Re-Writing a Dead Novel

20140319-130547.jpgMy writing style has changed. I realized it a few weeks ago when I was looking at my past writing projects. I was looking at old unfinished books and even older blog posts that will never see the light of day. I realized that there was a certain sense of immaturity with the way I connect the words.

Something must have happened to me during the creation of my current novel. I feel like there was a whole world that I didn’t realized existed. It was an epiphany of sorts when I started writing it that made all the words on the screen pop as soon as I typed them. Now, it makes me look down at any thing I’ve written before that. The thing is that I know I have a particular writing style now that my older texts do not live up to and it’s frustrating for me to read.

With that in mind, I was looking at one of my unfinished projects entitled The Angel of Death. This was something that I started years ago as a short story. I then expanded it and came up with some themes in order to complete this later. For all intents and purposes, this should have been my first book. There is a story there I wanted to tell but I got stuck somewhere. I blamed it on writer’s block and then it just got lost in the shuffle.  Looking back at it, perhaps I just wasn’t ready to tell this story yet.

The way I see it is that where was a lot of problems with The Angel of Death that begins with the title. I think it is too cliche and I kinda knew that when I started it. The story itself was just developing too slowly for me. I learned in writing Hanging Upside Down, that its better to just hit people with action and information immediately. The first chapter becomes fundamentally the most important chapter of a novel. The writer needs to grab the reader’s interest enough to want to read more. More importantly, it has to be interesting enough for me to keep writing it. While I think I achieve a decent first chapter with that unfinished novel, every chapter after that was not working for me.

So I made the ultimate decision last night to kill this book and start over. I know I can do a better job with this story by simply rewriting it and that starts with renaming the book entirely. However, I realized that I have an opportunity to show off some of my unedited works and what better way to do that then putting in on Goodreads. I have posted all six chapters of this old project for people to view. It is a way to say Thank You to the people who may actually read this blog.

My goal is to become a Goodreads Author after I publish Hanging Upside Down, so putting the old novel helps me a bit with the profile.

All Coming Together #VamosNaranja

LANSU LogoWhen I thought about writing this, I wasn’t sure what platform I should use. I haven’t mentioned my exploits as the president of LANSU (Latino Alumni Network of Syracuse University) as much on here because I try to keep work and volunteer stuff mutually exclusive. But nevertheless, some things tend to bleed over.

Once I came back to New York City, I had my heart set on being a more involved alum of SU that focused on Latin@ students. In my past, as an employee of Syracuse University, I tried my best to support any of the Latin@ students that came across my path. While that sounds like I only helped on portion of the population, I made sure that I supported all students as best I could no matter their pigment or lack there of. The point is that I know the issues and the struggles of the current student. It really isn’t so different from 20 years ago (Geez…has it been that long?).

LANSU-save the date-gold-nosaveI have been doing this for a year now and things are really coming together. I will admit I wasn’t sure how this would work out, but I have been able to find time to give back. The Latin@ Alumni are so important, not just at Syracuse, but to any school really. In many ways we are new to the game since many Latin@ students come from first generation parents. My job has been to try to get older alums in the same room as younger alums to create a connection that will help everyone involved. I think that for the most part it has been working but there is tons of work left to be done.

My main concern is the LANSU scholarship. This is a huge undertaking that will require time patience, and of course money. There are a number of alums that have told me that they did not have a particularly great experience in college. I think this is where many Alumni offices struggle with is being able to gain support while promoting this homogenous experience that portrays fun times and good spirits. I take all of that into account because in the era I was in school we were still doing sit ins at the Chancellor’s Office every time there was an announcement that tuition was going up another 3%

Now we live in a time where the tuition is about 54k and rising and student issues have not changed all the much so being able to help them in way that were not available for me or my fellow alumni is the goal.

In the mean time, I’m enjoying the many workshops we have been providing for alums to help them be successful because we all can’t do it alone. While I know that many of us had negative experiences in school we can transform those to positive experiences out of school.

Money Talks v3

Back in Book Mode

Screen shot 2014-03-10 at 2.00.30 PMLet’s not be fooled about the editing process. I think it is tough a grueling job that is hard to do which is why I’m having someone else do it for me. I do struggle with editing my own work and with something so text heavy it only makes sense that I have a third party look it over. This decision has been one of the best of my life.

