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.

On WandaVision and Building Audience Trust

You’ve got to hook your audience from the beginning, is one of the most common pieces of writing advice out there. Your first paragraph, the first 5 minutes of a show or movie, page one of your comics story, that’s all you get before your audience makes a decision about whether or not to continue to engage with your creative project. For the most part, this is true—except when it isn’t.

There are many lists of great first lines in literature, from Charles Dickens, to Ralph Ellison, to William Gibson, and agents, by and large, ask for the first few pages of a novel—and only the first few pages—as part of the standard pitch packet. It’s a tried and true strategy that’s worked from Homer’s epics through the modern Bond movie formula…

…And then there’s WandaVision.

WandaVison began with a two-episode premier that viewers found confusing and slow. Many of my friends—especially those who were not familiar with the source comics—told me that they were “completely lost” after watching that first hour of the Disney+ television program. And yet, they kept watching. Now, the show’s viewership is so large that it’s threatening The Mandalorian as the most popular show on the streaming service, and reaction to the series—and to the slow-burn build—as been overwhelmingly positive.

Why did the audience stay? According to conventional wisdom with which I opened this blog, they should not have. Sure, some die-hard comics readers would have (they always do, even when they don’t like a program if only to have something about-which to complain), but that doesn’t account for the massive general audience.

I believe that the reason everyone stayed is trust. People stuck with the show because they believed in Marvel and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After two-dozen movies, which brought comics characters into the mainstream like never before, the audience was willing to sit through the slow burn of the first few episodes because they trusted that the payoff was going to come. People like my wife, who hadn’t read a comic in over 20 years, liked the Scarlet Witch and wanted to find out what was going on with her, and trusted that, if her story fit into the storytelling universe that they loved, it was bound to be good. They stuck with the show, and they, thus far, have been rewarded.

It would be foolhardy to start a creative universe with a program like WandaVision. Even if it was good, there wouldn’t be enough people who would stick with it if it proved to be difficult to access. It was a smart move to open with a fairly conventional super hero movie like Iron Man. Once trust has been established, however, it frees the creative team to try different storytelling methods.

This concept is not unique to WandaVision. James Joyce’s work, for example follows a similar pattern. Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, while critically acclaimed, are much more conventional than Ulysses (to say nothing of Finnegan’s Wake).

As writers, we should all hope to, eventually, build the kind of trust with our readers that would free us to try different storytelling styles and to pace the action as we see fit. Until then, we should all continue to search for that perfect first line.


Be sure to connect on facebooktwitter, and instagram, and check out the links page to read some of my published work.

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.

Connect with me on facebooktwitter, and instagram for all my latest news and discussion.