Saturday, March 31, 2007

Much Fanfare...hopefully no Flame-out

Jodi Picoult's new gig might buck the trend...
Publishing has a number of dirty little secrets. As you fanboys and girls know, chief in my mind among them is that white people are actually controlling and guiding this mad rush of "thug fiction" and raunch passing for black lit these days. It's all just "Flava of Love" in bookprint, just as contemporary Hip Hop has taken that dive. All a minstrel show, and we've bought into it. Part and parcel is a lot of unnecessary diva and baller worship--hell when were authors supposed to be celebs, regardless of race? Weren't we the despised truth-tellers, the folk who used allegory to shine light on the cockroaches? Shy bohemians rather than arrogant celebrities?

Well, there is an avenue of publishing which I once thought was immune to certain marketing gimmicks and trends: comic books. Nevertheless, the big names in our fearless The Darker Mask excepting, a number of "superstar" authors have been invited to pen story arcs. Much fanfare, much money exchanged. And the dirty little secret? Flame-outs. See, the audience is much more sophisticated and demanding in the comics realm. Think I'm kidding? Talk to them, watch G4 on cable and then get back to me!
Well, my fellow people of color--statistically, anecdotally and empirically you are likely to have rather base and immature tastes and appetites with respect to your reading choices. Curse me, hate me, kick my ass. But I speak the goddamn truth. Now OF COURSE I'm not saying we're more ignorant than white folks! Please...I'm not a total asshole. But when you factor in the fact that there are more of them, and they have that all-mighty disposable income, they thus have sub-groups of folks who can subsidize even the most arcane literary genre. That's why, for example, Colson Whitehead's booksignings are close to lily white, or you can count the number of darker heads on one hand when Nalo Hopkinson's doing an event, or just ask Brandon Massey what it's like to be compared to Stephen King and not, well...Brandon Massey. Or why do random middle aged white guys wander into Otto Penzler's Bookstore in midtown manhattan to look for my sorry-ass books yet I have to email/postcard/kidnap church ladies in black book clubs to get to my events. These same ladies will lament how there's nothing "decent to read" as they host a dinner/signing for the authors of I Only Sucked Dick in Prison, Mama and Lawd, the Pastor Makes Me Wet. (available in hardcover and soon to be a major motion picture starring Kimberly Elise, Morris Chestnut and the members of "Pretty Ricky")
But we're getting better, and we soldier on!!!
OK, so comics publishers are ordinarily a cool and adaptive bunch by their nature, and not tight-assed ostriches as you may find in prose publishing. But they can be just as craven in order to make the numbers demanded by the bean counters who in turn answer to the hedge fund stockholders. The real divergence lays with the comics fanbase...oh Lord, you can't sway them with gimmicks, pseudo-coups, tie-ins, and the other horseshit borrowed from the TV and film marketing machines (even though these publishers are now usually cogs in the machines that are huge corporations like Time-Warner or VIACOM). Comics readers are as the GHOST in the machine. The uncontrolable, unmalleable soul...
My fellow Princetonian Jodi Picoult, she of family chronicles and less gritty (though no less explosive) emotions explored, has joined this trend by signing onto a story arc for DC Comics. She might actually make a major splash due NOT so much to her "brand name." She chose her entre very carefully. "Wonder Woman". In the Amazon Princess's annuals, she finds a amenable audience, and a super heroine well known to her own fanbase of sensitive white chicks, their mommies and their daughters.
The dirty little secret here is that such relationships haven't exactly put the WONDER in Wonder Woman. For example, with much fanfare and big pay checks, Brad Metzler and Eric Jerome Dickey hooked up with DC Comics and Marvel, respectively. Brad, seeking a departure from the Wal Mart featured hardcover legal thrillers that folks buy as if by rote, penned a themed story about Justice League members. My boy Eric composed the love story of the X-Men's Storm and the Avengers' Black Panther. Did their core fanbase join in the lovefest and fanfare? No. Did the extant comic readers--the discerning ghosts in the machine--eat it up like so much candy? No. Again, a flame-out because these folks reject gimmicks. Sure, the stuff's a collectable: "40 Year old Virgin" types buy and shrinkwrap even the dumbest shit for that reason alone.
Try to look at this way...much of Eric's fanbase, already being eaten-into by the Minstrel Show thug books and raunch, wallows a certain soap opera flava that a graphic novel can't by its nature convey without pissing off the diehard comics fans. Indeed, you're better off doing a graphic renditon of lurid, stereotypical gangsta/dirty south/stripper raunch than try to turn Marvel superheroes into an episode of "Soul Food." As Brad, who's punted Washington Dc for South Beach and LA, he had some crossover ONLY because of his suspense/thriller pedigree. But it was minor. He is a darling of the beach-read crowd, and the beach-read crowd will buy a comic book for their kids but not themselves. Problem is, their kids don't want Brad Metlzer. Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, yeah...but Brad? Unh-unh. Yet you can't tell the brand-name struck cowns in marketing that real world fact. To them, this audience is merely a cadre of booger-eaters and drugged up gamers who can be manipulated as easily as the average suburban white housefrau, or Shaniqua on the Metro bus reading Relentless Aaron as if he's James Baldwin...
I think Jodi will buck that paradigm. There is a magical Mayan calendar-like astronomical conjunction of (1) her skill set, (2) her body of work and & themes, (3) her fanbase's proclivities & tastes at work. Even so, I predict it won't be wild windfall, but hey some clown will spin into a crazy success and thus feed more brand name worship, more inanity, more silly deals. All this while authors like Annie Nocenti (a goddess among comics writers), Gary Phillips (who forayed into comics for DC/Vertigo and Moonstone) or Mat Johnson (Mat's penned DC Comic's "Papa Midnite" amalgam of the original Hellblazer character--played by Djimon Hounsou in the film--and new origin stories, bursts forth soon with INCOGNEGRO) navigate and delight without fanfare, but with the loyalty and acclaim of BOTH their graphic AND their prose fans. And that's the dirtiest secret of all...that those folk who carry the creative and innovative load have remain in the background while superstars and "brand names" flame-out.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Et tu, Brute-ette?

