The critic and the comics industry.

The comics industry is amazing and awful at once. Because of glaring issues with bigotry and harassment—issues found in every entertainment industry—we tend to focus on the infamous and incorrigible. And the quality work of the meeker amongst us goes unappreciated.

My own journal leans heavily on work from the mainstream. Comics from Marvel and DC provide a common thread I share with my peers. I also focus on Marvel and DC because they are the largest platforms in the industry. The inequality found there has a much larger negative impact on various social groups than an independent publisher running with the assistance of a skeleton crew. And while there is importance and value in the “make your own” argument, it is also vital that our major institutions—including mainstream entertainment companies—are held responsible for the current state of the industry. We cannot root out institutionalized bigotry without critiquing our oldest and most powerful institutions.

Yet we must not simply focus on the negative. Positive reinforcement works—for animals, for humans, and for corporations! So I want to use this journal to spotlight works that move me. And not just works of art, but marketing strategies as well.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course, so what I find pleasing will not please everyone. But it is just as important to share what is good with the world as it is to warn folks away from what is bad.


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.


San Myshuno.

The more monstrous the real world becomes the stronger the lure of a virtual one grows. Electronic Arts will release The Sims 4: City Living, the third expansion pack in the series, on November 1. Though Electronic Arts and Maxis have briefly touched upon nightlife with The Sims: Hot Date, The Sims 2: Nightlife, and The Sims 3: Late Night, this new expansion pack for The Sims 4 will be the first time the series has stepped away from the comforts of suburban life to fully embrace the look and feel of a metropolis—the new world of San Myshuno.

The game successfully cobbles together elements of San Francisco, Tokyo, New York, and Seattle, each borough borrowing architectural elements from its patron city. As for the Sims who populate San Myshuno, Electronic Arts has pulled heavily from East Asian, South Asian, Caribbean, and West African clothing designers to outfit its digital citizens. The result is a truly global city like none other. Las Vegas would perhaps be its closest real-world counterpart, but even Las Vegas is decidedly American beneath its international façade.

Still, there are concerns. While the series has wisely jettisoned the gypsy matchmaker non-playable character, it has introduced a love guru with The Sims 4: City Living. Hopefully Electronic Arts has taken great care to avoid offending players by shirking any portrayal akin to one found in a ham-fisted Mike Myers vehicle. And while the new game places a heavy emphasis on street festivals, the lack of community lots prevents the full integration of all three expansion packs in a city environment. There simply isn’t enough space provided to have every lot type; some lots must be sacrificed. Hence, no book club meetings in a local library (as one would find in The Sims 4: Get Together) or a place for Sims to run a bakery (as one would find in The Sims 4: Get to Work). It is my hope that Electronic Arts rectifies this by adding a small companion commerce district to San Myshuno as they added Magnolia Promenade to Willow Creek. This would be a perfect addition for the next available stuff pack—or perhaps even a free update akin to Newcrest.

Unfortunately the new series has simply become too expensive to consider purchasing a new expansion pack on release day, but I definitely look forward to getting The Sims 4: City Living during the holiday season.


San Junipero.

A still from "San Junipero"San Junipero” cracked me open. The fourth episode of Black Mirror’s third season, a period piece set in 1987, ticked nearly every box on my checklist for what makes a work of art personally moving—rich purple hues dotted with vibrant splashes of neon, an ethereal score from Clint Mansell, stunningly angst-ridden lovers, and ocean views. I adored the episode, and while I was elated to encounter a happy ending after watching the bleak love story “Be Right Back,” I couldn’t help but lament the lack of a San Junipero of my very own. Would I pass over? Dear God, immediately. I’d spend forever in Tucker’s 2002 without question. Though I do have so many questions! Was the bartender a non-playable character? Was Greg simply a tutorial that allowed tourists to slowly become acclimated to the city? Were there other cities that appealed to residents of different regions and members of various subcultures? After all, San Junipero was decidedly white and Californian. What did the Quagmire of 1980 look like? 1996? 2002? Why were so many people single? Did anyone work? If a San Juniperan wrote a song or designed a building, who would own it? TCKR Systems? Next of kin? Did individuals have to pay to own a digital plot as they do in Second Life? Did rich consumers have access to better digital content—luxury cars and beach houses? A sobering thought—did poor individuals elect to work for eternity in San Junipero to obtain cloud access? After all, every party town needs diligent workers to run efficiently.

