Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Sour Taste of Strange Fruit

Diversity.  Within the last 3yrs, its increasingly become a hotbed issue, drawing scrutiny to the practice of representation in the American comic book industry.  An altruistic campaign in its onset, its taken turns here and there (IMO), losing sight of its goal to educate mainstream publishing houses and readers to the desire for characters of multi-ethnic/gender/sex-preference archetypes.  Instead, becoming this hardened finger pointing at the industry for where it has failed (yet again) to include a specific market or readership, in favor of more traditional (white/male/straight) characters. 

I say losing sight, because though many strides could still be made to include ALL walks of life, there have been many efforts already achieved that get quick shelved in favor of the continued condemnation: 1.) Miles Morales Spider-Man, 2.) Cyborg and Black Panther have upcoming feature films, 3.) the long awaited return of the Milestone imprint...just to name a few.

And then we have Strange Fruit.   

Published by Boom Studios, a mid-level mainstream publisher on par with IDE  and Dynamite Ent., Strange Fruit carried credits for two of comics most well-known names J.G. Jones and Mark Waid.  Upon seeing initial blurbs and previews of the project, there was a resounding simplification of the concept: these guys were (re)telling the story of a black Superman, arriving in the racial imbalance of the segregated South.  I say retelling, because it looked like a thinly veiled, but more in depth attempt at the origin of Icon, the ebony-hued "super-man from space" of the Milestone universe.  

Now, both men have had significant works involving that Last Son of Krypton.  J.G. handled some of the art duties on the Morrison-helmed, Final Crisis, while Waid's work (Kingdom Come/ Super-man:Birthright) has found footing in media beyond the page, including the 2014 release, Man of Steel (WB).  So, from that stand point, I had no doubt of their ability to render this tale of a prolific super being here on Earth.  

But there was a tinge of something...I don't want to call it doubt, but for lack of a better word...  It was a curiosity of possibly trivial conceits: Why this coming out of Boom (an imprint that Waid chaired as EiC before putting his name and efforts behind ThrillBent) and NOT DC or even Milestone?  And despite their professes southern heritage, aren't both these guys white...?!  What would this mean to their take on this story?  How would they do it?  Mind you, the question wasn't COULD THEY, but simply what would it turn out to be.

When Strange Fruit #1 came out mid-summer, I eagerly consumed it, reading it for review for Black, White & READ All Over, the weekly review series I do with comic retailer, Ryan Seymore (Watch us on!!!).  The story had attitude --  It was quick,  gorgeously rendered and the ending of the mysterious space-god draped in the Confederate flag was easily iconic!  I was certainly interested in where they were going to go with the rest of the series!

Just a few weeks ago, issue #2 hit the stands and that excitement petered off into boredom, confusion and ultimately concern.  For a series now halfway completed (It's slated for only 4 issues), I couldn't find the point of the tale.  The story flow had slowed tremendously and the character's actions didn't fit what had previously been implied before (In the previous issue, the alien being hid his nakedness after being instructed to do so by his new compatriot.  But in this issue, he couldn't understand human language, even finding the written form cryptic and indecipherable).

I was lost.  Truly and without a sense for where the story was heading, I had to be honest with myself that it was dangerously close to an excuse to use racial epithets and bigotry on the page.  But that didn't seem right -- to condem the whole project as well as its creators, without giving a bit more effort to understand it.  Having met Mark years ago, I felt constable enough (hell, I roasted the man and made innuendos of his partner, Christine -- who is a helluva writer in her own right!) to ask him for some insight and a bit of relief from my own judgement.  

Via Twitter, through direct messaging so Mark could speak freely without interruption, he shared parts and pieces that truly did fit to explain the whole narrative.  He even offered to send me scripts, I'm sure a gesture built on our familiarity and mutual respect, but so declined, not really wanting the story spoiled, but sincerely seeking guidance on its intent and to sum it up, its this:

       In the early 1900's, racial tensions were extremely high -- what would happen if a black super-man ACTUALLY showed up?  

A seemingly simple concept, but with a multitude applications if real world tendencies were applied: Would he stand with his presumed people?  Would they even let him?  Would he be an enemy of oppression?  Would he be feared, loved, etc?  

The goal is SUPER meta-textual, with easily made allegories: How Black Amaricans view and define the presidency of Barack Obama, how Black, independent comic book creators perceive the return of Milestone...even the story of Christ.

