Showing posts with label Sean E. Ali. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sean E. Ali. Show all posts

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Sean E. Ali Says It Better Than I Can....

From the “WHAT’S MY NAME?!” File…

"A man's true wealth is the good he does in the world." -- Mohammad

Superman died yesterday.

That is not hyperbole, not romantic nostalgia, not delusion, not exaggeration - it’s a fact as sure as you’re breathing in and out.

I'm going to wander a bit as I reflect on the passing of a Titan among Titans. A man who walked with legends and giants in his sport and kept stride before taking point and leading the way.

You probably know him by other names, the Kentucky Kid, the Olympic Medal winner, the Louisville Lip, the Mouth, Cassius Marcellus Clay, or maybe by the first name he bestowed upon himself before he went out into the world and made believers of everyone he encountered…
…The Greatest.

The second name he took ownership of, the name he fought under and fought for is the name we all know him by best after that first one - Muhammad Ali.

There was power there. There was power and dignity in the choice made. The name was bestowed upon him by the Nation of Islam, led at the time by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, but he took ownership of it. It was more than a badge of racial pride or rebellion - Muhammad Ali was the embodiment of who he was, the culmination of the search and successful establishment of an identity that wasn’t a product of oppression, social and racial inequality, or the gift rewarded to his lineage from some forgotten slave owner in the heart of a segregated so-called democracy. The name was his, it was his before he knew he was looking for it, and he would not go back to confines of anything else that may have made him more palatable to the conventions of a society that did not accept him or include him in the first place.


That was the question he set out to answer when, while he was still known as Cassius Clay, he was asked by a reporter about the meaning of his name and Clay responded that he would have to find out…

…but I’m getting ahead of my own recollections, let’s back up a bit.

When he was a little boy, Cassius Clay had a bike. He went out one day, stopped off somewhere, parked his bike and when he returned, it had been stolen. Clay and his mother reported the theft and the officer he spoke to just happened to run a program that taught boys how to box. Clay jumped on the chance to learn to fight because when he found out who stole his bike, he wanted to be able to beat him up…

…it was a different time, when we settled things with fists over bullets. Yeah you might get hurt, but you lived to fight another day.
Clay grew, became more proficient at boxing and eventually represented the United States in the Olympics bringing home the gold medal before turning pro and building a career that would be legendary. Clay was fast, he was powerful, he was strong, he was brilliant, and he knew it…

“It’s not bragging if you can back it up.”

When Clay was coming up in the ranks he gained another reputation. He was described as brash, bold, a loudmouth, a fool, cocky…

…in other words, he wasn’t liked very much.

We revere him now, but at the time? Cassius Clay was a showboater who was going to walk into his comeuppance one day. That expected day was when he fought for his first title bout at the age of 22 against Floyd Patterson. There’s a great story from a reporter who was sent by the New York Times to cover the bout that he was to run a loop from the site of the bout to the nearest hospital because they wanted to be sure he was on hand when Clay was sent into the intensive care ward by Patterson…

…that guy was probably disappointed by the outcome.

Patterson was cut down by Clay’s speed and power and the world had a new champion who loudly proclaimed who he was and would be for the remainder of his life…


That night, he really did shake up the world.

And it wouldn’t be the last time he did that.

As Clay continued to fight the question he hadn’t been aware he was asking began to persist until it moved to the forefront of his association with the Nation of Islam. The Nation was considered a hate group by mainstream media in the heart of volatile times that would eventually be the Civil rights movement. Fronted by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, and his outspoken, dynamic protege - Malcolm X, Clay finally confronted the question…

The answer became Muhammad Ali.

And no one outside of the Nation and Clay’s fans were cool with that. Reporters continued to call him Clay, which Ali would correct every time. Every. Single. Time.

He was Clay in the press, Clay to his critics, Clay on the billing of the bouts he had, and Clay to his opponents…

…in particular Ernie Terrell, the holder of the next belt that Ali had to claim on his mission of unifying the title to be the undisputed heavyweight champion.