I suppose the answers to many of the above questions will be solved via fanfiction, but I still think the premise for “San Junipero” would make for an excellent romantic series akin to The Love Boat or Fantasy Island. Then again, the musical budget alone would keep such a series from ever getting off the ground!

C’est la vie.


Wildstorm world-building.

The early Image universes were often accused of cribbing from Marvel and DC lore. However, while one could compare characters such as the Coda to DC’s Amazons, Wildstorm truly had a unique voice—even in its infancy. With the announcement of the revival of the Wildstorm universe, I’d like to rummage through previous incarnations to discuss what I believe to be not only salvageable, but vital to the success of the upcoming imprint.

International Operations. Don’t let the name fool you, this organization dealt exclusively with protecting American interests. It was also a cornerstone of the Wildstorm universe. While not entirely villainous, the hats worn here were a very dark gray. Perhaps that I in IO should now stand for intelligence, no? For IO dabbled in everything—reconnaissance, robotics, genetic testing, and more. What would I like to see from a new Wildstorm imprint?

  • Team 7—a highly-skilled IO death squad that went AWOL in ‘98 after being subjected to genetic experiments its members didn’t sign up for.
  • Gen 13/DV8—the gifted children Team 7 sired.
  • Black Razors—IO’s mech-assisted military squad.
  • TAO—an IO experiment gone horribly awry, TAO is a tactical genius and has manipulated his way to the head of a major criminal organization called the Syndicate.

The United Nations. In the Wildstorm universe this organization had teeth. Most nations were eager to comply with the UN publicly, sending military personnel and funds; how nations behaved privately was another matter. With the new Wildstorm imprint the UN should possess one heroic crew assigned to deal with global threats and international disputes:

  • Stormwatch—an international selection of genetically gifted peacekeepers.

The Authority. I’d argue that the most powerful group in the new Wildstorm universe should be virtually unknown. IO’s interests? National. The UN’s interests? Global. The Authority? They should ensure not only the health of the universe, but the multiverse. In fact, it would be beneficial to allow these characters to exist simultaneously in the DC and Wildstorm universes.

Kaizen Gamorra. This character was one of the leading antagonists of the previous Wildstorm universe, so it is my hope that he returns sans stereotypical “yellow peril” references. Kaizen should be a paranoid despot driven to distraction by the machinations of the UN and IO. And yet, the best villains do not know that they are villains. After all, what could be more righteous than a desire to protect the sovereignty of one’s country from global interference? Gamorra should be responsible for:

Aliens. Earth should be home to quite a few galactic expats who use the glittering blue sphere as a luxury resort and trading post.

  • Wildcats—a group of multi-racial soldiers who abandoned the war the Kherubim launched against the Daemonites to become a dysfunctional family of jet-setters and rabble-rousers.
  • Coda—a small band of Kherubim warriors aided by a mercenary organization of women altered by Kheran blood.
  • The Cabal—a loose federation of stranded Daemonite warlords resigned to ruling Earth if they cannot escape it.

Vigilantes. The Wildstorm universe did not have “houses” as Marvel does; it had institutions. Where Marvel can be neatly divided into five realms (superheroic, cosmic, mutated, magical, vigilante), the Wildstorm universe unapologetically stressed science over magic to its benefit and focused on the corruption of military, political, and economic systems. However, while corruption flowers in the upper echelons, its roots are in the streets. In the past, Wildstorm ignored that region. It did not have the equivalent of a Punisher or Luke Cage. Given that a new Wildstorm would not be hamstrung by decades of continuity or tethered to IP devoted to children, it could now provide vigilantes who not only defend the streets, but are actually from them. The idea of inventing a “Wildstorm street” from whole cloth? Delicious.

