THE SUBMISSION

My Movie

Darryl paced the length of the gravel path that divided the perfectly clipped lawn and stared at the bluestone pebbles that reflected the early morning light. He clenched an artist’s portfolio in a white-knuckled death grip, constantly checking his watch as he shot an occasional glance at the front door of the private house. He was clearly anxious about knocking on the door, but in truth was more nervous because he wasn’t sure of the makeup of the neighborhood or how he would be perceived, a young black man loitering on someone’s property.

He stopped and looked fixedly at the door. One deep breath to gird his loins. “Bump this.” He stepped up and wiped his sweaty palm on his pant leg before ringing the doorbell. An action, he discovered, that once began, could not be stopped. He worked the doorbell like a telegraph key — three short, followed by one long. “C’mon, c’mon, ‘fore I lose my nerve.”

***

The walls of Mark Brown’s bedroom were decorated with posters of comic book characters, and special collector’s edition comic books and rare comic art hung in ornate frames. Bookcases, a chest of drawers and anything else that provided a flat surface were littered with statues, model kits, action figures, toys, and piles of comic books and graphic novels. The room could have easily belonged to that of a young boy instead of a black man in his thirties.

Mark nearly leaped out of bed at the sound of the doorbell—more the pattern of the ring than the sound itself. Three short rings followed by a long one. Over and over again. He blindly reached for the alarm clock on the nightstand, rubbed the sleep from his eyes, and checked the time.

“Who the hell’s ringing my bell like they lost their goddamned mind this early in the morning?”

The doorbell chime continued as Mark stumbled to the front door in his pajamas, still wiping sleep from his field of vision. “All right! All right! I hear you!” Mark violently swung the door open. “What? And it better be good!”

“Uh—what’s crackin’, I–I mean good morning, sir. Sorry to bother you ’cause you look like you were sleepin’, but I’m lookin’ for a Mr. Mark Brown. He still live here?” Darryl stammered.

“Don’t you people keep in contact with each other? I’ve never bought a Watchtower from any of you, and I’m not going to start today, get me?”

“I ain’t no Jehovah’s Witness, sir. It’s a portfolio, not a briefcase.” Darryl held up his portfolio.

“Then who are you?”

“My name’s Darryl. Darryl Jackson.”

“That supposed to mean something to me?”

“’Pends on who you are.”

“I’m Mark Brown. What do you want?”

“The same Mark Brown who owns and publishes the Perceived Onslaught comic books?”

“The same Mark Brown you pissed off for getting him out of bed on his day off!”

“Mr. Brown, I said I was sorry ’bout that, but check it, I got here earlier than I thought I would and I tried to wait until a decent hour to show a brotha respect, but I’m kinda anxious, yanno? Slow, ya blow, snooze, ya lose.”

“What. Do. You. Want?” Mark said through gritted teeth.

“Uh — I was—I was kinda wonderin’ if —uh— you would—like—take a look at my submission samples? If it’s not too much trouble, an’ all?” Darryl said, visibly flustered.

“Well, it is too much trouble, and besides, all samples go through the submissions editor at my business address, so why don’t you drop them off there and I promise someone will take a look at them and get back to you.”

“Yo, but I tried that already, Mr. Brown, an’ all I keep gettin’ are form letters an’ stuff, tellin’ me to practice and submit again in a few months! What’s up with that?”

“What’s up with what?”

“What’s up with your submission editor? No offense, but I don’t think they know they butt from a t-square! I think they stoppin’ a lot of good work from reachin’ you, includin’ my stuff!”

“Look, Darren—”

“Darryl! Why you playin’ me?”

“—Darryl, my staff are dedicated professionals trained to spot talent and hire them if they’re at a professional level, and to nurture them if they’re not—”

“Yeah, yeah, I read all that in them interviews you be doin’, but I’m askin’ you to give me a chance! You run the company, don’t you? Can’t nobody veto your word, am I right?”

“Okay, I’ll tell you what, I’ll call the office and tell them to expect you. Instead of a form letter, someone will personally sit down with you and go over your submission.”

“No!”

“No?”

“No disrespect, but I don’t wanna deal with no flunky. I came to meet with you.”

“Then you should have made an appointment. Look at me. I’m standing here in my pajamas. I don’t do meetings in my pajamas. Maybe some other time, huh? At my office?”

