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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Thoughts on The Trayvon Martin Case

I haven’t written anything about the senseless murder of Trayvon Martin because I wanted to get the facts on the case. Now that I have the facts on the case I feel I can write about it objectively. 

Trayvon Martin was a 17 year old kid watching the NBA All-Star game at his father’s house. During the halftime show he went to the store to get an Iced Tea and a bag of Skittles. 

Unfortunately, Trayvon Martin didn’t make it home. 

All because a man named George Zimmerman a self-imposed neighborhood Watch captain thought he was suspicious. 

All because he wore a hoodie.
But it was Zimmerman who committed a crime. First by racially profiling Trayvon Martin, second by murdering him.
That showed Motive.
Being a sociopath, George Zimmerman follows his own laws. He lives in his own world where he imposes his will on all those around him. He’s a threat to anyone he interacts with.
Until their children went too far and did something so egregious that they had to be put away for the safety of all society.
Peter Braunstien got away with numerous sexual assaults and other deviant sexual acts against women until he decided to pose as a firefighter and raped a White Woman on Halloween a few years ago and the story appeared in the press. It was only then he was locked away for 25 years.
Michael Miele was a known sexual deviant with a history of sexual violence. But his father was a New York City MTA executive kept who kept using his connections to bury a series of crimes including exposing himself, and numerous sexual assaults on women. He kept escalating his sexual perversion up to the point where he murdered Laura Garza and disposed of her body in the woods. Unfortunately, it was only then the justice system finally locked this maniac up for 23 years.
In all these cases White people kept sweeping their children’s crimes and troubled pasts under the rug until they did something so heinous and egregious that their wealth and connections couldn’t get them out of it.
And now America has another known time bomb walking the streets known as George Zimmerman they REFUSE to do something about because he has rich connections and White Privilege.

When did George Zimmerman commit murder? He committed murder when he left his home. When the 911 operator told him NOT to engage he was breaking the law. 911 is part of LAW ENFORCEMENT. When LAW ENFORCEMENT tells someone NOT to ENGAGE they’re not supposed to engage. Neighborhood Watch means WATCH. To SUPPORT LAW ENFORCEMENT.

All people who participate in Neighborhood watch do is WATCH and call 911. Then they let LAW ENFORCEMENT do their jobs. 

But Zimmerman left his home. He wanted to confront and engage the suspicious person.

A motive further reinforced by the weather that night. It was raining. A person of sound mind would NOT RISK THEIR LONG-TERM HEALTH to leave their home to walk in the rain to engage a suspicious person.

When the 911 operator told George Zimmerman NOT to ENGAGE Trayvon Martin he had an OPPORTUNITY TO STOP.

However, by continuing to pursue Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman showed his INTENT to kill. This INTENT to kill was reinforced with MALICE OF FORETHOUGHT by Zimmerman carrying a weapon with him while on patrol for neighborhood watch.

Again, Neighborhood WATCH means WATCH and REPORT, not engage. And not engage while carrying a LOADED FIREARM.

The question America need to ask is: Why does a person need a PISTOL to participate in neighborhood WATCH activities? Mr. Zimmerman isn’t a member of LAW ENFORCEMENT.

There was no need for him to have a LOADED WEAPON with him to perform neighborhood watch duties. At the most he’d need a cell phone or a walkie-talkie.

By disregarding the 911 operators request to not engage the suspicious person, leaving his home and following Trayvon Martin with that LOADED FIREARM George Zimmerman showed MALICE OF FORETHOUGHT. His intent was to ENGAGE SOMEONE and KILL THEM.

This man had SIX BLOCKS to disengage his pursuit. He had six blocks to think about his actions. He had a reasonable time to calm down. He had sufficient TIME to WALK AWAY and let LAW ENFORCEMENT ARRIVE and do their JOBS and investigate the suspicious person he allegedly saw. 

If he clearly supported LAW ENFORCEMENT as a part of the neighborhood watch like many who say he was following the “Stand your Ground Law” state, he would have NEVER ENGAGED Trayvon. Again, he would have did as the 911 operator INSTRUCTED HIM AND WAITED FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT to ARRIVE and pointed him out to them.

But George Zimmerman decided to take the law in his own hands. He decided to follow Trayvon Martin for SIX BLOCKS, confront him, get in a fight with him that led to his broken nose and Trayvon’s death. 

Again Trayvon’s death could have been avoided if George Zimmerman did what the 911 operator told him to do and NOT ENGAGE Trayvon. If he had listened to LAW ENFORCEMENT like a neighborhood watch captain does, and supported the POLICE Trayvon would be ALIVE. 

There are those in the State of Florida who would say George Zimmerman was justified under the auspices of the “stand your ground law.”

Sorry the law doesn’t apply here. Even the writer of the law stated this.

Citizens “stand their ground” on THEIR OWN property. If the person leaves that property andenters a public space such as a city street it becomes a CRIME.

And if an individual is LEAVING and an individual impedes their egress while carrying a weapon such as a firearm it becomes A CRIMINAL ACT.

George Zimmerman was BLOCKS away from his home. He followed Trayvon on PUBLIC city streets and confronted him while carrying a LOADED FIREARM. 

George Zimmerman committed FIRST DEGREE MURDER. A crime punishable by the DEATH PENALTY under the State of Florida. 


His actions that night showed malice of forethought. Intent. Motive. Opportunity. Time. He’s a murderer plain and simple. The facts in this case line up better than the OJ Simpson case did almost twenty years ago.