Comics is obviously a marriage of words and pictures, so concept art is equally as important as a story bible when world-building. I’ve listed what I would like to see in the Wildstorm universe, but it is just as important to note who I would like to see design it.

Sophie Campbell. Her concept art for Voodoo and Zealot is absolutely stunning. Campbell’s ability to both think outside of the box and incorporate a wide range of physical forms are skills that are imperative when designing teams comprised of a variety of species and races such as the Wildcats and victims of Kaizen Gamorra’s experiments such as the Hunter-Killers and Cybernary.

Jamie McKelvie. McKelvie’s work on Young Avengers and The Wicked + The Divine provide proof of his knack for designing youthful characters who are an accurate reflection of the young men and women in our world today. His concept art for a 2017 Gen 13 and DV8 would be magical. Plus, he’s already down to play.

Oskar Vega. Vega is yet another wonder who should be assigned the task of redesigning Gen 13 and DV8. His concept art for the Teen Titans is a clear indication of that.

Adam Warren. Warren is best known for his “good girl” art, but longtime fans of the Dirty Pair are well aware of his talent when it comes to designing military hardware. I would love to see concept art from Warren for the Black Razors and the Engineer.

Jon Davis-Hunt. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Davis-Hunt has already been tapped by DC to work on the new Wildstorm imprint and his clean, simple designs would lend themselves well to a crop of no-nonsense vigilantes more concerned with performance over flashy displays.


Wildstorm rebirth.

Wildstorm is my Marvel.

It’s the only way to explain it. I’m a casual fan of a handful of Marvel characters, but that obsession with minutiae? The nostalgic reverence? It only rises to the surface when I see that Wildstorm logo. When I write about Marvel I write to connect with my peers—men and women who grew up playing X-Men vs. Street Fighter and listening to Iron Man references in rap albums. When I write about DC and Image my goal is to connect with comics professionals in order to examine industry trends. But when I write about Wildstorm? I write for me.

Warren Ellis, the comics industry’s fairy godmother, has been tapped to shepherd the rebirth of the Wildstorm universe. I am cautiously excited. Ellis is renowned for slipping in to bolster a flagging brand. He revitalizes a character, writes a stellar arc, and vanishes—leaving a capable protégé in his place along with an extra 10,000 or more readers. Ellis has a great eye for underlings and a keen sense of how to set a moody and ethereal scene or carefully craft layers for a tangled conspiracy.

Concept art for Wildstorm characters

However, I do have concerns—mainly due to the accompanying art. Where Stormwatch, Team 7, and the Authority are a fit for the darker and desaturated looks shown (given past subject matter), to align sleek and colorful projects like Wildcats and Gen 13 with these designs would be a mistake.

“After long reflection, I couldn’t turn down the invitation to renovate the house that Jim Lee built, and refit its unique combination of cosmic paranoia and paramilitary conspiracy for the post-political space madness of the twenty-teens.”Warren Ellis

Again, cautiously excited. For Ellis perfectly describes a good 65 percent of the Wildstorm universe with the above quote. But 65 percent is not all. Eddie Chang, a teen whose entire persona would likely be casually constructed from Gareth Evans movies, 4chan memes, and a Lil Yachty mixtape, would wither in the bleak weaponized world in which Michael Cray exists. Stormwatch, essentially hired guns for the United Nations, would not operate in the same manner as the Wildcats, a dysfunctional “found family” of jet set superheroes.

It is my hope that the diversity found in the different “houses” of the DC universe carries over to Wildstorm. And it is also my hope that those constructing the new Wildstorm universe do not base it on canon established when the imprint struggled to stay afloat. Few people remember those final incarnations and even fewer people have a fondness for them. It would be best to weave a new tapestry from threads pulled from the imprint’s glory days.

