Is Marvel Making A Mistake By Not Re-Issuing Truth: Red, White & Black in Conjunction With The Falcon and the Winter Soldier?

Marvel’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has received plenty of praise—and justifiably so—for addressing the issue of racism in America. It is rare for a mainstream, popular television show to deal seriously with social issues, especially within the comics or action-adventure genre (Watchmen is a notable exception as well). The show looks both at the issue from both a macro perspective, with its discussion of whether the United States is ready for a black Captain America, and a micro level, with touching personal scenes, such as the Wilson family’s struggle to get a loan. It has dealt with the issue from both a historical perspective (addressing medical experiments on black prisoners) as well as a current-events perspective (Sam’s encounter with police in Baltimore), but perhaps the most compelling storyline in this vein is the story of Isaiah Bradley, the first black Captain America.

After seeing the second episode of the series, I immediately looked up the comics in which Isaiah Bradley first appears. That research led me to the miniseries: Truth: Red, White & Black (Morales/Baker). I had not known about the series previously, which isn’t surprising since, for a while now, I’ve most of my comics as a trade paperback, and, as of right now, there is no trade paperback—or any print version of the comics—currently available.

I believe Marvel Comics is making a mistake by not releasing Truth: Red, White, & Black as a trade paperback. I can’t be the only one interested in reading it, after seeing the Isaiah Bradley character on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. I stopped by my local comics shop today and asked for it, and they said it wasn’t issued as a trade, and that obtaining the single issues would be “very expensive.” A quick search on eBay revealed I would have to spend a minimum of $100 dollars to purchase a complete, readable set. Now, there is an electronic version available on Amazon for kindle, but I prefer to read comics on paper, and I know I’m not the only one.

Given the popularity of the show, as well as the current events of the day, I would assume that a miniseries about the first black Captain America with a tie in to a current, popular show would do very well. I would pay 20 bucks to read it. I’m interested in the concept, as well as in the plot point when Bradley encounters the medical experiments the Nazi’s performed on Jews (mentioned in the plot summary). As a person of Jewish descent, that type of storyline is one that I not only find interesting, but with which I empathize. I also believe that many Americans who might not have been taught about the US government’s experiments on black prisoners have been taught about the atrocities of the holocaust, and that this story line would help them empathize as well. It seems like a great teaching opportunity, and a great choice by the creative team, one that can show how comics can be used as medium to address serious issues and affect social change.

I am not in position, however to spend 100+ dollars on a comics series, much less on one by a creative team whom I’ve never read.

The decision not to release a print edition—and not to market the digital version—is even more puzzling considering that with proper marketing, Marvel could, most likely make money of the rerelease. The story sounds compelling; it’s tied in to a popular, current show, and it deals with a character about whom many fans probably want to know more. Moreover, it would allow people to further explore the important issues raised by the show, and direct them back to the source material, get fans of comic book-based properties to read actual comic books. I can’t be the only one, right?  

What am I missing?


Go to the links page to read some of my published writing, and follow me on twitter, instagram and facebook.

Comic Book School Presents: Creator Connections, Panel 1 Wins Anthology of the Year in the Independent Creator Awards

I am thrilled and honored to announce that the Comic Book School Presents: Creator Connections, Panel 1 Anthology, which I coedited along with Dee Alley, recently won “Anthology of the Year” at the Independent Creator Awards. The comics and flash fiction anthology, which is available for free download on the Comic Book School web site, also includes two pieces which I wrote, Mr. Stupendous, a comics story illustrated by Arielle Lupkin, and The Duel, illustrated by Mike Ponce.

In addition, one of the other short stories, Ragnarok Comes, written by Kris Burgos and Illustrated by JP Vilches, won the awards for best one-off comics short.

You can read official Comic Book School Press release below, which includes information about signing up for the second annual 8-Page Challenge, which will lead to the publication of our second comics and flash fiction anthology.

