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Friday, March 28, 2014

Why Can’t Warner Brothers Get DC Comics Superhero Movies RIGHT?

Two step forward and three steps back.

That’s usually the process at Time Warner regarding cinematic adaptations of their DC Comics properties.

For every great superhero movie like Superman: The Movie and Superman II, we got a horrible Superman III, a mediocre Supergirl (the costume and the actress were on point,) and an absolutely wretched Superman IV.

For every artistically brilliant and visually stunning Batman movie (1989), and a strong Batman sequel Batman Returns, we got a mediocre Batman Forever, and the horrid Batman & Robin. And to add insult to injury the 1980’s Batman franchise ended on a sour note with a horrifically bad Catwoman movie that had absolutely nothing to do with the character from the comic books.

For every two well-crafted superhero movie like Batman Begins and Dark Knight we get a terrible movie like Green Lantern, a mediocre movie like Dark Knight Rises and the virtually unwatchable Man of Steel.

I have to wonder: What’s wrong at Warner Brothers? With the billions of dollars they spend on their Superhero movies why can’t they consistently adapt their comic book properties for the big screen?

Marvel Studios may have come to the game 30 years late, but they’ve been producing consistent films featuring Marvel Comics properties in the few years they’ve been in business. In fact they do it so well, they can build a cinematic version of their comic book universe out of their films.

Not only do Marvel Comics adaptation of movies look and feel like their comic book counterparts, they capture the spirit of them. The Iron Man movies were just like watching a comic book from the David Micheline/Bob Layton Era of the comics onscreen. Captain America: The First Avenger felt like a Captain America comic book. The Incredible Hulk captured the soul of parts of the Peter David run. Thor was just like seeing a StanLee/Jack Kirby comic come to life onscreen. And there were some sequences in The Avengers that looked and felt like George Perez art coming to life onscreen.

And from what I’ve seen, Captain America: The Winter Soldier looks just like Brubabker and Epting’s comic acted out in real life.

Even the first Sam Raimi Spider-Man produced by Sony felt just like the old Stan Lee and Ditko comics.

But over at Warner Brothers…I haven’t felt that comic spirit from one of their DC Comics movies since 1989.

Warner Brothers has only captured the soul of a comic book three times and literally put a comic book to life onscreen. : In 1978 with Superman the Movie, in 1980 with Superman II, and 1989’s Batman. And I’ll give them extra credit for casting Helen Slater in Supergirl and making the PERFECT Supergirl costume.

But what’s the problem at Warner Brothers? I believe the problem is thy go to extremes and they try to make everything one size fits all. Back in the 1980s they let the Salkinds put their hand on everything that had to do with Superman family. And in the late 1980’s we had Tim Burton trying to make everything in Batman’s world dark and gothic. In the 1990s Joel Schumacher was trying to camp up everything. And now we have Chris Nolan and Zack Snyder trying to make everything REAL.

Sorry, but that just doesn’t work. Comic books aren’t real life. And the one-size-fits all cinematic model Warner Brothers uses for its DC Comics adaptations doesn’t work at translating comic book properties for movies.

In 1990 Time Warner hired Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo to turn The Flash into a Batman clone. With a dark and gritty visual style reminiscent of Tim Burton's Batman movies, the show only lasted a season. Why? Anyone who read the Flash comics know smiling, sunny straight-laced characters like Barry Allen and Wally West don't fit in the dark gritty world of Bruce Wayne and Batman.

Comic Books were  never made to fit into one artists' vision or one story model. Every comic title has its own unique creative team. And each creative team tells their own story their own way. In comics it’s all about finding a creative team that FITS the CHARACTER, not making everything one-size-fits all like an assembly line.

The dark, gritty artistic style that works on a movie like The Dark Knight just doesn’t work for a movie like Man of Steel. How can a hero like Superman symbolize hope if he’s angry and brooding? How can he inspire viewers if he’s scowling like Batman? Superman as a character is the POLAR opposite of Batman, and the dark, grim and gritty story model and art style of a Zack Snyder and Chris Nolan does not fit super-powered characters like Superman or Wonder Woman who are known for being happy and smiling most of the time.

What Marvel Studios does that seems to work is understanding that each director is going to have their own style and tell their own story. And the most important thing is keeping the CHARACTERS consistent and making sure that the cinematic and creative team fits the CHARACTER. At Marvel Studios they seem to understand just like writers and artists have to be a good fit for the CHARACTER in the COMIC, they have to be a good fit for the MOVIE.

Marvel Studios understands it’s more important for viewers to follow the characters like Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America, not directors like Chris Nolan or Zack Snyder.  That people are paying money to see a character, not a director or a creative team.

Warner Brothers spends way too much time building up Tim Burtons, Joel Schumachers, Peter Jacksons, Chris Nolans, David Goyers, and Zack Snyders instead of creating franchises around the characters and the stories of DC Comics Superheroes. This approach to producing movies mirrors the failed approaches they use in promoting comic books in their DC Comics publishing division. Over at DC Comics, Warner Brothers spends too much time building up creators like Goeff Johns and Jim Lee instead of characters like Superman and Batman. And instead of audiences following the characters, they follow the creators.  That’s bad for the box-office and even worse for sales at the comic shop after the movie.

What Marvel Studios is doing is sort of like what movie studios do with James Bond. The actors, writers, producers, and directors may change over the years, but the CHARACTER of James Bond is ALWAYS the same. He’s put FIRST and the audience follows James Bond, not whoever is directing the movie or cast in the role.

The other problem at Warner Brothers is that they keep trying to convince us that superheroes can be real and that they can fit into a real world. This is why their properties like Green Lantern fail.

In 1978 the tag for Superman: The movie was “ You will believe a man can fly”. And when Superman left the Fortress of Solitude we believed it because the special effects did their job.  By the time he saved Lois from falling off the roof of the Daily Planet with her in one hand and the helicopter in the other, we believed a man could fly.

It wasn't real. And no one cared. We believed a man could fly. Just like in the Superman Comic books.

 In 2013 Warner Brothers spent more time trying to tell us why their Man of Steel can fly rather than showing us him in action. So we didn't see a Superman in action.

No, we got a Man of Steel. With way too much emphasis on the Man.

Sorry but real doesn’t cut it with superhero movies. Superhero movies are based on comic books. And comic books are an ESCAPE from reality.

And DC Comics movies today just bring reality to viewers. All we see are Problems. Loss. Failure. Quitting. Bruce Wayne giving up being Batman. A miserable Superman somber over the fact that he had to kill to save people. The stuff of real life, not the stuff of movies, especially comic book movies.

Sorry, that’s not what people pay $14 for. When it comes to Superhero movies, people pay $14 a ticket to see heroes smile and wink at the camera, bad guys get their asses kicked, the good guy win, get the girl and live to fight another day. The stuff of Comic books.

In Superman: The Movie Christopher Reeve made us not only believe a man could fly, but he was a friend as well. At the end of every movie we saw him flying over the Earth smiling and letting us know that he’d be back next time for another adventure.

And at the end of 1989’s Batman, we saw Batman looking out at the Batsignal, signifying to the viewer that he’d be back for more adventures.

Warner Brothers’ DC Comics movie adaptations are not only too real, they take themselves too seriously. Where are the comical moments like in Iron Man or in Captain America: The first Avenger? Everything in a DC Comics movie and dark, and that’s not what fantasy storytelling is about.
Part of good fantasy storytelling is having humorous moments. These jokes give the audience/reader a break so the world they immerse themselves in doesn’t overwhelm them.

 And they allow us to relate to people. Watching a movie featuring these "real" interpretations of DC Comics characters just feels overwhelming at times. There’s so much time spent onscreen building a world of Gotham City or Krypton and Metropolis that we never get a chance to connect with the people in it. We never get to know Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent the way we can a Steve Rogers or a Tony Stark. Instead of DC’s Characters becoming people we can relate to, they’re just another part of a larger epic saga.

The reason why viewers enjoy Marvel Studios movies today is because they’re FUN. Just like the early Superman and Batman movies the audience gets what it pays for. An escape from reality. A chance to hang out with friends like Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. Over the course of two hours, they see a fantastic adventure, see the bad guys get their asses kicked the good guy win. At the end of the movie, they see the hero live to fight another day and after the credits roll, they get a preview of what’s to come in the next movie. It’s literally the stuff of comic books.

