Last hired, first fired.

Today I learned of the cancellations of Mr. Terrific, Static Shock, and Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive (late to the party, I know), and the departures of Marc Bernardin and Eric Wallace from DC’s staff of writers. I jokingly referred to it as “Official Black People Pink Slip Day” in comics along with providing a couple of mildly snarky comments about the timing of the news.

“We wanted to make sure we got rid of all the black writers and solo titles before February. That would have been sooooooo awkward.”Cheryl Lynn Eaton

I’m not as angry as I would have been in the past because we’ve been around this block before. But I am disappointed. I’m disappointed that DC didn’t take the careful time and planning needed to create a successful launch of these books and characters from jump. I’m disappointed that Green Arrow is rewarded with Ann Nocenti after performing poorly and Mr. Terrific gets a pink slip instead of Priest. It shows a lack of faith and a lack of concern. And the constant fumbling of what should be clear and easy decisions regarding launches, sales, and marketing is just frustrating.

“And the fact that DC has cancelled Static Shock and will push a Ravagers book instead of Gen 13 is just such a boneheaded move. Static and Blue Beetle should have never started out in solo titles. They should have been part of a group book from jump to build a base. And that base should have been Gen 13, which still has name recognition a decade later. To be fair, I would have cancelled all of those books but Mr. Terrific and Men of War or Blackhawks. The two I kept would be retooled. The four books I would have added to the DC lineup would have been Gen 13, Huntress (w/Cass as the Nu52 Huntress), Lobo…and Wildcats. I don’t give a damn. I love Wildcats and I’m armchair editor here, damn it.”Cheryl Lynn Eaton

Brandon Graham and I went on to develop the best Gen 13 series you’ll never get to read on Twitter this morning. Brandon and Adam Warren switch off writing duties, Emma Rios draws it, and I edit. It’s amazing and it will never exist. Sorry about that, folks. And I’ve changed my mind about the Huntress book now that I’ve realized that The Ray isn’t an ongoing—and clearly should be. Plus, the Huntress is in my imaginary Gen 13 book, which—again—is amazing.

But I’m being silly. And I shouldn’t—not completely. Because in regards to black writers receiving paid work in comics, the industry is actually regressing. A degradation is occurring as opposed to simple stagnation. And this concerns me far more than the loss of solo titles featuring black characters, especially when those characters will receive major panel time in popular team books. (If Black Panther doesn’t take a leading role in an Avengers title, I will be extremely surprised.)

If not for the wonder of self-publishing, we’d be looking at the slow silencing of the voice of an entire group. I believe we are currently down to one black writer receiving paid work in the industry, though I would be positively ecstatic to be proven wrong. Please drop me an email, if so. If not? Tread carefully, Mr. Hinds. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. With the loss of McDuffie, I cannot think of one black person in a position of power in this industry. Yes, we all have power over our own creations, but that is not akin to the type of power held by those who can launch successful lines and create multiple jobs, or who can influence large numbers within multiple industries. Do comic companies even realize how many talented black men and women are slipping through their fingers? How many are simply drifting to advertising, television, music, etc.? Do they even care? Eh, not likely.

Given the option of self-publishing, I wouldn’t care either, but many black creators simply do not have the funds to take that route (nor the option to become Kickstarter successes in an industry filled with fans that can be…difficult in regards to certain projects).

There is no way one can point to low sales as the reason for the lack of diversity in regards to black writers. An Avengers title written by Priest would sell. Detective Comics is being written by a Latino guy right now! You know how well that book is selling? Insanely well. And Batgirl certainly hasn’t suffered from Gail Simone’s estrogen levels. That book is snagging accolades left and right. So why the dearth of black writers? What’s the problem? Seriously, why is this still a problem? And why is the problem getting worse?


Young Defenders!

“War has come to the Wakandan Embassy—literally. A young man claiming to be the god of war has absconded with Shuri, but does the young princess want to be found? To reclaim his former glory the young deity needs mayhem, and seeks to obtain it from Wakandan weapons and Latverian blood. Shuri, consumed with thoughts of vengeance, is perhaps willing to oblige. The patrons of the Prince of Power, however, have other ideas. Can Amadeus stop Ares from reclaiming his throne? And how is Rikki, armed with one of the last vestiges of active vibranium, the key to a new Wakandan arsenal? And will Anya and Lyra, Fort Greene’s young defenders, be able to protect Rikki when both the Wakandans and Latverians come looking for it? And who should they protect her from? After all, Doom’s not about to get his hands dirty when he knows that for two hundred dollars Power Man’s on the job. Too bad Victor will have to cut his date short with Anya to do it.”

You can go put Lytle and Van Lente on that, Marvel. I’ll wait.


7-11.

I said I’d get to Marvel eventually, right? Seven things I want from Marvel in the ’11. Let’s go.

More graf-inspired artists. No it won’t work on Avengers, but I bet it’d look sweet on a Spidey issue. Nicholas is nice with it. I love me some Mahfood. Let me see some Ronald Wimberly up in there. I love a whole host of different art styles, and I’d love to see a place for each and every one of those styles at Marvel. From Linsner to Warren. Adams to Hernandez. I want it all.

