Graphic Novel Review – March: Book Two

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Graphic Novel Review: MARCH: Book One

Collecting: March: Book Two (original graphic novel)

Original Release Date: 2015

Publisher: Top Shelf Productions

Characters: John Lewis, Dr. Martin Luthor King, Jr., Stokely Carmichael, SNCC

Writer: John Lewis, Andrew Aydin

Artist: Nate Powell

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):

Storyline – 8
Art – 8
Captivity and Length – 7
Identity – 10
Use of Medium – 9
Depth – 8
Fluidity – 8
Intrigue/Originality – 8
The Little Things – 8
Overall awesomeness – 8

Inspired by the use of comic books to send across messages that couldn’t be transcribed in the written or oral form of communication, John Lewis, with the help of Top Shelf Productions, created March: Book One, an autobiography and first-person perspective of other Civil Rights stories. After laying down much of the framework of who John Lewis was, where he came from and what he believed in, we are thrown right into the deep end as this volume takes us through the evolution of the Movement, and journeys through the history of the Freedom Riders.

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Book Two is a noticeable improvement over the first book, where all three creators really got their feet yet. Whether it has to do with Lewis’ personal growth or the nature of the Civil Rights Movement at the time of the events, there is a much more adult tone taken in Book Two. It wasn’t just the increasingly violent reactions from policemen and citizens towards the Freedom Riders, well-meaning white citizens who came to their defense, and dozens of black children.  No, there was a constant looming threat of defamation, imprisonment and often times death that each of them had to be constantly aware for. It was a movement so formidable that even Dr. Martin Luthor King, Jr. was hesitant to go on it – or so the book implies. These accounts are directly from John Lewis’ memory of first-hands, and I’ll be damned if I’m the one to tell him that he got it wrong.

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Where the books excels is that it isn’t just a collection of stories from Senator John Lewis’ mouth. No, this is a calculated story with purpose. Scenes from the book are not only pieced together to form another successful chapter in his life, and that of the Civil Rights Movement. They are done so with not just the rationalization of a fiery young man, but the clarity of a wise man reflecting on his years as a freedom fighter. It’s refreshing to arrive at the conclusion that even though the courage that it took to actually follow through as a Freedom Rider was monumental, the entire movement was sparked by the simple yet fierce desire to make the situation better.

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Technically-speaking, there are several improvements to this volume over the first installment. While the art was satisfactory in Book One, Nate Powell’s pencils are eye-catching and often shockingly-vivid. There were several scenes that convey the brutality and injustice that Lewis saw first-hand. There were other improvements, too, notably how well Powell and co-writer Aydin took advantage of the freedom granted in creating a graphic novel, really using unique ways to display onomatopoeic words and show the tone of a phrase by lettering it in a specific way. It’s a quite interesting way to communicate with readers – one I hope will catch on with other creators.

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March: Book Two expertly brings the book to a close by chronicling Lewis’ attendance at Barack Obama’s inauguration in DC, the same city at which Lewis (and several other keynotes, like MLK) marched on Washington DC to give some of the most memorable speeches of the whole Movement. This scene illustrates that while progress towards equality and civil liberty has been astronomical, there is still plenty of work to do. That is why the Denver Freedom Riders have formed. The merging of goals between the generations is something that John Lewis speaks specifically about when describing his time working with senior activists. The capabilities of social media have made us all activists, but nothing really gets done unless the movement starts at the ground floor. I spoke with Hush writer Jumoke about the movement that’s gaining momentum in the Mile High City.

march book 2 stay together

 

The legacy that connects our generations is a simple one; a group of people of diverse background looked up at something going in the nation and decided that it wasn’t enough for them to simply stay at home. Some of us went as individuals (Anthony [Grimes] and myself), many of us went in later groups, but most of the core group went down to Ferguson during the height of the unrest. As we came back, we realized that there was some work that needed to be done and continued right here from Denver.

“We believe in the inherent dignity of human life. We believe no one is more aware of that inherent worth than those that society has attempted to dehumanize, marginalize and oppress.”

Those two sentences, the first two in the Denver Freedom Rider’s mission statement, could be included in almost every social justice movement creed of the last 100 years. The same fights for human dignity are being waged – only the actors and battlefields have changed. For some, that may be disheartening, but, for me, that actually gives me strength and courage. Although it seems there will always be injustice, oppression, and battles to fight, I take heart in the fact that there will also always be those who ride for freedom. 

– Jumoke Emery, community organizer and Denver Freedom Rider

For those looking to get involved in the community through the Denver Freedom Riders, here is a link to their Facebook page with more details.

I hope you enjoyed the review. I’d just like to point out that none of the pictures in this work are mine, and should all be credited to the good folks at Top Shelf Productions. You can find March: Book Two on their website, here.

Written by Sherif Elkhatib

“Respect My Craft” – Michael Dorn

In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Behind each scene goes hours of preparation. Hush Comics’ weekly article “Respect My Craft” will dive into the history of these comic book and pop culture greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of the nerd world, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.

