"Can Static Be White?" Deal or No Deal II – Michael Davis, From The Edge

davisMichael Davis is the co-founder of Milestone Comics and a current graphic novelist. He runs The Black Panel at San Diego Comic Con. And he now writes a weekly column for Bleeding Cool.

Last week I started boring all my haters with a step-by-step (complete with the Davis flair everyone loves…except the haters) guide to how I created and sold a curriculum-based comic book reading program for schools.

Fair warning to those opposed to my rambling, incoherent, yet somehow-I-have-a three-book-deal-with-Simon & Schuster-and-you-don't, style. Stop reading now.

Let's recap from last week:

I came up with the idea.

Did the research.

Figured out the barriers to entry.

Created the Action Files Universe.

Developed two specific programs: one for Texas, one for California.

Wrote the business plan.

All the above steps, from idea to pitch, took 6 months (give or take a drunken weekend filled with regret here and there).

I could have presented the entire package after about a week, and that's the mistake most people make when they pitch stuff. They come up with (what they think is) a great idea, and then they put a package together in record time, and one hundred times out of one hundred times, the package is just god awful.

It took me maybe a week to write up a broad outline of everything on my list. Then it took me about 5 months and three weeks (minus drunken weekends) to refine, amend, streamline, expand, and finally, tweak the proposal. Only after 6 months of emotion-free criticism did I feel I could start making calls.

Emotion-free in business is essential. The goal is to sell the idea — the idea is not the goal.

As an example of emotion free business I wrote the creative bible for Static Shock. His universe is based on my childhood. In the original bible, Virgil Hawkins had both a mother and father. The WB put a stop to that image of a traditional Black family when they "suggested" Daddy be dead. We came back and suggested, "Since you have to kill somebody, kill the mom."

A single Black father is rarely seen in media. Single Black moms are a dime a dozen. Reasons for there being no Black man in the house are never good things either, like he died in the war, or he was a fireman who died saving a kitten from the burning tree it was stuck in.

Nope — Black Daddy simply left, is in jail, on drugs, or was a brilliant scientist that got the power of the Hulk, retained his intellect, and decided to become a drug dealer named Tyrone Cash. So, emotion-free with the eyes on the goal (in this case, an animated TV show), we agreed to killing mom, based on my mom in real life. So yeah, I let my mom be killed.

Remember, emotion-free with eyes on the goal.

But you may have to draw the line somewhere, and where we drew the line is when a hotshot executive at another network to whom we pitched asked, "Can Static be White?"

True story.

But, (sorry Peter) I digress.

Now what's needed, after I've done all I can, is a partner who actually could get a comic book program into the school system.

People that come up with these great ideas for businesses, and take NO time to consider just how they will get that new mousetrap into Home Depot in the first place, crack me up.

You just don't walk into Home Depot, find the first guy with an orange apron, and hope he's the guy who knows who you need to meet in order to sell your idea, and also just happens to have that person's direct dial number. "Hold on while I make your appointment for you…Okay, you're all set to meet with the President & CEO Monday at 2 PM."

Yes, that's outlandish and silly, but it's just as outlandish and silly not knowing the first thing about how the businesses, to which you intend to pitch, operate.

I do a lot of business in education ("Trust me, it's impressive," said the self-promoting, rambling Davis) and knew a fair amount about it, but nothing close to the enlightenment that tireless research brought me. That research enabled an understanding of the infrastructure, and there is a big difference between knowing a thing and understanding a thing.

I know how to operate my computer, but I don't understand how my computer operates.

I now knew and understood how the education business worked, and yes, it is a business. Schools are buyers for said business, and that business is a well-oiled assemblage of just a few companies that account for most of the multi-billion dollar revenue the industry generates.

Yes, only a few companies control most of that money. There are all sorts of hoops you have to jump through to become a vendor in the education market. Once in, companies make sure they stay in, and make it next to impossible for new companies or new products to get in.

There was NO WAY IN HELL I could get into that market on my own, and even if by some miracle I could, and by some other miracle my comic book program was so sought after that the state of Texas ordered 5 million copies…

How the FISH could I fill that order?

Now some idiot is thinking Texas would be paying for the books, so what's the problem? Yeah, Texas would be paying for the comics — the already written, drawn, inked, edited, printed, and distributed comics.

And WHO would be paying for that? Not Texas – they're buying the end product.

Nope. So there goes any brilliant idea developed for a market where even if it was REALLY a GREAT product, that product is now completely useless. All this because of an unrealistic dream where you imagined the idea was the end-all and be-all. But you find out the hard way that that's not the case.

Then you become THAT guy.

What guy?

The guy who sues EA Games because you had the exact idea for Madden Football ten years before Madden Football existed. You even called it Madden Football. But alas, your great idea is useless because you had no CLUE where to go with that great idea.

The day you see the commercial for Madden Football from EA Games, you LOSE your mind. All your friends and family you told about your idea HELP you lose your mind by telling you how EA Games ripped you off and you should sue!

So you spend every cent you have and take your ten years' worth of drawings, notes, and returned unopened letters to John Madden to court. You're feeling pretty good because it was your idea. It's clear that you had it first, and you have every right to feel good because you ARE right.

And you win!

The jury recommends a judgment of 30 million dollars, and you are given the rights to Madden Football. Your fantasy has come true.

Dream on.

That has as much chance of happening as a Black man becoming the new Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan.

If you would have spent any time researching the business for which you had this great idea so as to gain a real understanding of it, it would have become crystal clear to you that under no circumstances can you even infer, in the tiniest possible way, a relationship between your idea and John Madden without his consent.

So, you sit on the same stool at the same bar drinking yourself into oblivion, telling anyone who will listen how you invented Madden Football.

THAT guy.

Next week: The Pay Off

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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