At its core, it's a story of harsh reality, but I think the most sincere showcase is towards the creators themselves.  Black comic readers, intellectuals and critics have bashed them for their involvement and execution, almost mirroring the underlying story beat of "Yeah, I wanted it -- I even asked for it -- but not from YOU!"  We've asked for more characters of color and here its given, but the context of who's offering it overrides the offering itself.  It reminds me of the sudden firestorm in response to  comments made by Matt Damon during the recent Project:Greenlight (where he declares diversity behind the camera isn't as important as choosing the right -- as in skilled -- technician(s) for the job).  I stood behind Damon and right now, I'm choosing to stand behind Waid, Jones and Boom.  At least until the story ends...only then can the project truly be judged as a success or failure.


Monday, September 7, 2015

Wizard World Comic Con: San Jose

It's Labor Day...but instead of celebrating the last holiday of the summer with family and friends, mulling over grilled meats and flavorful sides, I'm sitting at the airport waiting to board my flight(s)back home. What could POSSIBLY draw me away from the guarantee of full belly of Momma's best (fill-in your favorite food here)...?  WIZARD WORLD COMIC-CON, of course!!!

As the second show of the latter half of the convention circuit, WWCC:San Jose is the first to bring me under the California sun!  Having only dabbled in my West Coast Con-Grind, I was SUPER excited to see how I would fare in the bounds of Silicon Valley!  So I pack up and flew out, leaving behind ALL the fun my family was sure to have, instead to hang with my con-family at Wizard World!

Now, anyone who knows me should expect nothing but positivity in my posts. As one who fervently believes in self-responsibility for success, it's a rare thing to see me complain about ANYTHING that occurs at a show, but even knowing that, San Jose was a very welcoming experience!  The people were open,quite congenial and curious about the books that adorned my tabletop.  A few even mentioned having heard of a title or two...(wishful thinking that my books have preceded me...??)

And the results!!  As they have so often before, both the Wonder Care books and The Samaritan variants sold out!  And though it's a feat I'm growing more accustomed to achieving, it's still gives a wonderful glow when it does!  

I recently posted that before Wizard World: Chicago, I had already clocked more than a 1000 books sold, in total, so far in 2015.  Would you believe that in only two more shows, I've moved nearly a quarter more?  At this rate, I'm figuring somewhere around the 2500-3000 range could be hit!

But more than the sales, people are actually READING the books!  I've already started receiving correspondence back from some rather satisfied customers, both readers and creators, alike!

And of course, I was active outside of Artist Alley!  I took on my usual hosting duties at the Drink&Draw, held at the BEAUTIFUL AFK Gamers Lounge! We had a nicely packed patio, taking advantage of the wonderfully chill evening.  Saturday, I had two panels: my U Cre-8 Cinics panel (which I totally failed to nab a pic at, but luckily, my friend Terrence caught some video footage of) was well attended with some highly curious and insightful, potential creators. I also did a fill-in spot on the hit podcast, CONSmash with Mo Lightning -- the subject of discourse: Crappy Sequels!  Things get rather hilarious (you can nab it when it goes up on the CONRadio channel!  

Mo and I also tag-teamed hosting the costume contest!  Talk about some of the most creative ideas come to life!!  The contestants were great and the crowd gave some tremendous love to them for all their efforts!!  Even Mo and I gotniti the spirit of it, hitting the stage as JD and Turk from the NBC show, Scrubs.

I even got to sneak in two early morning television press spots, somewhere in there!  You can check out the one from Good Morning Sacramento HERE!

So yeah, this was a fun show -- great experiences and INCREDIBLE people.  Definitely look for me next year...!

P.s.  Did I tell you I got to sit and talk comic writing shop with none other than Spike from Buffy, James Marsters?!  Well now you know know! ����

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

BW&R Episode #77!

We've got a NEW episode of Black, White & Read ALL OVER!  It was SUUUUUUCH a good week for books -- I can't even deal.  Can't.  Even.

Check it out...

Here's what was on the talking block:

Civil War #3 (Marvel) - Charles Soule (w) and Lenil Yu (a)
Hank Johnson: Agent of Hydra (Marvel) - David Mandel (w) and Michael Walsh (a)
Godzilla in Hell #2 (IDW) - Bob Eggleton
Fight Club 2 #4 (Dark Horse) - Chuck Palahniuk (w) and Cameron Stewart (a)

Honorable mentions:

Old Man Logan #4 (Marvel) - Brian M. Bendis (w) and Andrea Sorrentino (a)
Lando #3 (Marvel) - Charles Soule (w) and Alex Maleev (a)
Superman #43 (DC) - Gene Yang (w) and John Romita Jr. (a)
Ant-man's Last Days #1 (Marvel) - Nick Spencer (w) and Ramon Rosanas (a)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Samaritan: Abridged for Younger Readers

The Samaritan -- the BEST SELLING, award-nominated, indy, hit title from Vantage:Inhouse Productions just got even more ACCESSIBLE!  

