Tuesday, October 19, 2010

ULTIMATE ECLIPSE...What if Marvel really cared about their Black Superheroes?

All fanboys at some point or another have restless, wet dreams about writing or drawing their favorite comic book character and returning that particular character to glory. I am no different. For years I have told anyone who would listen...how I would revamp Blade, rejuvenate The Falcon, resuscitate Luke Cage, or revitalize Black Panther. Within these four characters are major franchises but Marvel has failed to act on their potential in any serious way. Yeah, Luke Cage is the leader of the New Avengers and everybody says this is a wildly popular choice made by Brian Michael Bendis...but it aint that popular or Luke would have his own book. The following writing samples are from a more simpler and naive time in my life (two years ago...lol) when I thought Marvel Comics might actually pull me in off the streets and give them a hand revamping some of their black superheroes.


The premise behind Ultimate Eclipse is pretty straightforward…revamp all of Marvel’s African American characters in the so-called “Ultimized” style and let them run free in tales that will further flesh out their own individual character backgrounds and establish not only their relationships with one another but everyone else in the Marvel Universe.

If we look at Marvel’s limited pantheon of Black Superheroes we see that there are three of them that stand out in every fanboy’s mind: Black Panther, The Falcon and Luke Cage. This trio would be my center piece for the entire series because with all three personalities we can cover different sections and mentalities of the Marvel Universe in a realistic fashion that would remain consistent with the storytelling in most of the Ultimate books. For example, the gritty, underworld dealing, gun toting hero for hire that Luke Cage is would have very little reason to interact with characters like Captain America or Black Panther for that matter because they are total opposite ends of the spectrum. But because of his friendship with Sam Wilson aka Falcon we will see Luke get involved in some higher profile situations, and his involvement combined with his unique street smart perspective will be something that Marvel writers have only hinted at before.

In the Ultimate Eclipse storyline my update of Luke Cage will have the 70’s blaxploitation character coming across as John Shaft slash Superman. Luke Cage is an indestructible, scrappy, street hustling playa from the Himalayas…he’s not some jive talking moron with a yellow pterodactyl wing party shirt and spandex blue jeans…he’s a no-nonsense, guns blazing, braid having mother fucker with super powers with a huge chip on his shoulder. He’s the pre-dominantly white establishment’s worst nightmare because he is a non-compliant Negro, incorrigible, unpredictable, cunning and violent. His knowledge and love of the streets give him a sort of an urban, gritty/Tarrantino feel. His association with Iron Fist and the Sisters of the Dragon also gives me some room to pay homage to classic martial arts movies and KILL BILL volumes 1 and 2. He’s very intelligent and smooth…the slang he uses is a mélange of hip hop terminology and broken hood dialect but the brother is nickel slick and on top of game.

Sam “Snap” Wilson is the all-American brother. He’s a card carrying Shield Agent, he’s also a sporadic member of the Avengers. In addition, he’s also Captain America’s…sidekick. Sam is also divorced…the father of two…still in love with his ex-wife, a social climber who revels in hanging with the other super-wives but can’t stomach Sam’s wishy-washy career. Captain America is pressuring Sam to become a full-time Shield agent and travel the world fighting crime under Nick Fury. Meanwhile, back in Harlem…city officials, friends, and passerby on the streets wonder when one of the black superheroes will stand up for the communities that spawned them and give back. This thought weighs heavily on his mind as he decides to step up to the plate. Sam is an intelligent, athletic over-achiever who wants to use his power to help the world but he also wants to lead a normal life…his many different goals confuse him and leave him vulnerable to public criticism. What we witness in Sam is the comeuppance of a Superhero. The Falcon.

