Now That We’re Together

It was something that “civilian” moviegoers and television viewers had never imagined.  They couldn’t even conceive of the options that lay just beyond the horizon, once the floodgates were opened.  But those of us, who had read and studied comic books and the various worlds contained therein, had fully understood the joys and possibilities of the shared universe for decades.  However, even we had no idea that any of them would ever be reproduced on screen in any significant way.  Yet, here we are, in the 21st Century, enjoying the fruits of the labor of several highly creative individuals.

Marvel has its MCU, Netflix shows and even television shows that tie-in to varying degrees.  DC Comics has the DCEU and — fitting their personality — in an alternate universe, there’s the CW Network’s “Arrowverse”, a shared universe unto itself.   Long gone are the days when we tuned in to the weekly adventures of a hero and had to pretend that he or she was an anomaly in their universe.  Special effects notwithstanding, probably the hardest things to watch today in George Reeves’ Superman, Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman or Lou Ferrigno’s Incredible Hulk (and I love them all) is the fact that these incredibly powerful heroes were limited to battling Earthbound, powerless criminals.  Each was the only powered entity in their respective universe and, in many cases, they ended up stopping the bank robbers and terrorists that Batman and Captain America would have already taken down.  So, of course, that lead to the title characters being remarkably “powered down” in their series as compared to their comic book counterparts.  Wonder Woman had no powers out of costume and couldn’t even fly. The Hulk died after falling from a plane that exploded in the air.  Yeah . . .

However, there are other, not so obvious, tropes that really need to be abandoned in the age of the Shared Universe.  First, I think we can all agree that it’s well past time to move beyond the premise that the protagonist is crazy.  The one thing that I truly disliked about Marvel’s Defenders Netflix series was their treatment of Daredevil.  Every other hero had a supporting cast that offered . . . well . . . “support”.  Matt Murdock spent much of his time trying to explain himself to Foggy and Karen, who acted like they had no idea where poor Matt was getting his delusions.  What!?!  They’ve seen aliens falling from the sky and being fought back by Captain America, Thor, the Hulk and various others.  Tony Stark stated on TV that he was Iron Man and Black Widow was on TV giving out SHIELD secrets after they stopped HYDRA.  They know superheroes exist. And let’s be real, Matt Murdock is a blind man who can navigate the world better than either Foggy or Karen ever dreamed and fight like he walked out of an action movie.  Why do they think he’s any crazier than, say . . . Iron Fist?  People in the real world (our world) don’t dress in spandex or body armor and chase criminals, but, in that reality, it’s obviously something that certain people do.  After a while, I started wondering what was wrong with Foggy and Karen.

I’ve seen a therapist attempt to denigrate Oliver Queen on the Arrow TV show in the same manner.  Likewise, it used to add humor when the Joker would tell Batman that they were both crazy because Batman dressed like a giant bat.  Now, it’s getting old.  It was so refreshing when Black Lightning firmly told his ex-wife that he wasn’t fixating on anything, he had powers and he was going to use them to stop the rampant crime in their city. Then he moved on and did just that. When there is so much evidence that there’s a history of normalizing said behavior, it’s actually sillier to constantly compare their world to our world.  And that doesn’t even speak to the number of powerful villains that are now being used and have to be confronted by someone other than the police. I’m not saying there needs to be a crossover or cameo every other episode.  But this is something that certain people do in these realities.  It may be time for writers to move on.

On a similar note, the significant others, bosses, coworkers, best friends, etc. who actually know that these people are out there saving the world . . . or the city . . . or even just a few blocks yet somehow can’t quite understand that they may need to be excused from a mundane act or two have to be written better.  They’re not providing a real-world dilemma.  They just look really . . . extremely selfish.  The sun is about to crash into the Earth and Becky Sue is asking: “But . . . what about me? You promised we could have some time.”  Seriously!?!  And don’t even get me started on: “I won’t be here when you get back.” Yeah, well if that bomb blows up half the city, you probably won’t. So, what do you really want your hero to be doing with his or her time?

