Exclusionary TV: Whites Only Television? MADMEN, PAN-AM and REVENGE

Provocative title huh?

Well, it’s not quite as provocative as it seems. The premise of this article isn’t that shows such as MADMEN, PAN-AM, and REVENGE are in and of themselves bad or bigoted shows.

They may in and of themselves be good shows. But shows, dramas or scifi or action, that are predominantly White, when not off-set by any shows that are predominantly Black or colored, true to the definition of predominant… create an environment, a medium, that is about the ascendancy, importance, influence, authority of force of one group.

In such an environment it is impossible for me to buy into, relate, follow, view, or otherwise enjoy such shows. Now in an environment where a show such as PAN-AM is counter-pointed with a show on The forming of AIR JAMAICA or the Black Stuntmen’s Union or the Black Coyboys’ Union or any adventure or thrilling show with a predominant cast of color; then PAN-AM rather than being indicative of a color and ethnic bias in every show in tv, can be seen as one voice in a chorus, rather than the same voice, everywhere.

So that’s the problem I have with shows such as MADMEN and REVENGE they paint everything with the same trite and pale brush (take the series REVENGE, based on a book by the son of one of the most famous Black men, and the cast is all white. Explain that to me? Along with that it always rings false that we have yet to see a THREE MUSKETEERS that represents the ethnicity of the author Alexandre Dumas, or the ethnicity of the inspiration for all Dumas’ heroes, namely his father, France’s most famous and most feared soldier, the elder Alexandre Dumas, (inexplicably called Thomas-Alexandre in recent writings), the Black giant, the warrior Moor, Napolean’s most feared and brilliant General. The COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO is directly inspired by how his father was betrayed by Napolean, imprisoned, and killed. And rather than anyone ever tell that story, it becomes in REVENGE about a blond woman, mad about something. Forgive me if I have no interest in that retelling.)

So, What’s the solution?

We’ll get to it. First indulge me, with a brief trip to yesteryear.

In the late 50s, into the 60s and 70s television and cinema in the US, and indeed throughout the Western World, made great strides in becoming more representative of the class struggle going on throughout the world.

That’s a fact, it just is. So let’s begin there.

As countries from Congo to Cuba to Korea to the West Indies to Brazil all were dealing, at various stages, with the shattering of traditional Colonial ties. With populations of repressed people, embracing the concept, both with artistry and arms, of “not eating at another man’s table” but creating their own table.

It was a staggering period not just of revolution, but potentially evolution… for the world and the west.

Rather than mass media that explored and showcased only the fantasies and the fears of the white and the male you began getting shows that took place in a world reflective of the movements changing the landscape of our cultures and our time. Civil disobedience, and sit-ins, and Black power, and Native American rights, transcendentalism and free love, sexual and religious experimentation, and of course war and the search for peace and self identification.

And all these growing pains, all of this stew of change, could be seen in the entertainment of the age.

DANGER MAN, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, PROFESSIONALS, GOOD TIMES, SANFORD AND SON, the rise of Soul Cinema, and the rise of Hong Kong Cinema, and Neo-Realism in Italy, and the New Wave in France, and the didactic films out of Russia, and Brazil, and Cuba, and Senegal, all of this making its way to newly born film studies programs in the states that gave birth to a whole generation of entertainment makers excited and influenced and inspired by this time of change and challenge.

So suddenly you had Patrick McGoohan in the DANGER MAN TV show 50 years ago globe-trotting and going to different countries and different people, and exploring issues of colonialism, and civil war, and terrorism, and governmental oppression, and doing this with a changing ethnically diverse cast. Dealing with issues of Middle East tensions and modern slavery. And this kind of informed and humanistic film-making came from the creators down. And all the shows of that period, while not DANGER MAN ground breaking, to greater or lesser degrees were that informed and representative of a culturally diverse and changing world.

Move the clock forward 50 years, and suddenly you have no community owned or locally owned cinema, much less production companies. That’s not an accident, that’s a very pointed, and very considered monopolization and marginalization.

You have the end of virtually any locally or regionally owned newspaper, radio, or television station. So you get the end of people and community created movements, and art and music, and you get instead corporate construction of reality and ‘art’ in things like AMERICAN IDOL and its ilk.

