Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Batman Suckerpunches Superman: DC's Jaded Universe

Back in the good old days, Superman and Batman were like peanut butter and jelly. I loved both of them and was always thrilled with the prospect of them coming together. I mean, what are comic book characters really when you get down to it? To me they were like virtual reality action figures...and the benefit of being a comic book reader is that I became part of the ongoing continuity between these imaginary constructs. Some people reading this may wonder what the big deal is about Superman meeting's a big deal because in this huge superhero playground that I am a member of...I can enjoy stories of confrontations, struggles and victories and thrill to my particular champion of choice. It's a big deal because believe it or not, these fictional demigods have become an organic part of our social continuity and the ever evolving identity of the hero in our pop culture. Comic aficionados or rabid consumer fans like myself (fanboys in short) are all about the storyline, the continuity and the essence of the character we have chosen as our favorite. Superman and Batman are two of the first superheroes children are introduced to because of their fame and longevity. They are like primary colors. Clashing ideologies. One light. One dark. Working class. Wealthy elite. Alien. Human. Superhuman powers. Superhuman will. They are the opposite ends of the spectrum on purpose. What would really happen if these magnificent titans actually crossed paths? How would they settle their differences? Would they be friends or enemies? These questions are the stuff of dreams for most comic book fans. Batman versus Superman is a movie we never dreamt they would make because it's so obvious. And now...for better or worse, it has happened.

Before I tear into what I couldn't bear about the movie Batman v Superman, I will first admit to the things I liked about Zak Snyder's most recent chapter in his "Jaded Universe" trilogy.

1. Even though the scenes in this movie are criminally disjointed and the editing is a hot damn mess...Zak Snyder is a weaver of images. Indelible ones. This movie's redeeming qualities lie mostly in the visuals. The soundtrack is also pretty memorable...epic even.

2. Ben Affleck is very convincing as a cantankerous, pouty and cynical Bruce Wayne who is definitely cut from the Dark Knight Returns template. I liked him. I'm not going to blow my load and coronate him "The Emperor of all Bruce Waynes and Batmans" me Christian Bale and Michael Keaton both still hold the belt as far as best Batman goes but old boy handled his business.

3. Henry Cavill once again really "looks" the part of Superman. He has a great voice and carries himself with a Christoper Reeve swagger that makes a Team Superman guy like myself proud. This guy was not a mistake, and as much as I swear I hate "The Man of Steel"...this cat was never the problem.

4. Gal Gadot!!! Go on with yo bad self!!! I had no real expectations for Wonder Woman. Not because I'm sexist, but because I feel for a long time her character has been stale in the comic books. Well for whatever reason...Zak Snyder seems to understand how to make everybody's favorite Amazon tick and she was hands down my favorite element of the movie. Her theme music was rousing and haunting at the same made me instantly imagine what her past adventures may have been and that's want your viewers to be thinking that.

5. The finale with Doomsday is probably the best big boss fight at the end of a superhero movie that I've seen thus far. It was finally good to see Superman be effective in some capacity during this movie, and this scene shows his strength of character and his mighty resolve. Doomsday himself was visually a bit of a problem for me but he becomes more menacing as the fight ensues and that made for a very cool Superman/Wonder Woman tag team that once again is fanboy nirvana.

I will also say that I did enjoy this movie to the extent that I could. I did not enjoy a solitary frame of "The Man of Steel" and this movie will probably not change that fact. I like Zak Snyder when he is on his game...300 and Watchmen. But it has to be said...this cat would not recognize a good story if it walked up to him on the street and pimp slapped him. What's worse is he doesn't know how to use his resources to get the best writers and consultants to get the most out of these iconic action figures while setting up the ultimate sandbox tentpole Warner Brother ever thought about having. It's been said a trillion times over the past few days but I will say it again. ZAK SNYDER WANTED TO MAKE "THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS" INTO A MOVIE. HE IS NOT A SUPERMAN FAN. HE IS ACTIVELY LOOKING FOR A WAY TO REMOVE SUPERMAN'S INFLUENCE FROM THE JUSTICE LEAGUE. There. I said it. This may or may not be true, but it was my distinct impression after viewing this movie a few times that he is just not that into SUPERMAN. And that's okay...I think a lot of people have lost their love for the character because well...the times they are a changing. My fourteen year old daughter told me Superman was just not relatable because he was genuinely a good person...and nobody's 100% good. I told her, ironically that's the point of Superman. She wasn't trying to hear all that. Since she's been born...her formative superhero fiction has been Nolan's Batman Trilogy and Raimi's Spider-Man...she also liked The Incredibles and Andrew Garfield, she's an Avenger fan and really liked Winter Soldier. Superman doesn't do it for her. And it doesn't matter if I tell her about the bottled city of Kandor, Brainiac the living computer, The Fortress of Solitude or even Krypto...she's not interested. Is Superman really that disconnected from our current pop culture generation? are the things that made me feel that Batman v. Superman was ultimately an epic failure;

1. Lex Luthor. What kind of crack rock were the executive producers smoking when they agreed to this incarnation of Lex Luthor?!! Oh I'm sorry, Alexander Luthor. This is an embarrassment. Jesse Eisenberg is at some point going to be considered a one trick pony if he doesn't move past this stock character that he pawns off on us every flick he is in. But I really don't give a damn about Eisenberg...he's an actor and he's trying to get paid. What I am concerned about is why not one fucking studio can do a proper Lex Luthor? It's like Gene Hackman, Kevin Spacey and now this? Here's a clue, Legion of Doom cartoon Lex Luthor meets Grant Morrison's Lex Luthor from All Star Superman. Lex Luthor is a manly, egomaniacal alpha dog who hates Superman for specific reason involving a long standing rivalry between the two. The jealousy is palpable and really defines their classic relationship...but we will never know because Zak Snyder and his zany co-conspirators on Batman v. Superman decide to try and create a Heath Ledgeresque quirky version of Luthor that has never before existed. This is really unacceptable. Especially his final scene. GTFOH with that shit.

2. Batman: Silence of the Lambs. I am all for a hyper violent, grim and gritty MAD MAX Batman. I love Batman, but ever since the release of The Dark Knight Returns back in 1986...Batman has become this ridiculously over powered wish fulfillment character that can beat everybody up in the room because he has a plan for everyone. I remember being marginally irritated in high school when Batman defeated Superman in Frank Miller's sacred tome. But it made sense according to the story and Miller's political subtext. In this mishmash, train wreck of a story...nothing makes sense, no one has a motivation or a motivation we can truly believe. Batman is on Death Wish/Hannibal Lecter type  shit which is what every fanboy has always wanted but it's not a good look for Bats in my honest opinion. The point of this flick is that folks are upset with Superman for killing thousands in Metropolis but hell...Batman kills at least 100 people in this movie. His Batmobile is impervious to gunfire, and he is so fast that Doomsday can't hit him with even the most precise heat vision blasts. Batman is indeed a "superman" in this movie. Oddly enough...Batman becomes useless in the battle against Doomsday after beating the complete brakes off of Superman. Does that make any sense? My beef is that Zak Snyder is just ate up with Batman and selected scenes from the Dark Knight. He has created a film that worships at the altar of Batman while sacrificing the character of Superman. I'm not down with the character assassination of Kal-el or Super-Iron Bat Knight.

3. Superman is still soft like he is in Man of Steel. And he has no opinion, nothing to say in his defense...he just sort of looks at the television when people are criticizing his global do-gooding. He doesn't have any insightful discussions with his star reporter girlfriend Lois Lane about how to change the world's disintegrating opinion of him. He kind of just lets it happen. And when it's time to take the fight to Batman, he blunders in like a meathead with no particular game plan. This is not satisfying in any way for Superman fans. He gets that ass whupped like a sucker in this movie. And wait till you see how he stops Batman from whupping his ass!!! Unacceptable. Who wrote this shit? Who said "Yeah! That's a tight resolution! Let's roll with that!" Absolutely ridiculous. If you like to see Superman choking, crying, grimacing and getting his ass kicked...this is the movie for you.