Terrell called Ali Clay through the weeks leading up to the fight. Ali warned Terrell that if he kept calling him out his name that he would pay for it. Terrell persisted…

…Ali kept his promise.


This was the mantra chanted over and over again during that bout. Every time Ali laid into Terrell, he ended the exchange with that question. Ali would put Terrell on the edge, he would set the man right on the verge of a fight ending knockout…

…and then he’d back off, look Terrell in the eye as one man to another and bellow through what had to be a fog of pain and a haze of agony the question…

And then he’d open up on Terrell again. Step back to observe his work shake his head with dissatisfaction and ask again…

And the beatdown would resume in earnest...
...Ali dragged that beating out for 15 rounds.

It's in strong competition for the meanest, most brutal fight I ever saw in my life, the other being Mike Tyson’s first title match.

And actually Tyson was more merciful in that bout, he put that guy away much faster than Ali torturing Terrell.

But the end result was quiet and profound.

He was never called Cassius Clay again by anyone, friend or foe.
However it wasn’t the last time he’d have to stand up and fight for who he was and who intended to be.


There’s a reason I reflect on this particular battle and what follows almost immediately over the others. Ali had chosen to adopt a name, a religion, a culture that was as opposed to most of his numerous other achievements in and out of the ring. There’s a reason why this brutal ballet and the bigger battle in the offing - Ali’s refusal to be drafted stand out as I reflect on his life and what he was to me as a fan and a young Black Man coming up.

Ali took that stand knowing, absolutely knowing that he’d lose everything he fought so hard for. He’d lose the status, the money, the fame, the title, all of it because he chose to be true to his faith, principles and name by taking an unpopular stance.

But just like Superman, he stood there and waited for the bullets to fly. And for many that was it, Ali refused to step up and that made him unpatriotic at best, a traitor and a coward at the worst. This was before he became a hero to the mindset of the general public, before he put away men like Fraizer and Foreman three and a half years later. This was a time when a man who was a Muslim, true to his faith, true to his name, and dedicated to doing no harm that involved taking lives for a cause he did not believe in or support was no only unpopular, it was considered unAmerican.


It was an unspoken question, a new mantra, the click of a pendulum keeping time against the backdrop of bloodshed and rioting and the fall of voices of a generation. It was the cadence Ali kept time to as he stood tall despite his material losses. As he began to explore other avenues as a public speaker for the Nation after Malcolm X’s split from the organization. He was terrible at it initially, but as he had done in his previous life, he persisted until he became adept at it. The raw talent was there in his taunts and poetry in boxing matches, and like his fists Ali found precision in his words which only extended his reputation in the Black community as “The People’s Champion” and “The Greatest”.


He rebuilt himself in his time away from the ring. He answered that question conclusively to himself, his circle, his faith and Allah. He stood his ground, refused to be bought by offers of restoration of everything he lost through apology of wrongdoing and compromise for expediency’s sake. He was right in his heart, he believed what he believed.

He wasn’t in this fight for compromise, he was in it for a win.

The US Government didn’t know who they were fooling with.

The only people surprised by the eventual overturning of his conviction and restoration of his license to fight seemed to be the very people who condemned him and eventually vindicated him when they realized Ali could not be brought down.


That question has been answered. It was a name he chose, a name he owned and a name he fought for.

It was an example of what happens when one man believes in himself and has the presence of mind to remain true to himself as he discovers who he is.


That is the question I toss out ahead of me because the name Muhammad Ali chose belonged to my great grandfather who came to America the end product of a line that traveled through Iran, Iraq, India, Ethiopia and eventually Northern California starting in Sacramento and migrating down into the Bay Area.

It’s the name continued to be passed on to my grandfather and my father. It’s a name I wear proudly despite the drawbacks that come with it in a post 9-11 world.

It’s a family name I hold on to and when asked by more than a few folks, “Wouldn’t it be easier to change your name? Maybe take on your mother’s maiden name or something?”

Yes it would be easier.

But it wouldn’t be the truth.

