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Monday, August 18, 2014

The Isis Series and The Lightskin/Darkskin Issue, and Dysfunctional Color Struck Negroes

Sometimes the ignorance of people is an opportunity to teach. A couple of weeks ago, On seeing the cover for Isis: Wrath of the Cybergoddess paperback, family members told me that the characters on the cover weren’t “Black” and began to go into the old lightskin/darkskin argument instead of looking at the content of the story.

 Now every other African-American fantasy group, Black book group, nonblack book group and comic book group on Facebook I’m on has told me they clearly see how Isis is Black. Many more have praised the cover by Bill Walko and it’s gotten dozens of likes on social media. Not a single person has gone into a lightskin/darksin argument when I present any Isis Series cover to them. They simply enjoy the stories.

I don’t want this lightskin/darkskin issue to take away from readers’ enjoyment of Isis character or the Isis series stories.  Nor do I want it to poison the perceptions of brothers and sisters regarding the character. So I’m going to take the time to clarify things about the Isis series and the character of Isis.

Everything I do with the Isis series is based on years of research. I took a year of trips to the library to research Osirian legend and Egyptian mythology before writing a single word of the first Isis story back in 1999. And I did two more years of research on Egyptian mythology, Egyptian History, Nubian history, and Black history before I typed out the first draft of the manuscript back in 2001. And I did even more research on those subjects and even the old Filmation Isis TV series before publishing the first book in 2002.

Isis is the daughter of Osiris because I wanted to make a statement about the relationship between Egypt and Nubia. Isis is Horus’ sister to symbolize how she came from Nubia, Egypt’s sister nation. At one time Egypt and Nubia were like the United States and Canada, they shared a trade border, shared the same culture and even worshipped the same gods. There were numerous temples to Ra, Isis, Horus and Osiris in Nubia just like there were in Egypt.

Isis’ character design was based on the Egyptian and Nubian myths themselves, and pictures and statues I saw depicting the goddess. Isis’ golden skin tone is based on Egyptian/Nubian Mythology. In ancient times statues of the gods were made of gold. Gold was a precious metal and esteemed the high value of the gods Egyptians and Nubians worshipped.

The brown color I use for Isis is meant to symbolize her golden skin tone and distinguish her as a goddess. I was trying to get as close to the hieroglyphs I studied as possible.

Isis’ Auburn/Chestnut brown hair is based on what I read about the Egyptian god Seth. Seth is depicted in numerous versions of the Osirian legend as having red hair. The way I saw it the red hair gene would have to be within the Heliopolitan bloodline. Plus it was a way to make the character stand out and look distinct.

I also gave Isis the chestnut/Auburn Hair color because many Ancient Egyptians in ancient times dyed their hair and wigs red with henna. During ancient times women would color their hair and wigs this color during holidays and other celebrations. I even believe it was a fashion trend in one era.

In addition, Isis was also given Chestnut/Auburn hair to make her look distinct from the brunette Queen Isis and her brunette sister E’steem.  At the time I was planning Isis it was meant to be a comic book. And if one looks at the Golden and Silver Age Wonder Woman and her Mother Queen Hippolotiya they’ll notice Princess Diana is a brunette while her mother Queen Hippolyotia is a blonde. This was done so that the characters would be easy to distinguish when they were drawn together in a comic panel.

In real life, I’ve seen many Black women with the same hair color Isis has in my drawings. And when one looks at a color photo of Malcolm X they’ll see he has reddish/auburn hair. That’s the same hair color Isis would have in real life.  And NO ONE was BLACKER than Malcolm X.

I want everyone to know Isis is a BLACK woman. In my eyes the Egyptians were BLACK. The Nubians were BLACK. And I designed the character so BLACK people could trace their history and heritage back to Ancient Egypt and Ancient Nubia.

When Isis talks about emigrating to America in the first Isis book, she says that the people who had skin her color and hair her texture were Negroes. Black people come in a variety of shades of brown and have various hair textures. And I make a point of showing a variety of skintones and hair textures in all my stories.

Isis’ backstory is rooted heavily in Black history. When Isis recounts her past in Isis: Death of a Theta, and Edna Flowers talks about Isis’ previous alias Andrea Thomas Robinson in The Thetas, she talks about a Black woman who taught her how to overcome Jim Crow racism.

Isis’ experiences with racism in the 19th and 20th century in the first Isis book were based on real Black women like Sojurner Truth and Harriet Tubman. She is a teacher because I was inspired by the historical contributions of Great Black female American educators such as Ida B. Wells and Mary Mcleod Bethune. She is the Matriarch of the Theta Sorority to show the roots of Black history in our Black fraternal organizations and the direct impact the Black woman has as the teacher of culture to women in those social organizations.

 With Isis I wanted to show the richness of Black culture Black women have and what’s beautiful about being a Black woman inside and out. I didn’t just want her to be a superhero. I wanted her to be a social crusader to showcase the role Black women had in Black society throughout history.

Being raised in traditional Nubian, Egyptian and Black culture Isis practices concepts such as group economics, and has a clear understanding of what her Black female identity is. In designing Isis personality and “voice” I studied great Black women such as the late Corretta Scott King, Betty Shabazz, Lena Horne, Rosa Parks, and Ruby Dee in her conceptualization, and contemporary sistas such as Tia Mowry, and Salli-Richardson Whitfield.

Isis is a supporter of Civil Rights and a social crusader who teaches her Theta Sisters the importance of keeping Black wealth in Black hands. Again, the character was created as a hero who understands of how the Black woman is the teacher of culture to Black women and children. These were social concepts that were taught in Black communities before the encroachment of White feminism on the Black community, and the establishment of the Matriarchal welfare state in the 1970s.