George Zimmerman is a menace to society that has a history of being a danger to others. Before the murder of Trayvon Martin George Zimmerman was a known troublemaker who assaulted police officers, one time with a weapon. Again, this man has attacked LAW ENFORCEMENT. So he is not someone looking out for the safety of his community.

He’s a monster in the mold of Jeffrey Dahmer. Only one more dangerous because he uses the fa├žade of community and safety to cover for his own sociopathic behavior. He’s a man who waves the flag but believes he is above the laws of our Constitution. If he were in politics he’d be Adolf Hitler. 

Zimmerman’s racism is just the surface of his depravity. Clearly he showed how dangerous he is in the past by attacking law enforcement. And now by murdering Trayvon Martin. 

Unfortunately, because shallow people only see the surface nobility of his actions (community, family and patriotism) they can’t see the sickness (power and control) behind his sociopathic behavior.

And because his father is a retired judge, White people keep sweeping the menace of his sociopathic behavior under the rug and acting like there isn’t a problem.

Unfortunately, White America’s denial about George Zimmerman could kill your son or daughter. No one is safe from a sociopath like George Zimmerman as long as he’s allowed to walk the streets.

Plain and simple George Zimmerman is a menace to society. If he gets away with killing Trayvon Martin, he will kill again. His danger cannot be unchecked by WE THE PEOPLE.

This kind of sociopath seeks to impose their will on people in a community. They think the world revolves around them, and only them. Anyone who seeks to disagree with them or their view will eventually wind up like Trayvon Martin. George Zimmerman must be locked away before he harms others with his tyrannical behavior. Again, this is a man who has assaulted LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS. If that doesn’t show his DANGER to ALL, what doesn’t? 

This man must be brought to justice. He must be prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the law.

Unfortunately, because White America is in such denial about its racism it doesn’t understand how dangerous George Zimmerman is. Blind to his threat, they grant him the same White Privilege Peter Braunstien, Levi Aron  in Brooklyn and Michael Miele  received. 

In those cases those three White Males got away with committing crimes for YEARS because their fathers were rich white men with heavy connections. They used their White Privilege to make their children’s crimes quietly go away.

Levi Aron was the  son of a rich Hasidic Jewish man Many in the community knew he was mentally illfor YEARS. But it wasn’t until he killed and dismembered an eight year old Leiby Kletzky that they decided to do something about him.

Ignorant White Americans think they can handle him. They think they can control him. I’m sorry White people but this is a WAKE UP CALL. BRING THIS SOCIOPATH TO JUSTICE. IMPRISON HIM SO HE CANNOT HARM ANOTHER HUMAN BEING EVER AGAIN. EITHER PUT HIM IN STATE PRISON OR THE SUPERMAX. 

America, will it take a rape or a murder of someone WHITE for America to do something about George Zimmerman? Will George Zimmerman have to kill someone WHITE and RICH for someone in the AMERICAN justice system to do something about him? When will America finally understand that men like Zimmerman are a dangerous to society as a WHOLE not just people of color?

Or Will America just wait for someone else to die?

White America needs to realize that George Zimmerman is a danger to ALL OF AMERICA. As long as he’s allowed to go free, he’s a threat to the entire society of WE THE PEOPLE. The needs of this individual from the privileged few cannot be allowed to trump the rights of the many. 

Employers need to be careful how they treat a applicants on a job interviews.

In the past three going on four years I’ve been on a lot of job interviews. A lot. And while many employers I’ve met with have been professional and cordial others have been downright rude.

I’ve been on interviews where I’ve had my work experience dismissed by some managers. These were the kinds of employers who felt volunteer work wasn’t real work. In their eyes a job was a “real” job if someone collected a paycheck for it.

I’ve had my work experience ignored by others. These were the kinds of employers who acted like my work experience as a writer wasn’t real work experience, and my previous experience at other jobs wasn’t that important.

I’ve had to deal with surly HR people with bad attitudes. The kinds of employees who rolled their eyes, sucked their teeth and gave me evasive answers when I asked a question about a simple business policy or workplace etiquette. The kinds of people who thought it beneath them to answer a question.

I’ve had to deal with arrogance, sarcasm, and condescension. Rude receptionists and HR people who would snap at me. They didn’t understand how they left a negative impression of their business on me and how I could possibly tell others about their unprofessional business practices.

I’ve had to deal with HR staff who made no efforts to ask any pertinent questions. Instead they’d ask broad outdated interview questions like “Tell me about yourself” and “Why do you want this job”. They didn’t understand that by asking such poor questions it shows how little they care about me or about what I have to offer their organization.

I’ve had to deal with employers who would reschedule an interview on a whim. Others who scheduled an interview with me and didn’t even show up. Instead they had an assistant manager or a an assistant interview with me. They didn’t understand how that spoke volumes about professionalism and commitment in an organization.

What most employers I interviewed with didn’t understand is that the interview process is a two-way street. Just as the candidate is interviewing for the job, the company is interviewing for the candidate as to why working for their organization will be a good fit for them as opposed to working for a competitor. Both sides have to make a strong first impression on each other.

When employees at a company present themselves in an unprofessional manner it gives that candidate a negative impression of a company and its approaches to business. Employees being rude, condescending, and even sarcastic before an interview can turn away a potential candidate. If employees aren’t civil to someone during a job interview How will they treat someone when they’re working with them?

Managers being late to an interview or postponing or constantly rescheduling that interview can speak volumes about the leadership of an organization. If an employer can’t commit time to a candidate for an interview, when will they have time for them when they need them as an employee.

