Core Business: A Dream Killer Edition – Michael Davis, From The Edge

lollypopbleedMichael Davis writes,

Part I of this ran on Comicmix Part 2 is first-run on Bleeding Cool.

Part 1: The Black Panther comes to Marvel.

The Black Panthers were at one time the number one target of the FBI in the 60’s. They were viewed as terrorists and J. Edger Hoover the longtime leader of the most powerful police force in the world was hell bent on getting rid of them by hook or by crook.

Yep, hook or crook.

It’s no secret the United States Government from time to time will ignore the law. It’s fair to say it goes on often and as far as we know it goes on all the time. When caught those, who swore to uphold the constitution offer apologies for actions that dismissed the law like Trump denies any negative press.

But it’s all bullsh-t.

If not caught these people may have stopped breaking the law, but it’s doubtful they would have been sorry. I gather few are sorry for wrongdoing that benefits them. How many people have you seen come forward to admit how sorry they are for gaming the system when they have no incentive to do so?

I’ll wait.

The FBI broke all sorts of laws to accomplish their Black Panther agenda. As always don’t take my word for it Google that bitch. Unless you’re blind to the truth backed up with a few court rulings the war on the Panthers was a one-sided American tragedy fueled by a lie and driven home by a liar by the name of J. Edger do I look fat in this dress Hoover.

Yeah, I can talk a lot of sh-t from my cozy little home in suburban Los Angeles. I can talk smack because I’m secure in the knowledge I’m protected by:

1. First Amendment Right Freedom of Speech

2. What I wrote about the F.B.I was true.

3. I’m just not that important, and neither is Comicmix or Bleeding Cool to anyone in power that may object to my point of view.

I’m not as naïve as the above list would suggest. I’m fully aware my rights are subject to the will of the arresting officer and temperament of the D.A. regardless of my innocence if arrested for a crime I didn’t commit.

Been there had that done to me. Twice.

My circumstances notwithstanding in 2017 there exists a reasonable chance that someone may be believed if they claim police brutally or unjust treatment.

In 1966 the odds of a Black person being believed, slim. I would wager a Jewish person would face the same type of incredulity and given what happened to the three Civil Rights workers in Mississippi June 1964 the same dangers.

From Wikipedia:

In June 1964 in Neshoba County, Mississippi, three civil rights workers were abducted and murdered in an act of racial violence. The victims were Andrew Goodman and Michael “Mickey” Schwerner from New York City, and James Chaney from Meridian, Mississippi.

All three were associated with the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) and its member organization the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). They had been working with the “Freedom Summer” campaign by attempting to register African-Americans in the southern states to vote.

This registration effort was a part of contesting over 70 years of laws and practices that supported a systematic policy of disenfranchisement of potential black voters by several Southern states that began in 1890.

The three men had been arrested following a traffic stop in Meridian for speeding, escorted to the local jail and held for some hours. [1] As the three left towns in their car, they were followed by law enforcement and others. Before leaving Neshoba County their car was pulled over, and all three were abducted, driven to another location, and shot at close range. The three men’s bodies were then transported to an earthen dam where they were buried.

Two of the three men killed for trying to do the right thing were Jewish.

In the 50s and 60s, certain parts of the deep south were deadly. Those who sided with Black people treated as if they were well, Black people often that meant death. It’s one thing to risk your life for your rights another thing indeed to do so for another’s.

In my mind, that’s the textbook definition of noble. That takes a whole other level of balls and commitment.

In 1966 the F.B.I was on a mission to destroy the Black Panther Party and woe be on to those who got in their way.

Marvel Comics was all the rage on college campuses in the 60’s. Stan, The Man Lee, was the captain of one of the hottest pop culture ships to ever set sail in the ever changing 60s sea. His first mate Jack King Kirby navigated just as much of the Marvel boat as Stan, together they ruled comics, campuses and cool.

Stan wasn’t content to just cruise. He continuously looked to change the comic book landscape he had already transformed. DC wasn’t without some cool stuff, Wolfman and Wrightson’s Swamp Thing, Adams and O’Neil’s Green Lantern / Green Arrow were a stellar addition to the cool that Stan ushered in. Alas, those came in the late 60’s early 70’s.

DC held its own in sales, but in the ‘cool’ department they were outclassed at every port. Seen by most as still just for kids DC may have sold as much or more but Marvel was- to use 60’s slang- where it’s at.

Put another way DC was the Good Ship Lollipop and Marvel? Marvel was the ever-loving Titanic.

Like the actual Titanic, Stan and Jack faced an Iceberg. Unlike the doomed ship they looked for that potential death dealer on purpose. Those two Jewish guys were about to take a stand and strike a blow for Civil Rights. Not for themselves for African Americans and doing so rather they knew it or not chuck a serious f-ck you to Hoover and his crew.

A Black Panther with a serious attitude showed up in New York and preceded to win over the masses with his message. If J. Edger won’t wear white after Labor Day Hoover wanted to do something he was powerless to do it.

That’s because this Black Panther wasn’t real. Stan and Jack made him up out of thin air, or did they? In 2017 it’s hard to imagine meeting someone who had not heard of Donald Trump’s:

Take your pick.

1. Wall

2. Tweets

3. Hair

The Black Panther Party was a regular item in print and broadcast news. The year was 1966 what you read in the newspaper or watched on TV was damn near (for many it was) gospel.

Ya, think Lee and Kirby just happened to create a character with the same name as the most wanted radical group this side of the Weather Underground with no knowledge that group existed?

Stan was as tuned into what American college kids were doing as anyone over 30 could be. He spoke at many universities, and Marvel’s mail was an endless stream of hip American youth feedback.