And when Isis lived in America in the early 19th Century, She was married to a college educated Black man, Joe Robinson. She and her husband gave up a comfortable life in Boston to help teach the newly freed slaves in the South the skills they’d need to have a better life during Reconstruction. And in 1883 she watched her husband get lynched and saw her son murdered in front of her by Klansmen.

In the first Isis book I clearly make the point that In AmeriKKKA no one cared that Isis was a goddess. For all her golden skin and chestnut hair, all those White racists saw was a nigger bitch. Someone to rape after they killed her family. 

And in Isis: Trial of the Goddess I make the point that her mind was so corrupted by the hatred of White Supremacy and Racism she experienced that Ra and the elder gods had no choice but to imprison her on the Island of Solitude. It’s only when she gets her mind right that she’s allowed to return to the world in 1900.

I make every effort to make almost every Isis series story feature some reference to Black culture or Black history. For example when I write books like Isis: The Beauty Myth I make every effort to include Black-owned institutions such as Ebony Fashion Fair, and present fictional Black-owned businesses such as Sepia Cosmetics, which are based on real-world Black owned-businesses like Ebony Fashion Fair.

When I created Isis back in 1998-1999, I wanted to give little Black girls their own heroine. Someone who looked like them, had their struggles, and dealt with their issues. Whenever I watched TV shows like Jem and movies like Clueless, the Black female character was always the furthest in the background. Or in shows like She-Ra and GIJOE she was nonexistent. And I wrote this series of books so she could stand up front and be featured as the main character. With Isis I wanted little Black girls to understand what’s great about being a Black woman.

Doing further research into Black superheroines I was deeply disappointed by the few Black female superheroes and even more disappointed by their lack of depth and backstory. Storm was powerful but just a chocolate fantasy for White men. Vixen just…drifted. Bumblebee was a footnote in Titans history. Monica Rambeau was here then…forgotten. Rocket had all her promise destroyed by single motherhood in the second issue of Icon. Most Black females in comics were never given their own series, their own archenemies, their own storylines or a chance to shine. 

I sought to rectify that with Isis. I wanted to put a Black woman up front show what made a sista had in the Black community. Isis is a hero not because she’s a princess and a goddess, she’s a hero because she’s a friend to Black people who seeks to teach them life lessons as she overcomes the challenges put in front of her.   

My original plan was for Isis to be a comic book. Unfortunately, the comic book industry collapsed six years before her creation. So I went the YA fiction route. However, my love for comic books is deeply rooted in Isis and the Isis series. 

As a comic fan, I make a quiet homage to Filmation and DC Comics a by giving her second alias the name Andrea Thomas Robinson in Isis: Death of a Theta, a reference to the comic book and TV version of Isis played by White actress Joanna Cameron. Ironically, Andrea Thomas Robinson dies in December 1973, a few years BEFORE the Joanna Cameron Isis TV series goes to air.

Unfortunately, all of those concepts and ideas are lost on some shallow dysfunctional color-struck Negroes who judge my books by their covers. For them Isis is just light-skinned. And a few not “Black” enough to be considered “Black”.

What many of these dysfunctional color-struck Negroes don’t understand is that Black is Black whether you are light-skinned or dark-skinned. And Black is who you are on the inside. It’s the content of your character that makes you Black, not the color of your skin.  

Again, I don’t want my work poisoned by the dysfunctional lightskin/darksin issues some Black people have. My mission as a writer and a publisher is to create positive fiction that inspires and uplifts Black people. My ultimate goal with the Isis series is to give Black girls their heroine, someone they can relate to and identify with. Someone who makes them proud of their culture, their history and their heritage. Someone who makes them proud of their skintone and hair texture. Someone who deals with their issues in her adventures.

In a world filled with hypersexualized images of Black women such as Beyonce, Rihanna, and shows like Scandal, racist movies like Monster’s Ball and Precious, disgusting Twerk videos, fight videos broadcast on World Star Hip Hop, street lit and erotica where Black women call themselves bitches and whores, the images of Black women in media being presented to Black girls is one that is increasingly negative, and incredibly self-destructive. My goal with the Isis character and the Isis series was to create a heroine who was rooted in Egyptian mythology and Black history for Black girls and Black women see as a role model.

Writing and publishing the Isis series books means a lot to me. When publishing houses wouldn’t consider my work, I published the first Isis book in 2002 with $200 of the last $600 in my personal savings at the time.  And even though I’ve been out of work for so long, I’ve been investing my own dwindling savings in writing and publishing these books for the last five years.

Because the protecting and uplifting the image of Black people means that much to me.

That cover for Isis: Wrath of the Cybergoddess my own family members said wasn’t black enough for them? I paid for that with my own money. I spent the last 60 days selling action figures, toy catalogs and collectibles from my own personal collection on eBay when my Kickstarter failed. I make those sacrifices because I want to make sure that Black people have an alternative to the minstrels and Jezebels currently bombarding Black people and Black children in the media.

I make every effort to improve the quality of SJS DIRECT publications because I want Brothers and sistas to have the very best. I want everyone to know I’m making every effort to respond to customer complaints such as the covers. For me it’s not about the color of the character’s skin. It’s about the quality of the content and the content of the character. I’d rather publish a book featuring a golden skinned goddess with her own chestunut hair than one featuring a weave wearing brown skinned baby mama, a caramel skinned side piece, or a dark-skinned hood rat.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What’s Wrong With Wonder Woman And How to FIX IT

Wonder Woman is the first female superheroine in comics. And over the last 75 years Princess Diana has become an American icon. Unfortunately, the third most popular character at DC Comics has had an identity crisis over the past 40 years. And it’s that identity crisis that makes it hard for anyone to write comics for her or adapt her for other media such as the silver screen.