4. Metropolis and Gotham City are non entities. Snyder apparently doesn't feel the need for the atmosphere that either of the locales provide.

5. NEW GODS references. I just feel like the concepts and characters of the NEW GODS are way too  lofty for Zak Snyder's simple Simon ass to be playing with. Para-Demons were cool but I really don't want to see him sully the legacy of Kirby by handling the NEW GODS.

6. The secret superhero files on Lex Luthor's computer. Those individual character vignettes are super whack. Jason Momoa deserves better. The Flash...very pedestrian for me. Cyborg...just not good, especially the mother box.

Now...this is where I'm at. I will follow this up later but in closing I will say...go check this joint out. It's still a glorious time to be alive and be a superhero fan. But Superman is a character that is being maligned and it really troubles me that we have a society of folks who identify more with a psychopath than a altruist.

More later.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


I started my crazy black comics tirade back in 2009 with the self publication of Lucius Hammer. I followed Lucius Hammer up with another title the next year called The Harlem Shadow. Both of these books were created for the sole purpose of lighting a fire behind the ass of the system, from now on for purposes of identification and brevity...Marvel Comics and DC Comics will be referred to as "The System". Back in 2009 there weren't really any minority based superheroes to find on your local comic book store shelf or spinning rack but fast forward to 2015 and the joint is brimming with Superheroes of every persuasion, and no longer just male Caucasian. Captain America is currently a brother. The Human Torch morphed into Michael B. Jordan much to the chagrin of a fanboy nation. Thor and Wolverine are now women and Ms. Marvel is Muslim. Even my favorite two titles of all time are returning, POWER MAN and IRON FIST and THE BLACK PANTHER. And check this out...both of these seminal books from my childhood are now in the capable hands of African-American creators. Everything is right with the world. Marvel even went the distance and made an effort to embrace their relationship and influence on rap music by running a series of variant covers paying homage to classic hip hop album covers. This was a traumatic reversal of fortune in which I wasn't sure how to properly guage or process. I kept thinking to myself...there's a catch to all this, large corporate structures such as "The System" don't achieve sudden catharsis resulting in a renewed respect and genuine interest in a community it has long been indifferent toward. Or does it?

My distrust in the "The System" was and is strong. I know that somehow, some way...the huge influx of creators of color, women and other minority self publishers had to have played some part in this new wellspring of diversity. And that's cool. My fear is that creators of color, women and other minority groups will become complacent and once again rely on the "System" to provide for them the images that we are apparently thirsty to see on a regular basis. I am also convinced that sometimes when people feel as though they have righted a wrong or addressed a short coming....when the heat subsides they return to status quo. That being said, I write this blog with great fervor and resolve. Seize the time. This is an unparalleled opportunity to change the way we view our heroes and the overall narrative of the human race. That was a bit heavy handed, maybe melodramatic but this is important. It's vital that the current embryos and toddlers who are new to the Matrix understand that heroes come in all colors, shapes, sizes and sexual orientation. As the Stylistics used to say....people make the world go round.

My blog has traditionally been a place where I point fingers at the "The System" and carnival bark about my own projects but this time around I want to applaud "The System" least Marvel Comics for showing and proving. Even though you needed some prodding and I believe your intentions are clearly based on overall financial gain...somewhere deep inside the guts of the system was the courage to change, the courage to give a creators like David Walker, Sanford Greene, Ta-Nahesi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze an opportunity to shine on titles that meant something to them as Black men. The effects of deeds like these may go unseen for years but can you imagine the fuel for dreams that you have just given millions of kids, black in particular, that they too can write comics about heroes who look like them and make a living off of it? If I had that kind of visual, that kind of tangible encouragement when I was seven years old...there's no telling what I could have accomplished by now.

This past year saw the launch of a John Shaft comic book from Dynamite Comics. Shaft, Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali were my first, minority superheroes other than my Moms and Pops (Cordell and Sheila Williams, may they both rest in peace). I used to play SHAFT as a kid in my childhood home while my mother listened to the brilliant soundtrack by Isaac Hayes over and over again on our stereo. Shaft was important to me as a young black boy growing up. Richard Roundtree was not only cool, tough and educated but he was handsome, streetwise and cool. My father actually hipped me to Shaft and James Bond on the same weekend....the first BOND movie I ever saw was Goldfinger and I was blown away. I wanted to be a spy and a private detective. I loved both movies but there was something special about SHAFT. If you recall, James Bond had a pretty cool theme song too...but SHAFT had the Isaac Hayes score bumping as he effortlessly pimps through morning traffic in NYC. I wanted to be that dude...I could be that dude! He looked like me and I looked like him...and that's the magic of seeing someone of your own race depicted in a positive and uplifting manner. It engenders confidence and enables your dream faculty. Stories enable us to build foundations for future success mentally or see ourselves in the role of the hero or champion who overcomes adversity. Some people get tired of my insistence on seeing black superheroes...they claim it's an obsession of mine and I agree with them. It is.

Now I don't want anyone to get it twisted. We still got a long way to go. And some of the things that happened along the way with the whole "ALL NEW, ALL DIFFERENT" campaign at Marvel caused me to scratch my head on more than a few occasions. For those of you who remember, we were teased with a new BLADE comic book that would not be featuring the Daywalker himself exactly but his daughter. I called bullshit on this instantly. You mean to tell me your going to relaunch your entire line from jump street and BLADE is the character that you decide to administer the sex change to? Another odd thing for me was this whole hip hop variant creators this and that...but no BLACK PANTHER solo joint? No POWER MAN AND IRON FIST revival after years of laying packed in mothballs? Those three titles would be the first ones I would have announced in an effort to legitimize the slogan, "All New, All Different". I'm also feeling slightly some type of way about Sam Wilson as Captain America. I'm not into black face versions of white superheroes...and I've always thought The Falcon is a compelling enough character to stand on his own. Hopefully as we move forward...and Steve Rogers inevitably retains the mantle of Captain America...we will get to see Sam fly solo on his own mission with his own identity.

Lastly, the other half of the "The System"...DC Comics is underwhelming me in the diversity department but...they did give me something that I've wanted for years...a standalone CYBORG series. And once again...David Walker is on the wheels of steel as the writer directing this new incarnation of the famous TEEN TITAN member. My only desire here is for the powers that be...let David run free with Vic Stone. CYBORG is such a strong and potentially game changing character. Treated properly and permitted to spread his comic book wings a little, CYBORG could right past wrongs committed by DC Comics but I'm sensing them holding back a little bit. CYBORG is not the bombastic force of nature that I thought he would be and Ivan Reis's art which is usually off the charts amazing is magnificently pedestrian. But I digress...I am happy with the fact that diversity is becoming a way of life and "The System"seems to be "getting it".

I don't say this often but I'm pleased with the progress of black superheroes and creators of color in the comic book industry presently.

But I would also remind those of you indie creators like myself who are out there grinding and creating your own universes...stay thirsty my friends.

Stay thirsty.

