Michael Davis, comic book creator, mentor, and publisher writes:
The Trouble with Black Comics!
That's the real title, just in case some white editor looking to cheapen this narrative with clickbait changes the name of the title to The Trouble with Black People.
That's a joke.
It may not be you, but you know someone isn't going to get that joke even after they read it's a put-on. That's the world that we live in; those are the people we live with. To some, it's an obvious joke — to others, I insulted white people and/or Black people.
Within the Black Comics space, that silliness is not silly at all. It's serious as cancer and prevents us (Black comics professionals) from doing what we do in most entertainment arenas, and that's run shit.
Simply put, American Black culture is youth culture all over the world.
Music sports dance fashion swagger hipness coolness attitude — sorry, white people; we own your kids. Unfortunately, despite efforts from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., slavery is still outlawed, so we can't cash in on our influence the way we could have before 1865 if Black pop culture was cotton.
And if we were white.
"An excellent, informative collection of Black comics creators, publishers, writers. It is especially noteworthy that women artists are included here; including several that are doing brilliant work yet are unrecognized. If there is a 2nd edition – as there should be – it goes without saying that entries will be added. Thorough research and references lists prove helpful to any budding or serious comics scholar. Dr. Howard did an excellent job curating this very important project!" – Amazon Review by Intellectualist on October 8, 2017
"This book is terrible. Where is Dwayne McDuffie? Kyle Baker? Larry Stroman? Ron Wilson? Grey Williamson? Michael Davis? Trevor Von Eden? Keith Pollard? Grass Green? So many incredible talents are missing from this thoroughly INCOMPLETE, and poorly researched book that it is worthless." – Amazon Review by Vista Hater September 28, 2017
Those are two opposing views of the Encyclopedia of Black Comics.
Which one do you think defines the state of Black comics today?
They both do.
Each is accurate just depends on who's reading it.
It is indeed an excellent, informative collection of Black comics creators, publishers, writers if you're a casual or new fan of Black comics that description works fine.
If you're in or help edit it, then it's just dandy.
However, calling it an Encyclopedia of Black Comics without Kyle Baker? Jeffery Wright? Larry Stroman? Ron Wilson? Grey Williamson? Trevor Von Eden? Keith Pollard? Grass Green? Steve McKeever Vince White? Johnathan Soul? Chuck D? The Wu-Tang Clan? Darryl McDaniels? Orlando Jones? Al Simmons? Neyo?
No Dwayne McDuffie?
No doubt names like Jeffery Wright will not ring a bell with some. But an "Encyclopedia" without the CEO of Urban Ministries whose Guardian Line comics sold upwards of two million books directly into the Black church and home is sorely lacking.
Spare me the -WTF is Orlando Jones Al Simmons and Neyo doing on my list- post I'll just tell you.
Neyo produced a concept album about Superheroes as a score to a graphic novel he created. He has millions of fans and is doing comics – that's important.
Al Simmons is the real-life inspiration for Spawn. He also ran Todd McFarlane's convention operations and was an early black cosplayer – that's important.
Orlando Jones' graphic novel Tainted Love is king of all media, web, film, publishing and he has the awards to prove it. Variety named Tainted Love on its 2013 best web series that's important.
How did those ground-breaking projects not fit the criteria as described below?
From the Encyclopedia of Black Comics:
"The Encyclopedia of Black Comics focuses on people of African descent who have published significant works in the United States or have worked across various aspects of the comics industry. The book focuses on creators in the field of comics: inkers, illustrators, artists, writers, editors, Black comic historians, Black comic convention creators, website creators, archivists, and academics—as well as individuals who may not fit into any category but, have made notable achievements within and/or across Black comic culture."
It's a fair question to ask why those missing were not included.
I've been told by someone who worked on the book my 'in your face; swagger' often cited as the reason I'm excluded from many Black comic events is why I'm not in the EOBC.
I'd wager my use of 'nigga please' didn't win me any fans from the no 'darker than a paper bag' society folk either. I'm too UPPITY for some Black intellectuals.
Being upfront about my depression also isn't cricket. That makes me appear 'soft' we can't have a Black man appear soft. That will never do. Within the Black community talking about mental health is taboo as is same-sex marriages.
Was I was omitted from the Encyclopedia of Black Comics because someone just didn't like me? No idea really it's what I was told but I'm not about to take somebody's word for what they 'heard' do I look like Fox News?
But not being liked has been a reason I'm excluded from much Black comic stuff happens all the time, case in point, Variant Comics.
Almost a million people have seen the Variant Comics exceptional 'History of Static Shock' video. Superstar artist John Paul Leon the late great writer Robert Washington and Dwayne McDuffie are credited as the creators.
Fun Fact: Static's original creative team was just me.
I was artist-writer and c-creator of the book. John Paul Leon came from my Bad Boy Studio Mentor program he developed fast so fast I decided his style was perfect and he should be the artist on Static.