“I tried that, too! I left you a hundred messages, but you never returned any of my calls! All that paper you got, you can’t get a beeper or nothin’? Page a brotha back or somethin’, know what I’m sayin’?”

“Hey, Darryl, no need to get upset, okay? Sorry, if I didn’t return your calls. It’s nothing personal. I just get so many messages on a daily basis that it’s impossible to call everybody back.”

“Yo, I didn’t mean to flare up at you, Mr. Brown, it’s just I took the day off from work and travelled here all the way from Ithaca for you to take a look at my art—”

“Speaking of which, how did you get this address?”

“From one of your old comics from like seven or eight years ago, when you used to publish outta your house, before you blew up an’ got that corporate office in the city. See?? I been readin’ your joints from way back, Mr. Brown. Why don’t you hook a brotha up with a portfolio review? Make up for them unreturned messages, know what I’m sayin’?” Darryl could tell by Mark’s expression that he wasn’t biting. “Awww, c’mon! Don’t sleep on me! My game is tight! Lemme show you a little somethin’, somethin’, an’ if you ain’t feelin’ my art, I’ll bounce. Simple as that. That’s my word.”

Mark sighed and sized Darryl up. “A quick review, then you leave and let me get back to sleep, deal?”

“Bet!”

Mark ushered Darryl in through the foyer into the living room and gestured for the young man to take a seat at the table, while he stepped into the kitchen.

Darryl was momentarily stunned by all the comic book related paraphernalia that adorned the place. “Yo, this crib is phat. I’ma get me one just like it, but bigga! Yup.”

He moved to the framed comic book art pages that lined the walls and inspected them with childlike exuberance. “Man, I remember all these joints! Yo, hang on to these, Mr. Brown, cause they’re gonna be like priceless collector’s items or somethin’.”

“You can call me Mark. Every time you say Mr. Brown, I turn around and look for my father.” Mark called from the kitchen. “Can I get you something to drink? Coffee?  Juice?”

“Sure, whatever you got.” Darryl answered. “Yo, check this, Mr. Brow — I mean, Mark, you ain’t gonna be sorry you gave me this chance, word. An’ I ain’t never gonna forget it, neither. I’ma be loyal to you! Forget Marvel! Forget DC! Me an’ you! That’s the way it’s gonna be forever! An’ when I start drawin’ your books, sales are gonna blow up, wait an’ see! I’m the next—”

Mark poked his head out the kitchen door. “Stop!”

“What’d I do? I ain’t break nothin’.”

“Let’s get two things straight, Darryl. First, this is a portfolio review and that’s all it is. No offer of work was made or implied by me, got it?”

Darryl nodded. “I hear you, I hear you. Just got a little carried away, yanno?”

“Second, you say I’m the next anybody and this review’s over quick-fast-in-a-hurry.”

“Why?” Darryl asked.

“Because two-thirds of the submissions we receive come with a cover letter that contains the sentence, You won’t regret hiring me because I’m the next— fill in the artist of your choice. Those submissions usually turn out to be the most amateurish, done by people who try to imitate their favorite artists.  Submission editors aren’t impressed by the statement, so do yourself a favor and avoid getting lumped into that wannabe category. Strive to be yourself, not a carbon copy of someone else.”

“Good lookin’ out.”

“Mark disappeared back into the kitchen and rummaged through the cupboards, which were just about devoid of anything remotely related to sustenance. “I’m out of coffee! How about some juice?”

“A’ight.”

Mark opened the refrigerator, which was in the same shape as the cupboards, and grabbed the lone orange juice container. He shook it, checked the date, then opened it and took a whiff.  It’s gone bad. “Juice is out, too! How about some water?”

“Nah, I’m straight.”

Mark shrugged and put the container back into the refrigerator. “I sure could use some coffee.” He mumbled.

Mark reentered the living room and pulled a chair up to the table, right beside Darryl. “Sorry about being such a bad host, but that’s one of the drawbacks of being a bachelor. Nobody around to remind you you’re out of the essentials like coffee, bread, toilet paper. What about you? You married?”

Darryl dug a wallet out of his pocket and rummaged for a picture that he handed to Mark. “Yeah, that’s my wife, Lashawndra, and my baby boy, Tyriq.”

“Beautiful family. Your son has his mother’s eyes. You must be proud.”

“Yeah, they my world. I’d do just about anything for them.”

Mark returned the picture to Darryl. “Cool. Okay, let’s see what you’ve got.”