Working with Wonder Woman has become a challenge for most writers. Yeah, she’s an icon. And externally she’s got these amazing powers and an fascinating backstory. But internally there’s nothing tangible for readers to relate to. Unlike Superman or Batman no one has given us much of a reason to CARE about Princess Diana or her supporting cast in decades.

If one looks at modern interpretations of Diana such as the New 52 she’s an afterthought in her own comic book. In TV shows like Justice League, Hawkgirl stole the show right out from under her because she had a stronger “voice” and personality. Hawkgirl was rough and tumble; one of the guys. But Diana…Well….She was just there in the background not saying or doing anything to make us see what’s special about her.

And every Wonder Woman centered episode was just BORING. Even with top talents like Dwayne McDuffie, Bruce Timm, and Paul Dini working with her, there was no way to make Wonder Woman really stand out like Flash or John Stewart or even the Martian Manhunter. Her villains and her supporting cast were background fodder at best. Sure she had chemistry with Batman in Justice League Unlimited but I believe people were more interested in the build of the implied romance, not because they liked her character as a person.

I believe the big problem with Wonder Woman is that she hasn’t been defined for the 21st Century. Back when Wonder Woman was created in the 1940s she was special. In a world where men did all the heavy lifting in society, she was the only woman with super powers. One of a few women doing incredible things.

But today in a postfeminist America she’s struggled to stand out in a world filled with superheroines with powers like hers. In comic book world filled with Batgirl, Supergirl, Harley Quinn, Rogue, Storm, Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk and the Invisible Woman, a TV world filled with Xena and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and a movie world with Ripley, Lara Croft, Selene, and Black Widow, what’s so special about Wonder Woman?

Over the last 75 years we can still define who Superman and Batman are by their missions. Superman is a friend who helps everyone. Batman is The Dark Knight who watches over Gotham. But who is Wonder Woman? What’s her mission? And why should we care? These are the questions that haven’t been answered in four decades by any comic book writer since Gloria Steinem demanded she be brought back to comics.

Being the first superheroine has cemented Wonder Woman as an American icon. Unfortunately over the last 40 years she’s gotten lost in a larger crowd of powerful women. And the challenge for any comic book or screenwriter today is to find a way to make her stand out in a crowded 21st Century World filled with equally powerful superwomen and real women such as Hilary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Carly Fiorina, and Gina Carano.

I believe in order for a Wonder Woman to remain relevant in a postfeminist world she has to show the public how she’s our friend. She has to have those feet of clay that show her humanity to a new generation of fans.

The way I see it the whole Ambassador of peace and goodwill concept George Perez came up with back in the 1986 is outdated, too complicated and hard for regular people to follow today. It’s a great concept but it needs to be simplified to make it accessible to new readers.

When I began the  Isis series back in 2012, the slogan I used to sell her books to readers was “The goddess next door”. It’s a way to tell to everyone how she’s a friend to those she serves. Someone who is always there when you need her. Like Superman, a friend.

In my proposed Wonder Woman run, I wanted to turn Diana into “The Princess next door”. Someone who is there for the world. A friend just like Superman.

The girl next door is a part of American Pop Culture. An integral part of American culture just like Wonder Woman. She’s someone we all can count on. A best friend to women and someone every guy wants to date and marry. Someone who we know will help out in a time of trouble. Again, A friend.

While the girl next door is someone we all can relate to and touch, Diana today is always shown mostly as a super warrior who is often on these missions to faraway and exotic places. Someone most people can’t see as being part of their lives. When it comes to Wonder Woman, I believe in any form of media, whether it be comic book or movie, there needs to be a focus on showing how she’s available and accessible to the community she serves. How there’s a possibility for her to connect with real people. Readers need to see her being a friend. Someone like Superman they can count on to help them out in time of need.

Someone who is possibly a phone call away or a knock on the door like Isis was in Isis: All About the Goddess. In that story, Isis poses nude in a college art studio to help catch a campus stalker harassing one of the students. While I know the idea of Diana posing nude in an art studio is kind of crazy to some comic fans, I believe it’d make a strong statement about her character. It’d show readers how like Batman, what length Wonder Woman would go to put herself on the line to protect others from danger.

I think this overfocus on the superwoman and almost masculinization of the character is why so many people today can’t relate to Wonder Woman. Today’s comic fans need to get to know the Diana the woman and learn what she believes in, what stands for, and why she’s willing to fight for it. It’s Clark Kent and Bruce Waynes’ personal values that make Superman and Batman the heroes they are. But there hasn’t been much effort to define Diana’s personal values over the last 40 years. What motivates her internally to do fight that good fight. And that’s what makes making movies and other media so hard for writers and screenwriters like myself.

The way I see it Diana being made from clay that symbolizes how she’s not perfect. Even though she lives in paradise and has been given powers by the gods, it’s being made from that soft clay that comes from the earth that I believe makes her imperfect. It’s what connects her to the world. In some ways it’s a great contrast to the hardness of all the amazon warriors around her.

If one looks at a sculpture closely it’s not entirely perfect, it’s those small imperfections and rough edges that makes it stand out, just like those personality imperfections and flaws make characters interesting. When it comes to Wonder Woman, there needs to be more of a focus on those soft feet of clay and how they connect her to the people in her life.

When I write the Isis series I put all of Isis flaws up front for readers to see. I show how she struggles with her feelings of awkwardness and inadequacy in the presence of goddesses like her stepmother Queen Isis and her sister E’steem and even other women. How she struggles with her role as a goddess and a princess in New Heliopolis and how she tries to balance it with her life as a human being. And how she has reservations and fears regarding her life. Isis is a skinny little woman who screws up fails, but what makes her a heroine is the fact that she always perseveres and fights to stands up for what she believes in and makes every effort to help those in need.

