To the max.

I would love for DC Comics to launch a very small line (five titles maximum) for mature readers. No, I don’t feel that the “Edge” or “Dark” lines are suitable for older readers seeking adult themes. I would like to see a line akin to the Marvel MAX imprint. Honestly, I was an avid reader of the Wildstorm line of comic books and I feel as if those properties have been watered down and mishandled since the recent DC revision. I think introducing alternate “MAX” versions of these characters in a mature line would satisfy readers like me.

In DC’s mature line, superheroics would shift to the background. The focus would be on smart crime, spy, war, humor, and adventure stories. The line would focus on cult favorites such as Wildcats, Lobo, Hitman, The Authority, Xombi, Team 7, and Checkmate. It would not be a place where children’s icons ran amok. Batman would be nothing more than an urban legend in this universe—akin to the Jersey Devil. There’d be no Diana or Amazons, only Coda. And, of course, Kal-El would happily spend his days as a lead scientist on Krypton. And would never be mentioned or seen.

Think about the modest success of the Extreme line. Think about a Waller war hawk gunning for old Team 7 members who have gone off the grid. Think about a Wildcats book exploring superhero decadence. Think about “bang babies” and urban blight. Think about a satirical space adventure or “buddy cop” comic featuring Guy Gardner dragging his prisoner Lobo across the galaxy to stand trial.

I’d have two ongoings—Wildcats and The Authority. Rotating miniseries would account for the remaining three books.

Why not give it a shot? You’ll need something in that vein once Before Watchmen is no longer shiny and new—properties for the cable companies to salivate over. Remember, there are some places the trinity simply cannot tread.

Three the hard way.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time lately mulling over the topic of marketing as it pertains to comics. I love the publishing industry as a whole, but comics and magazines hold a special place in my heart. Perhaps the marriage of pictures and words charms me? Who knows? But as Book Expo America looms on the horizon, my thoughts have drifted to the shores of sales. For today’s post I examine three novel marketing ideas for comic publishers hoping to increase brand awareness.


Macrocomics is an idea I came up with many years ago. I still think it is a solid attempt at increasing recognition—sadly, one that many companies have not tried. Storefront security gates are a common sight in any urban community and a known blight upon the beauty of the city. Occasionally, a graffiti artist will use the metal canvas provided to make something beautiful. But instead of viewing each gate as a canvas, why not view each gate as a panel? Linear stories can easily be told via this format. A comic company in a particular city could obtain a permit and “adopt a block” for a weekend. Storeowners who received painted gates could have sidewalk sales to coincide with the event. Perhaps an old-fashioned block party could be held. And, of course, the local news media could certainly be alerted.

It is a situation in which everyone would benefit. Store owners would receive publicity and a renovation of their storefronts. Local news media would have a “puff piece” to investigate. Members of the community would have a beautiful art installation to appreciate. Finally, the comic company in question would have its IPs showcased each night at closing time—not to mention the initial positive attention received from a large-scale public donation of time and art. And should the company involve local children and graffiti artists in the project, allowing them to contribute their own tags and images throughout the work? The move would allow community members to feel a sense of ownership and prevent the work from being defaced. Moreover, graffiti artists would obtain the chance to freely show exactly who they are—real artists. However, leaving an empty word balloon or two for the publicly shy would be a good idea. Those artists could contribute their tags another night sans police observation.

Why macrocomics? Well, why shouldn’t comic companies benefit from what is already occurring in a slightly different form? It is much better than the negative press that stems from suing another nursery school. And what better place to showcase the marriage of art and commerce than the storefront of a business?

