Monday, February 03, 2014

Black Geek Stockholm Syndrome... It's real...


Stockholm syndrome

noun Psychiatry.
an emotional attachment to a captor formed by a hostage as a result of 
continuous stressdependence, and a need to cooperate for survival.

Contrary to what many people in the geekscape believe, there's a very, very large population of Black geeks in the U.S. and abroad. There are roughly three generations of Black media consumers who've grown up with a steady diet of Star Trek, Star Wars, BSG, video games, Marvel and DC Comics, D&D role playing modules and novels, Shaw Bros. Kung-Fu flicks, Japanese animation, Asian monster cinema, old school science-fiction and fantasy literature and the smorgasbord of speculative TV programming of the last 50 years. 

Geoffrey Thorne

In a "classic" episode of my WRITING FOR ROOKIES podcast - Star Trek: Titan author Geoffrey Thorne muses that the explosion in Black geek fandom and creators is a direct result of the boom of middle class Black communities of the 1960s - 1980s. 

Kevin Grevioux

This idea is substantiated by UNDERWORLD franchise co-creator Kevin Grevioux who believes that the lack of Black sci-fi creators in Hollywood is because the Black lower class is more concerned with survival and therefore does not have the time to invest in imagination cultivation and unreliable creative career paths. 

They are both correct - although I disagree slightly with Kevin's assessment about the lack of Black sci-fi creators. The truth is that there are PLENTY of Black sci-fi creators, the problem is Black geeks refuse to support them. 

Before anyone gets all riled up, understand this: WE (as in Black sci-fi creators) don't have the marketing budget of Marvel, DC, Sony, Warner Bros., Disney, Universal, Paramount, Microsoft, Nintendo, Harper/Collins, Scholastic or any of the ubiquitous media giants in the pop culture landscape. 

Simply put - people don't know we exist. Not just Black folks, but most people don't know we exist. Many of us hustle and hype ourselves to the point of exhaustion only to move the needle of awareness one millimeter away from obscurity but that's not enough to sustain a creative career. 

However, let's say we do manage to get people to pay attention to us, let's say we get some media coverage and are blessed with a review on television or on a popular blog or news site, let's say a major newspaper decides to go with a profile on our careers. Suddenly we're not obscure or anonymous and yet, the social media chatter remains quiet from our so-called brothers and sisters of geekdom. 

I'm going to steer this conversation toward the comic book industry because it's a microcosm of the issues plaguing Black creators everywhere. 

Over the last few years, there's been a slew of articles regarding the lack of Black writers at Marvel and DC Comics. The article that triggered the latest wave of indignation was published in June of 2012 from the BLEEDING COOL website that analyzed the hiring practices of Marvel and DC. 

The combined percentage of Black writers at Marvel and DC? 

2.4% 

Yep. 

2.4% 

I was willing to give them the benefit of statistical deviation in surveys and say that the number might be closer to 3%. 

To be fair, that was in June of 2012. As of this writing, I believe Marvel has 1 Black writer and DC has none (but I could be wrong about that). 

There was a deluge of anger and frustration. Black geeks complained louder than they ever did before. 

Now here's the kicker: Black geeks will complain and whine and bitch and moan 24/7/365 about the lack of Black writers at Marvel and DC. 

Black geeks will whine and complain about how poorly a Black character was written at Marvel and DC. 

They will bellyache about how there aren't any solo books featuring Black characters at Marvel and DC. 

They engage in long, pointless and ultimately stupid online debates about "who'd win ______ vs. ______" or post endless threads about who'd they cast in the (possibly) upcoming Black Panther movie. 

The inherent tragedy in all of this is that Black creators are already making the stuff these geeks wish to see. We have incredible Black superheroes, or Black-created fantasy worlds, or Black-crafted future societies and Black filmmakers making cool short films about their universes. 

But you don't have to take my word for it, you can see it for yourself...



and 


But Black geeks won't give indie Black comic books a chance. They won't (or can't) seem to understand that the only way a Black writer will ever end up at Marvel or DC is if they are supported by a fanbase. 

You see, we don't get the coverage from popular bloggers and comics news sites that other guys do. You can run a poll with a bunch of Black creators and they will tell you how many times their emails go unanswered or if they meet a reporter in person and exchange cards, they'll never hear from that reporter again. 

What a lot of Black geeks fail to understand is that all the "known" comic book writers of the last 20 years were hyped to death by Wizard Magazine



How many writers were propped up by Wizard? Let's see: Kurt Busiek, Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis, Mark Waid, Mark Millar, Brian Michael Bendis, Brian Azzarello, Joe Casey, Joe Kelly, James Robinson, Jimmy Palmiotti, Kevin Smith, Neil Gaiman, Robert Kirkman, Brian Wood, Brian K. Vaughn, Scott Lobdell, Geoff Johns, Judd Winnick, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Brad Meltzer and to a lesser extent Gail Simone and Devin Grayson. 