It wouldn’t be who I am and who I will always be.

Muhammad Ali was my example a long time ago. He not only wanted to find an identity, but in pursuing that identity, he went to Africa and embraced the many cultures across that continent, he traveled the globe as an ambassador of sorts and never tried to deny who he was, or where he felt he fell short in his life.

These days, you talk to a younger generation and they draw back at the history they could avail themselves to, the discovery of something more than the narrow confines of the neighborhood they were born into and no farther. They are fronted these days by guys like Floyd Mayweather who asks what Africa ever did for him, as opposed to what he could to make the world a better place outside of an expensive sportscar in his driveway.

They look across the horizon but don't see anything as if learning about these places, cultures and people diminish being part of the USA (since that's were I am) - their end all be all.

They missed what Ali discovered by asking a simple question loudly...


It wasn't about being self absorbed or self serving for Ali, he was too busy trying to give of himself while discovering himself to become a complete human being.

"Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth."

He stood with pride and dignity even as Parkinson’s diminished his ability to speak and move. He continued to show up, be counted, to give well past his part, if things like that could be measured.

He didn’t hide. He didn’t walk away. He didn’t abandon who he was because the road would suddenly be easier if he just went along to get along.

He is, because his influence in my life is a forever kind of thing, my hero. He is the example I strive for still.

He is that for a lot of young men of my generation who, when heroes were in short supply, had the real Superman…
…and he looked like us.

And in my case, he wore my name when he could’ve gone back to his old one.


He is Muhammad Ali.

And he is the Greatest.


That’s a question I never have to ask, because just like Ali…
"I know where I'm going and I know the truth, and I don't have to be what you want me to be. I'm free to be what I want."

That was the lesson he taught me. And when I step into the ring daily, that lesson's a part of the gloves I lace up.


And more importantly, what's yours?
Peace be upon you. And upon you be peace.

Peaceful Journey, Champ. You will be missed but not forgotten.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

From The "A Nigger Moment" File

If you’ve been reading BLOOD & INK on a regular basis (and if not, then whyain’tcha?) The you’ll have noticed that from time to time I’ll post something here that has been written by one of the most extraordinarily talented artists it’s been my pleasure to work with; Sean E. Ali.

Sean has a habit of writing these amazingly perceptive and on point essays on his Facebook wall that should be read by a wider audience. But Sean is truly a modest man and resists all my suggestions that he should start a blog or something where these thoughts can saved and savored and not lost in the blur of Facebooks posts.  Sean’s a deep thinker who truly has something worth saying about some very important societal topics affecting all of us today.

Fortunately he has a friend like me who has no shame at all in reposting his insightful words on his own blog.

Okay, I’ve run my mouth far too much already. I now turn the floor over to Mr. Ali…

So let me get this straight...

The people upset most that the President used the word "nigger" in an interview...

...are the very people who have been calling him that in one form or another since '08...

...or wasn't Cornell West using it to describe the President's avoidance of the subject he was confronting when he used the word...

...or are people of color who use it as a part of their daily speech when referring to themselves or people they know who think that tossing a bunch of different vowels and consonants on at the end somehow makes the word something other than what it was?

Uh huh...

If that ain't a "nigger moment", I don't know what is...

For the record, I'm going for the Queen's English version of that word which denotes an "ignorant person"...
The word long before it was a racial slur was used to describe a lack of intelligence, an ignorance of things that were obvious.

In short, there is no positive spin for the word.

Sorry, Chris Rock, I know you want to resurrect it after the NAACP did that whole symbolic burial thing, but really it's not the kind of word that meant "Freedom" in Swahili, it's still ignorant even when it's not racial.

For the youngsters and the hip hop community and those folks who think they are down when they use it as a greeting or expression of friendship.
It isn't. It never was no matter how many times you add "az", "uh", "a", "ruh", or whatever else you come up with, you're still calling someone ignorant, you're still insulting someone's intelligence even when race isn't a factor...

But when you do it to one another and then lose your minds because someone who isn't you or yours uses the term...

