#MECCAconWeekly w/ Joe Illidge

“Doctor” Joe is what i call him… for a slew of reasons i won’t list, lol. Joseph P Illidge has been in this industry for quite a while. His credentials won’t be able to fit on this paragraph, nor will his worth. Joe is one of the main reasons i know so many people, and he probably has no idea of that. This brotha is the epitome of the term NETWORKING. He also continuously lectures me on how i need to improve on mine, lol. Joe Illidge is an editor, writer, public speaker, and comic book HISTORIAN. Whenever i see people attempt to challenge him on ANYthing that has ANYTHING to do with comics, i grab my Garrett’s popcorn and ginger beer, because i know this ride will be a good one. Joe has worked for the best, and WITH the best in the industry. His entire mission seems to be to get the word “diversity” to be an ACTIVE word more than just a temporary sign of the times. My Brody is one of the illest to do it. The best part about him is the fact that he is trying to make you find your worth, too. 

Name::

Joseph Phillip Illidge

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Company/Occupation(s)::

Writer, Editor, Columnist of “The Mission” for Comic Book Resources, Co-founder of Verge Entertainment

BOOKS/ SERIES you’ve created and/or worked on::

“Batman”, “Batman: Detective Comics”, “Birds of Prey”, “Batgirl”, and others for DC Entertainment, “Static”, “Hardware”, and “Shadow Cabinet” for Milestone Media, Inc., “The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury” and others for Archaia, and “The Ren” for First Second Books

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What was your favorite comic book series as a child, and did it influence your art into adulthood?::

My favorite was Marvel Comics’ “Uncanny X-Men”. It was an influence insofar as Chris Claremont’s writing set a gold standard at the time for superhero fiction, so I naturally emulated the style in my earlier stories.
I remember the writing to be voice-driven and supported by dialogue above all else. You didn’t know what was going to happen next, and there was variety of atmosphere, theme, and type of villain in every story line, from Proteus to The Hellfire Club to Arcade. No two arcs of Claremont’s “Uncanny X-Men” felt the same.
I like that approach.

Many already know you for your extensive work with DC Comics. I’m more focused on all that you have done with Milestone Comics, as well as independent projects. How did you start working for Milestone? How did those experiences pan out thru present day as far as career wise?::


I started with Milestone as an intern, and learned everything about making comic books, from the creative aspects to the business structure. After three months, the founders offered me a part-time job as Assistant to the President. I worked directly for Milestone’s President, Derek T. Dingle. He took me under his wing and showed me the ropes of business professionalism, operational budgeting, and attire. A year and a half later, I moved over to the Editorial department and became an Assistant Editor under Dwayne McDuffie. He taught me what being an editor and writer entailed. I was later promoted to Editor of Milestone’s flagship title, “Hardware”.
Milestone Co-founders Denys Cowan and Michael Davis taught me about navigating through the politics of business.
Their collective instruction and guidance informed my ability to get a job at DC Comics as the first Black editor in the Batman Editorial Group. During my time working on Batman, an Asian Batgirl was introduced into the continuity, as was the African-American detective Crispus Allen, featured on the FOX series “Gotham”. Ultimately, Milestone set the bar in terms of character ethnic and gender diversity, as well as creator diversity, in the mainstream American superhero comic book industry. That’s the level of diversity I wanted to see represented in comic books today, and we’re not there yet.

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Out of all of your books you have edited for other companies, which has been your favorite series, and why?::

“Birds of Prey” for DC Comics, because it highlighted female friendship and featured one of my favorite heroes, Oracle. When Barbara Gordon (the former and present Batgirl) became the wheelchair user heroine, Oracle, she served as a more important symbol as a character. It was an honor to work on “Birds Of Prey” with her as one of the main characters.
“The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury” for Archaia, now part of Boom! Studios. The character is a Black female space hero, from a family of Black space heroes. It’s unique, and Miranda’s a great character that many people can relate to, because her trials speak to universal themes. A lineage of Black people who make it to the cosmos and protect people from the monsters of the universe…that’s something I’m proud to have helped bring to the masses.

What was your work with Milestone’s co-founder Michael Davis studio, Bad Boy Entertainment?::

It’s funny, because I never worked for Michael’s Bad Boy Entertainment, but the two of us came close to working together when he created and launched Motown Machineworks, the comic book company for the entertainment giant Motown.
That’s one of the various unknown stories in my secret origin.

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Tell us briefly about the relaunch of SOLARMAN. How did that come about? What made him become a brotha on this go’round?::

Dave Oliphant, the creator of Solarman, teamed up with Macmillan Entertainment’s Brendan Deneen to bring Solarman back, and their decision to make him Black this time around is nothing short of courageous and brilliant. America is at a major crossroads with the Black Man, especially the young ones, so a new hero who can speak to that experience within superhero adventure stories is timely, and opens up many possibilities for stories.
Brendan and I have known each other for years, so when he reached out to me to be a major part of the Solarman team, and given lots of room to play with, I said “Yes.” without much thought.
We have big plans for the character, and will unveil the full creative team soon. The artist has worked on Batman, Deadpool, and Captain America, so he’s going to do great things for Solarman.

