BHM: Before Watchmen, post-racial.

Newsstand BoyIn a stellar move that has stunned the comics community and has quieted critics who have claimed that DC isn’t making proper strides in regards to ethnic and racial diversity, DC has released information concerning the final prequel project in the powerful Before Watchmen arsenal. Newsstand Boy by creators Eric Wallace and Scott McDaniel was announced this morning by DC’s co-publisher Dan Didio.

“We are absolutely elated to be moving forward with this project featuring Dave and Alan’s most popular African-American character. I think it is important, especially on the cusp of Black History Month, to show that DC is willing to stand behind its creators and characters of all colors and creeds—from white to black, and even blue! Hey, even Superman was blue! All shades here at DC, man. All shades.”

Eric Wallace was equally as excited regarding the project. “Honestly, it’s just an honor to be considered. When Didio contacted me this morning and asked me to sign on, I couldn’t believe it.” However, when pressed for details, the writer became coy. “Well, I don’t want to give away too much, but Scott has brought some amazing things to the table and I can’t wait to dig in!” The amicable creator seemed unconcerned about scheduling issues given that he was brought on at such a late stage in the project. “We’ve actually pulled ahead of all the other creative teams. Scott has already completed all four issues, so now I just need to put my finishing touch on the product—bring to the table what only a black man can. Like sprinkles on the ice cream.”

And what of the ice cream? McDaniel was quick to elaborate. “The stuff that Harvey and I have come up with is phenomenal. It’s going to knock your socks off. I finally sat down to read Watchmen last night and I’m certain that Harvey and I have created a work that honors what Dave and Alan have produced.”

Dave Gibbons, co-creator of the original Watchmen series, agrees. “The fact that DC feels so strongly about what Alan and I concluded so long ago that they wish to move forward with new stories is astounding. And that DC will be compensating Alan and I for our creations with a portion of the proceeds from the sale of these new works is a testament to the fact that DC truly cares about its creators.”

Alan Moore did not wish to issue a statement.

Usually tight-lipped about successful launches from its “distinguished competition,” Marvel executive editor Tom Brevoort was surprisingly quick to comment. “Marvel wishes DC all the success in the world with Newsstand Boy. Any project like this, no matter the publisher, helps to get fans in the stores and more eyes in front of Marvel comics. And with our upcoming release of Teenage Negro Ninja Thrashers, a lost creation from the late Dwayne McDuffie, we believe we’re producing the kind of comics that will make fans take notice. Fraction and Bagley have something really special with this one, something Dwayne would have wanted.”

Will Teenage Negro Ninja Thrashers be able to best Newsstand Boy in the eyes of retailers and fans? Only time will tell. But Bob Harras believes he has the answer already. “We’re not about looking over our shoulder to see what Marvel rushes to create in our wake,” the editor-in-chief explained.

“We’re DC. We keep moving forward.”


Lock and key.

I’ve spent some time sifting through this ol’ blog, cleaning up dead links and correcting stray typos. Probably the most depressing part of the whole process is the realization that many of my older—and cynical—predictions regarding the current state of the industry have come to be:

“Of course, I still think Ultimate Spider-Man is going to sell well. The character has enough company support and calculated marketing to make up for the casual racism of some readers. Remember when I said that Marvel should blatantly push the characters that DC ignores? It’s happening. And Marvel’s doing a pretty good job of it too. There’s no way any book featuring a brand new black and Latino teen character should outsell Static Shock. Static has years of history and a very successful cartoon under his belt. But Miles? Well, Miles has the power of the Spider-Man franchise and blisteringly hot creators as a sales anchor. Miles is popping up in news articles all over the place. Miles will have guest appearances in popular Marvel books. And Miles is going to make more money than Virgil and Jaime—all while wearing Peter’s hand-me-downs. I think Miles is adorable, but that doesn’t sit completely right with me.”Cheryl Lynn Eaton

Know what else doesn’t sit right with me? That the sole remaining black male character with a solo title at DC is currently wearing Batman’s hand-me-downs. And is a subordinate. It is frustrating that minority heroes who are their own men, who do not depend on older white heroes for their inspiration, attire, or methods, are simply shunned by readers. And publishers are well aware of this, resulting in these characters receiving poor promotion, the occasional green or lackluster creative team, and a very limited timeframe to “prove” oneself before the onset of cancellation. Better to push that minority character draped in a web, “S,” or bat-symbol. After all, that’s what the readers want. That’s where the money is. And so that’s where the USA Today articles, publisher support, and the established white creative team (who will gladly exercise any and all “first dibs” rights to obtain a successful franchise) will be too.

Because that black writer—be he talented or a hack, experienced or a newcomer, beloved by fans or an internet pariah—is only called when there is a title featuring a black male lead on the table. And only when the title on the table is one that no one else wants. And so black writers get funneled into books that are quickly shunned by fans, cancelled, and forgotten. And the creators are forgotten just as quickly.

Nobody is asking for a hand out. No one desires a quota. All I am asking for is for established black writers to have equal access to be considered. This is not happening. They are only being considered for a small number of books that have long proven to be received poorly by an increasingly shrinking market that refuses all that is different from what has come before.

Equal access. When Luke Cage is on the table. Or Nightwing. Power Girl. Or Shang Chi. Or Batman. That’s it.


Paper chaser.