Tell me, where else can you see a machine gun toting raccoon?

Warner Brothers movies based on DC Comics fail for embracing reality, Marvel Studios movies work because they embrace the fantasy world of comic books. We’re allowed to suspend our disbelief for two hours and believe guys in flying armored suits are possible. Gods from mystic dimensions walk among us. There are giant green men and super soldiers hurl mighty shields at people. Yeah, it’s not real. But comic books aren't supposed to be real.  Again, a comic book is supposed to be an escape from reality.

At Marvel Studios the audience is left wanting more at the end of the movie. But after experiencing so much misery for two hours audiences just wants to head for the door at the end of a DC Comics movie.  Who wants to pay $14 to see an angry Superman and a Batman who has to quit because he’s too old and broken down?

Time Warner’s cinematic Superhero franchises fail because they’re afraid to let DC Superheroes be who they are: Comic book characters. Today they try to shoehorn reality into every second of the fantasy. And that sucks the fun out of the whole experience of watching a superhero movie.

People don’t watch superhero movies for real life. No, they watch superhero movies to take a break from it. They pay money to see a happy Superman fly off and smile at them ready for another adventure. Thy pay money to see Bruce Wayne who after sending the Joker to Arkham looks out the window of Wayne Manor and sees the Batsignal in the sky. They pay to see Wonder Woman flying back to Paradise Island in her Invisible Jet.

Seeing the Success of Marvel’s The Avengers, Time Warner wants to build towards a Justice League movie. Unfortunately with the story model and production team they have in place they’ve worked against themselves before they got started. Following up Man of Steel filled with death and destruction with a Batman team-up movie is a mistake. It’s hard to have hope and anticipate the next DC Comics movie leading up to the formation of the Justice League when Superman has killed Zod and Metropolis is in ruins with millions dead. How do you get hope from that? How do you get an audience to anticipate the next movie after watching so much carnage onscreen?

Chris Nolan and Zack Snyder are just not qualified to build a DC Universe onscreen. And a realistic story model they apply for movies just doesn’t work towards the direction of a Justice League movie. If Man of Steel is an indicator to Superman/Batman any movie  Warner Brothers would make would be rushed and sloppy, trying to cram as many characters in it as possible with no regard for story or the characters' history. A remake of 1997’s Batman & Robin for the millennial generation.

Warner Brothers just doesn’t get that movies are about stories. Endings and Beginnings. And that when it comes to superhero movies, the characters’ stories have to be built towards getting the audience to anticipate the next film. What Marvel Studios did was build the audiences’ anticipation for the beginning of the next movie at the end of the last one. With each teaser after the credits rolled the audience wanted more. And over the course of four movies they got their big payoff in The Avengers. If a studio is building towards a franchise it’s supposed to leave the audience hungry. Craving more. Waiting to see that next installment. Having them counting down the days for the next movie like the comic fan is counts down the days till they can go buy that next issue at the comic shop.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Thoughts On Aaron McGruder’s Departure from The Boondocks

The Boondocks is having a fourth and final season on Adult Swim.

Only they’re having it without its creator Aaron McGruder and its executive producer.

Sony the producer of the show says in a press release Aaron McGruder says he’s not on the showbecause “a mutually agreeable production schedule could not be determined”and Aaron McGruder on his Facebook page stated that he'd lost control over "The Boondocks," writing, "Just found out someone has hijacked 'THE BOONDOCKS' Facebook page. This was done without my permission and I have absolutely no control over the content being posted as of Friday, March 14."

 Many are upset about this change But Behind the scenes I know it’s business as usual in Hollywood.

When it comes to intellectual property, behind the scenes the Hollywood corporate executives pull swerves like this. Sony saw that The Boondocks was a popular show. That it was making money. And fans were demanding a fourth season. Seeing money to be made, they decided to cut out the middleman: Aaron McGruder.

The reason why Sony is able to produce a fourth Season of The Boondocks without its creator is in the standard contract for the TV rights McGruder sold to Sony. Usually in the fine print of these contracts are all sorts of clauses. And even the best entertainment lawyers have a hard time trying to figure them out. This is why it’s important to READ EVERYTHING BEFORE YOU SIGN IT.

Hollywood film studios love to find ways to screw creators over for their intellectual property. And once a creator signs on the dotted line, they can sign away their lives.  

On the surface of a contract like this, Short term a creator like Aaron McGruder would make some money, and have their characters exposed to an audience. But long-term on a deal like this a creator can get SCREWED.

What Sony is probably doing is exercising the rights they bought over the TV adaptation of The Boondocks. While Aaron McGruder may own the print rights and copyrights over the characters, Sony owns the Television rights over those characters. And because they own those rights, they can do whatever they wish with them. Including produce a fourth season without McGruder and his executive producer.

In the contract McGruder signed he gave Sony the right to make an ADAPTATION his strip for television. And in Hollywood ADAPTATION is a tricky word. It means that the producers can modify a story or a character for their VERSION of a property as they see fit.

Adapation is how Disney can take a story with a downbeat ending like the Little Mermaid with the death of Ariel and the prince and make it upbeat. Or how Oprah Winfrey can take a story like Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and OMIT details like Janie Crawford coming from a female headed household.  Or how Steven Speilberg can OMIT all the Lesbian references in his film version of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple.

And  adaptation is the techinchal word Sony used to Grab Aaron McGruder’s intellectual property. They own the rights to the TV versions of Huey, Riley, and all the TV versions of the characters in the Boondocks. How did they get them? When Aaron McGruder SOLD THEM to SONY.

Again, many creators sign on the dotted line not knowing that they’ve signed away their lives. Hollywood executives are masters of the marathon game. They play for long-term, looking to make money YEARS after a property has been sold. This is why anyone who gets involved with them has to be focused on the big picture for their intellectual property. It’s easy to get caught up in the emotions of the creative process and not understand the fact that Hollywood is in the BUSINESS of entertainment.

This is why a smart creator has to wear two hats and a poker face. They have to wear their creative hat when they’re being creative in the studio and the writers’ room. But when they step into the business side of intellectual property, they have to have their business hat on as well, being savvy enough to know the ins and outs of entertainment law regarding copyrights, and trademarks. Hollywood is a Shark Tank and the executives on the business side are NEVER acting in a creator’s best interest.

For a corporation like Sony, The Boondocks is just another licensed property in their catalog. And because Sony’s executives see it as property, they could care less about the artistic vision of the people like Aaron McGruder. For them, the creators don’t matter. The way they see it, they can hire some writers to study the story models of the episodes they have and have them re-create the show for them.

Usually this is where the content of a show like The Boondocks gets compromised. Again, What Sony is producing is an ADAPTATION of McGruder’s Boondocks comic strip. So it doesn’t have to capture the spirit or the message of those strips, just feature those characters. For a company like Sony, all they need is Huey Riley and Gramps to be onscreen in whatever story they want to tell to the millions of fans in this fourth season.  

That’s where things get dangerous for Black people. Most people will not see the comic strip version of The Boondocks. No, they'll identify  The Boondocks with the Sony's VERSION of the characters. Those VERSIONS will become ICONIC, just like Disney's Winnie-the-Pooh is seen as the ICONIC Pooh, not the original A.A. Milne illustrated version.

With Sony in control, what many Black people fear is that the TV version of the Boondocks will turn into the COONDocks, and that VERSION will become ICONIC. Season 4 could become focused on an overemphasis on characters who act stereotypical like Uncle Ruckus. Characters like Huey and Riley could be re-written to be pale shadows of themselves. And all of the sly commentary on the Black community will be completely re-written to reflect the views of White Liberals.

The kinds of people that praise films like Precious, 12 Years a Slave and Monster’s Ball as Humanized images of African Americans.

My fear is that nonblack people watching this final season of The Boondocks may get presented with stereotype images of Black people and believe these are social norms. I also fear that Black people may get presented with a stereotype image of Black people and think that its normal. Pictures are a thousand words. And can make statements about people that last a lifetime. Aaron McGruder’s legacy could possibly get perverted and corrupted by Sony’s executives in Hollywood. As long as they hold those TV rights, they can produce as many Boondocks episodes as they wish.

