Don’t tell anyone, but when I was in junior high I got the gift of a lifetime; someone else’s well curated comic book collection. I’m talking over a thousand Silver, Bronze, and Copper Age comics – delivered right into my parent’s garage by a family friend I never thanked and have only seen once in 35 years.
“There’s like a million boxes in the garage,” Mom said nonchalantly that morning, as if my whole life didn’t just change. I peaked inside on my way to school, grabbed a stack of who-knows-what, and headed to the bus-stop. I’d get motion-sick reading those in transit, so I had to wait until lunchtime. There, in the A/V room, while I shone an old filmstrip of Support Your Local Sheriff to an auditorium of restless kids, I leafed through a small sampling of what awaited me at home; about twenty issues of John Byrne era X-Men.
Yeah, I was an A/V monitor. Wanna make something of it? Can you think of a better way to get out of Gym?
Anyway, I was all alone in that projection booth, flipping through page after page of mutant glory. The only happier kid in school was secretly humping our hot Chemistry teacher. Or so he said.
I was never the best student, and there was zero chance of me concentrating in class that day. So I did what any re-blooded American kid would do – I delayed my gratification until the 3pm bell to ensure a deeper more enduring reward at the end of the day.
Yeah right!! I faked being sick after lunch and got my ass to the Nurse’s office.
“Can you call my Mom? I think I’m gonna throw up,” I said, with a practiced painful expression I used several times a year.
When Mom picked me up, she was rightfully suspicious. Still, I wasn’t up for feigning sickness. I wanted to rummage through those comics in the garage, not lay in bed all day. Any lie I told Mom had to allow me free run of the house.
“I’m OK, Ma,” I said in the car ride home. “I was embarrassed to tell the Nurse the real reason I wanted to go home. I fell on my balls. It was killing me about an hour ago but it’s already feeling better.”
Thus ended that conversation.
Every time I smell an old musty comic book I go right back to that moment.
I don’t know if I can adequately convey the joy of discovery I felt opening those cardboard boxes and riffling through issue after issue of comics from the seventies and eighties. There were even some from the sixties. Every time I smell an old musty comic book I go right back to that moment. It was a dream come true. So many important issues, too. Lots of number ones. The condition wasn’t always mint, but I wasn’t interested in that back then, although within a few months I had bagged each one.
In the early 80’s I was already in love with John Byrne’s work on Fantastic Four and Alpha Flight. There was something about his style that spoke to me – and I wasn’t alone. He was the most popular comic artist of the era with a reputation for getting good work done fast. I heard he was a little difficult, but so are most great artists. For me, that was part of the appeal. I even bought the book The Art of John Byrne and would pour over each page for days on end. Those sketches and doodles filled my imagination with fantasy.
Cut to a few months ago.
“Hey Ma, remember when that guy gave me all those comics years ago?”
“I’m starting to think these may have been stolen or something.”
“You’re just realizing this now?” she asked.
“Wait, you knew he stole them?”
“I have no idea where he got them. He said a comic shop closed.”
“Yeah, that doesn’t make sense.”
“I know,” she said.
“Ugh, I hate to think someone out there misses these.”
“Whoever it was they’re probably dead.”
“That’s nice, Mom. Also, just so you know, I didn’t really hurt my balls that day.”
When I got all those comics I was re-introduced to Byrne in a much more comprehensive way. It was something of a crash course. While it lacked his earliest work with Charlton Comics, there were full or semi-complete runs of some of Byrne’s best work throughout his career. I’m talking Uncanny X-Men, Iron Fist, The Untold Legend of Batman, Avengers, and plenty of back-issue Fantastic Four, The Champions, Marvel Team-Ups, Marvel Preview, you name it. I became spoiled and devoured it all. You could say I became obsessed, buying anything the man was involved in for most of the next thirty odd years. Even his Stephen King-like horror novel Fear Book. I still keep up with Byrne. If he’s working on something, I wanna see it. He’s the Elvis Costello of comics.
He’s the Elvis Costello of comics.
So, there’s no real point to this article other than to tell the story. Maybe some of you are jealous. I know I would be. Maybe some of you are angry. I can understand that, too. I spent some time looking into stolen comics but nothing I’ve researched points to my collection, thankfully. Even if it did, I’m not sure how I would react.
To whomever owned these comics before me, know that they are in good hands, well kept, and appreciated beyond measure. I’ll do everything I can to pay it forward at the end of my life, perhaps leaving the lot to an underprivileged child somewhere. I know just how that kid will feel getting all these books at once.