Managers asking broad or general questions can speak volumes about their organization and preparation. Someone who makes no efforts to read a resume is the same type of supervisor who will take no time to take your work seriously as an employee.

Moreover, it shows that a manager does not care. Someone who asks broad questions really shows that they don’t see a candidate as part of the business long-term and to not take business at the organization seriously.

All of these behaviors that could have a tremendous impact on a company’s long-term business.

What most businesspeople don’t understand is that the people they interview may be potential customers or clients in the future. The word-of-mouth they give about an organization can have a huge impact on a business’s long term health.

What most employers need to understand is that they don’t hold all the cards even during an economic downturn. People may be unemployed, but it doesn’t give them a right to treat them poorly because the job market is soft. The same person someone treats poorly at a job interview today could be the very same person a former employer could be interviewing with in the future.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Writing 101 Part 5- The Power of "Voice"

In fiction there’s a point where the characters in a story begin speaking their own words to the reader. Where the characters come to life and tell their own stories. Some call this phenomenon“voice”.
The Phenomenon of “Voice” transpires in the readers head. It’s purely an experience of the readers imagination.

Many consider “voice” a mark of great writing. It’s a sign that the reader is connected to the characters. That they’re involved in the story. That the story feels “real” to them.

Sometimes a character’s “voice” is so strong that the reader begins to talk back to the book and the characters as if the characters are real people.

What’s great about “voice” is that it’s relative to each individual reader. No two readers will interpret what they read the same way. And because our imaginations are relative, no two readers will imagine the same character “voice” in their heads.

In most cases, Who the writer imagines in their ears telling will be totally different from who the reader hears telling their story.

How the Phenomenon of “voice” varies from story to story. In some types of stories it can take ten chapters or more for the characters to start speaking to the reader. In other stories, the reader can start hearing character voices in their imaginations from the first page.

From my personal experience third person narrative fiction often takes the longest for the reader to hear the “voice” of the characters and become involved in the story. Having to listen to two sets of storytellers (the narrator and the characters) slows down the reader and keeps them from getting deeply involved in the story.

For me, first-person-perspective stories usually establish a characters’ voice quickly in the readers imagination. In each chapter the reader is only listening to only one narrator and how they perceive what’s going on in the story.

I prefer writing in that style because I feel that that by writing in the first-person perspective it allows for the reader to hear a character tell their own story in their own words. Listening to someone tell their own story involves the reader on an emotional and a personal level.

Sometimes to establish a characters’ “voice” I’ll just listen to people talk. On the train, On the bus, sitting in an office, In the supermarket or on the street, or even at the dinnertable. Real-life conversations are often the inspiration for great dialogue for me.

In other cases I’ll get the inspiration for a characters’ voice from an actors’ performance or their body of work.

For Isis I watched several films starring actor Samuel L. Jackson.  In my head the character of Osiris sounded like the actor, but with a more subdued, humble tone.

For The Cassandra Cookbook/A Recipe For $ucce$$, I wanted an upbeat lighthearted tone to the characters’ voices. Moreover, I wanted an early 1960’s style way of speaking. So I watched a lot of 1960’s movies like The Apartment, Frankie and Annete Funicello Movies, and the Adam West Batman series. For some characters like David Bennett and Rob Carson, I watched movies featuring actor Keith David and movies starring actor Charles S. Dutton, who I felt had the authoritative tone of a corporate boss.

For E’steem the female antagonist The Temptation of John Haynes, I watched several films featuring actress Salli Richardson. While I remembered her articulate intelligent voice from the Disney Cartoon Gargoyles, it hadn’t been on the air for years. I needed to listen to her speech patterns again so I could establish the characters’ “voice” in my head again.

When I use actors to create a characters’ voice I study their speech patterns so that I have an understanding of how they talk. Then I incorporate that speech pattern into the character I’m creating.

In first-person perspective storytelling the phenomenon of “voice” is great not for just for telling a story but establishing characters. When characters tell their own stories they reveal themselves to the reader between the lines of the story. As the reader gets more involved in the story they see their actions and understand their motivations for doing what they do and why they do it.

Once I establish a characters’ “voice” oftentimes the story just falls into place. It’s just a matter of putting fingers to the keyboard and letting the characters speak through me. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Shawn responds to Critics About Alleged Black Woman Bashing on His Blog

Some Black women have taken offense to some of my blogs making commentary on the irresponsible behavior of sistas in the community.

What I’m finding is that some Black women love to dish out all the criticism of Black men but they can’t take it when Black men like myself start presenting them with constructive criticism of their actions.

I’m sorry if some of you sistas are offended. But I don’t apologize for anything I have written over the last few months.

For the past 25-30 years Black women were allowed to voice their opinions about lying, no good triflin’ lazy Black men on talk shows, in books, magazines, movies, television shows and reality programming like court shows. Growing up I’ve watched Black men get bashed like cars in a demolition derby twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.

And I’m sick and tired of it.

Black women have been allowed to voice their opinions on issues in the without rebuttal from Black men for close to three decades. On all those talk shows, books, magazines, movies television shows and reality programming I have never once heard Black men discuss their side of the story.

Sorry, but that’s not fair. It’s not an objective perspective of the issues between Black men and Black women. It doesn’t allow the public to come to fair conclusion about the issues going on in the Black community.

Black women love talking about how they’ve been victimized by horrible Black men. They love to complain about how bad Black men have done them and they insist that Black men change, take responsibility for their actions and make efforts to be better men.

However when Black men like myself ask Black women to change, take responsibility for their behavior, and make efforts to be better women it’s a different story.