Magazine features

Most comic publishers are well aware of the fact that they cannot rely solely on marketing to a small pool of existing comic readers. In order to keep the industry afloat, readers who are completely new to the medium must be enticed. But how can readers be reached cheaply and in large numbers? Via magazines, of course. (Sadly, newspapers are a dead end.) Once again, most comic publishers acknowledge this fact and have taken advantage accordingly. A recent example can be seen in Playboy‘s showcasing of The Walking Dead. However, most comic publishers seem to have forgotten that, like soap operas, comics are a serial form of entertainment. Repetition is required to capture consumers—especially in an age when attention spans are short. Instead of a 6-page story appearing in a popular magazine for one month, it would be beneficial to have that story run in a popular magazine over the course of six months—one powerful page at a time. Any story used should certainly be substantial—something that takes some time for the reader to finish and makes the reader feel satisfied upon completion. It should also be visually arresting. Imagine an Empowered feature in Playboy, or perhaps a Richard Stark’s Parker feature in Esquire. If the publisher of a magazine is not open to the idea, ad space can simply be purchased to achieve the same result. One can’t skip ads in magazines. Comic publishers should use this to their benefit. Create a 6-page prequel for a self-contained series that has also been collected in a set of graphic novels and run one page a month in a popular national magazine for six months. But one must be sure to pick a magazine read by one’s potential audience! There’s no pointing placing a Watchmen tale in Seventeen.


I can see that derisive sneer from here, you know! Yes, postcards! I stumbled onto the idea once upon discovering how showrunners for popular conventions often gouge publishers financially via numerous exhibition fees. Yet how can comic publishers access librarians outside of popular publishing conventions such as Book Expo America? Through the utilization of 600 postcards and one diligent intern, perhaps?

First and foremost, a comic company should create a “sampler” PDF. It is something each should have in one’s arsenal. The PDF should contain five pages from every graphic novel the company currently has in print. Creator information, target ages for potential audiences, ISBNs, ordering information, and prices should also be made available. The file should then be (1) uploaded to the company website and (2) given a URL that is easy to remember.

Next up, a postcard should be created. On one side? The company’s “hottest” properties. On the other side? A very brief introductory message and the PDF’s URL. Six hundred postcards in total should be printed. A postcard should then be mailed to the main library of the twelve largest cities in each state. Time consuming? Yes. However, that’s why a diligent intern is required! For the price of a gaming console, contact with 600 librarians is achieved. Not a bad haul. And should you have additional funds left over? Why not send a card to each state university library as well? But before one invests even a modest sum, be realistic. Many libraries are only open to all-ages material or critically acclaimed works. If your company produces substandard T&A, you are simply wasting valuable time and money using this particular method.

As always, in regards to any marketing campaign, one must take into account the product produced and available company resources. Next up, steps individual artists and smaller studios can take to grab the attention of the masses, and an upcoming report from Book Expo America. If you plan to attend, drop me a line if you’d like to talk comics!

Your friendly neighborhood Anansi.

I recently polished off Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and Anansi Boys—and enjoyed both immensely. As a humorous side note, I’ve also come to find myself troubled by spiders. Each day since finishing the last page of Anansi Boys, I have encountered one of the eight-legged fiends. I am sure each experience has been as unpleasant for the arachnid as it has been for me. The first encounter was too intimate to share and, frankly, too hilarious not to. Dropping my shorts at my feet to take a shower, I noticed an odd skittering back and forth beneath folds of cloth. I screamed and leapt across the width of the bathroom. (Don’t bother marveling at my athleticism. It’s a tiny bathroom.) Sure enough, a medium-sized brown spider darted out from the terry cloth and high-tailed it for the radiator. I was horrified. The occasional spider in the bathroom isn’t a catastrophe—but what if he had been carried from my bed? Needless to say, I ceded the bathroom to the arthropod and sheets were immediately stripped. Thankfully, no bites. Having endured a spider bite right on the small of my back, I can accurately state that they are (1) painful as hell and (2) do not bless one with Spidey sense. Or even common sense.

The second spider came a day later, hovering in the middle of the hallway at work, diligently spinning a web as if a check would be collected upon its completion. Huge. Black. Dare I say it? Muscular. He looked at me. I looked at him. Coolly, he pulled himself up to the ceiling and settled in the crevice of a light fixture. We both decided to pretend the moment never happened.

