Creating the Independent African American Comicbook Character: The Tricky, Tricky Questions for Guy A. Sims

A couple of years ago, a very bright and talented young man asked my take on African American comic book characters, their market viability, and other related questions.  I unearthed the interview and thought it may have value, especially in light of the San Diego Comic Con which is going on right now.   Some of his questions are inquiries and ponderings I have heard from many artists and writers so I hope this helps.  As the co-creator of the Brotherman series, the graphic novel, Revelation, and the writer of the graphic adaptation of Walter Dean Myer’s Monster, I responded as best I could from my perspective. I hope this has some value to you, the reader.

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In creating ethnic characters, especially in our extremely integrated and contemporary society, do you think it’s possible to create an African-American character that is fresh and original without relying on stereotypes to make the character popular?

Bman3

Brotherman Comic

 

I think the first question you have to ask yourself is the definition of “popular”.  If you mean well-known then that becomes a matter of marketing.  There are a lot of “popular” images and people like that in today’s society but that doesn’t mean that people care for them.  Another name for that would be over-exposed.  To me, the other term is invested.  This is represented by those who actually invest their money, time, and energy into the image/product. The market will reflect this.  Superman, determined to be the most popular comic hero, has produced 17 films (inclusive of film shorts from the ‘40s to the latest film in 2013) whereas Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has spawned over 100 films.  Which is more popular?  I guess it is who you ask.

In truth, in the end, you have to create the character which speaks to you.  It is impossible to create something that everyone will fall in love with.  For every person who thinks one artist is a terrible singer, there are enough people to fill their concerts and buy their albums. Thus the media says they’re popular.  The same with your characters.  If you try to make them something with the intention of  appeasing the masses, it won’t work because the masses are fickle.

When we created Brotherman, we didn’t set out to figure out what the market was missing.  We didn’t say to ourselves, make him cool or make him ultra-soulful.  When I wrote him, I just drew from what I thought was heroic, what made him a dynamic character both in and out of his costume.  The final product first connected with my brothers and then an audience.  No science there.

I understand that comics is a business, like anything else. It’s similar to wrestling in that it’s all about gimmicks; people like to see their favorite characters do/say what they’re known for, and that’s how creators make money.  Do you think it’s easier or harder to come up with successful

Monster

Monster by Walter Dean Myers

gimmicks for AA characters these days?

 

I think I might have addressed this in the first question, but I’ll expand.  I don’t think you should develop your materials with the mindset of gimmickry.  Even wrestling isn’t a gimmick.  How they market it to you might rely on gimmicks to get your attention, but the event or activity itself is the show.  Remember, with wrestling you know what to expect, you can forecast outcomes, and if that’s your thing, you leave satisfied when you leave.

The same should be for your work.  How you bring people to your work is all marketing…which has to have gimmicks because the market is flooded with people trying to get your attention.  Movie trailers are gimmicks.  Cups with the image of Thor on them at 7-11 are gimmicks.  Buy one book, get one free is a gimmick…but the product itself maintains its integrity.

I mentioned before my friends, and I have plans to create a universe dominated by AA characters. Do you think the African American community would even welcome an AA comic universe?

DD

Duke Denim.

 

The initial answer a soft no because the AA community is not monolithic.  The AA community in Compton, CA may not share the same cultural values as the AA community in Fairfax, VA.  Do you know Blacks who like to ski?  My nephews who grew up in San Diego (with a physician for a father) went skiing often.  I couldn’t tell you if any of my brothers ever went skiing (perhaps my older brother—who went skydiving).  So a single community should not be your goal to impact.

Can you create a universe dominated by AA characters?  If you have a pencil and paper, the answer is yes.  There’s nothing stopping you.  I had a conversation with my 12-year-old son some time back.  Somehow we started talking about comic characters.  I asked him did he think Brotherman could beat the Hulk.  Instinctively he said ‘no.’  I told him that he could.  Of course, he countered with ‘how’?  My response was, “if I wrote it.”  So create the characters which reflect what’s in you and what you want to present. In the end, an audience (AA or others) will find and follow you.

