Reading rainbows.

You’ve done your research. You’ve stepped outside of your box to write a story about a character that is of a different gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, or ethnicity from your own. You’ve spoken to people, visited ethnic enclaves, and read religious texts. And you’ve created an entertaining story that you feel has represented all of the interesting segments of your character’s life well. And you’re swelling with pride as your graphic novel hits the stands.

And then the complaints start. Some fans think you’ve attempted to ridicule their culture with the character’s comments. Some fans think you’ve exploited their race with your homage to certain tropes. Some fans think you’ve painted their gender and sexual orientation in a bad light due to how you’ve chosen to depict the character’s romantic relationships.

You’re nervous. You might be used to fans bitching about ridiculous stuff such as how Superman’s logo should be drawn or how long it should take Wolverine to heal after being set on fire, but complaints about how characters of a certain race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, or gender are depicted are serious. No one wants the difficult-to-shake reputation of being labeled a misogynist, racist, or homophobe. No one wants to offend when such important and inflammatory social attributes are involved. I think that people are so afraid of offending that they are actually afraid to create. They are fearful of stepping outside of the box. That’s disheartening. Sadly, there are no easy answers. You have to find a balance between accepting criticism from others and having confidence in your own work. After all, sometimes those complaints will not be valid—and sometimes you will have truly done something that was inadvertently offensive and harmful. Decisions will have to be made.

I wish an easy answer existed because I struggle with this myself. Do I avoid creating characters with certain attributes because they might be considered racial stereotypes—even though those characters are based on actual people in my life who possess those very same attributes? Am I reinforcing stereotypes or lampooning certain cultures just by sharing my own personal experiences? I don’t know. I’ve come to the decision that I should simply create what is in my heart and be willing to listen with an open mind once those creations have been shared. Is that the right answer? Not at all. It’s just the right one for me.

Takeoff and two degrees.

I often joke that if there are six degrees of separation between the average white American and the average white American celebrity that there are only two between the average black American and the average black American celebrity. Sometimes merely one. Black Hollywood? Is very small.

Not only is Black Hollywood very small, but it is still young enough that some of our most famous celebrities come from very humble beginnings. We have yet to enjoy the widespread nepotism that has been a boon to children of white celebrities for multiple generations. Because of this, and because rap music is still so tied to general American youth culture, and because the roots of hip hop are still firmly situated in urban areas plagued by crime and poor infrastructure, a young and wildly famous black American rapper could find himself hobnobbing with criminals.

That is not to say that white celebrities are not fond of criminals—or are not criminals themselves! There are the mob-loving crooners of yesteryear and the abusive and/or drug-addled celebrities we know all too well today. But those associations are not borne from the structure of our bigoted society, they are deliberate choices made in how to structure one’s social life.

Takeoff’s death is an unnecessary tragedy, one that I am wary about discussing on a platform that has grown so belligerently anti-black as Twitter. But his murder needs to be acknowledged by his peers, by Black America, by his fans, by the people who cared for him deeply. After all, he was only two degrees away from us. And his life mattered to so many.

I say this regretfully, because the tight circle of Black Hollywood and Black America often allows the average black person to interact with celebrities they admire, but perhaps it is time to add another degree. Perhaps we as average citizens should not have that type of access to celebrities for the safety of those very celebrities who are so dear to us.

Though I agree with Sanders, black celebrities should not be cut off from having social lives. Nor should they have to avoid socializing with their communities—with the black people they are drawn to and grew alongside. But one can easily have a life bursting with black culture and black people without ever interacting with those who would cause them harm.

Security costs money. And given America’s gun obsession, there is no place in this country where one is guaranteed freedom from a bullet. However, the more expensive an area, the more security it will have, and the less likely one is to die from gun violence. There are nightlife regions that are black and upscale—fully reserved for those within a certain income bracket and known to be completely intolerant towards gun violence. I hate advocating for class separation, but it is only for one sphere of life (after-hours partying), and it would result in a safer experience for those celebrities. For everything else? We could be as one.   