Comic Book School Takes Home Multiple Independent Creator Awards

The Indie Comics Community honored the creators of Comic Book School with multiple Independent Creator Awards, including Best Anthology and Best Short Story/One Shot.  Comic Book School congratulates the creators who contributed to the Creator Connections, Panel 1 anthology—especially writer Kris Burgos and artist J. P. Vilchis for their victory for short story Ragnarok Come—and thanks the members of the independent comics community for supporting the anthology with their votes.

The award-winning anthology can be downloaded for free on the Comic Book School website.

“This shows what people can do when they work together, support each other, and focus on what they want to accomplish,” Buddy Scalera, the founder of Comic Book School and the anthology’s publisher, said. “The work in the anthology speaks for itself, and we are honored that it has been recognized by our peers in the indie comics community.”

“The award is validation for me,” said Kris Burgos, who wrote Ragnarok Comes. “After years of telling stories, it’s good to know people are listening and enjoying them. I also know I’m not completely crazy telling stories to myself and having hundreds of characters conversations in my head.”

The anthology was the culmination of the “8-Page Challenge” from Comic Book School, in which creators were challenged to create 8-page comics stories from start-to-finish over the course of a year. They were mentored through the challenge by Scalera and industry pros from his network, as well as through a peer-review process on the Comic Book School Forums. 

“The one-year anthology curriculum represents an educational journey 20 years in the making,” Scalera said. “The experience has made us better comics creators and has strengthened our professional networks. It is a natural extension of the Creator Connections panel, and builds on our vision to help people learn the craft and business of making comics.”

The Independent Creator Awards are given annually by Comic Book Advocates to honor the best creators and creations in the independent comics world in four broad categories: Art, Crowdfunding, Words, and Creation. This year, the awards were determined by popular vote among members of the independent comics world in a series of polls posted in a private Facebook group from the beginning of the year through March 14.  

“The awards were put together to celebrate the spirit of indie creation,” said Rob Andersin, indie comics advocate and creator of The Independent Comics Awards. “The tenacity and courage of indie creators should be celebrated. While awards may sound silly to some, the ability to be seen during awards season has led people to collaboration—and yes, a little competitiveness—that all leads to more shine on all independent creators when people see what we have to offer after a year of hard work.”

Despite the recognition, the creators of the Comic Book School community are not resting on their laurels. The second annual 8-page challenge is currently underway. Interested creators can join the challenge by visiting the Comic Book School Forums at https://create.comicbookschool.com/forums/forum/8-page-challenge-2/ .

Join the Second Annual Comic Book School 8 Page Challenge

Over the last year, I’ve written extensively about my participation in the Comic Book School 8 Page Challenge. I wrote a comics story and flash fiction story for last year’s anthology, and edited the flash fiction section. This year, I will be co-editing the book and, hopefully, contributing two stories again. I welcome all writers and artists to participate in the challenge, which is starting now. Follow the link below for all the relevant information.

https://www.comicbookschool.com/creative-prompt-8-pg-challenge-2/

My Interview on The Nerds of the Round

Check out my recent interview on The Nerds of the Round Podcast where I talk about my current projects, including Under New Suns (Skullgate Media), the Comic Book School Panel 1 anthology, At The Festival, my one-act play at Black Horse Review, and how my martial arts practice affects my writing. Oh, and that’s me riding a space-shark. What’s a space-shark? You’re going to have to listen or watch to find out.

You can watch on youtube, or listen here:

It’s a longer interview, but you’ll miss my wild hand gesticulations.

On the Flash Fiction Selections in the Comic Book School Presents: Creator Connection, Panel 1 Anthology

Comic Book School Presents: Creator Connection, Panel 1 was recently released on the Comic Book School website for free download. Not only do I have two pieces in the anthology, a comics story illustrated by Arielle Lupkin and a flash fiction story, illustrated by Mike Ponce, but I also served as the prose editor for the book. As such, I wrote an introduction for the flash fiction section, which I have posted in its entirety below.

You can download the anthology here.

Flash Fiction Editor’s Introduction: Why Are There Flash Fiction Pieces in a Comic Book Anthology?

Words and pictures have been intimately connected since human beings began telling stories. As many comics pros have been quick to point out, some of the earliest recorded stories—painted on the caves of France and Indonesia approximately 44,000 years ago, were, essentially, sequential storytelling art. To use a more modern word, comics.

