Wednesday, December 16, 2015

FLIPPING THE SCRIPT: DIVERSITY FOR THAT AZZ! OR IS IT?

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"....at 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 dream...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 push...black 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

www.ravenhammercomics.com
search lucius hammer on Facebook/ search the harlem shadow on Facebook




These books and cards can be found at www.comicfleamarket.com

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2 Comments:

Blogger Derron Flood said...

brilliant blog...

December 17, 2015 at 10:20 AM  
Blogger Derron Flood said...

brilliant blog...

December 17, 2015 at 10:20 AM  

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