The way I see it, Wonder Woman’s origin needs to be updated to show how no one on Paradise Island believes in her. Her peers like Artemis should see her as a runt, and a screwup not fit for their military. Intellectuals like Nubia should see her as not smart enough to grasp science and Amazon tech. Others could believe she’s a spoiled princess coddled by her mother. A few like Aresia should think she has no direction and is not fit to be the future Queen of the Amazons. She doesn’t fit in the Amazon world, and struggles there and sees Man’s world as a way out of her misery in paradise. Before she becomes Themiscyra’s Wonder Woman she’s just a regular woman.

And over the course of the story it’s shown how she works to become the Island’s greatest champion BEFORE she gets her powers from the gods. How it’s her internal character that shows us why she was given those powers by the gods over the other Amazons.

And Paradise Island needs to be re-defined to fit in a 21st Century world. I believe the whole Amazon warrior concept has been taken WAY too seriously by too many writers over the last 30 years. Back when William Moulton Marston created Paradise Island, it was a peaceful place with a focus on advanced technology and science. Yeah, they had a military, but aren’t these women supposed to be the best of the best? Where are the Amazon scientists, engineers, chemists, and IT people on par with today’s men?

In a world filled with iPads and smartphones, Themiscyran women spend most of their time fighting with swords and spears and arrows. And they spend every day doing military drills. That always sounded like sloppy writing to me. What happened to the Amazon tech such as the Purple Ray and the Invisible Jet? Why don’t they have armor, energy shields, and cloaks?

Iron Man has all that stuff for close to 30 years. So does Batman. Black Panther out in the plains of Wakanda has had all sorts of high-tech stuff since his creation. Steel and Mr. Terrific have all sorts of kickass tech at their disposal. Even a fish-talking LAME like Aquaman has had all sorts of tech in Atlantis. But Amazons who live in an advanced society filled with BOTH SCIENCE and MAGIC that’s supposed to be on par with Atlantis are still fighting with arrows and spears. WTF?

The way I see it we need to get to know the Amazons on the island. We need to see how they have a distinct culture all their own. Build a true supporting cast. Showcase Amazon tech. Showcase Amazon magic. If I were writing Wonder Woman, there’d be room for Artemis, Nubia, and Aresia. (Yeah, I know she sucks, but I know from experience writing both E’steem and Nemesis there’s a way to write a female rogue and make her interesting.) We need to see the world of Paradise Island and how it stands out like Aquaman’s Atlantis.

On the rogues gallery front Diana has a lot of strong villains, but there’s never been that big defining feud to showcase Wonder Woman’s internal character strengths. Her villains challenge her physically, but never make that challenge to who she is and what she stands for. Barbara Minerva’s Cheetah has a great look but her motivations for feuding with Diana aren’t strong. She wants her lasso? Meh. Circe has great powers, but again no serious motivation that grabs me. Giganta? What’s her beef with Diana? And why should I care that a 50-foot woman wants to kick her ass? Ares? What’s he done in the last 30 years to make me pay attention to him? Aresia? Everyone hates her. But not because of her track record, it’s because she’s LAME.

And when I read Diana Prince: Wonder Woman trades last year I saw Dr. Cyber’s potential absolutely WASTED. This narcissistic over-the-top diva could have been cemented on DC’s A-list with Lex Luthor and the Joker by now if writers back in the 1970’s built her up into an egotistical BITCH we love to hate instead of copping out and making her a lame female Dr. Doom Knock-off. From what I saw she could have been that bitch, the iconic Wonder Woman baddie we all associate with her. But due to poor execution, she got lost and forgotten in the shuffle of DC’s catalog of villains.

Today Wonder Woman needs her Green Goblin. Her Joker. Her Lex Luthor. The one bad guy we associate with her without thinking about it. In a character driven model like comics, villains drive stories. They create the conflict the heroes have to overcome. They are who get butts into seats for movies and people buying comics.

From what I’ve read there’s never been that one Wonder Woman story that had that right mix of chemistry to make it spark. Most times in her comics there was always some element missing to keep it from becoming her definitive story. Character development is often off. Plots aren’t strong and Storylines are flat. Then there are the weak villains and the poorly defined relationship between Diana and her arch-enemies. That’s primarily what makes it so hard for screenwriters like myself to adapt her to the screen today.

I believe the only to get to a true Wonder Woman movie way is to completely rebuild her character in the comics from the ground up. It had to be done with Iron Man and the X-Men in the 1970s and with Daredevil, Teen Titans, and Superman in the 1980s; it’s the rebuilt concepts that redefined those characters and turned them from midlist characters with no direction into iconic fan favorites. Many of Wonder Woman’s concepts are obsolete in today’s post feminist world, and the savage currently slaughtering her way through the pages of DC’ Comics’ New 52 is only exacerbating the problem with the character.

To rebuild Wonder Woman’s character onscreen in a film adaptation would be too jarring a transition for comic fans and moviegoers; the heavy lifting has to be done in a run of comics before a movie can be made. From the structure established by those comics screenwriters can have something to work with and audiences can have a foundation to give them background knowledge of the character.

There are so many great concepts to be explored in Wonder Woman’s part of the DC Universe. Unfortunately, most writers and screenwriters today are so intimidated and confused by Wonder Woman’s past they can’t figure out how to make her an icon for future generations of comic fans. As a writer who has written strong intelligent heroines novels like The Thetas, A Recipe For $ucce$$ and The Temptation of John Haynes, screenplays like All About Marilyn and All About Nikki, and Young adult fiction like the Isis series, I know that there’s a way to contemporize Wonder Woman for the 21st Century and make her relatable and accessible to a new generation of fans. It’s just going to require a writer to come out of the box and show the world the character in a different light. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

What’s Wrong with Wonder Woman? Why Can't DC and Warner Brothers Get a Movie Made?