Many of my fellow sistas talk equality but not aren’t about it. They love to have the forum open when they’re airing their grievances. But when Black men like myself want to rebut them or offer solutions which require them to make efforts to change, they want to turn off the microphone and close down the town hall.

And when we come to the doors of that hall to protest not getting our opportunity to speak, they call the police. And At the request of this cadre of bullies, the White male enforcers come in and silence any Black Man who disagrees with the edicts of the Black Matriarchal system.

I’ve watched as people who spoke on YouTube about Black issues and criticized Black women were attacked, flagged and had their channels shut down. I’ve watched as other writers and filmmakers were buried and denounced for creating material that doesn’t praise the Black Matriarchy.

I’ve even had a few sistas try to use shaming tactics and deflections to guilt me into not writing about these issues on my own blog. I’ve even had family members tell me to stop writing about Black female issues from a Black male perspective.

I couldn’t believe this was happening in the United States of America. The land of free speech and free press. A place where people could express their views and opinions without reprisal.
But this oppression is going on in the Black community.

When one side tries to silence other sides opposing point of view it’s called censorship.

When a group of people try to silence a point of view that opposes their viewpoint and impose their will on the community it’s called fascism.

I have to wonder: Is Black America a communist state within the United States? That if people speak out on certain subjects the BBW (Bitter Black Women) will come and make them disappear?

The tragic irony of the situation is that Black people fought hard to achieve civil rights and now we use them oppress each other.

Seriously, Black women what are you so afraid of? Why are you so scared of Black men telling their side of the story? Why don’t you want to hear things from our perspective?

When I write articles telling Black women to do the math it’s because I care. I want Black women to take a serious look at our community because they are the heads of households in a majority of our neighborhoods. I want them to understand that how they’re raising children on their own isn’t working.

Seriously how will the next generation of children survive in a technologically advanced society when 7 out of 10 boys and 5 out of 10 girls today don’t finish high school? How will they even find employment when so many African-Americans have prison records? How can our economy grow when 80 percent of Black men and a growing percentage of Black women don’t have jobs or the skills to start their own businesses? How many Black people will be left in the next generation when there’s a 60 percent abortion rate among Black women? What type of future will they have if they’re uneducated, illiterate and caught up in the homoerotic thug and coon culture sold to them by Madison Avenue and Hollywood as normal Black life?

When I criticize Black women I’m not bashing. It’s a call to arms. Sistas, look at your community. While you’re running around in denial on your high profile downtown jobs, with your advanced college degrees and focused on your hair, nails, and designer clothes looking for the dream Man Madison Avenue and Hollywood have sold you as your prince charming your community is going straight to HELL.

While you’re out being strong and independent with your man Uncle Sam’s help, the people who depend on you for emotional support like your children and your men are falling by the wayside and dying.

When I criticize Black women about their relationships with Black men I want them to take a long hard look at themselves and their approaches to people and how they relate to people. Something is clearly wrong when over two-thirds of the women in a community are still single.

Is their inability to find a mate because Black men are “trifling and no good?” Or is it because Black women have no standards? Or is it because most of those Black women were looking inside the contents of a Black man’s wallet instead of looking at the content of his character?

Sorry, but I’m not Tyler Perry, Lee Daniels,  or Steve Harvey. I’m not going to exploit Black women’s pain by pandering to them with victim propaganda medicates their pain.

That would betray my mission as a writer and a publisher.

My mission as a publisher and a writer is to present a positive image of African-Americans and the African-American experience. Moreover it is to make Black people think about themselves from different perspectives. I want to enrich people by broadening their knowledge of self, not get rich off them by selling them a pipe dream.

I feel a discussion of the Black woman allows for everyone to get a different perspective about how Black women are perceived. Not just by Black men, but by the rest of the world.

My commentary is opportunity for our sistas to grow and change and help Black women improve their quality of life.

Clearly something isn’t working if over two-thirds of the Black women are single.

Clearly something is wrong with the way Black women are having relationships with Black men when seventy percent of the relationships wind up with Black women becoming single mothers.

Clearly something is wrong with the way Black children are raised by Black female headed households when a majority of boys and girls don’t even try to get a high school diploma anymore.

And in the face of those facts it’s clear to me that the Black community is headed on a fast road off a cliff.

But according to many of the pundits in the media, the all the problems in the Black community are all just due to no good trifilin’ Black men. According to them if Black men would just get themselves together and go get a college degree and a good job everything would be okay.

I’m sorry but that’s BULLSHIT.

Let me drop a logic bomb on everyone: If seventy percent of single Black mothers are raising their sons and teaching them the dysfunctional values they learned growing up from their single mothers and grandmothers how do they learn to become “good” Black men of character and integrity?

Seriously, how do these boys grow up to become those “Good” Black men everyone is looking for when they came from a corrupt source? How do you get an orange from an apple tree?

Aren’t Black women creating more of the “no good triflin’ Black men” they so hate by continuing to teach the same dysfunctional approaches to life that failed for their mothers and grandmothers to their sons?

When you’re objective notice how the math adds up. 70 percent female headed households, 70percent single Black women, 70 percent single mothers, 70 percent dropout rate, 70 percent prison population, and 80 percent unemployment equals to 100 percent chaos in the Black community.

Wouldn’t it be logical stop doing what clearly doesn’t work? Wouldn’t it make sense to try something different? Wouldn’t it be prudent to start making efforts to reach out to the Black men who want to change so the healing can begin in the Black community?