And, lastly, can we stop killing off major villains?  Honestly, I believe killing off major characters, in general, can be a sign of lazy writers running out of ideas.  But I’m just focusing on villains here.  I know that a lot of people feel that it adds realism for the antagonist to meet a bloody, final defeat.  However, as a former prison employee, I’d have to ask . . . what planet is that?  Prisons are packed to the limits and are one of the surest sources of job security (. . . if you can handle the internal politics).  The bad guys ain’t dying off, people.  (Zod’s death in Man of Steel served a purpose, but is the rare exception.)  Part of what makes the Joker so cool is that you never know when he’s coming back or what he’ll have planned when he does.  His psychosis grows with every appearance and it’s like he’s trying to top himself.  And, as powerful as Killmonger’s death was in Black Panther, imagine knowing that he was always out there . . . threatening the throne . . . trying to advance an ideology that’s actually shared by a large number of people.

The best bad guys aren’t used often, but it’s almost an event when they return.  And most of them can’t be defeated the same way twice.  It just takes a little more creativity that way.  Be blessed . . .



WWE . . . Lucha Underground . . . New Japan Pro Wrestling . . . Ring of Honor . . . Impact Wrestling . . . Yes, I follow them all to varying degrees. I started watching Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling on Saturday nights, here in NC, when I was about 5 years old (circa 1976) and haven’t really stopped for any significant amount of time since then. I did stop watching shortly after Ricky Steamboat’s retirement in 1994, only to come back in early 1996 in time for the “Monday Night Wars”.  The first reality TV show that I ever watched was WWE Tough Enough, an early look behind the curtain. By the way, the only other one I’ll watch is UFC’s The Ultimate Fighter. But the point is, I’ve seen a bit of the science behind the magic.

Still, when I mention that I’m a fan and get the response from many of you: “I can’t believe you watch that fake stuff”, it tends to irritate me a little.  First, if you choose not to watch it, that’s your choice but it doesn’t elevate you or devalue me as a person. It’s a choice. Secondly, yes, it’s predetermined. They go in knowing who’s supposed to win, but they have a multitude of pathways to arrive at that destination. Unlike a movie or TV show, the words scripted or choreographed don’t apply, because there’s no script; no director to yell “cut” to restart, if there’s a mistake; and no stunt doubles for the hard parts.  Plus, if I were to hit you full force in the face with a steel chair or club you across your shoulders with my forearm, the sensation you felt would be all too real.  All the blood is real. They suffer major, sometimes life-threatening, injuries. There have been deaths.  So, I’m guessing “fake” is relative.

However, I tend to sense major pretentiousness from those with whom I discuss this topic. I once worked teaching silk screening to people with developmental disabilities.  One of my “consumers”, who was a huge wrestling fan, asked my direct supervisor whether she enjoyed watching. Her response: “No. I’m way too intelligent for that”.  (Now, a side note here.  This has always been a pet peeve for me. If you are truly an intelligent person, people will know you are. I was an honor student all through grade school and college. And I never once had to wear a sign or sport a T-shirt to advertise my prowess. End rant.)  A simple “no” would have been more than sufficient; especially when I could name half a dozen other shows that she did watch that are probably still killing brain cells to this day.

And on that note, unless you only watch news and weather, EVERYTHING you watch on TV is fake.  Reality TV is fake . . . Prime Time television is fake . . . Netflix shows are fake . . . and don’t even get me started on boxing . . . At least the WWE tells the competitors up front that the fights are fixed.  And I’m waiting for one more “impossible comeback” or “unfortunate call” in a Super Bowl or NBA Playoff before I completely stop watching those.  As a writer, I’m big on suspension of disbelief and those setups have been horrible lately.

Lastly, I’ve heard the argument that they’re taught “how to fall”.  Well, I started in Judo and Jiu-Jitsu in 2001 and the first thing I was had to master was Ukemi, the art of falling.  In fact, it’s very similar to what professional wrestlers learn.  Likewise, I have a stronger respect for wrestlers who display a stronger knowledge of grappling and throws.  But the bottom line is that many of you, who question the validity of the showcase, would suffer greatly in an exhibition. It’s not a “real fight” but it’s probably more than you think.  Be blessed . . .


Although to many of you it was ages ago, I can still recall becoming an Art Design major at North Carolina A&T State University, circa 1991.  I had left the restrictive world of Architectural Engineering and was looking forward finally being able to fully utilize my full creative capacity among people who really understood me.  Most credits transferred, a few didn’t.   But I still remembered how to draw and paint and I was looking forward to my studio classes.  Ironically, the place where I should have felt most comfortable was also where I would continue to feel academic alienation.

