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.
Name: Joseph Illidge
Profession: Editor, writer
Notable Work: Hardware, Birds of Prey (comics and TV), Batman: No Man’s Land, Justice 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.
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.
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.
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