Sunday, March 8, 2020

When the Lead Leaves the Show: John Amos and Esther Rolle

This is going to be a series of articles about when a Black lead character leaves a television show and the aftermath of that event.  I will look at the events leading to the departure, how the character was written off the show, and the aftermath to the show they left.

First up, John Amos and Esther Rolle, stars of Good Times that ran on CBS from 1974-1979 and was a huge ratings hit for the network.  Created by Mike Evans and produced by Hollywood heavy weight, Norman Lear, this spin-off of Maude focused on the Evans Family and their daily struggles living in the projects in Chicago.  The Evans family consisted of patriarch James Evans, played by John Amos, matriarch Florida Evans, played by Esther Rolle, and their three kids JJ, Thelma, and Michael.

Rating Success

The show portrayed the typical struggles of a family living in poverty.  Shows about unemployment, hustling, and surviving, were not just in the theme song, they were the theme of the show, but told with humor and heart. The show, much like All in the Family, was to examine taboo topics with humor and looking to build a dialogue about difficult topics. The show was a ratings hit ranking in the top 25 shows on network television in year one and in the top 10 shows by year two, and not appearing outside the top 30 through season four.

John Amos Departs

So what went wrong?  While the show was a hit and tackling topics rarely seen on network television, the shows focus started slowly moving away from Florida and James Evans and focused more on JJ, played by Jimmy Walker.  JJ had become such a popular character on the show and him screaming DY-NO-MITE became a huge cultural phenomenon and JJ often became the focus of the show; not the serious topics the show had been dealing with.  Amos voiced his frustrations to the producer Norman Lear which lead to constant arguments about the script and the shows direction.  At the end of season 3, the decision was made to kill off James Evans off camera as he was looking to get a job and finally move the family out of the projects.  His death lead to this great bit of television and now meme/gif history.

Esther Rolle Departs

Rolle was much more verbal with her disgust with the JJ character becoming the focus of the show. Rolle, in an interview, called  the JJ character, "stupid" and thought he was bringing negative racial stereotypes to young Black youth watching on television. After John Amos was not brought back, she worked to get herself written off the show and by the end of season 4  she married character Carl Dixon and moved off to Arizona leaving the Evans kid to live on their own.

The Aftermath

Losing the two leads of the show tanked the ratings as the producers decided to have the show continue without the two parents who provided much of the heart of the show.  The show shifted its focus to Wilona, played by, Janet Dubois,  looking after the kids who now lived alone and stories focused on JJ and the kids and Wilona.  After Amos leaves, the shows rating dropped to 26.  After Rolle leaves, the rating drops to 55 for season 5.  Producers realized they made a mistake and did everything they could to get Esther Rolle back to give the show back its heart.  Rolle reluctantly agreed to return with a list of demands which included more money and to make JJ less of a buffoon and knock off the racial stereotypes.

Rolle comes back for season 6 and even with the focus on new characters and her return, the show was too far gone to come back.  Season 6 tanked and ranked 91 on broadcast television shows and was cancelled.

So what do you think?  Should they have cancelled the show after John Amos left? After Esther Rolle left?  Leave a comment in the comments section.

The Producer

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Star Wars: Darth Vader #1

Star Wars: Darth Vader( 2019) by Greg Pak and Raffael Ienco

As my continued disappointment with the Star Wars movie universe continues, I have deep dived into the comic book world for continued tales of Skywalker's.  Last month, we read the Kylo Ren book as it took a dive into the unknown time after the failed assasination by Luke Skywalker as untold from the Last Jedi.  This month, we look at an untold tale of Darth Vader which occurs in the events after Luke learns he is Vader's son in The Empire Strikes Back!

As Luke falls off and makes his escape on the Falcon with Lando, Chewbacca, and Leia, we get to see what the next step is for Vader.  While he makes a communication with Luke via the Force in the movie, we do not see Vader again until Return of the Jedi.  This book picks up after that moment as Vader is joined with Death Troopers as they set out to not find Luke Skywalker, but all the people who hid Luke from him and made him weak.