I would constantly see non-art majors expressing their joy at taking art classes because it would be an “easy A”.  Mind you, none of these people could draw flies on a hot summer’s day, but they were enraptured all the same.  And once we were all in class together, I could finally see why.  I was up nights, working my butt off, to get proper perspective, foreshortening and proportions.  And after some nit-picky critique, I might earn a B+.  Ms. Non-Major would then stroll up, and because she had added arms and eyes to her stick figure, she would be gifted with an A+, based on improvement.  So, not only was she taught not to respect our craft, but I still had to do actual work to obtain A’s in English, History or anything else.  I was an A student.  I didn’t beg anyone for anything.  And there was my own department giving away our dignity like candy corn on Halloween night.

By 1994, I had matriculated and moved on to the Savannah College of Art & Design’s Sequential Art program.  I thought that would be it . . . An art mentality from every quarter . . .  Serious dedication . . . And in many ways I was right.  But Graphic Design and Video were among several majors that don’t require drawing.  However, it’s advisable for Video majors to become familiar with storyboarding, which is akin to drawing for graphic novels.  Many of these students had zero drawing experience and even less confidence in what they were committing to paper.  So, once again, I witnessed the “grading on improvement” model that essentially left studio classes with two grading scales.  It wasn’t quite as extreme, but, considering that we were all attending an art college, it got pretty ridiculous at times.

And while I was attending SCAD, it became glaringly evident that the comic book industry would be following suit with a version of the same behavior.  Comic book companies at that time were notorious for possessing the most nit-picky, shrouded in mystery, elitist process for acquiring talent that anyone had ever seen.  You could be buying a book for months and know for a fact that the artist drawing it was nowhere near your level of talent.  And the answer you would probably get upon showing your work would be: “But they know he can meet a deadline”.  As if he were born meeting deadlines; at some point, someone gave him an opportunity and he proved himself.  That’s how they knew he could meet a deadline.  It wasn’t magic.

But the insult to injury would be when top artists from other genres (novels, movies, video games, etc.) request entry into the comic book industry, they are ushered in untested and without question.  Now don’t get me wrong, some of my favorite works have come from the minds of Brad Meltzer, Greg Rucka, J. Michael Straczynski and Joss Wheadon.  But there is nothing about being highly successful in another medium that says you’ll automatically be successful in comics.  “But they LOVE comics!” you say.  Well, so do all those highly talented writers and artists who get turned away every day, while Batman and the X-Men et al. get drawn by people who shouldn’t be allowed to sharpen pencils, let alone get paid monthly to draw with them.

And here’s the kicker . . . even the top, most elite creators in comics don’t get a free pass into other genres because of their status within their own field.   Not one traditional publisher or movie studio has ever said, “I know your skill, here’s a blank check to our world.”  There are several movies I can think of that would have been much better had that been the case.  But even with full knowledge that the concept would never have existed and no one else would ever have known where to take those characters for 100 plus issues, a studio will take control completely out of a creator’s hands and never blink. And don’t even think that the fact that the collected edition of your Vertigo series is a top seller will get you a deal for your novel.  It won’t; not by itself anyway.  I may not be enjoying the sales of any major publisher at the moment.  But as a self-publisher, I can publisher what I want, the way that I want, at my own pace.  And it’s consistently in print for whoever wants to see it. Be blessed . . .

Until Her Darkness Goes

Wow! I was thoroughly engrossed in this work.  From the first sentence to the last, I was completely invested in what happened to Rachael and Nicky.  It was like I knew them. They were close friends and I felt their losses. I was overjoyed at their successes.  I couldn’t side with one or the other when they disagreed or argued.  They were my friends and I loved them both. I could understand them both completely.  I was equally engrossed in their other relationships and their world.

This is a testament to the skill with which, author, Rana Kelly presents these characters and their world.  She is obviously a voice that deserves a much, much wider audience.  Maya Angelou once said that “easy reading is damned hard writing”.  And, if that is truly the case, Rana Kelly definitely puts in the labor to make her pages easily digestible. The dialogue is realistic, the settings are fully fleshed out and every character seems to be standing right in the room with the reader. Likewise, the business jargon doesn’t sound like someone just did research and wants to drop the proper terms onto the page. It reads as though real professionals are discussing their work under normal circumstances. I can’t say enough about the talent of this author.