T’challa is the King of a technologically advanced kingdom in the heart of Africa. He is wealthy; he is a swashbuckling diplomat who ponders foreign policy while pouncing through the jungle in a skin-tight Panther costume. He is the ultimate adventurer, a man confident in the achievements of his nation and the tradition of his kingdom. He’s a African version of Indiana Jones/James Bond and Batman…he is the man who can have lunch with Reed Richards and kick it about mining for natural resources in the Negative Zone and then flip the script and bust some gangsta head in the backstreets of Brooklyn with his long time friend…Sam Wilson. As a vigilante, Black Panther faces a tremendous legal and political risk every time he engages in combat or undertakes a dangerous mission…but his duty is to go out and serve his kingdom. His world is the globe, and with an aggressive plan to promote peace while putting the smackdown on evil…Black Panther is the man who can make it happen. Panther approaches Falcon about joining forces under the name…Eclipse. A call to arms of paranormals of color. It sounds kind of far fetched until Falcon, Panther and Luke Cage find themselves battling side by side against a Hydra Sleeper Cell that was just activated in Brooklyn!!!




First of all, this needs to be said first before anything…Blade has the enormous potential to be a top tier Marvel Comics character. He’s a brilliant anti-hero, cut from the same cloth as a Wolverine or Punisher, and in this day and age of Reality/Grim and Gritty/Reboot Continuity Blade appeals directly to what today’s readers are looking for.

My idea for Blade is to reboot the character using existing backstory from both movies and comics. I believe you must include Rachel Van Helsing, Taj and Quincy Harker…these key characters keep Blade connected to Marvel’s Epic Horror Saga, Tomb of Dracula and the original source material, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It is important to keep Dracula at the center of the action…even if he is not actually in the present storyline. Why? Because this gives Blade his impetus, his driving character motivation…the death of Dracula becomes his quest and in this he becomes a greater hero due to the magnitude of this undertaking.

My idea is to take Blade back to his childhood. He leaves London after losing his mother to a mass suicide involving a cult she was mysteriously tied into. He moves to the states (Louisiana in particular) to live with his Aunt and Uncle and their children. This sounds very tame and maybe uninteresting initially but here we set the foundation for a balls out horror actioner that will rival the best of Hellboy. We need to make Blade an actual living breathing person…revisiting his childhood and his coming to terms with his supernatural heredity. Like the boy in the Sixth Sense, I imagine there was a time when Eric Brooks Aka Blade discovered his otherworldly nature…how did this happen, what were his sensations? Did anyone around him notice his differences and how did this affect the relationships he formed early in life? I created a sister for Blade’s mother named Grace who was more than willing to take Blade in after his mother’s death and an Uncle named Elijah who is a fire and brimstone preacher tuned into anything that smacks of evil. The most compelling question I can ask of myself as a writer is, “Who was the first vampire that Blade killed?”. My answer to that question is a missing High School girl named Dominique.

This first story will establish Blade as a 10 year old who grows up in a religious/ disciplinarian household, down south on the outskirts of New Orleans. Blade is a good kid with abnormal instincts and quirks. He seems to often have no appetite and can go without sleep for unusually long stretches of time. His sensory palette seems to be heightened in the fact that he can tell what his Aunt is cooking while being two miles away from the house; he hears conversations that people are having in other rooms behind closed doors; he seems to be physically stronger than his older cousin who is a high school football star. Mainly, these quirks just irritate his cousins, but his witch-hunting Uncle has a hunch that Blade is hellspawn because of his mother’s dealings and it has become his singular job to expose the evil that exists in his nephew. Years go by and Blade begins to explore his powers. When a local girl he knows from high school goes missing…Blade joins a search for her in the swamps with the police, students from the high school, and other people from the surrounding community. During the search, Blade can hear or senses the female named Dominique. But he then realizes she is buried under the swamp in a coffin of her own design…she is undead. He returns to the swamp later that night with a bag full of teakwood stakes, a driving hammer, holy water and garlic. Dominique has chosen to make her home in an abandoned fallout shelter. After a spectacularly violent clash with the female vampire…Blade kills her and returns home…feeling oddly satiated and complete for the first time in his life. He returns home only to find his Uncle and his Aunt waiting for him. This is the beginning of the end for their relationship.