So we are off to Tattoine and, even though I enjoyed this book, this is where I always get a little weird about Star Wars comic books.  As writers look to flesh out the universe outside of our main characters, we get introduced to these wonderfully formed characters in the books who you know have only been created to die.  It creates a dissonance for me when reading the books because I cannot invest emotionally in a character that, if they were that important, woulda made it into one of the 10 Star Wars movies.

On Tattoine, Vader begin the Annakin Skywalker tour and even gets to visit some of his old stomping grounds. We get to see where Clegg Lars and Shimi Skywalker lived and we get the flashback of that scene from Phantom Menace.  The art plays across very little dialogue and is dependent upon the reader having fairly high knowledge of the movies.

The story unfolds through a wacky droid, Zed Six Seven, a Star Wars staple in comics and movies.  Vader sees that Luke grew up in the same house as Anakin did and sees that his son grew up with Owen and Beru Lars and had a similar love for flying and tinkering like Anakin did. We even get a flashback of Padme from Attack of the Clones.

We even get the callback to when Anakin gave into hate and killed the Sand People and gave us our clear path to Anakin becoming Darth Vader. Padme does his best to save him as we saw in the movies but the book draws the parallels of Vader losing Luke and Padme and the emotional toll these events had on Darth Vader.

And remember what I said about the characters introduced to die?  Well, we get two characters who were looking to rob the imperial troopers while on Tattoine.  They get the drop of some empire ships and take shots at Vader.  But when you come for the King, you best not miss.  They did and we get to see Vader use the Force like we only got to see at the end of Rogue One.  And these moments often bother me because we see the Jedi super powerful in the prequels and presented as old me when we get to A new Hope.  So to retcon Vader being this powerful comes off a bit awkward but its still pretty awesome to see.

Of course Vader kills all the Red Shirts( Star Trek reference) and upon leaving Tattoine, Vader and his crew head off to Corusant and the apartment of Padme Amidala as Vader is looking for clues as to who else knew that Padme was pregnant.  Through some flashbacks and finding a tracer droid, Vader and his crew make it to another planet and find Jar Jar Binks protecting a hidden figure as they are attacked by these monster looking creatures. Vader comes in for the safe before we get a secret reveal that we wont spoil here.

Overall, this book was a lot of fun seeing the flashbacks to tie the movies into the book.  Vader, at the time of Empire Strikes Back, was such a mysteriou character, even after the reveal in the movie.  Our watching of the prequels filled in more of the blanks to his origin and there is such more to explore and Pak does a great job laying the foundation built upon the movie foundation.  Good fun, great art, and playing in the pool we already can swim in.  Highly recommended for all Star Wars fans!

The Producer

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Florida Supercon Review

I was fortunate enough to receive a media badge for Brothascomics to attend SuperCon in Miami this year and wanted to give you a little wrap up of the event.  This is my 3rd Supercon, but my first covering as media and the first time attending in Miami; the last two years the event had been held in Fort Lauderdale.

I live about 2 hours north of Miami so I made the commute each day instead of staying in a host hotel and that was probably my mistake.  In events like this, especially if you are coming a long way, its best if you stay closer to the event.

The Badge Process

I arrived right at the opening and parked at the Miami Civic Center garage.  Getting to the civic center is filled with traffic and you should leave early.  The badge process can really sink the con going experience and its vital that you buy your badge ahead of time if you are doing multiple days.  I went to pick up my media badge and it was in the same area as fan arrivals.   The Badge process was pretty easy and there were plenty of workers to help you get though the lines. Again, buy your badge early and print your confirmation.  If you purchase on site, the lines are much longer and you will be delayed making entrance into the con.

Con Size and Vendors

SuperCon is a fairly large con. Its not as big as MegaCon in Orlando but its not a small con either and you need to be prepared to walk a lot around the convention center to find who or what you are looking for. The SuperCon app is a great way to find your way around and keep up with the schedule if you are moving from the floor, to panels, to signings.  Its very organized on the floor, but its very easy to get turned around and you can lose your way trying to find something you may have seen before.  The Vendors offer a wide variety of products for all your nerdly pleasures.  Are you into anime, comics, toys, etc... whatever floats your nerdly boat, SuperCon has all of it for you!

