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Top 25 Black Comic Book Writers #15-11

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Here are the next five writers that you voted as your favorites of all-time.

15. John Ridley

Besides being an Academy Award-winning screenwriter (he won the Oscar for his screenplay to 12 Years a Slave) and a brilliant television writer (he has written for many shows over the years and most recrntly, he is the creator and showrunner of the excellent American Crime TV series), Ridley also has written a number of comics, primarily for Wildstorm Comics, including a graphic novel starring The Authority and the excellent maxi-series, The American Way (drawn by Georges Jeanty), about government-created superheroes during the early 1960s…





Ridley is currently working on a Marvel-related show for ABC.

14. Brandon Thomas

Brandon Thomas has written a number of comics over the years, including a long run on Voltron for IDW and a Shatterstar mini-series for Marvel. However, he is probably best known for his brilliant creator-owned series, Miranda Mercury, along with artist Lee Ferguson.

Miranda Mercury is a science hero, basically like a superhero, only science fiction style. In the first issue, we discover that she is dying. Therefore, when she and her sidekick, the genius Jack Warning, have successfully rescued a special puzzle known as the Ronin’s Riddle and Jack learns that whoever solves it can be granted a wish. Jack decides to solve it by developing a drug that will amplify his and Miranda’s thought processes. His intent is for him to solve it so that he can save her life. It goes differently than he expected…





Such an excellent, heartfelt comic book work.

13. Keith Knight

Keith Knight produces a variety of thoughtful, sharp, topical AND hilarious comic strips and has done so for years.

There’s the daily Knight Life




The editorial cartoon styling of (th)ink…


and the more personal, introspective K Chronicles…



All of them are awesome.

Go to the next page for #12-11…

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Loved The American Way. Had no idea the creator had such an a-list bibliography.

Well, the Oscar and the Emmy-nominated TV show came later on, but yeah, he was a successful TV and film writer going back to the 1990s. The screenplay to the excellent 1999 film, Three Kings, was co-written by him based on a novel that he wrote.

John Ridley also wrote a teleplay for the Justice League cartoon and one for Static Shock. I like how he doesn’t seem to be worried about “slumming it” when he works on superhero projects even after his considerable mainstream success.

Count me as another one who love John Ridley’s The American Way. I also had no idea it had been written by a guy with such a successful story in other media. Peter, I think this new generation is far less prejudiced against genre fiction, sci-fi, superheroes, etc., than the one that reigned in culture until the 1980s. Though we still have remnants of the old attitude (Birdman was a whole movie about this older attitude of “serious culture” vs. “garbage”).

Back to The American Way, it’s the sort of project that I wished DC and Marvel did more of, but they can’t, on account of their sliding timeline and reboots. The closest they come to it is alternate universe stories, like The New Frontier. The American Way is a story in this vein. It’s engaging as both period piece and superhero saga. I love it that it’s 1961, the beginning of the Marvel Universe, but with a more real world sensibility. Besides the A-plot about civil rights struggles, there are several gems, like a Superman/Lois Lane pastiche with a intriguing take on their romantic problems.

I only have one small problem with the story. There are two primary racist bad guys in the Southern half of the team. One is Southern Cross, who is virulently racist and angry and not too smart. The other is Mr. Lucky, who is the sort of racist that is smart and wily and cynical. It’s heavily implied that Mister Lucky is gay. So, one of the two most unpleasant characters in the story had to be gay… sigh. In this, The American Way reminds me ironically of other great left-wing books from the 1960s, that dealt with some minorities sensitively, but knocked down other minorities in the process. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (pro-Native Americans, pro-gay, and pro-mental patients, but very anti-black and anti-women), The Golden Notebook (feminist and against racism, but anti-gay, and virulently so in the case of effeminate gays), V. (anti-racist and anti-colonialist, but anti-women), etc.