And because they own the TV stations they’re distributed on they can choose what episodes get run. They could choose to run Season 4 for years and bury seasons 1-3. Or they could do what Warner Brothers is doing to Static Shock and bury the show so no one can find it by not releasing a complete series DVD.

I’m hoping that Aaron McGruder didn’t sign the standard contract for Television rights and that he doesn’t become a victim of a perpetuity clause. I’m hoping that one day he can get the rights back to his intellectual property and maybe someday work with a Black-owned animation studio towards adapting his work. As a publisher of Positive Black fiction I know how important it is for Black people to control their image in the media. When we present images of ourselves they feature humantypes. But when nonblack people are allowed to create images of Black people they feature stereotypes. There are lessons to be learned from Aaron McGruder losing control over The Boondocks, and I hope Black people take them to heart about the entertainment industry.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Racism on the TV show 2 Broke White Girls- CBS TV Pimp Smacks the Negro

*Another Comics related blog will be up tomorrow*  I had to write this one after watching Monday night’s 2 Broke Girls.

I had the TV on this Monday while I was writing. And on it was an episode of 2 Broke Girls. The episode broadcast on March 24 2014 was so racist it wasn’t funny.
Now I had stopped watching this show last year when the writing collapsed like a soufflĂ© after the cupcake shop closed. And what I saw on last night’s episode has offended me so much that I will never watch this show again.

In Monday’s episode Max and Caroline are on their way to culinary school. Only to find the school has been closed due to the owner running off. So they come up with a scheme for the rich Black male student to buy the school.

As the episode progresses the 2 Broke White girls go to the Black male student’s place to discuss their scheme. Only the Black male student’s place of residence is a dumpster. That was a red flag to me about how TV executives sees the color of poor people in Black and White.

Now the 2 Broke White girls have jobs and an apartment. But the Broke Black man is living in a dumpster behind a building.

Moreover, the 2 Broke girls have enough money for an apartment, they make enough money to take care of a horse.

Where have I seen this racism before…Good Times and Married With Children over twenty years ago.

On Good Times, working class Florida and James Evans are forced to live in a tiny two-bedroom apartment in the dangerous Cabrini Green housing project with their three children . Thelma had her own room while Michael and JJ had to sleep on the sofa together. Again, another emasculating image of Black males on TV.

While on Married…With Children Poor Al Bundy who works as a shoe salesman for minimum wage has a three-bedroom home in a Chicago suburb and owns a car with his Stay-at-home wife Peg and their two children.

How is it in Hollywood’s mind that POOR James and Florida Evans who both WORKED are forced to live in apartment in the projects, but POORER Al Bundy has a house in the suburbs with three kids and a stay-at-home wife have a three-bedroom home in the SUBURBS on a single minimum wage income?  

And how is it today  2 Broke White girls who work as waitresses by day have a side business and a horse, have an apartment in Williamsburg, but a rich Black man of a better soicoeconomic class who is slumming it is living in a dumpster?

Man, The White Liberals in Hollywood know how to Pimp slap Black people in the face and not leave a hand print. The message here in this episode is that there’s a clear difference between Black poor and White poor. Because White Supremacist Hollywood would never portray poor “innocent” White girls in a negative light. The Black man is shown as being so poor he has to live in a dumpster, but 2 Broke White girls have their own apartment and make enough money to take care of a horse.

Later on in the episode while they visit the Black guy in his dumpster learn that Max is dating the Black guy and she’s nervous about meeting his parents. Further along in the episode we meet the Black guy’s parents. Yeah, his parents are rich. So rich they can afford a copy of Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup and have a private elevator operator. After a few rich jokes we finally meet his parents. His Black mother comes out first then his White father.

I found it odd how they didn't come out TOGETHER. Usually on TV shows, the parents come out together to show family solidarity. But on this episode they come out APART. That to me was a quiet comment on how network TV still perceives interracial couples. You can show an interracial couple on TV, but you can't show them TOGETHER.  

And I also Noticed how they still called the "biracial"  son a BLACK man. Throughout the ENTIRE EPISODE.

For all you “biracial” people out there, CBS and the producers of this show are sending you a message that the old “one drop” rule is still in effect here in AmeriKKKa. That there’s no “Biracial”. You are BLACK to them.

As the episode progresses it’s revealed that The rich White man was married to a Black woman. But the Black woman was revealed to be a stripper in her past. Another pimp hand to the cheeks of Black people without leaving a mark.

Basically, in the undertones of this episode they’re saying that the Black woman is a whore. And that the only way she can achieve this kind of wealth is to sleep her way to it by finding a White male SIMP to marry them.

The Black mother guest starring in this show in line is a character that fits within the modern day jezebels like Olivia Pope on Scandal. And the message in the undertones of this episode of 2 Broke Girls is that a Black woman is only good for one thing…that warm wet space between her legs.

Now Max is feeling nervous about being around the Black mother. And she goes into the bathroom to deal with the huge sweat stains under her dress. She and the mother get to talking then they have dinner. Over the dinner with rich friends another guest argues with about Caroline’s father. Offended, and Max and Caroline decide to leave. And they take Max’s Black boyfriend with them. He’s been cut off.

With the scheme to buy the culinary school falling through, the rich interracial parents of the BLACK boy decide to cut off their son due to the fact that he loves Max so much. He’s staying in his dumpster for love of his White Woman.

Again, another backhanded comment about Black men who involve themselves in interracial relationships. That the only White women who want a rich Black man are poor bottom feeders like Max.

And a statement about the hypocritical double standards of people both Black and White regarding interracial relationships. It’s fine for a White man to marry a Black woman, but the Black man dare not pursue a relationship with a White one, no matter how poor she is, or else Mr. Charlie and his Negro Bed Wench wife will make an effort to punish him.

A pimp Smack with a pinky ring imprint. Broadcast on your TV screens.

At the end of the episode, Max decides to give up her relationship with the rich Black guy and she and Caroline decide to push him back to Manhattan so he can live a better life under his parents.

A paternalistic way of saying that White people will do what is best for the Black man. That he’s not competent enough to make a decision on his own, or is capable of making a living on his own. Another patronizing “noble” sacrifice White liberals make for the “greater good” of a downtrodden Negro.

Most Black people today watch TV and don’t see the racism in between the lines of these TV shows because they lack the Critical Thinking skills to deconstruct the images of media presented to them. For them they just laugh at the TV shows presented to them not understanding they’ve been just been insulted.

The message in this episode of 2 Broke White Girls is that the Black man can have riches. As long as he follows the terms laid out by White Supremacy.

And that White women can be involved with a Black man. Only if he is of a certain socioeconomic status. He can’t be ghetto poor from two Black parents. No, he has to have some sort of money behind him from a White man and he has to be approved by White men for the White woman to consider him for a relationship.

And his poverty is completely different from theirs. He has to live in a dumpster, while they share an apartment. Again, showing that Black people are always going to be perceived as being  at the BOTTOM even though both Black and White are on the same economic level.

Also the message is that interracial relationships between Black men and White women are okay. But only for a minor fling. She can’t have any sort of emotional attachment to him or pursue any sort of long-term relationship with him. At the end of the episode when there’s no more money, Max cuts off her relationship with the Black man and she and Caroline pushes him back home. A symbolic way of saying they need to put this nigger back in his place.

At the end of this episode this Black man was emasculated. After the 2 Broke White Girls had their fun with him, they handed him back to his momma and gave him his balls to be put back in her purse.

After watching this blatantly racist episode of 2 Broke White Girls I see nothing has changed in the last 30 years regarding the image of Black people on Television. In fact, things have gotten worse. I haven’t seen this kind of emasculation and degradation of a Black man on Television since the Pet Nigger days of Diff’rent Strokes and Webster were on the air.

The sad part is just like in the 1980s Black people are still SILENT about kinds of swipes taken at them on TV shows like 2 Broke White Girls. Instead of writing letters to CBS about this racism, or better yet taking their $1.1 trillion dollars in spending power and organizing a boycott of AmeriKKKa’s number one network, they just sit there and laugh with the jokes that are made for White folks to laugh AT them.