Next up: The major organizations of the Wildstorm universe and who I’d like to see make the cut for the new and improved world.


The Luke Cage wrap-up.

Okay, so I’m talking about Luke Cage, just not here! I was lucky enough to be part of a roundtable involving three folks who I admire greatly: Evan Narcisse, David Brothers, and Jamie Broadnax. You can take a look at our thoughts on the series over at io9. And of course, my thoughts on the rest of Marvel’s Netflix output can be found below.

And that’s all she wrote, folks!


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.


On pre-ordering comics.

I do not pre-order comic books and do not plan to. I only purchase trade paperbacks and digital comics. I have a mild fondness for Marvel and DC brands, but do not feel the need to purchase comics from either company in order to engage with said brands. I am a casual reader. I wasn’t always, but I have become one.

And I feel absolutely no guilt about it.

The comics industry will continue to be here. No matter how bad a company’s business practices might be, they cannot kill off a method of storytelling—a medium. Should Sony fail? Songs would still be sung. Should Rockstar Games go under? I would still make the safe bet that there would be compelling video games left to play.

That said? I am concerned. I am worried that perhaps the larger comic companies have painted themselves into a corner akin to the one that the conservative American news media currently finds itself within. And now the extraction process will be a messy and haphazard one.

Both have placed themselves within a cordoned-off area (cable television/specialty shops), narrowed their focus considerably (“alt-right” narratives/superheroes), and appeal to an aging and shrinking market. However, that market is a zealously devoted one willing to pay a higher price for material that could easily be found elsewhere at cheaper cost. So perhaps concerns should not be heeded until the last 40-year-old is no longer willing to pay $4.99 for a new issue of Deadpool and the last reactionary septuagenarian discovers he can read Breitbart for free rather than pay for cable.

And yet Americans are not averse to pre-ordering. We pre-order games, sneakers, novels, graphic novels—why not comics?

I can only speak for myself. Convenience is of the utmost importance. I can buy a pair of shoes from Amazon and the site is kind enough to let me know that I’ve bought 6 Empowered trades from them and a new one is on its way. Would I like to buy it now and have it shipped to me upon its release? Why, yes! And look at that. No rifling through Previews. No pit stop in a specialty shop. Comics right to my door.

Celebrity and exclusivity will also push me to pre-order. Look, if Puma had given me the opportunity to pre-order a pair of Rihanna’s Fenty slides? Done and done. It’s Fenty. It’s Rih. I’d be willing to devote the extra time and effort involved in obtaining said product. Especially when said product is so rare. And lastly, reliability is also a factor. I would never blanche at pre-ordering an album from an artist I had followed for years because I could be fairly certain of the new album’s quality by examining older works.

As for Marvel and DC? I can be entertained by their brands for free or nearly free by turning on my television or computer. Leaning on exclusivity is not an option when your characters are everywhere in nearly every medium. Reliability is not a given considering the frequent changes in creative teams. And there is currently only one celebrity (Ta-Nehisi Coates) employed at either company who is notable enough to motivate me to pre-order. Luckily, I don’t have to pre-order Black Panther because I know that given Marvel’s printing habits scarcity will never be an issue. And I can buy my trade today from Amazon.

On sale.

All I ask of the comics industry are books I want to read in the format I most enjoy. And yes, I am willing to pay in advance for them as long as the company is a reputable one. I think the larger comic companies realize that. But I also think those companies also realize that the “Wednesday crowd” feels the exact same way—which is why the direct market currently exists! Blithely telling members of either market (direct/digital) to “get with the program” and change their purchasing habits is absurd. If you want someone to give you money for a product? You do the adjusting. DC and Marvel must find a way to appeal to multiple markets—which I hope both are trying to do behind the scenes—rather than blatantly ignoring one or forcing it to change.


Site subscriptions are here!