I’ve been grappling with a very real concern about sometimes feeling tempted to rely on certain stigmas when thinking about the construction of a smart character; I realize they have to have an authentic quality about them to connect with the audience. To be frank, most AA’s aren’t known for their diction, and I’m really afraid if too many “big words” are thrown in I’ll lose the connection with the audience because they’ll accuse the characters of sounding “white.”  Any advice on how I can address this perceived problem of proper diction being exclusive to other races besides blacks?

From reading the questions, the biggest word you used was contemporary, yet I understand you completely and appreciate your inquiries.  Don’t fall into the trappings of culturally constructed perceptions of intelligence (now there’re your big words).  Simply, communicate the way you need to communicate.  I have advanced degrees, but when I’m with the fellas, I talk like I’m with the fellas.  When I’m with my colleagues, then I colleague-speak.  When I’m with my children, I talk parental-style.  I am sure you do the same thing.  Its call code-switching.  In Brotherman, you will see the broadness of how the characters communicate with each other.  Duke does not speak like Antonio, nor does Melody speak like either of them but they all work in the same space.  Then you have the ancillary characters who have their way of communication, but all can be understood.  So, get the “Talking White” or “Talking Ghetto” out of your thinking.  Just think about how you communicate on a daily basis.  Think about the times you use “ten-dollar words” and who you use them with.

What do you think is a decent number to focus on when creating issues on a monthly basis?

Now this question is a little murky for me.  I’m not sure what you mean.  How many individual issues to come out on a monthly basis?  That’s what I’m feeling from the question so I’ll answer that.  It is a matter of time and finance.  I don’t know what you do outside of comic book development.

BMGNCA

Brotherman: Revelation

If that’s all you do, then the answer is one thing.  If you have a regular 9-5, then the answer is something else.  When we first produced Brotherman, we didn’t have a timeline to work with (which is the advantage of being independent –Prince said that…not me.).  Now that I’m writing the Duke Denim series, again, due to all of my other responsibilities and Dawud’s responsibilities, the book is on an accommodating schedule.  What I have to do is to keep the fans in the loop of when things are happening.  Fans are very understanding and forgiving if you’re communicating with them.

 

 

There you have it. There are a lot of independent artists and writers who have volumes of information and advice.  I would love to hear from them.  If you have specific questions, don’t be afraid to drop it in the comment section.

Guy A. Sims is the author of the novel, Living Just A Little, and the crime novellas, The Cold Hard Cases of Duke Denim.  He is also the head writer of the Brotherman: Dictator of Discipline comic book series and the Brotherman graphic novel, Revelation.  

 

Good Cops: Come out…Wherever you are!

copsLet’s get one thing straight!

This piece is not about bashing police officers. It is about looking for solutions to problems that continues to plague Black and Brown communities of the United States.  It’s about raising the expectation of protection and to service.  It’s about commitment to ensuring the words spoken by every police officer are true, alive, and made real in all interactions

Law Enforcement Oath

On my honor,
I will never betray my badge,
my integrity, my character,
or the public trust.
I will always have
the courage to hold myself
and others accountable for our actions.
I will always uphold the constitution
my community and the agency I serve.

This piece is a call to the good, faithful, responsible, and committed police officers who are dutifully referenced after deaths of unarmed victims such as Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Alton Sterling, Philando Castille, and others whose names and stories haven’t risen to prominence.  This piece is for the officers who fall into the group, “This does not represent all police officers”, those who are not part of the “few bad apples”, and the fraternity of “the good cops out there”.

We need you!  Good police officers and administrators, we need you! WE NEED YOU!

The change that protesters, parents, friends, family, and community members are calling for has to start with you.  It is more than the extensive training you receive on firearms, tactics, and self-defense. It is going to take more than an overcrowded justice system, arrest quotas, and neighborhood sweeps.  It is going to take more than empty legislation, and oppressive laws designed to maintain the status quo.