 

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Click on the link to take you to all of our Denver Comic Con 2014 “Respect My Craft” articles

 

Name: Michael Dorn

Profession: Actor, Voice Actor, Director

Notable WorkStar Trek: The Next Generation & Deep Space Nine, I Am Weasel, Castle

“The character didn’t have any back story. He was a name on a sheet of paper, that was it. I think the third or fourth day of shooting, I went up to Gene [Roddenberry] and asked him what he wanted from this character. He told me to make it my own. I took it and decided that the character was going to be the opposite of everybody else on the show. And the writers took it from there, and Worf became one of the best characters ever.”- Michael Dorn

 

Michael Dorn has been on TV and in our lives since around the mid-1970’s, but before that he grew up in Pasadena California although he was born in Luling, Texas. While living in California he studied radio and television production at Pasadena City College. This led him to join several bands at that time which had him traveling from San Francisco and Los Angeles. In the coming years Dorn had a recurring role of Officer Jeb Turner on CHiPs even with the typical cheesy 80’s mustache and all. He had minor roles in a bunch of TV shows along the way including Charles in Charge, and Punky Brewster, and even had a uncredited role in Rocky, as Apollo Creed’s bodyguard.

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He started to become a rather distinct and welcome face when it came to television, but his career really blew up when he joined the soap opera Days of Our Lives as Jimmy up until 1987 where he decided to quit the show because he had gained a role which would ultimately change his life forever, Worf from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. Ultimately, it was just a job and he had no idea the character he would help create or the legend he would become to others.

Any fans of Michael Dorn before, and many after the fact, would never recognize him without the Klingon forehead and epic facial hair. Sure this can cause a problem to a certain degree, as many people who love your craft don’t even know what you look like. However, it also could help him take roles outside of typecasting him in roles similar to Worf. On the other end of it, not being Worf was not a problem because it was a perennial role Michael Dorn played in Star Trek: The Next Generation and the four films made from that series, as well as a regular cast member in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine during season four of the series and this made him the actor who has played the same character the most through the entire span of Star Trek history. So as hard as it may be for some Star Trek fans to hear, Worf is better at Kirk and Picard at something.

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Dorn kept pretty busy while doing Star Trek: TNG and it showed, as he didn’t have many other roles while doing the show up until 1994. This is where Michael Dorn really grew with his voice over acting but most of it was small roles in one or two episodes including shows like Swat Kats: The Radical Squadron, Aladdin, Biker Mice From Mars, and the series Fantastic Four. This led to a major event for anybody that was a Star Trek nerd and a cartoon nerd, which was Disney’s Gargoyles. A good amount of original cast from Star Trek: TNG provided a voice at some point during Gargoyles. Michael Dorn was only a small recurring character, Coldstone, the cyborg gargoyle which made him a quite disturbing, yet awesome, character for a kids show.

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After Gargoyles was dying gown, he got other jobs including Borl and other roles in Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, and Disney’s Hercules animated show. He didn’t have another huge role until the show Cow and Chicken came along. Many people remember Cow and Chicken but he played a character in it that became so popular he got his own show, which was I Am Weasel. Although his show was not long-lived by any means, I Am Weasel and I.R. Baboon are definitely some huge pop culture figures for my generation and, along with Cow and Chicken, they soon became the next Ren and Stimpy or Rocko’s Modern Life, known primarilyfor being crude, yet still childish and funny.

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Dorn did a whole bunch of voice acting because if your voice finds its way into that community they never let you leave but that it meant in the upmost respect as it is a community I would die to get “trapped” in. This saw him working almost exclusively in video games until the early 2000’s with a run on the animated show Superman as Kalibak and John Henry Irons AKA Steel. A lot of these video games in these years were Star Trek including Invasion, Deep Space Nine- The Fallen, Klingon Academy, Away Team, Gatatog Uvenk in Mass Effect 2, Tassadar in StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, Maero in Saints Row 2 and Saints Row IV. The most current thing you can see Michael Dorn in is the current Saints Row IV and as the recurring character Dr. Carter Burke on Castle. He has a show up on idiegogo titled Swallow Your Bliss, which is a sitcom set up as a TV Cooking Show and its crew. He is also set to star in a comedic Sci-Fi film titled Unbelieveable!!!!!. This film is also set to star Nichelle Nichols, who would also be producer.

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None of the media in this article belongs to Hush Comics; it all belongs to their respective properties (Photographer Janis Ogata, Paramount Television, Walt Disney Television Animation, Beacon Pictures, Experimental Pictures, ABC Studios, Buena Vista Television, Huffington Post Canada TV (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/06/michael-dorn-star-trek-worf-interview_n_2821205.html)). Join us tomorrow as we continue our countdown to Denver Comic Con with Neal Adams, comic book artist legend.

Diggin’ Through the Crates: KRS-One “Nothing New”

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Artist: KRS-One

Song: “Nothing New”

AlbumHip Hop Lives (2007)

Lyric: “The streets won’t forgive you man, them guns go BLAM/ Have you crawlin up the wall like Spider-Man… But no, you ain’t made for this/I put my hand through your chest like Agent Smith.”

Character Reference/Meaning:

If you are even going to begin a conversation about pioneers of the Hip-Hop world, KRS-One (Knowledge Reigns Supreme) A.K.A “The conscience of Hip-Hop” A.K.A “The spokesperson for Hip-Hop” better be one of the tops of conversation. KRS-One has been deemed these nicknames by Rolling Stone, The Source and even the Wall Street Journal and the Zulu Nation. With Black History Month coming to an end, it only seemed right to have KRS-One bless “DTC.” Later on, I will speak more on how comic books and being nerdy could possibly relate to someone like KRS-One, but for now I want to take some time to focus on KRS-One – a Hip Hop god.