By day three it had come to be an expected annoyance. Nestled in a notch in my bathroom door frame was a tiny, almost translucent spider. Too small to cause fear and too remote to reach, I allowed him his rent-free existence.

Annoyance morphed to anger on day four when a thin, tan spider dropped down right before my face, and arrogantly plopped down on my computer screen. By this time, I had taken their appearances as some sort of sign. I roughly nudged him with a piece of paper, hoping he would hop on so I could carry him to the hallway. He refused. While I warned him not to make me kill him, he was slain by a coworker. Oh, well. I had given him options. If I’m being sent a sign from a higher power, I’d prefer one of the non-arachnid variety. In the meantime, let’s talk books, shall we?

American Gods is fantastic, though emotionally draining. I love the casual, easy way Neil Gaiman builds worlds and Gaiman’s ability to play with various shades of gray—both in terms of color and in terms of varying degrees of good and evil. I found myself charmed and repelled by both black hats and white. Sympathies were extended to chief villains; heroes were occasionally off-putting. However, I think my favorite aspect of the book is its ability to pull American readers away from America, forcing us to look at this bizarre and glorious circus we call a country from an outsider’s perspective. The title’s lead character, Shadow Moon, receives his first metaphorical death early on in the novel, as he is stripped of both the life he knew as well as the life he expected. His circumstances making him a blank slate and his grief leaving him completely numb, he is able to view the country’s quirks and rituals sans preconceived notions, something no American is able to do. Shadow simply accepts this country—the hate, the adoration, the violence, the customs—for what it is, refusing to edit what he sees to create the America that “should be.” It makes for an America that is chaotic and horrible, disjointed and extraordinary.

I followed Shadow as he recovered from a devastating loss; at the same time, I dealt with a personal loss of my own. Like grieving, it made the reading of American Gods a difficult, but essential experience. However, Anansi Boys is light-hearted and cathartic—a return to joy after a great deal of pain. Set in the springtime, both literal and metaphorical, of the world established in American Gods, Anansi Boys presents a world that is comfortable and familiar. Though Fat Charlie and Spider are beset by consistent bumbling, as a reader I never felt out of step with the world presented. With American Gods I had to relearn. Nothing could be taken at face value. The visible world was an egg shell and one false step could pull the main character and the reader down into a quagmire of yolk—a world beyond the world. The world of Anansi Boys is solid, comfortable. Perhaps it is because, unlike Shadow, the lead character is such a known figure. A black, hyphen-American with a pink collar job, struggling to make ends meet and saddled with a legion of older relatives who seem ancient and magical and completely ridiculous? It is as familiar as the reflection in the mirror—a foundation in which one can be sure.

However, just because it is familiar does not mean that it is mundane. There are stories and there are songs; some of them are true and some of them are not. In our world, a world without magic, we simply accept that and continue to enjoy the tales told. For Fat Charlie, this is not the case. Fat Charlie’s world is magical, and that means all of his songs are true. Everything is as it seems. A man can be a spider and a god, and still be a man—just as we’ve been told by our fairy tales and folk songs. All Charlie must do is accept this—and keep singing. And yet, that is not as easy as it sounds. But that’s what makes the tale all the more fun.


My last post concentrated on damage control tactics for DC regarding the Before Watchmen project and DC’s early termination of Chris Roberson’s stint with the company. I’d like to use this post to “hop over the fence” and discuss possible ways in which independent companies such as Image and Dark Horse can capitalize on DC’s large public presence and apparent marketing weaknesses.