The change begins with good police officers stepping forward, calling out, holding accountable, and removing from their ranks the officers whose behaviors, ideologies, and actions are counter to betraying the badge and the eroding the public trust. The good officers create the change so desperately needed by all communities is by raising the ethics bar for new recruits.  The Law Enforcement Oath will be best exemplified when good officers don’t go straight home after their shift. They take the time to evaluate and “check” the ones who run counter to the tenants of to protect and serve.

Unless good officers take a stand, a strong stance on protecting the dignity of the badge, I have nothing less than to expect another unarmed corpse, a crying family member, a protest, dropped charges, and then…nothing.

You know who you are!  Come out!  We need you!

Guy A. Sims is the author of the novel, Living Just A Little, and the crime novellas, The Cold Hard Cases of Duke Denim.  He is also the head writer of the Brotherman: Dictator of Discipline comic book series and the Brotherman graphic novel, Revelation.  

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Aunt Sadie’s Angel: Book Review

Aunt Sadie’s Angel: A Review

Author: Lisa-Jane Erwin

Illustrator: Lauren A. Brown

Copyright 2015

220 pages

 

Whatever you learned about Heaven in Sunday School…forget it!  Aunt Sadie’s Angel re-imagines the heavenly kingdom as a celestial organization, complete with bureaucracy, professional challenges, political jockeying, miscommunication, and the stresses of doing an eternity of good work.  Author Lisa-Jane Erwin presents the story of having to put aside a lifetime of differences in order to provide care for a young girl.

Elderly Aunt Sadie, only weeks away from being spirited to the Pearly Gates, is throwing paradise into confusion.  The head wing-maAngelsker is not prepared, there is the uncertainty of who her guardian angel is, and worst of all, when Aunt Sadie’s mortality expires, and the granddaughter she is caring for will be left alone.  Angels are scrambling to figure out who her father is and what angelic side of the family will watch over her. Rivalries and responsibilities are called into question, all under the watchful eye of the Most High.

Lisa-Jane Erwin’s writing is clear and direct, painting a heavenly landscape as a place divided by occupations, importance, and activities.  The story reads like a tale told around the fireplace on a Saturday evening, inviting the audience to be spellbound and asking for more.  It requires the reader to suspend preconceived notions of Heaven and the behavior of angels.  Some may find it refreshing to find heavenly residents to continue to have the same human foibles as they did on Earthly plane.

Suitable for younger readers, complete with strong messages of faith, responsibility, and a commitment to serving a higher power.  A common read for a youth group or a summer reading selection.

You can get your copy of Aunt Sadie’s Angel at Amazon.com and lisajaneerwin.com.

Guy A. Sims is the author of the novel, Living Just A Little, and the crime novellas, The Cold Hard Cases of Duke Denim.  He is also the head writer of the Brotherman: Dictator of Discipline comic book series and the Brotherman graphic novel, Revelation.  

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Hey Scholastic! Keep the kids writing!

“Writing is an extreme privilege, but it’s also a gift. It’s a gift to yourself, and it’s a gift of giving a story to someone.” ~Amy Tan

“If you really want to know yourself, start by writing a book.” ~Shereen El Feki

“If a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood.”
~Peter Handke

Kidswrite.jpg

Kids are Authors is a wonderful writing contest for K-eighth grade students, sponsored by Scholastic, Inc.  You know Scholastic, don’t you?  The book fairs. The order sheets stuffed in book bags. Scholastic is a major staple of the American educational system. The Kids are Authors contest is designed to encourage students to work in teams (an important value) to write (my favorite activity) and to illustrate (my brother’s favorite activity) their books…not just a story…but an eventual published book.