THE AMERICAN WAY samples look more mature and interesting than its ads made it sound. Made me wonder whether it kept it up or just broke into the usual rassling? Will have to dig into reviews. (But lucky me, its trade is still available with code NOV060279!)

MIRANDA MERCURY looks interesting too, but is unavailable. (As too-often with Archaia, they had an overpriced hardcover in 2011 but didn’t come through with a softcover, leaving most of the money on the table. Could it be why they eventually went under Boom?) Mebbe a softcover someday…

Comics are a visual medium: free online samples of sequential art trump fluff prose marketing of sequential lies.

todd Johnson, writer of the largest selling black creator owned comic tribe.

I think American Way held up for the run, Simon.

Do you mean V the TV miniseries, Rene? I wouldn’t count it as anti-womn–Faye Grant’s role as the resistance leader is pretty cool. Generally, though I know what you mean–Ursula Leguin is liberal and well ahead of the curve on using back protagonists back in the seventies, but she has a throwaway line in Lathe of Heaven about a gay guy who snapped and tried buggering a kid in public, and that equation of gays with pedophiles is the only representation readers get.

Fraser –

No, I meant Thomas Pynchon’s V.

Some very slight spoilers:

It’s a stunning, amazing novel. But Pynchon, in his earlier phase at least, has a pretty strong misogyny going on. The story is too complex to describe, but one of the major points is that one mysterious woman is sort of the personification of all that is evil, nihilistic, and self-destructive in the 20th century and is sort of a scapegoat for the colapse of modernism. She is an abomination and perhaps too grotesque to be seen as a serious criticism of women, but the novel also has a motif of sympathetic, “loser” males that are constantly emasculated, teased, and manipulated by women, all the while complaining about said women and desiring the women only for sex. Most of the female characters are manipulative, some are mindless bimbos, one of them is very racist (besides betraying her husband like crazy), etc. It’s “immature he-man” mindset for a writer that is otherwise very intelligent. There are a few women in the story that are totally sympathetic, but they tend to be idealized, standofish, and not very developed.

It’s sort of incredible, but this immature he-man mindset is not uncommon in “serious”, well-respected literature from the 1910s to the 1960s, maybe even into the 1970s.

@Fraser: Thanks, it’s on my to-google list.


Part of Pynchon’s V. is a satire of the brand of misogyny of some Beats, Hippies, Bohemians, and such counter-cultures.

It’s like when William Gaddis used wall-to-wall Gothic clichés to build the surface story of CARPENTER GOTHIC (Isolated House, Mysterious Stanger, Locked Room, Romantic Adultery, etc.), or when Norman Spinrad satirized what would be Hitler’s sci-fi novels in THE IRON DREAM.

It’s a meta-ironic form of deconstruction or critic — unless you want to call Gaddis a chick-lit hack, and Spinrad a Neo-Nazi?

So V. may be a Post-Modernist mess, but of course it’s meta-ironic too. You even note how all the males are “desiring the women only for sex” and you don’t smell a rat? When one is named Profane, another Pig, another Gland, and so on? And their gang is the “Sick Crew”? You want to analyze literaly a stereotype named Stencil?

If anything, V. is a misanthropic caricature of some men and their ideas of women…


Simon –

Spinrad’s Iron Dream is very obviously a satire. I never read Gaddis, so I can’t say.

As for Pynchon, yeah, it’s obvious to me that the novel is satirical, the rat is “smelled”. However, it was not as obvious to me that one specific theme in the novel, the misogyny, is actually a satirical criticism of misogyny, as opposed to just a bitting satire of women, period. Let’s compare Pynchon to Spinrad. Pynchon never tries to paint the fascist and racist characters in V. into overblown heroes. His condemnation of them is “straight”. They’re evil and recognized as evil by the “heroes” of the novel. For instance, Roony Winsome is properly disgusted by his wife’s racism. However, the same heroes are very misogynist, and you’re telling me that their opinion of women is, unlike their anti-racism, to be taken as the writer’s condemning them (the guys). I’m not as sure that we are “supposed” to not agree, or at least sympathize, with their dim view of females.