Brian Williams/ writer and co-creator of Lucius Hammer and The Harlem Shadow for Ravenhammer Comics
search lucius hammer on Facebook/ search the harlem shadow on Facebook

These books and cards can be found at

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Sunday, August 9, 2015


The Fantastic Four resonates greatly with me because they are like…family to me. Now before the words nerd, fanboy or even worse get thrown around…let me clarify that statement. As a young whippersnapper, The Fantastic Four were one of the first superheroic teams I was made aware of through the influence of my mother who was not only a fan girl but a Trekkie as well (thanks Moms). My relationship with the Fab Four goes way back to my first reading experiences. I guess you could say I grew up with these characters. I won’t get all teary-eyed and describe the first time I read “Origins of Marvel Comics” (in which the reader is treated to the first issue of the Fantastic Four) or got my “The Thing” Action Figure/doll by Mego. I just want it to be clear that these characters were a part of my childhood and the foundation for the person I’ve become. That’s deep, but it’s true. They were smart, had super powers, went on globe spanning- galaxy hopping adventures but still found time to interact as a family and individuals with their own lives. This would be the recipe for thousands of sequential pages of wonder and fun…The Fantastic Four was like Johnny Quest on steroids meets the world of superheroes. I am certain that I have read somewhere that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were deeply influenced by the science fiction b-movies and the cold war fears that also crept into their other titles as well. The Fantastic Four was a wildly imaginative yet timely concept that played heavily on the current events of our world and the inquisitive nature of man as an adventurer in our universe. When Stan Lee came up with the idea for this super powered quartet, as the legend goes, he was trying to formulate a magazine that he could position against the new comic being published by his corporate rival, DC Comics. They had just begun to experience success with a new book called The Justice Society of America wherein the heroes from the collective books that they published…teamed up in one book. The Fantastic Four was an immediate hit and thus The Marvel Universe was born.

I went to see the new Fantastic Four movie last Friday night with great hopes. I have read all the stories. Josh Trank; Young, hotshot director- the creator of the out of left field sci-fi superhero found footage escapade known as CHRONICLE. FOX Studios; The previous shepherds of the Tim Story directed Fantastic Four movies (I liked the first one, tolerated and ultimately purged the second one from my data banks)…didn’t really trust FOX at all because even with these previous movies, they never believed in the fun and wonder of an adventure like the Fantastic Four. When you combine the elements of new, wunderkind director with a studio that is nervous about source material you have what is generally known as a debacle. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s not enough to say that this new Fantastic Four film is a debacle. I think everyone should see it for themselves just to witness the absolute display of ego (by both Trank and Fox)…for in the end I believe both parties felt they were bigger than the Fantastic Four themselves. Trank said early on that he was looking at this film as Chronicle 2. Fox had already demonstrated that they were completely inept in terms of translating DOCTOR DOOM on the big screen, and when given the chance to amend that situation…stumbled even more with a lackluster Silver Surfer and a cop-out cloud of space dust as a stand in for possibly the greatest comic book antagonist of all time, GALACTUS. This evidence supports the new failure that is The Fantastic Four (Reboot 1). This is a debacle in the strictest sense of the word.


Here are some things I observed about this new Fantastic Four movie…and didn’t like:

1. REED RICHARDS and BEN GRIMM meet in high school. Not a crushing plot change, but even here I detect a struggle between studio and director and neither party really understanding what to do with the plethora of material given to them by Marvel itself. As Stan the Man and King Kirby originally wrote it…Reed Richards meets Ben Grimm during his college years. They become roommates when Reed’s previous roommate, Victor Von Doom, is ousted from the university for conducting arcane, supernatural experiments on campus that result in an explosion that causes him to be horribly disfigured. I know they were trying to adapt the ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR storyline but get a clue FOX…SONY tried that ULTIMATE SPIDERMAN storyline and took a beating for it. WARNING TO FUTURE DIRECTORS AND STUDIOS…stick to canon and try to stay as close as possible to a character’s original appearance. THE LIZARD in the AMAZING SPIDERMAN was universally dogged….just as APOCALYPSE has already been accused of looking like a POWER RANGER baddie in their upcoming XMEN movie. You guys don’t have to reinvent the wheel…and you can call DOCTOR DOOM by his name…is that name really any sillier than MAGNETO?

2. BEN GRIMM IS SMALLER THAN REED RICHARDS AND HAS NO PERSONALITY. For cryin out loud, Aunt Petunia! They have all but lobotomized our ever lovin, blue eyed, THING. In the comics, Ben Grimm is the cuddly, cantankerous big guy with a heart of gold and a feisty Brooklyn tough dialect that can cause laughter or fear depending upon the situation. The script shortchanged Jamie Bell ,the actor who plays The Thing, and the audience at the same time. I, like most fans of the Fantastic Four, love The Thing and his never say die attitude. Face it, he gets the rawest deal out of the whole accident because he is literally turned into a massive ball of mud and rock. The great thing about Ben Grimm/The Thing is that he combats his obvious depression with comedy and a commitment to his great friendship with Reed Richards…the person who is inadvertently responsible for his mutation and who has also sworn to help reverse it. We see none of this in the movie, except for a short sequence when both of the characters are together on a plane. This is a tremendous disservice to fans and newcomers because the friendship that Ben shares with Reed is one of the great “bromances” in modern comics. This Ben Grimm is quiet, withdrawn and smaller in stature than Reed as opposed to being the bigger of the two in the comics. He has none of the charisma this character is known for and that subtracts a good deal of the Fantastic Four’s identity right there. The Thing is one of Marvel’s crown jewels, but you would never know the way his character is portrayed in this movie.
3. REED RICHARDS is the smartest man on the planet in the comics, but not so much in this movie. Okay, so I am supposed to believe that an 18 year old can create a matter transportation device using junk and garbage in his garage and then get recruited at a public high school science fair to work in a big scientific think tank where he is considered the only one who can figure out how to teleport from here to Planet Zero (aka The Negative Zone)? Damn, even Seth Brundle needed a little bit of funding and a few years under his belt before he started teleporting monkeys and flies!!!??? GTFOH!!!! I have heard of suspension of disbelief, but this aint the SUPERFRIENDS! On a sidenote…I thought Miles Teller was going to be a great fit for this role especially after seeing him in WHIPLASH but they really hamstring his performance with stupid lines and by trying to make him the main focus of the team. Any self respecting Fantastic Four fan knows that The Human Torch and The Thing are the meat and potatoes of the FF. Reed Richards is more or less the coach or chaperon
…quarterback if you will. It’s too much for Teller to carry and he doesn’t have the swag to put this movie on his back.

4. JOHNNY STORM as a black man has plagued us all for the past 2 years. I love Michael B. Jordan. Fruitvale Station and The Wire…the kid is brilliant. He has what it takes to give us a different but “feels right” take on everybody’s favorite hothead, heartthrob. The problem here once again is plausibility. In Trank’s Fantastic Four…Johnny is a hot rodding Fast and Furious drag racing mo-fo who obviously is supposed to be the rebel without a cause character. One of his street races leads to him getting in an accident, crashing his car and being hospitalized. His father, Franklin Storm (enigmatic head of The Baxter Organization or some such…you know the people who recruit kids from science fairs?) in an effort to stop Johnny from going down the wrong path tells him…. “You’re not going to get your car back until you help build this matter transporter these kids are working on at the Baxter Institute.” Folks…I kid you not. This character slid into the realm of absolute ridiculousness at this point for me. What qualifications does this kid have to work on a top secret experiment involving the teleportation of solid matter to an alien dimension?!!!!! I experienced my second GTFOH moment when this happens. To make matters worse…The Human Torch special effects are blurry and crappy.

5. SUE STORM is truly and absolutely…INVISIBLE. All I will say about the Invisible Woman in the comics is that she is probably my favorite female superhero…with Jean Grey and Medusa coming in right behind her. She is a matriarch, a superhero, a wife, a big sister and a good friend. On the surface, her powers may seem very shallow and exploitative…but impenetrable force fields and invisibility ain’t too shabby and when she is written by someone with a bit of imagination she becomes a very formidable weapon on this team if not the most powerful member. This movie version is lost in the sauce off the rip….she is the adopted daughter of Franklin Storm and Johnny’s adoptive sibling…and she also shows up at the science fair to recruit Reed. She is utilized the most in the finale and she reminded me of one of the kids playing Quidditch in the Harry Potter movies as she conveniently wields her flying force field bubbles. What pissed me off the most about her treatment in the movie is that she doesn’t even get to take part in the expedition to the secret dimension. She falls down when the men return from their fateful trip in the matter teleporter and she gets hit by a shockwave caused by their arrival that somehow endows her with powers. Stupid. I wish I was in Hollywood, I’d be writing all day every day if this is the kind of thing that gets you paid out there.

