May 7, 2003
I think I might have mentioned or given you the link to a black cartoonistís website. This website features a link to his history of black involvement in the comics, particularly newspaper strips: http://www.clstoons.com/welcome/link.htm.
Perhaps you can print out some of these pages out and give them to Bernard. I had also sent this link to Bernardís email address. Now, after your comments [I quoted Bernard telling me he thought comics only appealed to "middle-class white males" -Ken], I doubt he read my letter or even checked out the link. More than likely he didn't given what you said. He seems unjustly anti-comic, but given highbrow and left wing prejudice against popular culture, it isn't surprising.
Iíll snail mail my next appeal since he obviously doesnít read his emails that often. I consider myself black only in the context of the racism vis a vis how others want to see me. I prefer to see myself as human. I found his replacement of your show with the rather well-intentioned, but dated and ineffective black power rhetoric of Bob Law and Garry Byrd very disheartening because obviously he agrees with them. I must admit to you, I lost some respect for Bernard for this because it clearly was cronyism of the worst sort and you supported the banned and fired.
And to justify doing so by simply using his ignorance of the evolution of current comics just shows again the folly and weakness left wing people are prone to. Of course you know about the humourlessness of the left, sometimes they canít help it, but there is also a mainstream intellectual snobbery against comics even among the working class, too, actually.
Instead of informing himself, however, about new trends and more politicized, mature comics, he remembers or misremembers what comics were about, perhaps the worst aspects if they were that; Iím not sure the comics of the '60s & '70s are that bad now. The hype in comics today makes Stan Leeís seem like innocent hyperbole.
In fact I think the postmodernism of most comics today is rather dreadful. Iím afraid neither mainstream nor alternative comics publishers are producing the kind of comics Iíd like to see nor are they reaching a broad enough spectrum of working and lower middle class people. [I challenge everyone reading this to suggest a reading list. I'll start it with World War 3 Illustrated. -Ken]
What we need is a new company that publishes brilliant entertaining comics for the masses with a left wing edge. Comics and new alternative films distributed by some sort of underground industry separate from the mass media mainstream control is our only hope as artists and writers who don't want to sell out. As you know, with this idea the biggest problem is distribution.
With the alternatives now, independent creators or mainstream publishers: one is too self-indulgent and the other almost always purely escapist, with some exceptions of course.
People, of course, need fun and happiness in their lives and power fantasies for the powerless will nine times out of ten beat the humorless unfunny rhetoric and politics of the left any day. The left may well lose not because they are wrong, but because they are not good entertainers.
So instead of bringing the joy and beauty of the medium to WBAI and thereby enriching the medium and new potential audience members and old politicos as well, Bernard blindly dismisses a method of creating spectacle that is by comparison to films very inexpensive indeed. I donít know if we should get into the popular adaptations of comics into films. Iíve heard that a major ďseriousĒ black superhero film is in the works. Will that help? With the climate, fears of more war, plagues, and economic depression ahead, I wonder if he and others will have the good sense to listen to you.
Frankly, Ken, Iím rather pessimistic of your chances given this attitude on the part of political intellectuals. Perhaps you'll have to go the route of Mike Hodel's Hour 25 formerly of KPFK or A, a science fiction show more mainstream than Jim's, that is now exclusive to the internet, though I wish it were live radio again. Yet now more so than ever with WBAI available on the net you might find fans all over the country with and without WBAI.
Iím writing to you from North Lauderdale Florida.
I rather liked the fact that you were both left wing and imaginative and fun, a rare combination on the left. I think we need more creative, artistic left wingers to help bring changes to our world. The intellectuals, theorizers, historians, and journalists can only do so much.
I wrote once a long essay post at TCJ [The Comics Journal] titled "social aesthetics." I was trying to define a new comic movement, comics that both strive for entertainment yet embody social concerns (broadest sense) in its work for a mass audience, without slogans, without propaganda, art that allows people to think for themselves yet moves them to live and change.
I informed the TCJ's news editor about the situation when you sent out your first email to fans of the show after its cancellation. I don't know if the Comics Journal followed up on my lead or not and interviewed you or printed a news items. [They did. -Ken]
I wrote an interesting essay on something else that the magazine editor, Milo George thought well of though he ultimately rejected it based on the broadness of my topic, Iím trying to find a right piece for my next try at cracking the Journal. Perhaps I can interview you or you can have someone else you trust do an interview with you about ď'Nuff Said!" and its struggles and you can submit it there.
I donít know how you feel about the Comics Journal given its often harsh criticism of mainstream comics and personalities, but itís an option.