DC Comics says it’s so hard to adapt Wonder Woman. And many at DC ask What’s wrong with Wonder Woman? I think the question to ask is: What’s wrong at DC Comics and Warner Brothers?

Warner Brothers and DC Comics say a Wonder Woman movie can’t be done. But Marvel Studios just put Rocket Racoon, a Z-list character in a feature film adapting its revamped Guardians of the Galaxy concept. A Guardians of the Galaxy concept that’s barely nine years old.

But according to DC Comics and Warner Brothers, Wonder Woman a 75-year-old character who previously had a TV series is hard to adapt for the silver screen.

And to add insult to injury Marvel Studios is about to make its THIRD Thor movie. A character that’s supposedly one of the harder characters to adapt for the screen. A character who like Wonder Woman is rooted in complex ancient mythology.

 But here we are with the third Thor Movie in production in five years.

18 years ago, Xena: Warrior Princess was basically a cinematic blueprint for Wonder Woman movie. Xena was just Diana with a Chakram.

I find it funny how Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert can write Wonder Woman type adventures well in Xena: Warrior Princess but DC Comics and Warner Brothers can’t. What’s the problem? Why can’t DC and Warner Brothers make its first movie featuring its third most popular character? Why is it so hard to adapt a superheroine like Wonder Woman to the silver screen?

My theory is that DC Comics and Time Warner think too much about its properties. From the Drab Dark Knight Trilogy to the tarnished Man of Steel, Warner Brothers and DC Comics over think the execution of a concept. They try to make everything gritty and real. That may work for some characters, but it doesn’t work for others.

DC and Time Warner just don’t understand that Superman and Wonder Woman are bright, characters filled with hope. A fantasy world has to be built around them where their feats of flight and super strength can appear real. Where invisible jets are possible. And where they can show people why they are our friends.

But DC and Warner Brothers try to shoehorn all their characters fit into Batman’s real world. And Wonder Woman can’t fit into a real world. Diana comes from a world of gods, Greek mythology and magic. She lives on an island full of women. She requires a completely different story model than the one used for either Superman or Batman.

I believe a Wonder Woman movie can be made. But it takes someone with an understanding of how to engineer and design the fantasy world around real actors.

Yes, there are problems with Wonder Woman. Her origin story is going to have to be retooled and contemporized a bit the way Sam Raimi contemporized Spider-Man and Marvel Studios contemporized Iron Man and Captain America, the Incredible Hulk and Thor for modern audiences. But that’s par for the course.

In screenwriting, there’s adaptation. And change can be good if done well. Even Paul Dini, Bruce Timm and the late Dwayne McDuffie changed some things in their Wonder Woman Origin to make it work for the screen in the Justice League Pilot. But I believe a screenplay can be written that maintains the heart and spirit of Marston’s concept the way Timm, Dini and McDuffie did for Justice League and Justice League Unlimited.

And from my observations of Wonder Woman in comics, animation, and TV shows, the character may need a serious tweaking in the personality department to work on the silver screen. From the Wonder Woman comics I read and even Timm’s Justice League, Diana doesn’t have a true “voice” that speaks to people or stands out like Hawkgirl did. The way I see it Diana needs to show character traits that make her relatable to the audience the way Superman, Batman and Hawkgirl are.

Viewers need to know why Diana is a friend like Clark is. She needs to find that “Voice” Does it mean turning her into a barbarian like the wretched DC New 52 version? No. Does it mean finding ways to make her appear friendly, kind and Diplomatic? Yes. And I’d like to think there’d be a way to fit some humor in there too. 

And I’ll admit Diana doesn’t have much chemistry with her villains in the comics. That’s always been the big sticking point for me. It’s never been that personal between Diana and like it was between Batman and the Joker, or Superman and Lex Luthor. She’s never had that feud where we saw the ideologies she represents challenged and presented clearly to the audience. With the way some women can look at another woman and just hate them for no reason, I’d like to think Diana can dislike at least one of them as much as they dislike her.

Yes, she’s had some good solid adversaries like Cheetah, Circe, Ares and Dr. Cyber but she’s never had that big defining feud with any of them like say Xena and Callisto. Mickie James and Trish Stratus.  Spider-Man and the Green Goblin. Captain America and the Red Skull, or Iron man and Obidiah Stane.

I can tell someone about Amazing Spider-man Vol.1 #120-121 Iron Man Vol.1# 200 and Captain AmericaVol.1# 295-300 and #332-350 and tell readers where a defining story is in their histories. I can even point to trade paperbacks and like Batman: Year One or Batman: The Killing Joke and Superman: For the Man Who Has Everything and What Happened to the Man of Tommorow? and tell them about a great Batman or Superman Story.

Heck, I can show readers Isis stories such as Isis, Isis: Amari’s Revenge, and Isis: The Beauty Myth, and Isis: Wrath of the Cybergoddess and show readers an Isis defining moment because her feuds got that personal with the members of her rogues gallery. I can even point to those same stories and show readers a story where Isis has the ideologies she represents challenged by her foes and how she fought to stand up to her enemies while standing for them.

The big challenge for a screenwriter with Wonder Woman as I see it is that they’re going to have to do some serious heavy lifting. If there ever is a Wonder Woman movie, a screenwriter is going to have to go off the comic page the way Paul Dini and Bruce Timm did with Mr. Freeze did in Heart of Ice and the way they did in creating Harley Quinn. Taking existing concepts and making them fresh again with storytelling that gives the audience a unique perspective on them.

I believe it’s possible to adapt Wonder Woman for the silver screen. But I know it’s going to mean some changes to the internal character. It’s going to mean some contemporization of the origin. And it’s going to require some coming out of the box. Unfortunately, DC Comics and Warner Brothers spends so much time focusing on costumes and making things “real” that they don’t focus on maintaining the heart and spirit of their characters.