WTF? White people flipping out from the cognative dissonance of seeing something in their realm disturbed just a teensy bit? Zounds!!! Say it ain't so!!! Could this guy have been a White House aide, too? As you know, we don't belong in certain situations, sports, neighborhoods, schools. Even if we make up 70% of the population in a certain area, we'll still get stares if we're the ones at the exclusive school's Spring Festival visiting our kids, who make up .001% of that student body...and don't lead the school's football or basketball teams, as we're supposed to do when "given" such an opportunity, right? ;-)

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. - Serena Williams says a heckler bothered her throughout her match Monday at the Sony Ericsson Open, making at least one racist remark before he was finally ejected.
``The guy said, `Hit the net like any Negro would.' I was shocked,'' Williams said. ``I couldn't believe it. I had to do a double take. I think I hit a double fault on that point.''
Williams won the third-round match against Lucie Safarova, 6-3, 6-4. Williams complained late in the match to the chair umpire about the heckler.
``I shouldn't have let it bother me, because growing up in Compton we had drive-bys,'' said Williams, who was raised in Los Angeles. ``I guess that's what my dad prepared me for, but I'm not going to stand for it.''
By the way, the "drive-bys" comment was definitely hyperbole on her part. Come the hell, Serena! No need to exotic-yourself up for Mr. Charlie or impress the ghettofolk.
It is sad, indeed, that we continually let them define us by our least common denominator. Our mudsill. Our bama and ghettofab quotient. Yes we have our self-loathing contingent of tight-assed fools (see, e.g,, Tiger below), but they are not the problem. We give white folks cheap victories and cheapen ourselves. In movies, TV (reality genre especially) and no doubt in the book biz, fanboys and girls...
Serena is more a "threat" than Tiger Woods b/c Tiger has tried to vanilla-ize himself (and he still gets messed with!). Serena has not done this and Serena is not shy and self-effacing. More power to her, her big bama ass and all! You al know I don't give up props to bamas unless there's the word at stake, like the Athenians saying to the 300 Spartans "Thanks, dudes." (n.b. the sacrifice at Thermopalye allowed the Athenians time to evacuate the city and them stage a naval battle at Salamis that destroyed the Persian navy and thus cut Xerxes' army off; that battle at the end of "300" in which the narrator leads the charge was merely the icing on the cake.) So I do give credit when it's due...

