Black Panther: We Are All The Same Tribe

black_panther_2018_4k-3840x2400(Originally published on ComicBook-Underground.com)

A movie is not always just about one thing. There are layers.
On the surface the Black Panther is an excellent superhero film. Well-acted and direct, with some stunning special effects. They brought the fictional nation of Wakanda to life before our eyes.
Chadwick Boseman and Michael B Jordan were perfect as two sides of the same coin. The Black Panther and Killmonger. It was a nice illustration of the sins of the father coming home. But that is not the whole story.
Director Ryan Coogler manages to weave multiple themes into one beautiful tapestry. There are minor missteps. Slight things that as a comic fan stood out to me but the average viewer might not even notice.
They explore some big ideas. And not just the low hanging fruit.
Yes, they explore the treatment of different ethnicities by those that wield power across the planet. Jordan’s character references the plight of slaves taken from Africa during the era of Colonization wanting to die a free man rather than live in a cage.
Beyond that they ask the question: Should those of us that have the means help the rest of the world? Is there a responsibility to care for our neighbors?
Can a world leader simply close their borders and ask everyone else on the planet to fend for themselves?
Yes, there is that temptation. The argument that it is not our problem, that we need to take care of our own house first.
This is a very ‘American’ question. It has come up time and time again and they do a nice job of framing their argument about it.
Ultimately we are all brothers across the world no matter how often we try to blow each other up. Taking care of each other is the only way we can take care of this Earth. Putting aside our own arrogance and selfishness to reach out with basic human compassion can save the world.
We are all the same tribe. We are brothers. We are sisters. We are family.
Time to act like it.

Creators Create

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(Originally published on ComicBook-Underground.com)

Creators create. At least that is how it used to be.
August 28, 2017…Jack Kirby would be 100 on that day. An entire Century old. Yes, I do realize that Kirby did in fact pass away twenty-three years ago. I do not care. He was our King.
In an industry known for creativity and creators. Known for worlds, no universes created out of nothing. He was the King. He was the Alpha and the Omega. He was Jack.
Before this starts sounding like and overdue eulogy for Kirby (I am clearly not qualified for that), let us get to the meat of the matter.
In comics we celebrate creators like no other creative enterprise celebrates them. Jack and Stan, Bob Kane, Bill Finger. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. We celebrate these visionaries who gave us our new world pantheons of gods. They gave us our mythology.
So why are we so more willing to change characters that someone else sculpted out of the ether, than actually create something new for us all?
The new Wally West, Lady Thor, Two Nova’s, Two Blue Beetle’s, Two Hulk’s. Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson have all carried the mantle of Captain America, please don’t get me started with John Walker (US Agent). We even have AzBats coming back. A beloved character will be replaced by an unfamiliar face. Oh there are usually storyline reasons: Thor is unworthy, Captain America got old, Batman had his back broken or let’s kill the hero just for a little while. Other times it is for the sake of diversity, yes I am looking at you Wally West. The fact is the character has changed. Sometimes for a few months, other times for years.
There have been some cases when I have enjoyed these changes. The current Mighty Thor title is excellent. Whether that is because of the novelty of a female Thor or the excellent creative team of Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman is up for debate. Other times I find myself biding my time until they ultimately bring the original back. A good friend does not mind these changes. He looks at it as a way to simply refresh the brand. Maybe I am just yelling at the kids to get off my lawn.
Is it that hard to create something new instead. New heroes, new villains. We are in the business of creating are we not. There are roadblocks to be sure. Building an audience is not easy. Lack of ownership of our creations is a reality that needs to change. But the joy of discovering Gambit. Harley Quinn. Or seeing Deadpool for the very first time. That is not something that can be replaced by putting someone else in another characters suit in their mythology.
Let the creators create. Let the next generation dream of building their own worlds.

Discovering the Artist

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An empty page, a single pencil. That is where it starts. Scratching shapes and forms across the blank canvas until an image forms.

Actually that is not where it starts. It always begins inside, working out the details before you actually start the work.

I usually work in pencils. Comic-style art. At times I step back to look at where I came from. Recently I found an old drawing pad filled with my work. It was like stepping back in time.

Two decades actually. 1994. The work was better than I remember. Reminding me that if I had never stepped away from the pencils I might be a much more accomplished artist than I am now. I also saw my influences jump off the page at me. Jim Lee, Greg Capullo, Dave Johnson…

That brings me to where I am now. What artists have affected my style(which seems to evolve every day)? What is actually mine versus what have I pilfered from others?

Thinking back to the artists I first loved I started with Mike Grell with his work on Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes. That is what I thought comics were supposed to look like. That led to Neal Adams on Batman. And then I found Dave Cockrum. Each bringing a realistic but clearly comic work with their own signature style. Then one day I stumbled across Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. It looked nothing like the comics I had seen before. It was like the first time I heard Eddie Van Halen play the guitar, Jim Steranko was a breath of fresh air(not that I needed one). Infusing graphic design with the sequential art I had fallen in love with.

These are the men who filled my imagination at a young age. As a young artist I often aped my influences. I would sit there trying to recreate what these masters did day in and day out. For a while I did well. Creating credible art…at least I thought it was.

In walked Jim Lee. Lee was brilliant and extraordinary. His work was on another level from many of the other artists I had seen. Pseudo-realistic, clean and frankly intimidating. Simply watching him draw with ease what would take me hours, days to complete was often discouraging.

I knew that a working comic artist had to finish pages a day not over a few days or a week. I could not imagine ever getting to be that fast. I was still young. Going to college. Going to work. My day of slaving over a drawing pad often consisted of an hour or two if I was lucky. For some reason it did not click that this was a full-time job for those artists. They spent hours a day just working on the art while I spent those hours tending bar. Once that did click my development grew by leaps and bounds.

My tastes changed some too. Once I felt like my work needed to look like my heroes or I was somehow failing. I would try to draw what I saw in my head and it never quite matched up. That is when I decided my style was simply the distance between what I saw in my head and what landed on paper. My inspirations were not confined to realistic, yet stylized artists. There was a broad spectrum. From Mike Wieringo and Huberto Ramos manga inspired work to the gritty look of Cary Nord. From the kinetic lines of Russell Dauterman on the Mighty Thor to the incredibly expressive work of Kevin Maguire and Aaron Kuder. Every month I come across some new artist that brings something new to my table. Things that I pilfer for a time until they too are part of my style.

It is constantly evolving. But now it is clearly mine. Whether drawing a cowboy dinosaur riding a mastodon or a simple sketch of Batman. I have a style of my own.

Time to get back to work.

Batman by Michael Tennant.