End of Pitch

Of course these were written out of sheer love for my favorite characters. Others may read these pitches and say, "Man, dude is smoking crack...that's not how they should write Luke Cage or Blade...here's how they should do it..." But I bet you my bottom dollar that if Marvel grabbed their cojones and gave me top notch artists...I could produce a monthly title that would be a top seller. One that possibly, now and again, might outsell even the most popular of titles. Why? Because these characters have swag!!! You just gotta pull in the right dudes and give them the latitude to experiment, revolt, tear down and deviate from the norm. But that's why I decided to write this blog entry right after the last one. Marvel and DC are not concerned about the African American Heroes...they would never accept these pitches from me because it makes to much sense. They would rather let an idiot like Marc Guggenheim (t.v writer)and Howard "Hack" Chaykin (used to love this guy but his art took a huge steaming dump on Blade)desecrate Blade in his last monthly incarnation. They would rather turn Black Panther into a female (hahaha, who was the friggin genius that suggested this one? They should be fired because I know the book is not selling behind that dumbass storyline!)It's more than obvious that even in the world of fucking fictional creations...the "man" is trying to keep us down. WTF?!!!


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Customer accuses Lucius Hammer Issue One of being Racist? Hunh?

After participating at the wonderful Cincinnati Comic Expo on September 19. I received a slightly disturbing facebook message from a dissatisfied customer. Now my mother had told me a long time ago, "No matter how charming you are, there's always going to be someone who doesn't like you. Or agree with you...and that's just the way of the world." And I accept that fact. The pop terminology in the past 10 to 15 years used to describe this type of social precept is "Haterism". You know...he or she is a "hater" because they don't subscribe to my particular point of view, don't hate the player hate the game, don't hate congratulate is my favorite. But in this particular circumstance, I don't think that this person, who we will refer to as "dissatisfied customer",is being "hateful". I believe they were truly shocked and disoriented by the message embedded in my comic book. It provoked them to think about things that they don't normally have to think about. The following transcript is a blow by blow duplicate of our cyber discussion regarding Lucius Hammer Issue One...

Dissatisfied Customer:
I was at the cincy expo and purchased the Lucius Hammer. First off I have to say that there are ALOT of Black Superheroes maybe you just never took the time to actually read or follow any through the years. Second,the black superheroes I've grown to love and follow have never been racist or a subject to division among other heroes because of race. I find this story to be insulting to say the least in the few of many people. We are slowly overcoming the division of race and all people are truely becoming equal. The government releasing a white superhero to stop a black group of superheroes forming? Seriously?! Do you know who the president is now? Luke Cage, Falcon,Black Panther, Storm,Spawn,Blade,John Stewart,War Machine, War Machine becoming Iron Man!! Those are characters just off the top of my head! Its sad to see someone so in the dark. If this is the fan base you want..so be it. However if you base you character toward fans that see a division of people then I'm afraid your character will never take off. Thanks.

Brian Williams...writer of Lucius Hammer:
First of all...thank you for purchasing my book. Despite how you may feel about the nature of my writing or the attitudes of my characters...you are missing the point. Yes...black superheroes exist but none of them are extremely relevant other than the fact that they are black and that particular company can say "Hey...we have a black character." With regard to the comments about the American Way and his agenda to foil the efforts of a black superhero...are you seriously suggesting these scenarios never happened in history?...particularly during the civil rights movement with people like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, or the Black Panther? I am trying to chronicle an invisible period of time that does not exist in printed comics because the writers and artists that dominated the early eras of comics were white and not necessarily interested in promoting positive images of African Americans, this is unfortunate but a fact. Luke Cage was little more than a street wise tough who spoke in broken English and was an ex-con. I enjoyed his adventures but as a young black man growing up, I came to resent the fact that most of the black heroes I saw in comics were petty con men or less educated than the white characters (The Falcon was originally a street hustler named Snap Wilson) Black Panther is a king and Storm is now his queen but they are both Africans which if you really stop to think about it...there is a whole different dynamic experience going on when you compare Africans to African Americans and it's called slavery. Blade and Spawn are both monsters and John Stewart and War Machine are both flunkies for a main white hero. You probably don't see these things clearly because chances are you are Caucasian and these differences are not things that directly affect you. I am very sorry this has caused you to feel slighted. My wife is white and sometimes she has related to me that I am a bit heavy handed when it comes to writing about race relations, but if I am to truly write about a character that existed in a time of racial strife like Lucius Hammer did...then that strife and those tribulations have to be depicted. Of course you have never seen these things written about before in comics because most of the writers once again are white and the companies are owned by whites. But I am a black man choosing to write about the reality of a black man trying to be a superhero in a country that has gone through different periods of hostility towards blacks and other minority groups. I would like to personally refund you your money if that's okay with you...but I would at least like you to read issue two of Lucius Hammer before you pass complete judgment. I promise you that what I'm doing is top notch and sometimes it is hard to look back at history and accept what has truly transpired but...look at how Muhammad Ali was treated by the white press...look up COINTELPRO...look at some interviews with Malcolm X on Youtube. I am simply imagining what if there were African Paranormals existing during that time. It's no different than the XMEN...but in this case all the mutants are black. Give me your address and I will send you the five dollars back. I sincerely apologize if you were offended. But you are absolutely the first customer to say something.