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Damn it feels good to be a gangsta...

Lord, working for the Retard-in-Chief & Darth Cheney must truly tax your psyche. You start forgeting things you write, you email, you say to your underlings. I mean, should you just respond to the subpoenas from Leahy about Plame, this horse manure about the US Attorneys honestly and say "Hey see-nor Lay-hoy, workeen for this Administra-sion has made he menk-tally ill. An amnesiac." Time to resign, Mr. Mexican Uncle Tom. You an incompetent yes man at best, a liar at worst. And to think the douchebags wanted Janet reno's head for far, far less. And Mr. Rove, oh my goodness Mr. Rove. What can be said about you?
But alas, you'll get away with it, so in your honor, I present this tune by Bushwick Bill and the Geto Boys:

And now, a word from the President!
Damn it feels good to be a gangsta
Gettin voted into the White House
Everything lookin good to the people of the world
But the Mafia family is my boss
So every now and then I owe a favor gettin' down like lettin' a big drug shipment through
And send 'em to the poor community
So we can bust you know who
So voters of the world keep supportin' me
And I promise to take you very far Other leaders better not upset me
Or I'll send a million troops to die at war
To all you Republicans, that helped me to win I sincerely like to thank you
Cuz now I got the world swingin' from my nuts
And damn it feels good to be a gangsta

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Tyler Perry and Black America

Forgot to add this today, fanboys and girls--link to a very controversial piece in XXL by Byron Crawford on the continuing ghetto-ization and a new term--"Tyler Perry-ization" of black culture. Now please, enjoy the Super Friends, Justice League and my wisdom below...

Justice League Office Space

For everyone slaving in cubicle so Mr. Charlie and Missy Ann can pad their portfolios and keep the hedge fund tools who own the stock happy...enjoy. By the way, whilst you're salivating like Pavlov's mutt over "Idol," they're hiking gas prices, mortgaging your pension, invading Iran, etc. Just a thought as you also see that Viacom, is suing Google/YouTube for $1billion. Yep, $1billion in copyright infringement claims. Um...I'd say that's debateable as hell, and there is a lot of fair use, modification and even parody shielding much this content. And don't you think for one friggin minute this is about justice for the songwriters, authors, cartoonists, performers, artists, filmmakers, videographers. Speaking as content maker myself, we see a fraction of the real money, whether you write poetry for some bottom shelf anthology, or you're Justin Timberlake. And it certainly ain't about you, the public, who likely gets more exposure to this content on YouTube rather than other outlets, and Viacom ought to kiss Google's fat bloated ass for that. Of course it's all a ploy to drive down Google's stock price and have MTV and other tentacles in the Sumner Redstone Leviathan extort the licensing fees. Oh won't the hedge funds be happy-happy then? Jesus, recall when America actually made shit? Steamships and railroads, art deco skyscrapers, threshing machines that fed the world?

What the f*5k happened? I'd ask the Super Friends and Justice League, above, to help, but they're busy filling out TPS reports...

Friday, March 09, 2007

Don't make fun of David Lee Roth...

...until you see this. Remember when Eddie Van Halen electrified the world and played background riffs on Michael Jackson's "Beat It?" Made the song and the video a classic, and changed music forever well before Run-DMC collaborated with Steven Tyler & Aerosmith. Remember how dudes wanted to be like him? Chicks, no matter their race, swooned over him?
He balanced the outrageous crap of David Lee Roth nicely.
Well, look at this m-f now. I bet Valerie Bertinelli's run for the hills. Hey, she still a hottie at age 45. My wife says Eddie favors the old guy who played "Blue" in Old School. Good Lord...age is a bitch. And yeah...don't do drugs!!!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Darker Mask compels you...