The editing process started in January and since then it has been a little bit of a waiting game. The truth of the matter is that I haven’t looked at any of the pages I’ve written since that time…until Friday. I told myself that I was not going to look at my work until the edits were done because there was a probability that I will start to make changes again and I just need to stop.There was a time when I called my editor saying that I was thinking of adding something and she was like, “you better do it now then.” I never did because I felt bad because I couldn’t let go. Now, I’ve pretty much have the first half of my book edited and I’m feeling really good about it. The novel is written in two parts so the second half will go under the “knife” very soon.

It feels good to be back in book mode. I can’t describe exactly how it feels to read this novel all over again with a different pair of lenses. When I was in that zone, I had so many things on my mind and the story itself was still close to my heart, so it was difficult to let it go for awhile. Now I read it and I can see where changes need to made almost immediately. However, since this document is already edited, the only changes I am making is to the dialogue.

I’m a big believer that you have to be able to capture the way people speak. When I write, I seem to not use many contractions, which it not the way normal people talk. So my mission has been to change phrases like: I am going to go to the park to I’m gonna go to the park. Sounds simple enough, but sometimes it depends on the person speaking. These are all final touches to something I’ve been working on for such a long time and I want to make sure that I get it right.

The last thing that I want to do is not rush the process. I know that I’ve said several times over that this book will come out in the spring, but I can tell you that its looking like it could as late as the fall if I have my way. Yet, it all depends on what happens when I shop the book around.

In either case, I’m more than happy to be back in book mode. I truly could not get my mind around other idea until I had this one squared away. I look forward to the late night reading and editing again. I get a chance to reflect on the characters I created to make sure that I haven’t left out any parts. More importantly, I can go back and look at the notes that the test readers have provided me to see what I can do to make this novel better.

Afraid of Everything

sinestro_corps_neon_symbol_wp_by_chaomanceromega-d52b4atI don’t understand it. I feel the closer I get to what I’m striving for the more fear I feel. While I’ve learned push to it aside and keep going, it has made me pause on more than one occasion. This isn’t like any phobia that I know of. I’m not talking about the fear of flying or the fear of getting mugged on the street. What I’m referring to is the fear of success (or maybe that is a phobia).

What if I actually become this writer that people say I have the potential to be? There is a certain amount of craziness to that. It just increases my own expectations of myself. I’m in the game because many times writing has gotten through the roughest portions of my life, so for this to become more than just a hobby can be frightening.

I have just gotten used to the notion that the novel might actually be decent. What’s scaring me is not fact that that book might be bad, it’s the fact that people might actually read it. There are a lot of things going on in the book that makes me wonder what would happen if someone at my college read it and were offended by the overall theme. Don’t get me wrong, this is not an x-rated book where sex is dripping from every page, but there are themes that are discussed that make me cringe a bit for the only fact that my parents will read it.

There is a bluntness about the story. Men do stupid things all the time and I’ve had to dig deep in many chapters of the story. Yet, I cannot help but think some people will have a problem with it. I have been criticized before and I’m very aware of my past mistakes. I just have this fear that I will have to go in front of a firing squad again.

This is not say that I don’t fear failure because I do but, I know how to recover from it. I have failed before and I will fail again. I learn from it. I’m not sure I would be all that upset if no one read the novel because not many have read it thus far anyway. No matter what happens I can still say that I created something. I can at least say that I fulfilled a goal of mine. The problem is that as I’ve gotten older, I have become more aware of that is going in the world. One wrong move and labels fly. We live in an era for public shaming without discussion. I know that I cannot satisfy everyone and I’m well aware there are people in this world who wish me success and some who wish me failure. I think too much and I get it. I’m a perpetual over-thinker and even with that I still make silly mistakes so I cannot foresee everything.

Which also means that my fears extend beyond the pages. I’m in a very good place in my life. I really couldn’t be happier and that is also unsettling. In the past, there were gaps in my life where stress and uneasiness was just a part of my everyday existence. Not having that in my life is a pleasure but it makes me think that something is right around the corner, some unforeseen threat that will crack what is going with me.