My father deserved better. Not to say he was not loved deeply, unconditionally, and exquisitely by his wife, his family, and his Lord and Savior, but this earth is a harsh and haggard place for black boys and black men and my father had dreams of a better world than this one—for himself and his loved ones and for all of humanity. I know that better world has finally been provided to him—a world without suffering. A world of eternal peace. A man as great as David Eaton deserves no less.

But we who remain on this earth are now without the peace that he afforded us. My father was such a quiet man. A man of few words. Of stillness. But the best thing about my father was that sitting in silence with him was never uncomfortable. It was extraordinarily peaceful to be enveloped in his grace. My father had the skill to put people at ease, likely because he was so forgiving and so accepting of others as they were. Flawed but genuine. David Eaton did not hold a man’s mistakes against him. Instead he always chose to encourage without belittlement or shame. My father was the type of man who made you want to do better and achieve more simply because he believed in you. The strength of his conviction was that powerful.  

What is there to say about my father? He was extraordinarily bright. My father loved machines —cars in particular—and it seemed like he could fix anything if you gave him enough time to observe the problem. He was gifted when it came to repairing and healing—things and people.

Even though my father retired at 62, he never stopped “working.” He might not have punched a time clock, but before cancer consumed him he would rise early in the morning and start his routine. He would start by making breakfast for himself and my mother—eggs, bacon, hash browns, toast, and hot coffee—and would set aside a plate for Mom to have when she woke up an hour or two later. And then he would sit in his favorite easy chair and eat. And after a few moments of reflection, he would go outside and work until late afternoon. He would either tinker with his automobiles, or tend to the lawn, or fix any item that had broken the day before. There was always something that could use fixing or improving according to my father. He was not happy unless he was productive and showed his love often not through words, but through his actions. You knew he loved you because he provided for you. You knew he loved you because he built things for you.

My father was not flashy. My goodness, he would wear worn jeans and threadbare flannels and work boots nearly every day. He believed a man’s worth was not carried on his back or in his wallet but found in what he could produce with his hands. His labor.

My father was a hard-working man. 

My father was not prone to anger. I don’t think I’d ever heard my father truly raise his voice. And I’d never seen him raise his hand. And though he looked so much like my grandfather, my father carried my grandmother’s mannerisms. He exhibited her kindness, her gentleness, and her extreme loyalty. I love him still and he was a gift from God to me and to the Eaton family.

Bruised fruit is still sweet.

I exist because my grandfather escaped his intended lynching—an issue regarding alleged impropriety with a white woman—by about twenty minutes. He fled north, later meeting my grandmother. I had always assumed that my maternal grandparents, both native Georgians, met down south and moved to New York together. Apparently that was not the case.

However, this is not about me. I am not so egotistical to believe that I am the final step in some grand and intricate design of fate! But it is astounding to reflect on how such small moments have a monumental impact on families and societies and nations. It is not that I exist because my grandfather was able to escape a band of murderous terrorists—it is that so many exist. A whole tribe of people who draw breath because one man had the savvy and ingenuity to escape those determined to extinguish his.  

I’m impressed—and not surprised that I only learned of this in 2019. African Americans have the tendency to bury the pain and the injustices inflicted upon them to spare their children and grandchildren. Perhaps we feel that our offspring should be kept from the knowledge of such horrors. Even as an adult the awareness is nearly crippling, to know all of the ways the people who loved you suffered and to know that they will never see justice. Ever. It’s an anger that can break you. But what does not kill you makes you stronger. And what does not break you can nourish and sustain you—compel you to draw a line in the sand and ensure that it will never happen again. You destroy a people when you bury their history. You empower them when you uncover it.


Netflix’s new heartfelt romantic comedy Juanita is based off Sheila Williams’ Dancing on the Edge of the Roof: A Novel. The Juanita of the novel is 41. Alfre Woodard, the absolutely stellar actress who plays the lead character Juanita Lewis in the film, is 66. Woodard is wonderful, but in taking this role she has erased a particular black woman from a story that has long needed to be told.

“On the surface, ‘Juanita’ is a fantasy that gives its older black heroine permission to chase her happiness, whatever that may be (the narrative wonderfully portrays it simply as elsewhere). But even more than that, the film is a testament to how necessary and urgent it is for black women to embark on purely selfish adventures in order to rediscover themselves.”