6. WE all are DOOMED! This is one of the biggest WTF’s in movie history. The very sight of this character will make you optically regurgitate. Never mind his origin, because I would rather not discuss it. DOCTOR DOOM is my favorite comic book villain. I think there is something primal and fascinating about a man who wants to rule the world. We get none of that here. You get exactly what they foreshadowed two years ago until the internet went into attack mode….a gothish hacker who is brilliant with a chip on his shoulder….who then travels to another dimension, sticks his hand in an unauthorized puddle of pulsating green goo….gets left behind by his colleagues and winds up having his environmental suit he wore on the voyage fuse to his body. This character looks like a chia pet/ Christmas ornament/ bowling ball. GTFOH!!!!! You failed. I’m salty.

I will end this by saying that I love the Fantastic Four universe. It is Marvel’s first family and I will always root for them because they are my heroes. I have no clue as to why this property cannot be translated in any competent manner to the big screen but it’s a shame. The core elements of the Fantastic Four concern family and adventure. Maybe that’s not cool enough for our currently dark and edgy obsessed society. I’ll admit to liking dark themed stories and heroes but damn….there’s nothing wrong with a little sunlight and optimism. Guess I’ll just go watch the Incredibles again!!!

Much love!!!

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

AVENGERS: AGE of ULTRON does not DISAPPOINT but doesn't really SATISFY either!

Hammerheads and Harlemites, let me kick this joint off by saying the sheer joy of just having the privelege to view a sequel to the best superhero team movie in history is a delight in and of itself. Forget the story, character development, subplots and all that business...the fact that I got to sit down with my three kids and watch an action flick starring the world's mightiest heroes is a pleasure I never thought I would realize in my lifetime. But unfortunately, I have been blessed with the power of observation. Every piece of artwork that I choose to partake in is subject to my "eye of discernment", if there is something amiss or intellect makes a mental note of it, no matter how beloved the subject matter may be. I often wish that I could shut down that faculty of mine in situations like this.

AGE OF ULTRON is a bloated, sometimes nonsensical, beauty pageant of special effects and superheroic skirmishes fanboys have been begging to see since the dawn of the Marvel Age. Storyline is a simple one; Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Bruce Banner (The Hulk) use the recovered staff of Loki to aid them in the process of creating a sentient global defense system they call Ultron. Sounds like a really bad idea that begins an avalanche of poor choices and missed opportunities that Joss Whedon is responsible for helming. The heroes spend the rest of the flick trying to unspill the milk and in doing so...they almost kill as many folks as Superman did in the infamous Man of Steel. Why would two uber-intelligent wonderkinds like Stark and Banner use an alien technology to jumpstart a super program that they know will become sentient? They just got finished opening up wormholes over New York and beating back alien conquerors...why would they re-open the can of worms with Loki's sceptre. This is the main problem that plagues AGE of ULTRON for me. It's a major lapse in character logic. I cannot believe these incredibly responsible and fatigued individuals would allow this shit to happen.

The first scene pulls us into the action full throttle as we see the Avengers pouncing on a castle in the fictional country of Sokovia. The action scenes are glorious stop-start motion still lifes that will cause fanboy hearts to flutter. Captain America bucks down scores of soldiers with his newly enhanced boomerang shield. Hawkeye is straight knocking fools out with his bow and arrow and superior wrist action. Black Widow becomes more entertaining and enthralling with each appearance...she glides through the battlefield like Trinity from the Matrix. The Hulk was entertaining in the last movie although I felt at times he was there for comic relief and fear factor. But he is amazing in this film...not just his CGI which is breathtakingly brilliant...but Mark Ruffalo's performance is hitting on all cylinders...his Bruce Banner is truly filled with the pain and sorrow that accompanies his ability to turn green and destroy everything in his wake. I read in many different critiques of this movie that the budding romance between Black Widow and the Hulk was contrived and felt forced. I didn't feel that way..I was actually interested in seeing their story be fleshed out more. I wonder if they will ever consider doing a Hulk/Black Widow road trip movie? The scenes in which Scarlett Johannsen interacts with the Hulk to quell his primordial fury are riveting. Iron Man is back again doing his arrogant, too cool for school, billionaire playboy CEO schtick and he is still the glue that holds the frame together. But to be totally honest, the quips and inside helmet perspectives depicting his Iron alter ego in action can get dull and make you wonder do these cats ever stop cracking jokes? I enjoy good banter but are trying to save the world, enough with the jokes. Can you imagine if they had included Spiderman in this movie? They would have had to rename it The Avengers Play
The Dozens!

Ultron like the Red Skull is a massive disappointment. Ultron, to me, is possibly the mold from which the Terminator was cast. So he should be every bit as formidable as that sci-fi icon if not more so...but his immediate plans for human extermination seem contrived and not well thought out. He looks great and sounds like the devil himself except when he's trying to compete in quip fest 2015 with the rest of the characters in this pop culture melange. His attack comes down to building a rag tag swarm of half constructed drones who can be easily swatted like gnats at a summer cookout...but there's so many of them that they eventually they become...annoying. I feel like Ultron had the potential to be one of the most frightening and relelvant big screen villains we have seen in a long time, the subtext behind the character has always been the stuff of science fiction nightmares. But in this technicolor superherogasm that is built for summer speed...Ultron's greater virtues are left in the dust in lieu of Happy Meals and action figures. I feel you Marvel. Get that money but don't forget that we love your characters and nothing can make your fanbase turn on you quicker than...inaccurate portrayals of your characters!!!

Next....Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch! Back in the day when I was a young buck copping the latest issue of the Avengers at the corner store, I used to wonder about Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. Flash was the signature superhero possesed of preternatural speed. He also had one of the dopest costumes in the history of comics so what chance did this white haired, elf looking cat have in the swelling marketplace of long underwear crimefighters? He was different. In addition to his superspeed, he had this Sub Mariner/Prince Namor attitude about him, he didn't care about being a"hero", He was always annoyed and looked like at any minute he may snap on you. He had no love for regular folks and was a bit stuck on himself...the only person he gave a damn about was his sister...The Scarlet Witch. Now in proper Marvel canon...Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are mutants and are the children of Marvel Big Boss, Magneto. They are both really wanderers in a world of heroes and villains and because of their lineage are stuck in the middle. In the comics they ranged from being obligatory b-listers who couldn't support their own books to mainstays on the permanent Avengers roster. Scarlet Witch was always very interesting and offbeat to me. Her powers have never been really clear to me but they have something to do with being able to alter reality. She's Jean Grey with a dash of the occult. I enjoyed her in AGE OF ULTRON, she was appropriately creepy and fascinating at the same time. I look forward to see how the MCU positions her as a character of increasing danger and power. SPOILER: We won't be seeing any more of Quicksilver and that is unfortunate because I really enjoyed this incarnation of the hero as opposed to the Days of Future Past version.

And then there was THE VISION!!!! Whoever thought any studio would be ballsy enough to bring the Vision to life on the big screen? Not I. Some things are just to outlandish to expect in tentpole productions such as this. The Vision has to be the least marketable of all the characters in this movie because he is perhaps most difficult to explain. I always loved him but here again like Scarlet Witch, his powers and origin story are a bit tough to swallow. The Vision in Marvel Continuity used to be the android version of The Human Torch (Not the famed Johnny Storm of FF)..his android body was created by scientist, Phineas Horton. When this original human torch was deactivated, Marvel canon asserts that the Vision was built by Ultron using the android's spare body parts. Whew! See what I'm saying? Ultron does wind up building the Vision as a more flesh like receptacle to house his artificial consciousness but whatever the was great to see this character brought to life on screen. He struck me as a more vibrant and curious Dr. Manhattan.

Hulk versus Iron Man in Hulkbuster Armor...this could have been its own separate film!!! Stunning. Breathtaking. Pulse-pounding!!! I only wish that I hadn't seen most of it already in spoilers. If they ever get around to doing a HULK solo flick this is what it should be like.