I know. I know, it sounds like paranoia, but it’s also adulthood. Which bring me to my last fear. I turn 40 this year and there seems to be a theme with everyone on Facebook and Instagram. Everyone is having a baby. I’ve made this clear years ago that I stopped hoping for this possibility because I just didn’t see it and while things are looking better, I will be an old man if this does indeed happen. Granted, I’m not talking about Dick Clark old or even Charlie Chaplain old when having kids, but is a thought that weighs on me from time to time.

I press on because I have to. As much fear as I may have, I do recognize most of my fears are indeed irrational. I made a pledge to make zero excuses and I will continue to do so but the fear will always make me pause.

Diversity Isn’t Pandering: Notes For the Next Era in Media

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When I think about having a discussion about comic books, I know that I just don’t stop at the books themselves. The conversation can easily turn into a debate about animation as well. Often times comic books are the inspiration for animation. In either case, diversity is always an issue. Next up on the guest blogger list: Carrie Tupper.

“You’ve got a pretty colorful crowd here. Did you check off a list or something?”

“Where are all the white people?”

This is a pretty normal response we get when people see our pitch for Kamikaze, a TV show concept that my husband, Alan and I created. See, the majority of our characters aren’t white. In fact, our core cast only has one white person in it, who also happens to be female (but that’s another discussion entirely). Because of this lack of white people we sometimes get ‘The Rainbow Coalition’ question. Did we really create our entire cast and world to simply pander to non-white audiences?

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Now I do have a few confessions to make before I go any further, especially when I’m given the privilege of taking the podium here at Volume 2. You see, Alan and I are a little different from the other creators who’ve blogged this month by a few factors.

  1. the-kamikaze-team-behind-the-scenesWe’re animators, and fairly new to the comic world
  2. We’re a husband and wife team
  3. We’re ‘sun-reflecting-off-our-skin-will-blind-you’ white
  4. The only PoC on our team is the lovely Havana, who is amazingly talented and adored by all.

In the 1980′s and 1990′s the Rainbow Coalition of Diversity took a forefront to the TV animated world. It was like suddenly there was this checklist that had to be filled out planeteersbefore anything could get the green light. The one I remember most vividly was the gang ofPlaneteers from Captain Planet, and that’s probably for good reason – they were the ones that got people talking. Every representation you could want for a racially diverse cast was there. And yet I remember being a kid and hearing adults talk so much smack about the show. “This PC crap has got to go!” Or the best one, “Real life isn’t like that!”

The kneejerk reactions against Rainbow Coalitions are founded on two perspectives. EP-Razors-EdgeThemost often complaint is in the vein of “Political Correctness Sucks.” People who say this are simply reacting against the idea of change, acting on bigotry so deeply ingrained they don’t realize (usually) what they’re saying is harmful. The other side of this coin is the reaction that these characters are frankly mere shadows of what they could be. There’s reason to be frustrated with the concept of Rainbow Coalitions. They’re often used as shorthand vocabulary for stand ins of true diversity in any kind of media looking for an effortless way to expand their audience base and brand. Basically it’s lazy.

There’s a fine line between the Rainbow Coalition Diversity and genuine diversity. Rainbow Coalitions bring us characters who look like the part, but can’t act like it; they’re cardboard cutouts of tired tropes and stereotypes in a world of 3D white characters who get to think, have feelings and emote them. Meanwhile genuine diversity allows for characters who are diverse in a myriad of ways while still being thinking feeling and emoting beings. Genuine diversity also stems from the world your characters inhabit.

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When we created the world of Kamikaze, we created a world still rebuilding itself in the aftermath of a global catastrophe. Our world is a diverse world because it can’t afford not to be. There’s a reason behind our world being populated with a diverse amount of people, which is why our cast has to reflect that.

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Does that mean that we pandered for the sake of diversity?

We don’t think so.

According to the Miriam Webster Online dictionary Pandering is defined as such: “To do or provide what someone wants or demands even though it is not proper, good or reasonable,” OR “to provide gratification for others’ desires.” Demanding the world be represented as diverse as we know it to be isn’t an unreasonable request. Demanding it remain a space devoid of diversity is unreasonable. If the team behind Kamikaze has been providing for anyone’s gratification, it’s been our own. With very few exceptions Kamikaze’s characters came out of the box as diverse as they are. The end goal has always been telling a compelling story with a cast of complex and vivid characters. No checklists needed.