But the history of words and pictures complementing each other is not exclusive to comics or sequential art. From the illuminated manuscripts of the middle ages, to the literati paintings of the Ming and Qing dynasties, to Gustave Dore’s unforgettable woodcuts for Dante’s Inferno and Coleridge’s Rime of The Ancient Mariner, images and text enhanced and illuminated each other even in the most serious literature. Some of the world’s greatest artists, such as Edouard Manet (Poe’s The Raven) and Eugene Delacroix (Goethe’s Faust) illustrated editions of some of the great literature of the 19th Century. Charles Dickens, arguably the greatest novelist ever, worked closely with illustrators on all but two of his novels.

It is only during the 20th Century that illustrated writing—at least for adults—was banished to the funny books and science fiction pulps. Why did this happen? The most common answer is that readers’ tastes, led by literary critics who felt that illustrations placed a barrier between the reader and their experience of the text, changed. A more cynical analysis suggests that as books became widely available, they were produced cheaply for the mass market. Art costs money, and pocket-sized, inexpensively-printed, paperbacks are not the best format for presenting illustrations anyway. Either way, by the second half of the 20th Century illustrated prose, with a few notable exceptions like Hunter S. Thompson’s creative non-fiction, was exceptionally rare.

These days, however, things are changing. We live in a world where illustrated literature is respectable once again. Watchmen appeared on many “Best Novels of the Last 100 Years” lists, and many younger readers are more likely to remember reading a graphic novel for class than one of their teachers confiscating a comic book which they read, surreptitiously, inside the book that they were supposed to be reading. Hollywood has mined the pages of graphic literature to create some of the most popular movies and television programs of our time, bringing the genre out of the counterculture and into the mainstream.  At the same time, ebooks (like this one) are now the least expensive form of publication, and have eliminated the cost-related concerns associated with printing illustrations. Still, with the exception of young adult literature, pictures in prose books are still not as popular as they used to be.

They are, however, making a comeback. Many literary journals print art to accompany their selections. Interest in books as art objects, which often contain fancy, illustrated book plates, have become more popular, as well.

It is into this changing landscape that Comic Book School presents the creators who completed the Flash Fiction Challenge. Inspired equally by the classics mentioned above, the old pulp magazines, and early Ray Bradbury short story collections that drew on both traditions, writers and artists from our online community were challenged to create stories that married one page of prose with a single, full-page illustration.

The results speak for themselves. From D. Alley, who like William Blake, wrote and illustrated her piece, The Rescue; to George Dawkins II and Philip Burnette, whose powerful prose and black and white illustrations for The Black Knight are reminiscent of the great 19th Century engraved bookplates; to Mike Ponce, the master of backgrounds, who, like Paul Kibdy did with Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, somehow pulled together the surreal genre mash-up with which I presented him in The Duel

In each of these stories, the marriage of art and writing enhances the reader’s experience beyond what either could do on its own. We invite you to join us on the vanguard of this revival.

Please download the anthology (for free),  and to follow me on twitter, instagram, and facebook.

Now Available for Free Download: Comic Book School Presents: Creator Connection, Panel 1 Comics and Flash Fiction Anthology

Today is release day for the Creator Connection, Panel 1, an anthology of comics and flash fiction which you can download for free here. I am super excited to share this book with you, as not only do I have two stories in it–one comic and one flash fiction–but I did a lot of editing work for the book as well.

Creator Connections: Panel 1 is a comics and flash fiction anthology. The anthology, which is the culmination of the 8-Page Challenge issued by Comic Book School after NYCC 2019, is now available to download for free at www.comicbookschool.com/titles/creator-connection-panel-1-anthology/.

Creators in the Comic Book School Community were challenged to create an 8-page comics story—from start-to-finish—over the course of the last year. They were mentored throughout the challenge by Buddy Scalera, the anthology’s publisher and Comic Book School’s dean of students, who wrote a series of blog posts that covered the creative and publishing process of a story that he wrote for Marvel Comics. Additionally, Comic Book School’s network of pros, including Darren Sanchez, Scalera’s editor at Marvel, and Cathy Kirsch (My Writing Hero), a Columbia University creative writing professor, provided support through live-streamed seminars, personal meetings, and forum posts.  