Dissatisfied Customer:
I would like to thank you for responding and have come to the conclusion that we will agree to disagree. I could go back and forth saying how most heroes were "monsters" or freaks in some sort. You have your own opinion and I have mine. I purchased the comic on level of chance. I love to read new ideas and visions, some I have to discard such as this one. Since you are married to a white woman you should know that these days we are not divided and are humans, not races. We all bleed red and when the day comes that I see someone bleed another color I still will not judge them for their differences.
Thanks Again

Brian Williams, writer of Lucius Hammer:
I will not judge either but I won't lie or forget things that have happened. You can't just ignore history because it's painful. And you cant just decide to disagree with things that you don't like to admit or wish never happened. Another thing and I will let this go...just because the present man in the oval office is one of color doesn't mean we all can kick back and say "kumbayah". Unfortunately the world is divided and there are many other prejudices other than white/black...but through this adversity and struggle we can work together as human beings to build a better world for future generations. In future issues of my book this ethic will shine through. Thank you for at least voicing your concerns and I will remember them while writing future episodes of Lucius Hammer.

That was the extent of this conversation. I am not sure how old this person is or what their experience base is but they seem fairly naive. This person also seems like a great deal of normal comic book consumers out there that are under the false perception that there are numerous black characters that exist and they are treated with the same reverence and given the same opportunities to thrive as the Caucasian characters. The fact is, black comic book characters are few and far between. And the ones that do exist don't reflect the African American experience. This is a fact. I am grateful for the black heroes that have been created over the years...Blade is cool (he's a vampire but that's cool) I dig Black Panther (Although technically he's not African American), I also have a giant soft spot in my heart for Luke Cage (But anybody who knows his history understands that he is the Sambo of Black Superheroes). Something has to be done about this. I am going to do my best to change the identity of Black Superheroes...and I will not escape the criticism of folks like this dissatisfied customer who wants things to be kept on the low. This person didn't even realize the whole time they were talking about how things have changed and are getting better for race relations in the world...how they were still reluctant for comics to change. If only people would sometimes look at themselves in the mirror and be real. Lucius Hammer Issue One is a serious look at Black Superheroes and their American Genesis. If you understand our country's struggle with race, then you will understand there's no way I can tell a competent tale about these heroes of color without acknowledging their struggles.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Why Ravenhammer Comics is going to put heads out in 2011...