Above many other KRS was one of the notable Hip Hop heads in the community that used his power of music and reach to make positive progression for black culture. In 1988-89 KRS-One started the “Stop the Violence Movement” in response to the continuing violence heard throughout hip hop music and the black community. Collaborating with some of the biggest stars out of the East Coast Hip-Hop scene, KRS-One release a song called “Self Destruction,” with all the proceeds going toward the National Urban League.

KRS-One has always tried to spread positive messages to the black community, with songs such as “Sound of da Police,” which speaks on how the police treat people of color, and how their power is often abused and unjust. Another positive song that helps deem KRS-One a king of Hip-Hop is “Hip-Hop Vs. Rap.” KRS-One states in this song, “Rap is something you do, Hip Hop is something you live.” You know what else he said in “Hip Hop Vs. Rap”? He said, “When these suckers don’t respect it, check it/ FLAME ON, I know the light is bright but keep on watching me.” Um, excuse me, Mr. One, but your nerdy side is beginning to show.

Beyond rap music, Hip-Hop is a way of life that the black community truly has adopted and made their own. This goes deep down into his bones, seeing that he is the founder of the Temple of Hip Hop. The Temple of Hip Hop is a: ministry, archive, school, and society (M.A.S.S.). The goal is to encourage artists and radio stations to write, and play more socially conscious music, and also to maintain and promote Hip-Hop culture, KRS-One believes that Hip-Hop is more than music, break dancing and graffiti, but rather it is a political movement, a religion, and a culture. This has gotten the United Nation to recognize Hip Hop, as a full-fledged religion. What? Hip-Hop as a religion? YES, if you do not have faith, then I encourage you to pick up at your local book store, The Gospel of Hip Hop: The First Instrument, which has been referred to as the “Hip-Hop Bible.”

I know this is all fine and dandy but I haven’t really tied in comic books at all yet, well hold on to your Underoos because coming your way is some comic related info. When KRS-One was just a 6 year-old Lawrence Parker (1971), he started collecting both comic books and toys in Harlem New York, right around the time he starts to become interested in history, religion and music.  In 1994, KRS-One and Marshall Chess combined both literature and music to inspire urban youth. This combination turned out to be a comic book accompanied by an audio cassette tape both entitled “Break the Chain” under the Marvel Comics imprint. This comic was meant to teach urban youth that they don’t have to be slaves to their past or their conditions, that we must break the chains of ignorance in order to become something positive in this world. With other name drops of comic references I believe that part of KRS-One’s heart still belongs to comics. Either way, without KRS-One hip hop would not be the inspirational movement that is has become today; so how could Hip-Hop be dead if KRS-One is still its savior? To find out more about KRS-One and the Temple of Hip Hop visit his website.

Written by Evan Lowe

“Respect My Craft” – Joseph Illidge

In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Hush Comics’ weekly article “Respect My Craft” will dive into the history of these comic book greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of comic books, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.

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Name: Joseph Illidge

Profession: Editor, writer

Notable WorkHardwareBirds of Prey (comics and TV), Batman: No Man’s LandJustice League Unlimited (TV), Ben 10 (TV)

“The ridiculous depiction of female heroes in comics is a big problem and it’s born out of the fact that there are still not enough women in editorial departments of mainstream comic book companies.” – Joseph Phillip Illidge

Writing “Respect My Craft” has been a blast for Black History Month. From out-spoken writers Dwayne McDuffie and Aaron McGruder to black comic book historian and collector William Foster, we’ve tried to give you a well-rounded view of black people in the comic book industry. To round out All Black Everything, this week we focus on editor and writer Joseph Illidge.

Illidge got his start in the industry with hard work and networking. He used, as he puts it, “the P. Diddy approach” to work his way up from an intern to become assistant to the President at Milestone Media. After learning the business part of the comic book industry for two years, Illidge moved laterally to become the sole editor of Milestone’s flagship book, Hardware, where he learned the industry under the tutelage of Dwayne McDuffie, himself. The role of editor is a highly under-appreciate one in the comic book industry, as it does not carry the same glory as the writer or penciller. A book’s editor reels in the writing and art, making sure that the product is punctual, meets the creative standard and is consistent with the larger-picture.

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After Milestone Media stopped producing new books, Illidge was asked to join their ranks as editor of Birds of Prey. As a fellow minority, he sought to help represent females in a more positive light than the sexually objectified versions previously seen. For example, as editor of Birds of Prey, Illidge altered the costume of Power Girl, who has had a ridiculously over-sexualized outfit since her creation in the mid-1970’s. When Illidge made the switch, DC executives were worried that the “licensing potential for Power Girl” was being sabotaged. Although the full-body suit was not used again after Birds of Prey, but it pointed out types of characters women are portrayed as.

