By Louis Falcetti;
“I’m sure this is the black panel, we always start late.” So begins Michael Davis, moderator, but only in the loosest sense of the word. He’s a comedy anarchist who cannot fail to charm and entertain no matter who’s he currently blaming for his marriage falling apart (Tony Rich, looking at you) or who he’s letting cut in line due to their feminine Asian beauty (we all got a type, don’t lie). He mixes racial humor with serious insight in a way that gets the audience laughing and thinking, which is probably the best anyone can hope for at a Comic Con panel, to entertain and educate.
Davis (who’s worn so many hats in so many industries it’d be silly to try to list ’em all here) was joined by an insanely talented group of creators, artists and actors. Wayne Brady, Orlando Jones, Tatiana El-Khouri, John Jenning, Tony Rich, David Walker and Ken Lashley (who rsvp’d late) all were on stage and all enjoying the positive energy that was absolutely pouring out of everyone who was lucky enough to be in attendance. (And I’m not just saying that because Davis gave me a free shirt, which, was totally excellent of him).(“Free tee shirts? Do they say ‘Kill George Zimmerman?” Davis quipped before the start of the panel)
“You know what I like about The Black Panel? White people. In a time where a young black kid could be murdered and the murderer walk free, at a time when the Supreme Court can gut the Voting Rights Act, in a time where the first black President is repeatedly asked to show his papers, we here at the Black Panel…reflect what the United States of America really is. White people, Latino people, Asian people. All people. So let us not despair over this whole Zimmerman thing, let us not complain, let us not lose our focus, lets keep our eyes on the prize because remember, the people in this room, we are America. We’re sitting here because we have a common goal and that is our love for what it is we’re here for, so despite what house niggers like Clarence Thomas do…we shall overcome. Tweet that.”
That’s how The Black Panel at Comic Con gets started, not with a slide show of upcoming video games and not with gratuitous pandering, but unmitigated truth. Also unlike traditional panels there was barely any forced self promotion, introductions were made and people talked a little bit about themselves but after that it was straight back and forth between the audience, the guests and Davis. Trying to accurately convey to you what it’s like to sit in on this panel is like trying to explain fireworks to a blind man, you just need to see it for yourself. But I’ll see what I can do for you. (You being the majority of people on the planet who sadly were not in attendance).
The first man to step to the mic began (like many at Comic Con) by talking about his love for the assembled guests, which quickly raised the ire of Davis who quickly backed down when then gentleman began fawning over the emcee. “Michael Davis is the best panel moderator of any kind I have ever seen.” That got the already hyper Davis really going, so much so that he went down into the crowd and gave the man the main mic, in order to continue preaching his love…which then got slightly awkward when the man referred to him as “a man of greatness who has not been fully tapped” causing Orlando Jones to begin chanting “ALL PANTS MUST STAY ON.”
Aside from the constant back and forth with the audience (One audience member asked “Do you have any advice for young black kids?” to which Davis quickly shot back “Stay out of Florida.”) the creators were able to share a lot of interesting info about their upcoming projects. Ken Lashley talked about his upcoming Silver Spectre project about a biracial female protagonist in the 1940s who drives a 20ft car, a car which he claims not only exists but will be revealed at this year’s New York Comic Con. Not only has Lashley been working on that, he’s also made a 70s Blacksploitation Star Wars poster for Lucas Films and (at the request of DC, has been completely redesigning Gotham over the last two months. Think about that fanboy. A newly designed Gotham by an artist who’s got his head and heart in the game, I can’t believe I’m saying this but I’m excited to see it.
Producer and writer Reggie Hudlin was in the audience, to answer a question about Django Unchained‘s effect (or lack thereof) on how Hollywood does business involving black properties. “Will Smith is an accident. Eddie Murphy is an accident.” Hudlin conveyed that individual success like these were not enough to change the game as it were. Fans of the animated series The Boondocks (on which Hudlin was a producer) might be shocked to learn that he then gave props to Tyler Perry, talking about how Perry creates a financial template and that’s how you get the studios attention.
Tatiana shared insights on how to get yourself into the game and both she and Jones agreed that you need to utilize social media and also behave yourself on there. Wayne Brady admitted to “chasing love, not a check” which is not only a sweet thing to say but a very good look into the man’s continued success versus others who maybe flame out and blow out far quicker.
David Walker, writer of #13 from Dark Horse is hoping to see a television deal for the comic in the next week and if you take a look at the sizzle reel (already posted here on the site) I think you’ll agree that TV would be a helluva lot better with this on it. John Jennings talked about his Black Comix work and was able to directly connect with one PhD candidate in the crowd (Jennings is a professor as well as a creator). Everybody tried to recommend comics for Tony Rich to read (my call of “The Manhattan Projects!” got me a thumbs up from Orlando Jones, a moment that I will always treasure one of the coolest ever) and Rich talked about his art background growing up and how he connected it to music.
If I was to write out the whole panel, just transcribe it, you still wouldn’t get it, not unless you were there. There is a lot to be bummed about at Comic Con (you know me by now, I don’t like anything) but The Black Panel is not one of them. Early on, the man who took the stage to champion Davis said that you really haven’t experienced Comic Con until you’ve seen Davis rock the Black Panel and despite this being my third year here, I have to agree with him. Google the names here, look ’em up, see what they’re doing (like Wayne Brady, I bet you never heard of him) because I am not one to kiss ass needlessly and I have an awful time playing the game but the people who put themselves out there this morning are creatives, thinkers and most of all, people of the highest caliber. You owe it to yourselves to check them out and see what’s going on. Oh yeah, and getting involved yourself, because The Black Panel is a lot more about reaching out to the people and trying to foster creative growth and the exchange of ideas than it is about shameless self promotion or celebrity tie-ins. So in the words of Orlando Jones, “Smoke weed, live long and prosper.”
Reggie Hudlin takes the mic to talk Django and the industry.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6_xsgKh8M0
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