On Business: Utilizing the Power

By | Monday, January 19, 2015 Leave a Comment
With Congressman John Lewis' March: Book Two being released tying in with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, you'll no doubt hear at least a few references to how Lewis, as a teenager, was inspired by a comic book called Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story. Here's one of, I'm sure, many clips where Lewis speaks to that.
That suggests that comics can have a lot of power and influence, if they have a strong enough message. Go read The Montgomery Story. From a critical perspective, it's not a very good comic book. The illustrations are serviceable, but not especially dramatic or engaging. The story is very heavy in its narration. But the message it conveys was/is strong and obviously got a lot of people, including a then-teenaged Lewis, to move to action.

I've read any number of comics over the years that have changed the way I act or think. I've talked to that point before. There's a part of my brain that despises bigotry thanks to Chris Claremont. There's a part of my brain that loves the medium of comic books -- not just the genre of superheroes -- thanks to Scott McCloud. There's a part of my brain that has me living life on my own terms thanks to Frank Page.

There are books and movies and (of course) people I've met who have changed how I act and think as well, but comics are significant factor for me. And, I don't doubt, for a huge number of others. Whether that's a long-running message that might be thematic throughout an entire publisher's run like Milestone or a short, but topically poignant, point in a single editorial cartoon. Comics can be simple entertainment, but they can also be powerful and uplifting messages that people take to heart.

There are cartoonists out there who try to do provide a strong message with whatever they're working on. Keith Knight springs to mind. But I wonder if more publishers got behind those types of messages, what kind of work could be put out there. Dwayne McDuffie had a fantastic idea with Milestone, but I wonder if he came to the table too much as a editor/creator and not enough as a publisher. The stories Milestone turned out were top-notch, but they had trouble gaining a business foothold. Contrast that against The Montgomery Story which had top-notch business distribution, but only adequate craft. Both are fondly remembered today, but Milestone more for what it could have been, and Montgomery Story for what it did.
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