What Black folks don’t understand is that by their SILENCE they co-sign the racist media at these television networks. That gives them a green light to present more and more offensive material. The only way to curb these negative images of Black people is for Black people to speak out about them, protest them and write letters to the networks and manufacturers who sponsor these programs. As long as Black people stay SILENT, they give producers of shows like 2 Broke White girls the OK to keep making a mockery of Black people.  

Monday, March 24, 2014

Superheroes Used To Be our FRIENDS…What Happened?

A long time ago, The American Superhero weren't people with special powers and abilities. They were also our friends.

Back in Superman: The Movie Superman called himself a friend. It was one of the most endearing moments in that classic film.

In comics, a superhero used to be a friend to the reader. Someone they could trust. Someone who made parents feel safe when their kids picked up a copy of their comics. Characters who had a presence that reassured readers that good triumphed over evil and never crossed the line in the sand. Generations of readers saw comic book superhero as good people who had a personal connection to the fictional communities they lived in. People who felt they had a duty to protect those people who couldn’t protect themselves from dangers that were beyond the capacities of Law Enforcement to handle.

Unfortunately, today, superheroes aren’t our friends. In today’s comics they’re portrayed as aloof overlords who believe that they’re doing everyone a favor by protecting society from itself. In fact many believe they are better than the people they’re supposed to protect and serve and look down at the masses they protect and pity them. Yes, they triumph over evil. But we have no idea how good they actually are. Or how good a role model they are for children.

Today, some superheroes believe they’re better than other heroes. And most spend more time fighting each other than the bad guys. Instead of adventures where good triumphs over evil, stories focus on how power inflates their egos.

In some ways today’s comic book superheroes are just as bad as the bad guys they profess to protect the world from. With the arrogant way many superheroes are portrayed today in today’s comics, it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys.

Over the last 25 years, the Superhero genre of comics gone from a bright four-colored world of Black and white ideals filled with inspiration and hope to a muddy gray area filled with drab colored characters filled with doom and gloom.. In these dark tales like Identity Crisis and Civil War, they don’t have any lines to demarcate between what’s good or evil.

I have to wonder: Is this dark gloomy story model a sign of the times we live in? Or Were Mark Waid and Alex Ross foreshadowing the future of superheroes in Kingdom Come back in 1999? It’s a question I don’t have an answer for.

All I know is superhero comic books aren’t fun anymore. Everything is dark and moody and all the characters we used to be friends with are angry brooding and bitter about their lives. They aren’t the kinds of people a reader wants to spend time with. Nor are they the kinds of adventures a casual reader would feel comfortable spending $4 on. With so many options available to make a person smile, why would anyone want to spend money reading about the adventures of someone who’s miserable?

The downcast paternalistic perception of today’s superheroes in comics has turned many readers off. Instead of being a beacon of hope who shows readers the best humanity has to offer, today’s comic book superhero has become a cold distant person who shows humanity at its worst. They believe they’re acting in the best interests of others, but in actuality they’re acting only in their best interests.

I wondered what happened over the last 40 years to change the way writers and artists perceived the relationship between superheroes and the communities they served. Again, were Mark Waid and Alex Ross foreshadowing the future of superheroes in 1999?

I remember when I wrote about a heroine with the same viewpoints as today’s superheroes back in 1999. Her name was Isis.

And because she had the same paternalistic view today’s superheroes had, the Elder gods imprisoned her on an uninhabited island to keep her from being a danger to those around her.

Like the third generation superheroes in Kingdom Come Isis felt justified in her callous views of people after experiencing decades of White Supremacy and racism in America. After the lynching of her husband and murder of her baby, she felt she had a right to mete out retribution on America. Thankfully, she had a family of older, more experienced Egyptian gods there to help her see the error of her ways and persuade her to come to terms with her losses and what she was about to lose.

I’ll admit Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ Kingdom Come was one of the major influences on me writing Isis. From that story I saw how the modern superhero had changed from a person who saw themselves as person in service the community to a god looking to be served by the masses. Instead of being someone people loved and had a personal connection to, they became entities the world feared.

Kingdom Come helped me to understand the dynamics between the relationships of superheroes and the communities they served. I saw parallels between them and the legendary gods of Egyptian mythology like Seth. How great power used irresponsibly by immoral people can corrupt absolutely.

I also saw in Kingdom come how the fragile humanity of the American superhero was what led to a generation being lost. How when Superman lost Lois he lost his connection to humanity. And how the everyday slights and ungratefulness of public masses that took its heroes for granted led led to the emotional disconnect between the superhero and the communities they served. And how one tragic event led to these so-called gods meting out harsh justice through their wrath.

Sadly in comics the Kingdom is here. And unfortunately, there’s no older Superman to guide the next generation and be the moral compass to a new generation of comic book creators. In the world of the New 52 Superman is no longer a friend. He’s presented as just as malicious and depraved as many of the young third-generation heroes in Waid and Ross’ masterpiece.

There has to be some way to persuade today’s writers and artists that the American comic book superhero has lost their way. That the narrative has been corrupted. That the heroes who once stood for truth and justice now are their own worst enemies. Glorified villains who trample over the ideologies they once stood for in a quest to protect people for their own good. It’s a sad day when mainstream superheroes like DC’s Justice League act more like their evil alternate universe counterparts the Justice Lords. Even sadder that no writer has asked the question posed in Watchmen and Disney’s The Incredibles: If the heroes are going to protect us, who’s going to protect us from them?

I believe there’s a road back for the American superhero in comics. That they can find the light at the end of this dark tunnel and go back to being our friends. When I wrote Isis, Osiris’ daughter was pulled back from the line between good and evil with the love of her father and stepmother. And over time she reconnected with her community and became the goddess next door in the Isis series books. A neighbor people can go to in times of need and ask for help and advice. And like Superman, a friend. I think with great writers telling great stories again, superheroes can grow to become the friends to a new generation of readers.

Why Shawn Does NOT Do Volunteer Work

I was planning on publishing another comic related blog. That’ll come later this week. But I got to get this off my chest.

I had a family member come at me this Sunday talking about how I should do volunteer work. Let me explain to you why I don’t work for free.

Way back in 2000 when I was working at STRIVE I got burnt badly on that deal. I put in WORK at that company. Learned the business of job readiness, managed their clothing closet, learned about fund development,  got along with co-workers and was a well-liked employee. Praised by the Vice President in a meeting for stepping up as co-workers were bolting for the doors. Rumors went around that I would be considered for a job.

Around August, I set up a meeting with the Vice President of STRIVE to discuss my future at the organization. I go to lunch with him and what did he tell me? He had no place for me in their organization. Then around January, this Ivy League son of a bitch goes out and hires his friend for the job I had practically LEARNED for an entire year. This dude had next to NO EXPERIENCE, did not know the company and had been traveling around Spain for the last two years.

A motherfucker who had been traveling around God Damn Spain for two motherfuckin’ years he puts in a job, but the brotha who had been putting in WORK for over a year and had LEARNED the job he tells he has no place for.

Basically this Nigger told me to go fuck myself. Put a middle finger in my face. nfortunately because I was tied up in an Americorps*VISTA contract I couldn’t leave. So I literally watched a company fall apart right before my very eyes under the leadership of this Ivy League dumbass. 

In 2001, I left STRIVE with no references, at all. The company was crumbling around me and 90 percent of the employees were heading for the door. U

The only thing I learned from that experience is not to fuck with nonprofits. The only thing anyone will get dealing with a nonprofit is SCREWED.

What people don’t tell you about nonprofits are is that they have a notoriously high turnover rates. When it comes to employees there’s a revolving door. People come, they go, and the people who work under them like volunteers get FUCKED OVER.

Need a reference? Not gonna get it. Need a letter of recommendation? Not gonna get it. Again, the place is a revolving door. People quit these jobs in six months to a year and stay for two years max.

So when you go to put in an application someplace else, you’re pretty much stuck with the same amount of NOTHING you came in with.

Now I went to volunteer at another nonprofit in 2002. To do officework and submit articles to their paper. Again, the same problem. Revolving door employees, no real direction and, again, no references For my work. Did they ever publish those articles I submitted? I still don’t know to this day.