...then it's racial and stupid, and you're a hypocrite.

If the word is wrong, it's wrong all the way around. You can't pick and choose the moments it's okay to speak a slur or insult, because it's a slur and an insult all the time. You can dress it up if you like, but it is what it is all the time...

At least the President used it as a proper example of the ingrained nature of racism in American culture and the difficulty of erasing nearly six hundred years (if you take in the total time of Africans sending their own to the Europeans who then bound them over into slavery overseas to well, now) of racial inequality in a weekend when it's got that large a head start, is an accurate assessment and summary of what he said.

And FOX Newsertainment wants to act like what he said was somehow the most horrible thing ever uttered by a president...

....despite their long track record of profiling people of certain ethnic groups and hiding behind the new "nigger" trigger word of "thug"...

All of you need to take a breath and listen to yourselves before you start jumping on someone else for using the EXACT SAME WORD YOU USE AND REFUSE TO LET GO OF in a context that offends you...

...probably because what was said is true.
And how Black people can sit around demanding the removal of the Confederate battle flag and not abandon the use of a word which is linked to that flag and that era like a guy with a burning cross and a white hood on his head is one of those things I'm not understanding...

Maybe the Johnny Reb isn't the only thing that needs to be left in the past...

Something to consider, friends.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

From The "In Wonder I Wander" File...

If you've been reading BLOOD & INK on a regular basis (and if not, they whyain'tcha?) Then you'll have noticed that from time to time I'll post something here that has been written by one of the most extraordinary and talented artists it's been my pleasure to work with, Sean E. Ali. 

He designed and created the cover of the 10th Anniversary Edition of "Dillon and The Voice of Odin" and he's become acclaimed in the New Pulp community for his outstanding cover design work for Pro Se Productions.

Recently I asked Sean to create a promotional piece for my upcoming "The Return of Fortune McCall" and I loved it so much I wanted it to be the cover. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way. But the piece he did is so evocative and so much captures the spirit of Fortune McCall that I just could not let it be shown.

And I also felt that Sean's story behind the creation of the illustration should be re-posted here. He's already posted it on Facebook but it hopefully will be seen by a wider audience here.

And since I've run my mouth far too much already, I now turn the floor over to Mr. Ali...


Yesterday, I showed a piece of art to a writer who asked me to do a promo piece for his upcoming book.

The piece was something I started over a year ago, and it was, remarkably the last thing I got done before becoming seriously ill...

Yeah, you folks missed that episode, but only because I didn't tell you.

It was the kind of ill where you start wondering if maybe you should've done the things you said you were going to do, because you may not be here to do them in another week situations...

I lost my voice, was flat on my back, had a lingering cough that sent me to a doctor for answers and as I sat there listening to how I would weather this storm, I also heard about how if I didn't take better care of myself, this could be the beginning of one really long series of storms...

Since I'm not a complete idiot (in theory), I took his advice, dropped everything I was doing and started making changes, exercising and all that good stuff...

And, so far, those changes seem to be moving me in a positive direction. Which is why finding this piece is a little ironic. It was the last thing I started on the tail end of what had to be the mother of overextending myself to well past the point of burnout into the happy land of I just don't give a damn anymore.

Mostly because when a doctor says you're overdoing it, you get to choose if it's going to be you surviving or everything else taking you out for good...

And if that's the case, I'll be damned if I let go of life because I can't let go of other stuff...

But I finished this piece at long last, sent it off to the author, he went over the moon and wanted it for a cover...

...and it got shot down.

I forget the specifics, once a job is dead, it's dead, and you put it in the rearview. But I was actually kind of glad it went down that way. It was something I hadn't let go of from the last time around, and I felt compelled to finish it.

Now, here's the funny thing, I went back to the piece, which I fully intended to delete, and said, "Now that it's not a job, how would you fix this on a second pass?"

And it became something I did to wind down and start getting my chops back instead of me looking at a clock or a calendar. I had fun doing the work again, which is something I hadn't been able to say in a really long time.