Candice Frederick

The original Juanita is in her very early forties with three grown children and a grandchild that she cares for. And her age is important to the story conveyed. Because the Juanita of Dancing is a woman who did not get to enjoy a rebellious and adventurous adolescence and young adulthood because she was too busy fulfilling the obligations of being a mother. And now here she is at 41, the last of what she believes to be her youth and vibrancy slipping away, and she is stuck repeating her narrow, tiny life with her grandchild as she did with her children. That is what drives her to pick up and go. Somewhere. Anywhere. To be something other than what she has always been.

A Juanita in her early sixties who waited until she was well into her thirties to start having children—the Juanita that Woodard plays—would have had ample time to “live” in the space between her youth and her maternal obligations. And we are given no information on what Juanita did during that span of time and why it was not enough to satisfy her. And I believe that information is necessary. I think devoting more time to Juanita’s phobias regarding travel and open spaces and how it had limited her would have helped to make sense of these glaring gaps.

I enjoyed Juanita thoroughly, but the stretched timeline that went unaddressed became an elephant in the room over the course of the film. I would love to see more romances involving women in their forties and in their sixties that address the particular roles these women play in our society and culture. Altering the script of Juanita to address the particular concerns of Woodard’s generation instead of “playing it straight” from the novel would have improved an already semi-solid romantic comedy.

After Life: That’s enough.

I believe that there is a point during the grieving process when the individual who is grieving comes to the realization that if he continues to grieve as he has been grieving, he will die. This realization doesn’t put an end to one’s grief. This realization doesn’t even ensure that one will put a stop to existing destructive behavior. It is merely knowledge that one did not possess before. If I continue to carry this pain in this manner, my life will degrade to a point that it will cease. Am I okay with that?

Often? One is okay with it. One is not only okay with it but deeply angry at the length of the process—frustrated at the amount of time that stands in the way of reunification. Each morning is a nightmare one cannot wake up from. Life is a sentence with no reprieve. You must do your time. And there is so, so much time, each second of it nearly unbearable.

I cannot imagine how much more painful grief is to endure as an atheist. There is no comfort of an afterlife. But there is no fear of one as well. How are you driven to continue without the specter of Hell looming? How do you take comfort in the end of your loved one’s suffering if you believe nothing lies beyond the pain and agony of the body?

Our religious beliefs shape how we grieve. They dig deeper than the surface rituals of burial to show how we deal with absence—or if we consider there to be an absence at all. If you believe the ancestors are always with you and speak to you, then death is not a separation. It is merely a change of form.

I’ve been watching After Life on Netflix and it is a fascinating look at how one grieves when one has no fear. The lead, Tony, is white, male, straight, middle-aged, cisgender, and of an economic class that is comfortable. He is also an atheist, fairly recently widowed, and devastated by loss. The absolute emptiness and cessation of interest in life is spot on and so familiar. However, Tony’s behavior towards authority figures, those in the service industry, and his family and friends is abominable. Grief has not made him retreat from the world, but defiantly remain a part of it and abuse others so that they feel the pain he feels. As someone who belongs to multiple groups expected to put aside their own pain to serve others, the idea of inflicting that pain on others instead boggles the mind. What kind of person makes others hurt because they hurt?

At one point during the series, a nurse who cares for Tony’s ill father chastises Tony for his behavior and questions why he cannot adhere to basic social graces for the sake of getting along. Later on, Tony acquiesces and apologizes, but I can’t help but feel that had Tony not been born with certain privileges, he would have never considered rejecting the behaviors society expected from him in the first place. Because for Tony there are no repercussions for being—and I am using this term wholly in the British sense—a complete and utter cunt. 