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From this…
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…to this, in just one Illidge

Illidge feels that this is not a slight at women, but a mis-representation of women in the genre. The logic is that he could use his unique perspective as an under-represented minority to guide along a more positive representation of women in comic books – and what better platform to do that on than the best-selling female-led book in the business?  This forward thinking made the series popular enough to spur a television show of the same name, with Illidge serving as a consultant and creative advisor for the show. He was also

All the while, Illidge was working on his own production company, Verge Entertainment. He has become an advocate for independent comic books and digitizing business, and is very honest with his views on Marvel and DC Comics and what the conglomerate takeover of the two (Marvel by Disney and DC by Times Warner) has done for the industry. In an interview with The Examiner, Illidge stated, “If you don’t capture a larger audience, erosion of the existing audience is inevitable. The only things that seem to address audience erosion, without bringing in those real-world demographics, are “events” and line-wide reboots. Band-Aids for the bleeding patient.”

Currently, Joseph Illidge is working on a graphic novel titled THE REN, which focuses on the Harlem Renaissance in the mid 1920’s with Verge Entertainment. Illidge feels that his time working under Dwayne McDuffie at Milestone Media helped to prepare him to portray black life to the world in the right way. True to his beginnings at Milestone, THE REN is a story about an important time in black history, scripted by a black writer and illustrated by a black artist. He even took a ride along with the Boardwalk Empire crew for inspiration on the times.

The REN is due out next year.
The REN is due out next year.

Joseph Illidge is a great example of how minorities can fit in the comic book industry and not compromise their beliefs. As an editor, Illidge was able to push for the improved portrayal of females and blacks in comic books, because he was the one pushing the creative direction. It wasn’t always the most popular opinion, but that’s why diversity in the industry is so important. Illidge is also an advocate for independent owners, and has done several seminars/panels about Digitizing Your Career and “Diversity in Comics: Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Sexual Orientation in American Comic Books.” It’s evident that Joseph Illidge is invested in progressive representation in comic books – and for that, you must respect his craft!

Checked out his bibliography and still want more? Check this out:

Joseph Illidge currently writes an article for Comic Book Resources called “The Color Barrier.” Each week for this year’s Black History Month, Illidge takes a look at various aspects of color in comic books.

I wanted to point out that none of this art is mine; it is all credited to the original publishers (Milestone, Marvel, DC and Verge Entertainment). Thanks for all the love and support from writing All Black Everything. Look to us next week for more “Respect My Craft!,” featuring the industries most talented contributors.

Written by Sherif Elkhatib

Graphic Novel Review – Incognegro

Graphic Novel Review: Incognegro

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Collecting: Original graphic novel, Incognegro

Original Release Date: 2008

Publisher: Vertigo (DC) Comics

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Character: Zach Pinchback, the Incognegro

Writer: Mat Johnson

Art: Warren Pleece

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):

Storyline – 8
Art – 8
Captivity and Length – 8
Identity – 9
Use of Medium – 7
Depth – 8
Fluidity – 9
Intrigue/Originality – 8
The Little Things – 7
Overall awesomeness – 7

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I won’t lie – Incognegro has been sitting on my shelf for years now, purchased solely off the amazing pseudonym given to the main character. It wasn’t until we started #AllBlackEverything that I knew this book had to be reviewed for Hush Comics. Growing up, I found myself enthralled with the book Black Like Me – I actually wrote a book report on it for every year of High School. Black Like Me, written by John Howard Griffin in the 1960s, documented the experience of a white man who disguised himself as a black man in Texas. Incognegro is the exact opposite approach – a very light-skinned black journalist disguises himself as a white man and documents lynchings that go on in the south. Mind you, this book is set only thirty-forty years prior to Black Like Me.

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The idea of being a light-skinned reporter infiltrating lynchings in the South is down-right terrifying, and it hooks readers right in. Incognegro follows a very linear story. Zane Pinchback is a syndicated journalist in New York who writes under the name “Incognegro.” His column is quite popular, and he has agreed to go on one last excursion before his promotion – to save his own brother from being lynched. His friend Carl has decided to tag along with him. Together, they must infiltrate the South and rescue Zane’s brother, Pinchy, from certain death. It’s a wild ride from start to finish, and tells a complete story.

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Incognegro can be humorous at times, but most of this book is brutal and fast-paced. It reads like a movie plays, and the story is benefited by the entertainment factor. The graphic images speak volumes for the mistreatment and cruelty that black people endured. However, as Incognegro, Pinchback details his strategy for hiding among the lynchings, it seems as though it’s turned into a game of not getting caught. It breaks the tension at times where the shock of the photos can be hard to swallow. Mat Johnson has a lot to invest in the story, too; he is a very light-skinned black man and a self-described scholar of African-American literature. He’s actually the man on the cover of the book.