Darryl placed his portfolio on the table, unzipped it and turned it in Mark’s direction as he opened it. Mark’s eyes passed over the pages quickly and he flipped through at a speed faster than Darryl appreciated. Darryl’s glance darted back and forth between the portfolio and Mark’s expressionless face.  When Mark got to the end, he flipped all the pages back to the beginning.

“Well?” Darryl asked, hopefully.

“Well, your work shows promise—”

“I knew it! Didn’t I tell you your submission editor was weak?”

“—However, you still need to work on a few areas.”

“Like what?” Darryl sounded more defensive than he wanted to.

“Hey, don’t get discouraged by my criticism. Very few people have broken into the comic industry without receiving at least a dozen rejections. A little hard work and a lot of practice is all you need—”

“Now you startin’ to sound like your form letter! I didn’t come all this way to hear you recite that mess verbatim!”

“You want to know what I really think?”

“Hell yeah!”

Mark shrugged. “You asked for it.” He started flipping through the portfolio pages again, this time stopping at certain pages. “I can tell that you never studied anatomy outside of copying it from a comic book. You’re inventing muscles that don’t exist, at least not on humans.  And look at your facial expressions. Why are all your characters yelling or gritting their teeth? Not to mention the stiff poses, the lack of background detail, you don’t spot enough black and your perspective is — just plain bad.”

“Damn. Then what’s good about it?”

“Your pencil lines are solid and you understand line weight, which’ll make your inker happy. Your panel layouts are good, too. You just need to fill them with more believable and fluid poses and background detail.”

“Man, you don’t know what you talkin’ about!” Darryl reached into the inside pocket of his portfolio, pulled out a comic and slapped it down on the table. “I been published before! If my art was so jacked up, why’d they print my work?”

Mark picked up the comic, looked at the cover with a mixture of astonishment and disgust. His expression didn’t change as he flipped through the comic. “Nigga Press presents The Togetha Niggaz? What’s this?”

“That’s real life, son! It’s about these four bangers, real hardcore street niggaz, that form this posse and be makin’ mad cheddah an’ be smokin’ corrupt  cops an’ whatnot! This book be keepin’ it real! What you know ’bout that?”

“Real? Is this what it’s like in your neighborhood?”

“For real!”

“In Ithaca?”

“What you tryin’ to say?”

Mark shook his head and tossed the comic on the portfolio. “Nothing. Forget it. Look, congratulations, you’ve been published. Maybe if you put together another story, they’ll print more of your work.”

“Can’t. They ain’t in business no more.” Darryl mumbled.

“I’m not surprised.”

“What’s that mean?”

“You’re kidding, right? Nigga Press? Negro, please. I’m surprised a printer actually wasted paper on that garbage! And you wonder why they published your work? Your art was the best thing in there! They’d be stupid to turn you away! But your work on The Togetha Niggaz is a far cry from commercial standards. I’m not trying to tell you what to work on but damn, couldn’t you find another company to work for?”

“What you think I’m tryin’ to do now? But fake-ass companies like yours be frontin’! Y’all don’t respect a brothas potential! So if Nigga Press is the only company tryin’ to big up a black man, what am I supposed to do? Say no? Then what? Then I’m ass out all around!”

“You have a point. Look—”

“An’ why you judgin’ me, huh? I ain’t even into “reality” comics, no how. That’s a’ight for TV an’ movies an’ books an’ junk, but comics, to me, comics is always ’bout superheroes. Cosmic brothas, mystic sistas, yanno what I’m talkin’ ’bout? But them kinda books, and the companies that make ’em, when they do come out, they don’t last that long. You in the business, you must know somethin’. Why’s that? Why do most of the comics with people of color as the star fail so fast?”

“You looking for some special answer? They fail for the same reason a good majority of the white hero titles fail. Poorly written stories with stereotypical, underdeveloped characters. Poorly financed. Poorly marketed. Poorly illustrated in what is commercially thought of as the “urban style”. All of the above. None of the above. Take your pick. But whatever you choose, realize that it’s only half true.  The reality is that most minority-themed comics are nothing more than rehashes of successful white comics done in black face.”

“I hear what you sayin’! White corporate America don’t want to publish no minority titles, but they can’t show their racists faces to the public, so they hire Uncle Toms to put out this substandard crap on purpose just so they can say, We put it out there, but there just doesn’t seem to be an interest for this type of material.”

