Writer Up: Black Creators and Comic Book Writing


Disclaimer

I would like to start by saying I bear no ill will toward any independent creators, black or otherwise. Along the course of this article, some may assume I have the ‘crabs in a barrel’ mentality, but that is the furthest from the truth. My only wish is to see my fellow creators succeed and tell the stories that need to be told.

 

Building a Better Brand

     Comic book companies, such as Marvel and DC hire up incoming talent to write monthly books, which allows them to churn out a decent living by doing what they love. I’m not going to talk about why no people of color write for either company, but I will pose the question, why can’t they, people of color, have a piece of the pie? Besides them having larger marketing machines, they have familiar stories, and characters so beloved, that fans of the old stories end up becoming writers of the new ones. Despite the tales being similar, they assure that the same fun had in the past by most fans is enjoyed in the present. So what can the independent creator of color do to even things out, how can we possibly compete with 75-60 years of familiar storytelling? The answer is telling better stories, and no matter how good an idea you have, everything is in the way you share it. As with all groups, the world tends to associate black people with certain behavioral patterns, and those associations begin to stick over time. There are a number of good black writers, but a number of other would be writers who have great ideas, but poor delivery. This coupled with mediocre art, in some cases land black comics in the dark corners of local shops, if at all. If we want top shelf visibility, you need to produce top shelf quality and though the color of your skin shouldn’t matter as far as the product goes, it does.

Buying Black Because…

Buying black is the practice of purchasing goods and services from people of color because; the consumer is a person of color. While a great show of solidarity, a problem emerges when the producers of products take their consumers for granted and expect them to buy anything, regardless of quality. If a creator expects anyone to spend their hard-earned money on a comic then it is that creator’s job to show their best work. I don’t want to spend 2.99-3.50 on a story riddled with exposition and poor character development. Black creators have it especially hard because no one expects us to have literary ability, we don’t benefit by proving the stereotype right. The difference between our counter parts and us is, unless we’re stellar, our work is considered bad, they’re mediocre work can convince readers to buy another issue. What’s worse is that our penchant for creating stories and characters, which resonate with us often gives the comic book buying majority an excuse to dismiss our work as stereotypical or culturally alien. When other black people refuse to buy black they are usually said to be self-hating or unsupportive, which can be true sometimes but other times we’re not humble enough to smell what we’re shoveling.


We’re Not Crabs, We’re People

Sometimes people say or do things to undermine our progress. As black people we’ve gone through this in and outside of our community for many years, but we can’t always be the victim and in some instances must shoulder blame. No one who is black, white or otherwise deserves anything. We sometimes think that the world owes us something because of how our people were treated, but the universe is indifferent in most matters and everything has to be earned. I learned this first hand when veteran writer, Karl Bollers tore one of my scripts to shreds. It was the first time it had happened, and I couldn’t be more thankful that it did. A pat on the back is nice, but can lead to a false sense of accomplishment and stroke the ego. This bolstered pride can make a creator resistant to constructive criticism regardless of the source. Saying that people do not ‘hate’ on the dreams of others would be a bold lie, however that can’t always be true. If someone who has more experience in a particular field than you do offers advice, listen to them. There’s a reason we take writing classes in college and it’s not to pass the time, writing is a craft that must be studied, tested and honed. If a veteran writer reads your work and tells you, it could be tighter, test the observation and look at your story. When you’re writing, things make sense to you the writer, but the rest of the world isn’t behind your eyes, and they can be left confused. A good idea is worthless if it’s not conveyed properly and remember; you’re writing isn’t just a critique on you, but every other black comic writer out there. Read a book on writing, take a class, remember that all characters need an arc, and to show not tell. Take it from me, it’s better to learn your mistakes now and correct them, than to make a habit of it later. Lastly, having an editor is always a good thing, especially if they’re a writer themselves.