Tony is cruel to his friends and cold towards his father. He openly ridicules his brother-in-law/employer. He threatens to terminate the job of the nurse who cares for his father. He smokes heroin! My God! Even in the deepest depths of grief and depression I managed to make sure my vehicle registration was up-to-date because I am that fearful of breaking the law. The fact that Tony is so cavalier about a much greater transgression shows that not only does he not care about himself, but he also has zero fear regarding the results of his actions and how they harm others in his community. It is not unusual in grief to stop caring about one’s life, and this is illustrated well in After Life. Tony does not care for his body—getting little food and sleep to sustain it. However, it is unusual to stop caring for others. Wanting to die doesn’t give you carte blanche to be mean to the waitress—unless you were raised to believe you never had to be nice to her in the first place if you didn’t feel like it (and that she was only lucky you felt like it for so long). That is privilege in action.

Is Tony irredeemable? God, no. He’s grieving. He’s in pain. And when pain gets to be too great, one retreats or attacks. The conditions of our birth coupled with our experiences push us towards one option or the other. Our religious beliefs determine how we engage with our selection. One who is a devout Muslim would likely not retreat into a bottle. A strict Catholic is wary of suicide. Tony, an atheist, has decided to attack—but merely with words. Does his atheism drive him to cherish and respect the physical existence of others more than most? Is that what stops him from engaging in the physical violence that he admits to his therapist that he fantasizes about? Heavy questions for a comedy, I’m certain, but so far After Life doesn’t seem afraid of tackling them. However, I doubt it will tackle one unspoken and painful reality of grief—that sometimes people do remain irrevocably broken. Tony will likely return to some semblance of the man his wife fell in love with, giving viewers an upbeat ending worthy of a sitcom. But like the privileges Tony enjoys, that is not always an option available to all.


The number 69 is a powerful force in our culture. There is of course the allusion to a known sexual act, but there is also the reference to the year 1969 and the monumental impact the events of that year had upon American history and entertainment. ’69 is Woodstock. ’69 is a man on the moon. America is fascinated with both ’69 and 69. And it is likely due to the strength in numbers and in power of the Boomer generation.

But what of the numbers that live in the shadow of 69? 68 is a number coyly referred to in rap lyrics—once again referencing a sexual act, but one that is one-sided in regards to participation. And if 69 is the number of mutual sexual satisfaction and the spark of a cultural revolution in America, what is 96?

96 is an ending as surely as 69 is a beginning. It is a severing of a bond, a turning of one’s back on another. It is a year belonging to “Generation Catalano,” a minuscule generation sandwiched between the plentiful Gen Xers and Millennials. ’96 is perhaps a moment of stagnation—a pregnant pause between the decimation of the Crack Era and the terrorist attack of September 11th that changed the trajectory of America. It is a strange and fascinating year that does not get the recognition it truly deserves. In some ways it is the beginning of the end.

Culturally, it is perhaps my favorite year. What 1969 was to rock, 1996 was to rap. The musical climaxes that took place within the two genres are clearly evident. And I’d argue that it was also an exciting time for comics, television, and film as well. And yet even though such great creative heights were reached, ’96 is not afforded the reverential treatment within our culture that ’69 enjoys.

I’d like to change that.

My pitch? ’96. The work would be an anthology set in the year 1996 and each story would illustrate the severing of a romantic bond. In addition, each story would take a popular song from ’96 as its thematic reference. Do I have song preferences? Well, I’m pretty flexible, but I’m taking the hard stance that “All That I Got Is You” and “Lovefoolmust be included. I think it’s a great idea for an anthology—one that likely sounds more somber during the current pitching process than it would be during its actual execution. For not all breakups are unhappy ones. And as we all know, 96 is only 4 steps away from keeping it 100.

Michael Cray, Wildstorm, and the 6.

Michael Cray

I have discussed the new Ellis-helmed Wildstorm line before and my concerns regarding an art direction that has veered so sharply from its predecessor. Gone are the cinematic layouts, unique fonts, lush colors, and perhaps overly rendered figures giving the work a three-dimensional pop. The art in early Wildstorm was busy and complicated and I truly miss it. It was representative of an eager creative class that wanted to make its mark on the world by bringing in new influences not shared by the men who came before them—a perfect blend of classic American cartooning and dynamic East Asian visual storytelling. A collection of men who cherished Neal Adams, Walt Disney, Ryouichi Ikegami, and John Woo.