By the way, Roony’s wife is a savage satirical attack on Ayn Rand. She is not a satire of husbands that think their wives are harpies. She is intended by Pynchon to be an harpy.

I am willing to acknowledge, however, that V. herself may be a subtle attack against misogyny, since she never actually appears in the story, she is just “imagined” by the male narrators (something easy to miss, since Pynchon’s narrative and descriptions are so gripping and powerful). But I feel that claiming that Pynchon is actually mocking misogyny is a more sophisticated version of Frank Miller’s defenders saying that he writes obvious parodies, and so he is not actually a conservative. Yes, in a certain way, Sin City’s characters ARE a sendoff of old noir stories. But it also appears to me that Miller’s real-life views are conservative and he is not a covert feminist mocking old noir traditions.

Simon – I was thinking that we can both be right. Pynchon is mocking guys as pigs, slobs, and losers, and mocking women as bitches, teases, and manipulative psychos. But I still think the balance pends to the side of women being the bigger target, since they seem to be painted as more “aligned” to the forces of the all-consuming inanimate that is the novel’s main antagonist, while males are depicted as the doomed heroes trying to hold on, while yes, still being pigs and slobs.


Well, the crux of what I don’t understand is why you seem to think that a complex author such as Pynchon would want his characters to always have the right ideas, or why each of these opinions would be directly what the author always wanted us to agree with?

For one thing, most famous people were complex enough to be right about certain things but regressive about others. (Or less famous people: in MAUS, Spiegelman’s dad survived Nazism but remains bigoted against “the Schwartzes”. Hey, that’s almost on-topic!) Fictional characters can be as complex, it’s just more delicate to handle for writer and reader both.

For another, an intelligent satire or cautionary tale can show us idiots and let us work out when they’re wrong. About your main elements:

* The woman V. as some archetype of evil. All we get are reports from this old man artificially connecting stories when they involve a female whose name starts with V, including those where she dies or is a robot. She’s a myth, possibly all in his head. Is that Pynchon pushing that evil comes from Women? To me, he’s only showing us an unreliable fool cherrypicking disparate hearsay that may be unconnected, not unlike Gombrowicz’s COSMOS, Sábato’s REPORT ON THE BLIND, or Clowes’s LIKE A VELVET GLOVE CAST IN IRON.

* The cast of sex-obsessed losers. They have progressive ideas about racism but regressive ideas about women. Is that Pynchon pushing these opinions as a package for us to adopt? To me, he’s also showing us idiots who drink booze through fake plastic tits, criticize a ballerina killed on stage for her poorly expressive death, and blame wimmen for their own inadequacies. They have intellect to dissect remote colonialism, but lack affect to love someone close. Did Pynchon wanted for us to identify with that sorry lot and thus share their dim views of women? The thick irony makes me think their author had an equally dim view of them, not unlike Dick’s satire A SCANNER DARKLY, Ellroy’s naturalistic noir, or Bolanõ’s NAZI LITERATURE IN THE AMERICAS.

* Some female characters being bitches. Is that Pynchon attacking all women? To me, he’s only showing us that discrimination is often based on taking one bad apple and extrapolating that to the whole tree, so his idiots need some actual harpies to seed their misogyny. (Not to mention that there’s no reason for all female characters to be angels.)

In the end, I think Pynchon only promotes independent thought and active reading.

It’s up to you to remain critical and decide that what they argue about colonialism makes sense, and what they say about women is betrayed by their behavior. (And to appreciate how easily they can delude themselves into accomodating both, and wonder if similar delusions could befall you.) The satire is stacked against them, but they’re not gurus spoonfeeding you the author’s ideas.

And even such discussion serves his point of making you think!