Haste Makes Waste

One of the most important things I’ve learned in my experience as a comic writer is, take your time. Black folks are a show me people, whether it be money, clothing or cars we always have to look like we’re about it. However, when it comes to writing, everything you do should be drafted and redrafted. Something’s make sense years after you think about them; others seem like the stupidest idea in the world once you give them some thought. Take my first published comic “The Hierophants”, I wanted it out so bad, to prove to myself that I was a writer, the main character’s first name wasn’t even mentioned in the issue. Looking back at it, I shudder to think that I was so oblivious of my own mistakes, but I was, and I’ve learned from them making me a better writer all around. There is no shame in taking your time and reviewing your work, because though quick release maybe satisfying in the short-term, it’s often hollow in the long run.

 


The Race Yet to Run

While many of us are still finding our way in the world of comic book writing, trying make a dollar out of fifteen cents, we need to make sure we’re above-board. We know we have to work three times as hard and twice as long to get anywhere near the other half. I won’t say we should beg for jobs, but I will say we need to give them some competition. I believe we can do it with a little care and a standard, one we create, by which our work can be judged.

Review: Virgin Wolf #1 Or Who’s Afraid?

Previously…
Some time ago, I reviewed One Nation # 1, a comic written by Jason Reeves and Alverne Ball. It’s a book I think everyone should read and it introduced me to the undiscovered talent Ball possessed. I later learned that he was working on a solo series called Virgin Wolf and figured it’d make a great follow-up to ON.
 

Situation

The story opens with our main character, Virgin, making her way through a hive of scum and villainy. Here, she has a sword to heart talk with the guards of a notorious noble, who is spending some ‘quality time’ with a woman of the evening.  Of course the noble, named Louie ‘The loon’ Granville, doesn’t take too kindly to this interruption, and responds by transforming into a werewolf before attacking Virgin. Unshaken by this, our heroine confronts him head on, effectively removing his (head) from his shoulders during their exchange. What follows is a manhunt, for his killer and reveals Virgin’s quest for vengeance. 


Story

While not a fan of medieval setting, I do like the fact that Ball used the common misconceptions of women in that era to Virgin’s advantage. In the eyes of any man, a woman would be incapable of hurting anyone let alone killing Louie, allowing her to get away with it. Virgin however, proves that she is a forced to be reckoned with, conjuring images of Frank Miller’s Electra in her prime. We’re also introduced to the son of the area’s duke, who while still unnamed, seems like he’ll have a bit of emotional depth to him. The brief exchanges with his father are enough to paint a sympathetic portrait of a young man hungry for admiration. It’s also interesting that the roles in the comic, at least in my eyes seem to be a bit reversed. Virgin is the take no prisoners bad ass and the duke’s son is compassionate, uncommon for something from this time period. My only problem is that I feel that more could have been done in this issue. The ending could’ve had more impact and the reason for Virgin’s crusade could’ve been made clearer.


Pictures

Max Bartomucci’s pencil’s and inks add something of a rustic look to the piece. It’s exactly how I imagine medieval France should look and feel like. The bar at the beginning of the story looks unsanitary in an authentic way. Adriana De Los Santos’ coloring is a great compliment to the illustrations. They are vivid when they need to be, like in the case of Virgin’s golden hair and subdued like in the brick work of the buildings.

The Real

This was a great showing from writer Alverne Ball and his creative team. The villains were despicable, the heroes likable, and the action was fast paced. I look forward to seeing more of this series and more from its writer. You can find Virgin Wolf # 1 on: ariondmg.com

Rating 4.5/5

Maxwell’s Mini Reviews: Chained Gun Vol. 1

I recently got around to reading Chained Gun Vol.1, a graphic novel created by Donny Morris and published by LGM books. Upon first glance, CG didn’t look spectacular, but then again most gems don’t. Chained Gun tells the story of Gallie “The Gun” a freed slave living in the American West. Our hero was raised by a mysterious man along with other orphan’s who were experimented on for the purpose of evolution. He and two of his adopted siblings escape, then join the union army during the civil war. They gain fame as great warriors, but Donovan Taft, one of the trio, betrays their allies,killing their whole platoon save for Gallie and his bother Ghost Hawk. Gallie, who stands accused of the crime, must now fight to clear his name and finally gain his freedom.
 