On top of it when I went to employers with my volunteer experience to get a salary job they didn’t value it. One greasy talking interviewer gave me a snotty attitude and minimized my work there by saying “was this a paying job?”

Like there’s a difference? Work is work.

The only thing I learned from doing volunteer work is The old adage “why pay for the cow when you’re getting the milk for free” applies to jobs too. If employers are getting work for FREE then they aren’t going to PAY for it.

Nor will they value it. Anything people get for FREE they DO NOT appreciate. It’s only when people have to PAY for something that they see how valuable it is.

Here’s the deal: My time is valuable. And I don’t have time for bullshit.

The Mexican who picks fruit has a value for their labor. The Dominican who works at the sweat shop sewing up bootleg clothes has a value for their labor. The Chinese person who works at the Chinese restaurant has a value for their labor. Even the dope man who people buy their weed from has a value for their labor. If they can get paid for their WORK, then why can’t this Black man? Isn’t my work just as valuable as those individuals?

People always come at me wanting to get something for nothing. I’m sorry, but my work is TOO valuable for you to get it for FREE. Don’t come at me with that volunteer, “you’ll get experience” BULLSHIT. You know what experience I want?

The experience of getting PAID for my work.

That same money you put on that Mexican, Dominican, and Chinese person’s table, to pay them with you can pay me with. That same money people can get for the weed man they can get for me. People got money with every other nationality out here, but when a Black man with MORE education and experience comes looking for a job and brings something to the table, they want to come at him sideways looking to get something for nothing.


I get tired of people trying to run these sideways games on me. Volunteer someplace and you’ll get experience-What a bunch of bullshit. I give you work for free, and then the manager heads for the door leaving me with JACK SHIT.

Then while I’m working there they have these snotty ass co-workers coming at me sideways talking greasy talking about how they’re looking for someone with a different background to do the work I’m doing? Well, Negro, if you can get someone better, would they be here now? And would they be working their asses off for you for nothing?

No, they’d charge your ass FULL PRICE.

And people would accept the fact that they’d have to PAY full price. Or get no one to work for them.

People come at me talking about how I need to volunteer. Give them something for nothing. How it’ll get me a job someplace else. Then they want to talk about how my five years where I been putting in work has no value?

Motherfucker, I been putting in work. I’ve been working at my own publishing business for five God Damn years. I’ve produced over 30 plus books in the last five years, 13 titles alone last year. I’ve done commission work for multiple clients. I have a proven track record of royalty sales at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. And you want me to work for you for free? To prove to you that I’m “employable” by your ridiculous standard?

Man, get the fuck out of here. I’m not playing that game anymore.

I played that volunteer game 14 years ago. Busted my ass, brought shit to the table, and then watched as some friend of a friend who spent two years goofing off in Spain was given the spot I worked for. From there on in I knew it wasn’t about education, experience or whatever bullshit standards people made about jobs. Employers talk a lot of shit, give their friends and their side piece salary jobs, and while they trick their money off paying them, try to run games on people like me to get real awork for free. No. If I put in WORK for someone, then I deserve to be paid for it. The same money you got to trick for them with you better have to pay me with for services rendered.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Comic Book Access Points- Do We Really Need Them?

Today, people say comic books are hard to get into. Publishers believe that they have to craft events like Marvel NOW! and DC’s NEW 52 to provide readers with an access point to the characters and the stories in serialized comics.

I’m wondering what exactly is a comic book “access point? The book where readers “jumped” onto a series. Because we didn’t need those back in the 1980s when I started collecting or the 1970s when my brother was collecting comics.

Back when I started collecting, there was no such thing as a “jumping on issue.” You just saw a comic, and if you liked the cover, you bought it. If the story was great, you bought more.

My first comic book when I really got serious about collecting was Iron Man #228 in 1988. (It came out in 1987, but it had been sitting on the newsstand for a while) It was in the middle of the Armor Wars, and featured Steve Rogers as the Captain. From that single issue I got into Iron Man, Captain America and the West Coast Avengers based on what I read.

Now this comic that got me hooked was in the middle of a storyline. But from what I read in that single issue of Iron Man, I was compelled to buy not only the next issue of Iron Man, but two more comics, Captain America and The West Coast Avengers. By the end of 1989 I was collecting at least 15-20 titles a month between Marvel and DC.

I remember Jim Shooter saying in his blog that every issue is an entry point. And I have to agree with him. Every issue of a comic book is going to be someone’s first. That’s why I believe every issue should have a great story.

The problem with today’s “event” model is that it tries to tell readers where they should start reading comics. That’s not what comics are about. That’s what they’ve never been about. New readers don’t buy comics based on dictated entry points. They discover them. They pick them up based on covers that tell great stories, and after they finish reading them they go out and buy more.

Entry points have always been dictated by the reader, not the publisher. That’s why I believe all these reboots fail. A new reader may discover a comic book well after an event like the New 52 or Marvel NOW! is over.

Or they may discover a title in the middle of a storyline like I did with Armor Wars over 25 years ago.

The critics of the past 20 years have complained that continuity keeps readers from discovering titles. And that’s their reasoning for pre-made entry points. But from what I’ve seen over the last 20 years that continuity really isn’t a problem. It’s bad storytelling that’s been the problem.

As I stated before, every comic is someone’s first. And if the story doesn’t knock the readers’ socks off then they don’t have the incentive to buy in and continue buying more issues.

One of the big problems with all these reboots and re-numberings is that it keeps the new reader from having that access to the decades of past continuity. With a pre-made entry point designed in every new number one issue, the new reader can pick and choose to discard parts of a characters’ history. When the series ends, in 12, 24, or 36 issues, the reader can choose to just stop buying that characters’ adventures.

But when there’s solid storytelling in a serial like a comic book, there’s that compulsion to buy into the adventures and dig into those back issues for more comics. That’s when the first issue the new reader buys has the possibility of turning into more than 36 comics or a couple of trades.

Personally, I believe every story is an entry point. And I apply that concept in my own serialized publications like the Isis series. When I write Isis stories, I make an effort to make sure every story is an entry point. Because I know every story will be someone’s first experience with the character.

And the readers have been responding. Many readers start at different points in the Isis series, whether it’s the first book Isis, or a middle book of the modern Isis series like Isis: The Beauty Myth. Usually after they finish one book they come back and buy the rest of the series.

From the feedback I’m receiving from the Isis series, I’m finding it’s the storytelling that keeps them coming back for the back stories. So it’s imperative for a publisher to tell great stories from day one and keep telling great stories. When the first issue a reader picks up is great, then readers have the incentive to keep buying more comics in the future.

Support Shawn's Kickstarter! I'm trying to raise $500 to hire a comic artist to design the cover for Isis: Wrath of the Cybergoddess! People who donate $20 will get a FREE autographed paperback copy of  Isis: Wrath of the Cybergoddess! 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Why Shawn wants to Hire a Comic Artist To Design His Next Book Cover- Reason for the Kickstarter.

Concept art! NOT FINAL AT ALL!
I’ve been out of work for the past five years. So why a I want to hire an artist for the cover of the next book in the Isis series? Simple.

I want to give someone else a job. When you're out of work,  and can't find one, you make your own job. That's what I did publishing my books under the SJS DIRECT imprint. And this Kickstarter is part of my plans to expand my business.

I’ve been a comic fan for a lot of years. And over the past 20 years I’ve heard the stories about out-of work-artists who struggle to pay their bills. What many don’t know about comic book artists is that they’re not paid a salary. As freelancers, they’re paid per page.

And on top of this their work at most publishers like Marvel or DC is Work-for-hire. Under work-for-hire an artist could be working at these companies for years and never receive a dime of royalties on anything they create during their time there.

Many more artists like those who produce Webcomics who are freelancers have their own independent self-published work. Yeah, they own all the rights to their work and their characters but, most of these artists who publish indie comics have to not only pay for their bills, their art supplies, and their printing costs, they have to pay their health insurance too. When you work free-lance that means you pay for EVERYTHING.

And I mean everything. Most artists travel from convention to convention across the country to work commissions and promote their work. Traveling across the country costs money.

