Diggin’ Through the Crates: Wu-Tang Clan “Protect Ya Neck”

Song: “Protect Ya Neck”

Artist: Wu-Tang Clan

AlbumEnter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)

Lyric: “I smoke on the mic like smokin’ Joe Frazier/ The hell-raiser, raising hell with the flavor/Terrorize the jam like troops in Pakistan/Swinging through your town like your neighborhood Spider-Man”

Character Reference/Meaning:

Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nottin ta F#@! wit! Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nottin ta F#@! wit! Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nottin ta F#@! wit! Comic book nerds ain’t nottin ta F#@! wit! That’s right all you “DTC” fans out there, the one and only Wu-Tang Clan has officially touched down on our main stage, and they bring with them the nerd mentality. If you are going to mention pioneers of Hip-Hop it would be shameful not to bring in the Wu. Similar to how Spider-Man has been a monumental character in the Marvel Universe, comic books, and our hearts. It’s is no surprise that Hip-Hop has been a culture and pretty much a religion in the black culture, however, many may not realize that Spider-Man has meant a great deal to the black community as well. “What? How can that be? How is this nerdy white guy going to mean anything to black culture?” My guess is that these were some of the thoughts that paraded in your mind after I so bravely typed that sentence.

First off, Peter Parker comes from one of the birthplaces of Hip-Hop culture, Queens, New York. There have been countless rappers to come out of that neighborhood to find success such as: Nas, 50 Cent,  Marley Marl, and Pharoahe Monch. So right from the start, that parallel and that connection allows Hip-Hop fans to feel a little tingle in the back of their heads. Still to this day, African-Americans struggle, suffer, and have to continually faced discrimination coming from all angles in life. Housing markets, job opportunities, resources, opportunities, and especially the media. I may sound preachy to some, and come off as “hating white people” but that is not the case. I am all about inclusion, and I simply want to bring issues to light. Spider-Man means something to young black youth because he IS them; Peter Parker transcends race, being relatable to more than those who just look like him. The media continually portrays Spider-Man as being a menace and a monster that only hurts the city. No matter what he does, no matter how many people Spidey saves a person, no matter if he is set out to improve his community, the media will still only report the damage caused saving hundreds of lives. The media will always talk about how the only reason Electro attacked was because Spider-Man was present in the first place.

The same can be said about the black community. The news would much rather broadcast a murder than the opening of a community center, or a robbery rather than a second chance school for black youth. And this is not limited to the black community, this truth spans through all races, religions, and creeds. If you came from a single parent house hold, and your mom brought home a Spider-Man comic for you, and you read that he also came from a broken home, wouldn’t you feel something? Knowing that this character is feeling what you are feeling, and all the while he was just an average kid, is resonates with many of us. Far too many of us forget the origin stories, and what came before the heroism. Raised in a big city, with no parents at home, living modestly, trying to figure out his position in life yet more than willing to help someone with theirs. My guess is that more than a few people can relate to this. Beyond all this Peter Parker showed a life of possibilities. He is college educated mostly paying out of his own pocket striving for betterment. He showed that there is more out there, and that an awkward kid who constantly deals with loss, and less than favorable circumstances doesn’t have to let that define him. And in addition to that, he made being a nerd cool. He showed you can be smart and strong and regardless of what others think, that won’t change his morals and motivations. In addition to all that, president Obama was featured on the cover and in Amazing Spider-Man 583 (2009). That is both nerdy and bad-ass. I feel that I don’t have to explain that rappers coming out of Queens, or any where else qualify for almost exactly what I’ve said about Spider-Man. Substitute Spider-Man or Nas or 50, the same concepts apply. With The Amazing Spider-Man 2 set to release on May 2nd, you will see the mixture of brains, brawn, courage, and all that other Spidey goodness come together. So remember people “With great power, comes great responsibility.” I have no justified way of tying that quote into this article but I feel like I have to use it, because you know, Spider-Man.

Graphic Novel Review – Incognegro

Graphic Novel Review: Incognegro

ALL BLACK EVERYTHING

Collecting: Original graphic novel, Incognegro

Original Release Date: 2008

Publisher: Vertigo (DC) Comics

incog cracker shit

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

hush_rating_79

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.

incog disguise

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.

incog my job

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.

incog wife

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

Graphic Novel Review – Static Shock: Trials By Fire

Graphic Novel Review: Static Shock – Trial By Fire

ALL BLACK EVERYTHING

CollectingStatic #1-4

Original Release Date: 1993 (collected edition released in 2000)

Publisher: Milestone Media (collected edition published by DC Comics)

photo

Characters: Static/Virgil Hawkins, Holocaust

Writer: Dwayne McDuffie (Milestone Media, Blood SyndicateJustice League: UnlimitedBen 10 TV series)

Artist: John Paul Leon (Earth X)

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

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

hush_rating_84

1993 was a spectacular year. Bill Clinton was in the WhiteHouse, Ice Cube could see his name on the Goodyear Blimp, Toni Morrison got a Nobel Prize and Milestone Media paired with DC Comics.

