Saturday, February 4, 2012

IT'S A HARD KNOCK LIFE FOR US; BLACK COMIC BOOK CHARACTERS GET NO LOVE

Once again it's on. I'm Brian Williams...rebellious black comic book scribe with an agenda and an attitude. I'm about to rip for a few bars about the comic book industry. If you are a regular around this blog then you are already hip to my opinions on black comic book characters...if you are new...check out the blogs of days gone by and get yourself up to speed. Last week some things came to pass in the world of comic books that I found humorous and very telling. John Rozum, the writer of Static Shock...DC COMICS NEW 52 title that was unceremoniously cancelled after an 8 issue run, reported in his personal blog, http://johnrozum.blogspot.com/, under the article "Why I quit Static Shock", something that I had always suspected about this title. I stated in this very blog a few months ago http://luciushammer.blogspot.com/2011/11/dc-new-black-52or-has-dc-comics-finally.html that I thought Rozum was phoning it in. I thought that Static Shock was bereft of any redeeming qualities and each issue was an exercise in boredom, mediocre to bad art and perplexing bad decisions. My negative reaction to Rozum's writing of the DC NEW 52 Static Shock was unexpected due to my experience with him in a previous DC Vertigo title, XOMBI, where he had been nothing short of brilliant. This coupled with the fact that he had been involved with Milestone during it's inception and had also been a personal friend of Dwayne Mcduffie almost guaranteed some kind heart felt commitment to the source material of Static (the original comic book title). This bothered me until I read his blog. Rozum left Static Shock after issue 4 because he made the same observation I did... the book was garbage. Static Shock was aborted because the editor and the artist sidelined Rozum (The Fan-Favorite writer) and decided to map out their own new "mythology" for Virgil Hawkins and company. Rozum seemed like he came to the table with a lot of brilliant ideas and possible storylines that would have absolutely made Static Shock a more important character in the DC Universe...here's a direct quote..."

"This brings me to Static. When I was asked to write Static Shock for DC Comics, it was no doubt because of my long relationship with Milestone Comics (where the character originated, as did Xombi) and because of my long, close friendship with Static's creator, Dwayne McDuffie, who died nearly a year ago. I was excited by the opportunity. I loved the character, who I'd previously written in an issue of Kobalt way back when, and was looking forward to writing something so radically different from what I'm usually offered, but still infusing it with my own sensibility and giving the world a comic book series full of creativity, crazy ideas, and a lot of fun and humor unlike any of the other 51 titles that DC would be offering up last September. I thought Static had the potential to be one of DCs A-list characters, and not simply some supporting character incorporated from an outside company's pantheon of heroes. "

 But for some mysterious reason...DC decides to let this editor and artist run roughshod over the writer they hired to shepherd the book creatively. Now I have gotten in a thousand and one conversations with people online and off about this turn of event s but the facts are as follows; Rozum is hired to write Static Shock. He has the pedigree and also the history with Mcduffie to justify his involvement. He is also coming off of a critically acclaimed Vertigo Series. One could say he was establishing a high profile and would be a definite attractive feature to add to the book. This guy was friends with Dwayne Mcduffie. He had also written Static in a few issues of KOBALT. He was a perfect match for DC's MEGA EVENT....THE NEW 52. So why pick now to give "The Artist" the opportunity to try his luck at scripting a comic book when he's never written a comic book before? Why would the "Editor" allow such a thing to happen? Furthermore...why not just fire John Rozum if he's not doing an adequate job and name "The Artist" as the writer. In my opinion...these weren't mistakes. These things happened because DC was not concerned with the welfare of this title from jump. Allowing the creative staff to remove Dakota City as the setting for Static Shock and change it to New York City was the first act of indifference. Any fan of Static the original Milestone book or the cartoon can tell you that Dakota City is as key to the Static Shock storyline as Gotham City is to Batman. Whoever allowed this decision to be made did not want Static Shock to have a fighting chance at survival in this tough, recession crazed marketplace. Next...the art was nothing memorable and in fact...it was sub-par when you look at the other DC titles. Also the most logical advantage a new Static Shock comic book would have is a revitalization of all the other Milestone characters who sort of became his extended family or supporting cast of sorts. When the editor and the artist decided that ideas like these were not in the interest of the book's survival they bumped Rozum out of their plans and he quit. He didn't want his name on that nonsense and I don't blame him. I'm actually relieved that he wasn't behind this debacle but I'm pissed that the "powers that be" got away with dogging out Static Shock.