Cheryl Lynn EatonThe photo of baby me that you see here has nothing to do with this post. However, my friend Joanne recently found it and it amuses me greatly. Also, I miss having braids! That said, let’s get down to business. Site business. As you can see, some cosmetic updates have been made around here. A lovely RSS feed is now available by clicking the link at the bottom of the sidebar. Also found in the sidebar? An entry form to subscribe to this blog! Yes, you will never again have to wonder if I’ve posted because new journal entries will be delivered directly to your email inbox.

And there’s more site business to get down to! You can also subscribe to my newsletter as well. An entry form can be found in the sidebar of the Fiction subsite. Newsletters simply contain brief information about convention appearances and upcoming work. Industry analysis and pop-culture musings can still be found right here.


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!


HeroesCon 2016.

If you are a creator of mainstream comics who is situated in the East Coast, South, or Midwest, HeroesCon is your convention. It is a decidedly inexpensive event to attend. Table costs are fairly low for the size of the convention, hotel rates are very reasonable, and one doesn’t have to compete with a bloated Hollywood machine for the eyeballs of attendees. Everyone who is there is there for comics. It’s a convention of readers.

The host hotel—the Westin—was surprisingly and stunningly swanky. I am extremely picky about hotel rooms. If it isn’t quiet and the fixtures aren’t up-to-date then I am going to be unhappy. Even with construction going on directly across the street I was able to get an uninterrupted night’s sleep every night. And the bathroom was bubble-bath worthy. Four stars all the way.

As for the host city? Well, Charlotte honestly leaves much to be desired. The region is pleasant, safe, affordable, and walkable, but is also rather dull and mainstream. Every event tied to HeroesCon was held at Buffalo Wild Wings. To have a party in the same commercial venue every night, one that is the height of pedestrian, was frustrating. I’d advise the showrunners to branch out—perhaps with themed parties in the Westin or a street fair at the Latta Arcade. But the final post-show wrap-up at Heroes was amazing. And honestly I was a bit envious. If I had a comic shop of that quality near me I wouldn’t have to depend on Amazon and Comixology for everything. And, good Lord, I had a pulled pork grilled cheese sandwich there that I still think about fondly a week later.

Convention reviews don’t usually talk about this, but I’m going to discuss it. As a woman and as a black person? I felt comfortable there. And I spotted other members of marginalized groups who looked happy and content as well. This is important and is something that isn’t reflected in all conventions. And honestly, showrunners can neither take the credit nor the blame. That safety and comfort is tied not to the comics community, but to the local community. And I was pleasantly surprised to see how welcoming it was.

2016 was my second time attending HeroesCon and the crowds seemed a bit thinner than the last time I attended. During my time in the beautiful—and too cold!—Charlotte Convention Center it seemed spacious and at times downright sparse. While the lack of a Hollywood presence was blissful, I think the absence of major comic publishers impacted the convention negatively. I believe those big-name booths have the power to boost crowd numbers. While publishers should not put the amount of money into HeroesCon that they would reserve for SDCC or NYCC, company representation on the floor would allow editors to scout for new talent that simply can’t afford to attend larger conventions—and I’ll get to that in a separate entry! Three tables, two editors, and a large number of digital freebies and knickknacks would suffice. And I believe knowing DC and Marvel would be there would increase fan interest and attendance.

I promise to get to the event itself next, but I wanted to take a moment to talk about the surrounding city and host hotel given the impact both have upon a show. After all, guests are shared by everyone, but it’s the local flavor that makes a convention unique!


Rebirth-ing pains.

Cover of Rebirth #1How can one not discuss DC’s Rebirth? It is the topic of conversation at multiple industry tables. At the moment, DC walks a threadbare tightrope from its current shaky status to that of a healthy role as an IP farm for multiple mediums. Perhaps I am optimistic, but I firmly believe DC can make this work. I also believe that this is their last chance to do so without the upheaval of a regime change to ensure the faith of retailers and readers.