You have cinema and television that is in retreat from ideas… like diversity and the rights of man, and instead seeks a return to the exclusionary, blinders on, cinema of the 50s. Not just in terms of content and cast in front of the camera, but talent and crew behind the camera.

As, in reality, the mad military war machine of billionaires undoes the local determinism of countries like Haiti and Liberia and Libya, so too is our entertainment,no less the tool of billionaires, undoing the strides made toward multiculturalism. A return to “Whites only” television from MADMEN to PAN-AM to REVENGE.

And those shows while they hold no interest for me, would be fine if they were counterpointed by an equal number of US made shows with a majority of Black or Brown or Asian or a combination thereof, of actors in front the camera, and talent behind the camera.

And the talent is there, as screenwriters such as John Ridley discuss in numerous interviews. Even more talent than was available in the 60s and 70s is available now, the difference is, the cinemas are bought up, the advertising is cost prohibitive, and quite frankly the doors are closed.

In the 60s and 70s, Hollywood saw the need for an influx of diversity to save them from the rise of Independent Cinema (an outgrowth of viable and healthy local cinemas, local determinism), and there were a good number of people in the studios who were happy and excited for that diversity. They were part of the changing times, and part of changing it.

Today Independent Cinema has no way into the theaters, because the locally owned theater circuit, and indeed the community controlled mass-media circuit that served America, particularly Black America from the 20s to the 70s, has been bought out, legalized away, and generally dismantled.

For what was gained, more was lost in the compromise of integration.

The problem with the doctrine of separate and equal, was the fact that is was NEVER separate and equal, it was always separate and UNEQUAL. The Black Power movement and Black Panther movement was about making it SEPARATE AND EQUAL. Was to make the lie into the truth. And that is the reason we have integration today. Because the idea of separate and equal, scared the powers to be to their very soul.

They saw in the more moderate integration model of Martin Luther and his ilk, a compromise that could become a massive victory. They retreated from Separate and (Un)equal and embraced Integration of a sort, “you can now use our Bathrooms, you can now to an extent come into our house, but… you have to lose your house. You have to lose your radio stations, your movie theaters, your stores, your farms, your wallstreets, your sports teams, your attempt at self determination”.

Of course it wasn’t presented like that, but a few decades later that’s absolutely what has happened. The thriving economic base of Black America that thrived even under the odiousness of Separate but unequal, wherein they could still provide for themselves and be self sufficient, has been completely gutted under the together but even more UNEQUAL system of integration. And that robbing of local determinism has extended to all America. Has shown itself to be the most significant volley in a class-war that has America trillions of dollars in debt, and slaved, to corporations gross and immoral.

And television and cinema is the clearest example of this wholesale pillaging of a peoples economic potential.

So that’s what I see when I see shows like MADMAN or PANAM or REVENGE or SMALLVILLE (past season 4) I see prejudice and bigotry and class warfare… codified.

So you have a television and a cinema environment that has turned back the clock, and is again solely about showcasing the fantasies and the fears of the white and the rich, to the exclusion of all else.

It bores me to go backwards. To learn from the past is a great thing, to repeat the past is not. And we have a whole generation of studio execs and heads, who think they are doing something new by embracing the old, and all they are doing… is wasting time.

In a multi-cultural society, an increasingly multi-cultural society, these dreams of exclusion cannot stand, they will become unsatisfying, they always do. And in the end we will have to waste years just getting back to the same point of diversity as the 1970s. Getting back to the starting point from which we should be… evolving.

So let’s cut out some of the time wasting. Contact these studios signing off on this exclusionary television, the creators and producers, twitter them, facebook em, call’em, even write em, let them know the show doesn’t represent you, and to create a show that does. And let the advertisers know, say “this show boycotts me and mine. Since you are asking me to support your product, I want you to produce a show that supports me.”

It’s economics people. For all their crushing of competition, ultimately the decision makers and gate-keepers still need to create a product you want to buy. Let them know they are failing at that mandate.

Let them know you want to see more shows, that are both smart and diverse.