Falcon and War Machine...Don Cheadle finally makes me forget Terrence Howard as War Machine. And Anthony Mackie still holds it down as Cap's fine feathered homie, The Falcon. I could say that I was annoyed by the fact that these brothers got very little screen time and the movie takes us all the way to Wakanda but neglects giving us a single whiff of The Black Panther...but I'm just satisfied that Marvel has included brothers in their cinematic universe. I can't wait to see if the new Iron Fist Netflix Series includes Misty Knight!

So did I like it? Yeah, of course I did. Who doesn't like a screen full of rampaging superheroes trouncing bad guys and saving the world? I just felt like this one was a bit off beat unlike the first Avengers which was pitch perfect. How many times can we watch the Avengers hold off hordes of automated drones and/ or alien stormtroopers? Marvel's key ingredient seems to be the continuity and character development they pack in to each of their films. They sorta forgot their recipe with this one...or willfully ignored it. Either way...bring on the Russo Brothers and the Infinity Gauntlet! There's still time to save the universe! Make mine Marvel.

Monday, April 27, 2015


Yo!!!!! What is up to all the hungry Hammerheads and Harlemites out there?! All I can say at this point is that I am sorry. It has seriously been a long time since I have given you a hit of the greatest black superhero rush anywhere in comics, and that doesn't sit well with me. I created those characters for myself and anybody else who would dare enter that world with me and free their imaginations. Ideas and concepts are for sharing and discussion. Lucius Hammer is a sprawling superhero saga but it's also really my way of re-examining the comic book medium and its long term exclusion of characters of color. Particularly characters of African American descent. This overwhelming desire for me to see this oft- skirted issue addressed is somewhat of a polarizing factor when it comes to fans and potential readers of my books. There are those who peg me as some militant, black power scribe with plans to stage a multiversal race riot amongst the very characters that we all thrill to the adventures of in our physical or digital funny books. All because I get a kick out of seeing characters that look like me.

About 5 years ago I began my crusade to populate the entertainment world with organically grown, sincere and genuine black superheroes. Now get with me when I say this and dig my meaning. ORGANIC. From the ground up, fresh from their own potting soil, nurtured with competent and pleasing art accompanied by cogent and entertaining prose. CHARACTERS. Strong, nuanced and 3 dimensional. Classic but outrageously new, provocative. Incendiary, intrepid and undeniable. Natural and visceral...soulful and memorable. These are the ingredients I collected as I began cultivating and growing my garden of black superheroes. My intention was to give the world that which they had not seen...with my eyes on the prize, Lucius Hammer was soon born and shortly thereafter his idol and inspiration...The Harlem Shadow. I've spoken at length about my own characters and do not intend to spin-off into the self-promotion gig tonight...tonight I want to point out what I see the competition doing in the area of black comics and more specifically...Black Superheroes. But I will say that if you really are interested in seeing what black superheroes can really be if made with the proper ingredients....check out And now...let's turn our attention to the types of black superhero activity I have witnessed at the BIG 2 (aka Marvel Comics and DC)....

ULTIMATE SPIDER MAN...Miles Morales or Blackface Spidey-

I actually lightweight fell for this one. The first three or four issues were charming enough. Brian Michael Bendis is definitely a dude that has a voice and from time to time I plug into that voice and let him take me on the cerebral rollercoaster he seems to be on quite frequently. One of the bad things about Bendis though is that I'm not completely sure he understands black folk when he is writing them. That last statement is very complicated and hard to defend. The average fanboy might take umbrage at what I just said because I have no filter when it comes to things like this. I just call them like I see them. The best way I can describe what I'm trying to say is listen to how people of color speak and carry on in a t.v show like Law and Order or C S I....then watch a Quentin Tarrantino movie. There's a difference. One rings authentic, the other does not. Most of Bendis' dialog for his black characters seems contrived. Miles Morales was a great headline and it also showed that Marvel had huge cajones turning its number one bread-winner into a black teenager (with a Hispanic name?) but this all takes place outside of regular Marvel Continuity and Peter Parker is alive, well and still our friendly neighborhood Spider Man when the public's taste for black superheroes wan. My beef about this book is that it pulls the oldest and most pathetic trick in the book while creating a new black character...take a popular white character and paint it black. BOOOO Marvel!!! Just BOO!


All of my fellow black indie writers and artists that are sitting out there right now reading this...please admit to me that when you saw Marvel finally publish this fine mockery of a super-team book you were like me and thought that our underground movement to uplift black comics had something to do with this book being made? If you are nodding your head, thanks for being honest. I thought the same thing until I read it. It appears that Marvel has indeed decided to give some of there minority characters a showcase, okay that's fantastic...kudos. What is it? Basically a " Blackish Avengers". That's fine too because I'd rather this be a world with a Black Avengers team than a world with no Black Avengers team, you dig what I'm saying. Beggars can't be choosers and I definitely been begging for something like this. My problem after reading a few issues and paging through some plot lines...Mighty Avengers has no soul. The writer is clever and competent enough to weave a semi-interesting story together using the table scraps from other plotlines, but this joint comes off as the obligatory burnt offering to all of us who have been clamoring for more black superheroes. And the one thing I have to ask as a black writer is why does a white writer from England get the opportunity to play with these black iconic superheroes? Nothing against Al Ewing but it's not like we haven't seen these same black superheroes like Luke Cage, Powerman, Blade refracted through the imaginations of a dozen white writers. How about a black writer? Marvel figures Al Ewing is a safe play, I get it. If you put a fiery, agenda laden, comic book revolutionary like myself at the helm of Black Panther or Mighty Avengers I might write some stories about Black Gods, Black Space Travelers, Black experiences and issues. Marvel doesn't want to record our experiences as part of their literary universe or at least they don't act like they do. So...let white guys write this book and continue to approximate how these heroes of color may walk and talk. Some people may read this and think I am being ungrateful...but I'm just wondering will Marvel ever let a black guy like myself take a shot at writing these characters? Please?


Now anybody who knows me understands that Grant Morrison is my dude. Why is he my favorite writer? Because he is obsessed with these pop culture trinkets called superheroes and every time he tinkers with one of these beloved icons, he manages to expand my consciousness in some way! Don't believe me? Then read ALL STAR SUPERMAN. NEW XMEN. WE 3. BATMAN INC. JLA. And countless other dandies that I don't have time to cream over in this blog. Now he has added Multiversity to this list and I'm tickled to death. DC Comics has been steadily trying to destroy their own universe of characters so that they might resurrect them in greater and more pleasing incarnations...this has become a regular thing for them which has birthed quite a few alternate realities and conflicting continuities. Grant Morrison has descended from on high to give rhyme and reason to the joyous flotsam that is the DC universe. So far he has crafted six very likable comics that have thrilled, entertained and pushed me intellectually into thinking about the funnybooks I read on a grander scale. The most interesting thing about Multiversity for a color obsessed fanboy and writer like myself would be the alternative Superman from Earth-31 who looks like President Obama dressed as our favorite Kryptonian. You the first issue of Multiversity, Morrison establishes that there is an alternate dimension where all the JLA members are black except...BATMAN. Interesting! I dig it. My only problem, and if you are a regular subscriber to my blog you already know what I am about to say, is that an alternate dimension of black Justice League members represents my BLACKFACE SUPERHERO THEORY. That theory simply states that by changing the color of an established superhero you have a new character that satisfies the audience's need for a character of color without really taking a chance on creating a new character! DC's Earth 2 has pulled a similar BLACKFACE tactic with their alternate Superman named Val Zod. I am going to institute the official TRICK NO GOOD AWARD (kind of like Marvel's No Prize Award)...every time DC or Marvel takes a shortcut and creates a new African-American superhero by "blackwashing" one of their marquee names....they will become the recipient of this award. So while I do enjoy the Multiversity books and their seeming inclusion of black characters...DC can do better than alternate universe versions of existing heroes. Trick no good, DC Comics, trick no good.