What a thrill for kids to see their works in published form. It’s motivating. It’s encouraging. It lays the groundwork for the writers of the future. Unfortunately, after this year, the Kids are Authors contest is coming to a close.  Like a good book, it has reached the end. (Say whaaaatt?)  Yes, it has come to an end.  For almost a decade, kids from all over sat down, fired up their imaginations, and wrote, re-wrote, and wrote some more.

So what does this contest mean to the kids?  Here’s story (don’t pardon the pun).  A small group of students from the Rose Hill Boys & Girls Club (New Castle, DE) entered the contest and wrote/illustrated the book, The Story of Velma.  Their book was based on the real-life Dr. Velma Scantlebury, the associate director of the Kidney Transplant Program at Christiana Care and the first African American female kidney transplant surgeon. Out of 1,000 entries, the Rose Hill kids were the only ones recognized in the state of Delaware.

 

Rosehill

Rose Hill Boys & Girls Club kids and their book (Oh yeah!)

 

Okay…kids wrote a book.  Big deal!  IT IS A BIG DEAL!  We hear hundreds of stories of children without direction, without discipline.  Kids spending hours in front of the TV or gaming systems.  Kids not having any sense of who’s making positive impacts in their community.  These young authors made a commitment to a project, identified someone of note, did the research, cooperated and collaborated…and most of all…had a finished product that they, their families, and community could be proud of.

If you are a writer or artist, you know how important opportunities like this are to the kids.  All of us who spend hours working on our craft remember how it was when we first started out.  You know the feeling when there is encouragement after crafting the first poem, story, or painting.

Let’s get together and encourage Scholastic, Inc. to keep that feeling going in our your authors.  You can help the next generation of writers by sharing this with friends, posting it with the hashtag #WriteOnScholastic or by dropping and encouraging note to Scholastic.  Maybe Scholastic cannot sustain the program, but it is important to let them know the program has significant value to the writing community.

Guy A. Sims is the author of the novel, Living Just A Little, and the crime novellas, The Cold Hard Cases of Duke Denim.  He is also the head writer of the Brotherman: Dictator of Discipline comic book series and the Brotherman graphic novel, Revelation.  

 

 

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When I Was Your Girlfriend: Book Review

When I Was Your Girlfriend: Book Review

Author: Nikki Harmon

Mt. Airy Girl Press, 2015

 

It is better to have loved and lost…WIWYG Cover

Alfred Lord Tennyson’s quote is pure b.s. in Dee’s world.  A talented midwife and sometime-y single, Dee finds herself pushing through the revolving door of relationships or flirting in dark-cornered trysts as the cavernous hole in her heart aches to be filled with a love yet to be discovered and cherished.  When a familiar name is mentioned at her office, Dee ponders one of life’s perennial questions, can you relive or recapture the feelings of the past?  This is Dee’s dilemma and her soul-searching sojourn in Nikki Harmon’s novel, When I Was Your Girlfriend.

Harmon tells both the coming of age and coming to terms story of Deidre “Dee” Armstrong, a confident, competent, and casually content Philly-based midwife, balancing the delivering of babies with the one and off relationship with the beautiful women she encounters.  When she hears the name she hadn’t heard in years, an emotional and torrential flood sweeps her headfirst into the forgotten recesses of her past and the aching desire to find her first love.

Harmon’s writing is crisp, humorous, insightful, and unabashed.  Through Dee, she grabs readers by the waist and escorts them into one woman’s jaunt through short-lived romantic relationships and the emotional racking of longing for a love that may not have ever really existed.  Readers are challenged to search their hearts and minds to conclude if long-lost loves should remain in the past…or…like the Phoenix, have the opportunity to rise from the ashes of time and distance to live again.

When I Was Your Girlfriend is a clear pick for the summer.  A perfect read for the beach, book club, or with a glass of wine after leafing longingly through your high school yearbook.

Expect more insightful, inspiring, and intriguing works from Nikki Harmon in the future.

You can get your copy of When I Was Your Girlfriend here, Amazon, or whereever good books are sold.