This is a two way street. Just as Black men are responsible for making their mistakes, Black women are responsible for their mistakes too. And just like Black men like myself have to take ownership for our irresponsible decisions, Black women have to start taking ownership for their irresponsible decisions and failed approaches to life as well if healing is going to begin in the Black community.

Only an insane person thinks they can continue to do the same things over and over and expect a different result. And it’s crazy for Black women to think they can continue to follow an approach to life that’s failed over the past forty years. Sistas, Can you take an objective look at the Black community? Can you honestly say that what you’re doing on your own right now is working?

Things are WORSE now for Black people than when I grew up back in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. And this is under the auspices of the FIRST Black President. For that one great step the entire community has taken a step back to the Jim Crow 1930’s.

When I write my blogs about Black women it’s so Black women can see their self-destructive behavior in black and white. You’re not going to buy some book by some charlatan and make things magically better. You’re not going to watch some play or movie and live happily ever after like people do in that fiction.

No change is HARD. It’s PAINFUL. It requires HARD WORK and VIGILANCE. It requires the CHARACTER and CONVICTION to do what is RIGHT.

And if that truth hurts, then I’m sorry.

Good men of character and integrity are those who tell the truth. As a Christian, (not perfect) I cannot stay silent. A man who says nothing when he knows something is wrong is just as guilty as the men who he sees doing the wrong.

If I stayed silent I’d be just another no good trifling Black man.

It’s clear to me that things have to CHANGE in the Black community. And that means BOTH Black men and Black women are going to have to make efforts to improve themselves if relations between both are going to start on the road to getting better. 

Ephiphanies and Revelations about the Comic Book Industry

Last Saturday night I had an epiphany. In it I got an understanding about the comic book industry. So this will be my last blog on the subject.

As my mind was opened to the truth I learned most in the comic book industry talk about change, but no one really wants to do anything to change. Everyone is just too greedy. Everyone is too racist.

The aging White Males who control the comic book industry would rather watch their business stagnate and implode rather than make the necessary sacrifices to preserve it for another generation.

The editors, writers and artists no longer tell commercial quality stories that will sell commercial properties to a broad audience of readers. They no longer protect the integrity of their catalogs and the characters in them. No, comic books published today are just personal fantasies projected onto comic book characters. Glorified fan-fiction. A fanboy’s wet dream.

That’s why none of it makes sense to anyone but diehard comic fans.

The fans are selfish addicts who could care less about the quality of the comics they buy as long as they get their weekly four-color fix on Wednesday.

No, they want all the comic books for themselves. They want to buy all the comic books put them in plastic bags and dream of becoming millionaires.

It’s a pipe dream that ends in the quarter bin in 24-36 months when the new number one issue is released for the sixth time.

Neither comic book publishers nor comic book fans wants kids to discover comic books and the gateway to reading. Why? Because it would mean they would actually have to run a comic book company like a business and actually be accountable to someone other than the members of their peer group.

People like Mothers. Fathers. Aunts. Uncles. Grandparents. Minorities. Customers. Retail managers. Retail executives. Mom and Pop shop owners. Vendors. People who would ask for High standards from the publications offered in places outside of the comic shop. People who would insist material presented to their children featured a good moral message. The promotion of values and ethics. Good stories that provide a high entertainment value for the dollar.

But as long as the small group of comic book nerds withdraw to their hive of Honeycomb Hideouts known as comic book stores they can have their comic books the way they want them to be.

A place where they don’t have to be accountable to anyone or responsible for anything they produce. A place where they can trade comic books back and forth with each other and act like they’re forever thirteen years old even though they’re close to forty.

Unfortunately, from a business perspective, as long as Time Warner and Disney are there to subsidize the comic book industry no one has an incentive to change. Time Warner and Disney only have to keep using the trademarks to keep the catalogs relevant. And to do that they only have to use the characters once ever ten years.

So to keep those trademarks in print they just pay a little bit of money to comic book editors, writers and artists. Time Warner and Disney’s CEOs could care less about the quality of the comic books being published. They’re making most of their money on the licensing of products and merchandise. Like action figures, apparel, movies and television shows. That’s the primary reason why they bought the DC and Marvel catalogs in the first place. That’s how they plan on reaching the kids anyway.

And because no one in the industry has no incentive to change, most of the editors allow the writers and artists to continue to produce shoddy work.

Everyone knows as long there is corporate sponsorship there’s job security. A job for life. All they have to do is make sure that the copyrights and trademarks are used once every ten years.

Seems like a good deal right?

It’s tantamount to socialism.

Socialism is where a small handful of elite individuals live very well working in government jobs at the expense of the masses. Usually in socialist societies, the working class pays high taxes to subsidize the salaries of those in working in those lifelong government jobs. While the ideal is everyone gets a fair shake with free education, free healthcare and other benefits, no one has any incentive to work hard and do their best because there’s no competition. Socialist societies stagnate because there’s never any incentive for anyone to innovate or create anything new. The state owns everything.

I realize the comic book industry will never go in a new direction because it has no incentive to move in a new direction thanks to the corporate sponsorship its two biggest publishers currently receive.

That corporate sponshorhip pays the salaries of a handful of White male comic book editors, writers, and artists who live very well at the expense of the masses of comic book fans, toy collectors and others who consume comic-book related merchandise.

Unfortunately, the comic fan is a member of the permanent underclass. The bottom of the food chain. Only they don’t know it.