Michael B. Jordan is the new cinematic Johnny Storm aka Human Torch of the Fantastic Four. He is a very talented African American actor who's shown great promise in a barren landscape of opportunity for actors of color...particularly in the role of....superhero. Josh Trank, director of the new Fantastic Four reboot by Fox, is the cat who dropped the movie Chronicle on us a few years ago that was solid, shaky cam, post Blair Witch found footage kind of flick concerning three super powered teens. At first glance, I was wary of Trank and his decisions. I am a big Fantastic Four fan...The Thing is one of my all time favorite characters...Reed Richards is the greatest leader of any superhero group, The Invisible Girl is my favorite female superhero and The Human Torch is a rebellious symbol of youth and it's unpredictable hot/cold nature. They are an incredibly fun concept and even better when the person chronicling (pun) their adventures understands what they are beneath their two dimensional surface. Like any self respecting fanboy, I am a stickler for continuity however I can get it. I was troubled when they changed Johnny Storm from a young white man to a young black man particularly because I knew the outrage this would cause in fanboy nation. When Daredevil with Batfleck premiered years ago, there were those who couldn't stomach a black Kingpin. There were similar cries of reverse racism when Sam Jackson became this generation's Nick Fury. I understand the disappointment in your favorite superhero not being interpreted exactly how you want him or her to be...but I don't hear anyone screaming for Marvel to get rid of Samuel L. as Nick Fury. I look at it like this...we already got a great Johnny Storm via Chris Evans in the original two FANTASTIC FOUR movies produced by FOX. People aren't happy with Michael B. Jordan as the new Human Torch because they haven't yet seen the movie...I'm betting that even though most of us in FBN (fanboy nation) would prefer the filmmakers stick to continuity and keep Johnny Storm Caucasian...we would not be opposed to embracing a black Johnny Storm if he is good and is true to the character. And from the looks of the preview, I think Josh Trank gets his subject matter...which is more than I can say for Zach Snyder.

which brings me to my final topic for today's blog entry...


I'm going to be honest...Man of Steel, to me, was a poor excuse for a Superman movie. I say that because I felt like Zach Snyder (Director of 300, Watchmen and Dawn of The Dead) was doing too much. Superman is primal and in that he is basic. There's a little room for nuance but essentially he is a pop culture Hercules. If you want to know exactly what I thought about Man of Steel, check the blog archive and read my review. I know there are droves of Superman fans that liked Man of Steel but that's because they really don't know who Superman is or they thought he was somebody else. I can assure you of one thing...Superman is definitely not BATMAN. The trailer from DC newest debacle looks like a vision culled from Frank Miller's 80's dystopian wet dreams. In fact, I'm begining to sense that Zach Snyder has an unshakable man crush on Miller that will finally result in the death of grim and gritty. The prospect of Superman fighting Batman is assinine at the very least. But I think that was the point in the canonical Dark Knight Returns...when it comes down to their clashing ideologies, BATMAN would have to beg, borrow, steal and cheat to best Superman on his worst day. This article I'm writing is not going to get into all of that because we could argue all day about Bruce Wayne acquiring Kryptonite and an Iron Man suit  to Superman flying a helpless Batman into space only to let him freeze or suffocate in the vacuum. This article is going to be about the trailer which looks like it's set in Sin City. Bottom line, it looks like Superman has been positioned as the antagonist of this supposed sequel to the Man of Steel. In other words...he's the villain. Herein we will explore the whole, what if Superman becomes too powerful and assumes the role of...God. Wow. Not only does that not sound like the Superman I grew up with...but truly doesn't sound like one I would like to see on the big screen. I'm not completely opposed to seeing Batman and Superman fight, I'm sure there is some plausible way it could be handled but in terms of the franchise...I don't feel Superman's character has been properly established. To send Ben Affleck in armed to the teeth with his souped up Bat-Armor and a hard on for Superman's blood is a bit premature. Like any judgmental fanboy, you will find me seated comfortably with my kids at the Cineplex the day Batman versus Superman opens because it's one of those things that I thought I would never wind up seeing on the big screen. But I know full well from DC's trajectory that their latest foray into their own cinematic universe is doomed to fail.  


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Friday, July 4, 2014


Nobody told me to attempt to publish my own comic books for a living. I chose that path on my own. We have discussed it before in previous chapters of my "cybertribe", this is a calling for me this comic book thing but I didn't have to answer that calling. I could have left well enough alone. Continued watching the slow evolution and sometimes deliberate destruction of a medium I hold dear, Super Heroic literature. I didn't have to ever pick up a pen and write LUCIUS HAMMER or the HARLEM SHADOW. But that's not how inspiration works. Inspiration fills you with an unwavering sense of purpose, in some ways you become possessed by an ideal or concept and the spirit or nature of that idea drives you to action. When I sat down to co-create Ravenhammer Comics in 2009, I had no clue what I was doing except that I knew there was a higher purpose involved. It is now 2014...five years since I created LUCIUS HAMMER and his mysterious role model...THE HARLEM SHADOW. The road to success has been a gnarled and treacherous pathway. People have literally walked into my life from the ether with interest in these amazing properties I have been blessed with the honor of creating. They have tried to outright usurp them or change them. I have been told by co-creators and potential business suitors that my projects are too "niche" or that they aren't what the market is looking for right now. Last year this time I was being courted by Russell Simmons and Def Jam. They were interested in my "niche" comic book character, The Harlem Shadow. I thought that my efforts of the past few years were finally going to bear some fruit, and in a way they did...The Harlem Shadow was the subject of an online article in Entertainment Weekly In my wildest dreams, I had pictured myself reviewed and praised in any number of magazines for my literary, pop-art was no shock that I wound up front and center in Entertainment Weekly magazine propelled by the herculean force of a well scripted, well illustrated jewel of an indie comic that dared to give us the first black superhero from the roaring 20's. The shocking revelation here is that nobody was ready for "The Harlem Shadow".

Not even me.

This all started in a rather uncomplicated manner. I was deep in the process of writing the first issue of Lucius Hammer. Now for those of you who have not read LUCIUS HAMMER Issue One...shame on you. It is a rarity if I may say so myself from the standpoint that it seeks to create a solid mythology or genealogy if you will of the black superhero. I have received thousands of e-mails from pop culture super-sleuths out there who have discovered my ruse and concluded that some of my characters are analogues. This is true and false at the same time. Lucius Hammer was meant to be my version of LUKE CAGE or POWER MAN. I began with the intent of writing a parody-laden superhero comic poking fun at blaxploitation riffs and tropes that have become commonplace and perhaps beloved in the realm of pop nostalgia. But my muse started calling out to me...she instructed me to make Lucius the centerpiece of this sweeping saga of the black superhero. I have always wondered myself why black superheroes don't really begin to show up in comics in earnest until the sixties. I mean I know why they didn't appear until then (fictional characters of color suffered the same second class status that real African Americans did in everyday life...perhaps a worse fate because their existence could be eliminated completely by the indifference or hatred of the prominent writers of that era.) but this was delicious food for thought that caused me to become enthralled with the prospect of building my own secret history of black superheroes. The Harlem Shadow was a background character that never ever should have warranted any conversation other than to, I never thought about a character like that. A mysterious, well dressed nocturnal vigilante sporting a domino mask and fedora...calling himself The Harlem Shadow. It seemed so simple at the time I created it. In fact...his creation was spontaneous. I needed a focal point...a first black superhero to lead them all to their own comeuppance as a subset of the superhero genre. To my knowledge there had never been a black mystery man style superhero ever. I had a stack of books sitting next to my computer table concerning Harlem and the Renaissance. I was mindlessly flipping through one of the resource books and came across a poem written by a man named Claude Mckay. That poem was entitled...Harlem Shadows. This character was most certainly building itself and guiding me to do so once I began to tune into its frequency.