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I can’t help but feel that Incognegro was written with a huge chip on the its shoulder. Every white man in the book is vilified and the dialog is a flurry of racial slurs and stereotypes. For being a book set to these times, I feel that the guilt was laid on a bit too thick. The degree of black and white extremes of race relations in Incognegro is challenged only by its artwork. I especially enjoy how the art reflects the transition from day to night. In the end, this was a well-written piece, but I feel as though the uninformed would take away more negatives about whites than focusing on the heroics of the main characters. There are definitely lessons to be learned, and I would recommend this to not only those who like a good story, but those interested in learning more about the heroics of undercover journalists in the 1930’s.

incog new york

All media credited to Vertigo/DC Comics

Written by Sherif Elkhatib

Diggin’ Through the Crates: Mos Def and Talib Kweli “Know That”

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Artist: Mos Def ft. Talib Kweli

Song: “Know That”

Album: Black on Both Sides (1999)

Lyric: “I Strike the Empire Back/ I Strike the Empire Back/ Fuck the Empire!/ High flying like the Millenium Falcon/ Piloted by Han Solo/ I never roll for dolo, fronting on me’s a no-no”

Character Reference/Meaning:

You know what Mos Def and the Star Wars have in common besides being awesome, ground breaking and revolutionary? One word – Rebels. That’s right, all you nerds out there, if you have been paying attention to Star Wars news as of late you should know about the new animated series entitled, Star Wars Rebels. This animated series is set to drop this year and is to take place between episodes III and IV. Just recently, some of the first footage was released with some new characters fans ought to love; sadly though, Mos Def is not one of them. Especially with great Star Wars related lines such as the chosen lyric of the week, it’s obvious that Mos Def a.k.a Yasiin Bey (he has rebranded himself Yasiin Bey as of late to keep his old record label from making money off the stage name Mos Def) is down for the cause.

Like any good Rebel soldier, Yasiin speaks out against injustice happening in the world and is on a mission to betterment. However, what speaks louder than words? ACTION! Not only has Mos Def spoken out about important tops in his songs such as the right to clean water (“New World Water“), the maltreatment of Katrina victims via the government (“Katrina Klap (Dollar Day)“), Poverty rates among African Americans (“Ni**as In Poorest“), as well as the murder of Trayvon Martin (“Made You Die“), but he has also put his words into action. In 2000 he performed a benefit concert for Mumia Abu-Jamal a death row inmate who is a known member of the Black Panther Party and was convicted of 1st degree murder of a Philadelphia police officer. Popular belief that Abu-Jamal didn’t receive a fair trial, and the court system was unjust to sentence him to the death penalty. He remains in prison today. In 2007 Yasiin appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher where he spoke about racism against African-Americans and the poor response by the American government during Hurricane Katrina, and the Jena Six. A few years later he made a reappearance where he spoke upon the dangers of nuclear weapons and the possible mistranslation of Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist threats.

One of Mos Def’s largest and most “real” actions occurred in 2013 where he sought out to show the world the mistreatment, and violation of human rights people have been portraying on inmates at Guantanamo Bay. He did this by depicting how the prisoners have been forced feed against their will, despite it being an instructional procedure. It has been a point of Yasiin to spread positivity through his music and bring truth and reality to light by his actions. So in this song when he says he strikes back against the empire he is saying that he challenges and battles unjust happenings in this world. Seeing what “empires” have done to cause oppression with imperialism and colonialism it’s no wonder he rebels. Is Mos Def the Han Solo of our day and age, the rebel we need to speak and act out against the empire of today? Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t, but regardless of how you look at it, Mos Def is a social activist for the betterment of civil rights and humans in general. With his ability to spread positivity through his music and social action, I feel the world can be more peaceful, united and just, than it was yesterday.

WARNING: The following video depicts graphic images of force feeding. These images at times can be disturbing and difficult to watch. View discretion advised.

Written by Evan Lowe

“Respect My Craft” – William H. Foster III

In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Hush Comics’ weekly article “Respect My Craft” will dive into the history of these comic book greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of comic books, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.

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Name: William H. Foster III

Profession: Writer/Historian

Notable WorkDreaming of a Face Like OursLooking for a Face Like Mine

“It’s not about what you read, but what you do with what you read.” – William H. Foster III

William H. Foster III is a scholar, historian, writer and comic book enthusiast.  Informally known as Bill, Dr. Foster currently is a Professor of English at Naugatuck Valley Community College in Connecticut.  He also travels the world speaking about African-Americans in comic books.  He has a very wide scope of knowledge including black characters, authors, artists and publishers.  Because of his wealth of knowledge, he is renowned amongst his peers in the world of comic books.

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His traveling exhibit “Changing Image of Blacks in Comics” is a lesson in American history.  He speaks on the beginning of comic books and how that intertwines with the history of African-American’s in this country.  The display shows an array of prints from covers of some the most famous comic books featuring black heroes and characters.  He also shows a sample from his own collection of prized books including Static, Black Lightning, Sabre, and many publications from Golden Legacy Publications.  He also lectures about the history of it all, relating to it himself, as well as with other pieces of history that are important to consider.

Dr. Foster touches on Tom Floyd and his comics Blackman and Blackwoman, Golden Legacy’s Black Cowboys which features famed bull-rider Bill Pickett, all the famous baseball player comics including, but not limited to, Jackie Robinson and Joe Louis, as well as Luke Cage, Black Panther and issue #106 of Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane when Lois Lane turns black for a day (uh, what?).  But more importantly, he weaves in his own experiences and his reactions to these stories along with real history.  Why were black people portrayed as “the help”or African?  Why was it impossible to find a black hero?  And if you could find one, they were instantly pulled from the shelf?  Under all the negative stereotypes and lack of diversity, there were people who were trying, though.  Dr. Foster makes sure to highlight all the great things that were happening and continuing to happen in the pop culture medium he (and we!) feels so passionately about.   He expounded on the Spring 1953 Weird Fantasy issue that brought racism to light, the beginnings of Static, and Stan Lee actually putting African-Americans in New York City.