Day Break – The Complete Series- Do not buy the 2disk version, get the 4 disk version

55 Degrees North – Series One & Two – 5-DVD Box Set ( Fifty Five Degrees North ) ( 55 Degrees North – Entire Series 1 & 2 ) [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.2.4 Import - United Kingdom ]

Kidnapped – The Complete Series

Secret Agent AKA Danger Man: The Complete Collection (Slimline Packaging)

The Philanthropist: The Complete Series

Kings – The Complete Series

Blood & Bone

I Am Cuba: The Ultimate Edition

Let them know you want to see more DAY BREAK with Taye Diggs and Moon Bloodgood, more 55 DEGREES NORTH with Don Gilet, more KINGS with Eamonn Walker more BLOOD AND BONE with Michael Jai White, more James Purefoy and Jesse L. Martin in THE PHILANTHROPIST (the spiritual descendant of McGoohan’s DANGER MAN); more shows that look forward to solutions, rather than backward to evasions.

Challenge the creators, challenge the studios, challenge the advertisers, challenge the performers, and challenge yourself to go not marching backward, but to go forward… into the mystery. And ultimately we will as cities and a nation, have to eschew outside control, and embrace again local production of items and local determinism.

And it starts as simply as recognizing and calling out the prejudiced the exclusionary and the destructive when we see it.

Here endeth the lesson.

Film Review of THE INHERITANCE and a discussion of the legacy of Jim Crow Cinema!

I just came back from viewing THE INHERITANCE, the feature film debut of Robert O’Hara, it is a horror film about 5 cousins, their inheritance, and… the elders.

The first thing that struck me about the film was the quite impressive poster, the 2nd thing was that it was a film by children of the Diaspora, a Black film, a Nubian film, and the third and deciding thing that had me travel 2 hours each way to see this film, was the type of Black film it was; it wasn’t a mama drama, it wasn’t a lowest common denominator comedy, it wasn’t a complaint film, it was a straight up horror film, a genre film.

And if we accept the defacto standard of Hollywood as a producer of ‘white’ films, (No he didn’t just say that! How dare him! …. :) Yep I said it! ) I find it incredibly liberating when a film tries to work outside those White messages, and Black stereotypes, and supposed acceptable Black genres.

And whether labeled as a White film or not (Oh my God! He said it again! How dare him!) most Hollywood films have that unspoken truth embedded in their DNA.

And in terms of not seeing labeling such as a WHITE PEOPLE magazine or a WHITE DISNEY movie, or a WHITE FOX news or a WHITE POWER KFC chain (look up the past and present of KFC, you’ll see that appellation is definitely apt :)) , these appellations are avoided not for any noble reasons, but only for reasons of being able to generate revenue from the largest broadest audience, and to avoid the undesired consequence such acknowledgment of the skewed power structure of mass-media (and by extrapolation American life) may engender… such as a return to 20s and 60s/70s type civil disobedience (that only really became frightening to the power structure when these young upstarts began thinking in terms of economic disobedience) seen in film with a push toward Black owned Studios and Stuntmen Associations and Local Theaters.

If the 60s taught the power structure of America anything it was that the concept of separate and unequal left too much money on the table (Black Newspapers, Black farms, Black Radio shows, Black unions, Black controlled schools, Black Clothing companies, Black owned clinics, Black owned transportation companies, Black owned venues), that instead the concept of together and unequal, the illusion of integration and equality, is where true financial dominance lies. So Hollywood films with crushingly few exceptions are exactly that… white films.

Let’s call a spade a spade.

Films primarily with a white director, written from a white perspective, written to project and enforce a white ideal, or embed, define a stereotype for those who are not White. They are films written primarily to play into the power structure, the world view of a white audience, or to… whiten their audience, and ultimately films that put dollars primarily into White hands. even to the point of films that have Black faces in them, only as a means of delivering white messages and reinforcing black stereotypes.

Now do I think filmmakers come at film in such simplistic color-coded terms, no I do not. I think filmmakers as a whole, are a humanistic and holistic bunch, and see the world far less simplistically and moronically than that, far more humanistically and perhaps even nobly than those who do not think in cinematic language, but filmmakers too often have to work as cogs within a structure that does want the formula and the stereotype. Film is more marketing, and I do feel films are marketed and manipulated with an unhealthy amount of color-coded bias.