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The thing is genuine diversity isn’t something limited just to race. It encompasses sexuality, gender or lack thereof, ability, body type and a host of other constantly evolving considerations. True diversity means embracing all the complexities of the world, not just the cliff notes.

Yes, there are people who do pander using the Rainbow Coalition model, but we shouldn’t let that distract us from the fact that genuine diversity isn’t pandering – it’s the path to better storytelling.

new years imgeTo find out more about Kamikaze:

Our Website: http://kamikazeanimated.com/
Our Tumblr: http://kamikazeanimated.tumblr.com/
Our Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KamikazeAnimated

This or That: Self Publish or Not?

20140212-134134.jpgI needed to take a small break from the all the amazing guest bloggers to really express that I’ve come to the proverbial fork in the road when it comes to this novel. Last week started off a chain of events that has lead me to make a decision on how this book is going to be published.

I’ve never been too proud to admit that I’m still learning when it comes to this process. I’m still very much a student of the writing game and have barely a clue on any thing more than just self publishing. I figured that this would be the best thing for me because I’m usually the ‘do it yourself’ type of person. Yet, there was always a small pull to look into traditional publishing. Even my girlfriend tried to put a bug in my ear that I should at least look into it.

Perhaps there was a part of me that thought that my work is not good enough to submit. There have been many times during this process where fear almost got the best of me. So I just ignored that pull and kept on my journey to just do it myself. But then I got an email from a relative. It was just a quick link about formatting a manuscript in order submit it to a publishing company. This is when I began to realize that I know even less than what I thought I knew. When I informed my editor about what I learned she quickly told me to send her all the chapters again in this manuscript format.

Maybe it sounds too simple, but this one act of reformatting this draft into a manuscript had changed they way I looked the future of this book. I had to face some facts about all this.

  1. I haven’t set a date for this book to come out. I’ve always said before the summer or maybe the spring of this year. The reason for this was because I’m not sure how long editing will take and how long it may take me to add revisions if I need to. So going the publishing route would set the date for but it may not even be this year. (yikes)
  2. It will cost me some money to self publish. This is something that I always knew going into this process but it would be nice if I didn’t have to.
  3. I have a feeling that designing the book jacket is not going to be easy. I will need a graphic designer which wont be cheap (although, I’m considering some of my comic book buddies to help out with art lol). Clearly this is something I would not have to worry about so much if I go the traditional route.
  4. I have no plan whatsoever on how to market this book other than word of mouth and social media. Publishing companies are all about the marketing of a book.

So where does that leave me? I think that I owe it to myself to try this. I’ve already gotten some leads on some publishing companies but I also know that for the most part I need an agent to submit the manuscript for me. Believe it or not, I do know someone that can help me out. So the act of submitting to a publishing company may become a reality.

I will admit that the reaction from the test readers has put me in a position where confidence is high. But, I’m fully aware that my manuscript could be rejected. As a first time novelist, this is something that you have consider and just take it on chin if it does happen. In any case, I’m feeling that I need to do this so that I can at least say I tried.

If all else fails than self publishing is the route to take.

The Unlikey Muse: Bigotry in Comic Books

1912229_10202493266268143_1977853857_n“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet,
then you must write it.” ―Toni Morrison

The one thing that I’m personally learning this month is that there are a plethora of people who feel the need to create work because there is absence of something or because there is a void that needs to be filled. With that being said, here is today’s guest blogger, Denny Upkins:

They say necessity is the mother of all invention and by extension, creativity. As a storyteller I’ve certainly found that to be true for the narratives I penned.

As a queer geek of color, I’ve learned early on that geek culture is for white people for a number of reasons, and to be a PoC or an LGBTQ means to be treated like a pariah.

More than that, countless marginalized characters are endlessly undercut and buried due to the rampant bigotry that pervades the media. Extraordinary characters such as Storm (the First Lady of Marvel), Renee Montoya, Regina Mills, Freedom Ring, Midnighter, Cassandra Cain and countless others who have been lightning rods for racism, misogyny, and/or homophobia by fandom and the industry alike.

But as any artist will tell you, inspiration can often come in the unlikeliest of forms.