Until Her Darkness Goes was presented to me as a “Rock Novel”.  But I have always felt that such labels are often limiting.  I know that they can be necessary for marketing or even to ensure sales in certain genres.  However, this book is a prime example of a work that presents characters that are fully relatable to anyone who appreciates strong characterization.  They just happen to work within a specific industry.  I personally have an interest in the music industry, but even if you don’t, you will find a lot to love about this book.  I cannot recommend it enough. I loved every page.


“I hate you. It’s not because of anything you’ve ever said or done. It’s not even because of you as a person; as I don’t really know you or anything about you. I just despise you for the pigmentation of your skin.  So, you can never do anything to fix it or make it right.  Oh . . . and I hate your parents and all of your kids too.”  No matter how tolerant or sympathetic you are . . . No matter how close you’ve been to a person . . . No matter whom you’ve dated or how long you’ve been married to someone . . . You can never truly know the full effect of these sentiments until they have been aimed directly at you by a sincerely devout individual; especially if you live that reality daily.

Of course, life isn’t that straightforward.  I actually have more respect for a person who’s honest enough to just admit what he or she is — even if their beliefs are repulsive.  But what usually happens is that school districts are designed separately but unequally; laws that negatively affect the poor and people of color get pushed through; or Presidential Cabinets are filled with men who have ties to White Nationalism (which anybody with a brain knows means White Racism).  What happens is our country elects a President who has full, open support from the Ku Klux Klan . . . and makes countless racist remarks in public . . . while campaigning . . . and we rationalize that decision.  And it wouldn’t be quite so glaringly ridiculous if we as a country had not passed over the single most qualified candidate of any sex or race to ever run for President (and no, there’s no arguing that point), for the least qualified, least knowledgeable candidate to ever run. And that person is an open and unapologetic racist, sexist, narcissistic bully.

Now, I’m not misguided enough to believe that everyone who voted for Donald Trump is a fellow racist and/ or sexist.  But it’s obvious that his racism and sexism weren’t repulsive enough to your collective sensibilities for you not to vote for him. In fact, I was online prior to the election and read a post from one individual, stating that he felt that Trump’s shortcomings “didn’t affect national security the way that Clinton’s would”.  One could easily extrapolate that statement to mean that Trump’s biases didn’t affect him or his life.  At any rate, any serious look at the inept and delusional methods of the current administration will quickly call that individual’s line of thinking immediately into question.  There obviously has been a rather large effect.  From the ban on Muslims; to the monument to racism, now referred to as “The Wall”; to his support of and part ownership in the North Dakota Access Pipeline; to America’s newly strained relations with former allies and once neutral parties; the effects are there for all to see.

Likewise, The Patriarchy in America is extremely strong.  It’s apparently strong enough that even a lot of women have grown to accept it as normal.  Long before the advent of President Trump, I witnessed Republican Party members make repulsively sexist statements in public forums; only to have prominent female party members, such as Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin, fully support their campaigns.  And female voters followed suit.  I recently read that it’s common for women to vote the way that their husbands want them to vote.  As a supporter of equal rights for all people, I would sincerely hope that we have all evolved beyond that.  However, it has always been more than obvious that many people would have voted for a trained monkey if it meant never having a woman as President; no matter her qualifications.  Soon after the airing of the infamous video, in which Donald Trump blatantly speaks about sexually assaulting women, I read a Facebook post from a Christian minister.  The post read: “It’s better that our President grabs vaginas than have one”. This from — not just a fellow Christian but a leader of people — needs no further analysis.