 I think DC Comics and Warner Brothers fears coming out of the box may alienate Wonder Woman fans. But I believe if they stayed true to the spirit of the character and the original concepts it’s possible to adapt Wonder Woman in a way that’s fresh, creative and makes her accessible to a new generation of fans.

I’ve been writing female characters for over 20 years. And looking at Wonder Woman she’s a fairly easy character to adapt. She’s a fairly easy character to write for. From what I see, the elements for great stories are there and the supporting cast is there. All it takes is for someone at DC Comics and Time Warner to have the skill and creativity to execute those ideas.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What the Negro Does Not Understand about the Movie Business

 In a previous blog, I explained the numerous reasons why Black movies don’t get made during the summer blockbuster season. And some are still saying that it’s racism that’s leading to this Black movie shortage. It’s not. It’s economics plain and simple.

What the Negro does not understand is that filmmaking is a business. And it’s a high-risk business. And filmmaker, movie studios, distributors and movie theaters want to minimize their risk.

This is why we don’t see many original films, especially Black films being produced anymore. Most films produced today are in the following categories:

Adaptations of best-selling novels (Books that have sold over a million to two million copies)

Adaptations of successful commercial properties (comic books, television shows, soap operas, etc,)

And remakes (a new version of a previously made movie that was successful at the box-office.)

Out of all the films in the entertainment business Black films are considered the highest risk. The main reason why Black films are considered a high risk is because they do not perform well in foreign markets. Some can’t be sold anywhere but in the U.S. Alone. A few are so esoteric when it comes to content or are of such poor quality they can only be sold direct-to-video in only the U.S. market.

And that risk factor is exacerbated because most of the Negro masses do not go to the movies that are produced and distributed by both large movie studios and even independent film producers. People like Mario Van Peebles, Denzel Washington, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Chris Rock, Michael Jai White and countless other brothers and sisters produce movies for Black audiences, but the Negro does not show up at the theater when they are released. Some don’t even show up when the DVD is released to home video.

If these small independent Black movies can’t get a large enough audience of Black people to go the theatre during their limited runs, how can the Negro expect a billion dollar movie studio to risk  $50- $100 million dollars on producing a big budget movie for them?

In addition to not showing up at the movies, the Negro does not create material in the previous categories I mentioned that most movie studios can turn into viable properties that can be invest in or adapted into screenplays. There has not been a million selling African-American fiction novel since Waiting To Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back.

Movie studios today mostly make adaptations of best-selling books. Unfortunately, Most of Black fiction being published today is of the poorest quality. The African-American fiction market is flooded with Street lit, Erotica and Pseudo Christian fiction with no plots and minimal character development. 

And most of it just doesn’t sell well enough to prove to a studio it’s a viable property to invest millions of dollars needed to make a movie today. Most of the Street lit, erotica and Christian fiction books published today barely sell between 20,000 and 100,000 copies, far below the million needed to get the attention of movie studio executives.

Even worse, the material is so badly written most of these books just can’t be adapted into screenplays. And With all the profanity, sex and violence in these stories, many of these books would get an X or an R Rating, the kiss of death for a movie in a marketplace filled with kids and moms looking for PG and PG-13 content to take the family to.

In the Black book marketplace there are no African-American best-selling children’s fiction, Young adult or fantasy novels. And Young Adult and fantasy novels are the kinds of books movie studios can to capitalize on and build a franchise around.  Books like Harry Potter, Twilight, Divergent, and The 100, are all money in the Bank for Movie studios in both the United States and the foreign box office. But even when authors like myself publish these kinds of books Black people, The Negro won’t buy these books in the millions of copies needed to show film producers there’s an audience large enough to take a RISK on them as a commercial property.

Movie studios like best-selling books. Again, these books have an established audience that’s guaranteed to come to the theater for the studio. A sure $25 to $40 million opening weekend at the box-office. But Because Black people do not come out in numbers and show studios the numbers and the money, there is no way to show the studio how the Black community will minimize the risk for them.

Most Negroes believe films are just made from scripts. But what the Negro does not understand is that the original screenplay (Spec Script) is not something movie studios are going to greenlight (approve) for production. Original screenplays are a huge risk, even for a person who self-finances them. It’s untested unproven material. There’s no guarantee it’ll have that large audience turnout. And in most cases people wind up taking a loss.

The only thing most businesspeople can guarantee with investing in the Negro is a loss when it comes to making Black films. And with studios making fewer films in a calendar year now, executives and indie filmmakers just can’t afford risk a slot in their limited release schedules to lose $5 to $100 million dollars it takes to produce, promote, and distribute a Black feature film. Too many people have been burnt trying to reach the Negro and establish a connection with the Negro audience.

Which is why we don’t see Black films anymore.

The big problem with the Negro is that they will ask for product from businesses like film studios. But when it’s time for the Negro to follow through and put his or her money on the table to buy said product, the Negro just won’t show up at the theater.

Making people believe that the Negro is fickle. Making people believe that the Negro is noncommittal. Making people believe that the Negro is a LIAR. For all the Negro’s talk, their actions speak louder than their words. And executives don’t have time for talk. There are other groups of people such as comic fans who will follow through with their promises to spend money. It’s more profitable for that executive to deal with those groups of paying customers with money in their hands ready to spend than to deal with the Negro who only has lint in his pocket and his hat in hand. 

The Negro believes that the movie business is just like the Welfare department, the government programs, or the foreign owned grocery store they’re used to dealing with where the co-dependent shuck N’ jive, blame n’ shame games can get them something for nothing.