My online better half and partner in crime, playwright Shawn Harris and I were having a discussion one day about how bigotry can often be the best muse. We’re often empowered to tell the tales that white supremacy, homophobia, and patriarchy refuses to acknowledge. For example, if the comic book world is hellbent on not giving the proper shine to Cassandra Cain and Midnighter, then I would simply have to pen an original adventure honoring the spirit of these heroes and hopefully in the process educate, entertain, and empower neglected and marginalized audiences.

Make no mistake, this is about power. It always has been. Not only is there power in the narrative but power in controlling the narrative. Why do you think so many whites work tirelessly to block us out of spec fiction or the media in general? Power. Case in point, there’s a reason why even though the m/m slash romance genre for and about queer males, it is dominated and run by cis-gendered white women. It’s difficult to be heterosexist, homophobic and fetishistic about queer males in a genre where we’re empowered to share our truths. This is why harassment, stalking and death threats of queer males is the norm with these sociopaths in that genre. See how it intersects?

Ask yourself this. Even though X-Men is based on the Civil Rights struggle of blacks (ie OUR STORY), how many black writers have actually written for Marvel’s flagship title? For that matter, how many writers of color? Again, power.

And while their bigotry has paid off for a season, it will ultimately prove to be media’s undoing. Insiders can’t understand why Hollywood continues to hemorrhage money while Kickstarters, web series and other online media initiatives continue to gain ground. To quote Jack Harkness, it’s the 21st century, everything changes. The internet allows us to exchange ideas, information, and other resources to circumvent a crumbling and corrupt image(1)industry. We get to share our stories our way and connect with our audiences on our terms. In other words, we take our power back and excel in the face of adversity as people of color tend to do.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have another epic adventure to write.

And they say there’s no new tale to tell.

Black Independent Comics: Ultra Supreme

ULTRASUPREMEContinuing where we last left off, I’ve noticed that there is a lot of buzz this month about Black Superheroes, which is awesome. I think that many of us have had the same ideas at the same time. It’s time to show this industry that the lack of diversity in comics is unacceptable and it time to create our own. Now, here is today’s guest blogger…

I’m Derek Mason, creator, writer, cartoonist and Publisher at Mason D Entertainment. I’ve been a life-long comics fan, mostly of Independents, but just recently got into (and out of) comic books from the big 2.

ultrasupremecolorGrowing up, my favorite comic book was Eastman & Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I didn’t get into superheroes, particularly BLACK super heroes until after seeing Robert Townsend’s Meteor Man and buying Milestone and ANIA comics, which all seemed to debut at the same time. Those comic books came and went so I got into reading Marvel and DC. Due to the lack of credible minorities and the lack of black female super heroes,(tired of Storm only getting recognized) I decided to create my own team: Ultra Supreme.

Based in Atlanta, Ultra Supreme consists of Keyo Keyz (warrior angel), Panther Huey (mutant revolutionary), Mecha-X (Japanese student with alien armor/robot), and 3 BLACK FEMALE Heroes; E.G (immortal goddess), Mz. Unstoppable (super strong/fast alien ), and Lady Gunz ( soldier/sharp shooter).

My goal is to hopefully inspire other black creators like Mr. Townsend and Mr. McDuffie inspired me to create their own Independent comics and to add more black female superheroes to the pop culture super hero mythos.

Ultra Supreme will be the first of 3 titles to be released from Mason D Entertainment.  A “Mason D Universe” source-book is also in the works and should be released by April. The first issue of Ultra Supreme will drop by mid September with art done by character designers O.C. Taylor and Oliver Banks. I don’t have a website as of yet, but you can follow Mason D Entertainment on Facebook.

Black Independent Comics: The Horsemen

oyaclovenAs promised, this month I will have several guest bloggers that will promote their work in the independent comic book industry. It is imperative to understand that there are great writers of color out there doing good work by creating characters that are appealing to everyone. With no further ado..

Hello!

My name is Jiba Molei Anderson, owner of Griot Enterprises and I will be your guest blogger today. I am also the creator its flagship title, The Horsemen.

What is The Horsemen, you ask? Well, The Horsemen is the story of seven ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances, as the gods of ancient Africa possess them. They have been chosen to protect humanity from themselves…whether humanity wants them to or not. They have been chosen to combat those who control the fate of the planet. Through their actions, the world would never be the same.

Since 2002, there have been three Horsemen series… Let me break it down for you…

HORSEMENDIVINEINTERVENTION_2002The Horsemen: Divine Intervention
The Orisha emerged from a deep slumber. Seeing that their mission had been perverted, they had set about to free us…whether we wanted them to or not. The Horsemen returned. And their presence will change the world.

