Saturday, January 25, 2014

DON'T KILL MY VIBE or COPY MY SHIT!!!

This is going to be an odd rant about being original. Recently I was confronted with a dilemma. I have a fellow author who is also a great friend who decided he was going to write a comic book about a 70's style superhero with an afro. The book itself would be very tongue in cheek and done with the usual blaxploitation punchlines we see in books like Black Dynamite or Afrodisiac (both very respectable and well written comic books I might add) and I took exception to it. Lucius Hammer has been my brainchild since 2009 some time and has been an extreme labor of love that has taken me to great heights and depths (as only the greatest of endeavors can)...Lucius Hammer started out being an intense over the top parody of Luke Cage, Hero for Hire. I originally envisioned something that would have been a cross between "I'm gonna git u Sucka" and "Archer". After writing several pimptastic short stories about my new "old-school" superhero, I started to realize that I was perpetuating every stereotype I had ever cringed at. I immediately shifted directions and by the grace of God was led to create something more substantial. Something different. Something that had truly never existed before. During this period of creation, this good friend of mine was busy writing and crafting his own universe of cosmic gods and alien empires. The book he created was fairly successful and earned kudos here and there online over the past few years but recently he decided to step into my realm...the lair of the seventies retro-black superhero. I was immediately outraged and let him know right away that I thought he was "biting" and for those of you who don't recognize that terminology...it basically means " dude...you copied that idea or concept from me." My thinking was...of all the genres and story choices out there, why would this friend of mine choose to do something that wasn't an exact duplicate of what I'm attempting with Lucius Hammer...but at the time I felt it was close enough. I was severely irritated...especially when he tried to tell me over the phone that it was an original idea and that he had not been influenced by anyone to write it other than his own internal muses. Was it possible that a person that I discuss all my ideas with, been to conventions with and broke bread with for years had not been paying attention to my stories and characters? To say that he was not influenced by Lucius Hammer in any way was a slap to the face as his friend and fellow creator and I told him so. His idea, while I felt it was vastly inferior, still made me feel like...damn, for real though? I am already battling the average Seventies-Afro-Trope Comics that exist out there and now my boy is trying to launch something similar. Good thing about me though...I am tremendously confident in my writing and my creativity. I am also above petty nonsense. After a few days of tension between myself and this gentleman, I reached out and apologized for accusing my dude of "biting". Not because I was wrong necessarily. I still think there is a code of honor between writers and creators...an unspoken code that basically rolls like this..." if I come up with a novel or comic book about a futuristic cyborg bunny rabbit that crash lands in New Jersey and becomes a cigar chomping private mercenary in this time continuum" I should be able to count on the fact that someone close to me or in my camp is not going to try and publish a book about a "cyborg koala bear who smokes Kool cigarettes and lives in Detroit". You get what I'm saying and if you don't...just know that whenever I sit down to write a story, I make sure it's the exact opposite of what my peers are doing. At the end of the day, I want to give folks something they have never had before. So I most certainly don't want to bite anything from anyone...the question I began to ask myself though is "Don't we all bite off of each other and various influences to some degree every day?"

I mean one could say that I am simply replicating Luke Cage with my self published indie darling, Lucius Hammer. In my mind, I tell myself that Lucius Hammer is what I would write if Marvel let me go "ham" on Luke Cage. Nonetheless, I still culled inspiration from another man's idea. It doesn't mean I am any less creative nor does it mean the original influence is diminished in any way. Ideas are universal though...and these concepts, these paradigms...these stories we keep telling over and over again about heroes, vampires, lovers, aliens, mobsters, boxers...etc etc are all part of our collective pop culture experience and us creators find thrilling and compelling ways to re-package them every day. It's what we do. We bite. We re-invent. We re-package. We re-tell. I have been approached ceaselessly about The Harlem Shadow. Most accusers that get in my face about The Harlem Shadow's name being so close to Walter Gibson's The Shadow have not even read my book or they would recognize off the rip that I am paying loving homage to not only The Shadow but The Spirit, Bat Man, Dick Tracy and Dr. Strange. What's funny is that I bet all of those characters were in some way influenced by The Shadow. I make no apologies for the name of this character though. It's perfect... and I believe if the character is of quality it will stand the test of time and stand proudly on the shelf right next to The Shadow.

There are a lot of you out there who are involved in the creation, publication and dissemination of black comics. I see you guys almost everyday on facebook and thrill to your exuberance and passion that you display on the daily by creating  black comics. Vince White, the creator of Will Power (an enjoyable comic book that puts you in the mind of Kirkman's Invincible) posted an incident the other day that could be seen as "biting". To make a long story short, Will Power, a comic book that has been in publication for at least the past three years, has a "Fist" logo on his character's uniform. A new creator who is about to drop some new hot shit on the indie market has what appears to be a very similar logo. I carefully read the responses of a lot of creators. I was astounded by the shit some people were saying. One person in particular said that he didn't think the logos appeared similar in any way. I thought with the exception of a few differences in graphic design...the logo was very similar. I sympathize with Vince and I was initially inclined to take his side in this debate over the logos. Vince went to this other creator and politely asked him to change the logo. It remains to be seen whether or not this person will cooperate, but it occurred to me later that what if this other creator had developed this logo awhile ago...maybe in high school or college? A balled fist is a fairly universal symbol...I had remarked to Vince that Lucius Hammer had once sported a Black Power Fist on his belt buckle before we appropriated the Hammer buckle. If this person doesn't change his logo...will it diminish what Vince has accomplished as the independent publisher of Will Power? All of these questions can be solved very easily...even my momentary anger over my boy and his 70's homage hero. We cannot contain creativity nor can we escape our own influence. We all are searching for the same thrills and all of us who have a horse in the race have been influenced by the same comics, tv shows and cartoons. There is bound to be some overlap...there is bound to be some crossover. Some people will lay awake at night worried about this type shit. I used to be like that. But the fact that other people have similar ideas just drives me even harder to bring out that next dope idea that makes people say...." Damn...this cat Brian Williams on some a that ol' next shit!!!". I don't want to make it sound like Vince shouldn't be miffed at this perceived bite, but it's part of the game. And I'm willing to bet that even though the logos are similar, both products can still thrive. My answer to biters is just to keep coming out with new, dope ass concepts that are not easily duplicated.

To my great friend Gerald Cooper (The creator of Genecy and owner of Invision Comics) I love what you do and I look forward to anything you write brother. Let's keep building our house of ideas.

Much love to all my fellow creators out here...let's flip the damn script in 2014.

Black Superheroes Exist.

     

4 Comments:

Blogger Orlando Craig said...

I want to join your comic creative group.

January 26, 2014 at 2:59 AM  
Blogger BWilliams said...

lol...ok, who is this?

January 26, 2014 at 6:36 AM  
Blogger BWilliams said...

Ah! Orlando!

January 26, 2014 at 6:37 AM  
Blogger BWilliams said...

submit your work to www.ravenhammercomics.com and we will evaluate your portfolio and we will let you know my brotha.

January 26, 2014 at 6:38 AM  

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