Thursday, November 26, 2009

Rough Script for Harlem Shadow

The harlem shadow

Oh Harlem.

Sweet and scintillating, black pearl in the white city.

Our refuge from the terrors of the deep,dark south…

I have become taken with you.

Mystified. Infatuated. Seduced.

To you, I swear eternal love.

And I vow to protect you and your citizens from injustice

And the evil that men do…for I am your shadow.

When night falls, I will be there to watch over you and guide your way.

Action * Soul * Mystery

Two love birds make there way home from a speakeasy.

Their clothing, although trendy and fashionable, is tainted with sweat and alcohol.

The dame has got the looks a guy would kill for. This fella is in seventh heaven for sure.

Her name is Sirena and she’s a gun moll. He’s a reporter for the Sentinel…forgot his name. It’s not relevant at this juncture.

I am the Harlem Shadow, and as I watch my city squirm and writhe throughout the night…these two catch my eye.

This guy is out of his league. She’s spoken for…see? Most underworld figures know that Sirena is Boss Man’s main squeeze.

Who’s Boss Man, you say? Don’t worry about it. He’s a story for another time. Let’s just say he would not appreciate all the public affection his paramour is showing for this square writer from the local rag.

I wait perched in the shadows like a human sized raven…they pass beneath not ever realizing I’m there. This is good. I don’t want to be seen until the last possible moment.

What’s Sirena’s angle? Does the reporter know that she’s nothing but trouble or is he intoxicated and just not care?

“ Nigel…kiss me!” Sirena moans.

“You don’t have to ask me twice, sweetheart.” Nigel pulls her aggressively towards him and plants a rough yet passionate kiss on her full, crimson lips.

Harlem Shadow continues to listen, his tie blowing soundlessly in the wind.

Sirena pulls away for breath…but she still looks delighted like a kid in an amusement park. Feeding the mark’s ego. Fattening him up for the kill.

“What do you say we take this back to my place?” Nigel says with reckless abandon.

Sirena licks her lips slowly…enticingly. Hiking her skirt ever so subtly.

Sirena: No. I can’t wait for that. I want you now.

And then…Nigel allows himself to be lead into a narrow alleyway…by the hand like a child…hypnotized by the sight of a little leg. Plenty of fire escapes though…that will work to my advantage.

Nigel: Sweet Mary mother of Jesus.

Sirena raises her skirt again flashing some dainty camisole that would make most men buckle…but I see for the first time a small gun holster on her saffron thigh. Her intent is clear.

Nigel clumsily allows himself to be wooed by the promise of her mystery and sex appeal. He’s a writer for Harlem’s top newspaper, he knows the deal with this broad…or he should. But like all men, once he starts thinking with the wrong head…he’s caught with his pants down.

Sirena concludes her act by revealing her effeminate yet deadly 38 caliber.

Sirena: Slow down, big boy. You are kind of cute and I don’t want to have to spill your good brains all over the street…it’s been a lot of fun tonight…you and me. But I’ve got business to attend to. Who’s your informant for the stories you’ve been writing about the Harlem Underworld?

Nigel goes limp in more ways than one. He’s been had. He can finally see through the haze. I pull both of my rapid fire revolvers, three meatheads are circling the building headed for the alley. They’ve got rods too. This could get bloody.

Nigel: Awwww. You bitch? I know you’re not that stupid. You kill me and this town goes up in flames. And you and Mister Boss Man…up the river for at least twenty. So pull the trigger…I dare ya? Harlem needs some excitement anyway and if I gotta go I’d rather go out with a bang. But there’s no way in hell I’m giving up my informant.

Sirena smiles and puts the cold steel against the stalwart reporter’s forehead, he loses some of his bravado when he glimpses the twinkle of insanity in her eyes.

Sirena: I’ve put better men in their graves and won’t hesitate after I ask you the second time. Who’s been giving you the dish, Nigel?!

I begin my descent. My suit coat flapping and billowing, I feel powerful and primal…a night creature in pursuit of the oblivious prey. The trio of thugs have arrived in the alley…Nigel still at gunpoint.