The Horsemen: The Book of OlorunOLORUN#3COVER_2011
The Orisha emerged from a deep slumber. Seeing that their mission had been perverted, they had set about to free us. But, what if there were others not Orisha, not Deitis, not Human, but something more, a new Race? What side would they choose in the coming war?

And, who truly controls the Eight Immortals but the number seven?

HORSEMEN(Cloven)The Horsemen: Mark of the Cloven
Africa is now the new frontier and a beacon of hope for the rest of the world…

However, controlling the world is a family business… And the bastard children of the Deitis want in.

The entire Horsemen series is available in print and download through IndyPlanet, Drive Thru Comics and Amazon. Become a part of the New Mythology… Cheers!

The (lack of) Black Experience in Comic Books

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This journey that I have taken as a writer sometimes makes me think about my past. In my high school days I created an entire universe filled with characters. My friend and I created so many super powered heros and villains that the list stretches for pages. Neither of us could draw very well so the focus was very much on the characters themselves.  I was very proud to come up with back stories and histories along with story arcs. The name of my favorite hero was Supernova aka Philip Maldonado.

I bring this up because, as I look back at it, there was a need for me to see myself in the super hero genre. Growing up all the comic books I read were of white men saving the neighborhood or the world. If I was lucky enough I would get to see a person of color being drawn or even in costume. In any case, I never thought I was bothered by this. I just collected comic books for the sake of reading about my favorite super heros like Firestorm, Spider-Man, The X-Men, and the Justice League to name a few. Yet with hindsight being 20/20, I realize now that I created an outlet for myself with the understanding that if it was up to me, whatever universe I create would be filled with heros and villains of all colors, genders, and creed.

This brings me to the Big Two (Marvel and DC) and how there is a serious lack of black luke-fox-asks-if-hes-batwing-because-hes-blackexperience in their characters. This points to the lack of diversity in both companies. I’m quite sure there is a thought that all heros are cut from the same cloth and are some how homogeneous. So someone like Mr. Terrific could act like someone resembling Tony Stark but there is no sense of the baggage the comes from being an African American. It is not ok for Batman to assign the Luke Fox (The new Batwing) to Africa simply because he’s black (the first Batwing was African) without much push back from that character (and laugh about it when it is brought up).

The point is many of these Black/Latino characters are one dimensional because of the lack of diversity from the Big Two. While it can be a good thing for Marvel to have a few books featuring black characters as the lead (The Mighty Avengers, Fearless Defenders), the characters themselves become bland because there is no real depth to them. That lack of depth shows in sales which ultimately leads to the cancellation of books like Mr. Terrific, Static Shock, and Blue Beetle. The only book that has been the exception to all this has been Miles Morales (the Ultimate Spider-Man) and that is because he is getting the complete backing of Marvel to be the hero for that comic line.

1298402248When it comes down to it, the Big Two have no idea what do with theses characters besides using them as a market tool. I tend to use DC in these examples because they seem to fail the most in just about everything except animation, which brings me to my other point. Cartoons like Justice League and Young Justice has done very well with a broad audience and for the most part, that has to do with the late Dwayne McDuffie. It was his development of John Stewart and Hawkgirl that really made the show what it was and by extension Young Justice’s diversity is linked to Milestone Comics, which he was one for the founders of, but I will circle back to that.

There is no way for us to expect any less from the Big Two or any other comic book company that follows the exact same formula. Sure you can create a Black super hero but then what? Do you de-power them or never use them to their full potential? I love how Cyborg has the potential to like Brainiac but will never get there because that would make him a little too powerful. Or we can talk about how DC has a virtual pantheon of characters from their “deal” with Milestone that they are willing to use for a cartoon to draw us in but never use them in the books. That is why it becomes imperative to join a new movement of independent titles created by people of color.

Generally when I think about black comic books, my thoughts revert to Milestone and how those individuals lived the dream of doing it themselves. Their success is a reflection that there is an audience for this but we need to be prepared to support each other. That is why for this month I have invited some independent comic book creators to appear on this blog and talk about their work. It is time show everyone that there are alternatives to the mainstream comics books out there. We deserve better.