Yesterday...mass hysteria ensued in the world of comic books and superheroes when word had dropped that DC Comics would be celebrating the summer of 2012 by publishing BEFORE THE WATCHMEN. I could write for days about THE WATCHMEN. I read the trade paperback in 1991, a few years after its official publication and it's the single best comic book reading experience I have ever had as an adult. I'm not going to discuss here and now whether or not they should do prequels. What I am going to bring to your attention is the fact that Alan Moore and Dwayne Mcduffie were both creators who contributed great characters to the DC Universe. It can be argued that Alan Moore's contributions were considerably greater as THE WATCHMEN not only changed the face of comics but caused them to be regarded with more respect. THE WATCHMEN was a twelve issue maxi-series that has spawned toy lines and big budget feature film. But then too we can say that Static Shock was part of an unprecedented effort headed up by Milestone Comics in conjunction with DC Comics to create a diverse line of commercially viable superheroes of color. As stated before, Static Shock also saw life as a well received and critically lauded animated tv series for four seasons. Both of these writers basically turned over their brainchildren to DC and achieved different degrees of success. However if you look closely at the hoopla surrounding this BEFORE WATCHMEN stuff...you will see that DC Comics has spared no expense in seeing to it that each book has a masterful creative team. Never mind the fact that retreading across Alan Moore's precious and finite tome of  comic book literature is bordering on sacrilege and is definitely a money grab (and I ain't mad at them...we are all trying to get paid one way or another)...but why are they willing to pull out all the stops for a work that really didn't need to say anything else but strip the other of its essence to the point of it being unrecognizable. I know that there is seemingly a huge gulf between the characters of WATCHMEN and STATIC SHOCK but the way I see it...the problems that came to the surface during the Static Shock run will never have the chance to occur with BEFORE WATCHMEN. I guarantee that. If someone tries to go rogue on these WATCHMEN titles and mess up DC's money...their asses will get fired with a quickness. The obvious question here is why didn't that happen when STATIC SHOCK started to unravel? Better yet, since DC is exploding with new sales campaigns and revamps...where is our high powered reboot of the Milestone Comics Line? Is the Dynamic Duo of Dan Didio and Jim Lee planning a sneak attack with HARDWARE 2012? An new and edgier BLOOD SYNDICATE or a mind blowing mythic treatment of ICON? These characters are also viable and have cult followings as well...why not? Because Static Shock and MR. TERRIFIC didn't succeed in the NEW DC 52 roll out. You see ultimately STATIC SHOCK was the "fall guy". It's failure to succeed will be the blanket reason why none of the other MILESTONE characters will succeed either. This is some deep psychological voodoo but you better believe it. BATWING is only hanging around because of his connection to BATMAN. Here's another thought that crosses my brain, so many comic books starring black characters have often been left to white writers and artists to delineate. This is a perfect opportunity for DC Comics to hire some minority and female talent to display their commitment to diversity and broadening their horizons as a company. If John Rozum and company don't prove effective on a title like STATIC SHOCK...maybe that means pushing the envelope a little and letting a black writer and artist apply their sensibilities to the book. I know that I don't have to tell any of you that I could write an entertaining STATIC SHOCK...I also don't have to tell you that I could probably find a banging black artist to assist me in illustrating the book. There's JJ Kirby, Keiron Grant, Sanford Green, Lesean Thomas, Dawud Anyabwile, and Mshindo Kuumba just to name a few. But this never seems to be an option they are willing to explore. I mean...they could have asked Denys Cowan and Larry Stroman to pitch in and get these characters jump started in the memory of Dwayne Mcduffie and for the new initiative but something that progressive only occurs to outsiders looking in. Some fanboys reading this will scream at the top of their lungs..."WHY DOES COLOR MATTER AND WHY IS IT SUCH AN ISSUE FOR YOU?"  And I say to you...because of shit like this. Back in the early nineties when hip hop kids were sporting CROSS COLORS and their MALCOLM X hats...there was a slogan being bandied about on t-shirts that read "IT'S A BLACK THANG...YOU WOULDN'T UNDERSTAND." I hated that slogan because a lot of my white friends used to go ballistic over that shit and ask me over and over again what it meant. Deep down I knew what it meant but I never wanted to address it because it's a very strong statement and of course it doesn't apply to everyone. Oddly enough, I don't think the comic book industry (which I imagine is predominantly Caucasian), nor the white fans out there really see why something like this is a huge deal for a black writer, reader and fan like me. I want desperately for us all to get along and sing "kumbaya" together as we all walk off into the sunset...I really do. But I also want to read a great STATIC SHOCK Comic Book. I also want to see myself or a Christopher Priest writing characters like LUKE CAGE or BLACK PANTHER and for once getting the chance to refract their imaginary exploits through our lenses so it can be seen if there's a difference or not in the execution. It seems like from where I'm sitting that DC never wanted STATIC SHOCK to succeed because of what they allowed to transpire in it's editorial offices. I wonder if Mcduffie had lived to see the NEW DC 52 would they have been any more cordial to him and his creations? To any and everybody out there who's interested in the literary civil rights movement of black superheroes and comics period (fanboys and girls of every color) please reach out and support the indie books you see with characters of color. Black Creators...keep writing and drawing your own superheroes in the hopes that one day we will puncture a hole in the market with our own creations and turn the tables on the game currently being played. It's a hard knock life for Black Superheroes. RANT OVER...for now. Stay up!

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4 Comments:

Blogger DonWeezy said...

I am with you, B. Static was a sad waste. Sadly sometimes it really is a simple as "Its a black thing... and you wouldn't understand"

February 4, 2012 at 5:29 PM  
Blogger Geoff Thorne said...

Thanks Mr. Williams. Sometimes I feel like I'm all alone on some of this stuff.

February 4, 2012 at 6:11 PM  
Blogger Beyond The Political Spectrum said...

Milestone could have been better than it was had it had the support!

February 25, 2012 at 11:14 AM  
Blogger ThaFlyestMoor72 said...

Right On Brother, I'm really feeling this article, I myself write so I feel the passion that you wrote this with.

June 1, 2012 at 10:50 AM  

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