Nigel: Squeeze off, ya lousy dame or let me go. Time is wasting. You’re boring me.

One of the three guys is an oversized lummox. His fists are the size of a Christmas Ham but his brain is probably pea sized. I alight quietly on a fire escape ladder just above the fray.

Sirena: Very well then. Let me introduce you to your pall bearers then. The big guy is named Muscle. He’s going to smash your face into hamburger and then break your legs. The handsome one in the middle is Pretty Boy…he’s a doctor of sorts…the kind that specializes in torture. Last but not least…the quiet one, Gravedigger. He’ll be handling your final arrangements. We coulda been friends, Nigel. It’s a shame. I actually liked you.

Sirena fixes her hair and conceals her weapon. A wolf dressed in an angel’s clothing.

She walks off into the night, leaving Nigel with his pants down and in the company of the three hoodlums.

Sirena: Take it from here fellas. I gotta go freshen up for Boss Man.

Muscle smirks, his humor being that of maybe a ten year old, the thought of beating a man in his underwear to a bloody pulp probably amuses him.

Muscle: So you think you’re a tough guy…is that it?

I speak.

HS: Gentlemen. Back away from the square with his pants down and you’ll have no trouble with me…but if any of you so much as lay a hand on him there will be severe repercussions.

The Muscle looks up at me…I can see fear and anger in his beady eyes.

Muscle: Who is this guy? Hey…what are you doing here? Can’t you see we’re conducting business? Pretty Boy…light him up…no witnesses.

The so-called Pretty Boy swings around in my direction with a tommy gun and the rata-tat-tat sound punctuates the night. I leap towards him, taking on a shower of bullets, some of them missing, others shredding my fine suit, but none of them hitting their mark.

When I land, I use a combination of American Boxing Techniques and Judo. I kick Pretty Boy with such force in his chest that he drops his smoking gun and gasps for breath on top of a fetid heap of garbage.

I pounce on him, reverting to street fighting style, my gloved fists are a blur as I deliver a flurry of solid punches to his face and stomach. He’s done for the night.

I turn and Gravedigger has not moved an inch…he stands just out of the reach of the street light…inert…waiting to complete his task. Muscle has Nigel in a chokehold, but he’s terrified. I can smell his fear. His indecision.

Muscle: Wha…What are you? We didn’t do anything to you!

I stand triumphantly over the wilted body of Pretty Boy…I pull my guns out again. One pointed at Gravedigger the other at Muscle.

HS: I am justice dressed in black. You can call me a Prince of Shadows. The patron saint of negroes. I’ll be the bane of the underworld. I will not sleep until Harlem sleeps. You got that? Now let Nigel go. Run and tell your boss the night belongs to me!

Muscle’s childlike face quivers, he pushes Nigel forward, with his rod drawn…pointed at me in a purely defensive manner. He begins to run from the alley but not before he says… “This is war, Mr. Harlem Shadow. Boss Man aint scared of you…he ain’t scared of anybody.”

I look back to see if Gravedigger has anything to say but he’s mysteriously vanished.

It’s just me and the reporter named Nigel.

HS: What’s your last name?

Nigel: Pierce. Its Nigel Pierce. Lead reporter for the Harlem Sentinel. That was amazing. I…thank you. I thought I was a dead man.

I looked deeply into his eyes. My instincts tell me he’s got what it takes. I decide at that moment he will be my partner.

HS: You are a dead man if you continue to let people like this run Harlem. That’s why I’m here. I’m going to take down the Underworld. Make this a safe neighborhood for honest Americans. I need your help. Pull up your pants.

Nigel hastily reaches for his pants…he’s in a state of shock.

Nigel: Why sure…I’ll help in anyway possible.

HS: I need you to continue writing the stories about the crime lords of Harlem. I also need you to report about me. I want you to paint a picture of me that’s frightening, intimidating…I want people to be unsure as to whether I am the hero or the villain.