So it’s important to understand the underlying structure of film, and the traps inherent, and to have films generated that attempt to transcend that structure. And there is no better way to do this, than with genre films.

Genre film, is the life blood of film, John Woo’s THE KILLER, Friedkin’s THE EXORCIST, JJ Abrams STAR TREK, Peter Jackson’s LORD OF THE RINGS are films that are bankable all around the world, because they deal with iconic concepts, that are about universal pulls we can all relate to of sex, or fear, or violence, or courage. And I think too often films, so-called Black films (which more often than not, when you follow the money, are not Black films They have Black faces, but white messages), are relegated to the basest, and lowest, and most petty talk show common denominator when it comes to cinema of today.

And I think this point merits some discussion prior to getting into the film review proper.

The films of the 70s were not Black Exploitation or Blaxploitation, back then those films employed Black directors, employed Black actors in droves, opened up the door to Black composers, cinematographers, stuntmen, producers, and made money in Black owned theaters, and often were brilliant, uplifting, exciting, challenging and influential such as THE SPOOK WHO SAT BY THE DOOR, TROUBLE MAN, COTTON COMES TO HARLEM, GORDON’S WAR, MELINDA to name a few.

So in the 70s, the Black community was generating an influx of dollars from those films. Compare that to today when rarely are people in front or behind the camera colored, and there are no Black owned theaters (Magic Johnson’s theaters are a franchise, those are Sony’s Theaters, like too many people of color, they buy into another man’s wealth, rather than defining their own, same as with BET) and given those facts you can clearly see, that the true age of Black Exploitation is not yesterday, but today.

So given today’s cinema of exploitation, it is really a great thing when a DEVIL WITH THE BLUE DRESS hits the theaters or an EVE’S BAYOU or a CAPPUCCINO, films that tread that landscape of the iconic and the fantastic and the experimental. Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, all countries making films that do gangbusters on the world stage, because they make brilliant genre films, be it horror, thriller, scifi, Action/Martial Arts that give the audience those universals of iconography and fanaticism, and yes excitement and experimentation.

Black Cinema in the 21st century has to grow or die, the same as with Black Music, and the only way to do that, is to stop letting others outside the community define the width and breadth of what determines that community. I’m not saying don’t have your small intimate films, or occasional comedies, but they need to be just one part of a diverse and broad scope of films, particularly films of the fantastic.

So that’s why I’m always there to support a film like THE INHERITANCE.

Ah you see what I did there? After the lengthy history lesson, macro view, I now bring it back home and focus on the microview and one specific film.

Nifty huh? :).

2011′s THE INHERITANCE. Strong opening, nicely shot, well performed, overall very engaging script. The film is not without its flaws, chief among them is the editing. Particularly a horror film relies on effective editing to make it… horrific.

And effective marriage of camera placement, editing, performance and sound to make an effective scene. This film is weak on the ability to build scary scenes, they tend to just sit there, often telegraphing any possible suspense, such as Lily’s carcrash scene and its aftermath. That whole scene cries out to be redone.

And you get the sense some shots were not fully done or left on the editing room floor, so you get this haphazard and unclear presentation of events, that screams less stylistic choice than budgetary constraints. Add to that sometimes the film arches a little high in terms of exposition and melodrama, particularly in the last act, overblown, into moments of self parody, that worked at odds with the darker thematic elements of the film. Something eliciting laugh-out loud laughter rather than the expected tension. And there are too few of those moments to consider them knowing winks at the audience, they come off as, what they most likely were, mistakes of tone. The exception to this being the inclusion of the White couple, flipping the color wheel on the token roles typically given to Black characters in genre/horror films. I quite like that little playful jab at screen conventions.

So minor hiccups aside, I quite enjoyed this film. With the exception, of the arched acting in the last act, for the most part I thought the performances by the entire cast was pretty darn fantastic. The problem with most Horror films, be it SCREAM or CURSED or ‘insert Horror flick here’ is you don’t care about the characters, and the kind of undercurrent that typical Hollywood horror films play to is unlikeable characters, killed in horrible ways.