Watchmen artwork

DC is an industry behemoth—fat, sluggish, and slow, but also massively powerful. Its size is a blessing that affords it the best spot in Previews, constant press from popular news sites, and the rapt attention of a legion of long-devoted fans. Its size is also a curse. It has become an antiquated bureaucracy, limiting its speed. It is unable to make adjustments quickly in regards to negative press, unhappy fans, or dissatisfied talent. Any action required is initially bound by ribbons of red tape unfurled by editors elucidating edicts from on high. Its inflexible nature forces it down narrow paths that will one day restrict its growth, for example, catering to a shrinking subset of homogeneous readers or allowing nepotism to dictate the talent pool. But we all know what DC is. The question for the competition is this, how can we—as independent publishers—make money from it?

In my last post, I stated that DC should make moves to appear creator-friendly. Dark Horse and Image need to show that they are truly creator-friendly and sabotage any inroads made by DC into their creator-owned domain. And much to my pleasant surprise (because there is nothing that delights me more than a shrewd PR move), this is already occurring—cheaply and efficiently. Again, DC’s size affords it instant publicity. Attacks on the behemoth bring publicity too. A simple blog post from Stephenson or a Facebook interaction between Mignola and Hama will be picked up by news blogs and fan sites to be carried far and wide. And, amusingly, DC has played directly into their hands by responding, naming, and calling attention to both the attacks and the competition, assuming the role of Ja Rule instead of Jay Z. Think long and hard about the fates of both of these public personas, and of the two men who challenged them.

Watchmen artwork

But it is not enough to simply stick and move. The comic industry is, to put it mildly, incestuous. Of course, its incestuous nature allows for certain deals to be easily made. Creators move from project to project with a speed that rivals the label-hopping of current rap stars or suitor-switching of video vixens. A young industry hotshot cuts his teeth at Image, builds his reputation at DC or Marvel, and perhaps has another dalliance with an independent publisher when the restrictive nature of the two conglomerates occasionally curtails his creativity. The goal of the independent publisher is to increase the frequency of said dalliances until a permanent relationship with a creator is formed and it becomes the first option a creator considers when attempting to launch a project. How can one accomplish this goal? Spit game. Editors from Image and Dark Horse need to aggressively pursue well-known creators working at Marvel and DC—especially now that budgetary concerns at both companies have forced the conclusion of certain exclusivity contracts. Woo them with words that prove you can provide the best of both worlds—the freedom of Kickstarter and the security of a long-standing company. Not only will you be rewarded with a successful project, but the publicity that comes from a former unhappy and currently famous creator raving about his new “crew” and disparaging his old one is icing on the cake.

Watchmen artwork

However, some successes cannot be stolen or sabotaged. Sometimes, they must be methodically recreated. DC sits upon a tower of icons and industry lynchpins. Said tower was not created overnight, but required decades of creative input and calculated marketing. When I say that DC’s success should be recreated, I do not mean that companies should produce thinly-veiled versions of DC characters. No, what should be copied is DC’s slow and steady method of building franchises and brands. I want Graham’s excellent work on Prophet to be bound as soon as possible to be pushed as a mainstay for college literature courses. I want to see Hellboy and B.P.R.D. constantly cycling through high-profile film, television, and comic projects, never getting a chance to fade from the mainstream’s collective memory. I want to see an Empowered short story published in Playboy. I want a copy of King City to be found in every Barnes & Noble.

What I don’t want is for a creator with exceptional talent and an interesting project to be handed nothing more than a logo and a handshake. Foster loyalty, foster a crew, and then foster an image (no pun intended). Show and prove.

You played yourself.

The title of this post, apt and rapped, owes its life to De La, of course, from a song that has long been one of my favorites. DC has indeed played itself, and we’ve all watched—some of us in horror and some of us in amusement—as the company rode an initial wave of success brought about by its superhero relaunch only to crash upon the shores of a horrid public relations catastrophe with Before Watchmen. With each negative statement publicly made via blog posts, interviews, and news reports, DC is in grave danger of losing the reins of this publicity behemoth, something no company wants to have happen. When you lose control of the marketing, you lose control of your money.