Negro Romance #1 - June 1950, published by Fawcett Comics
Negro Romance #1 – June 1950, published by Fawcett Comics

What is really wonderful about what Dr. Foster brings along with his exhibit is a way to bridge the gap and talk about issues that may be hard for a lot of people, especially people in the comic book industry, to talk about.  Not only can he make everyone feel included in his lecture, but he can inspire anyone to pick up a comic book, no matter who is on the cover.  It is evident by talking to him and listening to his stories that comics are deeply ingrained in life.  He is most definitely influential for all people to pick up a book, graphic novel or comic and think deeply about what it says to society, to groups and to each individual.  Thank you Dr. Foster for teaching us that everything has meaning.

Checked out his bibliography and still want more? Check these books out:

Bill Foster has published to books on the history of African-Americans in comic books.  Dreaming of a Face Like Ours and Looking for a Face Like Mine are were both published by Fine Tooth Press and can be found in limited quantities on Amazon.  In 2015, Dr. Foster will publish his third book, Untold Stories of African American Stories in Comics.  He also runs his own website, Finally in Full Color, where he aims to begin an online store for black comic books. The best part is that this is for sentiment and historic value – so no ridiculous mark-ups to make a quick buck. 

How Much Does Hush Comics Love Bill Foster?

Just this past weekend, at the Blair-Caldwell African-American Research Library in Denver, Foster held a lecture that outlined the history of people of color in comic books. We found out about the lecture from John Soweto, and with the work we have been doing for our All Black Everything articles and the idea behind Hush Comics as a whole, it seemed only appropriate to attend.   We all left knowing more than when we walked in and felt inspired to keep on creating a community through Hush.  Thank you Bill Foster for educating and inspiring us!

Evan, Adrian and Sherif with Foster
Evan, Adrian and Sherif with Foster

Written by Adrian Puryear and  Sherif Elkhatib

Graphic Novel Review – Who is Black Panther?

Graphic Novel Review: Black Panther: Who is the Black Panther?

ALL BLACK EVERYTHING

Collecting: Black Panther #1-6

Original Release Date: 2005-2006

Publisher: Marvel Comics

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Character: The Black Panther/T’Challa

Writer: Reginald Hudlin

Art: John Romita Jr. (The Amazing Spiderman, Uncanny X-Men)

SCORECARD:

Storyline – 8
Art – 7
Captivity and Length – 9
Identity – 8
Use of Medium – 6
Depth – 8
Fluidity – 8
Intrigue/Originality – 9
The Little Things – 7
Overall Awesomeness – 8

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In honor of Black history month Hush comics is bringing you another entry to our All Black Everything graphic novel review series.  What graphic novel better represents this theme than the one starring Marvel’s first mainstream black superhero, The Black Panther?!  Before I dive into the greatness of Who is the Black Panther, you may be curious about the ties the Marvel hero has to the African American revolutionary group most active in the 60’s and 70’s.  You may find it interesting that Stan Lee’s and Jack Kirby’s idea for a prominent superhero of dark skin predates the party’s founding.  Lee and Kirby state that, at the time, they recognized a lack of balance and representation throughout the panels.  In an effort to bring that balance the two of them created T’Challa, the man behind the mask, and the legacy of The Black Panther.  Premiering in Fantastic Four #52  (July 1966), The Black Panther makes a lasting impression as he trounces the famous superhero team when they visit The Panther’s home village, deep in the heart of Africa.  The rest is history… black history that is.  The Black Panther laid the path for other black superheroes to hit the scene: Luke Cage, Storm, DC’s John Stewart Green Lantern and several others all pay homage to The Black Panther as the father black superheroes.

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The Black Panther made a powerful splash in the late 60’s and into the next decades, but the impact of that initial splash was lost on my generation.  That is until Reginald Hudlin and John Romita Jr. teamed up to reboot the series in 2005 with Who is the Black Panther?, the subject of this review.  The series opens with a brief trip to the past, 5th century A.D.  A warring African tribe is making an attempt on the never before breached borders of Wakanda where the infamous Black Panther rules and protects his people and village.  In a show of force beyond what any of these rival warriors have witnessed, the boarders remain unbreached.  Jump ahead to the 19th century.  South African apartheid is in full swing and the Boers are determined to bring down Wakandan walls and reap the untold fortunes within the mysterious village.  Yet again the attempt is easily thwarted thanks to The Black Panther and his automated defense system that is light-years ahead of its time.  This aspect is one of the elements that makes this story great.  The notion that a peaceful and tribal African society can also develop gadgets and gizmos that would make Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking scratch their head in wonder is fascinating.  Throughout the issue we see time and time again the technological superiority of The Black Panther and the Wakandan people.  My personal favorite was the Skybike.  What I would give to be able to ride that thing to work every morning!