Pimpin aint easy, and neither is self publishing your own comic book. The life of a self-publisher/writer is a lonesome, pride swallowing, and often self-degrading siege which can drive one to the brink of either insanity, epileptic fits, or just flat out acceptance of the regular 9 to 5, non-creative life. What writers and artists must some day completely understand is that like great athletes, we are despised by the common folk because they cannot do what we do...therefore we are either put on pedestals or disregarded as introverted freaks that were born to struggle, starve and be depressed because of our creative faculty. This is a non-creative world. Your company does not encourage creativity. They encourage fear of being destitute and absolute conformity to their Policy and Procedure manual. If you were to become too creative in your thinking, you might take over that company...and that would of course benefit you but not your overseers. Those of us who generate just enough escape velocity to wrench ourselves away from the gravity of modern slavery and economic bondage are then faced with the acceptance or non-acceptance of our artistic aspirations by family, friends and lovers. When I was nine years old, I boldly came out of the closet one day while sitting in the backseat of my father's creme colored 1976 Grand Prix and told him I wanted to be a comic book artist. He looked at me suspiciously in his rear view mirror with a sarcastic grin on his face and said simply, " Have you ever heard the term "starving artist"? And therein lies the dilemma of being born creative...no I don't want to starve! But nor do I want to be a worker drone for the rest of my life...toiling to achieve someone else's dream who could give less than a damn about me and my family. What about my dream? What about my legacy? A 401k? A couple of plaques that prove I was at work on time every day for 25 years? A retirement luncheon where 15 minutes after I've left the building, I will have ceased to matter in any way to that company? I have nothing against working for a big company...I have done it for most of my adult life. But very seldom have I encountered a benevolent corporation that really sought to be anything other than a meat grinder, mincing and mulching human lives into a bloody pulp for the sake of those dead presidents. Yeah, some of us make huge salaries...come home to a ridiculously huge house and own t.v's that could double for big screens down at the local multiplex...but at the end of the day...the price you pay for all that is your deferring your dreams for somebody else's. Brian Williams of Ravenhammer Comics has decided to stop putting his dreams off. 2010 was supposed to be the year in which my company...Ravenhammer Comics LLC...along with my artist and partner Christian Colbert, was supposed to come of age. Instead, Brian got kicked in the ass by life and suffered about as many disappointments as one could imagine. The reason why I am so sure about the success of Ravenhammer Comics in 2011 is because I am still standing. Like Tony Montana at the end of Scarface...machine gun in hand...ready to take on the world...Brian Williams is still standing. That means that if I can survive all the nonsense that life threw at me during this very unstable period of self-publishing my book...I can keep on surviving. Right now, we are having a great deal of trouble with the output of artwork at Ravenhammer. My blog is not a place for me to vent personal feelings about the work ethic of others...when you are trying to manage a job and produce an independent comic book...things get hectic. But having that "Tony Montana" sensibility about myself, I will say that at some point somebody's gotta draw the book. If it's not Christian Colbert, then it will be an artist that is equal to his caliber or better. But one monkey does not stop the show as my grandmother used to put it. Christian has had a series of dilemmas this year but that soon gets tiresome to people who are about something; people who are trying to create a new product have to dig that much deeper than the established competition. This should be a no-brainer but often-times you get a person who believes that they are the whole show...and if they don't feel compelled or motivated to get the work done...then the others have no other recourse. Not true in the case of Ravenhammer Comics. My dedication to making my dream and the dream of those around me happen is unparalleled. I have borrowed money, bought people computers, paid for artwork, hotel rooms and convention tables for the past two years. I have promised my investors returns and success for my fledgling comic venture and despite the less than spirited output of my collaborator(s)...I will make this happen. Losing is not an option. Not delivering an issue two or three...or four and five for that matter is not an option. It is the solemn vow of Ravenhammer Comics to go out of 2010 screaming like a bat out of hell. For the next two months, me and the boys plan to make plenty of noise...not pin-ups...not concept posters. BOOKS...STORIES...ISSUES. The website is going to be reconstructed and even though I like it right now...it has to be better, so fans of Ravenhammer can constantly know what products are available and what they can depend on getting from us every month. Now an introspective reader of my blog might read between the lines and say, "You sound like one of those unfeeling corporations you were railing against earlier..." Its true. Maybe that's why those big companies are like that. Maybe there are those of us who were born to be leaders and those of us meant to follow. Through my uncanny ordeals this summer I have finally learned that it's time for me to accept the fact that I am a leader. And if I behave like anything less then the world is going to let me know about it. So as the leader of Ravenhammer Comics thus far...I promise to you faithful Hammerheads, facebook fans, customers, friends and family that issue 2 of Lucius Hammer will be in your hands by the end of December. Issue three will be completed by the end of February. Issues Four, Five and Six will all be released by the end of next summer completing an arc that will then be collected in a beautiful trade edition. Christian and I have both discussed these deadlines and barring any serious matters of death in the families or serious injury...you are going to get your comics from Ravenhammer. It's time for us to get serious about what we say we love to do. As for the Harlem Shadow, my regular artist, Rodolfo Buscaglia is on board for the long haul and we shall also be seeing another five to six issues of the Birth of the Cool story arc. So keep it locked...RAVENHAMMER is for real and doing big things. Trust and believe!