(originally posted on tumblr)
I met David F. Walker in the press area of New York Comic Con on Friday, Oct 9, 2015 at the Javitz Center this year and he was nice enough to grant me an impromptu interview for a few minutes. (Honestly? I could have talked to him for an hour.) He’s REALLY friendly, crazy talented, hilariously funny, a serious music buff and genuinely wants to engage with his fans. Black folks in particular. Here’s the scoop:
DW: On a scale of 1 – 10? Like a 35….no we’ll say a 50, because Luke Cage went higher than a 50 when it officially became Power Man so on a scale of 1 – 10 it’s a 50.
TBG: There’s things that you do with Victor Stone’s character with the new Cyborg that are a little bit different. You kept most of the original characterization but then certain things you pared away like a good sculptor. I know you can’t give away everything – but what are some things that you’re thinking of keeping with Luke? And is he going to have the [Power Man] belt and the headband and everything?
DW: I mean everyone wants to see that, so the key is how do we get like some interesting flashbacks or something of him so we can see that. But you know I want to see Luke in a way that surprises people. Because at the end of the day…there are few characters in the Marvel universe that have grown and changed as much a he’s grown and changed over the last forty some odd years. From being who he was, this sort of jive talking blacksploitation character to father and husband and leader of the Avengers. On top of that, there’s not that many characters who have actually been leaders of the Avengers, [or even] fit to lead the Avengers. If you were to look at his personal issues in “Hero for Hire” and thought “Someday this guy is going to leave the Avengers”, if you’d said this in ’72 or ’73 nobody would have believed you.
TBG: They’d be like “The dude that broke out of jail? That dude?”
DW: Yeah, yeah, yeah, and so I want to play with some of that and really see Luke. Luke walks in many worlds, which I think that a lot of us as black folks, as people of color, we walk in many worlds so we know how to communicate. We not only speak English but we actually speak multiple dialects of English. We know how to carry ourselves in different rooms, different company, and Luke is that guy, he’s all of us. So in that regard he is sort of an every man or an every black person, as we know ourselves to be. Whereas a lot of other folks don’t know us that way. And I always find it interesting how – when like when you sit around some black folks are talking and they’ll be talking about music, and someone will be like; “Oh yeah man I just picked up Billy Joel’s greatest hits Volumes one and two” and then someone else is like “No man I’m more of an Elton John fan”, and then the white person in the group is like “’You guys listen to Billy Joel and Elton John?” and I’m like “Well I’ve got every album Meatloaf ever recorded you know and someone over here is a Steely Dan fan”. And they’re shocked, as if we grew up in this world without radio. As if we lived in this world without you know, MTV or VH1 back in the day when they played music videos. They are shocked when we have a knowledge of pop culture that is equal to their own, when we were all raised on the same pop culture.
TBG: They’re shocked that we live on the same planet.
DW: Exactly. We are able to speak two different languages. And it’s like I always tell people, you could ask any black kid or white kid in America in the 1970s who the members of KISS were, and who their favourite members of KISS were, and most of them would just say they didn’t know the names of them but I like the cat dude or I like the dude who spits blood.
TBG: Gene Simmons
DW: Yeah. And if you were to ask any white kid who’s your favorite member of Parliament Funkadelic, which is an even more outrageous band, most white people would be like, “What? Who?”, whereas black kids would be like “oh yeah”, you know everybody knew Bootsy Collins, everybody knew George Clinton, everyone knew the Mothership Connection. So a lot of times [we] have a much broader view of pop culture, it’s interesting… you know, when we reveal this side of ourselves. And Luke Cage, he can throw down with Dr. Doom and Captain America thinks he’s one of the greatest heroes there is and yet if he walks the streets of Harlem everybody knows him and they’re afraid of him. And all the gangsters in Harlem are probably more afraid of Luke Cage than they are of Thor, because Thor doesn’t know how to talk to them, how to communicate with them, doesn’t understand the world they come from.
TBG: Yeah and I guess the other thing is you’re not making Luke Cage “the black character” you’re just making him a person.
DW: Oh my God am I doing that? [Laughs]
TBG: Apparently yes. He’s a person, he’s a human being. Can you talk just a little bit about this whole question of diversity right now?