More impressive than their technological advancements is their spiritual advancements.  Like every good superhero, one must act and strive towards an ideal above the self and for the greater good.  The Black Panther is not just a protector and warrior, but also the leader of a nation.  While defending threats on the front line The Panther must also approve municipal sewage plant measures and discuss stately manners with the likes of Nelson Mandela (R.I.P.) and the United Nations.  Since The Black Panther title warrants such respect and responsibility it is no simple matter of dawning a cowl and cape in the name of saving the day.  It’s a title that must be earned.  In Who is the Black Panther we are witness to T’Challa earning the mantle.  I have a lot of appreciation for Hudlin and his attention to the events experience by The Black Panther while out of costume.  For several of us comic book fans, we search for deeper meaning in the panels all the time.  We look for things that inspire and motivate us.  On this aspect particularly, I hold Who is the Black Panther? in high esteem.

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Now, I stated earlier that The Black Panther predates the Black Panther Party (BPP) movement.  While this is true, it is not to say that we do not see any comparisons in this 2005 reboot.  The struggle of the BPP is most exemplified in this graphic novel through its super-villains.  Most of whom hail from Western and European regions that were involved in 18th century slave trade (America, France, Great Britain) and subsequent civil rights perversions.  As a direct descendant of African American heritage, it gave me a sense of pride to watch The Panther courageously and resolutely stand up to evil and hatred.

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Who is the Black Panther falls somewhat short in the art and use of medium categories.  With opportunities abundant, I wish there would have been move half and full page panels to emphasize truly awesome moments.  Some elements of the plot were very unnecessary, distracting and (in some instances) in bad taste.  “Recycled” US cyborg soldiers didn’t feel all that right in context.  All that aside, Who is the Black Panther? is a solid read.  It carries all the essential elements of a hero’s tale.  The true treasures of this graphic novel are in its morals more-so than the ink on the page.  For that (and the kick-ass Skybike) Hush is proud to have Who is the Black Panther? featured for our All Black Everything theme in honor of Black History Month.

Written by Taylor Lowe

Diggin’ Through the Crates: Public Enemy “Raise the Roof”

ALL BLACK EVERYTHING

Artist: Public Enemy

Song: “Raise the Roof”

Album: Yo! Bum Rush the Show (1987)

Lyric: “From the slammer, swing a hammer like the mighty Thor/ God of thunder, you’ll go under, then you’ll applaud/ And fathom the distance, the mad must reap/ Meet Namor, sea lord, Prince of the deep.”

Character Reference/Meaning:

Continuing with our theme of progressive Hip-Hop artists and groups that helped pave the way for an entire generation and culture, we bring to the stage yet another legendary group, Public Enemy. YEEAAAAHHHH BOY!  Through songs like “Fight the Power” and “Rebel Without a Pause,” this group didn’t shy away from topics labeled taboo at the time – they often rhymed about race relations, the lack of equality and standards of living, and the ever-decaying and neglect of inner city neighborhoods.

It might be hard for the current generation, far removed from the Civil Rights era babies, to grasp, but the emergence of hard-hitting Hip-Hop music was a focal point for the resurgence of pride and political awareness in the black community. Public Enemy was views as being an integral part of this movement. They would see the injustice that was prevalent in everyday life and pour it out in their songs, dropping beats and knowledge. Public Enemy wasn’t afraid to let it known to the general population what was happening in their community and that they had no concerns about polarizing political statements. Public Enemy, beyond the music and the group, was a concept, stating, “if you are black, white, Hispanic, blue, purple or whatever, and are sick of the conditions, injustice, and inequality, then you are a public enemy.” Public Enemy transcended all types of media, they have even been blessed with their own graphic novel. With Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Professor Griff, The S1W and DJ Lord here to fight the Man, the New World Order, corrupt governments, crooked cops, slave traders, drug dealers, child molesters and much more; it’s obvious to see the reach and impact they had on society.

Chuck D has once said, “You can show all emotions in comics,” when asked if being in a comic would lessen the importance of the groups message. He also stated, “Those early Saturday morning cartoons got me…CBS’ Superman, Batman, Justice League. Then Space Ghost, the ABC’s Spider-Man and Fantastic Four led me straight into it.” I’m positive they inspired the masses, and led people from the slammer, to feeling like they had the power of Thor. They’ve allowed people to take a look at their lives and see how far they have gone, see that yes, before they could have been drowning in the hardships and conditions, yet those made them who they are. And through perseverance and strength, they now longer drown, but conquer who they are, and where they came from like Namor. Needless to say, Public Enemy is much more than just a rap group. With their reach in music, television, and even comic books, it is impossible to deem them anything less than superheroes.

Written by Evan Lowe

“Respect My Craft” – Aaron McGruder

In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Hush Comics’ weekly article “Respect My Craft” will dive into the history of these comic book greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of comic books, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.

ALL BLACK EVERYTHING

Name: Aaron McGruder

Profession: Writer & Artist

Notable Work: The Boondocks

“When I pass, speak freely of my shortcomings and my flaws. Learn from them, for I’ll have no ego to injure.” – Aaron McGruder

Before he was the stone that the builder refused, Huey Freeman was just a figment of Aaron McGruder’s imagination. Similar to his characters in “The Boondocks,”  McGruder hailed from the South Side of Chicago and moved to a predominantly white town as a young boy. His stay in Columbia, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore, gave him a good look at race relationships in America. A young McGruder found his identity through Hip-Hop, Star Wars and comic strips, inspiring him to draw comics. 