There is no incentive to hire new talent, because the fat cats have all the good jobs at the top paying six and seven figures. If one looks at the industry from an objective perspective, they’ll see many working in the comic book industry are bunch of fanboys from the 1970’s and 1980’s still acting like a bunch of thirteen year olds. Instead of being professional adults looking to expand a business and making products to reach new younger readers, they’re sitting comfortably in their jobs for life. trading writing and art jobs like they traded comic books back in the day. Publishing what they want to see in a comic book instead of giving the customer what they want.

Seriously, how can Rob Liefeld get three penciling jobs at DC and some new young talent can’t get their work looked at a comicon?

Even if I were to get a job in the comic book industry there’d be no incentive for a writer like myself to create new characters in the comic book industry because the corporate entity would own all the rights to them and reap all the profits. Sure I could create the next big hero for Marvel or DC , but I wouldn’t get any of the royalties on the issues published, the reprints or share any of the profits for licensing of merchandise. Heck, I wouldn’t even get a free action figure for all my work.

In addition, there’s no incentive for me to work in an industry where I won’t grow professionally. I’m already writing novels, articles, screenwriting and dabbling into Teleplay writing. Stuff with the potential to be far more lucrative than comic books.

I wanted to be a comic book writer since I was ten years old. But I realize today the only way for a new artist or a new writer to enter the comic book business is through self-publishing. Unfortunately, the cost for a comic book venture is just too prohibitive. It would cost six to seven figures for me to just assemble and supervise the talent necessary to publish a graphic novel. And with distribution only through online booksellers and online sales the profit margin would just be too small to make money on the venture.

I can reap twice as many profits with a paperback or an eBook novel in the same online venues at a much lower cost. And I can reach a much larger audience. The average comic book usually sells to White males. While the average eBook or paperback reaches Women girls, teens, tweens, and minority readers. A much broader audience with more entertainment dollars.

Perhaps this epiphany was to help me come to an understanding that will help me move on. An understanding that my writing career is on the right track.

A long time ago I wanted to be a comic book writer. I set a goal when I was 17 to create positive comic book stories about African-Americans and the African-American experience.

But the comic book industry collapsed in 1993. And I had to change gears.

Maybe the epiphany I had Saturday was to show me that I can do better than writing comic books. That I can make an impact by trying to help establish the African-American sci-fi and fantasy market.

Who knows? All I know is when God shows you something it’s so you can change for the better. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Case Against Dan Didio and the Current DC Comics Editorial Team

Since 2004 the quality of DC Comics has been going downhill. The writing has changed from action packed and easy to read to convoluted and confusing. The art has gone from stylish to dreary and uninspired. What was once a fun escape for a dollar in the late 1980’s has become a depressing somber and disappointing reading experience for three dollars.

Looking at the product coming out of DC Comics, it’s clear to me that the current editorial regime headed by Dan Didio, Jim Lee, Bob Harras and Goeff Johns have no idea on how to produce comics with well-written stories and quality art. Since they came to power DC Comics have hit a steady decline creatively.

DC used to stand for Detective Comics back in the day.

Now it stands for Directionless Comics.

Or Didio’s Crap. The comics are that bad.

Since Didio has come to be Editor-in-Chief (or Co-publisher with Jim Lee) DC comics has had three universe reboots in less than six years. 2004’s Infinite Crisis 2008’s Final Crisis, and 2011’s Flashpoint

And before these big events the entire history of the DC Universe was changed because Superboy Prime punched air in his reality. The “retcon” punch has been infamous for what happens when a writer tries to explain things away that make no sense in a comic.

Some books like Wonder Woman, The Flash and Green Arrow have gone through three or four volumes with multiple number one issues in less than five years.

Several characters have gone through just about as many costume changes in as many years. Changes that make them hard for casual fans to recognize.

Several characters have gone under multiple secret identities. Batman has been Bruce Wayne, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Dick Grayson and now Bruce Wayne again.

The Flash has been Wally West, Bart Allen, and Because Goeff Johns wanted it…Barry Allen was brought back from the dead after 23 years to prop up sales on a dying Flash franchise.

Wonder Woman has been Diana and Donna Troy, and was given a new look that was ridiculed in the press.

Popular Characters like Firestorm, Blue Beetele and The Atom have been killed or replaced with new token characters in the name of diversity.

Many fan-favorite characters have had their histories taken into the gutter with some of the worst storytelling in the history of comics. Speedy/Red Arrow, Green Arrow, Wonder Woman and the Justice League are pale shadows of their former selves.

Superman went on a quest to find himself under Didio’s management.   

All of these changes made DC Comics just that harder to read and harder to follow.

To fix his many editorial flubs, after multiple mistakes Didio and his regime just decided to blow up the DC Universe and start over with a new DC universe by relaunching every title with a new number one issue last September.

Many say the reboot was necessary to fix the many problems in the DC Universe.

I say that may of the problems in the DC Universe were caused by Didio’s mismanagement.

Even though the DC Universe had its issues with continuity, most people could follow it and its history. But thanks to Didio and company’s incompetence over the past few years the DC Universe has gone from a single universe to a confusing multiverse worse than the one from the 1970’s and the early 1980s.

It’s clear to me Dan Didio doesn’t have an understanding of the history of the DC Universe or the history of many characters. And because he doesn’t have an understanding of that history he can’t supervise the many writers and artists who tell stories in the DC Universe.

Which is why the product coming out of DC Comics has been such poor quality these days.

An editor-in-chief sets the tone for a publishing division. They establish the direction for the publisher’s products.

When they work on serialized characters like comic book superheroes, they have to have a clear understanding of all the characters and their missions before they go to work on any publications.