I’m not going to discuss the ethical implications of Alan Moore’s treatment (or Chris Roberson’s, for that matter) here. A much better job of that has been done elsewhere. Besides, my tweets were mercenary in tone and were focused on the only thing of importance to DC: How can we get people to stop badmouthing us in the press and embrace the Before Watchmen project?

The solution is found in something near and dear to many of us—rap music.

In the earlier days of the nineties and aughts, when rap could equal commercial success but still had legitimate ties to black urban youth culture, record executives who wanted to sell their new rapper to lucrative middle and upper class white audiences still had to have the “streets cosign.” In other words, poor black kids made stars, rich white kids gave them money so they could shine.

Before Watchmen is that star. The indie comics community—both reader and creator? “The streets.” And the rest of us? Bored white kids with pockets chock full of money. DC’s first mistake was thinking it could sell directly to the masses and ignore rumblings from the indie circuit. Jamal Henricks standing out in front of Marcy Projects in 1995 damn sure didn’t want some suit trying to sell him soulless suburban rap. And he and his crew could end a career with one bad comment. Ask Kwame. Likewise, Brendan the English professor who reads The Comics Reporter and uses Watchmen for his class on ethics in literature doesn’t want to hear a slick Before Watchmen sales pitch. The trust fund kids who play poor in Williamsburg and dig the indie comics scene don’t want to hear from company men in Green Lantern t-shirts and baseball caps. And the men and women who are the working poor that make up the indie comics scene certainly don’t want to hear from Lee (who, though a nice man, has a terrible reputation for being a sell-out), Didio (who bleeds and breathes commercialism), and JMS (who, whether deservedly or not, currently has a reputation for being a rich blowhard dismissive of creators’ rights).

That’s a serious problem, because those groups I just listed? That’s DC’s free Before Watchmen street team. You think the retailer who tweets about Scarlet Witch’s tits is going to sell Before Watchmen to college bookstores and libraries? You think the fanboy cosplaying as Nightwing is going to push Before Watchmen projects at Barnes & Noble? No. And the people who would? Right now DC’s free street team thinks the worst of DC and the Before Watchmen project—an assembly of scabs, leeches, and cornball sell-outs. This attitude must be rectified. But how?

First and foremost is to announce a creator-owned imprint—big names, big press, and contracts that are deemed fair and acceptable by the industry. DC needs to be seen as creator-friendly. I commented earlier regarding the subject:

“What’s needed is a ‘keep creators happy’ imprint. Are you a big name? Have you produced a commercial success for us? Let us do the same for you. Terrible Company Man POV: Look, we swiped you from Image and let you beef your name up with DC characters, why should we hand you back? Main goal: Keep that DC logo on all books that draw eyes. Some will make a ton of money, some will make a little. It’s all publicity. Most articles about the Walking Dead TV show have an Image mention tucked away. Tying your company name to a success is always good.”

Cheryl Lynn Eaton

Next up is to quietly pull incendiary hucksters from the table. This is a Watchmen project, not Teen Titans. Move creators with good reputations like Conner and Azzarello to the forefront. Focus on Jae Lee instead of Jim. Think quirky instead of commercial. Biggie never danced in a shiny suit.

Finally, damage control for the Roberson situation is required. Of course, the best approach would have been to let Roberson leave when he had announced he would leave instead of pulling him from a project.

“So, you slip in a co-writer with Roberson. Someone young and eager that Roberson can shape and show the ropes. And you treat that kid nicely. When Roberson bounces, you have a baby Roberson in place that has swiped some of Roberson’s shine and his small fan following. As talented? Maybe not since she’ll be younger and less skilled. But she’ll only get better. And yes, you get a woman in there to keep fans from bitching about the co-writer deal. ‘Oh, we thought you wanted more women in comics.'”

Cheryl Lynn Eaton

Of course, DC went for the worst possible PR move and yanked Roberson instead, but they can improve upon the situation by assigning a female writer of YA fantasy novels to the Fairest title.