During his college career at the University of Maryland, McGruder was a cartoonist for a student-run newspaper called The Diamondback, which published the very first “Boondocks” strip in December 1996. Aaron was getting paid more than double what the other cartoonists were being compensated, a whopping $30/strip. The Boondocks began as a campus cartoon strip, and after only a couple issues, sky-rocketed to fame after it appeared in Hip-Hop based magazine, The Source. Soon after, the series was picked up by the Universal Press Syndicate, joining the company of such legendary comics as “Garfield” and “Calvin & Hobbes,” in December of 1998. It was a quick rise to fame, as McGruder was only in his mid-twenties, and a well-deserved one.

McGruder used the characters in “The Boondocks” to create a sort of yin-yang in Black culture: Huey Freeman, the Afro-centric philosopher and freedom fighter (named appropriately after revolutionary Black Panther Huey Newton), as well as Riley Freeman, the radical wannabe-thug, and Grand-dad Freeman, who represents the old-school mentality. With them, McGruder wrote an ensemble cast with various cultural and political backgrounds. Using different relatable social situations, “The Boondocks” painted a hyperbolic, yet accurate, picture of what it’s like for many minorities living in white communities.

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McGruder began to publish trade-paperbacks of The Boondocks., the first of which was named Because I Know You Don’t Read the NewspaperMcGruder had begin to focus on writing, and hired artist Jennifer Seng to help with the art in 2003. The series became so popular that, by 2004, over 300 major newspapers nation-wide were publishing “The Boondocks”. One of the aspects that made the series so beloved was McGruder’s tendency to speak freely when it came to socio-political issues.

From 9/11 conspiracy theories that outwardly criticized President Bush to attacking BET (Black Entertainment Television), nobody was safe from being called out. And as “The Boondocks” garnered more and more attention, McGruder got more and more liberal with his messages. Not all agreed with McGruder’s approach to such touchy subjects, though, as many black and white critics felt that he was trying to provoke racial tension instead of commenting on it. It could be that those who were harsh against McGruder just couldn’t understand the satirical nature of his work, but whatever the issue, the controversy just kept getting louder and louder.

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After almost a decade of written features, Aaron McGruder began to pitch the idea of an animated television sitcom of The Boondocks. However, the shocking subject material made it difficult for the series to be picked up by network television.  Luckily for us, Cartoon Network picked it up in 2005 and put it in their Adult Swim time-slot. This would prove to be a match made in White Heaven, as it gave him the freedom he needed to tell even the most controversial of stories.

Throughout The Boondocks‘ initial three-season run from 2005-2010, McGruder wrote episodes that satirically ripped into everybody: R. Kelly, BET, and even Santa Claus weren’t safe from criticism. Taking up twenty plus minutes per show also allowed McGruder to include a much deeper cast, which consisted of some hilarious guest spots, and was bursting at the seams with social commentary. To boot, a lot of the show’s content was somewhat based off the strip, expanding on funny moments and making them funny episodes. The anime-inspired fight scenes were also amazing, as McGruder clearly had some Samurai Champloo inspiration. More over, what made the series so relatable is that it felt so natural. The character archetypes all interacted how you would expect, but was written so well that you never really knew what crazy thing would happen next.

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What I really loved about how McGruder wrote The Boondocks is how it never felt like it had an agenda; it just asked really good questions that made readers/viewers think. We could laugh at the stereotypes or see the sad satire of American culture for what it was – it really depended on how the consumer absorbed the material. To this day, “The Boondocks” comic strip remains the only comic series picked up by the Universal Press Syndicate that has a black creator or a mostly black cast. It’s an award-winning and fan-favorite television show that serves as a cracked mirror for lack & American culture that we know we want to do better than what is portrayed.

For better or worse, after the run of nearly ten years, McGruder’s “Boondocks” has pointed out a lot of the flaws in how mainstream media portrays African-Americans, while criticizing African-Americans for exploiting those flaws. In the same way Dwayne McDuffie used Milestone Media to build up the positive black image, Aaron McGruder used “The Boondocks” to tear down the negative black image. Thus, I can define Aaron McGruder in three words: “Maaaaaan, F*** BET”

Checked out his bibliography and still want more? Check these books out:

BIG news here everybody; it looks as though The Boondocks will be returning for a fourth season, debuting April 21st, 2014, after an almost four-year hiatus.

Birth of A Nation is a graphic novel about what it would be like if East St. Louis (dubbed Blackland) were to secede from the nation. This is “All Black Everything” in it’s truest incarnation. McGruder co-wrote this book along with Reginald Hudlin (Who is the Black Panther? review coming soon!).

McGruder also was on writing duties for Red Tails, a film about the Tuskegee Airmen. It was a little too Hollywood for my taste, but it’s worth a shot if you’re interested.

How Much Does Hush Comics Love Aaron McGruder?

Aaron McGruder has a special place in my heart. A big part of my late-teens were spent watching and reading The Boondocks. McGruder’s work did more than entertain me; it educated me. His rise to stardom was so quick, the gravity of his accomplishments may slip by casual fans. More importantly, he shared his message with no filter – from the return of Dr. Martin Luthor King Jr. to white privilege to fried chicken shortages, McGruder was never afraid to talk about the serious issues.

Written by Sherif Elkhatib