They have to be there for editors to establish a standard for the company and its mission.

They have to be there to provide support and guidance to writers and artists. They have to make sure they keep characters on model when they draw panels, make sure writers have a sense of a characters’ “voice” when they put fingers to keyboard to the story.

More importantly their job is to protect the catalog of characters from the excesses of writers and artists who would unintentionally do harm to a character and their brand. Maintaining the long-term integrity of a catalog is paramount to keeping titles in print and continuing demand for those titles in the future.

None of this supervision is happening with the current DC Comics editorial regime. Writers and artists creative excesses aren’t being reigned in to meet house  standards. Stories are going to print that don’t meet a standard of excellence.

When mistakes are made they’re covered up with a retcon, a series reboot or they just blow up the entire universe and start all over again.

According to Didio, there’s supposed to be a reboot of a comic book universe every decade.

I find it funny that neither the Marvel or DC comic book universes didn’t need reboots back in the 1970’s when the industry was in a slump.

I also find it funny that Archie Comics or never needed a reboot in the six going on seven decades they’ve been publishing comic books. That’s a testament to how strong their editorial leadership is and how they stayed focused on their core mission.

Sorry, there’s no need to reboot an entire universe every decade. When an editor-in-chief provides competent supervision of writers and artists, there’s no need to tear everything up and start all over again.

As I stated in previous articles A reboot is a sign that there’s something wrong with the editorial leadership of a comic book company.

Sure some concepts are changed to reflect the times,  and some concepts, settings and themes are slightly modified to make a character more accessible to new readers. But there’s never a need to tear up everything and start from scratch. The core mission and premise of a character do not need to be changed constantly.

In addition to his poor approach to management of the DC Comics catalog writers and artists Dan Didio is has no idea on how to supervise a story from concept to execution.

The primary of how ineffective his leadership is  was  the DC comics event Identity Crisis. The miniseries was being written by New York Times bestselling mystery writer Brad Meltzer. To make the story controversial, Didio stated “We need a rape”.

Not we need a plot. Not we need a premise. Not we need a new villain. Not we need a character to go through something that  go through a major change from hero to villain or even just retire from the superhero game permanently.  Stuff that would get readers interested. Stuff that would make readers  think. Stuff that would make the readers care.

“We need a rape.”

I’d have to say that was one of the worst editorial decisions in comic book history. A clear sign of his incompetence.

In the panels of the Identity Crisis murder mystery, Sue Dibney, wife of the superhero the Elongated Man is murdered, and her body is burned. In a flashback, sequence from the 1970’s readers see Dr. Light sneaking onto the Justice League satellite and raping Sue Dibney.

What do the heroes do when they find out in this flasback? Go comfort a close friend? Give someone they’re close to support in the face of a traumatic event? No, they vote to blank memories and cover it up. Totally out of character from what readers experienced in the 1970's Satellite Era Justice League.

If this were the Marvel universe an editor could probably get away with this because some of the characters are shades of grey. But these DC superheroes. Beacons of idealism. Icons of right and wrong. Morally and ethically Black and white. Didio compromised their commercial image of the DC catalog by suggesting that a rape was needed. And he further tarnished the entire DC brand by letting this story go to print.

The rape of Sue Dibney was tasteless, and unnecessary to the plot of Identity Crisis. It added nothing to a story with convoluted premise and a contrived storyline.

I’d have to say Identity Crisis derailed the DC Universe creatively and sent it on a tailspin. It’s a story that should have never been published. Creatively it was that bad for the brand long-term.

From there, DC stopped focusing on stories where individual characters stood out in their own books and instead focused on events. Infinite Crisis. Countdown. 52. Death of the New Gods. Final Crisis. Blackest Night. Batman R.I.P. Flashpoint.

Events with a focus on graphic violence, gore, death, death and more death. Popular characters like Aquaman, Martian Manhunter Superboy The Question, and Firestorm were killed off under Didio’s auspices. Didio even had a “death list” of characters he wanted to kill off in his events.

He would have even killed off DC’s Nightwing at the end of Infinite Crisis if it weren’t for Batman fans protesting.

Sorry, but this isn’t creative. It’s not how an editor leads their creative team. It’s not how a publisher supervises story concepts from implementation to execution. It’s not how a publisher reaches new readership.

It’s what a hack does to deflect from their lack of talent. Hack editors tell their writers and artists to use shock plot devices like gory murders and mutilations to keep readers from seeing their inability to know what elements work in an entertaining story. It’s what they do to cover up their lack of understanding of a character’s history. It’s flash over substance.

And when editors who can’t lead paint themselves into a corner creatively they direct their writers to blow up the universe in an event and start all over again.

Like Didio did with Flashpoint and the new 52.

Sure it was shocking to relaunch the entire DC Universe with a series of new #1 issues but the end result are more characters being creatively mishandled by editorial mismanagement.

Like the relaunched Static Shock. A poplular character from a hit animated television series, Static’s previous Milestone series had a small cult following. DC had an opportunity to sell at least 100,000 copies. All they had to do was pick up where the popular animated series left off. An animated series that was top rated on Kids WB! and had over 4 million viewers a few years ago.

But Didio insisted that Static be moved to New York City. (Taken straight from writer John Rozum’s site) He didn’t understand the character or the characters’ history. He didn’t understand that Dakota was to Static what New York City is to Spider-Man. That the city of Dakota itself was a major character in his stories.