Long story short, I’m very interested to see if DC manages to turn things around. Right now the company is walking a tense tightrope between Drake and Yung Berg and Image is eyeing chains hungrily. We’ll see.

Wonderful. Terrific. Fine.

With the introduction of Helena Wayne and Karen Starr as Huntress and Power Girl, DC Entertainment has given fans what they have clamored for in a way that some readers are still a bit unsure about. However, the World’s Finest are here, with a gender and sex change to keep things fresh and new.

Of course, I was always a bit irked by the original incarnation. An assembly of the “World’s Finest” without the inclusion of Wonder Woman feels incomplete and exclusionary. Wonder Woman has always been both there but not there, her gender often keeping her separate and regarded as an afterthought by many male readers. And that’s sad. It’s not a dynamic duo—that would be Batman and Robin—it’s a trinity. And I always get a little ping of delight when the comics reflect that.

I think what is most interesting about the arrival of Huntress and Power Girl is the possibility that not only does it provide a warped reflection of the World’s Finest that most fans are used to, it also provides a warped reflection of DC’s most well-known and lopsided triangle due to Karen’s connection with Mr. Terrific.

Like Diana, Mr. Terrific is both there and not there. His connection to Earth Two is merely tangential—as is Diana’s connection to the world that Clark and Bruce were raised in. An attempt has been made to place him in a romantic relationship with Karen—as Diana has often been foisted on Bruce or Clark. And hilariously, that romance has been largely ignored as fans rush to embrace the romantic subtext between Helena and Karen—subtext that is also evident between Bruce and Clark and has long been cherished by fans.

And of course, there is the elephant in the room. As Diana’s gender makes her seem of lesser importance due to the casual sexism of some readers, Mr. Terrific’s race will likely result in the same due to the casual racism found amongst comics fans. I will be amused to see if the excuses match up!

BHM: What can brown do for you?

I’ll make this one short and sweet. Originality is not achieved through color. Applying a pallet swap to someone else’s story does not qualify as a “new spin.” It’s a cheap trick, a shortcut to reach a previously untapped resource—minority audiences.

It’s not uncommon to want to pay homage to the stories that precede us, to revisit the myths that we will hand down to our children and grandchildren. An alien falls to earth. A vigilante haunts the streets. A patriot fights for justice. We repeat these stories like ballads in old watering holes, each incarnation shifting slightly to fit our culture and our desires.

But how that slight shift matters! And that shift must be more than just a variation in shade. Point blank? If you make the decision to create a black character pastiche, you best make that decision mean something. It should alter the nature of the work. We don’t need a black Superman. We have Superman. To make audiences sit up and take notice, to truly examine the theme of the alien beneath the lens of race?

You establish an Icon.

BHM: God bless the child.

As much as I love Idie, she isn’t ours. Luke isn’t ours. David isn’t ours. T’challa isn’t ours. Miles. Isn’t. Ours. Yes, they look like the men, women, and children in our lives, at our tables, and on our minds—and that is important—but they do not carry our voice. There are no black writers working on mainstream comics at DC. There are no black writers at Marvel at all. In the DC universe and in the Marvel universe, black people are voiceless. It is what it is.

I wish I could say I was concerned. At one point, I was very concerned. However, over time that apprehension has dwindled like the sales of books from the companies in question. Black people are voiceless at two companies that struggle to sell a hundred thousand copies of a single comic to a potential audience of billions. Black people are voiceless at two companies currently being admonished in the press for stifling their creative staff, submitting production and editorial to poor working conditions, and utilizing underhanded practices to swindle individuals out of their creations and avoid providing them proper compensation. DC and Marvel are no longer happy, hale, and hearty IP farms where a man could spend a lifetime spinning stories about established characters while earning a check that could provide for his family and benefits to keep that same family healthy and whole. Those days are over—and were only enjoyed by a select few to begin with. When white voices are being silenced, can we truly expect black voices to be heard? When white writers are losing exclusive contracts that once provided them with much needed safety nets, can we really expect those same contracts to be offered to black peers?