Hits:
 + The art perfectly sets the tone of the world.
 + Gallie’s character is cool and sympathetic.    
 + Adalina is a strong female character.
 + Story compels and engages 

Misses:

  Art is at times inconsistent and hard to follow.
Donovan’s betrayal is never explained. 

Rating: 4/5

 You can purchase Chained Gun Vol 1 on Amazon.com

Preview: Askari Hodari

Writer: Glenn Brewer

Artist: Glenn Brewer

Publisher: Glenn Brewer

Askari Hodari is the story of three men fighting crime, poverty, and inequality in the fictional city of New Buscoll.   For years, the underworld of New Buscoll was run by the Giovanni crime family.  The drug trade flourished.  Violent crimes and poverty plagued the city until the arrival of Dietrick Romellus and the Askari Hodari.  Dietrick resurrected the organization that his father began and set out to rid New Buscoll of the Giovanni’s.  Armed with high tech armor, ammunition and veiled in anonymity, the three men began to chip away at the Giovanni Empire.  

  
 

Harlem Shadow # 2 Review Or A Hell up in Harlem


Previously…

Some time ago, I came across Raven Hammer Comics in my search for indie black books. Created by writer Brian Williams, Raven Hammer published three original comics, and the most appealing of the trio was the Harlem Shadow. I bought the first issue to see if it was as cool on the inside as it was on outside, and when issue two came out I had no choice but to buy that too.

 

Situation

This issue features two short stories.  The first sees our eponymous hero paying a visit to a local dive, where he has a fist to face or belt to ass conversation with Willie Bourbon. Willie is the abusive husband of Giselle, who happens to be a friend of the Harlem Shadow’s. He (Willie) is also an employee of ‘Bossman’ who seems to run most of Harlem’s criminal underworld, setting the stage for a larger story. The second tale goes inside reporter Nigel Shaw’s attempt to build the Shadow’s publicity, and sell his boss Walter Rhodes on the idea. They plan to use the Midnight Sun, the paper Rhodes owns, to target the various organized crime figures in Harlem. All the while letting the world know that black people now have a superhero of their own, to fight their battles, as the first knight in the kingdom of Harlem. 


Story

This issue shows that Williams has a command of both storytelling and mythos building. The story feels like a classic pulp novel but with modern-day comic book trappings, giving the sense that something big is building. The Harlem Shadow continues to epitomize the cool that was the Harlem Renaissance, dispensing justice with style and an unmistakably black flare. How he deals with Willie Bourbon is especially fun to watch considering the man’s crimes. We’re also introduced to villains like Sweet Tooth, a homicidal pimp, and Maggot Brain an undead gangster bring to mind the rouges gallery of another dark knight. If a hero is only as good as his villains, I’ve got a feeling that HS will be one bad ass mutha.
 

 

Pictures

The inks and lines of Rodolfo Buscaglia perfectly encapsulate the noir cool of the book. From action scene to conversation, I feel like I am in 1920’s Harlem. His strong art style brings definition and not only captures the pulp genre but the renaissance itself. Usually I would prefer a book to be in color, however, anything but black and white would have compromised the feel of this work, so I’m glad Williams and Buscaglia went with it.