Nigel wrinkles his brow at this statement. Our first argument.

Nigel: I can do that. But are you sure that’s what you want? What do you have some kinda death wish or something? Harlem needs a hero. Black folks need a hero. You never see those fancy white capes fly through our neighborhoods…and why should they if we’re not ambitious enough to have our own masked vigilantes. I say it’s about time and I say let everyone know you’re a good guy!

HS: Listen to me. I’ve thought this out many times before putting on these duds tonight…trust me. Do what I ask you to do. In return I will protect you from harm and give you the exclusive stories for the paper regarding my exploits and investigations. Do we have a deal?

We shook hands. It was 1930. The next two years would be the wildest years of our lives. Nigel and I would become great friends and men of distinction in the history of Harlem. That night was when the magic began.

I ran off into the shadows…leaping, swinging, climbing up towards the rooftops.

I looked back down and Nigel was still standing there like a bewildered kid.

Nigel: What about this guy?

HS: Let him sleep it off. You never know…tomorrow he may be a changed man.

Nigel: What should I call you…I mean…in the paper? You got a name?

I looked back down at him…for the first time smiling…letting him know that I did have a sense of humor. I was human after all.

HS: You’re the writer…come up with something clever.

He stood there for a few more seconds…but I had to go…I had to work the next day and it was already 3am. In my hasty flight I thought I heard him say… “ The Harlem Shadow.”



Tuesday, November 17, 2009


In my quest to design a cohesive, common sense, fictional universe of black superheroes, I decided to begin with the Golden Age. I thought this would be very interesting and innovative seeing as how very few black heroes were originated during this time period. The first character that I think of when I recall this era would be the Shadow. The Shadow is one of the baddest, grim and gritty pulp heroes ever invented. I was introduced to him as a young chap by my grandfather who had located the old radio shows on some obscure jazz station late on Saturday nights. These radio broadcasts were entertaining, action packed and terrifying! The Shadow was instantly emblazoned into my imagination and gave me a greater appreciation of the pulp dna that birthed our beloved superheroes. Once I learned that the Shadow's creation had predated Batman, I knew there was an inspiration there. Interestingly enough, the same grandfather I spoke of before purchased me a book called The Great Comic Book Heroes and it serves as my holy tome of comic book artifacts. This was the book that introduced me to the origins of each one of the classic DC Heroes like Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern and so on. But the book also included another pulp-noirish character called the Spirit and today in this blog...I want to talk about the Spirit. When I was younger, The Spirit, I must admit...did not appeal to me. I liked his cool white zoot suit, his slanted brim, and of course the domino mask, but his adventures weren't as outlandish as the other books I was into. He didn't fight some far away galactic menace, didn't battle villains in some special exo-skeleton, or utter any magic words so I decided he was not for me and proceeded to ignore him for 36 years. My insistence on building a universe from the ground up involved looking at the existing templates for characters that have been around for years and using them to fashion something new. I communicated to Christian (my artiste) that I would like to introduce a character in the Lucius Hammer book who called himself, The Harlem Shadow, and he would be the first official black superhero/vigilante in my fledgling world I was creating. When describing the feel of this character, I specifically said I wanted him to infuse the Harlem Shadow with a Will "Eisneresque" swagger. Essentially take The Shadow and The Spirit and create an amalgam. Drop that amalgam in the dead center of the Harlem Renaissance with a bunch of jazz musicians, torch light singers, gangsters, Irish Police and militant writers/poets and we got something. I , being the thorough researcher, felt compelled to dig into my Great Comic Book Superheroes edition, and finally read that boring Spirit story that was in the back of the book that I never had any real interest in. The only thing that ever moved me about the Spirit was his style and Will Eisner's obvious flair for visual storytelling. Well. I read the story. It took place in an exotic locale, was beautifully illustrated and even the words were positioned with visual aplomb. Cinematic. Robust. Slightly adult and filled with eye-wink innuendo. I found myself entertained. Could it be that for years I had ignored The Spirit because I had to grow up to appreciate the art of the graphic novella aka the comic book? Yes...I believe so and a wonderful awakening it has been for me to discover the genius of Will Eisner at this age of 42. Never mind the recent debacle that was the Spirit movie that Frank Miller refracted through his Sin City lens (although in my mad rush to consume everything having to do with the Spirit, I have to say that it wasn't that bad. Samuel L Jackson was slightly annoying though.), The Spirit is instantly one of my favorite comics and I will tell you why. The Spirit is entertaining. Never have I been so captivated by small, but rich stories that pull you into the Spirit's main stomping grounds...his precious Central City. Characters abound and the same goes for atmosphere...when you read these stories you will feel as if you are a denizen of the urban jungle that The Spirit calls his home. You become interested in the dozens of fascinating character portraits and story arcs that he seamlessly stitches together in between the heroic exploits of our masked protagonist. The artwork is a magnificent 2D canvas which is so wonderfully imagined it triumphantly comes across as a tangible 3D construct thrilling you with vibrant colors and inks, powerful anatomy and a slick animated/illustrated style. I really like these comics! Not because some hip comic shop owner told me that Eisner rocks or because Frank Miller impaled himself in front of millions on Christmas Day to see this character on the big screen. I like it for the most important reason there is...because it's good. I will undoubtedly be a better writer because of Eisner and his efforts. Anybody out there who considers themselves a comic fan or an aspiring writer or artist in the medium needs to get their hands on The Spirit and study it. Don't copy it...get inspired by it.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Black Superhero Day