The pie is gone. It has been gone since the late ‘90s, continually consumed and regurgitated by the same small handful, and there is nothing left to get a piece of. You are not going to George Jefferson off Stan, Jerry, Joe, and Jack, my friends, hence the title of this blog post.

Hannibal Tabu referred to Image as a black writer’s last refuge. I’d alter that statement to include Kickstarter, other self-publishing methods, and independent publishers in general. However, the gist of the message is the same—“Have one’s own.”

I certainly don’t advise turning down paid work from DC or Marvel, but one cannot put faith in either company. When they call concerning that rare miniseries featuring a tepidly-received black character, get in, do one’s work, and get out. And don’t expect them to call again soon, no matter having provided them with one’s best work. A black writer is a rare necessity at DC and Marvel—especially now that established white writers are only too happy to take on projects featuring black characters. Green is an important color that can make a third-tier black sidekick seem quite interesting to those who once looked for whiter pastures.

The entertainment industry is an exceptional industry where one is able to own the company where one produces. Man is the farm and factory. The assembly line is composed of a writer’s fingers; his products, miniaturized worlds, are shipped to all four corners of the globe to be quickly devoured by eager audiences.

A writer can work on decorating delicacies from someone else’s assembly line—i.e., contract work—and there’s no need to feel an ounce of shame in doing so. It’s an honest (and fun) job. But without steady work and benefits—and black writers are not being provided these things—what is the point? To finally tell that Luke Cage story? Oh, sugar. I love Luke, but I’d rather be in for a World of Hurt if that’s all Marvel has to offer.

Aside from looking over one’s shoulder to peer down at the foundation of Kirby Inc., there’s nothing being presented at Marvel and DC that is unique to either organization. And the man who laid the foundation? I think he would have preferred to see a few more crates from one-man farms.

Isaiah is ours. Aya is ours. Miranda is ours—from the root to the fruit. These characters bear our features, carry our voices, entertain us, and—most importantly—provide for our welfare spiritually and financially. And I can think of nothing more delicious than that.

BHM: Hairs to you.

Straight, curly, relaxed, or natural—it really shouldn’t matter how you wear your hair. And yet it does. Simply put, when one particular type of hair (kinky, or tightly coiled) is repeatedly demonized in the media, those who alter their appearance to mask that type are going to be scrutinized. Does she hate herself? Is she trying to pass as something that she is not?

For those happy and well-adjusted black women who have long since come to terms with negative media portrayals and still choose to wear relaxers or press their hair, these questions are infuriating. Can’t one simply desire a different look? After all, it is rare to encounter a white woman who has lightened her hair subsequently accused of despising her ethnic background. It’s just hair. I still press my hair occasionally, and any poor soul who had the audacity to question me about it would need at least a full day of mental recuperation from the verbal assault that would ensue.

Over in Marvel’s Wolverine and the X-Men, resident ingénue Idie Okonkwo has changed her hairstyle from a large, black afro to an equally cute straight, brown pixie cut. Normally, for a well-adjusted black teen who loved herself, such a change would not draw any attention. Nor should it. However, Idie is not normal. She is broken and emotionally scarred. She has been shown to loathe her mutancy, an aspect of herself that is demonized in the media and in the parochial area where she grew up. If she has been shown to listen wholeheartedly when the world tells her she is a “monster,” would she not listen to the world telling her she is “ugly” as well? It is not farfetched that she would internalize negative comments regarding kinky hair. In addition, her change in appearance occurred on the heels of her receiving her first doll from Wolverine, who quite heartbreakingly and unknowingly merely reinforced traditional notions of what is “normal” and emphasized how “different” Idie is physically. It would have made for a fabulous scene—had it been later touched upon by Wolverine or other characters within the franchise.