After his dubious one page appearance in LUCIUS HAMMER 1...people began to clamor about The Harlem Shadow. I was even curious as to when I would get the opportunity to pen a fitting mini-series of adventures concerning "The Patron Saint of Negroes". He was just too cool to be true. The first black masked vigilante surfaces during the Harlem Renaissance. I imagined this hyper realized New York/Harlem in the 20's but very sleek, fast and cutting edge for its time. Here is an excerpt concerning the appearance of Harlem from my own personal treatment that I wrote for the proposed Harlem Shadow animated series;

"The Harlem Shadow Animated Series should be groundbreaking in its visual style. This is a cartoon that has ambitions to be a film noir. This Harlem in the animated program should come across as a funky, bebop crossbreed of Gotham City and Ralph Bakshi’s Cool World (with the fashion sense of Bakshi’s Coonskin). There are lurching shadows in this Harlem…labyrinthine alleyways and gothic churches, it’s own boardwalk and of course a string of cabarets and speakeasies. But there is also sunlight and a melange of diverse colors; Harlem is a throbbing artery of black folk from all walks of life at probably their most triumphant…of course there will be crime and vice but this Harlem in the story is a welcoming Mecca for the colored masses and so there is an undercurrent of joy, excitement and progress. Influences for the look of neo-nostalgia would be Max Fleischer’s early Superman Cartoons and the more recent Batman Animated Series they inspired by Warner Brothers. Fashion, cars, technology and the burgeoning advertising industry should be omnipresent. The atmosphere screams “this is a fantastic place during a fantastic time” it is more than plausible that a “Superhero” could be birthed here." 

Whenever I would attend conventions back in 2010 and even into 2011...there was always a passionate following for Lucius Hammer but The Harlem Shadow had almost like a cult/underground following if you can understand that in the context of an indie comic book. People were always quick to remind me in person..."You know...I think The Harlem Shadow is strong enough to carry his own book." And I would look at them, incredulous. How would I ever publish two titles at the same time...titles that are well received everywhere I go but are nowhere near selling enough in quantity to make me independently wealthy? It didn't matter, the muse spoke again and I listened. In 2010, I launched The Harlem Shadow Issue 1 at Philly's East Coast Black Age of Comics to great fanfare and instant success. It turns out the that folks of all colors had been waiting to read about the exploits of the first black superhero. And I appeared ready to oblige them.

2010 proved to be a year of intense adversity for me that I rather not relive or chronicle in the lines of my blog. Let's just say life as I had known it changed drastically overnight and I had to scramble to pick up the pieces that remained salvageable. I now had self-published Lucius Hammer Issue 1 and The Harlem Shadow Issue 1. I had been reviewed by outlets as diverse as "Aintitcoolnews" and Columbia University My personal problems had continued to mount during this time and I was desperate for a benefactor to swoop in and help me quickly obtain some kind of presence in the entertainment world so that I might capitalize on these wildly imaginative and unprecedented indie characters. I had every reason to believe Hollywood would be interested in my comic projects because I had been approached at 2010 Onyxcon by a woman claiming to be affiliated with Tyler Perry. We remained in contact for a short period but never really discussed anything. This was disturbing to me because I got the sense that even the so-called big ballers in the entertainment world were scared of a creature they did not understand...that creature being an animated black superhero. Now there are many folks out there who will immediately reference Static Shock as a widely recognized and critically lauded animated series based on a black comic book...but I beg to differ. The Harlem Shadow was not a cartoon necessarily for kids, although kids will gravitate and go crazy over this series when it's produced. The Harlem Shadow, as I saw it, would be an animated period piece with a timeless quality much like Batman The Animated Series. The setting would always be the 20's with an edgy science/ steampunk undercurrent. Another excerpt from my master treatment for the proposed animated series explains the overview for the show...

"The Harlem Shadow is a pulp noir action tale about a masked vigilante who endures a long and strange journey to become America’s first black superhero. His exploits take place during the famed Harlem Renaissance causing him to be simultaneously heralded as hero and villain by fellow New Yorkers. Dressed in the finest suits, complete with stylish hat, domino mask and twin chrome plated revolvers…this mysterious marauder becomes an instant scourge to organized crime and a deterrent to the growing criminal element known as supervillains. Harlem; a brilliant, kaleidoscopic world of color, culture and intellect built by empowered Negroes is the perfect incubator for this country’s first super powered vigilante of color."   

When I never heard back from this person regarding her level of interest in my project, I learned my first lesson in entertainment; Everybody is looking for something to develop but to suit their own tastes or those of the company they represent. Also, and this is probably most important....there is nothing that will happen overnight. Do not wait on pie in the sky contracts or checks because they are definitely not coming. I had just received my first official "eye jammie" from Hollywood. This huge blow to my confidence led to my getting involved with a local "auteur" from Cincinnati (my main sphere of operation for the time being). Now let me start off by saying my initial meeting with this person was laden with omens of deception and red flags galore. Let's call this "auteur"...Knipsey Russell to protect his identity. I don't believe this guy was evil or intended to tarnish my projects. I only bring this event up here in the recesses of my blog to possibly serve as a cautionary tale for you kitchen table Spielbergs or Spike Lees out there. First of all, never sign anything without the involvement of an attorney. As proof that you always need to be lawyered up, next time you create an attractive intellectual property and the interested party that wants to option those properties tells you that they've got you covered and all you need to do is sign...pause for a breath and tell them you'd like your attorney to look over the paperwork. Notice immediately how the atmosphere in the room changes. That's because this is a chess game and if you sign some paperwork that you don't fully understand (and you won't because if you are not an attorney, trust will not understand) you could have your property taken right out from under your nose because you wanted to feel important and sign a contract.

Long story short, Knipsey Russell convinced me to sign some papers that weren't legally binding. When it was time to part ways...he was not being cooperative and tried to flex on me and my properties. He told me that I had no rights any more. With some quick financial assistance from friends and family, I was able to secure the legal services of a fine attorney who made quick work of Knipsey Russell. Do not believe people who don't have a title, no accomplishments, resume, money or apparent know how to deal with your property. An almost clear sign that someone is a wolf and not out for your best interest are these two statements "There's no money involved up front..." and "You don't need an attorney... if you ever hear someone utter these two things...bounce. Bounce asap!

Back to The Harlem Shadow...I had participated in a convention in Cincinnati right before personal storms attacked my life head on and met a gentleman who was very well connected in entertainment circles. He was impressed with The Harlem Shadow like almost everyone always is. We exchanged e-mail addresses and promised to stay in contact. And we did for a time. However, our personal lives and projects seemed to eclipse my project and once again...I'm floating in limbo, trying to catch a break. I manage to get another issue out a piece of Lucius Hammer and The Harlem Shadow. Both issues are stunning. I know that Marvel and DC are both great at what they do...but when I look at the books Ravenhammer published under duress and constant anxiety, I am proud to say that they can go toe to toe with any of those professional publishers.

It turns out that this gentleman that I met at the Cincinnati Comic Con got a chance to show Russell Simmons my comic book, The Harlem Shadow, and according to him...Mr. Simmons was really impressed. This news was surreal to me and was verging on being unbelievable. In my fledgling years of trying to create my own characters and properties, I had discussed with friends the possibility of getting the attention of a Russell Simmons or Oprah Winfrey to assist me with my black superhero agenda. I didn't know how I would ever get something into his or her hands but I definitely had that thought that if I could appeal to them...I could get the help I needed to reach the masses. This was uncanny. The universe doing me the ultimate solid and hand delivering my homemade comic book into the hands of Russell Simmons. The negotiations to obtain the rights to the Harlem Shadow to produce either as an animated series or live action film began in May of 2013 and concluded with a signing a short option contract in August of 2013. It was soon announced shortly after that hip hop legend, Common, would be joining the efforts to bring the Harlem Shadow to life as the lead voice actor. I was ecstatic. Vindicated. Relieved and excited. I am an original member of the first generation of hip hop. I bought the 12' inch single of Rapper's Delight when I was in sixth grade. I was there when RUN DMC started banging Hard Times and It's Like That. I was also present and accounted for when a young cat emerged from the city of wind named Common Sense. This was all so perfect in terms of cosmic alignment and wish fulfillment. In my mind, this could not have been a better direction for the project.