As an African-American creator, I understand an inherited responsibility to use my projects to speak for and to the often overlooked minority readership of comics.  And though I don't aim to with every title, it has been with a measure of pride that I have successfully touted The Samaritan as a specifically 'black comic'; marketing it to those who are seeking to see themselves on the pages as viable heroes, making a difference.

But, I've always felt that the audience that may need to read it most, has been denied access due to the gritty realism of the heavy-handed language and content: urban youth.  Granted, with music and other forms of entertainment -- heck, even their very own lifestyles -- they PROBABLY have already been exposed to much of what The Samaritan has to offer.  But that doesn't mean I need to continue that cycle of familiarity.

So with the help of series artist/collaborator, Ren McKinzie, I've put together an abridged version, edited for language, but also undergoing a sort of "Machete Cut" -- nixing a whole issue and parts of another, whose content would prove a little too graphic for the intended readers.

But wait...there's more!

To further our readership goals, we're aiming to entice educators to support this title by adding follow up reading questions to the end of every chapter, highlighting the true literary merits not only for The Samaritan as a title, but comics as a medium.

If you're a teacher, librarian, administrator or parent and you'd like to receive notification for when this book will be available, feel free to contact me at

-Victor Dandridge

Friday, August 14, 2015

(re)Introducing...Origins Unknown: Who pt.2

Earlier this year, I posted about the updates I had enacted for Origins Unknown, both on a visual basis and where it stood, conceptually within the growing V:IP Universe.  As I stated then, the books really seemed to lack the visual appeal that some of the other titles maintained and it hurt sales tremendously because of it.  So, now, we've had a few months with the new cover (and boasted Secret Origins-like position of the series as a whole) and I can tell you that while sales have boosted, but the cover's created a NEW problem for consideration.

When laid out across the table, I have to admit, the new cover for Origins Unknown looks GREAT!  Granted, the new design called for leaving behind the tag-line that defined the series: "You can't be what the world needs until you know what you are."  But it really stood out well and drew the attention of many potential readers.

Updated to reflect the "WHO" theme of the volume.
But that's where the biggest problem laid.

They'd be very earnest in coming to check out this vibrant, bright cover, so proudly (and prominently) featuring its female lead.  But when they began to flip through the pages, you could almost see the dismay on their faces as they looked into...a black and white book...:(

Obviously, I'd hate to believe fans to be so discerning, but I had to admit the possibility that we would've moved even more units if the interiors held any sort of the colorful splash that the cover initiated.

I only had the intention of coloring Somewhere I Belong, so the coloring style had to be something that would serve, not only the story, but the interest of the book.  Too dynamic and I'd HAVE TO get the rest of the book colored; not enough and well...I might as well have left it black and white.  So, with that thought in mind, I went on a feverish search for a solution and I found it in the pages of Marvel's Hawkeye!  The muted colors (by Matt Hollingsworth) was exactly what I was looking for -- a range of operation that was easy to look at, but interesting.  And it wasn't too domineering -- Jacob's line, while very thin and delicate on this issue, were still the hard selling point and should be protected (if not projected) above anything else.

And here's the final result!

And it just so happens, I finished production on these just as this review from Chris Ventura of Dark Avenger went live on YouTube (subscribe to his channel!): I said in that first post, we ARE following up with three NEW stories (Pursuit of Happiness, No One Believes Me, and I Make Her Say), which will likely see publication next year.

But the best news of all...

...wait for it...


That's right -- my right hand for the Origins Unknown project is laying down some serious awesome.  Check out some of the sketches he's sent me already...

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Episode 75!!!! #BlackWhite&ReadAllOver

Watch me!!!

75 Episodes!!  How did this happen?  And so much fun STILL!

While we didn't make a HUGE deal of it (aside from the AWESOME dance party at the beginning!), I've gonna confess that I'm INSANELY proud of what we've accomplished with this show!  We're having fun -- like ALL THE FUN -- and it shows with every filming!  A tremendous thanks goes to Ryan and Shelby for their brilliance and interest!  (You guys have brought me along on a tremendous ride!!)