Von Allan has written a fabulous article on the obvious. Are comics simply too expensive for the masses to see them as a viable form of entertainment? Yes. Fans have been saying it for quite a while. But it is a surprise to hear the same from professionals. Anyone who has a product to sell is going to emphasize the benefits and minimize or even eliminate all discussion of possible flaws. So to hear these salesmen—and make no mistake, these men and women are salesmen as well as creators and editors—openly admit to inflating sales to ridiculous proportions to compensate for a shrinking audience is a bit mad, isn’t it? If one isn’t going to lower prices, why even bring that up? Shove that unpleasantness in the closet and razzle-dazzle ’em with new costumes and the number one.

I’m not rich. I’m not even middle-class. However, I do have a very small amount that I am able to spend on entertainment, like many of my working-class peers. We have televisions, but no gaming consoles. We have used computers off Craigslist and no tablets in sight. We have library cards and no comics. We have land lines and bills—lots and lots of bills. For me, the goal is to get the most entertainment for the least amount of money. However, I’m not going to consume anything simply because it’s cheap. I’m looking for quality plus quantity for the least amount of money I can spend.

When one make one’s purchases this way, life becomes a waiting game. I buy critically-acclaimed computer games years after they have been released. I picked up Arkham Asylum off Steam not too long ago for five dollars. This provides hours of quality entertainment featuring a superhero that I love. I can pay seventy-five cents an hour to role-play as Batman or I can spend three dollars to read a story about Batman in five minutes. No contest. I want the most bang for my buck.

However, unlike most of my working-class peers, I do buy comics. Well, I buy trades. Close enough, right? I’m the one rifling through the five-dollar rack at comic conventions. You paid $17.95 for that B.P.R.D. trade? I snagged three B.P.R.D. trades for $15.00. You got to read a story way before me? Yeah, I couldn’t really care less about that. I’m too busy over here saving money.

I’ve changed more than the format. I’ve also reduced the amount I buy as well as the type of comic I buy. I don’t buy superhero comics anymore. There’s no point. I can keep up with the canon for free via Scans Daily (which I’ve actually been doing less and less) and enjoy quality superhero stories via video games and movies. I do plan on picking up the first Mister Terrific and Voodoo trades if the first few pages intrigue me. But I doubt either story will be wading through many superhero tropes.

I have a slightly off-topic interjection here. DC and Marvel should really find some way to steal traffic from Scans Daily and comic news sites. Those hits could put a few advertising dollars in DC and Marvel wallets. And a few dollars are better than none. Make them come to DC or Marvel websites to view and talk about the five pages you’ve released. Give fans a free, unmoderated area to socialize around your content. No hoops to jump through or accounts to create. Slap some ad space and a disclaimer off to the side and walk away.

But, uh, back to the lecture at hand. What’s the point of this post? I’m thinking as I type, so please bear with me a moment. I started off with three posts which seem to be folding themselves into one. The three topics I wanted to address? I wanted to discuss how the exorbitant price of comics has drastically altered my buying habits. I also wanted to mention my desire for a Gen 13 comic featuring Static, Blue Beetle, and a very popular teen character to give readers who ignored Static and Blue Beetle previously the chance to “warm up” to these characters via a team book with a popular sales anchor. Finally, I wanted to express my fear that the upcoming books from DC featuring minority heroes will not sell well, resulting in DC yanking these books from its lineup and retreating from the idea of including minority characters within its titles.

I think the fear is warranted. Americans as a whole have less than we used to. Americans who are brown? Well, we have even less than that. And if Chris Stokowski, a middle-management man and a die-hard comics fan from Pittsburgh isn’t buying comics like he used to? Well, Devontae Evans, a high-school kid who works Saturdays and Sundays at Foot Locker, damn sure isn’t going to start picking them up. Not when they cost three or four bucks. And when Chris is over at Newsarama complaining about how there’s no need for a black Spider-Man and this PC nonsense is just getting out of control? It’s not farfetched that sales featuring minority characters might be meager and comic companies might decide that integration and diversity are no longer priorities. Minority characters will once again be reduced to background shots in team books. Minority creators will not be hired.

Of course, I still think Ultimate Spider-Man is going to sell well. The character has enough company support and calculated marketing to make up for the casual racism of some readers. Remember when I said that Marvel should blatantly push the characters that DC ignores? It’s happening. And Marvel’s doing a pretty good job of it too. There’s no way any book featuring a brand new black and Latino teen character should outsell Static Shock. Static has years of history and a very successful cartoon under his belt. But Miles? Well, Miles has the power of the Spider-Man franchise and blisteringly hot creators as a sales anchor. Miles is popping up in news articles all over the place. Miles will have guest appearances in popular Marvel books. And Miles is going to make more money than Virgil and Jaime—all while wearing Peter’s hand-me-downs. I think Miles is adorable, but that doesn’t sit completely right with me. Regardless, it’s going to happen. DC will simply toss Jaime and Virgil into the solo waters to sink or swim. Marvel’s hauled out the Coast Guard. Yes, DC is going to obliterate Marvel with its higher level launches, but if I were a DC rep I’d still take the time to start nipping this kind of lower-level ish in the bud right now. I mean, isn’t this how Marvel gained its foothold in regards to diversity in the first place? By actively supporting the type of minority characters that were languishing at DC? And now they have a nice little roster of second-tier IPs to make money from in the future. Well, the future is now.

Actually? The future was the past.