But in the world of entertainment, these kinds of exciting deals crash and burn every day. I knew that going in. And I know it now. As of this moment, The Harlem Shadow is not actively being produced as an animated series. Since last August, a few things have occurred to really hamper the forward movement of the project...first and foremost, the fact that YOUTUBE was no longer providing the funding for programming on ALL DEF DIGITAL which would have been the initial home of The Harlem Shadow Animated Series. No money means you cannot pay the talent to create the show and if you cannot find another investor then your show gets shelved. And that's what's going on right now with the greatest animated series about a Harlem Superhero that never existed. I will admit to being very deflated but not defeated. The folks that were involved with the project are great people and I have confidence that what drew them to my comic book in the first place will re-ignite at some point at the right time with the right resources and then we will have liftoff.

I am focused right now though on finishing what I started. And so I return to inspiration. I don't need movie stars and moguls to tell a comic book story. There are a lot of fans out there who just want to be told a good story. They want to see an amazing character or world that they have never observed before. That's what I'm good at. Whether or not my projects become Hollywood blockbusters and groundbreaking t.v shows remains to be seen...I wouldn't doubt it. But my job is not to worry about all that. My job is to build it. My job is to take these ideas and create them so people can see them and be transported. After that, my work is done and I'm on to the next one. Word of advice to my fellow creators...control what you can control. That would be your dedication to your craft and daily excellence in how you choose to manifest that craft. All of the other things will's weird, there's a magnetic attraction when you just listen to your inner voice and create inspired work. Stay tuned for greatness.

Ravenhammer Lives!!!!

Brian Williams 7/4/14


Sunday, April 6, 2014


What's good Hammerheads and Harlemites? Your favorite comic book writer with a chip on his shoulder is back for some more blog action. I got a chance to see a few movies the past couple of weekends. And you know I had to see Captain America. I have been a die-hard Cap fan since I was a little dude. My first encounter with Captain America was in an issue of Marvel Two In One with The Thing. There is something visually compelling about seeing a cat dressed in an American flag with a shield (basically his uniform)...Cap was always honest and proved to be a great leader in most stories because of his military background. Later on as I got older...the definitive Captain America run was flawlessly executed by Roger Stern and John Byrne in the early eighties and to this day remains to me quintessential Cap. That being said, I was not a huge fan of Captain America: First Avenger. I was pleased with Chris Evans who certainly looks the part of Steve Rogers and Captain America. But Hugo Weaving was a huge disappointment as one of my all time favorite bad guys (The Red Skull) which I was think due more to the writing than his acting skills. I enjoyed the origin sequence of that flick but the rest of it was kind of garbage to me because of the lack of Nazis (Hellboy has Nazis...give Captain America some Nazis!!!) and the seriously Power Ranger like Hydra troops who were firing laser guns at The Howling Commandos...that so zoned me out that I walked out of the cineplex thankful for a movie about Captain America but never having the desire to watch the film again. Then came the Avengers. My faith was restored in Marvel's ability to create the kind of Captain America I wanted to see on the big screen. I felt like Evans had bonded with this comic book icon and was feeling him.

Now...on to the modern Marvel masterpiece which is Winter Soldier.

From the first sequence, an action piece on a Shield vessel that's been attacked by pirates at sea, we learn that the writers of this film are in tune with Captain America. They not only know who he is and what his mannerisms are but they are aware of his rogues gallery and history. While sitting on the edge of my seat within the first 15 minutes watching Cap storm the pirated ship...taking names and putting foot in ass, I was also treated to the appearance of an old school Captain America villain that fanboys will recognize immediately as soon as his name is mentioned. These are the kinds of things being done in these movies that separate Marvel from the pack. Continuity. They have always had this "shared universe" that incorporates all of their heroes and it makes it really fun for readers who have followed their comic books over the years. What I love about this film is that it starts off with Cap going on a mission for Shield that causes him to question their motives and/ or ethics. Being that he is a throwback from America's greatest generation...his superhuman brand of patriotism doesn't seem to be matching up with Shield's more shadowy motives. The theme explored becomes who can Cap trust and that my friends sends us into a nail-biting, action romp that blends the superhero genre with political intrigue flicks like 3 Days of the Condor and the more recent Bourne Identity movies.

The thirst for superhero action is quenched in this movie because we get to really see what being a "Supersoldier" means. Captain America is super athletic. He's like Adrian Petersen and Lebron James wrapped in one! He runs through steel doors, he jumps out of planes without parachutes, when he punches or kicks an adversary they don't just fall down...they go flying! I was pleased with this sort of display of his powers because it differentiates him from Spider Man, Superman and Bat-Man. We see why in several instances how this man helped stop World War 2 and why he is considered a living legend.

This is a film packed with spy action, subterfuge, and double crosses...a perfect plot for Black Widow and Nick Fury to flex their muscles...and oh how they flex! Scarlett Johanssen, on top of being mouth wateringly hot, is now at perfect form in her Black Widow role. In her previous outings as the super-spy I kind of just tolerated her presence and chuckled along with her well timed quips...but she brings the wood in this movie and I actually found myself enjoying her role (not just as eye candy if you dig what I mean). But the biggest surprise is Nicholas J. Fury!!! Yes Lawd. Yes Lawd. Yes!!!! Finally I get to see the coolest dude on the planet (Samuel L. Jackson if you don't know) get into some true spy action like a real brother would and it's glorious. In fact...I'm probably being a bit overzealous, but I can see Sam carrying his own Marvel film as Fury. To me...his action sequence in Winter Soldier rivals any of the best chase scenes I've seen in recent years...that includes Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Watch out James Bond.

The Falcon. This is hard for me. This would be the only part of the movie I felt some weakness in. But don't misinterpret those words as feelings of disdain for the character or what the writers did with the character. I love Anthony Mackie and his portrayal of Sam Wilson aka The Falcon is spot on. For the uninitiated...The Falcon is Captain America's friend and fighting partner...these two bond after Cap comes out of the deep freeze in World War 2 and kind of have that Lethal Weapon chemistry that Mel Gibson and Danny Glover had in those popular movies. The Falcon is obviously a winged hero with the ability to fly and that is not greatly explained here which kind of frustrated me. But that's okay, the script makes up for that lack of origin story by setting up a very solid and interesting character who happens to be the second non-supernatural black superhero on screen ( I guess War Machine from Iron Man 2 was technically the first). What is most important is his friendship with Steve Rogers and Cap, Evans and Mackie nail it.

And now...the most surprising performance...The Winter Soldier. I read the comics when they came out. I am an absolute sucker for any character who has a cybernetic arm!!! Anyhow...I liked the comics. Didn't really love them. I definitely thought Bucky, Cap's youthful sidekick in the comics and adult peer in the movies, should have remained dead. I mean damn...Cap survived WW2...Red Skull survived and so did Bucky? That's asking a bit much of the reader to swallow but we are talking about comic books. In the Ed Brubaker Captain America comics...I thought that Steve Rogers character was boring and so was Cap. I liked the concept but the overall storyline came across as a gimmick. The Winter Soldier in the movie comes across as a combination of the T-1000 in The Terminator and Michael Meyers from Halloween. Every time this dude is on the screen you are in fear. You know that he is a living death dealer and he excels at killing people. Important people. And with our heroes clearly targeted in his scoped rifle we feel their anxiety and fear in every skirmish. These action scenes are big and robust like any comic book...even better. And the fighting scenes are believable. These are perhaps the best fighting scenes in a superhero movie since either Spider Man 2 (Raimi) or KICK ASS. Long have I complained about fighting scenes in superhero movies being garbage...that trend ends here. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER will hit you in the teeth and have you walking out of the cineplex grinning from ear to ear. SOLID!