Tag Archives: social media

Tuning in to tune out

Original illustration by Robert Pinero.

Original illustration by Robert Pinero.

Commercials for a certain top of the line brand of headphones are my latest pet peeve.  Leave it to some of the most manufactured personas in music to capitalize on escapism by branding their product as its most vital “option” . . . And okay, while that is essentially what all branding is about, it’s always sad when something that used to be not so branded becomes heavily so.  Sad as watching as it happen to a cow’s butt (and I don’t even like cows).   There had to have been a time when sneakers were just sneakers.  Some brands were known for their relative quality, and some weren’t.  But then advertisers linked sneakers to professional athletes and their “god-like” quality of being victorious¸ and then, in the period after that, to fashion.  The wardrobe-matching potential of footwear and anything electronic/portable have obviously been a boon to their respective brands.

So the appeal of headphones is no longer just about music; it’s about music in the context of being surrounded by people, either to drown them out, or so they can notice the status-marker you have that happens to play music.

Lately I’ve had more sympathy for people who keep their heads glued to head- or smart phones in between everything — except for people who do such behind the wheel or while trying to cross the busiest of crosswalks.  If you’re not lucky, society hasn’t made getting to and from anything easy.  There’s less breathing room, less of everything, and the world asks more of you to get that.  (Always worth noting that note less of everything exists because of someone else’s greed.)

I was talking the other day to someone who suggested that, without smart phones, one would be actively trying to avoid making eye contact if you weren’t in a place you felt comfortable.  Some people are oddities wherever they go, and avoiding the awkward social component of that has to be appealing.  One of the reasons we listen to music, in the first place, is because it can make the world feels like it’s not such a mess … except for jazz, which some people maybe like because it’s a “brilliant” mess.  Yeesh, I say.

Anyway, if you’ve got headphones on, maybe you’re tuning in to something that makes the world seem less uphill.  Of course, people are also — and perhaps more frequently — trying to stay in tune with the latest flickering idol of a non-existent attention span, or validate their stupider tendencies.

Now they’ve got headphones perfect for the person who wants the world to be in sync with his or her own usually loud and abrasive soundtrack.  ‘Cause while someone may be disenfranchised from the things that society says really matter, one can loudly play music that suggests he or she is some kind of big wheel.

Ah, headphones, keeping you distracted from life — and depending on the brands you like, another stylish component of the image of the multi-media show that is “life” itself.


being liked

Pinero art

Pinero illustrative visual

The reception of words on a blog often seems to go hand and hand with what visual they accompany.  It’s natural that a visually appealing post would be a boost, but really, much like the average person looking someone else over, the likeability of any post is usually summed up in an instant.  Or, if your blog features a picture of you in which you’re attractive in any conventional sense, bonus points on the likeability.  Perhaps it should be said that liking any post so quickly is often a pretty thin version of the sentiment.  I’m not harping on human nature (too much), it’s just that as posts by some of my favorite bloggers decline or stop altogether, it reminds me that I like reading a blog when it’s sort of like the antithesis of reality TV (or some crappy indie movie): lots of great text, probably not too concerned with image, and easily passed over for lack of glamor.

What do I like in a blog?  Attempts to figure out the human condition, and not just the condition of the ones whose looks are idealized on TV, is key.  Good humor.  Funny dog stories (’cause there are no funny cats in real life — except, possibly, if you’re using sixties slang).  Also, the occasional entertaining whine session, though I guess that goes back to good humor and even a bit of the human condition criterion.

It’s an effort to keep up a good blog, in the first place.  And it seems especially so when it’s something done simply for its own sake.  As mentioned before, I don’t typically find a whole to relate to in most of the big journals on the web.  But I know that they pay their writers, and beyond myself (well, maybe a bit for myself), I wish there were comparable venues for those who write interesting cultural commentary outside of a coffee shop — or wherever else only has smiles for the presentably upwardly mobile.    Something to help more folks keep going.  To that end, I have to wish that there would be more likes for these folks as well.  As flimsy and slightly shallow as they can be, there can also be  a sight for sore eyes.

Sometimes, though, I have to wonder if it’s all just people preaching to a choir.  And maybe that’s the problem, everyone wants to see themselves in some group that never really challenges them.  That’s often where it’s easiest, but if you’ve managed to drag yourself away from TV to eke out a thoughtful post about  culture beyond gardens that no one seems to care about, thanks.  And if you made a garden interesting by writing about something more than how pretty it is, even more thanks.  When I’m not writing myself, I’ll be reading.

Jiba Anderson on the ‘character of color’ template, a light seldom reached, and indie initiative

Anderson and Goffinski’s The Horsemen: Book of Olorun # 3

Not content with leaving the void of African-American characters in comics to be filled by the mainstream, Jiba Anderson didn’t just create a team of African-American superheroes (The Horsemen)–he created Griot Enterprises to bring them and other characters of color to readers himself.   Check out my interview with Jiba, whom is gearing up to produce his latest project, below: 


A big focus of your work is creating and tapping into mythologies that happen to be black . . . You obviously grew up loving comic books.  Did you have a moment of measuring yourself against the majority of characters whom had become important to you? 