Comic Fans: Geek out with Cartoonist Kayfabe
Comics have come a long way since they were just for kids – and anyway, those kids have grown up and rightfully embrace it as an artform. Cartoonish Kayfabe expertly walk you through the finer points of comic creation and appreciation, referencing some high quality images along the way. If you’re a comic geek, you will dig it – especially if you’re into 90’s era and independent comics.
Chadwick Boseman Forever!!
It is clear that Chadwick Boseman chose iconic roles like Thurgood Marshall, James Brown, Jackie Robinson and Black Panther with deliberate intent and for a specific purpose. In an age where positive roles for Black actors is often sparse, Chadwick managed to land and portray historical figures that made most respect his talents if not revel in his ability to transition effortlessly for one character to another. Even I had to give his African accent a solid B+ (It’s the highest grade the Nigerian Standards Bureau can give for an African accent to a non African FYI.)
Holding out and preparing for these dynamic roles came with both great frustration and incredible resolve I’m certain. Not to mention the taxing ordeal of battling Colon Cancer as the grueling scheduling of filming and increasing responsibility for positive representation loomed. Even under extreme duress, Chadwick’s commitment to others appeared to outweigh his own tribulations, unbeknownst to us all.
Black Panther may have been just a movie to some and that may be because some can easily rattle off 10 movies with a king of non Af-Am origin. It represented a lot more to others. Albeit imagined, imagery on cinema often accomplishes more to augment the social narrative and society itself than actual reality. If negative stereotypes influence perception then positive ones absolutely have the same converse effect.
Even in jest, the cultural misappropriation of raisins in potato salad on SNL skits directly spoke to the tampering of black culture to which T’challa championed, represented and aptly responded “Oh hell Nah Karen!”
If you don’t understand the relevance of representation, it’s probably because you are thoroughly represented. After all, no one is ever grateful for every breath they take until they are gasping for air.
R.I.P Chadwick Boseman. Thank you for breathing life into the possibility of Black excellence.
10 Easter Eggs of Segregation in Lovecraft Country Episode 1
We’re all familiar with movies hiding easter eggs throughout their films sending winks and nods to pop-culture references. Sometimes it will be a tip-of-the-cap to an author, actor, or creator. Sometimes it is paying homage to an inspiring series, book, or film that’s near and dear to the director’s heart. This week I’ve seen a first. A T.V. series that has several easter eggs depicting segregation and oppression that only eagle-eyed aficionado’s of the black struggle might have caught on to.
Lovecraft Country is littered with important details that would fly over many people’s heads, and as I watched it again, I caught more nods to the true oppression of many African-Americans during the post-World War II era.
As a film buff, nothing makes me happier than watching a review, breakdown, or hidden easter egg video on a TV show I enjoy. Yesterday I did the same with Lovecraft Country, and while many of the melanin-deficient reviewers on youtube touched on the themes of literature, horror, and fantasy, many understandably missed some of the most important historical references.
Here are 10 Easter Eggs of Segregation in Lovecraft Country Episode 1.
1. H.P. Lovecraft’s little poem.
While we all know H.P. Lovecraft as an innovator of modern horror, fiction, and fantasy in literature, many people (including myself) didn’t know about a poem he wrote that spoke horribly about African Americans. Lovecraft Country alludes to the poem, but never recites it. Once they mentioned the title, I went straight to my Google Search. Below is the poem called: On the Creation of N*****s (1912)
When, long ago, the gods created Earth
In Jove’s fair image Man was shaped at birth.
The beasts for lesser parts were next designed;
Yet were they too remote from humankind.
To fill the gap, and join the rest to Man,
Th’Olympian host conceived a clever plan.
A beast they wrought, in semi-human figure,
Filled it with vice, and called the thing a N****r.
I’m sure Jackie Robinson beating the S**T out of Cthulhu at the beginning of the episode was a collective middle finger from the black community to Mr. Lovecraft.
2. Seating for Black People
While this may not come as a surprise to many of you, a lot of people are ignorant to the fact that, yes, black people were made to sit in the back of the bus. Many know the story of Rosa Parks’ defining moment, but for decades this was the way of life for black people. Where insult to injury is predicated in the show is when the bus breaks down and the bus driver gets a local pick-up truck driver to ride the stranded passengers into the city. Immediately in the next scene, the only two black passengers were seen walking down the road into Chicago.