Mark rolled his eyes. “Here we go again with that white corporate conspiracy to keep the black man down. One day I would love to have a professional conversation with a person of color and not have the white man is the devil pop up in the exchange. Don’t think I’ll ever live to see the day, though.”

“Somebody gotta keep it real!”

“Look, white-owned or not, any publisher would be stupid to intentionally produce a product that was substandard.”

“But now you’re contradictin’ yourself!”

“No, I’m not.  You’re not listening to me. Truth: a good majority of the minority comics published are crap.  Truth: a good majority of the non-ethnic comics published today are crap.  Truth: the number of high-quality non-ethnic comics on the stands greatly outweigh the number of quality minority comics, but a large part of that is due to the sheer number of non-ethnic titles being flooded into an oversaturated market.”

“Yeah, I been readin’ ’bout that comic glut an’ whatnot, so I can’t argue with that.  I’m just curious about why minority titles don’t do well.  I buy every title I know is published by a black man representin’ our people.”

“Even if the book is bad?”

“Come again?”

“You said you buy every minority title published by a black man. I asked you if you also bought the books that were of poor content quality?”

“Hell yeah!”

“Why?”

“To show a brotha support! White man ain’t gonna buy the book an’ put no paper in a black man’s pocket!”

“I understand supporting black-owned enterprises, but don’t we as a black consumer have the right to demand quality? Don’t we as black professionals owe it to one another to pull a brother’s coattail to shoddy workmanship? If you bought a chair from a black carpenter and it fell apart the first time you sat in it, wouldn’t you hold him accountable for giving you a quality product? Of course, you would. Why should it be any different when it comes to comics?”

“Yeah, well, that’s an interestin’ theory an’ I’m tryin’ to stay open-minded, but I get this vibe that you tryin’ to come off all superior on me. Lookin’ down on my published work, an’ all—”

“I’m just telling you like it is, or how I know it to be. But since we’re keeping it real here, I’ve got a question for you. Do you really think that the artwork in your portfolio is of a professional level?”

“Well, that’s not my most recent work—”

“Then why’d you bring it?”

“Cause the new stuff’s not finished yet. Work got me tired, black. When I gets home, I ain’t thinkin’ ’bout nothin’ but eatin’ and bustin’ z’s. But that sample’s the same one that got me a job with Nigga Press, so I figured—”

“You figured that it’s the kind of work all publishers are looking for?”

“Right.”

“How many publishers have you sent it to?”

“Not includin’ you? ‘Bout twenty, thirty.”

“Besides Nigga Press, who else offered you a job?”

“Nobody.”

“Then that should’ve told you something!”

“Why you attackin’ a brotha like that? Why’re you, a black man, endorsin’ the same two-dimensional thinkin’ that the white comic book industry uses to hold you down?”

“Endorsing? What the hell are you talking about? What’s me not thinking your samples are of a professional quality got to do with the white comic book industry?”

“Yanno what? Forget it, dog. I’m wastin’ my time here. In fact, yanno what else? Your comics suck! I only came here ’cause I figured I’d help a brotha out, know what I’m sayin’? But if you too stupid or too proud to accept my offer, I’ll just take my samples to a bigga, betta company. An’ I want you to remember this day, son, cause when I blow up, I’m comin’ back for that apology. Best believe that.”

“Oh, I’m too small for you now, huh? Whatever. See ya. Don’t let the doorknob hit you where the Good Lord split you.”

“Yeah, you like one of them tiny little Oreos that come inna cereal box.”

“And I’m an Oreo?”

“Think you ain’t? What relationship you got with the black comic readin’ community? What black comic associations you belong to? What black creators do you mentor?”

“What’s that got to do with you and your samples?”

“Why’re you ducking the question?”

“Because it bears no relevance—”

“Answer the question.”

“I don’t have time for this—”

“Answer the question!”

“Fine! I don’t belong to any black organizations, happy?”

“Why?”

“I don’t owe you any explanations—”

“Why?”

“I’ve had enough of this! Get out of my house!”

“Why!”

“Because black people can’t organize, that’s why! You think when I entered this game I didn’t want to make change, unite the black community, put out a product that would help uplift the race?” Mark’s tone took on a sermon-like quality. “And there are a hundred people just like me that start out trying to do the same thing, dreaming of the same outcome, outreaching the same hand, making the same offers! And you know what happens? White people do laugh at us, but it’s not the ones you think! It’s the ghosts of the whites from over 400 hundred years ago that are laughing! Cause they planted a seed in us that’s growing stronger with each generation! That seed causes us to challenge each other rather than organize! What do we call it? Crabs in a barrel syndrome? And it kills us every time! And why do we need that? Why do we have to make ourselves look bigger by tearing another brother down?”