Guest List
The Guest List was probably not as famous as previous years in Fort Lauderdale.  It may have been because Supercon this year fell on the 4th of July weekend.  If you were looking for a major star, this year may have been lacking for you.  If you are into great comic creators or voice actors from anime, then you would have been super happy. I was able to get some interviews with some great creators and artists and get their insight into the creations.  My daughter was excited to meet Danielle Pannebaker from Arrow and we waited in line to get a picture with her and attend her panel which was a thrill for my daughter.  Plus, me and my best friend got a chance to get a picture with Jerry The King Lawler


Brothascomics always looks for great cosplay and looks to highlight cosplayers of color and SuperCon did not disappoint.

Family Friendly
All cons are not family friendly so you should always be wary on the convention floor.  SuperCon attracts a teenage and older crowd.  Smaller kids are there for sure and the con is family friendly but many of the costumes and booths may be a bit much for younger kids and making your way around the convention floor with very young kids will probably exhaust you as a parent.  I have a teenage daughter and after wlaking the floor for a few hours, even she was tired.  SuperCon is also one of the few cons that serves beer and alcohol on the convention floor. I personally enjoy that but not sure how some fans feel about it.

Really grateful for the oppurtunity to cover SuperCon this year as media.  It gave me a chance to meet some of my favorite creators and interview them for Brothascomics and I look forward to coming again in 2020.

The Producer

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Dawn of X Podcasts

Looking for a recap of the Dawn of X books in the aftermath of House of X?  The Marvel Hacks got you covered.  We review the first 2 issues of each book over the course of the season and give our thoughts and opinions on each book.

Have a listen and like and subscribe!

Dawn of X Podcasts on Soundcloud

Brothascomics Podcast on Apple Podcasts

The Producer

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

DragonCon Black Geeks Meet Up

Over the past five years, the Black Geeks of DragonCon has hosted a meet up for the Black Cosplayers at DragonCon to show off their outstanding cosplay and to hang out and enjoy Black excellence in cosplay.

For several years, I  have not been able to attend; usually because my kids were too young or I was hosting a panel at the time of the meet up.  This years, I made the time in my schedule to make sure my son and I attended the event.

One of the things Brothascomics has preached since our inception was inclusion and diversity in nerd/blerd spaces.  Having covered many cons over the past few years, DragonCon is the ONLY con that creates this safe place for cosplayers of color to express themselves and their creations amongst like minded people.  The BlackGeeks of DragonCon should be commended for this; as well as the organizers of DragonCon for recognizing the uniqueness that DragonCon brings to Black Cosplay.

Black Cosplayers from all over the world flock to DragonCon each year and this international recognition and prestige even drew BET to DragonCon this year for full coverage( see video below)

This event is now in its 5th year.  Its keeps growing and growing.  We now see all genres of geekiness from comic books, to Game of Thrones, to Harry Potter, and all sorts of anime and manga.  Plus, movies celebrating Black cultures such as US and The Last Dragon have continually helped show the influence Black people have on nerd culture.

The photo shoot was like family!  Lots of hugs and props for people who have put their time, sweat, and money into the thing they love and getting the respect from those who deeply appreciate all they have done.

It was an event I will remember for so many reasons.  For meeting folks I have only communicated with on line, to seeing my sons face light up to see so many Black heroes, and also because it was such a beautiful day.

Enjoy the collages below and feel free to listen to my recap DragonCon podcast in the link below!  I cant wait to see what next year brings!!!

Check out my DragonCon recap podcast with Havana Nguyen.  We talk DragonCon from two totally different points of view!!
DragonCon Recap Podcast

The Producer from BrothasComics

Monday, January 20, 2020

Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren

I have stayed out of debates about the last two Star Wars movies: The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker.  The former, so many people love or hate it that there is no real chance to have a credible discussion about it if you felt it was just, meh.  The latter, I just did not enjoy but people are really having too much fun dragging the movie and Star Wars fan culture has really become toxic with so called "fans" gatekeeping the franchise.  This last trilogy went out with a wimper after such promise after the Force Awaken and I find myself wanting my Star Wars fix outside of the movies.