Since the character, Fortune McCall, belongs to Derrick Ferguson and is published by Pro Se, this is in no way an official promo piece, it's just me doing a before and after for the fun of it...

And really, wasn't that the whole reason we got in the game to begin with?

This image is where I started, 

And this image is where I ended up...

I'm kind of glad it got shot down because I'd have never looked at it again...

...and I would've missed unexplored possibilities...

In fact, outside of the author, who'll probably want a copy, this piece is pretty much off the table in any way shape or form as far as I know, so don't ask me when it's coming who's on it or anything else, because I honestly don't know...

...which, isn't nearly as nail biting a situation as it once was for me...

I've let it go.

I may not be where I once was, but I'm glad I've gotten where I need to be...

...and from here, it only gets better.

Be good to yourselves and each other...

Friday, August 1, 2014

Courtesy of Mr. Sean E. Ali....

Since the management is running this elsewhere, I get to embellish a bit on the image I posted earlier...

Coming soon in print (though it is already available as an ebook) PulpWork Press proudly presents the final entry in the HOW THE WEST WAS WEIRD anthology series with, HOW THE WEST WAS WEIRD, VOLUME III (naturally)!

Featuring 12 stories, including tales by talented folks like Derrick Ferguson, Joel Jenkins, Thomas Deja, and Dale Glaser among others, it takes the western, mashes it up with genres like horror, science fiction and fantasy, mixes liberally, then conservatively (that way no one's offended), and BOOM! you have some fine reading...

Edited by Russ Anderson, it's bound to make the world a cleaner, brighter place, change your life as you know it, it'll pick up your dry cleaning and bring world peace...

...or whirled peas, I really didn't read the box that closely...
And if it doesn't do a single one of those things that I never really promised it would do in the first place...

...wait for it... STILL have some fine reading ahead...!

BOOM goes the dynamite!

So buy a dozen (they make great gifts for Yom Kippur or Columbus Day), and share the love!

Now get out there and pick up a case and inhale that new book smell...

...unless you're doing the ebook thing, then I guess you have to just sort of wing it...

But I digress, buy it already!

You did? Well buy it again...!

These guys are trying to support a lifestyle they'd like to become accustomed to...

...and I'm out.

(insert mic drop here)

Monday, April 15, 2013

From the "Victory Lap - The End of the Big Project" File...

Since this is my blog you’re used to me running off at the mouth in this space here that I’ve carved out for my thoughts and updates and news on my projects. But this time I’m turning it over to Sean E. Ali. He’s the extraordinarily talented cover designer for Pro Se Press and the genius behind so many of their covers that readers and fans of Pro Se have salivated over. He also did the artwork and designed the cover for “Dillon And The Pirates of Xonira.” He’s wonderful at his job and his latest project is yet another important milestone in his career.

But it’s also important to Sean in a very personal way and I thought it was only fitting that he be allowed space here to express how important this project is to him. He originally posted it on his Facebook page but it’s so heartfelt and so touching I felt compelled to re-post it here along with the front and back cover of BLACK PULP so that it will hopefully be seen by a wider audience and not lost in an avalanche of FB posts that come after it.

And I think I’ve spoken quite enough. Mr. Ali, the floor is yours…

Now that it's done, I can talk about the latest project I've done for Pro Se, BLACK PULP.

In advance this is more of an op ed thing that's just for me. You're not obligated to read it.

To give you the highlights BLACK PULP is a volume of fiction being published by Pro Se Press which features stories with an African American focus and features stories by : Joe R. Lansdale, Gary Phillips, Charles R. Saunders, Derrick Ferguson, D. Alan Lewis, Christopher Chambers, Mel Odom, Kimberly Richardson, Ron Fortier, Michael A. Gonzales, Gar Anthony Haywood, Tommy Hancock and features an introduction by WALTER MOSLEY!