When Donald Trump spoke of forcing kisses on reluctant women and grabbing their vaginas, I was supposed to be okay with it.  Well . . . I was not.  Donald Trump once yelled: “Look at my African-American over there!”  He did so while referring to the sole, misguided Black man at a particular Trump Rally.  Donald Trump was pointing out this man like an anomalous beast . . . in a cage . . . at the zoo.  And I suppose I was supposed to be okay with that as well.  Well, I wasn’t.  And many others claimed to share that sentiment.  Yet, here we all are, enduring some of the most questionable decisions in modern history.  And, after Donald Trump had won the election, becoming President of the United States, many of you were acting as though he had just won a Super Bowl or a UFC title.  “Well, he’s won now. Let’s just work together and move forward.”  There was nothing in the campaign of Donald Trump that suggested unity or diversity of any kind.  And we can see the divisive nature and “alternative facts” that dominate his Presidency.  Surely, if there had ever have been a time to “work together”; it would have been in keeping him out of office, wouldn’t it?

Is It So Difficult?

Is it really so difficult to grasp the concept that a person can stand in total support of Law Enforcement but still ask that individual members of said group be held responsible for and receive appropriate consequences for wrongdoings? In fact, it seems illogical to even SAY that you support Law Enforcement and at the same time to condone the presence of corrupt and murderous individuals among their numbers; staining the whole with their mere existence. Having worked closely with some of the best officers this country has to offer for three years in Savannah, GA, I’m more than aware of the utter chaos that our lives would be without the presence of police officers. Likewise, when I’m not creating art or writing down what the voices in my head are saying, I’m spending 12.25 hours a day “protecting the general public” from inmates. I get it. I also understand the need to eliminate corruption and stop overshadowing the efforts of the large number of good officers with good intentions in this country. It’s not a difficult concept to grasp that the deaths of unarmed and/ or restrained African-American men at the hands of police officers were unwarranted. One simply has to try. Be blessed . . .


I’m a creative writer and a visual artist.  I’m a fan of both Marvel Comics and DC Comics.  I enjoy books, videos games, television and movies from both companies, but I don’t blindly follow either without objectivity and constructive criticism.  There has been a lot written about the brilliant strategic planning behind the implementation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  For the most part, I have to completely agree with the praise. It’s well deserved.  Almost equal amounts have been written about how DC is making “major mistakes”, while trying to “catch up” with Marvel.  Those people, I believe, may be looking at the situation from the wrong perspective.

Marvel had presented itself with the task of creating a shared cinematic universe.  Their best known and highest grossing comic book properties, Spider-Man and the X-Men, were unavailable for “home grown” films, due to licensing obligations to Sony and Fox respectively.  These are the most popular among the regular comic book audience and the most recognizable to the public at large, consistently selling the most merchandise.   I may belabor this point, but there is a reason.  They had to present characters that were less well known to the general public and, in fact, didn’t even sell as many books among regular comic buyers.

Now, if you and I could actually live in the Marvel Universe, we would see Captain America, Iron Man and especially Thor as the most powerful, most iconic heroes in the world.  They are the “Trinity” of the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.  For you and me, there would be no one more popular and no one more awe inspiring.  Spider-Man would be a popular second-stringer and the X-Men, if we even knew of their existence, would mostly be . . . scary.  However, in the real world, Spider-Man and Wolverine were added to the Avengers roster several years prior to the movie.  This was no doubt both a response to the popularity of those two characters and an admission that their addition would boost the sales of the often struggling Avengers franchise.

Therefore, when Marvel presented Iron Man in theaters, they were starting to build their Cinematic Universe with what was essentially a lesser known property.  And they were, in my opinion, taking a chance.  In the comics, Tony Stark is an egotistical, womanizing, alcoholic, genius, who cares about very little outside of his own perceptions.  It was Robert Downey, Jr., playing Stark/ Iron Man to perfection, who injected a likeable, basically good hearted person into the main character.   I seriously doubt that most people would have found Tony Stark a sympathetic character in his original state.  But Marvel had to start somewhere.

The Hulk has been on television and remains popular today, but his movie incarnation is more akin to his comic book roots and far removed from what the general public would recall or recognize.  Likewise, because Daredevil is my favorite Marvel character, I’m a major fan of the prowess and capabilities of the Black Widow outside of The Avengers comics.  And, consequently, Black Widow and Hulk alone would have been more than enough to entice me to a theater seat.  However, I fully understand how that might not have been the case for others, especially among the general public.  No.  Marvel had to start with films that introduced their characters with origin stories and build the universe slowly over time; one character at a time.  Iron Man.  The Hulk.  Captain America.  Thor. The ultimate payoff, they always knew, would be the culmination of these characters meeting as a group in The Avengers.  It would be the first time a comic book crossover was depicted on a movie screen. The buildup was well coordinated and the anticipation would be massive.  Of course, they killed it on every level.