Both of your editorial series, THE COLOR BARRER and THE MISSION, both center on diversity. For some, this has been a very hum drum subject that has been run down thru the trenches. For others, it is a subject that very much still needs to be healed. What is your take on this subject? Also, please explain to the readers the difference between the two columns.::

Diversity is a hum drum subject for people who don’t get its importance. For the rest of us who know which way the wind blows, with the understanding of the combined power of people of color in the United States, the awareness of the significant growth of the Latino and Black populations, diversity is important and much more than a buzzword or element in a marketing campaign.
Anything that is not the heterosexual Caucasian male with full mobility is diversity. Women, people of color, LGBT persons, wheelchair users, and more represent diversity, and they should be recognized in mass media, respected and present through characters reflecting them. They should have a significant presence behind the scenes in creative and corporate circles.
In regards to the columns, both are exclusively at the Comic Book Resources website. “The Color Barrier” was a column miniseries that started off as a Black History Month celebration and contained a balanced mixture of interviews and editorials. Creators like Geoffrey Thorne, Phil Jimenez, Brandon Easton, and Afua Richardson, among many others, were gracious enough to do candid interviews that connected with the audience.
“The Mission” is an ongoing weekly column which is more driven by opinion editorials in which I comment on diversity (or the lack thereof) in the American comic book industry from both a creative and business perspective.
The way a Black Captain America and female Thor are marketed is just as important as the race bending and gender bending of both characters. The buying power of fans is just as important as their deep connection to the long-standing mythologies of Marvel and DC Entertainment.

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THE REN has to be one of the most long awaited series i have personally known of in our black comic book community. Grey Williamson’s style of art perfectly sets the tone to the era. How important was it for you to co.create this series, and when will it be released?::

Co-creating “The Ren” with illustrator Grey Williamson and story co-writer Shawn Martinbrough was of paramount importance because I haven’t seen anything quite like it in the graphic novel format, a Black teenage romance taking place in a crucial point of Black history and American history.
It’s taken a lot of work to get to a final draft of the script, and “The Ren” will be 200 pages or more, so it’s a major project and labor of love. Our publisher, First Second Books, will announce the release date when they’re ready. I’m pushing for Black History Month 2017.

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Do you or do you not feel that culturally driven comic book conventions are necessary?::

They’re definitely necessary, and they need to grow in business scope and scale to achieve the next level of impact.
“San Diego Comic-Con” and “New York Comic Con” are brands with high recognition. At least twelve percent of the American population is Black, and Latinos comprise the nation’s largest POC population.
Our brands need to be like those, treated like intellectual properties, operating year-to-year with growth projections and upward trajectories.
The recent “Afrofuturefest” Con within “New York Comic Con” was great to see, and may represent a new model by which culturally-driven initiatives work.

Do you think that sexism exists in comic book industry? (I will ask this every week, America, so deal with it, lol)::

I know it does. I’ve heard the stories, read the accounts, and spoken to victims of sexism.
The comic book industry is no different than any other industry. Full stop.

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What do you feel needs to be changed in order for the advancement of women in your industry?::

The male victimizers of women need to be removed from the industry. Full stop.
It’s going to happen. It’s in the works. There’s a secret group of Avengers within the comic book industry working on this, and they’ve started tenderizing the industry circles in preparation for body blows.

If Batman were in a battle with Icon, who would win the girl? Inquiring minds wanna know::

That’s a tough one, because both men are highly intelligent and have formidable resources.
I think the more interesting question is: if Batman and Icon joined forces, how could they transform society? Bruce Wayne is a Progressive operating under the guise of a Conservative, and Augustus Freeman is a Progressive Conservative. They have considerable political, financial, and technological resources.
See what I’m getting at? Their superhero guises may be secondary to their regular identities, in how they can bring about great change.

Let Rocket and Batman’s various allies protect the streets, while Icon and Batman go at the ills of society in more clever ways.

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Dwayne McDuffie is one of Detroit’s most honored treasures. He is a legend, and very influential to many artists here. What will you take most from your friendship and business experiences with him?::


Create to contribute to a better world, and use your opportunities to help elevate other people.
Dwayne’s career spoke to those ideals, and they lie at both the core of my personal ethos and my admiration for him.

Where can we find you online? Links, Handles, Hashtags, Bribes::

I’m Joe Illidge on Facebook, @JosephPIllidge on Twitter, Joseph Phillip Illidge on LinkedIn. My weekly column on diversity, “The Mission”, can be found Mondays between 6:00 and 6:30 p.m. EST at comicbookresources.com, and Verge Entertainment, the production company I co-founded with Shawn Martinbrough and Milo Stone, is at www.verge.tv.

Any last thoughts, screams, rants, praises, etc?::

Produce with quality.
Know your business.
Find allies.
Succeed.
Do good things.

JOE

“… go DO things.”

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MECCAcon Weekly is a weekly series of features, interviews, and highlights, all focused around comics and art, mainly centered around the AFRIKAAN diaspora community. We focus on the upliftment and advancement of arts thru various mediums. #MECCAconWeekly can also be found on our sister site, DARK MATTERS.

MECCAconWeekly is also a division of Midwest Ethnic Convention for Comics and Arts – MECCAcon. MECCAcon is an annual convention every SEPTEMBER, located in Detroit, MI.

“BLOOM WHERE YOU’RE PLANTED”
…This is my motto. Whatever environment you come from, whatever your surroundings or financial circumstance, there is ALWAYS room to grow, flourish, and BLOOM.

Maia Williams, also known as “Crown”, is executive assistant to many different businesses, artists, and events in the Metro Detroit area. Crown is also CEO and founder of

Amonyet Enterprises, Cooking Ciphers, MECCAcon, and Crown’s Royalties.

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