“An’ you think you ain’t a goddam crab in that same mutha fuckin’ barrel? How you figga? Every time you turn a blind eye to a black man tryin’ make endz, or look right through a brotha that needs help, ain’t you holdin’ him down? Stoppin’ him from climbin’ out that barrel?”

“You want me to help you to make it in this industry? All right. I’ll give you a nickel’s worth of free advice. Stop looking for an excuse to hate a successful brother and take a tip from the white man, instead of blaming him for your inadequacies! Learn the comic industry first. Study it. Understand what makes it work. Understand what it is. Despite the fact that you grew up on comics and love to read them and drawing comic characters has always been a hobby, this is a business. A real business. Understand how a business operates. Study the mistakes and accomplishments of the people who are doing what you want to do. And forget about the instant gratification. Pay your dues. Do what it takes to break into the business. By any means necessary? By all means that don’t require you to compromise your beliefs or dreams.”

“Paper must be good.” Darryl said under his breath.

“For what?”

“Your job.”

“What, publishing? I don’t know, I make a living.”

“Nah, your other job.”

“What other job?”

“The one the white man pays you for.”

“What?”

“For doin’ his job for him.”

“Why do you keep bringing the white man into this conversation? There’s just the two of us standing here and no white man in shouting distance.”

“Matter of opinion.”

“Meaning what?”

“There’s always been so-called brothas like you out there, livin’ all comfortable in the white man’s world, afraid to break the shackles, fight the massahs, own your destiny as a free black man!” Darryl held his arms out in front of him, wrists pressed together as if they were shackled. “C’mon, say it with me now, Give us us free!”

“What do you know about me that allows you to come into my house and attack my character?”

“Well, I know you ain’t stupid. White man don’t hire stupid brothas. Probably sent you to college to get that degree in self-loathin’. What was your major, black? How To Discreetly Hate Anyone Darker Than Milk?”

Mark let out an ironic chuckle. “I get it. It all makes sense now. You can’t break into the comic business and it’s got nothing to do with the fact that you need to study and practice harder for your work to take on commercial qualities. It’s all my fault. I’m a hater hired by the white man to single-handedly keep you from entering the market and toppling the great white comic empire. None of this could possibly be your fault, right?”

“You can’t blame a victim of America, dog, cause that what we are, victims! Brought here against our will, enslaved, beaten, killed, forced to embrace a culture not our own, forced to forget our heritage, deny our birthright! An’ you’d know all this if you were a real black man!”

“Oh, give that old, tired downtrodden for 400 years bullshit rhetoric a rest!”

“Do you even notice what you doin’? Every time I try to drop a little science on you, you respond with contempt. Did you learn that from the whites?”

“From the whites? What am I, in South Africa?”

“You might as well be, you apartheid mutha fucka.”

“Get out of my house!”

“Why’re you afraid?”

“Afraid of what?”

“The truth! Hearin’ the truth, acknowledgin’ the truth, speakin’ the truth!”

“I’m not afraid of a goddamned thing! Now pack your things and get out of my house!”

“Oh, you not afraid, huh? Then why won’t you tell me what you thought of The Togetha Niggaz?”

“What I thought of—? It’s a revolting piece of shit, all right? Is that what you want to hear?”

“And Nigga Press?”

“All that ranting you do about the evil white conspiracy and you can’t see?”

“See what? Drop science.”

“Darryl, if there’s anybody that absolutely does not pose a threat to white corporate America, it’s illiterate, ignorant assholes like Nigga Press that perpetuate the negative stereotypes that castrate us as a race!” Mark’s calm and professionalism have unraveled at the edges. “But you can’t really blame them, can you? That’s our one claim to fame. Who needs the white man to hold us down and pick us apart? To devalue the black family structure and make us apathetic to the crimes we commit on our own kind? We do the job better than they do, cause we work twice as hard at it! In fact, if Nigga Press was smart, they would’ve sent copies of that garbage to the KKK! I bet they would’ve received enough funding to put Marvel and DC to shame!”

“All that, huh?”

“Take a look at that book again! This time try to be objective!”