 Unfortunately, what the Negro does not understand is that indie filmmakers and movie studios deal with real money. Money that is hard to raise. Money that is harder to get back once its spent. It’s a challenge to get $5,000 together for a small budget short. Even harder to raise $100,000 for a documentary. And it’s an uphill battle to raise the million or so dollars needed to put together a TV pilot or small budget feature with halfway decent production values.

Most times when it comes to Black productions, this money comes from friends, family, and sometimes out of the filmmakers’ own pocket. Lots of Black people work for that money. And if they can’t make it back at the box-office a lot of Black people LOSE.

With every Black film box-office failure the Negro finances his own unemployment and poverty. Every film that fails keeps six others from getting their greenlight. And it keeps two or three more scripts from getting read by executives and investors.

The Negro doesn’t understand that filmmaking is a business. Nor do they understand that business operates on a reciprocal exchange. In order to GET Black films, you have to GIVE your money to theaters that feature Black films.

Black folks If you do not put your money on the table to pay for Black movies, you do not get ANYTHING. Nor do you have a right to SAY anything about what’s being featured on the marquee of any movie theater. The film business both large and small only deals with paying customers with money in their hands for tickets and it only listens to those customers. Businesspeople don’t have time for dusty Negroes who sit on the sidelines complaining about the content they’re not paying for. And as long as Black folks act like beggars, they can’t complain about the choices offered to them at the theater. 

The Thetas Chapter 4

Kinda stuck on a blog I'm writing. So here's The Thetas Chapter 4 And you can buy The Thetas on Smashwords too!

Chapter 4

I keep the smile pasted on my face as the private penthouse elevator closes on Marcia and Abigail. When I hear the car going down, it twists into a grimace. I don’t like being set up.
I storm back into the living room where a nosy Aunt Margaret is eager to find out what we talked about. “So when are you headed up to the Theta House?
“Like a crappy job interview, they say they’ll call me.” I sigh. “She told me to take care of my “tatty nails” before I came up to the house.”
“You could use a manicure.” Aunt Margaret retorts looking down at my hands.
“I think my hands are fine.”
“The Thetas know polish.” Aunt Margaret replies. “Oh, they’re going to make a fine young woman out of you in a few weeks.”
I take offense to that statement. “What’s wrong with who I am today?”
My aunt is eager to answer that question. “Besides the dowdy way you dress, there are your manners. Always so casual with everyone.”
“I’m comfortable. And I want people to be comfortable with me. That’s why I dress down.”
“A little refinement in formal etiquette will give you some presence and make people take you more seriously.”
“I don’t want people seeing my money. I want them to see me.”
“And they will see you. In a way that leaves a lasting impression on them. Now do you have any dress clothes in that closet of yours? Or is it all T–shirts and jeans in there?”
Very funny Auntie. “I’ve got a closet full of suits and gowns from all the company events I go to.”
My Aunt Margaret rolls her eyes. “Last year’s clothes. No, those garments won’t do for pledging the Thetas.” Aunt Margaret insists. “We’re going to have to go shopping.”
Nuts. A day with one of the women in the world I just can’t stand. She’s gonna dress me up like MochaTan Malibu Barbie. I knew I should have taken another semester of courses this summer.
Aunt Margaret makes her plans indifferent to the frown on my face. “We’ll make a day of it. Manicures, pedicures, and hair. Oh, you’re going to make a smashing impression when they take you up to the Theta House.”
“I’ll meet you downstairs tomorrow morning eight sharp to take you to the hairdresser and the manicurist. From there we’re going shopping on Fifth Avenue.”
An excited Aunt Margaret rushes out of the living room into the foyer to get on the elevator. My father notices the forlorn look on my face. “Why so sad Pumpkin?”
“Oh, I don’t know, I’m not too happy about being ambushed by my aunt, conned into spending my summer doing something I hate with a bunch of chicks I don’t know anything about.” I pout.
“I think this will be good for you.” Daddy replies. “You rarely ever get to socialize with girls your own age.”
“Et tu Father?” I retort.
“You’re always complaining about not being able to associate with other Black girls your own age. Well here’s an opportunity to get to know some.”
“But pledging a sorority goes against everything I believe in. I don’t feel it’s right for a bunch of girls to form a club where they exclude and oppress other women. In a racist sexist world like we live in, I feel all Black women should work together instead of dividing ourselves based on class.”
Daddy smiles at me. “You sound just like the books you read in your Women’s Studies classes.”
“Well, I’ve learned a lot about how Black women have been mistreated in society these last two years.”
“Reading about the history of Black women is one thing, but experiencing things can give you perspective. You can use pledging to get a better understanding of how the Theta women think and why they do what they do.”
“I don’t think I want to understand Sorority life. Partying, drinking–”
“Sometimes we do the things we don’t like to in order to do the things we want to.”Daddy says.
“I thought I had enough money to keep from running into situations like this.”
“I think if your mother were alive, she’d be happy to see that you’d put your feelings aside to do what’s right for someone else. It shows a lot of character to pledge in spite of your reservations.”
“Well, I didn’t want to disappoint you or Mom. If I declined, it’d be like dishonoring her memory.”
“I think your mother would be just as proud of you as I am if she were here.” Daddy comforts.
I smile after he says that. I’ve always wanted to do something to make my mother proud of me. “Okay I’ll try to keep an open mind about pledging.”
“It’s all I’m asking that you do.”
I grab my backpack off the floor. “I’ll be in my room. I’m gonna do some research.”

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Economic Power of the Comic Fan

They can get movies made. They can get toy lines produced. They can even get executives at major corporations to listen to them.  Who are this group of consumers? Housewives Nope. They’re Comic fans.