(P.S.: If you like Pynchon, you’re probably missing out on his forerunner Gaddis and his hysterical satires JR and A FROLIC OF HIS OWN. They’re more readable Modernist tomes on the surface, but also rewarding puzzles underneath. Cf. http://www.williamgaddis.org/life&work.shtml )

Simon –

Good points all, a lot of things for me to think about.

I have to precede this by saying V. is, so far, the only novel of Pynchon that I have read. I have no idea about how he depicts women in his other novels. But yeah, I intend to read his other novels. I loved V., don’t let my criticism of some specific points tell you otherwise. He is a brilliant writer, and it was one of the best novels I have ever read.

As for the misogyny or supposed misogyny. I feel that is more like a pattern, in the novel. It’s not like OF HUMAN BONDAGE, where you have one monstrous woman at the center of the story, but there are a lot of other female characters that are sympathetic. I felt that the women in V., as a whole, are depicted in a pretty unsympathetic way, with the important exception of Paola Majistral, that remains more of a mystery throughtout the novel. There is also the Herero woman in the chapter about the Herero Wars, but her appearance is very short.

And yeah, I noticed that Pynchon doesn’t pull any punches in depicting the absurd and the painful, and deriving humor from it, so yeah, all the characters, male and female, are fair game for his satire, but I had the feeling that the men in the novel had their failings deriving more from weakness and stupidity, while the women seemed to be more… capricious? Wilful? It seemed to invite us to sympathise with the men more. With some exceptions, like the old German in the Herero Wars bit.

Also, and this may be very unfair to Pynchon, but I was placing him in a continuum of brilliant male writers from the first half of the 20th century that, despite their brilliance, had a strong vein of distrust of women in their work. Hemingway, Fitzgerald, D. H. Lawrence (despite the fact that he, unlike these others, had entire books told from the female POV), even James Joyce with poor cuckolded Leopold Broom, Steinbeck in OF MICE AND MEN with Curley’s wife, that according to Steinbeck’s own words, is not even a person, just an instigator of disaster. Not to mention the ones even more openly misogynistic, like Ken Kesey and his castrating women, or detective fiction dudes.

Brilliant writers all, but sometimes they all feel like dudes that got through a nasty divorce and the ex-wife took everything. :) And it’s strange to me, because the male writers in the 19th century, despite living in a far more conservative time, usually didn’t have this strong misogynistic streak, even though some of them divided women into angels and fallen women, and were more paternalistic towards women. It seems to me that, in the 20th century, with the end of paternalism and sentimentality that Victorian men used to view women, all the anti-women nastiness exploded and came to the fore.

So that may be why I “missed” the fact that Pynchon was satirizing this attitude, instead of indulging in it.


I’m afraid we’re veering so far off course the subject of this thread that Brian Cronin will tell us to knock it off.


Yeah, I too will try to conclude briefly (ha!) by abusing of pop psychology and sweeping generalizations. I pretty much agree but up to Pynchon, or to reframe your observations:

* 19th century: Males own society, writers feel comfortable in depicting females nicely because they’re no threat.

* 20th century, 1st half: The emancipation of women makes a lot of men feel threatened, literature translates these fears. Modernist optimism still in: technology and testosterone depicted as positive forces of progress.

* 20th century, 2nd half: WWII proved how evil technology can get, how easily so-called civilized people can follow clearly unhinged leaders, how dictature and barbary too can harness progress. Postmodernist backlash: defiance about science, cynicism about people, irony about everything. But also counter-culture: Beats/Hippies can mix progressism with sexism, racism, or homophobia.

I mean, I see your continuum, but it’s going to get a serious cut at that last fork. You could indict Burroughs or Crumb, but not Gaddis or Pynchon. His Postmodernist paranoia is about everybody, including these bohemians. That misanthropic distrust means that most characters are going to be satirized in unsympathetic ways.

Probably not in the same ways for males and females, and there may be some bias here, ala Kipling’s “The female of the species is more deadly than the male”. But that wouldn’t make V. a misogynistic novel.

If it wasn’t for TV writers, this would be a top 10 list.

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