“Can’t do that, dog.”

“Why not?”

“Cause I’m Nigga Press.”

“What?” Mark asked, confused.

Darryl grabbed the comic book, opened the cover and shoved it at Mark. “Read the indicia. ‘Sides bein’ one of the artists, I’m the writer, editor, publisher. Just like you, only different. Only real.”

“But why?”

“Why what? Why Nigga Press? Why alienate the white audience? Cause I don’t give a fuck about comic sales in a white comic store! Cause I wanted to create somethin’ the black youth could relate to! Cause I believe in our segregation from the white supremacist comic book industry that is determined to remain ignorant of any other culture than their own! Cause I am who I am, an’ who I am is a servant to my people! Cause I knew nobody else’d take the lead, so I became the mutha fuckin’ pioneer!”

“No. I no longer care why that trash was published. My question is why all the pretense?”

“Cause I had to peep your game, playa. Fuck your comic art job and your bitch-ass comics! That shit’s nickel an’ dime, kid.”

“Peep my game for what?”

“Ever see that commercial with that mutha fucka wearing the Riddler suit with all them question marks on it an’ shit? He’s always talkin’ about all this government money floatin’ around out there, an’ white people are on it with a quickness! So I did some researchin’ on my own an’ found out there’s much benjamins out there for minority businesses! Free money! An’ all you gotta do is meet some stupid criteria! Like being black in America ain’t criteria enough.”

“You still haven’t answered my question. And why come to me if my product is so bitch-ass?”

Darryl hesitated a long moment then shrugged. “Guess it don’t matta if you know, cause my game’s so fulla Machiavellianism you can’t touch it.”

“Machiavellianism. Riiiight.” Mark smirked.

“Yo, I ain’t even hearin’ you, fool, cause you ain’t gots nothin’ to say to me! See, I’m inna process of building a black multi-media alliance, but not just with comics an’ shit. I gots me all kinda TV, film, an’ record producers lined up, I’m talkin’ to magazine an’ book publishers, an’ my cousin even hooked me up with some toy an’ videogame makers. We gots every aspect of entertainment covered an’ it’s all black-owned! Way I figga it, separately we can apply for all that free government money an’ start poolin’ it all together into the umbrella company of the alliance! But before I start makin’ offers, I gotta make sure I come correct an’ flush out all you fake-ass Uncle Tom-owned businesses. So, go back to playin’ it safe in that lily white imaginary hater world you livin’ in, Chicken George, an’ give my regards to Mickey an’ Pluto an’ all them other mutha fuckas!”

Darryl snatched his comic out of Mark’s hand, shoved it back in his portfolio and turned to leave.

“Whereabouts, Darryl?”

Darryl stopped and cut Mark a glance. “What?”

“You said you traveled all the way from Ithaca this morning. Whereabouts?”

“What’s it to you?”

“I have friends and family in Ithaca. Maybe you know some of them? Maybe they know you? Hell, only so many Africans were brought over here, and even less survived slavery — we might be related. So where are you from?”

Darryl hesitated. “Greenville.”

“Greenville, huh? Funny, I know Ithaca pretty well and I don’t recall there being a Greenville.”

“Yeah, well, it’s a small hood an’ folks pretty much keep to theyselves.”

“Yeah, I guess it’d have to be small for me not to have heard of it. Most folks probably steer clear of it, being so dangerous, and all. Or there’s one more solution — you’re full of shit.”

“Yo, you best raise up off me!”

“Or what? You’re going to bust a cap in my ass? Violate that strong code of black ethics you’ve been slinging around here by participating in a little black on black violence?”

“I’ll do what I gots to do, bitch!”

“I ain’t your bitch, Darryl. Or your dog. Or your son. It’s either Mark or Mr. Brown, pick one, but if you call me outside my name one more time, I’ll show you how we get down where I come from.”

“Man, forget you! You ain’t worth the jail time! I’m ghost!”

“Why are you running from it, Darryl?”

“From what?”

“The truth. You accused me of refusing to acknowledge and speak it, but of the two of us, you’re the one with the real problem.”

“You the one livin’ the snow white lie—”

“Don’t play me, Darryl, play Lotto. You’ll get better odds.”

“Anybody played you, you played yourself!”

“That’s what you’d like me to believe, isn’t it, Darryl? It’d let you walk out of here with a little face.”