But Wildstorm has had various maestros over the years and the art direction shifts to match their preferences. Jim Lee is no longer at the helm. Warren Ellis is.

I am frustrated…but also understanding? Today’s audiences do not have any nostalgic reverence for Wildstorm’s early incarnations. Given the line’s meager sales during the World’s End era, those early fans are long gone. And so Ellis leans on what he and his fans have nostalgic reverence for when selecting creative partners. The stamp of Watchmen is clearly evident in the first issue of The Wild Storm, as I have stated in other short pieces. And in his personal newsletters Ellis reminisces on the British illustrators of his youth and their impact on his creative partner Jon Davis-Hunt.

“From #7 to #12 we are to expect covers reminiscent of 1970s science fiction paperback covers, or basically, my father’s bookshelf when I was about six, naming the likes of Peter Elson, Jim Burns and Angus McKie.”

Warren Ellis

The new Wildstorm is wholly British now, in both its literary and visual expressions. I think the sweeping aside of the line’s Asian and Asian American roots does Wildstorm a great disservice—akin to a removal of Milestone’s African American foundation. And if you replace a publishing house’s cultural lynchpin, what remains? Can it really be a continuation of what came before?

Michael Cray interior page

And so enters Michael Cray to further cloud these murky waters. Ellis has tapped black creators Bryan Hill, N. Steven Harris, and Dexter Vines to work on the next Wildstorm series (along with Milestone founder Denys Cowan on covers). The series features a new iteration of Deathblow, now black and more intelligent and successful than his white predecessor. The work perhaps lampoons that fact in its early pages; we see Cray given a speech all too familiar to black children—Bryan Hill’s version of “twice as good for half as much.” The new Wildstorm universe will blame Michael Cray for more and give him less.

It is a bitterly hilarious comment on a black man’s place in the new Wildstorm, in the comics industry, and in American society. Hill is a black screenwriter, not a comics-industry alum, and is yet another instance of the mainstream’s preference for recruiting established black writers from other mediums for minor projects instead of allowing black comic writers to work their way through the ranks as scribes from other racial groups do. I also predict sales of this work will be a fraction of the original Deathblow series even though the creators involved are phenomenally talented and the character is already more intriguing than his alternate-reality predecessor. Twice as good for half as much.

I have questions! (I always have questions.) I have repeatedly praised Wildstorm and Milestone for their ability to successfully build truly multi-cultural publishing houses instead of using members of marginalized groups as “seasoning” for primarily white institutions. But are founders who are men of color necessary for that success? Can you create a multi-cultural line from a world envisioned and rebuilt by a British white man? Can fans put their trust in a new imprint when its first public act was to jettison its Asian artistic roots? I’m wary.

But let’s drill down. I have discussed the lionized nine-panel grid and its current prominence in the universes beneath the DC umbrella. I have noted how it is linked in the collective memory of the industry to European works. The number nine has significance, but I am a writer, not an artist. And so it eludes me. It is a mystery within the new Wildstorm universe (and DC as a whole) that my brain doggedly pursues. And it has been made worse with the addition of the six-panel grid repeated throughout Michael Cray. Six and nine.


Six-panel grids are as American as apple pie and their presence in a wholly black work for a line recreated by a British white man is odd, subversive, and delightful. What is it doing here?! What is the message being conveyed? I’m stumped.

Jughead #193 interior page

When I think of a six-panel grid I immediately think of Archie. I consumed Archie’s Double Digest at an absurd rate in my youth and the layout of the first page of Michael Cray instantly brought that comic to mind. And while the Archie line is currently a rainbow coalition of characters it was initially very straight, very Christian, and very white. So what in the world is this layout—known for its overwhelming presence in historical humorous comics for and about while children—doing in a work about a black assassin working within a technologically advanced dystopia? That is weird. And fascinating. For, Lord knows, blackness is as American as apple pie too, but America is loath to admit it. And so inserting blackness into American comics in this manner, reweaving it and us back into its cherished patterns, feels like the righting of a great wrong started long ago as the industry built itself upon racist black caricatures and chased black men such as Orrin C. Evans out of publishing.