3. Propaganda for the Negro Soldier
In Lovecraft Country, the above poster is not shown in this episode, but instead, it’s a black soldier telling other young black men that if they enlist, they can see the world. While Atticus walks by the soldier, there’s a glance of recognition as if Atticus was once one of those impressionable young men, and he knows their being lied to. Black men had to be enticed to enlist by different methods than whites because it was hard to show patriotism to a country that still to that day had kept them oppressed. So, they would show a poster of Joe Louis joining the fight…why don’t you? Get to see the world! Little did they know seeing the world would involve PTSD, death, and despair.
4. The Negro Motorist Greenbook
The synopsis according to IMDB.com is: “Lovecraft Country follows Atticus Black as he joins up with his friend Letitia and his Uncle George to embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father.” While this is true, it’s not the whole story. Why are they embarking on this trip? It’s to help update what many people may know as, The Negro Motorist Greenbook. Yup, just like the movie, The Greenbook. If you don’t know, this book was originated by Victor Hugo Green as a travel bible for African Americans. It provided details of safe roads to travel, places for food, repairs, and lodging where they wouldn’t be turned away or even worse, assaulted.
5. James Baldwin’s monologue on racial divide
During one of the scenes in Lovecraft Country, we see a montage of our protagonist’s road trip. In the montage we see different moments where they face discrimination, others facing discrimination, and the hardships of ignorant people with all the privilege in the world monopolizing on their entitlements. Usually, during movie montages, a composer would play a score to envoke emotions during the collection of scenes. Lovecraft Country went in a different direction. Instead, they played the monologue of James Baldwin’s renowned speech at Cambridge University where he debated with William Buckley on the subject of the United States racial divide. James Baldwin was a brilliant playwright, novelist, speaker, and activist that eloquently described the plight of the black man as it still stands today. Merged with the scenes during the montage, it speaks volumes about the state of America.
6. Ice Cream stand Scene
In one of the scenes in the montage, we see a black man and his children waiting at an ice cream stand for service. Right over them is a sign that says “colored” and on the other side of the stand is a group of white people with ice cream being tended to by the servers. This scene looked extremely familiar to me. When I did some research, I realized this scene was based on a famous photograph by Gordon Parks, photographer and journalist who well-documented scenes of the segregation and civil rights era. Years ago I saw his work in its full brilliant quality at the High Museum in Atlanta. The color and detail brought a realism that a black-and-white photo could never do. It made this a real thing.
7. Mother and daughter under the neon sign
This scene once again pays homage to another photograph by Gordon Parks. A mother and her daughter dressed elegantly as if they were going to church, standing under a large neon sign that says ‘Colored Entrance’.
8. The billboard across from the gas station
While Atticus and company are at a gas station filling up their car, they are approached by a gas station attendant pretending to be a gorilla to mock them. Leticia holds Atticus back from approaching the man as the attendant intensifies his ignorant behavior and she forces Atticus into the car. As they pull off, you can see a Billboard for Aunt Jemima in the background. Aunt Jemima has always been a misrepresentation of black culture through the lens of the white man and advertised to his fellow man as the overall perception of black people. The image of Aunt Jemima is a source reflection of the learned behavior of the gas station attendant.
9. Sundown towns
Two years ago was the first time I’ve ever heard of a Sundown Town. No, not through a history book, but as a warning about staying too late in a little town in Texas that exists today! If I didn’t hear about this first hand, I would’ve thought it was a theme of the past, but no. There are currently county’s that do not condemn the abuse of black people once the sun goes down! While the billboard here might be a relic from the past, Sundown Towns are definitely alive and well across America!
10. White walls
Not only is this one telling, but it also holds all kinds of subliminal messages. While the group finds a Green book safe haven for dining called Lydia’s, they are surprised to find the restaurant is now called, Simmonsville Dinette. Still, they walk in and are greeted by unwelcoming faces. While the server goes to the back for what seems like their coffee orders, Atticus realizes that the walls are painted white. He asks his uncle to remind him why the white house was white. His uncle tells him about the war of 1812 when British soldiers torched it and when slaves were tasked to rebuild it, they had to paint it white to cover up the burn marks. This tells us two things. Lydia’s restaurant was burnt down and rebuilt by trespassers (obviously for being a safe haven for blacks in this all-white town) and the blackness of this restaurant was erased and covered up by the ‘white’ paint. My goodness, I could go on and on about this one!
I was expecting this series to be littered with easter eggs, but knowing they have incorporated easter eggs specifically about the black movement and struggles has me fired up to see what else is in store for these characters. Did you see any easter eggs that I missed? Comment and let me know.
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