DC Comics had a completely different set of parameters.  Their most iconic characters were also the stars of their best-selling comics.  In fact Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are among the best known characters in the world.  Even people who haven’t actually read a comic in years readily recognize the various Batman symbols, Superman’s “S” symbol and Wonder Woman’s stylized eagle and starred tiara.  Conceived in 1938, 1939 and 1941 respectively, this “Trinity” has been consistently published, been the subjects of various TV shows and movies, and appeared on numerous types of merchandise for decades.  They have grown to be as much a part of the global consciousness as Mickey Mouse or Apple Computers.

Further, I don’t recall a period when the Justice League comics ever sold as inconsistently or lagged as much in sales as The Avengers comics have at some points.  In fact, I’m sure it’s not lost on very many readers that, even after the massive success of the movie, Marvel had to set about merging the Avengers books with the X-Men books to boost sales.  But fond memories of the Super Friends animated show; the Justice League animation; and Justice League Unlimited, coupled with the usual sales of Justice League related comics should produce some sincere anticipation for that movie on their own.

Therefore, contrary to popular belief, DC Comics had no real need to follow Marvel’s cinematic example. If they so desired, DC could move directly into establishing their shared universe with a fraction of the build-up; as long as their “Big Three” were involved.  And that’s just what they did.  No, I don’t feel that Batman V. Superman was rushed or crowded.  I do feel that it was a well done movie that had a different tone and different pacing than the average Marvel movie.  And that’s okay.  DC has to be DC, not Marvel Chasers.  It seemed that there was a smear campaign before Batman V. Superman was even released; a hive-minded attempt to get people not to like it or even go to the theater.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s later discovered that money changed hands in some cases.  It was surreal to behold.  Some of the negative things I’ve read since its release have bordered on farcical.  I won’t go into them here.  It just makes me wonder, because the entire theater broke into applause at the movie’s conclusion, when my son and I went to see it on opening night.   No one had complained about a single scene throughout the movie.  And, no, I’m not saying that it was perfect.  But, neither was Captain America: Civil War, which I also loved.  The critics and fan boys were just much, much kinder.

At any rate, I can agree that Marvel has been ingenious in its machinations, but DC is most definitely not wrong.  Be blessed . . .


I hate Black History.  No, not really.  But, now that I have your attention, I can begin.  I hate the perceptions and misconceptions that the phrase “Black History” breeds.  It would appear that there is the Black History that we study during the shortest month of the year and then there’s the regular history that exits for everyone else the rest of the year.  There is a separation that simply shouldn’t be there; that should never have been there.  Even well-versed teachers don’t integrate the facts into the full picture that would simply be termed . . . history.

Garrett Morgan didn’t create traffic lights just for “Black people”.  They are used throughout America and worldwide.  There’s no way of extracting the significance of his work from history and relegating it to some pocket branch or labeling it as some perverted offshoot of reality.  This is a mainstream historical fact that has affected millions, if not billions, of people.  Likewise, no one says that George Washington was the first President of “White America”.  Regardless of your or my personal views on him, George Washington led the country as a whole and is remembered in that light.  When Crispus Attucks died, it wasn’t just for “Black America”, much of which was still composed of slaves at that time.  Regardless of his race, he was the first human being to die in the American Revolution.

African-Americans are responsible for the existence of things as diverse as air conditioning, cell phones, the space shuttle retrieval arm, the discovery of blood plasma, and the origins of various mythologies.  I don’t write that from a position of assumed superiority or embraced bigotry.  I am simply trying to point out how incomplete the picture being presented to students has consistently been. So called “Black Facts” are presented throughout Black History Month, often to the exclusion of all else.  It would be so much more effective, if the so called “Black History” were integrated into the curriculum at the very beginning of the course work.  That way, students could see how all of the events fit together and realize that there is only one tapestry . . . one tree with several diverse branches.  There is actually no such thing as Black History.  There is simply history.  And I believe that we do ourselves and, most assuredly, our children a disservice by promoting a segregated, disjointed substitute.