Yeah "Devil In A Blue Dress - Denzel was in the movie version" Walter Mosley…

Which made this the biggest damn deal name wise this side of Barry Reese's Rook as our first major licensed property. So that's the short version, you want to slog through the longer part below, think of it as the unofficial afterword for BLACK PULP from my point of view…

Here endth the disclaimer.

Some time ago, long before the vast majority of us were born, the public entertained itself with cheaply produced fiction magazines called pulps, that pretty much took them from the Great Depression and the prospect of a second World War into hidden civilizations, steamy underworlds where masked vigilantes dealt out two-fisted justice and literally hundreds of other variations on genres that explored fantastic situations populated by extraordinary people.

It was an amazing time in popular culture. Literally, people were on the verge of the first real wave of mass produced popular media. It was entertainment and escape packaged behind luridly illustrated covers that beckoned to its potential audience with a promise of a story that you'd lose yourself in and, while it wouldn't solve your immediate problems, you'd be satisfied knowing that your heroes came through for you and made their corner of the fictional universe safe for all until your next visit. The best part? You had heroes who were usually from the people, they were special, but for the most part, they were just like you...

Or at least that's how it was for the vast majority of the population.

In most of the minority communities, the representation of race in those early days of the 1930s, 40s and into the 1950s was less than flattering. Given the times and the publisher, African Americans, or (for the sake of accuracy) let's go with the more diplomatic terminology of the day using either Negros or Colored People, found themselves represented in most media of the day as slow witted or under educated clowns and buffoons - caricatures which were holdovers from the old minstrel shows where bugged out eyes, incredibly huge lips and flaring nostrils were pretty much the standard and actually kinder than the bone through the nose, grass skirt wearing variation or the stooped over monkey/ape variant (that still enjoys a certain amount of favor among some classes of the ignorant, bigots and racists today). The surge of graphic entertainment with the emergence of comic books in general and superheroes in particular turned those stereotypes into standard fare for readers, projecting perhaps some of the views of the creators involved as well as reflecting society's view of race at that time.

The one major possible exception may have been in the pages of a particular pulp that clamored for attention on the newsstands.

One of the best examples of diversity from that time in pulp fiction was an organization called Justice, Incorporated. The group was fronted by a swashbuckling adventurer in the form of Richard Benson, known to the public-at-large as the Avenger. He formed a group of like minded individuals in a war against crime which included a Negro couple, Josh and Rosabelle Newton, who were both accomplished academics with college degrees (from Tuskegee Institute, now University) who actually used the stereotypes of their race to infiltrate the underworld and relay information and assistance to their chief as the story needed them. If Benson hadn't shown up in their lives, they probably would've continued on with their lives after their initial appearance in "The Sky Walker", but thankfully someone in the editing department didn't have an issue with the Newtons coming on board as a part of the team. 

Justice, Incorporated was unique even among the pulp hero set, with the possible exception of Diamondstone the Magician who had a Negro sidekick, in giving these two not only equal status, but one that ran counter to the current perception of race at that time. The Shadow had a guy in the ranks of his agents, and while Doc Savage didn't have a Negro cast member, he was generally respectful of the ones he encountered along the way. Josh and Rosabelle were about as close as I got to an African American version of Nick and Nora Charles in detective fiction, or Jonathan and Jennifer Hart from TV's Hart to Hart.

Which is around where I came in.

As a kid I literally went on safari every weekend in used book stores. In downtown Oakland near 14th and Harrison there was this huge used bookstore, which has long since gone away (to this day one of the biggest losses from my childhood), where I had my first encounter with the like of Conan, Doc Savage, The Shadow and The Avenger and Justice, Inc. All of these heroes were caught in a distilled reprinted form and repackaged as paperbacks. I would fill my weekends with these guys who were an extension of the comics I read then and the old time radio shows that I would encounter in the near future and had a fondness for the Avenger in particular because of the diversity of the group and the respect they showed one another despite their different backgrounds.