Over twenty-five years ago, in the mid 1980’s the comic fan was a powerless individual. While the industry was in the middle of a boom comic book publishers and retailers comic shop owners and vintage toy sellers had all the leverage and dictated the terms of business to the customer. In the pre-internet days of comic and toy collecting comic shops and toy show vendors often jacked up prices on toys and comics and gave comic book and toy collectors some of the worst customer service. It wasn’t common for shop comic shop and newsstand owners to mock and ridicule a comic book buyer and call them a nerd and a fanboy and laugh at them as they took their money.

The market for comics soon began to peak in the mid 1990’s. And when 50% of the comic shops in North America closed, it led to a major paradigm shift in the superhero collectibles market. While lots of publishers suffered losses during this market change, larger businesses like toy stores began to benefit from the change in the migration patterns of collectors. With many unable to get to a comic shop, newsstand or a drugstore for their comics, they began heading to chain toy stores such as Toys R Us and Kay Bee Toys to pick up action figures of their favorite characters. And they began using the emerging Internet to talk about these toys.

While the comic book market of the mid 1990’s was declining, the market for superhero merchandise was growing. And when comic fans began going out in masses to buy action figures from toy stores like Toys R Us and Kay Bee Toy stores, big business began to see the growing economic power of the comic fan. As big business began following the dollars that came into their store, they realized how much of their profits were coming from comic fans and collectors and started offering them store exclusive toys.

Over the last two decades, comic fans have come to understand their economic power as consumers and are now using it to dictate their terms to comic book publishers, movie studios, toy stores, and toy companies. With many toy and film studio executives being comic fans themselves, they’re aware of the power of the comic fans’ dollar on the bottom line.

And thanks to message boards such as, and, Facebook and Twitter, executives at toy companies, movies studios and comic book publishers have a direct line to hear what their customers are saying about their products.

When comic fans talk these days, most companies are listening. This is why toy companies make an effort to exclusives products to comic fans during and after conventions like San Diego Comic Con. This is why studios present teaser trailers for their superhero movies at comicons across the country. And it’s why companies make a serious effort to produce exactly what comic fans ask for in a toy line or a movie.

Most comic publishers large and small know the power of the comic fans’ dollar. This is why they make every effort to publish quality stories in their comics. Most know the average comic fan spends anywhere from $30-$200 a week on comics. And if the quality is NOT on the page, the comic fan will take their money elsewhere.

Toy Companies also see the economic power of the comic fan dollars. They’ve made efforts to produce retailer exclusive toys to cater to this large audience of customers. Stores like Wal-Mart and Target know when the toy collector goes on a hunt they spend money.

And lots of it. It’s not common for a collector to spend anywhere from $200-$500 on a toy haul. And after they spend money, they go online tell their friends where to find toys. Money in the bank for a retailer.

Nowadays some online retailers like and Enchanted Toy Chest even allow fans to pre-order sets of toys so they won’t miss out on a short-packed figure. This was unheard of 25 years ago when comic fans had to stake out a Toys R Us or a Caldor just to search the toy aisle for a short-packed action figure. But it shows the tremendous economic power of the comic fan on the toy business.

Hollywood sees the economic power of the comic fans’ dollar at the box office. When executives saw how Comic fans turned the Avengers into a billion dollar franchise movie studios realized they had to take the comic fans dollar seriously. This is why we see so many plans for superhero movies over the next few years.

Moreover, Hollywood also understands they have to produce products that meet the fans’ standard. The same economic and social network that made The Avengers into a multi-billion dollar franchise also turned Halle Berry’s Catwoman into one of the biggest flops of 2004 and got Birds of Prey Cancelled after only one season.

If a product does not meet the standard of comic fans will not only get vocal in their protest, they follow through by voting with their wallets. Products such as Halle Berry’s Catwoman, the WB’s Birds of Prey and DC Universe Classics and DC Comics New 52 comic line have all suffered losses as a result of comic fans using their economic power to make a statement about poor quality and a companies’ unwillingness to listen to the customer.

Gone are the days of telling comic fans they have to take substandard product at higher prices and poor customer service. For example when Mattel offered its DC Club Infinite Earths program last year, they began running games out of the old school comic shop playbook of higher prices and poor customer service. For the first year comic fans put up with poor customer service from Digital River, the company Mattel hired to expedite the shipping of figures to subscribers.

 However, after much complaining on message boards like, in the second year many collectors began to get tired of Mattel’s excuses about character selection, quality control and shipping. Many more didn’t renew their subscriptions and when others saw the prices for shipping and figures getting into the $30 price range for a single action figure they began to balk on day of sale leaving lots of stock to languish in the Digital River warehouse.

In the third year Mattel sought to further gouge the customer with a pair of Doomsday action figure exclusives. However, When collectors saw that some of the initial figures for the subscription wouldn’t meet their standards for quality and that prices for shipping and the figures themselves would be $40 for a single figure, most comic fans balked and refused to subscribe again.

As a result the Club Infinite Earths line was cancelled and Mattel learned not to take the dollar of DC Comic fans for granted. Moreover, other companies such as Hasbro and NECA who have action figure lines that cater to collectors have learned from watching Mattel’s mistakes not to take the comic fan for granted.

The comic fan is now a powerful block of consumers with tremendous economic power. On their word a toy line can be made or broken, and a movie can be made into a blockbuster or a flop. Big business has come to understand the value of the comic fans’ dollar and most are realizing that they have to do business with comic fans on their terms.

Twenty years ago the comic fan was on the fringe of society, mocked and ridiculed by society. However, with the help of social media the comic fan has come to understand the power of Group Economics. Today comic fans are organizing and using their economic power to get what they want from comic publishers, toy companies and movie studios. And Thanks to Comic fans showing the world their money businesses today know better than to calls then nerds, fanboys geeks and try to take advantage of them. Instead most businesses treat them as valued customers and show them the respect human beings are supposed to receive.