I recently read somewhere that Joe Quesada, head honcho of Marvel Comics, believes that Blade works as a movie but not necessarily as a comic book. This has prompted me to start a grass roots movement called Black Superhero Day. The truth is that I think Quesada and others like him are competent keepers of the flame, but in the end, they don't have a clue on how they should market their black superheroes. The statement about Blade is absolutely ridiculous, but it suggests that there's more to the failure of black superheroes in the mainstream marketplace than meets the eye. The notion that Blade is more entertaining on the big screen than on Eon board is problematic for me on many levels. I won't go over those levels in this forum because that's counterproductive and this is about solutions. My plan is to coordinate a day of recognition for Black Superheroes in which companies big and small will utilize their best talent to pay homage to their most popular and obscure characters of color. Now in order for this to work across the board, all companies must enlist their very biggest guns to add to the seriousness of the event. For instance, how cool would it be if Alex Ross did a group poster depicting all of Marvel's black superheroes? Or if Joe Madureira agreed to draw a giant size Black Panther written by Christopher Priest or Geoff Johns. These are the kinds of ideas that will attract consumers to the racks and cause them to purchase black superhero content. Having a black superhero day would obviously tie in well with Black History Month, so for the larger companies it would demonstrate your efforts to diversify your product even though it would really be for just that month. The take away from Black Superhero Day is 1) you will have an event that ties in with a national initiative 2) existing fans will get an opportunity to see top notch talent writing and illustrating these iconic characters who have never had the luxury of an A list artist or writer 3) you also run the risk of discovering a breakout success for a character who was previously considered wood for the fire. It is in my opinion that Black Superhero Day be established in 2010 and serve as a testing ground for titles like Blade or indie black superhero efforts that may go unnoticed. Comic book shops owners are also a necessary part of this equation. The shops are often the point of dissemenation of pop culture information that keeps the nerd universe a cohesive amalgam, if the shop owners support this effort much like Free Comic Book Day in May then it has a great chance of surviving and making an impact. Being the writer and creator of my own black superhero, I obviously have a stake in this. I want my book to sell and get as much exposure as possible. But my other agenda is to wake some of these companies up who aren't putting the proper effort into some of their properties. I want them to know if they are not willing to give the consumer the stories and art we've been looking for then we'll have to resort to other outlets. If those outlets don't exist then they will be created. When they are finally available to the masses, someone in marketing is going to notice and then finally you're going to get the picture. Don't wait for this to happen! Utilize your vast archive of black characters and respect them. There are many fans chomping at the bit to see characters of color, satisfy the market and provide the product. So it's official, Black Superhero Day is 2/1/10. Joe Quesada, if you have any questions about how to make Blade a successful comic book franchise, hit me up at For all the rest of you, get your best stories and art together for Black Superhero Day and let's get ready to make a difference!
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Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Cincinnati Comic and Anime Convention