So I want to help them out. Comics have helped me through a lot of hard times growing up in the South Bronx and this is my way of paying it forward.

Being out of work for the past five years, I know how important having a job is. How it gives you purpose. How it makes you feel valued. The greatest way a person can help another person is by offering them work. I can tell you from experience, there’s nothing like EARNING money for work you put in.

Yeah, I could use stock photos for my covers. I could even use 3-D art. But nothing captures people’s emotions like a hand drawn cover by a professional artist. A piece of original art is special. Unique. And it tells a story all its own.

The reason why I drew all the covers to my books is I wanted each of them to have a cover distinct to them. I want each original piece of art to tell their own distinct stories. I believe my readers deserve the better than covers with stock photos used on a dozen other books. Making the effort to give them a cover by a professional artist shows them how much I care about them. After listening to many of my customers complain about the covers, I’m trying to do something to show them I hear them and I’m taking action.

However, I can’t take that action unless I raise the funds with this Kickstarter. Every $20 or $100 pledge will help me get this project off the ground and put someone to work!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

When Is a 100th Issue a True 100th Isssue?

I’ve noticed a trend with comic book publishers to celebrate a milestone 100th Issue. A 100th issue in the technical sense.

A long time ago the 100th issue of a comic book  was a major milestone. It meant a comic had gone the distance. It was a testament to the quality of a series and the long-term popularity of a character.

Reaching 100 issues is rare feat for any character in publication; especially in an industry where 90 percent of the comic books published don’t make it past the 18th issue. Some don’t even make it past the sixth issue.

Nowadays characters like Nova and She Hulk have celebrated 100th issues. But if one looks closer at their publication history they’ll see this isn’t true.

Nova had three volumes over the course of 40 years. She Hulk had about four volumes over the last 30.

Yeah it comes up to 100 issues. But only in the technical sense.

100 issues for comic book collectors before all the cancellations and reboots of the mid-1990s meant that a book had one hundred individual issues published within one series. Again, in a highly competitive publishing world achieving this feat used to mean something.

100 issues used to mean a book had a strong following of readers. That a character had attained a certain level of popularity with the public. Being featured in 100 issues meant a character had proven its concept and that they could carry a title on their own. Possibly they had enough brand recognition to carry a licensing or merchandising outside of the comic book world.

Characters who could carry 100 issues in a title were usually the A-list in the comic book world. The cream of the crop. Someone who had a backlog of adventures worth checking out. Someone interesting enough to go back into their histories to discover what happened in their first issues.

That’s the way it was for me when I was a kid. The number one issue used to have a sense of awe due to its place in a character’s history. And if they had a long history like Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman that lasted over 75 years, it was literally like taking a trip in a time machine.

That history was part of what made those 100th issues great. Today…not so much. Especially in this age of reboots where we get technical milestones. Yeah, volume 5 was cancelled at issue #36, but when you add it up with volume three and volume four, it comes up to 100 issues.Technically.

I'll tell readers this much a technical 100th issue is not as much fun as fishing through the back issues at the comic shop or the comicon and counting off the numbers until you come to the real 100th issue. That used to be so much fun for me when I was younger and I visited the back issue section of Forbidden Planet here in New York City. 

To some people they’re just numbers. But to the new reader, that number in the corner can mean something. Something that may lead to them going out and buying back issues, or go out looking for trades of previously published work.

I’m kind of saddened that in this reboot prone era that many kids will never get to see or experience a true 100th issue like I did growing up. That they’ll never experience a true volume 1 number 100. That they’ll never really enjoy seeing a series sequence and see the evolution and progression of a character over time like I was able to see with characters like Superman and Batman.

I was actually looking forward Action 1000 or a Detective 1000. It would have been the milestone of all milestones, since no comic outside of the Dell March of Comics had ever achieved it over 50 years ago. Unfortunately thanks to Dan Didio’s New 52 initiative we’ll have another technical number 1000 instead of an actual 1000th issue of those titles.

There’s just something magical about picking up a 100th issue, to see history in between the comic pages. For a kid it means a character was here before they were born. It's a chance to take a look at the world and discover its rich history through the pop culture lens of a character. Personally, I think having comics in one serialized volume is a  great way for kids and their parents to share and enjoy comic characters from generation to generation. 

Monday, March 17, 2014


Back when I was ten years old a 32-page comic book cost 60 Cents. 

Nowadays a 32-page-comic book costs $3.99. The same as a gallon of gas and a gallon of milk. Or a delicious frozen pizza.  

The price of comics is. TOO DAMN HIGH.

Especially considering what the customer is getting for their money these days. Back in 1983 a customer got for their 60 cents:

22-pages of original story. A story that was usually finished in one issue or by the most three issues tops.

22 pages of original art with multiple panels telling a complete story filled with action.

Advertising for video games, wrestling, bubble gum Ninja turtle pies and other cool stuff.

Today what do people get for their $3.99? Not much.

20 pages of a mediocre story. A story that’s usually part of a mult-part crossover saga that goes on for at least 100 issues. Entire issues of exposition and talking  heads.

20pages of art, but with mostly splash pages so an artist can resell their art on the secondary market. All those paneled pieces from specific issues don’t sell for as much.

Seriously, why do comic books cost so damn much?

Is it because of the limited distribution? Is it because of the demographics skewering older? Is it because of the high printing and production costs?

Those are the usual excuses. But seriously, $3.99 for 32-pages? That seems like a bit of a rip-off. Back in 1988 when I was buying comics even the independent comics like Now and Fantagraphics didn’t charge that much.

I can see paying $3.99 or even $5 for a self-published indie comic like R.K. Milholland’s Super Stupor.  (GREAT comic BTW) And I’ve done so to support self-published comic artists when I had money. Why? Because it was an original-one-of-a kind piece, and I wanted to show that artist how much I loved their work.

But for a mass-produced Marvel or DC Comic? Come on? The price for Comics is TOO DAMN HIGH.

Today comic books have the lowest entertainment value per dollar out of all the media out there. A customer can get much more entertainment for their dollar out of eBooks, apps, and a redbox DVD. Or they can enjoy that delicious frozen pizza. 

For over two decades the comic book industry has said it desperately needs new readers. However, the high price of comics is one of the things prevented new readers from trying comic books.

For the price of four comics a new reader can go out and buy a 400 page paperback and get a complete story in one volume.

An age ago, comics were affordable. At 60 cents to a dollar people could give them to their kids to read until the covers came off. And the low price gave readers of all ages an incentive to collect and trade them.

At $4, people have no incentive to give them to anyone. And less incentive to buy them for themselves. Most people today wait for a trade paperback to come out so they can mitigate the high cost of 32-page comic books. Trades are much higher entertainment value per dollar, especially if you can pick them up on eBay used.

I would love to see the price of comics come down to something a bit more reasonable so all of the tweens and teens can discover what’s so great about comic books. A 32-page comic from corporate sponsored Marvel or DC shouldn’t cost anything but $2.50-$2.99 tops, a price in line with most apps and eBooks. I can see $3.99 as a starting price for an indie because they have higher production costs, and more limited runs. But there’s no way a comic book from Marvel or DC should be costing $3.99. That price is too damn high.

Support Shawn’s Kickstarter project! I’m trying to raise $500 so I can hire a professional comic book artist to design the cover of Isis: Wrath of the Cybergoddess! $20 donations will receive a FREE autographed copy of the paperback!

$100 donations will receive autographed copies of ALL SEVEN paperbacks in the Isis series! 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Comics Aren't Supposed to Be REAL!

Comics Aren’t Supposed to be REAL!

There’s been this push in the comic book industry to make superhero comics more like real life.

Er…Doesn’t that defeat the purpose? When did fantasy have to be like real life?

Ever Since Chris Nolan had success with the Dark Knight Trilogy, there’s been this huge push to make things more “real” in comics. Stuff like seams in costumes, characters shown training a kajillion hours to stay fit, days of prep time before going into action, and entire cities being destroyed in superhero battles.

Too many in the comic book industry are thinking too much and too hard. Trying to shoehorn reality into fantasy. Trying to apply the Chris Nolan model of storytelling to every superhero.