But while Asian men such as Kevin Tsujihara and Jim Lee hold the highest positions one can achieve at both Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment, I cannot help but lament the lack of their presence at Wildstorm. And I do not think Wildstorm can be Wildstorm sans the presence of Asian men within the imprint’s new foundation.

Grand Theft Auto VI: Vice grip.

The Grand Theft Auto series prides itself on repetition more than innovation. It’s not known for bringing us new worlds and concepts, but brilliantly mimicking and skewering the ones we already live in. It’s no secret that I adore the series, but I also consider it to be flawed in lamentable ways. What would I like to see in Grand Theft Auto VI?

Character: I would love for the GTA series to buck the trend and provide us with a female lead. Have we seen an epic amount of grousing when someone floats the possibility? Yes! However, reactionary fans also heavily protested the introduction of the series’ first black lead as well—a move that did not harm the success of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas in the least. Given the rise of women in criminal organizations as madams, scammers, and drug mules it is only reasonable that a female character would eventually take point in a story arc. Moreover, we’ve already seen aggressive and powerful women such Elizabeta and Catalina as supporting characters.

And yet the truth is that the lead character of GTA VI will more than likely be male. Again, the series loves repetition, not only in its settings but its lead characters as well. Both Claude and Niko illustrate the plight of the bewildered transplant to the big city. CJ and Franklin are both young black men from West Coast ghettos on the fringes of gang life. With Michael we see the coda to Tommy Vercetti’s life—a career-criminal living comfortably off of his ill-gotten gains in a new world of excess and celebrity. Luis and Victor are family-oriented Dominican men trying their best to remain legitimate while their associates drag them further into the muck. And Johnny and Trevor are poorly adjusted individuals cast aside as “white trash” by mainstream society.

Which leaves us with Toni Cipriani. He is the only lead character of the Grand Theft Auto series that is without a counterpart. And I believe he will be given one in Grand Theft Auto VI. I predict the lead of the new series will be a man in his early thirties who—like Toni—is firmly entrenched as a low-ranking member in a criminal organization. However, I do not believe the mafia will be at play here, but a powerful cartel instead. Given what I expect the location of Grand Theft Auto VI to be, the lead will more than likely be a Caribbean Latino instead of white like Cipriani. But unlike Luis and Victor, the character will be able to pass for Mediterranean or southern European.

Location: And what of the location? I would prefer that the game be set in the American south in an ethnically and racially diverse city with extreme wealth disparity, gang activity, a thriving and lucrative entertainment industry, and both rural and urban architecture. I am personally biased towards Atlanta and would love to see a city that apes it called Meleager, but given Rockstar’s predictable habits the game will likely be set in the fictional Miami of Vice City. It’s a choice I certainly can’t find fault with. Miami has all the attributes and flaws of Atlanta with the addition of a beautiful beach landscape. It’s Atlanta with the added benefit of boat missions!

And yet given Rockstar’s penchant for repeating itself, we might get something even more wondrous than a return to Vice City—three cities in one. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas gave us Los Santos (Los Angeles), San Fierro (San Francisco), and Las Venturas (Las Vegas). Since that game gave us three western cities, would Rockstar be ambitious enough to provide us with three southern ones—Vice City (Miami), Meleager (Atlanta), and New Bougival (New Orleans)? Rockstar has never been content to rest on its laurels, which it would be doing by merely providing players with a chance to return to Liberty City and Los Santos. Graphics have not advanced enough for a return to those cities to seem fresh and exciting. And while tossing three cities that differ so wildly into one state requires too far a suspension of one’s belief, placing three cities in different states and using a fade-to-black cut scene while driving along the interstate or running through the woods is certainly feasible.

Oh, and more interiors, please! Safe houses! Nightclubs! Trap houses! Restaurants! Give players places to spend (or launder) all of that virtual money. And more importantly, give them places to rob to get more of it.