It hasn’t been—and it is extremely frustrating to me to see a writer leave what could be such meaty content on the table. That no other character is willing to address what is a glaring problem with this child in regards to her mutancy and her appearance is difficult to accept. These are missing scenes from Idie’s life, and Marvel has chosen to dance around these lost stories in the gutters, while I want nothing more than to read them.

I hope these avenues are being ignored simply because the writer wants to tackle different topics and not because the writer is wary of handling themes involving race and gender. No subject should be off-limits to a writer simply because of the circumstances of his or her birth. And race and gender? Those are human topics that involve us all.

How interesting would it be if Quire took it upon himself to “fix” Idie—only to encounter an Idie as militant and arrogant as he? And should he be reprimanded by Wolverine? Well, at least someone cared enough about Idie to do something. It would make for a powerful, and humorous, set of scenes. And it would also allow for Idie’s mental growth, acceptance, and adoration of herself, from her straight pixie cut to the strands of her X gene.

Here’s to black love for 2012’s Black Future Month—not just for each other, but also for ourselves.

BHM: Before Watchmen, post-racial.

Before Watchmen: Newsstand Boy

In a stellar move that has stunned the comics community and has quieted critics who have claimed that DC isn’t making proper strides in regards to ethnic and racial diversity, DC has released information concerning the final prequel project in the powerful Before Watchmen arsenal. Newsstand Boy by creators Eric Wallace and Scott McDaniel was announced this morning by DC’s co-publisher Dan DiDio.

“We are absolutely elated to be moving forward with this project featuring Dave and Alan’s most popular African-American character. I think it is important, especially on the cusp of Black History Month, to show that DC is willing to stand behind its creators and characters of all colors and creeds—from white to black, and even blue! Hey, even Superman was blue! All shades here at DC, man. All shades.”

Eric Wallace was equally as excited regarding the project. “Honestly, it’s just an honor to be considered. When DiDio contacted me this morning and asked me to sign on, I couldn’t believe it.” However, when pressed for details, the writer became coy. “Well, I don’t want to give away too much, but Scott has brought some amazing things to the table and I can’t wait to dig in!” The amicable creator seemed unconcerned about scheduling issues given that he was brought on at such a late stage in the project. “We’ve actually pulled ahead of all the other creative teams. Scott has already completed all four issues, so now I just need to put my finishing touch on the product—bring to the table what only a black man can. Like sprinkles on the ice cream.”

And what of the ice cream? McDaniel was quick to elaborate. “The stuff that Harvey and I have come up with is phenomenal. It’s going to knock your socks off. I finally sat down to read Watchmen last night and I’m certain that Harvey and I have created a work that honors what Dave and Alan have produced.”

Dave Gibbons, co-creator of the original Watchmen series, agrees. “The fact that DC feels so strongly about what Alan and I concluded so long ago that they wish to move forward with new stories is astounding. And that DC will be compensating Alan and I for our creations with a portion of the proceeds from the sale of these new works is a testament to the fact that DC truly cares about its creators.”

Alan Moore did not wish to issue a statement.

Usually tight-lipped about successful launches from its “distinguished competition,” Marvel executive editor Tom Brevoort was surprisingly quick to comment. “Marvel wishes DC all the success in the world with Newsstand Boy. Any project like this, no matter the publisher, helps to get fans in the stores and more eyes in front of Marvel comics. And with our upcoming release of Teenage Negro Ninja Thrashers, a lost creation from the late Dwayne McDuffie, we believe we’re producing the kind of comics that will make fans take notice. Fraction and Bagley have something really special with this one, something Dwayne would have wanted.”

Will Teenage Negro Ninja Thrashers be able to best Newsstand Boy in the eyes of retailers and fans? Only time will tell. But Bob Harras believes he has the answer already. “We’re not about looking over our shoulder to see what Marvel rushes to create in our wake,” the editor-in-chief explained.

“We’re DC. We keep moving forward.”