I’m sorry, but the Chris Nolan model only works for certain urban type characters like Blade, Batman and Green Arrow. On other types of characters who are more fantasy oriented characters like Superman and Wonder Woman, this story model isn’t a good fit.

Here’s the deal: No one reads comics for “real” life. Comic books were supposed to be an escape from reality. A chance to escape from life’s everyday problems by following the fantastic adventures of a character.

These are people dressed up in brightly colored spandex. They fly in the air, wear armored suits, and shoot lasers out of their eyes. They get their powers from magic rings and come from galaxies far, far away. What’s real about that?

I get that Batman is popular. But as I stated in a previous blog, everyone can’t be Batman. What works for Batman doesn’t work for the rest of the comic book world.

Heck, what works for Batman now just doesn’t work for me. Thanks to all this excessive “realism,” the world’s greatest detective is turning into the world’s greatest bore. Only Son Goku can make a story drag on longer than the Dark Knight does prepping to take on bad guys these days.

I miss stuff like Unstable Molecules and Refractory Coatings. To the average person it didn’t make any sense, but it was perfectly logical in a comic book setting.

The way I see it all this “realism” sucks the life out of superheroes. It keeps them from being fun. Too much time is spent focused on minute details in an effort to make things real rather than moving the story forward.

When I write Isis stories and I find myself thinking about how things would fit into a “Real” world, I step away from the computer and take a break. Because I realize I’m thinking about things way too much.

That’s when I say to myself I’m writing about Egyptian gods. Beings from a faraway mythical realm that can fly, have super strength, and can teleport from one part of the world to the next with a thought. Yeah, the fictional world they live in may have a semblance of reality, but if everything is too “real” the reader can’t escape and enjoy the fantasy.

If the reader is spending their time wondering how they do their jobs, then I’m not doing my job as a writer. My goal is to get the reader to suspend their disbelief and make them think that all the fantastic things they’re reading about seem as natural as walking and talking.

Superhero Comics aren’t real. They’re absurd. They’re crazy. They don’t make sense. That’s what makes them fun.

I used to read superhero comics to get away from the real world. To get inspired. To get ideas of what could be. If I wanted to read about what’s going on in the real world I’d get a newspaper.

I can’t wait until this “realism” trend ends in superhero comics. Fantasy needs to go back to being fantasy so it can be fantastic again. Superhero comics aren’t supposed to be about what our lives are right now, they’re supposed to be what we imagine they could be.

Support Shawn’s Kickstarter project! I’m trying to raise $500 so I can hire a professional comic book artist to design the cover of Isis: Wrath of the Cybergoddess! $20 donations will receive a FREE autographed copy of the paperback!

$100 donations will receive autographed copies of ALL SEVEN paperbacks in the Isis series! 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Tyler Perry Celebrates Single Moms- Shawn Checks The Hypocrisy

Tyler Perry says he’s celebrating Single Moms.


Yes, this is exactly what society needs. A celebration of one of the most dysfunctional groups in society.

Then again, Tyler’s primary audience is Hood Rats and Baby mamas. So he’s pandering to his bread and butter. At the expense of the Black community. And a total contradiction of the very religion he alleges he practices.

However, none of these women can see the hypocrisy in Mr. Perry’s statement. They’re too busy looking for undue praise to see how this con artist slaps them in the face.

Mr. Perry, who is supposed to be a Born-Again Christian, says we need to celebrate Single Moms. However, the Bible Shawn James reads every that’s part of the very same religion Mr. Perry allegedly practices day says that a child needs a mother and a father.

Moreover, the same Bible Shawn James reads says that fornication is a sin.

Tyler Perry alleges to make films with Christian themes. But here he is promoting single motherhood and saying we need to celebrate it. But no one sees the contradiction here in between Mr. Perry’s words and his ACTIONS.

Single motherhood is fine. As long as Tyler Perry can get it to fit within his bottom line.

I’m sorry, but single motherhood is NOT fine with me. Nor should it be promoted or celebrated.

Single mother households produce 70 percent of all the males incarcerated in today’s prisons. Single mother households produced daughters who themselves become single mothers, and perpetuate a vicious cycle of poverty and co-dependency that’s passed on from generation to generation.

Communities with single mothers are filled with dysfunction and chaos. Children who grow up confused as to their identities and their roles as men and women because there is no God-Centered man to show them a model of true manhood. Children who grow up to become confused as to the roles God created for them and how to be part of a God-centered family.

Confused men like Tyler Perry.

What we should be celebrating are strong families. Men and women who have set aside their differences and have the conscientiousness and the character to raise their children together.

But Hollywood and Madison Avenue don’t want to celebrate the family. Why? Because in a traditional family the FATHER has final say over how the money is spent. That’s bad for businesss.

Celebrating single mothers is money in the bank for men like Tyler Perry. Single moms are emotional spenders. They know pandering to the single mom and validating her dysfunctional lifestyle is the easiest way to get into her purse. It’s the kind of enabling that exploits people without them knowing it. The kind pimp pastors do every Sunday to lost desperate women.

I’m sorry but this is not Christianity. A man of God would not celebrate single mothers. No, Like Jesus, he’d try to teach women how NOT to be single mothers.

He would try to teach girls and young women to value themselves and to value their bodies. He would point out verses in the Bible that state how premarital sex is a sin and how to be like the virtuous woman discussed in Proverbs Chapter 30. He would make efforts to break the vicious cycle of single motherhood by promoting marriage, the institution God established for bearing children and establishing families under his natural Order.

Remember that order?

God. Jesus. Man. Woman. Children.

God wants strong families. But Tyler Perry Celebrates single mothers. Who does he serve? God or Mammon?

Looks like Mammon to me.

Instead of single mothers, let’s celebrate strong Two-parent families. The kind where Children grow up healthy and functional. A father has a huge impact on the development of a child and for too long his role has been minimized and devalued by men like Tyler Perry out to make a fast dollar on desperate women looking to have their dysfunctional lifestyles validated and justified. Enough is enough. Let’s praise the men and women who know how to work together and promote the model of manhood and Womanhood God established for all to follow.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Why I'm doing a Kickstarter

I’m raising funds for a new book cover on Kickstarter. Why am I raising funds there?  People have complained about the covers, and I want to improve the quality of them by hiring a professional artist to design them.

 So far after a week, $1 has been donated. $499 more is needed to meet my goal.

Brothers and sisters now have 499 chances to help be part of the solution in the next 53 days.

For a $20 donation I’m offering a free copy of Isis: Wrath of the Cybergoddess. For $100 donation I’m offering pledgers autographed copies of all seven books in the Isis series.

People, love to complain about the art I draw for my book covers. But I’m noticing when I ask them to take action and be part of the solution, like buy the books so I can improve the quality of the product, they become silent, or just disappear. A handful will argue, but almost no one will help take action that rectifies the situation.

This Kickstarter is I’m doing an opportunity for all those complainers to help me solve the problem. It’s tax time and Black folks are flush with cash from tax refund checks. Here’s an opportunity for brothers and sistas to apply some of that $1.1. trillion dollars in spending power they have towards supporting a Black-owned business. Participate in Group Economics.

Black folks will spend all their tax refund money on rims, tires, Air Jordan sneakers, designer jeans, designer handbags, hair weaves, elaborate  nails, big screen TVs, video games and other sundry items destined to wind up in a landfill.  But how much of that money will go towards supporting Black owned business?

Not much I’ve seen.

At Christmastime, I wrote several blogs requesting Black people participate in Group economics and support my books. That call all but fell on deaf ears with Black people.

Instead of supporting my books, many of the Negroes took to the streets and waited out in the cold at 2.A.M. in the morning for the local Foot Locker or some Korean owned sneaker store to open so they could buy a pair of Air Jordan sneakers. Some literally were fighting in the street for these sneakers.

Desperate to hand their money to a nonblack person who makes every effort to mistreat and disrespect them. But when a Black business like mine asks for support, these same Black people literally disappear.

The way I see it the people who were complaining about my covers are making excuses. They have the money to support my books and the ability to tell their friends about them. But they’d rather use the cover as an excuse to not support the product.