In many ways if you look at films like SAW or FRIDAY THE XIII it’s serial killing by proxy, the audience there to root for stupid characters to die, and watch the villain kill and torture for them. I think that’s a troubling and unhealthy dynamic that traditional Hollywood cinema feeds into, on a lot of levels that are beyond the scope of this review. So those type of horror films, I have no interest in. Thankfully THE INHERITANCE aims higher than that, a supernatural chiller more in line with films such as SKELETON KEY, it’s possessed of characters you care about and want to see… survive.

Golden Brooks leads the young actors and gives a strong and centering performance as Karen, the film’s focal point. Having been in the business since the late 90s, she brings experience that is clearly put to good use here, as in many ways the film lives and dies, on her ability to carry your interest, and your concern. And she does the job admirably.

Rochelle Aytes, as Lily, is best known to me from TRICK R TREAT and DAYBREAK, in both properties delivering scene stealing performances, and that is no different here. She is a young woman of such immense beauty, that she tends to completely own the camera whenever it is on her. One of the most powerful scenes in the film centers around her, a drum, and a fireplace, wonderfully filmed and wonderfully performed. She has that rare and rarefied quality, that can only inadequately, yet somehow rightly, be described as star power.

D.B. Woodside brings a very unique performance, as Henry, the Alpha male among the cousins. A performance that is both contemplative and quiet, and when needed volatile and vulnerable. If it skews perhaps a bit too much to the latter in the last act, that has to be put on the requirements of script and direction, and not this actor, as all the actors go a bit off the rails in that third act. Woodside is another actor that goes back to the 90s in terms of credits, bringing a copious amount of experience to his role of Henry. Best known to many for his work in BUFFY and 24, he’s a charismatic actor, that is unfortunately underused, or badly used in television and film. He’s an actor clearly capable of carrying leading man roles, and hopefully this film will help put him on more filmmakers radar. Or director himself, having completed the short film FIRSTS, perhaps we can look for more directorial work from him as well.

Two other actors, Darrin Dewitt Henson and Shawn Michael Howard, the thrice named ones, complete the quintet of cousins. Shawn Michael Howard, with credits going back to 1993, in many ways has the trickiest role… walking that fine line between being humor, greek chorus, and audience release value. Particularly in a Horror film, which because it is so overblown runs the risk of being humorous rather than horrific, an audience needs to carried through the emotional beats of a story, so you’re getting the laugh out of the way when you need it, and that makes the moments when you deliver the serious portions, that much more compelling, and honored.

To some degree an audience is always part snarky character waiting to pull at the threads of the blanket you’ve woven, if you make those threads too obvious. Ready to laugh and deride what’s happening in the film. So having someone in the film, to be that grounding snarky character takes that role, thankfully, out of the audience’s hands. And I’m not talking about overblown humor here, I’m talking about just the natural humor that is generated by situations that take us off our routine. And this is what Shawn Michael Howard does admirably here, he keeps people at least through the first 2/3rds of the movie, grounded in the movie, laughing with the film, rather than at the film, no doubt abetted by a strong script, and capable direction.

And if Howard has the trickiest role then Darrin Dewitt Henson has the most thankless one. With so many characters, and such vibrant characters, such archetypes [chosen one, warrior, lustful virgin/lovelorn maiden, foolish rogue] all requiring screen time, someone has to just be the quiet guy/sounding board. Someone has to be the pause between all these exclamations, and that is Henson’s role. Thankless but very necessary, and Henson does his part credit. And without a doubt he’s an actor to watch. In-fact, with the exception of the stunning and always in demand Rochelle Aytes, he’s the busiest of the quintet of actors, having quite a few credits to his name in the last couple of years.

That brings us to the veterans. Keith David as Uncle Melvin headlines this film, and for good reason, he’s cinematic gold, and walking talking cinema icon, having over a 190 credits to his name. The reason? Because he makes everything he’s in… better. From Carpenter’s THING to PLATOON to OFF LIMITS to BIRD to THEY LIVE to THE LAST OUTLAW to CLOCKERS to GRAVE (a little seen movie, but quite nice) to DON KING to THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY to INNOCENTS (haven’t seen it but quite frankly intrigued to take a look) to PITCH BLACK to TRANSPORTER 2 to ATL to THE BUTCHER (and yes I’m naming a whole bunch of films for your Keith David marathon :)) to DON MCKAY. So here he brings that wonderful, both easy and commanding delivery to a film, anchoring it with equal parts charm and menace.