However, should there be a regime change? Geoff Johns would not be ousted. Can you think of another creator who is as adept at strip-mining the works of Alan Moore for mass-market appeal? Is there another who could take a half-formed idea buried in the detritus of 30 years of continuity and polish it into a brass (power) ring for retailers to grasp? Morrison perhaps. Waid maybe. But none with the company loyalty and love that Johns has for DC. None so wholeheartedly drenched in Americana and the superheroic as Johns. He is the best man for the job.

Cover of Watchmen #1He has done what some consider the unthinkable, but what any individual who has followed the industry would know to be the inevitable—not only folding Moore’s Watchmen characters within the DC universe but possibly setting them up to be the literary scapegoats for the darker themes and changes that so many have been unhappy with during DC’s recent Flashpoint, New 52, and DC You upheavals. Indie darlings might gasp as DC handles Moore’s work as a music mogul would a dead rapper’s catalog, but company men know that Moore is going to be rightfully dissatisfied no matter what they do. And as my grandmother always said, I’d rather wipe my tears with a linen handkerchief than a wad of tissues. If one is to be lambasted by Moore in the press, it might as well be over something fantastically lucrative for all involved.

That said, the preceding move would be a gift to independent companies such as Image and a damaging blow to Vertigo should measures not be taken to counteract it. What creator would be insane enough to bring his characters to Vertigo given how DC has treated Moore? That is certainly the question I would ask loudly and repeatedly were I Eric Stephenson or Mike Richardson. And I would certainly want to control how that question is answered were I Dan Didio. DC needs an arena where non-superheroic IP can flourish and later be harvested by television and film. And that arena is Vertigo.

Unlike the oft-neglected imprint that is Marvel’s Icon, Vertigo can still be of value and its name carries fond memories and industry recognition. DC will need to put money and effort into Vertigo to keep Rebirth from being its death knell. I would target notable indie creators by offering solid, fair contracts and what Image cannot provide—cash in advance. There is no way a new wave at Vertigo armed with anchors such as Ennis and Morrison but also surprise acquisitions like Sophie Campbell or Nilah Magruder would not be successful. Bringing in independent editors (Karen Berger, Joseph Illidge, Jay Rachel Edidin) to make said creators feel more at home would be an even wiser move.

We simply cannot talk about a rebirth for DC without discussing the elephant in the room. There are still men working at DC who make women feel uncomfortable. Until those men have been removed from the company or have been quarantined in a dead-end department—one that does not affect the career trajectories of these women—the future of DC appears grim. Yes, DC can successfully woo back a decidedly white, male, and aging “Wednesday crowd” with the return of Wally and company. In fact, they should take great pains to do so because those readers are important (though small in number) and dependable. But to try to build a new world for the future without the input of women given female literacy rates and purchasing power? A world that includes female icons such as Wonder Woman and Catwoman? To try to revolutionize an American entertainment company that fields accusations of being dated without the input of African Americans—a group that American youth are almost frighteningly (and exhaustingly, to be honest) obsessed with? One is simply doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. How sad it would be to go to the well for the last time only to water a fresh crop of “Dad’s Comics” destined to drop to 20,000 a month in sales.

Rebirth will keep the home fires burning. From the gorgeous previews released the work appears to be the classic soapy serial longed for since the conclusion of Blackest Night. I like it. Others love it. DC needs to dig in and build on that good will immediately. But it also needs to impress upon new readers and potential audiences that it will keep and nurture the best of the New 52 and DC You as well. How can it accomplish this? Through digital initiatives and a careful reconstruction of its B-list with eyes focused on current and future demographics. Tradition and diversity are not mutually exclusive concepts. Though DC sadly did not cash in on the ‘70s Blaxploitation and Asian martial arts crazes that afforded Marvel the lion’s share of its multicultural mid-tier IPs, characters such as Ms. Marvel show that it is never too late to begin building. Luckily for DC, its animation department has provided it with a phenomenal foundation.

