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Good Creator vs. a Black Creator pt 2

Posted On Thursday, November 17, 2011

So with the disappointment of the narrow voice black comics held, seemingly unable to create something new or NON-stereotypical, I shifted my focus BACK to comics, in general. It wasn't a hard transition as the general mainstream, was what brought me into the form in the first place -- PLUS, if there was an absolute need to connect my ethnicity to it, there was a ripe cache of characters to fit the bill: Steel, Bishop, Maggot, Shard, etc...

But my specific focus was on developing my artistic STYLE. That was definitely something that stuck from fanning over Stroman's work -- he had a specific style and at that time, I was becoming more aware of what that meant, not just in being able to determine WHO did the specific art, but the beginnings of gleaning why it worked or didn't work. So bring on Roger Cruz, Humberto Ramos (Crimson-era when he had a little more reserve in his work), Joe Madueria, Chris Sprouse, Dan Jurgens, John Romita, Jr. and more...I wanted to grow as an artist and picking apart the talents of these superstars seemed to be the best start. It also didn't hurt enrolling at Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center, an alternative high school with a focus on the visual and performing arts. And that's where things took an amazing LEAP forward.

Forgive my fuzzy memory, as I can't quite remember how we found out about it, but in Shot Tower, our main art building (the school was essentially a campus with 5 separate buildings) there was a working gallery that would house various exhibits throughout the year. On this particular occasion during my freshman year, they were showcasing the work of the school's alumni and sitting right there, just as appreciated as Expressionist paintings and life-model illustrations was the work of comic artist, Darryl Banks! Like I said, I don't remember all the details, but I can tell you there were MANY lunch periods skipped with me just STARING at his work.

I mean, this was the first time I had even SEEN live comic book art! Sure there were the occasional sketches in comic magazines or as promotions in upcoming series (like the Fatal Attractions ads for the 30th anniversary of Uncanny X-Men), but never before had I seen the original works -- able to understand the use of the Blueline board and its myriad of lines. And more than that -- he was GOOD! I mean, REALLY GOOD! Great line work, establishing shadows, moving the eye along the page, capturing emotions in body language and facial expressions. Instantly and without question, I became a fan. He carried textbook draftsmanship with a creative flair, he was black (which I think I was told prior to meeting him) AND with that, he didn't pigeonhole himself into doing BLACK COMICS, with a healthy resume of mainstream titles. But more than all that -- he was tangible. I had never been to a convention at this point, so Darryl was truly the FIRST professional comic artist I had ever met.

I think I bought every piece of work I could find with Darryl's name on it! Even the Christoper Hart drawing kit he worked on (and I still have)! He became a mentor, guide and hero, however subtly over the next few years, taking a role I had kind of loss with the passing of my uncle. Though I didn't directly study under him or anything, he influenced my art and creative thinking and made me one of the coolest kids in college when he visited and showed that he knew me. It was in reference to Darryl that I wrote this article, when a friend of mine asked if I was allowing for myself to be the possible mentor for others that Darryl became to me. He pointed out that there are so few blacks in the comic community and fewer still that have attained true notoriety for their work and that maybe, with even the nominal success I've achieved, I could sort of represent this new faction of black creators to young artists who, like me at one time, had no clue as to how many of "us" there are.

So, both in honor of my friend (Danny Cooper of Mutant Cactus, btw), Darryl Banks, ALL of the black creators who came before me and those I hope to inspire -- I will no longer SIMPLY aim to be a good creator, but I will also celebrate being a black one. It doesn't mean that I have to make black comics, featuring ALL/MAJORITY-black characters (The Trouble w/Love, Spectrum), but it doesn't mean I can't either (The Samaritan, Hotshot). What it specifically means is I can create whatever comic I want and that ideally, anyone and everyone can enjoy them.

Thanks for reading...!

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