Guy A. Sims is the author of the novel, Living Just A Little, and the crime novellas, The Cold Hard Cases of Duke Denim.  He is also the head writer of the Brotherman: Dictator of Discipline comic book series and the Brotherman graphic novel, Revelation.  

 

 

 

 

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Replay: A Cupboard Full of Coats – A Review

THE JOURNEY TO TRUTH IS OFTEN LONG AND OPAQUE.

Reviewed by Guy A. Sims

CFC New

The is the new cover for the U.S. market…it is “Yankee” tight!

Sometimes we have the pain of which we cease to feel…or perhaps refuse to feel. Jinx is a distant mother, mortician, an ex-wife, and responsible for her mother’s death. She’s a ball of pain, pressure, and questions which cannot be quelled by either isolation or destinationless running. For fourteen years she has held the guilt of jealousy, hatred, and loss until a familiar stranger knocks at her door.

A Cupboard Full of Coats, the maiden voyage novel of Yvvette Edwards (note the double Vs in her name…that’s how the sisters do it in London), is an intimate journey of unresolved pain, misunderstood understanding, restrained loss, and unresolved love. Drawn in close quarters, Edward’s protagonist, Jinx, has lived a life walled by her guilt of causing the death of her mother; manifesting her guilt through the disconnection of her son and estrangement with her husband. Edwards crafts an environment which gets more and more emotionally claustrophobic as Jinx’s life is illustrated as one confined to both the home and her memories.

The tension rises like a pot of boiling ox-tail stew with the sudden appearance of a long-time family friend, Lemon. Though with reluctance, she invites both him, memories, and truth to come sweeping into her self-made prison. Through the Caribbean delicacies prepared by Lemon, memories conjured by the wine, and unfolded mysteries disguised as casual conversation, Jinx is pushed down Memory Lane to a place of confrontation and truth. The journey is suspenseful, funny, painful, and sensual. Suspense is the ingredient which brings the final satisfaction to the reader’s intellectual palate. Issues of jealousy, abuse, abandonment, and desire fill the rooms of Jinx’s home with a cupboard full of coats as the conduit for what was and what could have been.

Edwards brings to her readers across the pond a snapshot of the unfamiliar Black life in London. She illustrates the confluence of American and Caribbean culture with an East End vibe. Her passion, humor, and exposition brings to readers an understanding of her world beyond the Hollywood and tabloid descriptions of London.

Yvvette Edwards has lived in London all her life. She grew up in Hackney and is of Montserratian-British origin. Yvvette continues to live in the East End and is married with three children.

Listen to Yvvette discuss her book right here.

Publisher: Amistad, 2012

Pages: 275

Click here to secure your copy of A Cupboard full of Coats

Guy A. Sims is the author of the novel, Living Just A Little, and the crime novellas, The Cold Hard Cases of Duke Denim.  He is also the head writer of the Brotherman: Dictator of Discipline comic book series and the Brotherman graphic novel, Revelation.  

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Jenga: Mizzou Version

jengaRemember the classic block stacking game Jenga?  Players are faced with a tower of wooden blocks, taking turns removing them one at a time, replacing pieces onto the top, until it becomes unstable and falls?   For those who are patient, committed, and “in the game”, it is exciting to watch a once solid structure become wobbly…and when the right piece is removed, the exhilaration of the crash signifying a victory.

The events taking place currently at the University of Missouri are reminiscent of the game Jenga.   Students have been sharing their experiences of racism, racist behavior, and other instances counter to the institution’s Statement of Values, specifically Respect and Responsibility…just like Jenga game pieces.  Removing them from the long-standing foundation of campus culture and placing them on top for all to view…and waiting to see what happens.  And like the game, even though pieces are removed, the strength of the culture allows for the structure to remain in place.  But unlike your rainy Saturday afternoon game of Jenga, the real-life version has players that come and go, semester after semester, year after year…with the game being reset…no true resolution.Mizzou