More diversity in your writing staff. I’m not even gonna lie. This is a tough one for a mainstream comic publisher. If you only hire five people to write your entire line, it’s going to be pretty damn hard to make sure you’ve got some women, minorities, and gay peeps sliding in as scribes. Here’s three successful tactics to take that I’ve mentioned on this blog dozens of times before. One, venture down the co-author road. Pluck a famous writer from another genre and pair her with an established comics writer. Step two: profit! Once she’s gotten the hang of writing for comics, split up the team and let each author go solo for maximum effect. You know it works. You’ve tested the method with white dudes more than enough times. I’ve also said that I love the idea of easing in new writers with back-up stories in the back of popular books. Let a new writer pen a nice five-page story about Danielle Cage’s first day of pre-school. Or perhaps a quick joint about Tony walking into a bar after hard day…and ordering a glass of milk? Back-up stories are also a nice way to let readers know that they’re getting more for their money. Especially when they’ve got to plunk down quite a bit more change than they do for a DC book. Anthologies are a nice idea, but you’re better off focusing on a certain character or theme than throwing the random work of thirteen black dudes together and trying to sell it. I’m more likely to buy a romance anthology or a Cage anthology. And I’m not paying for floppies either. I want a book. Go hard or go home.

Danny and Misty. I wander off to play video games and watch soap operas for a few months and come back to this? Fix. This. The hair (let’s nip this straight bang thing in the bud now, shall we?), the chi-sperm, everything. She doesn’t have to be pregnant, but…chi? I am so mad at that.

Ladies only. Listen, Marvel is the only place where I have even the slightest chance of getting a female team starring women of different races. And no, I don’t mean a book where the white women drive every story and there’s an Asian chick who stands in the background and kicks a guy every three issues. Yes, I have a lot of nerve asking for diversity and then frowning at the inclusion of penises. But can’t the guys be the damsels in distress for just one book? Let some old dude cook wheatcakes while the girls go off to be your friendly neighborhood superhero team. Or field operatives. Were you aware that SHIELD has had an all-female ROSE (Reconnaissance Organization for Security Enhancement) team in place since WW II? A red team of assassins, a white team of spies, and a yellow team for public, peace-keeping missions? Nine women in total. I bet you didn’t. Because that book doesn’t exist. Nope, no Guns & Roses book for you. You just sit over there and look pretty.

Logos. Yo, DC is killing you when it comes to logos, son! The following characters need clear, easily identifiable logos that stand for a certain theme or idea: Spider-man (and Spider-girl), Luke Cage, Wolverine, Ms. Marvel, and Iron Man. I’d add Storm, but you guys have really made a mess of that character.

Black Panther. Hell, all of Wakanda. DoomWar was a great series—for Doom fans. It wasn’t so much fun for fans of the Wakandans. Doom basically spanked the hell out of them, emasculated T’Challa, and Diddy-bopped back to Latveria to bang hot, crazy chicks. And Black Panther decides to mope in Hell’s Kitchen while his baby sister handles business. This. Is. Not. Okay. You need to find some way to build the Wakandans back up to their past glory. New artist. New writer. Jungle Action Monthly. T’Challa holds court in Wakanda, Shuri rebels in the streets of NYC, and the Queen Mother has kept a large volume of active Vibranium secret from everyone—until now. Reboot the series. How did Wakandans stay isolated so long? Because the island (yes, an island set a bit lower off the continent) isn’t really hospitable to many humans. In fact, Doom was right. The Wakandans do carry a genetic strain that allows them to live upon the island and not suffer. But it’s a gene that a small number of humans all over the world carry. How was this discovered? Well, it was noticed when visitors and invaders started showing up on the island and dying. You see, Wakandans are nice in the water, so nice that they thrived by commandeering ships that dared venture into their waters. And when 85 percent of all the people captured (or liberated—where slave ships were concerned) died within days of hitting Wakandan shores? Well, you’ve got to be a little bit tougher than average to make it there. Oh, and due to the Wakandans being so nice in the water? Namor’s people and T’Challa’s people do not get along too well. And this provides a great deal of added tension that Storm doesn’t need—especially when Namor starts in with his nonsense about how mutants need to stick together. Luckily, Storm knows better than to listen to Namor. And T’Challa knows better than to leave Namor alone with anyone’s wife. Trust that.

When you’re done with T’Challa, can you mosey on over to Spidey? Get rid of Carlie. Hell, give Peter Carlie’s job as a forensic scientist (modeled after those appearing in hour-long dramas). Then he’s armed with the two most important things Spider-man should have—a lab and a camera. And he’d always be at the scene of a crime. Plus, he’d get to interact with the old Bugle staff (sans Norah the racist hipster, please) since they’d constantly hound him for scoops. And he’d always be torn between uncovering the truth at his day job and keeping secrets in the tights. Did I mention getting rid of Carlie? Secret time. I love the idea of a single Peter, but Carlie is boring and Poochiesque. And why would one make Peter single just to put him in a committed relationship? It makes no sense. Peter should have a trinity. I want MJ to hold Peter’s heart. I want Felicia to control Spider-man’s body. I want a brunette stimulating Parker’s mind on the job. Make her a reporter. Oh, and I want Aunt May fighting for Peter’s spirit (always guiding him to do the right thing) and Anya doing the same for Spider-man. Oh, and give Anya an after-school job with May. She needs to be in Peter’s life a lot more.

Anyway, there’s your seven for the eleven. Hurry up.