As an artist, you’re always comparing yourself to not only your contemporaries, but your influences as well. It’s the classic dichotomy of the artist’s ego and the artist’s insecurity.

In terms of creating characters of color, the natural inclination is to feel that DC and Marvel at once created a template, but we as fans of color have always been critical of that template; “The Man” hasn’t done enough to represent us in the light we would like to see ourselves portrayed.

The difference between me and other fans is that I saw the template for what it was, and I embraced it for giving us something to build upon and improve. When books like Brotherman, Milestone Media and Tribe came on the scene and were successful, I felt empowered. Those entities created a new template and gave creators of color a new standard to strive for. I took up that challenge and that’s why Griot Enterprises exists. That’s why The Horsemen, Outworld and the other titles under our banner exist.

On a purely statistical level, it’s highly unlikely for someone to be a minority and write a minority character in a mainstream capacity.  Do you think anything is lost from this? 


If I were looking to build my career creating and writing characters of color for the Big Two, then I would’ve felt lost.

When I started Griot Enterprises, I knew the statistical strikes against the company. However, the expansion and possibilities of the independent comic book scene opened up the possibilities of success in the industry.

Besides, I don’t consider myself a “minority” creating “minority” characters for only “minorities” to enjoy. I am a writer and artist using my culture and interests to enhance the content of my stories. I just happen to be an African-American artist. So, I create my work based on that lens, which informs my worldview.

A grand, mature scale seems to be the common thread in your work.  In scope, The Horsemen reminds me of Grant Morrison’s and Warren Ellis’ team-based work.  Very global.  One of your goals with The Horsemen was creating a black super team–something that hasn’t been done before.  But I’m not so sure that a great street-level hero whom happens to be black has been done, either (Recently, there may be the one).

I love grand themes. I love the meta-story. Every creator should have their own voice, including comic book writers. If you really study the best modern comic book writers (i.e. Morrison, Ellis, Gaiman, Priest, etc.), they all write their interests and give their critique of the world at large.

In truth, all of my work is political and social commentary. All of my work will always honor, in one way, shape or form the African and African-American experience and from that base, expand outward to address the Global Village.

For example, The Horsemen deals with spirituality vs. physical desire; what holds us back, as humans, from achieving our full potential. My upcoming project, Outworld: The Return of the Master Teachers deals with the political, economic and social warfare against the disenfranchised. The mythological / superhero world of The Horsemen and the Sci-Fi / Kung-Fu overtones of Outworld are the candy-coated shell that aids in the swallowing of those pills, which can be bitter.

Who are the creators inside and outside of the comic book medium who’ve influenced your sensibilities the most? 

Man, that’s a tough question to answer because there are so many artists, writers and people who’ve influenced my work.

See, my work is defined by pop culture. From Alphonse Mucha to Frank Frazetta, from comic books and animation to “Grindhouse” films, these “low-brow” creations sparked my imagination. Their bold and shameless design and marketing aesthetic inspire the way that I make images and bring my message to the masses… And they are a lot of fun.

If I had to break it down, my top 5 comic art influences are Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, George Perez, John Byrne, Alan Davis and Steve Rude. My top 5 comic writers are Chris Claremont, Christopher Priest, Warren Ellis, Grant Morrison, and Alan Moore.

As someone who’s been making indie comics for about a decade, how, if at all, have the challenges changed?  

The industry has changed dramatically over the past ten years. From the emergence of Print-On-Demand to digital downloads, to the birth of crowd funding via Kickstarter and Indiegogo to Facebook, the financial obstacles of getting into this business have been drastically reduced. At the same time, comics have gone completely corporate with Disney’s acquisition of Marvel.

The line has officially been drawn in the sand. The line between Indie and Mainstream are (is) clear, and we, as independent companies, should forget about trying to beat DC and Marvel at their game. Ain’t gonna happen. We don’t have the resources. More importantly, our properties do not have the benefit of 50 to 75 years of market saturation.

More importantly, our properties do not have the benefit of 50 to 75 years of market saturation.

So, what do we do about this? We flip the script. We use Facebook. We were up on digital comics a good five years before the Big Two took notice. Indies were the first to benefit from this crowd funding hustle.

However, don’t get it twisted. This is the entertainment business. We’re still competing for attention and shelf space. We’ve got to come correct with each and every book we create. The art, story, design and packaging have to be top notch and we’ve got to market the hell out of our project. We’ve got to blog, we’ve got to tweet, and we’ve got to form alliances. We are all in this together.

The great thing about being Indie is that all bets are off. You are free to tell the stories you want to tell. You can experiment. You can help evolve the medium. And, because of the recent success of DC and Marvel, mainstream audiences are now not only aware, but now are starting to respect the power of comics and are checking for the next hot thing…

…Indies have the opportunity to fill that need.


For more about Jiba Anderson and his work, check out http://www.griotenterprises.com/.  Jiba is also currently running an Indiegogo campaign to produce his latest project, which you can help support at  http://www.indiegogo.com/masterteachers/x/2178636