Dwayne found Robert Washington who became the writer. Both came on well after I wrote the Static creative bible that's the REAL history of Static.
That history made it to Variant, they didn't care.
Variant, like most of the 'journalists' in the comic book industry continues lazy, unprofessional tactics when it comes to vetting.
Some exceptions are Richard Johnston, Mike Gold, and Heidi MacDonald who don't treat press releases as sources which is what Bleeding Cool, Comicmix and The Beat offer over most comic or pop culture 'news' sites.
"Yo Tim, who created Static Shock?" asked Variant's Ryan Connolly.
"Let me check some random fan blog. OK, I got it from; Idon'tknowshitaboutcomicsbutsomebodytoldme.com Ready? OK, it was John Paul Leon, Robert Washington and Dwayne McDuffie." Responded Arris Quinones.
That's counts as the deepest in-depth background vetting done in comics I'm sure. Yes, the above example was made up and a bit over the top nonetheless that answer is just as outlandish as what Variant posted.
WRONG is WRONG.
I asked Variant in writing to change the credits to say: Static Shock created by Cowan, McDuffie, Dingle, Priest and Davis. They got pissed because they did not like the tone of my email (which was meant to be funny) but agreed they would change the credits.
Variant thinks they got a pass.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki thought that for a bit also.
I've never met Dr. Sheila Howard, but I know a slew of people who worked on the book with her. She's known as an expert on race and gender, and her credentials are impressive.
Impressive or not there's a big difference between being an expert on race and gender & the Black comic book experience which she isn't by any means. Leaving out Dwayne McDuffie from the Encyclopedia of Black Comics?
The Encyclopedia of Marvel Comics without Jack Kirby?
The Encyclopedia of Dark Horse without Mike Richardson?
The Encyclopedia of DC Comics without Jenette Kahn?
The Encyclopedia of Image Comics without Todd McFarlane?
Now THAT'S fake news for real.
I applaud her efforts and support the book. I'm happy an accomplished Black woman is a part our industry we do so need more sisters up in here.
I am however deeply concerned it will become the "authority" of the Black comics industry just like Variant's history of Static Shock then once again misinformation will become truth and what happens because of that?
On the eve of its long-awaited return, Milestone Media the most significant event in Black comic history is sued by the widow of the man who started it all Dwayne McDuffie.
Just a wee bit of a problem there Dwayne didn't start Milestone.
He wasn't even Milestone's first editor and chief, yet most people believe he was. Denys Cowan created Milestone, and its early editor was Christopher Priest.
Dwayne McDuffie's star would still be as bright without the perception he created Milestone, and the lawsuit would never have happened in my opinion.
As a pop culture entry, the Encyclopedia of Black Comics, however, is stellar but it isn't an outstanding academic achievement, that's also my opinion.
My support does not mean it's OK to omit people not liked, or insert those who have not done much, and label it an Encyclopedia.
There are some young creators in there who haven't earned the points to roll with a Denys Cowan or a Joe Illidge yet are featured. Jeff Wright embraced Black comics within his essential infrastructure and gets zero mention.
Black comic creators on social media declare we come together and create a compelling unified publishing program. This righteous agenda so we can reach our kids to tell our stories.
It's happening at the East Coast Black Age of Comics and the Mecca Conventions but without much, if any fanfare from the mainstream media.
Not getting a whole lot of love from significant Black creators or media either and there's part of the problem.
But when Milestone was accused of stealing its business plan that went viral on the Black comic net. Milestone being sued, again viral. Both events brought out the and jealous venom some feel against Cowan and crew.
If anyone has a real reason to harbor anger against Milestone, it's me. Yet, I spend a great deal of time on a recent radio show explaining the sacrifice Derek Dingle made when he quit his job at Black Enterprise Magazine to become President of Milestone Media.
Why? After my ill-treatment?
Because it's the truth that's important.
I can't talk about doing the right thing for our kids and then proceed to ignore it by damning the single most significant development in Black comics.
When Wayne Brady and I announced Level Next Media, major news outlets covered the story. Black Bloggers that I know of? Zero.
Facebook Black creators who complimented me? Five, three of those after I made a joke about it.
Shit, I know a creator who has never posted a single word of compliment on my page although I perpetually acknowledged his work. I know he does not like me but his work is more important than me telling him he can kiss my ass.
I know how some people look at my sometimes silliness and denounce my worth. My worth isn't much in the larger scheme of things I know, but I try. Those claiming to want unity with this often-heard manta; "don't talk about it; be about it, " but still do nothing ain't worth shit.
If something is wrong, don't just call it out help work it out. If you can't offer something positive leave it out if not do the cause a favor and get out.
Lastly, I am by no means saying Dr. Howard's work was subject to bias or unjust influence. I doubt someone from Howard University would buy into that bullshit. I do support the work and welcome such a strong sister to the fight. That said I question some of her choices and if she wants to sit down at some point she knows enough people who know me so I'm easy to find.
Next: The Ugly Side of Comics.