For almost two decades straight, every issue of Wizard Magazine reminded you who these creators were, what they were working on, where they came from, what they looked like and why you should support them. I'm not saying the coverage was undeserved, because most of the folks there are incredibly talented, but imagine what would happen if we had the same kind of light shined on our careers? 

As a side note, there are two important names missing: Dwayne McDuffie and Christopher Priest. But that's another story. :) 

Some Black geeks go out of their way to ignore or minimize our participation in the industry. They won't share or "like" or comment on Facebook posts regarding our work - no matter how many times you "tag" them or flat out ask them to share the information. 

Their Facebook feeds are cluttered with movie and TV trailers of some mainstream blockbuster thing that doesn't need them boosting the signal. Their pages choked with memes and quizzes regarding Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones or the Avengers or the Superman/Batman movie (please shut the fuck up about Ben Affleck - he doesn't give a shit about your whining and neither do the people who actually make the fucking movies). 

Blackwolf the "Dragonmaster" - Yea, there's a lot of folks out there like this.

Thousands of sycophantic threads begging for a Black Lightning toy or Luke Cage animated series or a Static Shock board game... nothing but perpetual dependency on those who simply don't care about what you want. 

These same Black geeks have every excuse in the world for not supporting indie Black titles: 

1) I don't know who these characters are (because apparently, you were born aware of Superman and Captain America). 
2) I don't like reading ghetto stories (massive assumption, but they make this assumption without actually LOOKING at the titles). 
3) I don't want to read books with African imagery (a form of self-hate, most mainstream comics reflect unabashed Eurocentric tropes and values, but this doesn't offend them). 
4) I only have enough money to buy the books I already like (fair enough, but it costs nothing to thumb through the book if you see it at a convention or on the shelves of a comics shop). 
5) Black indie comics are lower quality (true, some are, but most aren't, again this is an assumption - how many Marvel or DC titles are low quality yet you still throw money at them month after month). 

I could go on, but that would only serve to frustrate me and belabor the point. 

There exists a Stockholm Syndrome with Black geeks. Their captors? The mainstream (usually White) genre creators. The Marvels, the DCs, the Robert Kirkmans, the George Lucases, the Disneys, the Biowares, the Bungies, the EAs, the Stephanie Meyers, the R.A. Salvatores, the Rick Riordans, the J.K. Rowlings, the Miyazakis, the Otomos, the Suzanne Collins and Steven Moffats of the industry. 

Ask them about Black video game designers... *crickets*
Some Black geeks swear their fealty to the Kingdom of Everything Not-Black while crossing their arms in protest at the lack of blackness within said kingdom. Over time, they slowly realize that their rulers aren't concerned in the least with their expectations of representation and grow resentful. The Stockholm Syndrome kicks in when they continue to support their rulers instead of simply turning their head to the left to see the vast riches we've laid out for them to claim. 

These Black geeks prefer serfdom rather than become warrior-explorers in support of their own images in entertainment. They'd much rather read about White warrior-explorers instead. 

So what's the solution? 

It's not complicated. If we could reach out to those willing to support us and ask them kindly to share our work on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram, it could go a long way in simply increasing the AWARENESS of our careers. No one is asking you to post links to Amazon or to purchase our work directly, but posting covers, web-banners, comics pages and interviews creates a domino effect of interest. 

When people other than the creator of a property shares his/her work in social media, it feels less like huckstering and more like legitimate fandom being built from scratch. 

I don't believe the Stockholm Syndrome crowd realize how much damage they do by ignoring our work. Their relentless pursuit of mainstream geekdom is ultimately self-defeating because they are building the bricks of someone else's empire. An empire arrogantly prospering off of a loyalty they never wanted from a people they don't even care to acknowledge. 

Black Geek Stockholm Syndrome indeed. 

B. 

8 comments:

Emanuel Stone said...

INDEED!!!!

Daniel Iyageh said...

Impressive and interesting.

Daniel Iyageh said...

Impressive and interesting.

Mel Wheezy said...

Excellent read man i totally agree , and to some extent ive been somewhat guilty but no more! Thanks for bringing this to my consciousness.

Melwheezy

Sam said...

Thanks for verifying that I'm not the only one seeing and feeling this!

Anthony said...

Right on.

thchillz said...

I've wondered this myself when finding many black women marketing white male authors all the time. Yet seeing their complaints about the lack of characters of color. With a careful eye you'll find many of them claiming to be nerds or geeks(code names for feminists perhaps?)
There are black men like this as well. Could they have ties with the industry? It's a war out there brothers. We must support "our own" work.

luke jones said...

This is the stupidest article I've ever read. So Black people are not allowed to like comics/scifi/fantasy from other races? That is retarded. Folks like you are what's holding the Black community back. You Hoteps are pathetic.