For the time that the stories were originally written, the Avenger was pretty progressive stuff. In the context of a child growing up in the near post Civil Rights era, it was a good thing to see heroes who looked like me even if they were supporting characters, contributing to the solution of the crisis and serving in a capacity that spoke of their intelligence and their ability to take the limitations tossed upon them based on their race and turn that to an advantage. They basically were a preview of the world to come, in a series that was ahead of its time. So, I went in search of other characters from that time because there had to be a "Negro Pulp Adventurer" series where people who looked like me were actually the lead characters and not just assistants or comedy relief, right?


Okay, maybe more of a "not really".

The closest thing to an African American, Negro pulp magazine at that time was probably more like a version of Reader's Digest called the Negro Digest. Created by John Harold Johnson, founder of the Johnson Publishing Company (who publishes the magazines Ebony and Jet, among others), put together a magazine with a focus on information, opinion editorials, and artistic content relevent to the Negro community but solicited from a diverse number of contributors regardless of race. In fact a column called "If I Were A Negro", where prominent non Negro guest writers were invited to offer opinions and solutions to racial issues of the day led to the magazine's high note with a piece from then First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt which doubled the magazine's circulation overnight. But for me as a kid reading adventure fiction it wasn't quite the same thing as locating a "Black Doc Savage". There wasn't a hero to call my own from that era of pulp adventure outside of glorified sidekicks.

Granted, away from pulps, I came up during a time of great fictional Black heroes. A byproduct of the militant era, mixed with a healthy (or unhealthy) dash of Blaxploitation media, I had heroes in my day by the score, Shaft, Luke Cage Power Man, Black Panther, Storm of the X-Men, Cyborg, Green Lantern - John Stewart, and my personal favorite: Black Lightning. I also saw a surge of multiethnic characters that culminated in a whole comic book universe as the one bright shining moment in comics that I called "The Milestone Era".

Milestone, with the late great Dwayne McDuffie leading the charge, walked the walk on the page and behind the scenes. Their characters were bold brilliant and multi-everything. I had Black heroes, Latino heroes, Asian heroes and even some White heroes. It was everything I wanted to see in fiction in graphic form, in the media content I digested, in examples to my nephews and nieces of four color warriors who leapt tall buildings and saved the day and were accepted for the content of their character more than anything else. 

It was also an era that came to an end pretty quickly with the usual excuses of not having the readership or using the fact that a book where a minority lead was the title character just wouldn't sell. Which killed brilliant titles like Icon, Static, Hardware, Xombi, The Shadow Cabinet and the Blood Syndicate in Milestone and books outside of Milestone like Black Lightning or El Diablo (the series about a Latino City Councilman who wears a mask to fight crime but also deals with racial identity, political intrigue and illegal immigration that ran just under a year and a half) at DC or the brilliant, but barely seen in the mainstream, independent series, Brotherman. All of these being series that I recommend highly if you ever decide to go on an excursion to a comics shop and dive into a quarter bin or seek online at sites like Mile High Comics.

"Hey that's great, Ali," you say, "but what does this have to do with this BLACK PULP book?"

The answer is everything and nothing.

BLACK PULP is the fulfillment of personal dreams and goals that I set out to do "as a young designer more years than I want to remember" ago, which was to make a positive contribution at some point to the body of work displayed by creators that created what I playfully refer to as "content of color". In this book are a lot of creators whose work I've admired over the years: Walter Mosley, Ron Fortier, Joe Lansdale, Gary PhillipsCharles Saunders and Derrick Ferguson, and they are in this volume doing pieces that are not necessarily racial in content, but they have African American leads carrying the action and plot of these short stories. They're retroactively giving nine and ten year old me what I had been looking for then:positive examples of people who look like me, making their neck of their fictional worlds a better place by being who they are.

Granted this book is not going to change society at large in any noticeable way, shape or form. We won't read BLACK PULP today and wake up tomorrow joining hands singing "We Are The World", but I'm hoping you'll read it for the stories and enjoy it enough that you won't opposed to a Black Pulp 2 or a volume with an Asian focus, or a Latino focus, or a Female focus, or an LBGT focus, or a volume where all diversity in our culture is the focus, there's such a wide field of themes and subjects to be explored. It's my hope that this book will take you off your beaten track and make you curious about the possibilities we have yet to tap into, the richness of the larger diversity creative individuals can bring to you. 