This week, a major piece of the University of Missouri version of Jenga has been extracted.  Yes, graduate student Jonathan L. Butler (Blue Phi) was steadfast on nearly two weeks of a hunger strike after seeing a swastika drawn in human feces (now you know that’s straight nasty).  One piece removed.  Yes, the #ConcernedStudents1950 student group had a loud, profound, and viral protest.  Another piece removed.  But the power play of the day was the members of the football team, along with their coaches, issuing their statement of solidarity with their own champion-style strike, refusing to play anymore games until President Tim Wolfe resigns or is removed from his office.  With millions of dollars on the line, a public relations nightmare…oh yeah…and the duty to do what is right, the University of Missouri Board of Curators announced Dr. Wolfe’s resignation.

Tim Wolfe

Pres. Tim Wolfe

The tower falls! Or does it?

One thing about Jenga, after the structure collapses there is a mess all over the table.  Mom and Dad aren’t going to let you just walk away and get a snack…it has to be cleaned up.  The tower is rebuilt and ready for a new game.  This is the challenge for the Mizzou community.  When this tower is put back together, serious discussions on what will be different has to take place.  One person may be gone but the culture remains.  That is what has to be addressed or the same old game will be played over and over and over.

This is an academic and cultural watershed moment that should not be squandered.  It is a chance to fully involve everyone (because everyone is impacted) in the resolution of what the community can and will be.  In fact, it should be exciting.  Reinvention is the hallmark of progression.  It can be done, the time is right, and the University of Missouri is the place.

Wishing the best for you…Mizzou.

Oh, by the way, did you know that Jenga is a Swahili word meaning, to build.  Now is the time for the community of the University of Missouri…to Jenga.block

Guy A. Sims is the author of the forthcoming Brotherman graphic novel, Revelation. He is also the author of the romantically romance novel, Living Just A Little, and the crime novellas, The Cold Hard Cases of Duke Denim.     Contact or comment at guysims.com or @guysims6 

 

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Tim Wise: Cultural Provocateur by Guy A. Sims

Tim Wise

Tim Wise

Tim Wise began his comments at Virginia Tech with a caveat…a bit of clarification…perhaps even a spoonful of keepin’ it realism.  No surprise…what he came to deliver was not anything different from the messages people of color have been sharing, promoting, explaining, and demanding in classrooms, boardrooms, cubicles, and neighborhoods.  Only this time it was presented in a package a little more palatable than what may have been the norm.  It was akin to a parent no longer giving their child Castor Oil in a spoon but now it is in a gelcap.  Same medicine…just easily swallowed.  The goal, to massage the words of Malcolm X, was to administer the medicine by any means necessary.

Mr. Wise, if you’re not familiar, is an anti-racism activist, an author, lecturer, and cultural provocateur (I added that one myself, we’ll get to that one later).  His books, White Like Me, Dear White America, and (hold on for this one) Speaking Treason Fluently Anti-Racist Reflections From An Angry White Male speak to address, illuminate, and dismantle structures of white privilege, cultural mis-education, false notions of power, and the head-on challenge of having serious and action-oriented conversations on equity and diversity.

On this evening, like many of his presentations, Tim Wise was speaking primarily to his white brethren and sisterens.  A deep rooted son of the south, Tim peeled back the onion of history, of Americana mythology, of institutional practices of divisiveness, and the mental shackles that bind us all.  His peeling, slow and easy, doesn’t produce tears.  His delivery, complete with self and cultural-effacing humor and rife with majority-generated information for the data-driven doubter, brought a paced and steady rise of discomfort for many in the audience.  Tuned in observers may have noticed that numbers of people of color present served as the choir, offering their call and response to this guest preacher in the House of Diversity & Equity Elevation.

Tim Wise challenged misrepresented rhetoric presented in the form of mainstream logic when addressing Black Lives Matter, immigration issues, and deadly police interactions with people of color.  He challenged those unable to connect racialized issues of today as another troubled link in the history of race relations in the United States. He challenged the very core of belief systems that define how people view their place as human beings.