DW: We’re not viewed as people, it’s historic, it’s documented. If you look at the Constitution of the United States there’s a thing called the “3 fifths Compromise”. Black folks were considered 3 fifths of a human being. It’s part of an ideological mindset that allowed us to be enslaved. The only way you can justify the lifelong enslavement of a people is to deprive them of their humanity. We’re still living in the fallout of that two, three hundred years later or however long, because it goes back to even before the writing of the constitution, back to the 1600s when the first African indentured servants which indentured for life became slaves for life.
TBG: Right, when they figured out that they couldn’t leave.
DW: Yes, yes, and that you could basically put a curse upon us. And so we’ve been dealing with this forever, this deprivation of our humanity, and so everything that we must do is to restore it. And so, so many of these representations of us when you look at entertainment and popular culture it’s representations are nothing but generalizations, stereotypes, archetypes, and they are mere illusions of reality.
Yet when we’re dealing with the dominant paradigm, white folks, it is an illusion of what is perceived as being full and complete human beings. Whereas our illusion is that of a dehumanized individual, an individual that is not a full human being, so what we need to do is restore that level of humanity. So we’re no longer just the sidekick, we’re no longer just the disposable person who gets killed or is there for a laugh, or …
TBG: Decoration, jewellery …
DW: Exactly, because that’s how we exist. We exist to give the unreal world of make believe some sense of reality, but there’s only one black person in that world, how real is that?
TBG: That’s how you get shows like “Friends” and “Seinfeld” in a New York with no black people.
DW: Yeah because we tend to think about these things. There are some white creators that do an amazing job, but a lot of times if you don’t know other black folks, if you’re a white creator who’s never met another black person, you might not know that certain things are problematic to us. You know certain things have such a historical context that we bristle at them and so you know if nothing else white creators, it’s an opportunity to make some black friends. You know it’s like they could sign up for “rent-a-negro.com”.
TBG: You’re hilarious.
DW: And just get to know us, you know. Get to know us, buy us meals, that’s how I feel about it.
TBG: You know the other question I had was about DC and Cyborg. Is DC making you stick to any rules with Cyborg? I know Marvel has rules for the MCU so…
DW: No there was never any conversation about that, I don’t ask about it, they don’t talk about it, and I don’t want to know about it…It’s like it’s outside my pay grade, you know so like if any company says to me; “Hey we’re planning on doing a movie and so you can’t do this in your comic”, then I’d probably respond “Then you need to hire me to work on the movie too.”
TBG: So I guess Marvel didn’t give you anything specific with Luke Cage either then.
DW: No, no they just told me to write him well. We didn’t get a memo that said make him black either, but we knew that he was going to be black from the beginning.
TBG: Yeah that would be a pretty controversial change.
DW: You know part of me is like I would like to do that just once.
TBG: I know you would!
DW: People would freak out.
TBG: Lose their minds.
DW: Yeah…Take that! I’m giving you Luke Cage as a white man, now you have to give me Spiderman, Mr. Fantastic and you know I’d make it like a three for one trade before they freak out. They always go; “Well how would you feel if they made a movie about a black character [like Black Panther] and made him white?”
TBG: Now I’ve got to ask because this is one of my favourite characters. Misty? Is Misty Knight coming to the book, is she going to be in the book, maybe? Please?
(I fully admit to jumping up and down like a little kid at this point. What?)
DW: Maybe, we’ll see, we’ll see, we’ll see. There’s all kinds, I mean at some point she has to show up. We can’t do a book with those, with Danny and Luke and not have her show up, so yeah.
TBG: I need to see my girl! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me David, I really appreciate it.
DW: You’re welcome. Thank you!
About an hour after this interview David announced that he would do a signing at the Afrofuturefest Booth at Comic Con. According to Tim Fielder, the AFF founder. This was completely unprompted and a wonderful surprise.
I’m a fan for life.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Portland, OR next week, David will also be speaking at the Black Gag Series (sponsored by Octavia’s Brood)
THIS JUST IN! – It was just announced that David will be writing the new “Nighthawk” for #Marvel due out next year!
(He took a pic with me! 🙂
Where to find David F. Walker