The Real

The Harlem Shadow is one of the few black comics I’ve read that does African-American vigilante well. There isn’t a hint of stereotype in this book, and while that could be due to the time period, I think it may also lie in Williams’ ability to tell a story without cliché. Whatever the reason Raven Hammer is doing a great job of building a world, and with a cartoon for HS in the works I hope we’ll be seeing more soon. You can buy the Harlem Shadow on: Amazon.com orRaven Hammer Comics
Rating 5/5

 

Maxwell’s Mini Review: Battle Masterz # 1

 
Over the weekend, I got around to looking for little known, but impressive looking black creator owned comics. In my search, I happened upon Battle Masterz, created by Antuan, Sha, and Roland Broussard. BM is the story of Rymz. A man gifted with the lyrical prowess of Rakim, and the reality altering abilities of Scarlet Witch. These gifts put him on the radar of Plague, a secret organization with bad intentions. Our hero is assisted in his evasion of Plague by Delilah, a cabbie who is as beautiful as she is deadly. This femme fatale is tasked with aiding our boy into the near future.

The book looks incredible. The art done by, Ivan Anaya, Katrina Alberto, and Sherwin Santiago harkens back to the golden days of Capcom. The writing does the same, unfortunately Capcom was never known for storytelling . The vignettes that make up the book are a bit jarring and towards the end, they’re just plain confusing. It’s a case of beautiful art hampered by writing. The idea of hip hop as a weapon and a means to change the world for the better is a good idea. However, the overall delivery was hurt by the message, and ultimately the book. You can buy this book at Battlemasterz.com
Rating: 2.5/5

Re-Maxed Review: One Nation # 1 Or All You Can Be, Too

Previously…

A while back, I reviewed One Nation #1, a comic created by Jason Reeves and John Ruben Milton for the company 133art. The story was penned by Virgin Wolf scribe Alverne Ball , and turned out to be one of the best comics I’ve ever read. When I learned the book was being re-released on Comixology, I figured I’d give it a more professional read through; and see if it still held up. 


Situation

Deacon is a young military man stationed in Kuwait circa 1991. He also has a secret and it’s not the one that the current president repealed, but something that would be taboo even today. When his platoon is pinned in a fire fight, Deacon reveals his gifts in the form of, super strength, speed and agility. With these, he tears through insurgents and almost single-handedly wins the war. When the U.S. government and its shadow cabinet rulers get wind of his activities, they decide to make him a hero. Press conferences, congressional medals and the name “Paragon” are perks that come with being the United States’ first superhero. But Deacon will soon learn not all that glitters is gold and that he is not the only one of his kind.

Story

Alverne Ball is one of the best undiscovered talents I’ve had the pleasure of reading, and I say that in all seriousness. His captions, which are both emotional and informative without being expositional nightmares, do a great job endearing us to the character. The dialogue defines the character relationships, investing the reader in them, and though Deacon’s origin is similar to a certain blue boy scout, it doesn’t feel like a carbon copy. Reeves, Ball and Milton have not created an analog like so many others. What they have done is crafted a character with a sense of familiarity and individuality, using the best parts of classic comic mythos and making it their own. 


Pictures

Jason Reeve’s penciling style tells this story so well. His angular yet full faces do a lot to make the characters feel like living, breathing humans. His ability to illustrate landscapes is something I missed on my first read, but whether it was the rolling fields of Louisiana, or the dust blown battle grounds in Kuwait, it set a wonderful tone. Colorist Luis Guerrero’s ability to accentuate the dull lifelessness of blown out cities, or the calm of back country roads is a visual delight, and this art team is another reason this indie book has professional written all over it.

The Real

I am still in love with this book and I see it as a standard-bearer for independent black comics. I think everyone should be reading this, supporting its creators and maybe taking notes. I am definitely looking forward to the second issue because, my friends, this is how universes are born. You can buy One Nation at the following, 133comics,Comixology, Amazon and Pulp free publishing

Preview: Trainwrecked #1


Written By: Lonnie Lowe Jr.

 Artwork By : Wolly McNair
Publisher: Dark City Comics
                       
Trainwrecked!! A teaser of what’s to come in the Dark City Comics Universe as our heroes Alloy and Torque are pitted against a powerful force unlike anything they’ve ever seen. Alloy and Torque is set to be a nonstop, action packed series of true heroism and self discovery