Tim Wise and Guy Sims

Tim Wise and Guy Sims

As a cultural provocateur, Mr. Wise stirred the senses and notions of those in attendance.  At times it was uneasy to laugh, to agree, to look at your neighbor, or even at yourself.  I asked him at the conclusion of his visit did he feel he was getting any traction with his message.  He said on the grand scale, maybe not.  But individually, people who say their lives and thinking have been changed…yes.  The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.  The journey of a better world begins with one person.

Guy A. Sims is the author of the forthcoming Brotherman graphic novel, Revelation. He is also the author of the romantically romance novel, Living Just A Little, and the crime novellas, The Cold Hard Cases of Duke Denim.     Contact or comment at guysims.com or @guysims6 

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REDEFINING FAILURE by Guy A. Sims

I don’t believe in failure. It is not failure if you enjoyed the process. ~ Oprah Winfrey

Thank you Oprah!  The above quote is a great way to start.  I’m writing in response to a blogpost by a very intelligent and talented young man (I’m classified as an old head so I can say this) named Roye Okupe.  I’ve never met him but I have read his works and several articles on his interesting journey.  In his latest entry, Creating An AfricanSuperhero: Don’t be afraid to fail, Okupe shares trials many creative artists and individuals have experienced when reflecting on where they are in their artistry.  After reading his perspectives, I found myself in agreement, saying my man is right, as he described personal revelations on his comic character and the market.  If I had his phone number I would haveI would have texted him a quick been there-done that just to let him know he’s

Printed with permission by artist.

Printed with permission by artist.

not alone.  I concurred with what he expressed but what bothered made me really sit back and ponder was the use of the word fail (or failure).  Don’t get me wrong.  Okupe used the word correctly, appropriately, and with clear and concise impact.  Even his closing sentence, “I will always do my best not to allow fear dictate my future, because I would rather fail while chasing my dreams than look at myself as a failure 20 years down the road because I didn’t try”.  I knew exactly what he was saying.  I just think it is important for artists, especially those of color who desire to further their culture, to think differently about what failing means in relationship to their artistry.

One of the greatest challenges we have as artists is to realize that failure and success are concepts that have no authority over our work.  To put it like this, failure is an artistic impossibility and success is an uncharted and unreachable destination.  Our minds have been trained to respond to the extremes; winning, losing…failure, success…fame, obscurity.  If we stay locked into these concepts we’ll continue to measure our work with incongruent scales.  For example, if one team scores more than another, you have concrete values to work with. On the other hand, works of creativity are often judged by a standard defined by a momentary marketing-based appraisal.

Printed with permission by artist.

Printed with permission by artist.

This is not to say one should dismiss criticism, opinions, or sage advice.  The acceptance of constructive criticism as a means to build on skill should be part of the tool kit of any artist.  To deny your work and label it a failed effort based on someone else’s assessment is to deny your very essence.

 

 

When my brothers (Dawud Anyabwile and Jason Sims) and I developed Brotherman, many people told us straight to our faces: How y’all gonna make a black superhero and They’re not going to let you sell those in comic book storesBman3 or (one of my favorites) If it’s not blessed by Marvel or DC then it’s not going to make it.  There were more statements, everything from how Brotherman looked, to being drawn in black and white, to having an all-black cast, to the size of the book.  It would have been easy for us to give it up and go back to doing whatever we were doing back in ’89. Fortunately, our spirits and persistence was fortified by lessons taught by our parents.  We stood firm in the knowledge that we had something to give to the world, not simply individuals or niche groups.  We had something inside of us that needed to be expressed.  Most of all, we knew that everything we did connected to the next link in the chain.  Because of Brotherman we have met so many talented artists, new friends, and fans.  We have had opportunities come our way unrelated to comic books.  We work, not from the framework of success or failure, but through growth, impact, and the knowledge we can do more.