In a very real way, this diverse group of writers are providing an example of that with characters of color, yes, but they're also characters with content, complexity with compelling stories to tell. The efforts of this group of authors, and the personal weight of being a kid who didn't have those kind of heroes readily available to him, fueled my own efforts in the design of the book to make sure that a person looking for a hero in the mirror would find one.

It's my hope that reading BLACK PULP will make you hungry for heroes that look like you and more importantly that you find the imagination and will to create those heroes if none exist. And that in doing so, you not only give yourself something to look up to, but by sharing that perspective, you contribute to the greater appreciation of our greater diversity by everyone. Yeah it's a little "We Are The World"-ish, but at least it has the virtue of being a sincere hope.

I appreciate what Tommy Hancock has brought to the table here. I'm thrilled that Gary Phillips put the concept together and I'm impressed that such a wonderful array of talent came together in response to it all. And more importantly, I'm lucky to have been a part of bringing it to you. It's on my short list of works I'm really proud of. I hope it shows in the package we've put together.

And a shout out in particular to Derrick Ferguson who was my silent co-pilot on this one. his input during the creative process on this one was invaluable and appreciated.

BLACK PULP is here.  Be sure to check it out.

And more importantly, enjoy it.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Heart of Fortune #3

By now, thanks to the relentless huckstering of myself and Tommy Hancock you should know all about THE ADVENTURES OF FORTUNE McCALL.  It’s a special book in a lot of ways.  I’ve written other stuff for Pro Se previous to this but this one here is a major deal. 

For one, it’s my contribution to The Sovereign City Project which so far has been represented by Barry Reese and Lazarus Gray.  And represented quite well, if I may say so.  Tommy’s Doc Daye is waiting in the wings for his turn in the spotlight and if plans go the way they’re supposed to, there will be an epic crossover featuring all three characters in one dynamite story.  When that will happen I can’t say as yet but rest assured that when I know, you’ll know.

So what stories are between the covers of THE ADVENTURES OF FORTUNE McCALL?  I thought you’d never ask.  Attend:

“The Scarlet Courtesan of Sovereign City” introduces Fortune McCall and his cohorts to Sovereign City and vice versa as Fortune searches the city, hunting for a beautiful friend of his who is working for the British government.  This friend has run afoul of some unsavory characters who are up to some decidedly dangerous business.

“The Day of The Silent Death” has Fortune trying to track down a killer who possesses a method of killing hundreds, possibly thousands within seconds without a sound or warning.

“The Magic of Madness” involves a husband and wife team of magicians who have incurred the wrath of a secret society and only Fortune McCall has a chance of saving them.

“The Gold of Box 850” has Fortune McCall once again getting caught up in British espionage.  But this time he’s got a reason; five million dollars’ worth of gold is up for grabs.  Unfortunately, he’s not the only one looking for it.

And I have to bring your attention to the simply stunning design work done by Sean E. Ali, Pro Se’s Art Director.  So far I’ve been blessed with truly amazing artwork on the covers of my books but the cover of THE ADVENTURES OF FORTUNE McCALL is on another level altogether.  He designed it and the actual cover was done by David L. Russell based on an illustration done by Peter Cooper.  Here, take a look for yourself:

THE ADVENTURES OF FORTUNE MCCALL is available at or through Pro Se’s  It's also available in various E-book formats from Smashwords.
            Paperback: 158 pages
            Publisher: Pro Se Press
            ISBN-10: 1468112562
            ISBN-13: 978-1468112566

So that’s enough of my beating you over the head about the book.  I consider your arm to have been sufficiently twisted and I return it to you with my blessings.  

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With...BERTRAM GIBBS

DF: Who is Bertram Gibbs? Bertram Gibbs: Husband, father, film, comic book, television, Broadway collector and enthusiast. Researcher of ...