“This anthology turned out better than I’d expected,” Scalera said. “It’s proof that no matter how bad things are (and 2020 was very, very bad) you can still—to quote Neil Gaiman ‘make great art.’”  

The idea of the anthology was conceived during a conversation at New York Comic Con between Scalera and anthology editor Erin Donnalley at the annual Comic Book School Creator Connection panel.

“Buddy challenged me to write an 8-page comic for New York Comic Con 2020,” Donnalley said. “I wrote myself a schedule and sent it to Buddy for accountability. He thought it was great, and asked me to share it with others from the networking events. Thus, the 8-Page Challenge was born.”

“Every year, aspiring creators leave our educational panels with so much enthusiasm,” Scalera added. “We wanted to create something that not only allows them to sustain that enthusiasm, but also to build on it and sustain their momentum throughout the year. The 8-Page Challenge helped our community members do this and to achieve their goals to create and publish comics.”

The anthology also features a section of illuminated flash fiction pieces, which feature a one-page fiction story accompanied by a single, full page illustration. The Flash Fiction Challenge ran concurrently with the 8-Page Challenge and was also open to all members of the Comic Book School community.

These challenges were the first initiatives of the create.comicbookschool.com forums. The forums, which are housed on the Comic Book School website, are the new home of the Comic Book School community. They are designed to foster community and collaboration, and to allow members to build connections, interact with and support one another, access educational resources, and share news and accomplishments. Throughout the challenge, the members of the community posted their progress, provided feedback on each other’s work, and held each other accountable throughout the process. Many of the creative teams in the anthology met on the forums, which were crucial, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when in-person meetings and comic cons were not an option.

“In some ways 2020 was the best possible year for making comics,” Scalera said. “The lockdown from the pandemic forced many of us to stay in the house. It gave us back a precious resource: time.

It also gave us time to reconsider our priorities. We had to set priorities that we’ve never had to consider before. In 2020, we had to consider the very real possibility of food shortages, household supply shortages, medication shortages, and even death.”

“The global events of 2020 can’t be overstated,” Donnalley said. “We all had a lot to deal with as our worlds turned upside down. But even with everything that happened, we succeeded and created this anthology. We built a community of creators and support for those creators. We hope to continue this 8-page challenge every year, bringing more creators into the world of published comics.”

Writing as Creative Play and The Remnants Anthology Release

I find it very sad that grown ups are not encouraged to play creatively. Most adults, following along with the conventions of contemporary society and do not engage in active, creative play. They rely on the creations of others to escape their dreary, every-day lives by watching television and movies, listening to music, reading books, and perhaps going to an art museum. Very few grownups, write, paint, compose, etc, Even when they do think creatively, it is often done in connection with their jobs, and therefore, they are creating for others—a boss, a company—rather than for themselves. In contrast, children are encouraged to play to draw, to make up stories and songs. Whether they consider themselves to be creative or not does not matter. Most children engage in creative play.

Many of the so-called-weird people who become successful in the arts encourage others to engage in creative activity as well. They claim, that there is a fulfillment one gets from doing art that is directly related to doing something creative for yourself. My favorite formulation of this idea is Kurt Vonnegut’s. Vonnegut, in a number of different places, encouraged his readers (and his listeners when he delivered his message as a speech) to engage in creative activities, even if what they end up producing is bad. One does not need, as Neil Gaiman exhorts his followers to do, make good art, rather, even making bad art is way of making “life bearable,” according to his view. “Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake,” Vonnegut claims.

I wholeheartedly agree, and I believe that the reason for this positive effect is the connection between making art—good or bad—and the creative play in which most people engaged as children. I have often, when speaking of my own writing, compared it to a (slightly) more socially acceptable version of childhood play.

During a recent live reading and discussion about the Remnants anthology from Kyanite Publishing (which was just released today), I extended that metaphor a bit further to explain the different mediums in which I write and connect them to common ways that children play.