For all you comic book fans in Cincinnati and the surrounding tri-state area, come see Ravenhammer Comics @ the Cincinnati Comic and Anime Convention on November 7th and the 8th at the Radisson Hotel on the Cincinnati Riverfront. 668 W Fifth St Covington KY 41011 Exit 192 Off I-75/71. Admission is only 5.00. Come purchase the new color edition of Lucius Hammer and the black and white sketch volume! Also come hang out with Lucius Hammer creator BRIAN WILLIAMS and get the scoop on where Ravenhammer Comics are headed! Get LUCIUS HAMMER ISSUE ONE FULL COLOR!
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First Issue Release Party Highlights

The party went down better than anticipated. Lucius Hammer got the proper launch he deserves and folks had fun! The new book or the colored version is stupendous! Between my man Travis Reitman's super tight and slick inks and then Christian's adept skills at photoshop you get almost a 3D trip into Lucius' world! There are still some things that Christian, as my artist, omitted from the script because of the tight deadline that I am uncomfortable with. I had written an entire 2 pg sequence that would have shown Lucius' super powered exploits as a child in rustic Possum Bend, but due to time and my artist's regular job, this was scrapped. There was also a very important scene that rebuilds the history of the black superhero by introducing the different characters from The Harlem Knights, a distinguished group of colored capes from the thirties and forties. This too was tossed on the cutting room floor by my artist, once again in the interest of time. It might sound like I'm throwing my partner under the bus, but I'm not. I'm just sharing with you readers the depth of the world I'm creating so that when someone else comes along who has the time to draw these different things I've described, you will know that I wrote it first we just didn't have the time to include it. Now I understand why George Lucas remakes his Star Wars movies like every ten years. Getting back to the wonderful evening that was October 24 th 2009, Everett Cork was the MC of the event and to a captivated audience of about seventy people, he asked basic questions about Lucius Hammer and introduced myself and Christian to the public at large. Let me not forget to mention the fortuitous placement of myself on a local radio station morning show, WLW with Jim Scott, who also interviewed me the day before the book signing and that was arranged at the last minute by a new friend of Ravenhammer Comics named Shelly Conley. The Old Saloon is a comfy little watering hole that my friends and I have frequented for the last three or four years but you would have thought it was the location of a friggin Hollywood premiere; I had two seven foot with the Lucius Hammer comic book cover and the other one with our badass Ravenhammer logo. I could tell from the looks on the faces of everyone in the crowd that they were sufficiently blown away with this spectacle. At one point my grandmother comes walking into the bar with a fur coat on and a hush fell over the crowd, that's when I started to feel like a serious rock star. The Old Saloon specializes in beer, liquor, and bar food. It's not a 5 star dining experience but they serve these delicious grilled wings, five dollar pizzas, and a sandwich called the Lefty's Special( ham on top of a steak hoagie, mmm good!)'s safe to say everybody ate and drank well. We sold a healthy amount of comic books and everybody seemed to be crazy about Lucius. We also debuted the official Lucius Hammer soundtrack composed by Tony Kelsey and Jeff Popplewell. The first track to this sonic tribute to Lucius is a lush rhythm and blues anthem evoking the seventies while simutaneously capturing the modern thrust of our main character's present story arc. The night of friends, family,and fans came to an end at about 3am...we were kindly told that we didn't have to go home but we had to get the hell up out of there. All in all I am a proud father, Lucius Hammer is a strong, masculine child who has tremendous potential, but like with any responsible parent it is up to me to make the right decisions about his future so he grows up to be a productive intellectual property. Stay tuned, my next post will be more of an exercise in prose writing concerning the secret life of black superheroes.
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