Lanre Idewu (best known for IRENE IN TIME) does an admiral job as Chakabazz. Novella Nelson (Aunt Bee)and André De Shields (Uncle Grady)don’t have a lot of screen time, but bring a masterful amount of craft to their portrayals. They bring a level of… veracity and dignity that elevates the film. The difference between acting and being. I’ve looked through their filmographies, and these roles while small, I think standout as well realized and iconic roles. Young actors can learn a lot by watching these understated performances… of menace. Finally Adriane Lenox fills out the principal players as Felicia, seemingly the ex-wife of Keith David’s character.

All these players are part of the stew of this debut film by writer/director Robert O’ Hara. It is quite a respectable first film, the Cinematography by Tommy Maddox-Upshaw, in some of the scenes is quite stellar. However, as expressed, the editing is where the film, in crucial scenes, falls down. Now that could be editor Craig Hayes just doing what he was told by the director, but ultimately again the buck stops and starts with the director, the man in the big chair.

But that aside, O’ Hara’s misteps in this film are outweighed by his successes. For a small budget debut film, I liked it quite a bit more than most films that do receive a broad cinema distribution. As a whole. the film is solid entertainment, and a film that I look forward to adding to my DVD library.

People forget that great directors such as Hitchcock and Lang, as a rule, don’t start out making masterpieces, but learning their craft with each successive film. John Ford making a lot of forgettable films before masterpieces like SEARCHERS and THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALENCE. So it’s unfortunate that in the current filmic landscape it is difficult for a/filmmakers to get funding and b/filmmakers to get distribution.

Carl Franklin is a great example, clearly one of the most talented and innovative directors of his age, in 22 years he’s only had a chance to make 7 feature films, and this is a known and bankable director. Contrast this to directors like Ford who have a 146 (mostly) feature film credits, and studios at that time actually willing to put out films. It is a much more daunting landscape for new filmmakers today.

And it becomes even more difficult for filmmakers of color, when distributors are looking for the stereotype rather than the game changer. All this to say, if this is Robert O’ Hara’s first film, I would love to see him do more films, as it is obvious he’s an unconventional filmmaker with real talent, and fresh perspectives.

Go see this film. It’s worth seeing for the drum scene alone. And it’s worth seeing as perhaps one small step toward a less skewed cinema, and a less marginalizing one. Recommended. C+.

INTO THE MYSTERY: Remembering DWAYNE MCDUFFIE

“You writers live too much out of the world.”
— Carol Reed’s THIRD MAN.

I just heard about Mr. McDuffie’s passing.

We had exchanged emails, a couple weeks ago, about doing an interview.

I wanted to discuss his work and discuss how DC Editorial had hampered his comic book work on JLA (as well as Marvel on FF), and the success of his animation work, and his future plans.

Life being life and we all being immortal, I had put off following up on the interview until we had more time.

Needless to say, time and tide continues to surprise us all.

A towering individual, not only in terms of height (he was 6’7″) but in terms of talent, and enthusiasm, he will be greatly missed by me and many.

I think in a medium that is ever less inclusive, that is going backwards rather than forwards (how DC and Marvel treated him is part and parcel of people who consider themselves liberal but are not, holding ever more egregious lines of pride and prejudice), he was a rare voice against the inherent prejudice, tokenism, and marginalization of people and more the presentation of people.

He had this outrageous idea that these tales of modern myth, could support more than the single token, and tokenized, character of color and instead provide a multiplicity of characters of color. In a medium that still follows to great degree the Disney model of segregation and marginalization, he wanted the myths and the mythmakers… to be better than that.

And to this end he made fantastic inroads into redefining the myths we feed our kids through shows like STATIC SHOCK and JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED, and with the latter expanding the scope/expectations of American televised animation. JLU is very much a cartoon that appeals to adults who grew up on these characters, as well as kids, and offers a storyline with scope. And remains a watershed work.