Here is your TDM I update:
"Heroes" on TV ain't nuthin but a soap opera. A nod to the cheesiness that's become entertainment. Get some bulk in your diet. Get some soul...
Conceived and edited by yours truly and Gary Phillips. Masterful tales of extraordinary people, of super-heroes. Of conflicted hunters and the hunted, resurgent and hopeful. Original artwork by seasoned graphic novel illustrators Shawn Martinbrough, Sean Wang, Eric Burtt, Jeff Fisher.
Stories by your all-star favs: Walter Mosley, Peter Spiegelman, Naomi Hirahara, LA Banks, Jerry Rodriguez, Mike Gonzales, Tananarive Due, Dosselle Young, Steve Barnes, Mat Johnson, Alexandra Sokoloff, Annie Nocenti, Wayne Wilson, Reed Farrel Coleman, Gar Anthony Haywood, Victor LaValle
& Nalo Hopkinson. Plus me & Gary.
The Darker Mask©. Taking the boots to the hum-drum and conventional bull out there. Feeding y'all's hearts and minds. From Tor/Forge Books. Stay tuned...
Illustration by Eric Burtt for The Darker Mask 2007

Saturday, March 03, 2007

"Support Our Troops"

I wanted to let you know more about the readings I attended for Mat Johnson and Obery Hendricks, as well as update you on The Darker Mask and the busy 2008 I will have. Naaaah. I am a pissed off individual right now. As a Silver Spring resident, I see dozens of young men with missing limbs, scooped-out skulls, burned flesh...all trying to get some fresh air and normalcy as they see their families, take in the sunshine. They've come to Walter Reed Army Hospital. Click on the words Walter Reed and wade in the filth of shame. An Army Secretary resigns in disgrace. The VA Secretary should, too. Cronies of Dubya. Yet now Dubya and his silly cypher Mr. Gates, the supposed anti-Rumsfeld (remember Rummie? Hell, he and Colin Powell need to join the Democrats for payback) want to "get to the bottom of this." Hmmm, sounds like Claude Rains' character in Casablanca when he rolls into Humphrey Bogart's joint sees the "illegal" roulette and poker then tuts: "I'm shocked...shocked that there's gambling in Casablanca!" If this had a been a Democratic Adminstration, Lord have mercy the hue and cry on the Hill and on Fox News and the douchebag blogs would drown out Britney Spears shrieks in electroshock therapy!

Back in 2005, when Dianne and I put up our friends and relatives at the Silver Spring Hilton during our wedding, we had a chance to talk to these young men. Many had relatives who stayed at the Hilton. With pained smiles the young men tried to maintain the facade of duty, honor...keeping the Army's and Dubya's line. (BTW And don't ya just love the way he ran down to Alabama to make sure those rednecks were OK after that tornado; New Orleans folks didn't rate,and still don't of course, but I'll let Field Negro field that horse manure move). Didn't take long to get the truth--about how they felt about the war now, and how it jived with why they enlisted in the first place. About these jackasses who lifted them to a pedestal for political purposes by these retarded War Hawks or cynical tools like Cheney. Now that they were damaged, no one cared but their families. Sounds a lot like these so-called Christians who want to elevate a fertilized egg--a zygote--to person status, prosecute a pregnant woman for not nuturing it yet cutting funds for maternal-fetal health (not to mention child care, CHIP program, and wow...VA benefits, military health care plan co-pays and coverage and stop-loss limits, but hey...). Of course once that zygote eventually pops out as a kid, it and it's mom are stone on their own. Amazing.

Boy--Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, O'Reilley, every GOP talking point memo etc. told me that it's these "faggot Democrats" who were hurting gallant troops! Indeed they never show any coffins flown into Dover AFB--the largest morgue in the US well hidden if you're driving to the beach from Philly or Wilmington. Damn, could they be wrong? Hell, I found out they just did a shellack job with Obama and even whimpy Colmes on Fox managed to show that. My faith is shaken. Here I thought all these people were telling me the truth...I feel so used. ;-) For truth, I guess I'll just talk to one the faceless, armless kids in Borders, or Eggspectation or Panera down here in Silver Spring, Maryland. Maybe these other douchebags in the red states need to come here, too, sit by the fountain on Ellsworth Street. Watch. Listen. Be ashamed...

By the way, look at this clown in Alabama...has he come up Georgia Ave to Walter Reed to embrace disfigured teenagers languishing there? (oops that's right...he NEVER travels anywhere in DC or Maryland). Had he deigned to touch or comfort any of the black folks in New Orleans? Has he even seen the flag drapped coffins rolling into Dover in person? Nah...need to gel those citizens of Dumbfuckistan (sorry, I meant red state) into votes with caring photo ops. I guess Karl Rove saw The Queen and realized what had to be done.