The question is, did Stan, and Jack create the Black Panther to make a buck or a difference?

I know the answer because I asked my man Stan and his reply affected me but not in any way you may think.

Part 2: CORE BUSINESS

In 1996 I left Motown Animation Filmworks where I served as President CEO and started my development deal with Viacom companies. My goal was to develop content across the many media businesses Viacom-owned.

Among Viacom’s Holdings are Paramount Pictures MTV Networks Simon& Schuster Nickelodeon and more.

My deal, structured under Simon & Schuster where my first project was set up was 20 years in the making. Developing a comic book reading program with a universe of characters I created had been a dream of mine since high school.

Comics in the classroom sounded like a no-brainer. I thought I was

a 17-year old genius when first I had the idea. How no one thought about this idea before I did was beyond belief.

It took me another 20 years to find out why.

While at Milestone I put together an overview and presented it to the partners. Derek Dingle co-founder and President of Milestone had final say on any new business he said it sounded like a good idea.

He also maintained we should revisit it after the launch. He was right; many new ventures fail for various reasons, but chief among them is not paying attention to the core business.

Put another way; when you start your comic book company make the best comics you can before deciding to put significant effort into other media or enterprises make sure to handle your core business.

As for me, life is what happens while… you know the rest.

If you don’t know that Lennon quote do yourself a favor and Goggle, it. Truer words are rare to find my friend.

Life is what happened to me as such; by the time the books launched Milestone was in my rearview mirror. When our books premièred, I was still at the company but had already begun to think outside the box determined to avoid another DC bullet.

Doing so meant I was going to keep my school idea to myself.

At Motown Animation & Filmworks where I went after leaving Milestone, I put the idea on my short list produced another up to date business plan and was about to partner with a mainstream publishing company.

Then core business reared its ugly head yet again.

Motown’s core business is music my film and television division although successful in the two plus years we were there was doomed. At the time Motown’s parent company was Polygram and the powers that be decided Motown would return to core business despite having its best year ever.

Motown Animation was doomed, but I was very much alive with options chief among them I had a sweet golden parachute.

From Wikipedia:

A golden parachute is an agreement between a company and an employee (usually upper executive) specifying that the employee will receive certain significant benefits if employment is terminated. Most definitions specify the employment termination is because of a merger or takeover, also known as “Change-in-control benefits” but more recently the term has been used to describe perceived excessive CEO (and other executives) severance packages unrelated to change in ownership (also known as a golden handshake). The benefits may include severance pay, cash bonuses, stock options, or other benefits.

OPTION 1.

I could transition over to Polygram Films for the remainder of my contract. If my deal were not extended at terms end, my golden parachute would still be honored.

OPTION 2.

I could sit out the balance of my contract watching All My Children at home and still receive full salary. However, that also came with a non-compete.

A non-compete means I could not work with another company doing what I was doing at Motown.

“You’re a f-cking IDIOT!”

That’s what my agent at the William Morris agency told me when like Captain Kirk I changed the rules of the game.

I opted for a third option, I left. Left the deal left the Golden Parachute left the Polygram job. Left it all for a long shot at a dream. It felt good for about two days until it became clear I f-cked up with a capital F-UCKED UP.

First, William Morris dropped me followed by my manager and entertainment attorney.

Just that quick I went from Playa to played.

I was told later William Morris may have stood by me if I had not responded in kind when called a ‘f-cking idiot.’ Really?

I don’t play that. Never have never will.

Hollywood is very much like the movie ‘Swimming with Sharks.’ Some (not all) people think because they have a certain amount of power they have the right to belittle you when the feeling hits them.

I’m a grown man and unless I’ve done something to warrant you addressing me like I’m a child the odds of you getting away with talking to me like I am are fifty shades of zero.

On the other hand, I’m not perfect and on occasion have indeed been a f-cking idiot and deserved to be called on the carpet. However, me making a hard decision about my life isn’t one of those occasions.

This stance has cost me both money and opportunities, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t regret my actions in some instances. That said, I can’t see myself continuing to deal with someone who berates me for no other reason except they can and all just for a paycheck?

I’ll pass.

I don’t cast judgment on those who tolerate it. I just don’t.

If interested check out the film or read this review: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/swimming-with-sharks-1995

I don’t pretend to have all the answers with that in mind I’ll offer the following advice. Remember loyalty is rare in Hollywood when you have only talent to offer.

My dear friend Jay Bernstein told me something I’ll never forget. Jay was one of if not the best agent/manager to ever play the game in Hollywood. I asked him why Sammy Davis JR left him.

“They all leave,” Jay said. “Everyone needed me until they become big stars. Then they don’t. So why pay my fee?”

I said it was a cold way to be, but Jay said it wasn’t personal then said; “People who have your back are worth a lot more than money. I’m still friends with most of my former clients.”

His lesson to me that day, decide what you need certain people for and know what they need you for. Put another way; when the sh-t hits the fan, you’ll know who’s not worth a sh-t and who’s a fan.

I didn’t know Jay when I found myself in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Westwood home to The University of Southern California better known as U.C.L.A. Westwood is a trendy area filled with upscale shops and expensive restaurants.

I’ve never been a fan of Westwood U.C.L.A or trendy, expensive restaurants. I doubt if I ever will be. But because God gets a kick out of such things my new Viacom offices were in Westwood the reference library I was compelled to use was at U.C.LA, and a trendy, expensive restaurant was where I was on my way to have lunch with Stan Lee.

Stan was kind enough to bring with him Jack Kirby and the Black Panther.

Together they may have saved my ass.

Next Time: The End

Note: The Black Panther Party I refer to is the original Black Panther Party circa 1960s-1970s NOT to be confused with the group The New Black Panther Party.

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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