Black History Month: A Team Up, and the Dwayne McDuffie Diversity Award.
The whole month has been foreshadowing to this. When I sat down finally, to do this artwork, I only knew that I wanted it to feel like the awesome comics of my youth. The comics that you picked up off the spinner rack at the supermarket, at would never be in mint condition, and the covers were designed to both blow your mind, and sell the book based on sheer excitement. That'[s what I wanted to do, and I am pretty proud of the outcome.
Some students saw me drawing a portion of it during lunch. My school is seventy five percent Latino, and 25 percent African American. One student, fearing my ire, asked timorously, “Um…you know Superman isn’t black, right?”
I looked up from drawing, and the room was deathly quiet. Someone had suggested that I might be Wrong About Comics, in a way that seemed @#$%ing obvious.
Thankfully, I had a copy of Multiversity No. 1 in my bag. “You guys should check this out,” I said, handing it over. Like any time you give Grant Morisson to a young person, their minds were blown. In addition, it had the Black Superman on THE COVER. This became the cause for a lengthy and intriguing discussion about comics, the universe, and why Superman should represent all of us, with a group of adolescents that the school system has largely forgotten.
The villian was pretty hard to decide on. I mean…President Superman is an A-list superhero, and the protagonist has a generic set of superhero powers that are pretty Silver Age in their scope. There needed to be someone menacing, powerful, and worth having two Alien Americans go after them. When drawing it, I left a sort of placeholder area on the page…
Which started to become a silhouette. Jack Kirby once said that a silhouette was the most powerful of images. He wasn’t filled in, in any way, and I thought…what if that’s it? What if he’s just blank? That led to the idea that he looked like a shadow, which led to…The White Shadow!
I like the idea of a White Shadow. He can always be there, he’s indestructible and intangible, and can fund all sorts of crazy projects. In addition, at school this year, it felt like there was a major victory against such intangible forces, so he was workable as is. Imagine his henchmen? We will see one later, True Believers….but first…!
Today sees the first annual Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics. Also a major reason that I wanted this team up to happen today…it seemed appropriate. I did a whole post about Dwayne McDuffie at the beginning of the month, but if you didn’t read it…the award is named for Dwayne McDuffie, whose long and incredible career in comics and animation was tragically cut short by his death in 2011. Not only did he leave behind a legacy of great comics, he was also a major champion of diversity in genre fiction, and his commitment to that cause has inspired a generation of creators and fans. He was also a pretty excellent guy, every single time I had the pleasure of meeting him.
The Finalists for the Award were:
-G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona’s “Ms. Marvel”
-David F. Walker and Bilquis Evely’s “Shaft”
-Gene Yang and Sonny Liew’s “The Shadow Hero”
-Lisa K. Weber and Kelly Sue Milano’s “Hex11”
-Nilah Magruder’s “M.F.K.”
I’ve read “Shaft,” and even drawn a variant cover. I liked it, it is pretty well done, and captures the era and tone of the character. I love “Ms. Marvel,” a brilliantly executed book that relies on its well crafted protagonist to drive the situation based humor and adventure. Simply one of the best books that Marvel Comics is publishing. I’ve checked out “Shadow Hero,” which is pretty well executed…a solid book. Sadly, I haven’t even read the other two nominees.
The award was presented by Matt Wayne, with the blessing of McDuffie’s wife, Charlotte, and decided by a committee described by a press release as “comics and animation professionals who knew McDuffie and have demonstrated a commitment to inclusiveness.”
The winner of the Inaugural Dwayne McDuffie Award is Nilah Magruder’s web comic, “M.F.K.” , announced at the Long Beach Comic Expo today. Congratulations are in order for the creative team to be so greatly honored for their work.
As promised, I felt that I wanted to also end with at least a couple of panels of the interior of the book proposed above. Obviously, this is toward the end of the story, just as we are near the end of this post. On whatever planet he had been trapped on, President Superman has broken through the “Glass Ceiling” trap presented by the White Shadow, while our hero has defeated whatever random robot was on the cover, and one of the White Shadow’s henchmen, Racist Frankenstein. I like the idea of Racist Frankenstein…like Nazis or Star Wars Stormtroopers, there’s no debate about him. You know he’s bad…his NAME is Racist Frankenstein. Pretty on point.
Like the Hulk and Solomon Grundy…he’s not very smart, either. Go figure…he’s a racist. Not something I associate with a bunch of brain power, you know? The panel doesn’t show it that well, but you should figure that he dresses in torn golf clothes at all times. Izod Lacoste polos from the 80’s in pastels. Let’s take a look…
This was also fun, drawing the kirbyesque Racist Frankenstein getting schooled, and really just mentioning how awesome President Superman is. He’s President Superman, so you know he’s @#$%ing awesome. He doesn’t have to show off.
It amazed me that I made such a big fuss over Black History month, and my school, which desperately needs role models like Dr. King, President Superman, and Dwayne McDuffie only managed to have one lonely, hour long assembly on Thursday. One music and dance driven event. I think that sadly, we don’t just need more diversity in comics, but in schools as well.
Until we do, the White Shadow and Racist Frankenstein with always be out there. Even now, they are conspiring with Standardized Test and the Corporate Ladder.
Next…A Sunday Bonus Post.