harlem, John Henry) or gods (Anansi, Papa Legba). It’d be nice to make sure these characters were not forgotten, but could live on and be reinvented like Thor or Wonder Woman. (I’m curious to see if someone could snatch Breezy back from Chris Brown.) And, of course, the lead character in each vignette should be black. It’s All-Negro Comics, folks!

Q: So, black lead characters and black creators, huh? Any other story requirements?

A: Your work should be suitable for ages 16 and older. That’s it. You are black, so your story is as well. Sci-fi, western, romance, war, noir—it doesn’t matter. In fact, the more diversity the better.

Q: If you want diversity, why not open the project up to people of all races?

A: Because it is important to showcase black voices that have been silenced elsewhere. Honestly, black storytellers are dealing with specific anti-black stereotypes that argue that (1) they are not intellectually capable of professional literary work and (2) they have an agenda to denigrate white people with their creations. These are negative stereotypes perpetuated by fans and professionals that creators of other races simply do not have to deal with (though there are certainly other difficulties to be encountered). Places where black writers can combat these stereotypes are insanely rare. We must cherish and protect each platform we are given. For readers, I wanted to provide inexpensive stories where black people could be seen and heard. Both are vital.

Q: So, what would campaign contributors get? And creators?

A: Readers would get a 32-page digital comic with no advertisements for the very low price of one or two American dollars. I wanted this to be a project for the people, a project that even the kid who works at Foot Locker or the woman who works at McDonald’s could be a part of. I’d edit the work free of charge and there would be no printing costs. Funds raised would be provided to the creators.

Q: Your heart is in the right place, but it’s not feasible given ______.

A: Is there something I haven’t taken into account? I’m certainly open to hearing the feedback/wisdom of others! Please let me know.

Q: I’d love to help, but I am so not black! What can I do?

A: Plenty! One, you can help to spread the word by linking to this page! You can also blog about black creators that you would love to see more of in the future or would like to see honored by the industry. If you are an artist, feel free to promote the project by working on a pin-up of a black creation of the past (Torchy Brown, “Jive” Gray) and share it on your site (or donate it to be offered as a limited-edition Kickstarter bonus)!

Q: I’d love to help, and I am so black—but I’m swamped! How can I help?

A: See the answer above! (I’d also suggest angling for a cover spot or providing the afterword or foreword.)

Q: Anything else?

A: You tell me! This week has been set aside for discussion. Would you want to read a project such as this? Who would you want to contribute? Would you like to contribute? Talk amongst yourselves—or with me! (My people—those who’ve emailed me before–hit me up on the direct line.) If all goes smoothly, we’ll move onto submissions and art samples next week! If not? Well, we’ve had some good discussions about some great creators who definitely deserve our praise.

(For further information regarding the development of this project, please click here.)


I want this, comic artists. Really.

With RZA now at Black Mask, I’ve been thinking about my old idea for a graphic novel/anthology where artists draw comics utilizing lyrics as scripts. My idea? It’s fabulous. Just saying. And while I always knew which songs I wanted drawn, I had never attached them to specific artists. Let’s rectify that, shall we?

“Children’s Story” by Slick Rick and Adam Warren
“Shakey Dog” by Ghostface Killah and Chris Brunner
“The Sweetest Thing” by Lauryn Hill and Afua Richardson
“On the Run/Murder” by Royce da 5’9″ and Ron Wimberly
“Break You Off” by The Roots and Terry Dodson

Feel free to add your own to the wish list! Get on this, comics industry!


The illustrated interview.

I had a series of tweets about this idea months ago, but I’m not sure if I’ve blogged about it until now. I’m hoping that a comics publisher will pick up the ball and run with it.

I’d love to have an illustrated graphic novel containing interviews with some of the comic industry’s most illustrious personalities. Allow me to explain. Each section of the graphic novel would feature a short interview with a famous creator such as Frank Miller. The interview would then be set into a script, as if the creator and the interviewer are simply two characters in a comic, and illustrated. All interviews would appear to take place in the actual comics the creators worked on: Gaiman would observe Morpheus’ funeral as he discussed how he created the Endless; Lee would watch a brawl between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin from the Brooklyn Bridge.

The work could be a yearly series as more creators agreed to interviews. Just a thought.


They lovin’ the crew.

I’ve spent a great deal of time talking about the marketing missteps of DC comics in regards to the Before Watchmen project. However, both DC and Marvel deserve kudos for the success of the Night of the Owls and A vs. X crossovers. Truth be told, the popularity of the Night of the Owls crossover feels pretty much organic. Even though groundwork was laid via articles and previews, I’ve spoken to retailers and fans who are quite enthused about the crossover. It appears as if its status has grown due to good word of mouth—and due to being an entertaining collection of comics. As for Marvel, even though fan and retailer response has been tepid in my circle, it certainly hasn’t resulted in low sales. Through incentives and blanket advertising, they’ve been able to move product and project the image of once again being “number #1.” And when one is in the business of selling icons, image is everything, no?

But not every company is in that business. Sans icons, how can a smaller publisher or independent creator tap into the fervent promotional groundswell that is “fandom”?

There is strength in numbers. Earlier this week I was lamenting the loss of comic “crews”—groups of creators banding together. Whether the studio is real or virtual, it provides an opportunity for the pooling of resources (ex: shared web space, studio space, convention booths) and an elimination of the loneliness that often results from the creative process. It also allows fellow creators to become a sounding board, often resulting in improved quality, as well as a vocal support system, resulting in increased attention. Finally, it provides one with a brand, a symbol or word that issues a particular statement to fandom. It’s marketing shorthand. Once again, we look to rap to lead the way—Wu Tang, the Roc, MMG. If you are a creator with two or three compatriots at DC or Marvel, I’d advise you to use the attention afforded by these companies to build your own brand. Present yourselves as a creative subset within the company, then work your way towards marking your independence via your own website, conventions appearances, and smaller independent projects.

And yet not every creator has a lucrative gig at DC or Marvel to provide a rung on one’s ladder to success. What about the lone webcomic creator? The artist with a low-selling comic at an independent publisher? The writer with no likeminded peers who hammers out unsolicited plots by his or her lonesome? I still say there is strength in numbers. But with DC and Marvel, and even subsets of Image such as Top Cow and Extreme, there is a unity that comes from a similarity in theme or tone—something that cannot be found with a random collection of independent comics or strips. Or can it?

Perhaps unity can be built through an event. I look at the way Phoenix is blazing its way through multiple Marvel books and I recall the way Claremont’s Huntsman traveled from comic to comic and imprint to imprint. Could a dozen comics, all containing different themes and styles, share one public domain character, said character being visually tweaked to fit his surroundings in each book? Through one character’s reality-warping adventures an event could be formed. All it would take is a creative summit featuring a number of creators, something that could occur via a format as simple as a chat room or mailing list. Why should the “big two” have all the fun?


Womanthology.

There are times when I just get so frustrated by the comics industry that I decide that I am no longer going to contribute to it. And so I stop posting, tuck my money back into my wallet, and go on about my business. I don’t have the energy or money to waste on something that doesn’t make me happy.

And then something magical happens.

I’ll definitely be picking this up. And I’m excited. But I’m a little afraid too. Because I’ve been excited by so many things that I thought might shatter the glass ceiling. For women. For minorities. And the industry still wouldn’t change. Scandals, new creators, new lines, new management—none of it mattered.

So, I’ve decided I’m going to enjoy Womanthology for exactly what I can count on it being—a damn good product. That’s a guarantee. Besides, no need to shatter the ceiling when you can walk across the street and build yourself a shiny new building.

And dance on the roof.