I really appreciated the part in Okupe’s piece where he shared how someone called his animation, not only rubbish but complete rubbish.  Undaunted, he took the animation and used it to serve as the foundation which brought his book to fruition.  Check it out here.

As artists, we have to believe that everything has its time and place…and we don’t have control over that.  The book you produce that sells ten copies may one day find itself in the hands of someone you do not even know.  They get inspired and one day they reference you as their motivation.  Perhaps that’s what your book was supposed to do all along.

We are preparing to launch out latest work, the Brotherman: Revelation graphic novel.

No one can show how it will be received or how many will sell.  What we do know is that once it is fully realized we will have impacted the world…a fact that transcends failure or success.

I am thoroughly impressed by the work of Bro. Okupe.  I read his book, E.X.O: The Legend of Wale Williams with my youngest son who now has picked up pencils and paper to draw what’s on his heart and mind.  I look forward to one day sitting down with Bro. Okupe to discuss the kinds of things that further what we are trying to do.  From there, both of our universes will be expanded.

To me, that is the scale to measure our artistry by.

Guy A. Sims is the author of the forthcoming Brotherman graphic novel, Revelation. He is also the author of the romantically romance novel, Living Just A Little, and the crime novellas, The Cold Hard Cases of Duke Denim.     Contact or comment at guysims.com or @guysims6 

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Riot or Revolution? by Guy A. Sims

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A friend of mine posed this question as he watched the events of today in Baltimore, Md. Is there a difference between revolution and rioting?  Today is the day of the funeral of Mr. Freddie Gray, the 25 year old man who died in police custody after being arrested on weapons charges.  He succumbed to spinal cord injuries which ignited outrage toward the Baltimore Police Department; An all-too-familiar ending to and all-too familiar tale of high profile deaths of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement.

On this, supposed to be a Day of Mourning, civil unrest, for a better use of wording, has taken to the streets of West Baltimore; A CVS looted and burned, a liquor store looted, cars damaged and/burned—all this with no end in sight as the sun goes down and the weather accommodating enough for people to continue to be outside.  On this Day of Mourning, a day asked by Fredrika Gray, to be peaceful, to be free of violence, in her brother’s name, stated clearly and emphatically, “Freddie would not want this”.  This sentiment is echoed by Baltimore’s mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, two women from different stations in life–with the same message.

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So the question, revolution or riot—what is the line?  Is it looking for justice or for a case of liquor?  Is it to converge on the City Hall or to purge the local mall?  Is it to turn the injustices of the pathos in policing or simply to turn and burn police vehicles?  Is it to raise awareness of social injustices or is it to raze the local business?  Is it to ignite the call to stand up and demand more or to ignite a church into another destroyed institution?

The challenge is that our young do not know the difference between revolution and rioting.  Both can be borne out of anger.  Both can come from seeds of frustration and discontent but there is still a fundamental difference.  Rioting has no direction.  It moves like fanned flames, destroying everything in its path. Revolution knows what it wants; change, power shift, and justice.  Rioting seeks to satisfy the immediate without regard for anyone.  Revolution seeks to make the greatest difference for the greater society.  When the fires of rioting burn down, only embers of waste and destruction remain.  For revolution, it seeks a new day, new thinking, and new ways to engage.

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In the morning in West Baltimore, what will people see?  Burnt out cars, storefronts, and buildings.  The smell of misguided folly will still linger in the air.  Worst of all, the conversations around the revolutionary ideas justice, of better policing, building neighborhoods, and working for a brighter future will be overshadowed in the media and minds by actions that served to move nothing.

Rioting or Revolution?  Which will be your answer?

Guy A. Sims is the author of the forthcoming Brotherman graphic novel, Revelation. He is also the author of the romantically romance novel, Living Just A Little, and the crime novellas, The Cold Hard Cases of Duke Denim.     Contact or comment at guysims.com or @guysims6 

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