This week's reads:
Phonogram The Immaterial Girl #1 (Image) - Kieron Gillen (w) and Jamie McKelvie (a)
Lando #2 (Marvel) - Charles Soule (w) and Alex Maleev (a)
Secret Wars #5 (Marvel) - Jonathan Hickman (w) and Esad Ribic (a)
Walking Dead #145 (Image) - Robert Kirkman (w) and Charlie Adlard (a)

Honorable Mentions:
String Divers #1 (IDW) - Chris Ryall (w) and Nelson Daniel (a)

A-Force #3 (Marvel) - Marguerite Bennett (w) and Jorge Molina (a)

Trill League #0 - Anthony Piper (w/a) -- You NEED this book (its wack)!  I LOVED everything about it (Hot Gar-Bage)!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


I can certainly attest, being self-employed is cause for many long working hours, late nights and no days off.  But while the grind of following my dreams and passions can be daunting, they aren't without their cushions of fun, experience and prestige!  This past weekend, DEFINITELY counts as such -- with so much happening, it kinda illustrates why my banner says I'm "The Hardest Working Man in Comics"...! (LOL)


One of the perks of my AMAZING partnership with Comic Town (in addition to co-hosting Black White & READ All Over and them carrying V:IP titles) is working together on joint outreach opportunities!  The latest saw us returning to the Gateway Film Center, as part of the Geek Sneak event for the release of Ant-Man!

All work and no play...actually its all fun!
Built to add a commemorative experience to the initial showings of pop culturally viewed "Geek" movies, the Geek Sneak had scientist doing live demos on ants, experiments showcasing size augmentation and compression (with MARSHMALLOWS!!!), a specialized menu (featuring Pym Particled Popcorn Shrimp) and a Comic Town pop-up shop!

I was on hand, signing books for a number of generous readers (thank you all!).  It was a test of my tenacity as a creator, because while I was out in the lobby, my family was happily watching Ant-Man...without me....(tears).  But at least they were able to snap this quick shot of Ryan and I promoting BW&R, right before the trailers started!


Coming back to the theatre, I manned the CT pop-up, selling my books and promoting my appearance at S.P.A.C.E. (Small Press & Alternative Comics Expo).  I think Ant-man kinda lost out to Trainwreck, but I still had quite a few people swing by to chat me up!

Artwork for Colonies!
The ease of traffic DID afford me the opportunity to finish the artwork for the mini-comic "Colonies," I had started -- a kind of autobiographical story about my time as a comic creator...told through the lens of being an ant.  Its a bit more alternative than what I'm known for, but I think stretching those muscles is always an attempt to improve!

And to make it all EVEN better, I got to see Ant-man myself!  It really is a good movie -- full of the heart and charm that I think won me over with Thor and fit better in the Marvel Cinematic Universe than Iron Man 3 did!


Me and the Indy Huntress, Crystal O'Rourke!!!
Ugh...I hate -- Hate -- HATE being late.  Especially for shows.  But as luck would have it, car issues kept me from arriving and setting up at SPACE until nearly 10:30 -- a whole half-hour after the show opened.  But luckily, I was able to setup pretty quickly and get a nice walk around, saying hey to all the people I know.

If you've followed me on social media, you may note that SPACE genuinely has a special place in my heart.  Though not necessarily the most lucrative of shows I regularly attend, its a hallmark of my city AND my career.  Its a home to me and just like with real families, the people that live there don't always see eye to eye, nor do we always like each other.  But we're there for something bigger than any us and its always good to feel that creative energy.

I got to see a few people I hadn't in a while, and others I hadn't seen BEHIND a table even longer.  Its good to know that even though so much life has happened, comics (and SPACE) are never too far away to help bring them back in.


It's finally HERE!  After WEEKS of hype and promotion, the fateful day of Ol' Crazy & the 40oz of Death release has finally arrived!  With a scheduled signing with series artist, Bryan Moss, we FINALLY had Ol' Crazy join the ranks of The Samaritan and The Trouble w/Love on our table.  The response to it has already been phenomenal (we actually have it available for digital download RIGHT NOW through, but seeing it in person FLOORED everyone, both creators and readers, alike!
Local artist, Brian Williams grabbed the FIRST copy!

While I'm not usually on panels at SPACE, I was asked by Bill Campbell of Rosarium Publishing to take part in a discussion on diversity -- one of the hot button issues in the industry right now.  Joined by Canada Keck and Dara Naraghi, we did our best to use our individual experiences to voice both the conundrums and advances with regards to such challenging subject matter.  I think it was a healthy representation of the different viewpoints, but one that is innately limited in its affectively, because we ONLY have so long to talk about it!

And THAT was my weekend!  I know, I know...I live a VERY awesome life!  Be on the look out for more from V:IP -- we've got plenty of things in the works, as well as the upcoming release of Wonder Care Presents: The Kinder Guardians #3 -- BEWARE THE KID NAPPER!!!!!