When I want to play alone (and as an introverted writer-type, this is the kind of play in which I engage the most), I write short stories or poetry. During this type of play, I am the only one affecting the outcome of the “game.” When I want to play with others, I make comics. In this type of play, I collaborate with others to create. I work with an artist, and sometimes a team comprised of separate pencilers, inkers, colorists, and letterers, to create the final piece. We each have input into the story, and we collaborate to affect the outcome.

The Remnants anthology offered me a new way to play. Remnants is a “shared-world” anthology. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, created by Stephen Coghlan. Each of the authors in the anthology had to write a story which took place within this same, shared, world. Because of my background in comic books, I usually explain a shared world like the Marvel or DC universe. Each comic (or movie if you prefer) must take place within the shared world, but each is also the unique creation of the artists who made it. A Denny O’Neil Batman story is different from an Alan Moore Batman story, but they are both, recognizably Batman stories and therefore must follow the parameters of that universe. You could say the same thing about Kenneth Branagh’s Thor movie compared to Taika Waititi’s.

Similarly, the stories in the Remnants anthology each reflect the styles and talents of the authors who wrote them, yet they all take place within Stephen’s world. Writing for this anthology presented certain restrictions in terms of what I was allowed to do in the story, but it was also freeing in a way as I could just concentrate on writing the story without having to do all the world building associated with writing this type of science fiction story.

To return to my metaphor, writing this story was like go over someone’s house and being allowed to play with their toys. In this case, Stephen built this incredible world, a for a little while, he allowed me—and the other writers whose stories are included in this anthology—to come and play with it. The result’s which you can read in the anthology, are truly remarkable in they way they differ in tone, style, and content while all being true to the shared world.

I hope you consider purchasing a copy of Remnants, and reading my story, “The Forgotten,” (follow any of the hyperlinks throughout this post, including this one), and I really hope that if you endeavor to do something creative this week. Write a poem or story, draw a picture, write a song, even if you feel you’re doing it poorly, the benefits are immeasurable especially during these trying times.

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Join Me For The Comic Book School 8 Page Challenge

One thing that I’m hearing a lot recently, is that we, as artists and creators, should spend our time in “social isolation” working on our craft, and producing art. Writers, take this time to write: artists to draw or paint, etc. Another thing that I hear a lot is that people are feeling very alone and disconnected at the present moment. We are, by and large, social animals, and being apart from our creative communities can be trying, even if it’s for the greater good.

One way that I’m dealing with all of this is by joining the Comic Book School, 8 Page Challenge. For this challenge, comics creators of all types–writers, artists, inkers, letterers–are challenged to create (or to collaborate to create) an 8 page comics short story. Those who complete the challenge will not only have their work published in an anthology by Comic Book School, but also present their work at a panel at New York Comic Con in October, which is pretty damn cool.

Participants will receive feedback and guidance from professional comics creators such as Buddy Scalera (Comic Book School, Deadpool) and Mike Mats (Editor In Chief, AfterShock Comics). Additionally, since the contest is being hosted on the new create.comicbookschool.com forums, creators will also be joining a community of like-minded artists and writers. The forums will help replicate some of the networking and community aspects of the comic cons that have been canceled.

Best yet, the challenge and forums are completely free. There is no charge to sign up or participate.

“Every year, aspiring creators leave our educational panels with so much enthusiasm,” Scalera said. “We wanted to create something that not only allows them to sustain that enthusiasm, but also to build on it and sustain their momentum throughout the year. The 8-Page Challenge helps our community members do this and to achieve their goals to create and publish comics.”

“I’ve been participating in Comic Book School panels for many years and I am proud to be the first professional advisor for this innovative educational program for the next wave of creators,” added Marts. “At AfterShock, we’re always looking for new talent, and this gives me the opportunity to see how these creators work together.”

I, personally, and very excited about this challenge, which kicks off this week. I hope you join me by signing up for the challenge on the forums at create.comicbookschool.com.

Be sure to check out the links page to read some of my published writing, and to follow me on twitter and facebook.