Perhaps it is due to my tendency to root for the underdog, but I hope that DC is able to arrive on the other side of Rebirth successful and stable. I hope it can rid itself of the problems that plague it during the journey. Only time—and a carefully calculated marketing strategy—will tell.


Vertigo, Verti-gone: Part 1.

Vertigo logoIt’s been a rough few days for DC to put it mildly! The removal of Shelly Bond from Vertigo has led to an unexpected discussion of DC’s continued employment of Eddie Berganza—who has been named as an individual tied to multiple incidents of sexual harassment. Of course, the question voiced by many is why would DC dismiss Bond only to keep Berganza employed? Sales of Superman comics have been lackluster and, as a longtime employee, Berganza’s salary is likely comparable to Bond’s. Considerable expenditures and negative PR do not seem to be worth the monthly production of a comic that sells roughly 36,000 copies. Especially when said comic stars the world’s most iconic superhero. Many have said that Berganza should not be dismissed for previous behavior that he has already been reprimanded for and adjusted accordingly. I would be inclined to agree. I would also be inclined to remove an individual who made popular female creators feel uncomfortable enough to avoid books such as Supergirl and Wonder Woman due to his involvement. I would be inclined to remove an individual who had been handed two of comics’ greatest characters and could not produce sales even remotely comparable to the third. I would be inclined to remove an individual who could be replaced by one equally efficient for a fraction of the price.

So, given that Vertigo’s sales figures have been disastrous, would I have let go of Bond as well? No. The decline of Vertigo is not the fault of poor editing or unskilled creators. It is the result of unappealing contracts, the inability to acknowledge Vertigo’s new role in the marketplace, and a nonsensical marketing strategy. Bond, a phenomenal editor bolstered by an equally talented team, was made captain of a sinking ship and later blamed for its taking on of more water.

What I cannot stress enough is that Vertigo is no longer seen as avant-garde. It is no longer seen as a place where the industry’s most notorious it-boys and ingénues produce critically acclaimed work that shocks the senses. That place would be Image. Image built its brand on Vertigo’s broken back, laying a solid foundation with fair contracts, rousing speeches, and fashionable fêtes. Vertigo cannot reclaim that status. Unlike many comic companies that have built brands around characters, Image has built its new brand around people. Robert Kirkman, Eric Stephenson, David Brothers, Brandon Graham, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Matt Fraction, Fiona Staples, etc. It would take an exorbitant sum to woo those people away. They are heavily invested in the health of Image. Vertigo could build a brand around the notable men and women of the smaller independent companies, but what can they offer a woman such as C. Spike Trotman that she doesn’t already enjoy? Nothing.

Vertigo can continue to struggle against the obvious and settle into a role as a lesser Image where interesting concepts are strangled by piss-poor contracts and a tarnished brand. Or it can fully embrace its role as an established imprint where the industry bad boys of the ’90s can relive glory days by returning to the concepts that made them famous. Vertigo could be the comics industry’s version of an exclusive Las Vegas casino—a place to drop considerable dollars on the legends of one’s youth. Headliners only. Some may blanch at the truth, that Vertigo is now a place where the middle-aged and Anglophilic can buy expensive Preacher omnibuses and Sandman OGNs, but guess what? I promise you that their money is just as crisp and fresh as the dollars spent by millennials on Sex Criminals trades. Vertigo should fully embrace its retro brand and tend to its evergreen IPs. And to do so you need an editor with years in the game, one with all the good ol’ boys in her Rolodex, one who can rifle through comics and spot the one project from ’96 that everyone forgot about that’s going to be the next Netflix hit. You need a Shelly Bond.

And right now? DC doesn’t have one.

Next up: Why Young Animal should have been Yung Animal (Swavey clearly isn’t keeping up with it), how the complete absence of young black employees is a massive oversight to any imprint interested in the establishment of an edgy alluring brand, and the importance of an A-Team to a company consumed with gunning for the industry king.