It is therefore sad, and inexplicable that with such a pedigree, the editorial department of DC and Marvel, refused to grant his comic work the same license and freedom as his Animation work, and all readers are the poorer for that… sabotage. DC’s actions seemingly more about getting the Milestone characters, completely under thumb, to no doubt like other multi-cultural friendly properties, such as ZUDA, be misused, marginalized and ultimately taken off the table, and buried from the sight of day.

I love all these keepers of a 50s status quo, of the white way, particularly at DC Comics Publishing wing, who come out now in the wake of his passing to praise McDuffie’s work, when they did nothing but their best to butcher his work while alive. Hypocrisy. Be honest now, in your heart of hearts, be honest. You stink just a little of hypocrisy.

Save your pretty lies, and if true sorrow feel, show it in your actions, and not in your primping words.

You did wrong by him in life, do right by him in death, and in so doing, do right by yourself.

Grow.

Learn the contours of your own prejudice and your own culpability, so you can get past it. Be more open to characters and creators of color. use well the Milestone characters, and support diversity in your mainstream books. Stop trying to erase the good creators have done with characters of color, with Marvel it’s them tearing down all the great work Christopher Priest did (instead of making his BLACK PANTHER and CREW work available again, and better yet getting him back on BLACK PANTHER, Marvel seems committed to killing or marginalizing every strong male Black Character they have), with DC it’s them going back to the 50s in terms of all their mainstream characters.

Don’t wait till someone’s demise, to realize you’ve stunted not only their growth, but by doing so your growth, and my growth, and everyone’s. When new visions are sabotaged, the medium suffers. And the medium has suffered with the interference in Duffie’s comic book work.

But in the face of that, one ever to go forward, to shine lights, rather than curse darknesses, Dwayne McDuffie continued to tell stories. His recent CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS, being the best of the DC Animated Adaptations, and his Animated ABSOLUTE SUPERMAN on my list to see.

So Animation and comics has lost a great ambassador, proponent and crafter for these four colored adventures, but more it has lost a fighter against ignorance, and intolerance and stupidity and stereotyping, in a medium filled with too many people, too many editors and writers and decision makers, who live and die only by these inanities.

But for this one fighter lost, McDuffie’s work has served to introduce many to these fields of wonders and whimsy, and hopefully to inspire new mythmakers and new myths.

My best to him and his, as he precedes us into the Mystery.

I’m going to direct you to this recent 2 pt podcast interview with Christopher Priest, coutesy of the guys at Dollcast, as it touches a bit on Milestone, and is just an invaulable insight into a medium, that while little read, becomes ever more influential to other mediums.

Here’s PART I.

and

Here’s PART II

And once you listen to that feel free to go here for a listing of books written by Dwayne McDuffie.

Review: INCOGNEGRO A Graphic Mystery by Mat Johnson & Warren Pleece

Those of you who’ve followed this blog over the years know I’m seldom at a loss for words.

I came close with this review of INCOGNEGRO.

INCOGNEGRO… wow. Anything I say about it will either be too little or too much. You should go into the book knowing very little (my thought on most things you seek to dazzle you) and you’ll get a lot out of it. All you need to know is it’s basically a murder mystery set in Jim Crow America. A 138pg 2008 Graphic novel, I don’t quite know how it avoided my radar, but this tale of an America of nearly a 100 years ago is RIVETING! I read it in one sitting, and went from unsure of it, to offended, to horrified, to chuckling and back again all in a space of pages.

Just am amazing mixture of pacing, scripting, dialog by Matt Johnson and expressive, pitch perfect visuals by Warren Pleece, that initially strikes me as too cartoony but ultimately works, creates a work that cannot easily be dismissed, forgotten, or put aside. I picked up the book for free at the library, but I am buying the hardcover, because it is one of those books (and this is the reason digital will never truly replace books for bibliophiles) that you want to have on your shelf, and own, and thumb through, and occasionally reread. It’s book as comfort as much as content, as talisman as much as text.