“Whatever you need to believe—”

“No, it isn’t whatever, it’s the truth. What, you think you’re the first? First artist to ever sneak through and get a private session? First person of color to accuse me of selling out? First person that thought I owed them something just because of the color of their skin? I’ve been doing this for eight-plus years,  you tell me what the odds are that you’d be the first to do any of these things.”

“I don’t care.” Darryl shrugged.

“All right, Mr. Machiavellianism, how about this, Why the portfolio?”

“What?”

“If your game was as tight as you wanted me to believe, then why didn’t you bring your research with statistics and figures that supported your proposed idea? A model business plan? Something? Instead, you brought artwork, and poor artwork at that?”

“I ain’t need to bring you jack!”

“And why meet at my house? I’m here once, maybe twice a month. Most times I sleep at the office. So how did you know I was here today? Luck? Coincidence? Or were you watching me?”

“So now I’m a stalker?”

“For how long? A couple of days? A week? Longer? And if you could afford to spend so much time watching me, that means that you probably don’t have a job, not a regular one anyway.”

“You ain’t gots to worry ’bout me gettin’ paid! I gets mine, black!”

“And since I’m on a roll here—”

“You ain’t on nothin’!”

“—I’m going to go out on a limb and say this probably isn’t even about you, is it? Awful lot of trouble to go through for a comic job for yourself. It’s about your family, isn’t it? Unless that picture you showed me was a lie, too? What was it? Some street ho and her crack baby?”

“Don’t you talk about my family, punk! An’ what you know ’bout that? What you know ’bout tryin’ to raise a family, huh? What you know ’bout me?”

“To tell you the truth, I don’t know anything about raising a family, but I do know, or I’m almost certain that you really came here looking for a job, didn’t you? And I can’t fault you for that, trying to do right by your family. That’s actually pretty noble. I could have done without the lies, attitude and language, though.”

“Fault me? Fuck you! I ain’t come here for no mutha fuckin’ job! Job? What that mean? J.O.B.? Just Over Broke? I ain’t about that! I’ma get paid an’ blow up much spots, know what I’m sayin’?”

“This isn’t about a job? Fine, then prove it.”

“I ain’t provin’ shit!”

Mark stood up, walked around the edge of the table and put out his hand. “I’m about to offer you a one year contract with Perceived Onslaught. That’s a year’s salary guaranteed, provided that you show up for work everyday and perform the tasks assigned to you. If it works out after that time, we’ll renegotiate your contract. All you have to do is shake my hand to cement the deal. And if I’m wrong, if this isn’t about a job, or the money, or feeding your family, then just walk out that door. No harm, no foul.”

“You so fulla shit—”

“I never offer what I’m not prepared to back up. I’m a smarter businessman than that. The choice is yours. It always has been. It always will be. You decide what course your life takes. All black men do. Many of us just don’t want to live up to the responsibility of our choices. I don’t really know you, but I don’t think you’re like that. So where do we, two black men with not a white man in sight, where do we go from here?”

Darryl just stood there for a long minute, head hung low, thinking. Reflecting on his past. Reevaluating his present. Reconnoitering the paths for his future. “You ever do somethin’ on impulse? Seems right at the time. Harmless. Then after it’s done you see the effects an’ you wonder, Why I ain’t seen that inna first place?” He said in a low voice. “Wasn’t nothin’ political ’bout Nigga Press. It was just a comic, yanno? People don’t take comics serious. With all the gangsta rap an’ thug life hype goin’ ’round, an’ people gettin’ mad loot offa it, I figured I’d get me a slice, too. No harm in that, right? I mean, I ain’t create none of that stuff, an’ with or without me, it’s still gonna play on, right? So, what’s one comic gonna hurt? Get in quick, make some paper an’ move on before anybody knows I’m Audi. Nobody’d care, right?”

“But my wife did.” Darryl continued. “Said I got a son an’ should be settin’ an example cause what other role models is he gonna have if he can’t respect his father? An’ I ain’t wanna hear that. Told her she messin’ up the cash flow, but she was right, tho. So, I ain’t say nothin’ else ’bout it. Just packed up the copies of the books that didn’t sell an’ stuffed them in a closet. I figured it was over, but she never lost that look in her eye, like she was ashamed of me or some shit. An’ when I lost my telemarketin’ job, shit started gettin’ worse. Ever try to live on unemployment checks with bills comin’ due an’ three mouths to feed? An’ one of them mouths is too young to understand why there ain’t enough food in the house to get fed three times a day.”

