Black Future Month ’10

February 27th, 2010 by | Tags: , , , ,

The end of Black Future Month is a point in time where “black comics” don’t exist. Comics by, for, or about black people exist in this theoretical future, of course, but they aren’t black comics. They’re just comics. They aren’t set apart from their brethren because they happen to star a black dude or is set in the hood. But, let’s put all that pie in the sky Kumbaya business to the side and talk about the here and now.

For a while, I was trying to keep up with every black character in mainstream comics. After a few months of reading about Bishop try to murder a toddler, DC Comics screwing over Dwayne McDuffie, John Stewart not appearing ever, and Cyborg being stuck in Teen Titans Hell, I was officially burnt out.

I was suddenly faced with a dilemma, though. When it comes to mainstream books and black people, you’re generally gonna be SOL. At the same time, I’d carved out this niche as a “race blogger.” I felt like I was supposed to be paying attention to all these characters. That’s the conscious thing to do, right? No. Absolutely not.

Here is the thing. If you’re supporting black comics by purchasing books from Marvel or DC, you’re not supporting black comics at all. They do what they do, and sometimes they do it well, but they are targeted at one very specific audience. Tom Brevoort has owned up to this in a refreshingly frank blog post. If it doesn’t make dollars, Marvel and DC will not do it. If it does make dollars, Marvel and DC will definitely do it, no matter the consequences. Don’t believe me? Ask Dan Didio about Milestone sometime.

I don’t say this out of malice or as an insult (well it is almost definitely an insult, but play along with me here)- Marvel and DC are businesses, and businesses are in the business of making the most amount of money with the least amount of risk. Branching out from that core audience, the audience that largely pays their bills, brings with it a certain amount of risk. Big Two fans are notoriously conservative, with new story developments often being met with suspicion, cynicism, impatience, and sometimes even outright hatred.

So, here is a basic fact: you cannot support black comics just by purchasing books from Marvel and DC. If you want to support black comics, actual black comics, you need to shift your focus from the characters and the ridiculous idea of company loyalty to the most important part of any comic: the creators. Characters are secondary at best. Creators are the engine that make the car go and they deserve more attention than they get.

Pay attention to black creators. You need to be checking for Dwayne McDuffie, Kyle Baker, Daimon Scott, Jeremy Love, Khari Evans, Jay Potts, Brandon Thomas, LeSean Thomas, Doc Bright, Julian Lytle, Ron Wimberly, Denys Cowan, and Trevor Von Eeden. Look up black webcomics and graphic novels. You need to get on Google and look up the people who actually make the comics. You need to buy the Milestone reprints, the Bayou trade, get the Brotherman trade paperback, and read some Keith Knight. Pick up things like Nat Turner or buy works that black people had a hand in.

Adjust your point of view. Supporting black comics means listening to black voices. Where before we had to live with what we were given, no matter the quality, it’s 2010 now. Over the past few months, I learned that if you want black comics, you can find them. Creators can go straight to the web now, publishing their books with a minimum of financial investment and bringing the good stuff directly to the people. “Breaking into comics” has less to do with hoping Marvel and DC look your way and more to do with simply doing it for yourself these days. And that’s a good thing.

I did a lot of reading for research for the pieces this month. Being a part of the Glyph Comics Awards helped in part because it exposed me to brand new works. I’d like to thank everybody who suggested black creators or books to check out– that was super helpful. I couldn’t write about everything I read, but I’d like to think that just knowing it existed informed my writings over the last month.

Change the way you approach black comics. It’s 2010. We should be off holding characters in higher regard than the people who make the stories run.

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4 comments to “Black Future Month ’10”

  1. Point well made!
    Thanks for Black Future Month!

  2. I’d like to see a feature on comics worldwide – For example, what are Arabic comics like? Are Algerian comics a blend of Arabic and French influences? I have a cousin who’s working as a translator in Indonesia. Before he left, he offered to send me some local comics. I keep forgetting to take him up on the offer, maybe I should.

    I wanted to mention something in another post of yours. Things haven’t just gotten better for blacks in comics, they’ve gotten better for just about every group. Something like American Born Chinese couldn’t have existed a couple decades ago. Even in mainstream comics this is true. Look at the story of the Thing. In the 60s, Kirby couldn’t even come right out and say that his creation was like him, a Jew – and yeah, it could be said that these days, Ben’s Judaism is nothing more than lip service, I still think it’s a fitting tribute to the King that they finally said it at all.

  3. Another great series of articles. I hope you won’t mind if I quote some of these for my college radio show today. We’re doing a marathon as a send off for Black History Month, and I think these would help add an interesting commentary on BHM.

  4. “Change the way you approach black comics. It’s 2010. We should be off holding characters in higher regard than the people who make the stories run.”

    Seriously. Maybe fandom should go a step further and apply this to all comic creators? I can understand character loyalty up to a point, but still…

    @Lugh: Bought a book a while back called, “The Essential Guide to World Comics,” by Tim Pilcher and Brad Brooks. It talks about comics from all over the world, including Korea, France, Argentina, Italy, South Africa, India… I haven’t read it all yet, but I think it covers every continent. If you ever spot it at a store, maybe give it a flip-through, you might like what you see. 8)