Matt Johnson writes as if the ghosts of Hal Bennett runs through him, combining that writer’s unequaled ability to pummel you with horror, then wring from you in the next breath, a sound not unlike laughter. And that ending is FANTASTIC!

Essential reading. A-.

My review is for the Hardcover. Use the link below to order your copy today. My Comic Shop is a site I personally use and recommend, and any purchases you do through my links brings me a few pennies which helps keep the blog running. So get yourself a great book and help the site, in one stroke. What could be easier. :).

Check status or purchase INCOGNEGRO here

“I grew up a Black boy who looked White. This was in a predominantly African-American neighborhood, during the height of the Black Power era, so I stood out a bit. My mom even got me a dashiki so I could fit in with the other kids, but the contrast between the colorful African garb and my nearly blond, straight brown hair just made things worse. Along with my cousin (half Black/half Jewish) I started fantasizing about living in another time, another situation, where my ethnic appearance would be an asset instead of a burden. We would “go Incognegro” we told ourselves as we ran around, pretending to be race spies in the war against White supremacy.”
— Matt Johnson, his forward to his book INCOGNEGRO

“That’s one thing that most of us know that most white folks don’t. That race doesn’t really exist. Culture? Ethnicity? Sure. Class too. But Race is just a bunch of rules meant to keep us on the bottom. Race is a strategy. The rest is just people acting. Playing roles.”
— INCOGNEGRO, Part I

Michael Jackson, Alien Doors and Media Hypocrisy

michaeljackson

A brief post.

I’m in a repair shop and watching the media feeding frenzy on Michael Jackson, in between digital drop-outs of the picture of course (this forced march to a digital spectrum, is yet another glaring robbery of the American people. With free Airwaves, Analog Airwaves GIVEN to big business and governmental interests. The FCC, joing the FDA, the FBI and every other governmental acronym in selling out America.); and I’m struck once again by the hypocrisy and mendacity of the Master Media.

A media that for decades has hounded and derided Michael Jackson, and not too long ago was dusting off a prison cell for him, and yet here they are, all those well paid talking heads, crying their crocodile tears, over the stopping of a man’s heart, that their medium had no little hand in trying to break. They didn’t literally drive him into a wall like the reporters did to Princess Di, but their harassment was no less designed to destroy.

You know that old joke about lawyers, I think it applies even more to Newspeople, to talking heads. What do you call a 1000 Newspeople at the bottom of the sea?

A good start.

I grew up on the music of the Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson. Don’t effing tell me about Michael Jackson, you don’t have the goddamn right. Michael Jackson was, to even say a great talent is to practice immense understatement, he was a wunderkind, a boy genius, A Mozart of his age.

And as such a talented boy, he was beloved. But as a burgeoning talented man, he met up with a medium, the unchecked press, that is adept at eating its young. And on top of that, as a man of color, in the heart of the nation that has always held itself the last, best hope for slavery, he came up against the destroying wall reserved for men of color. A wall that increasingly in this new 21st century has only 3 doors for men of color, the criminal system (as guard dog or guarded), the coffin, or the coffers of big business (as smiling fool or sexless token).

Throughout his brief life they tried to break Michael Jackson for all three doors, most notably the last, and most damagingly the last. We can see the impact the last had on his mind, and his flesh. A sensitive young man, perhaps no person of color best physically represented the pressures of being squeezed to fit such alien doors.

And now the media machine, and the pieces of offal that gleefully helped make of Michael Jackson’s life a joke, and a cautionary tale, have the temerity to have all their talking heads speak sweetly of that life? Spin their derision into accolades, now that he is beyond the hearing?

People wonder why I will never take sides against a Michael Vick, or and OJ Simpson, or a Marion Jones, or a Wesley Snipes, America has too much of its own sins not yet atoned for, to try and judge another man’s sins. Particularly a person of color. America lacks the moral high-ground to do that.

The media lacks the moral high-ground to do that.

I wish you… all media pundits, all talking heads, all pullers of strings; I wish you plague and death.

Plague and death.

“The only reason people are so upset when you die is because they haven’t finished using you yet.”
Jimi Hendrix

(Thanks to Taalam Acey for that quote- from his great CD… Blues Resurgence)