Mark’s hand remained outstretched. “Darryl, you don’t have to do this. I’m not here to judge you.”

“But even now, when I got nothin’, I still got my pride. An’ I don’t need nobody’s handouts.”

“Handouts are what you get from the government. A hand up is what you get from a brother. A true brother. And trust me, everybody on my payroll earns that money. My name isn’t Salvation and I’m not trying to raise an Army. Work or begone is the company motto. But if you’re loyal to the goal of trying to make my dreams a reality, then there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to help you—”

Mark took a few steps towards Darryl. “—I’d even meet you half way.”

Darryl knew it was do or die time. Put up or shut up. He stepped up and gripped Mark’s hand firmly.

“Welcome on board.” Mark said.

“But I thought you weren’t diggin’ my artwork?”

“What’s your artwork have to do with your job?”

“Then what I’ma be doin’?”

“I like that idea about the black media alliance. Think you could pull it off?”

“Hell yeah!”

“Then we’ll start mapping out a game plan tomorrow, but on two conditions—”

Darryl eyed the man suspiciously. “What?”

“One: Nigga Press never rears its head anywhere near my company and its business dealings, in fact this is the last time I hear the word Nigga at all from you.”

Darryl put a hand in the air. “Word is bond.”

“And two: you wait here until I get dressed.”

“Why?”

“Why? You bust into my house and disturb my sleep on my day off and you think you can just get away with it?”

“Said I was sorry ’bout that, bla—uh — Mr. Brown.”

“Mark. And sorry, my ass! You’re going to buy me a cup of coffee, goddamit!”

“Bet to that. I can charge it to my expense account, right?”

“I got your expense account, right here.” Mark gestured towards his crotch.

“Yanno, it’s funny how things work out.”

“How so?” Mark asked.

“If I’da said I lived in any other place but Ithaca, I’d be ass out right now.”

“Uh, not necessarily. All my folks are in Brooklyn. I don’t know a damn thing about Ithaca.”

“You played me!”

Mark shrugged and smiled. “Hey, game recognizes game.”

©2001 & 2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License

About The Submission:

I was going to be a filmmaker.

Well, I still can be, especially if George Eliot’s words ring true—It is never too late to be what you might have been.It was the 90’s and the independent film movement was just beginning to blossom. I was lucky enough to publish a line of comic books and graphic novels during the independent boom of the comic book industry, and wanted to step boldly into the world of cinema.

I took a two-day Hollywood film course and filled with intent and blissful ignorance, I wrote the story you’re about to read. Based very loosely on a series of events that happened while I published comics and was foolish enough to list my home address in the indicia of the books, which resulted in more than a few unwanted visitors.

Principle photography was to begin in September 2001, but the events of that month pushed the schedule back a few years.

I eventually filmed it and while it’s not Oscar worthy, I learned a valuable lesson about storytelling—overwriting, on the nose dialogue, and editing, in particular. Still, it was a hell of an adventure.

Oh, and if you’re curious to see how the film turned out, you can catch it here:

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Of Our Hue Filmworks: The Maconheiro Preview Clips

The Tale of The Maconheiro:

Preview clip starring Steph Van Vlack, Pedro Rezende, Charlotte Grant, Julia Giolzetti, and Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys. Written & Directed by Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys. Copyright 2008-2016 Of Our Hue Filmworks. All Rights Reserved.

Deborah and Verity meeting:

Preview clip starring Monica Hammond and Charlotte Grant. Written & Directed by Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys. Copyright 2008-2016 Of Our Hue Filmworks. All Rights Reserved.

Steve’s crib:

Preview clip starring Monica Hammond, Daniel Petsche, Elizabeth Sawyer and Chris Van Kirk. Written & Directed by Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys. Copyright 2008-2016 Of Our Hue Filmworks. All Rights Reserved.

Of Our Hue Filmworks: The Submission Part 1 – The Sitdown

This marks my very first serious attempt at writing and directing a short film based on a feature length screenplay I wrote about diversity within the comic book industry named, “Spotting Black.”

In this segment, it’s the start of the Tri-State Comic Convention and publisher Mark Brown enters his hotel room to find the most unusual submission he’s ever received.

Starring Lamont Copeland and Buddy Woodson.

Part 1:

Copyright 2001-2016 Of Our Hue Filmworks. All Rights Reserved.