Hi. My name is Greg... (sighs)... and I am a comic-aholic.
I have been drinking the kool-aid that is comics since I was in middle school (give or take about 20 years now) and I don't plan on giving up my addiction any time soon. In middle school, most of my money went into buying comics, especially Batman. I'd buy nearly everything Batman I could get my hands on, and eventually I grew a taste for horror and violence, leading me to Spawn. As time went on, like most awkward teens growing up and having an appreciation for the funny books, the X-Men started to appeal to me. Characters being discriminated against for being who they were. They were born and thus hated for simply being born the way they were, born with mutations that they never asked for and sometimes could never control. As a young bi kid struggling with his hormones in a church-going Black household, I took comfort in the X-Men and found myself relating to Rogue, the flirty but some times depressing bombshell who couldn't get close to others in fear of hurting them (in my case me being afraid to let anyone close and tell them who I was in fear of hurting my family and their reputation, etc). And don't get me started on my love for Bishop, the first male Black superhero I ever got exposed to who excited me to no end, making me feel like I could finally see someone who looks like me in my reading.
I grew such a love and appreciation for both Marvel and DC (and a small aspect of Image Comics), and as I got older, I knew writing comics was going to be my future. Write comics... or die trying. Growing up a comic fan, though, beyond Bishop I found myself usually disappointed in a lot of the Black heroes. As a kid, you find yourself excited for a lot of various colorful characters, but man did I find the appeal in a lot of these characters on the suck-side. Blade eventually guest starred on Spider-Man: The Animated Series and made me change my tune. It took me years to finally read Black Panther and realize he actually wasn't lame, but a strong Black man – a KING at that, of an unconquered African country. I began to research more and more on Black heroes and would learn more and more about the Black writers who were trying their best to make a difference in Marvel and DC. I would get excited when I'd see a push for a minority character in the books. FINALLY a Black character gets some love. I repeat: FINALLY a Black character gets some love... A Black character gets love. "A"... Why "A"? Why ONE Black character at a time... and there my interest would eventually dwindle... At most it'd seem like we'd get one Black character getting headlines at a time while others will play support for the same ol' status quo; One Black character on a team of 7-8 cast members; One monthly series a year to represent ALL Black folks (and if the book sucked, WE the Black readers were to blame for not supporting it). And you would NEVER EVER see a Black character play a main important role in an event book. How was this not problematic to many people, especially when these stories are supposed to take place in cities where diversity runs rampant?
(If you're not familiar with this picture I posted above, it's required watching and I posted the youtube below!)
I wanted to see more characters of color. I was not being satisfied by these big companies. As I got older and my eyes would open up more due to waking up from the sun beaming from my window, I realized despite a few books of interest from Big 2, I wasn't going to find too much of myself in these books, at least played for importance. Unless a particular Big name writer (usually not a Black man or racial minority) took a massive liking to a particular Black or other Minority character, good luck seeing them play big roles. Good luck hoping not to see their books canceled and thus having the character placed in Limbo or killed as punishment for not having a long lasting book while other characters will be given a chance time after time in all types of various ways.
Eventually you grow numb and desensitized. And you grow bitter. And you often want to walk away because you're getting scraps from the dinner table and you have to make soul food out of it. And eventually you start looking elsewhere... You start looking for books created by people like Alexander Simmons, Jerry Craft, John Jennings, Robert Garret, N Steven Harris, Micheline Hess, Brandon Easton, and that's just scraping a small piece of the surface. Black creators who all experienced the joys of comics growing up and reaching an age where they realized they would have to put their own money where their mouth was and inspire those young and old Black readers who grew numb and desensitized from a world that classifies a green alien as an honest representation of diversity. Creators who show that Black characters are more than just tokens and are three-dimensional and have all types of experiences and can appear in all types of adventures and genres and still play important roles.
With this column, along with my ramblings and love for the funny books and sharing some of my experiences when it comes to reading and writing as a geek, I hope to find ways to reach out and showcase various creators and artists of all types. Creators who are trying to make a difference in a medium that has a long way to go (Applause for SOME effort, but back to the status quo they often go). Creators of all color and orientation whose duties are to inspire and entertain the various numbers of readers and fans who feel marginalized. I'm also hoping to go outside of the comic realm and visit creators of different art forms.
All that said, Welcome to (Heard it Thru) The Griot Vine. Hope you enjoy the Kool-aid.
I leave you today with a video of Jerry Craft's BLACK SUPERHEROES OF MY CHILDHOOD.