For those of you unfamiliar with Milestone, I want you to close your eyes, now picture a group of amazing comic book writers and artists,  can you see them? Now imagine they’re Black. Dwayne McDuffie, and Denys Cowan were tired of the minimal representation of African Americans in major comic books, but instead of complaining, they created their own. They immediately flooded the market with multiple titles.  I remember being excited to see so many black heroes on the shelves. To be completely honest, Hardware, Blood Syndicate and Static were the first DC titles I ever purchased.

I instantly loved Static and was thrilled when Sherif asked me to write a review about the first four issues in honor of Black History Month. As a kid, I couldn’t believe there was a character who looked like me in the comics. He wore Spike Lee’s Malcolm X cap, had thick lips and a street confidence Peter Parker just didn’t have.

A young John Soweto rockin' Spike Lee's Malcolm X hat

Pretty soon my brother Aaron began to steal my issues, and I’m sure became a bigger fan than I was. But Static’s popularity wasn’t limited to us. In 2000, the WB picked up the cartoon Static Shock, our hero made appearances in Teen Titans, and of course, add fanboy buzz over the years for Donald Glover to star in a full-length feature film, and you have the makings of legend.

But it all began with Trial By Fire, the first four issues of the series. Enter Virgil Ovid Hawkins, a teen given the power to wield electrostatic energy. He is a meta-human. This new race of super-powered street kids have X-Men like abilities. There are some obvious Marvel storyline similarities.  Static was written as a contemporary Spider-Man. Virgil is a witty do-gooder who is misunderstood and in need of an alter ego to cope with his own self-deprecation. Since Static was written in a single-issue format, the transition between issues feels a lot like watching episodes of a television show as opposed to reading through one, fluid story.

Issue one: “Burning Sensation” gives us a clear idea of who he is and what he stands for, and it certainly doesn’t waste anytime getting to the action. Our electric hero makes short work of goons who plan to kidnap Frieda Goren, a girl he is madly crushing on. At the end of the issue he is confronted by Hotstreak, a street thug with the ability to control fire. He loses the fight and his secret identity is revealed to Frieda. What was, and is, so refreshing about Static is that the dialog doesn’t feel forced. It’s not trying to be cool, because it IS cool.

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Issue two: “Everything But the Girl,” gives us the back-story we were waiting for. Virgil is bullied by a Flash Thompson doppelganger named Biz Money B. After being beaten and publicly humiliated he decides to get a gun to settle the score. He tracks Biz to a Warriors style gang meeting and before he has an opportunity to pull the trigger they are attacked by the authorities with a mysterious toxin. Virgil and others are transformed into meta-humans, capable of performing amazing super-powered feats. He uses his abilities to escape the raid and begins training to master his powers. We learn that Hotstreak is actually Biz Money B and Virgil lost the fight because he is still scared of the hallway bully. By the end of the issue he is able to confront him and gain the attention of a mysterious super villain.

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Issue Three: “Pounding The Pavement” starts with a bang. Static has earned some cred in tha hood and now a bad guy named Tarmack is looking for him.  They have an epic showdown in a parking lot and Static proves that he can overpower and out-wit his adversaries. The issue ends with a crossover cliffhanger and we are introduced to Holocaust from The Blood Syndicate.

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Issue Four: “Playing With Fire” starts by teaming our hero up with the vigilante Holocaust. Static plays flunky and  roughs up some gangsters for the villain. When he goes to see Frieda afterward he finds her with his best friend Larry. He is crushed. Filled with anger he decides to help Holocaust rip off the mafia to help his mom pay bills. When Holocaust takes the heist to a deadly level, Static steps in to protect a small child. This dissolves their partnership in crime but we get the feeling that their relationship has only just begun.

Static is well written and as the story develops, the art improves. If you are in the mood for 90’s nostalgia you will find plenty of references from Arsenio Hall to Star Trek: The Next Generation.  This comic led a comic book revolution and captured the imagination of every black comic-book head who searched for a hero that looked and sounded like them.

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Written by John Soweto