Meanwhile these same Black people will accept substandard products from nonblack companies like Nike, Gucci, and Microsoft for years. They’ll buy Xboxes and PlayStations, Gucci Bags and Air Jordans and iPhones make excuses to why the products are supposed to be poor quality.

But when a Black-owned business like mine tries to make honest efforts to get to the marketplace they complain and refuse to buy the product from day one. Not giving me a single opportunity to improve the quality at all.  

Brothers and Sisters, here is your opportunity to be part of the Solution. Help me raise the money so I can take my books to the next level. I’m listening to the talk, but now I need to see you take action. Right now It’s $1, down $499 to go. Here's an opportunity to use your money to make a difference. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

How Celibacy Can Help A Man Take His Life To The Next Level

I was talking to one of my Facebook friends about being celibate for the last 25 years. He was surprised I had such a strong resolve. Part of it has to do with my faith in God, and part of it has to do with me.

There are a lot of benefits to celibacy most men don’t see. Not having to deal with sex clears a man’s mind so he can focus on more important things in life.

The main reason I abstain from sexual intercourse is I wanted to focus on my goals. When I was 16, I aspired to be two things: A comic book writer and a cameraman at a TV studio. And I realized I wouldn’t be able to pursue my goals if I had a girlfriend.

The late 1980’s-1990’s I grew up in were a turbulent period. High on Crack money, Black boys and black men were killing each other over girls or guys looking at girls. And many brothers didn’t have the critical thinking skills to understand like I did that when you fight over a woman one of you is dead, the other is in prison, and the woman is back out here playing two more suckers. The way I saw it back then, leaving the women alone was the easiest way to save my life.

And when I saw girls in my high school class winding up pregnant from dope boys, I realized if I wanted to get my diploma, I was going to have to focus on my studies and leave the girls alone. The way I saw it back then was it’d be impossible to pursue a goal when you have a baby mama nagging you, and child support in your pocket.

The way I see it, today’s American women get in the way of a man pursuing his goals. Instead of being the helpmeets today’s women are a hindrance. Their primary focus is on getting a man to please them, not helping him work towards his goals.

Too many men sacrifice their goals to make a woman happy. Instead of putting themselves first, they put women first. Then they wind up frustrated as they wind up being left behind chasing her instead of chasing their goals.

The way I see it a man must spend his time getting himself right before he starts pursuing women. When a man has his house in order, then he is ready for a relationship with a woman.

And part of a man having his house in order is having power over himself. When a man controls his sexuality he is not dictated to by a big butt and a smile. Control over his dick means he has the balls to do what is right for him, not sacrifice his personal intangibles such as his dignity and self-respect to please her.

A period of celibacy can give a man the self-control and discipline to have relationships on his terms when he does get involved with women again. When a man figures out what he wants for himself and what goals he wants to pursue in life, he can figure out what he wants in a woman and what he wants in a relationship.

My philosophy is when a man works towards his goals, God will send him a woman willing to work with him towards completing those goals. A woman who will support his leadership as they both commit towards doing God’s work.

In the last 25 years I’ve come a long way without a woman. Yes, my goals have changed, but my resolve has not. I’ve started my own publishing business and written over 35 books. Am I where I want to be? Not yet. But I’m a lot further than I was back in 1989. I doubt I would have gotten this far with the wrong woman at my side.

Is celibacy for every man? I believe it is. Every man needs to take a period in their lives away from sex to clear their minds. Once he focuses his energies on more productive endeavors he’ll realize how much time he was wasting chasing women of little value and how overrated and how overvalued a woman’s vagina is in the bigger picture of things.

Yes, you will get horny. Yes, you will have sexual feelings and desires. But a man learning how to control his dick is paramount to building the discipline and to put himself first. When a man puts himself first he can focus on what’s important to him.

The greatest lesson I’ve learned from my celibate period is that time is precious. And my time is too valuable to waste with toxic and dysfunctional people. I’d rather take a second to turn down sex with a woman than wind up stuck losing years in a relationship with her.

Men, time is the most valuable thing on earth. And it’s not on our side. We only have a short time on God’s earth and we have to make the most of it. Every second a man spends chasing a female is a second he doesn’t apply towards chasing his goals. Once a man gets his priorities right, he can take his life to the next level. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Universal Pre-K: Another Magic Bullet- Guest Blog by Lawrence Cherry

Universal Pre-K seems like the next new promise for the future. All the politicians are promising us that if there’s universal pre-k, then all the problems with illiteracy, poverty, crime, etc. will be solved.  Really, people? We’ve heard this all before. In the 60’s and 70’s they said headstart would solve all of the problems in the inner-city. How did that work out?

Let’s look at the sobering TRUTH. Education programs will only work for SOME people. It will work for those who value an education and will take advantage of the opportunities they have. If you are lazy, if you have a ‘slave mind’ – meaning you always look to the government to solve your problems, if you careless – then Univeral Pre-K will do absolutely nothing for your child.

I am an educator who works with our youth and their parents. I have seen many students who have had Pre-K go on to become excellent students. At the same time, I’ve seen students who’ve had Pre-K go on to be abysmal failures. Yes, there are children who have had pre-K who have been held back, not just once, but even twice. Do you want to know why? Because their parents believed that all they had to do was just put them in school. They didn’t help them with their homework, in fact NONE of the failed Pre-K students did their homework –ever! These parents never read to their children, never took them to story time at the library, never tried to do anything with their child outside of the school environment. All they were willing to do was just drop the kids off at school. They expected the school (government) to do everything! Sorry folks, but that’s not how it works in this country.

Since schools were created, the upper crust have always set their children apart by what they are able to provide outside of the school environment. The rich and well to do always have their children enrolled in extracurriculars like music, dance, and sports. The rich and well to do will be able to provide their children with expensive tutoring courses. Their children will go to schools with the best teachers. Even today, as these politicians speak of Universal Pre-K, the upper-crusts are not worried. They know there are too many complacent, ‘slave minded’ minorities, and poor folk, who feel that all they have to do is enroll their child in Pre-K and all their problems will be solved.


So before you decide to get on the Pre-K Bandwagon, ask yourself: “Am I the type of parent that:
·      does not help my child with homework
·      does not go to parent teacher conferences unless the principal calls and threatens to call ACS
·      allows my child to spend more time watching tv than anything else
·      thinks of my children as a ‘hassle’ or a ‘burden’
·      is not really willing to get my child help outside school
·      don’t feel education is part of the parent’s job
·      just doesn’t know how to help my children outside of school
·      too lazy to really try to find out how to help my child
·      too busy man/woman chasing to care about my child
·      too busy money chasing to care about my child

Now I know some of you want to claim ignorance. You want to say, “but I don’t know how to help my child like the teachers. Any way that’s what teachers are being paid for!” There is no teacher on this planet that can work with a child who has no home support. Upper-class families know this. If they don’t know how to help their child, they do whatever they have to in order to find the information they need.

Let’s be clear again:

Univeral Pre-K will mean nothing if the school providing the Pre-K is a crappy school. And usually inner-city schools are filled with inexperienced first year teachers who don’t look very favorably upon the children they work with.  Yet I don’t hear anyone on the Pre-K Bandwagon talking about the quality of the programs or if the teaching staff should be reflective of the community. I don’t think any suburban soccer mom would ever stand for her child to be in a school where the teaching staff was mostly Mexican or African. They’d complain.  But in the inner city: not a peep.

Univeral Pre-K will mean nothing if you’re not the type of parent to be interested in your child’s education. Children spend ¾ of their time in the ‘home’. This is where they pick up their habits of mind toward school, and mostly toward life. If you add nothing to your child’s education, your child will get a big NOTHING!

In fact, that is why the Pre-K advocates are so big on pushing Pre-K. They know that for the majority of people in the inner city, it won’t make a difference. They don’t know how to take advantage of it. Most of the people in the inner-cities are ‘slave minded’. They look to the government for everything. They think if they put their child in Pre-K all their problems will be solved. They will do nothing to help their children and so giving them Pre-K just makes more jobs for certain of the upper-class and working class of a certain culture. Our children will get the Pre-K, then fail later on, and we’ll still be talking about how they system’s not fair.

Overall, the promise of Univeral Pre-K, for some is like promising a deaf guy that his life will be changed by listening to a hot new CD.