Moreover, he and his editors overruled Rozum and refused to let him write the character the way the late Dwayne McDuffie envisioned him and most people new him. Instead they insisted on going in their own direction for the New 52. DC’s editors arrogantly thought they knew better than Rozum, a seasoned writer who had written Static in an appearance of an issue of Kobalt when he worked at Milestone.

And thanks to their lack concern for the characters’ history, and not caring about what the casual readers wanted, Static Shock part of DC’s new 52 was cancelled after only eight issues. Again, this was a title which could have easily sold over 100K copies with the right editorial management. A book with a ready-made audience and a cult following of readers from the old series ready to pick up off where the animated series left off. A book with an opportunity to pick up thousands of casual readers who would have recognized him from the old TV series.

Looking at Static, it was Didio’s decision to move the character to New York that derailed the new series and kept it from reaching an audience of new readers.

Didio may have passion for comic books and superheroes, but his lack of craft and lack of business experience as relates to publishing is hampering the DC comics brand and tarnishing its catalog of characters. His editorial decisions have made DC comic books harder to access and harder to follow than they were before 1986.

For all the shock and controversy Didio’s events have brought to DC they haven’t brought that many new readers. Before the New 52 sales were actually dropping due to all the reboots, retcons, series cancellations and restarts.

Worse, for all the millions spent promoting DC’s new 52 the impact on new readers has been minimal. For all the fanfare only five percent of the readers of DC’s new 52 are new customers. And most of them are over 18-24 White males. That’s the audience Didio and company want to target.

That’s not going to help sustain the comic book industry for the next twenty years. It won’t even sustain it for the next five.

With the comic book industry in crisis, this is not the direction DC Comics needs to be going in. The industry will not be able to survive by selling to a demographic of readers that small.

Sure events like the new 52 will have a temporary surge, but sales will eventually drop back to the old levels because the industry is targeting the wrong audience of readers with comic book products. With the average age of a comic fan being over 35 these days, the market is still headed for further contraction instead of expansion.

DC Comics needs to be focused on a larger, much younger audience with products targeting Independent readers, tweens and teens. These are the readers who will sustain and stabilize the industry for the next decade or so.

Dan Didio and the current DC Comics regime have run one of the biggest publishing houses of comic books into the ground with their numerous bad editorial decisions and mismanagement. It’s time for them ALL to GO. Time Warner needs to clean house from top to bottom.

DC Comics needs a new editorial direction. A publisher with the vision to take them into the 21st Century. Someone who will publish Comic books that are easy to read and easy to follow.

DC needs an editor-in-chief who understands the history of the characters and will treat them with dignity and respect. Someone who understands the craft of storytelling and will establish standards for quality.

Someone who understands that in supervising this catalog of over three thousand characters and their variations they are building a relationship with readers for years. That brand recognition is important in maintaining that relationship with readers as they pass these characters on to their sons and daughters.

Someone who understands that comics books have to be accessible to readers under the age of eighteen and sold in places they frequent like Wal-Mart, Target, Mom and pop stores and supermarkets. That the comic shop alone isn’t effective venue for reaching the larger audience of younger tween teen readers and causal readers growing up today.

Someone who understands that the current distribution system run by Diamond Comics will not allow them to access that larger marketplace of twenty million younger readers. Comic books have to be seen by the customer in order for them to buy them. Not enough people see comic books in comic shops for them to sell at significant numbers. No, in order for comics to sell customers need to see them at Wal-Mart, Target, drugstores and Supermarkets.

Someone who understands that a small catalog of titles is better. DC Comics doesn’t need 52 titles, it needs 12-16 core titles featuring its essential characters. A catalog this small is easier for new and casual readers to access. It’s a catalog that allows new customers to sample one or two books, or buy all the titles without breaking their wallet. A good comic book catalog allows customer to buy every title in a publishers’ line for under a $50 bill.

A smaller catalog makes DC Comics products stand out in the marketplace. It makes the books distinct and have a value to the reader.

Someone who understands that comics need to have a higher entertainment value. Right now the comic book has the lowest entertainment value per dollar because the content is such poor quality. It takes hundreds of dollars just to complete a storyline. That doesn’t give new readers an incentive to buy books or veteran comic fans to recommend books to friends or give them to their children. Compared to other forms of media, such as movies, TV, the internet, and video games The comic book is the most expensive hobby to enjoy but provides the least enjoyment for the cost.

Increasing the entertainment value per dollar in comics is paramount to helping the medium survive in print and digital format. Because if the content supplied has no entertainment value to the consumer, there is no reason for the customer to demand the product in the marketplace.

DC comics needs an editor who understands diversity isn’t just about race. That true diversity is about making a character interesting and multidimensional. That stories focus on the content of a character not the color of their skin. 

DC Comics also needs someone who understands the growing digital marketplace for e-publications. Someone who understands digital comic books must be priced to compete with other digital products. Songs on itunes, TV shows apps and games. Stuff tweens and teens buy up without thinking about. Currently $2.99 is just too much money for a 32-page digital comic when a person can get a full novel for 99 cents or less in venues like Amazon’s Kindle or Smashwords.

In addition, digital comic book  content must be DRM free if the digital comic book is to survive. Readers being able to take their comics from tablet to desktop, laptop or other devices is key to getting comics in the hands of new readers, especially those under the age of eighteen. Readers need to be able to swap and trade comics with each other so they can try new titles and experience new characters. This is what’s going to lead to  future sales long-term.

 If the DC Comics brand is to survive it needs new management. Management with vision and creativity that has the vision to chart a course for comic books in the 21st century and is focused on reaching a new generation of younger readers.