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Monday, June 29, 2015

Isis: Imitation of Life

The next story in the Isis series will be a Fantasy Flashback tale set in 1937. I’ve wanted to write an Isis story set during the golden age of comics with her 1930s supporting cast members Alma Travis and Edna Flowers in their primes. But after reading several golden age stories and seeing how hokey they were I decided make this one a tale about race and identity.

Isis: Imitation of Life will be one of the darkest tales in the Isis series. It’s a story about the goddess at one of the major crossroads in her life.

In Isis: Imitation of Life I’ll be tackling the light-skin/dark-skin issue and the intra-racism between Black people. The title is inspired by the 1934 classic film Imitation of Life about Peola, a light skinned Black woman who makes numerous moral and ethical compromises to pass for White and what she believes will be a better life.

The story itself in contrast will be about Isis pondering if she should remain in America and if she should continue in her second crusade to help Negro people. The goddess wonders if it’s ethically and morally right for her as a New Heliopolitan to interfere in the affairs of the Negro. The question she asks herself is: Is she the one living an imitation of Negro life and if she’s mocking Negro people by living and working among them to help them get a better life.

In the first Isis book, Isis said that when she immigrated to America the people with skin her color and hair her texture were Negoes. In this story readers will learn that her racial identity with the Negro race goes further than skin deep.

I was inspired to write Isis: Imitation of Life after receiving comments from family and some Pro-Blacks about the images of Isis on the covers of Isis: Wrath of the Cybergoddess and Isis: Night of the Vampires not being Black or being too so-called light-skinned. In the wake of all those comments I wanted to make a defining statement about Isis’ views on race and her racial identity.

The reason for setting the story in the Golden Age of Heroes was to make a commentary about superheroes and race. In the late 1930s when Jewish creators were creating White superheroes like Superman, Batman and Captain America to save people in their brightly colored fantasy worlds, Black people were going through one of the darkest periods in American history. Lynchings of Black people were at record highs, and Black people lived in fear due to the terrorism they faced with the Klan and Jim Crow laws in the south and racism and discrimination in the north. While Superman and Batman and Captain America faced brightly colored menaces out to take over the world, Isis faced the darkest of evils: the intra-racism and self-hatred Negroes had regarding themselves due to their perceptions of self. Negative Perceptions of the Negro image perpetuated by Jim Crow policies and racist media like that shown in books, Radio shows like Amos N’ Andy and movies like Imitation of Life.

In most media of the time, the image of the Negro was often caricaturized and presented to perpetuate racist stereotypes like the coon, the brute, the sapphire, and the Tragic Mulatto. In most of these stories from this era like those published in the Pulps and the paperbacks the Negro was always a villain and they always met a tragic end.

And in Golden Age comics Black characters were always relegated to minstrel roles like Whitewash from the Young Allies or the Whizzer’s Negro sidekick. In one Shazam! Comic Billy Batson even put on Blackface to disguise himself. As for Black women in comics, we never saw a single one in that era.

With this Isis story I wanted to tell a story about how the goddess was a heroine during this dark period. The obstacles she overcomes aren’t some villain’s master plan to take over the world, but the perceived prejudices of Negro people and her own internal struggles with race and identity.

For too long so-called dark-skinned people have believed the lie that light-skinned and biracial Black people have some sort of privilege in American society. Some Negroes even believe that they’re better than other Black people. When this isn’t the case at all. Black will always be Black no matter if your skintone is charcoal or chalk White, and light-skinned and biracial people experience racism and prejudice just like dark-skinned Black people do.

Moreover, what defines a person as Black isn’t just skintone. What defines a person as Black is their actions and their deeds. It is the content of a person’s character that defines their Blackness, not the color of their skin. A light-skinned or biracial person who makes efforts to help advance the race behind the scenes is more a support to Black people than a dark-skinned Black person who claims Pro-Blackness but still sleeps with a White woman and panders to White liberals.

I’m really excited for this project because I get to explore a couple of concepts I really enjoy in a story: Pulp Fiction and Golden Age superheroes. I’ve been a fan of Vintage Pulps like Doc Savage and underrated Golden Age heroines like Harvey’s Black Cat and Fox’s Phantom Lady. The chance to tell a story using those kinds of elements has me eager to put fingers to the keyboard to tell this story. 

I’m also excited to tell a story where I get to present a different perspective on Black history to readers. Oftentimes when writers tell stories about the Jim Crow period it’s usually about some racist White southerners tormenting poor downtrodden Negroes. I wanted to break away from that usual narrative to detail the intra-racial issues working class Negro men and women faced and how these perceptions of self are used to divide and conquer the race. Isis: Imitation of Life is set in a Oneonta County, a fictional Negro and Iroquois town in Upstate new York with a main street filled with mostly Black-owned businesses and a working class community of Negro people. The stories of those middle-class Negro people like Pullman Porters and Negro professionals are rarely ever told by writers and I thought I’d tackle them.

I’ve just started writing the first draft of Isis: Imitation of Life, and I’m waiting for my Imitation of Life DVD to come in the mail. So I don’t have a release date for it yet. But with it being one of my summer projects, I’m shooting for a January 2016 release or a June 2016 release. I might do a Kickstarter to raise money to pay for the cover, but everything is up in the air until I finish the initial draft.

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