Theme: A satirical look at American culture, crime, and capitalism has always been the main focus of the Grand Theft Auto series. However, in 2017 the aggressively juvenile humor and “ironic” bigotry championed in Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto V is dull and dated. A more mature approach akin to Grand Theft Auto IV and Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City is required. Female characters and characters from marginalized groups weren’t reduced to one-note jokes but were carefully fleshed out. Ethnic subcultures were not lampooned but had their positive and negative aspects highlighted.

“Ironic” bigotry is useless when in the real world young American men glorify Nazis and protest the existence of feminism. It neither shocks one into realization nor pushes the envelope, but reinforces the hate already in existence. And depictions of sexuality in the series have been so repressed and mean-spirited one would think the jokes had been written by and for thirteen-year-old boys. Given that the series is at heart a crime drama, healthy depictions are not expected—but accurate ones are. For far too long Rockstar has leaned on stereotypes and dick jokes. I’d love to see a more sophisticated level of humor. And I’d love to once again see women as powerful and shrewd criminals instead of shrill idiots—especially if the criminal elements of the sex industry are to be highlighted (and they should be). When series such as The Witcher and Mass Effect—as far from “edgy” as one could possibly get—are more open about sexuality, there is clearly a problem. I also think Rockstar should give players the option of making the lead character straight, gay, bisexual, or asexual depending on which romanceable characters they decide to approach. It would not take much to add back the dating system from earlier incarnations.

Allies and Enemies: I want a dog. And yes, it is important enough to deserve its own section! Jokes aside, I would love to see a return of notable characters from Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Or if not a return, Easter eggs would be nice (for example, a brief mention of President Donald Love on the evening news).

Ignorance is bliss.

“There’s some people who they don’t even need to kick out because they’re never going to let them in the front door of the mainstream anyway.”

J. A. Micheline

“Nobody owes you a job.”

Standard Internet Response

After listening to the Ignorant Bliss podcast I participated in I just wanted to elaborate on a point that I brought up during the discussion. Comics—storytelling—is a rough and insular business. And it is that way for every novice writer regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender—a fact that is brought up frequently when individuals attempt to discuss anti-blackness within the industry. Anyone with even a superficial understanding of the industry would not dare refute that, for rejection is ubiquitous within any entertainment field. You try repeatedly and hope for the best, but sometimes—often times—things just don’t pan out.

Black writers are not demanding jobs “owed” to us, but are requesting the opportunity to apply for jobs—to pitch. The industry does not accept blind submissions. You must be invited to pitch by an editor. I have received one invitation to pitch. And luckily, my pitch was accepted and resulted in an 8-page story. I cannot begin to impress upon you how rare that opportunity is for black women. And I am honored and humbled to have received it.

Because the application process in comics is not blind and uniform but is dependent on an editor taking notice of you and wishing to establish a rapport with you, it is deeply impacted by a large number of societal factors that have nothing to do with one’s skill level. And yes, race is one of those factors.

Black individuals are not in the social circles of those in the position to hire creators. This means that black writers are denied the opportunity to “work our way up through the ranks.” To be frank, editors only briefly consider black writers when there is a story about a black character that is deeply defined by one’s racial or ethnic identity. At the moment, there are two characters who fit that description—Black Panther and Luke Cage. And given that both are A-list characters, they cannot and should not be handed to novice writers or writers without large fan followings. And so books featuring these characters are understandably handed to older established black writers (of which there are only two men—Walker and Priest) or black celebrities from television, film, music or non-comics publishing circles. I can’t find fault with this process when men like Coates and Hudlin are the result.

But the sad reality is that to have a career in comics as a black writer or to even be considered for the opportunity to apply for a job you must first become famous somewhere else. It is a rule that applies solely to black individuals. How insane and arbitrary it is that in order to write an 8-page story, one-shot, or miniseries about a D-list character I must first establish a career as a journalist, screenwriter, producer, rapper, academic, politician, or poet—one long and fruitful enough for an editor to consider my social status a desirable asset. But it is what it is.

The purpose of this post is not to effect change amongst editors and publishers. I honestly don’t believe that is possible any longer. But it is my hope that it results in a change in how fans and non-black creators respond to black writers who discuss the matter. Because we are often met with anger and are accused of demanding handouts when all we desire is equal access to be considered—to be treated like everyone else.