So a quick trip to the local comic book shop and I was able to pick up The Rise of Kylo Ren by Charles Soule and Will Sliney I was drawn to the book by the title mostly because after introducing the idea of the Knights of Ren in The Force Awakens, the group and the purpose was thrown out and all we got was more and more Kylo without any reasoning as to why HE was a Knight of Ren.

The Knights of Ren are hunting the galaxy for those like them.  I would say they are all Force Sensitive; leaning into the Dark Side of the Force and looking for those with those same sensitivities.  There is a scene where they meet two brothers who may fit the job description but it doesn't quite work out for them.

This book picks right after Ben has turned on Luke for trying to kill him.  The book dives into a sidetail, tho as now that the Jedi Temple is burning, Ben is confronted by 3 Jedi in training who are curious as to why their masters house is burning down. There is a lot of discussion as to who is a Jedi, who is stronger, and to the valor and character of Luke Skywalker, who is believed to be dead.  Alas, as the Jedi in training look to confront Ben with some Jedi Justice, Ben leaves them in a heap as he is clearly the strongest of the group of them.

As Ben is ready to leave, he takes a ship and his destination is unknown.  However, are three Jedi in training are looking to get Justice for Master Luke Skywalker and give chase in their own ship.  They have to remind themselves that Ben Solo's father was a great pilot, as well as his uncle and grandfather so confronting in space battle might not be the wisest move of the Jedi.

Meanwhile, Ben's robot companion suggest that Ben go home to visit his mother.  Not in the plans, tho as Ben begins to hear a voice in his head that suggests that Luke turning on him was all a part of a master plan that had been predicted and that voice belongs to Snoke.  He does not appear like the Snoke in the movies and you have to wonder what tragedy will befall him to turn him into the crusty crumedgon that we see in the Last Jedi.

Overall, this book is fun and gives you just enough back story to want to come back for more next month.  I often feel the Star Wars comics are a better vehicle for the Star Wars universe because its not bound to trilogies.  The comics take their time and interweave movie cannon with relatable stories with characters you love, or love to hate, like Kylo Ren.

Soule and Sliney do a wonderful job here and help unravel the mystery of the Knights of Ren and their most famous disciple.  Highly recommend this book for Star Wars fans who are not huge fans of the current movies.

The Producer

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot Review

I feel everytime I write about Kevin Smith I wind up having to defend my fandom of Kevin Smith.  In the 90's and early 2000's, I was a huge Kevin Smith fan.  I obviously own all the movies, I have listened to the director's commentary on all the DVD's, I supported the Clerks: The Animated Series, and would argue to the death with people on the greatness that is Chasing Amy.

But there comes a time when I grew up and I thought Kevin Smith would, too.  If you listen to the commentary track on Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Smith is very clear that this movie would be the last you would see of Jay and Silent Bob and that he was moving on to bigger and better things.  And I felt that this was the move.  At a point, dick and fart jokes have a shorter self life and you and the characters you created need space to grow.  And I was all in with Smith and his first post Jay and Bob film, Jersey Girl, I saw in the theater with my wife.  Whether you liked the film or not( I did), the movie was a chance for Smith to spread his wings as a writer and director.  The film was not a box office success and there are probably a variety of reasons for that; most notably Bennifer( Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez had become toxic in Hollywood at that point). And not surprisingly, Kevin Smith got spooked and scared and retreated back to what he knows best.

Now look, certain people in Hollywood do this all the time.  They find a lane/genre and stay in that lane for the bulk of their careers.  How many bumbling idiot Adam Sandler movies are there?  Martin Scorcesse is still making gangsta movies, and don't get me started on Tyler Perry making oppressed Black women movies for the entirety of his career. However, staying in ones lane doesn't offer much room for growth as a filmmaker, and Kevin Smith's work post Jersey Girl is filled with underwhelming raunchy comedies like Zack and Miri Make a Porno, to safe place films like Clerks 2.  And his two forays into "different" movies were odd at best with Red State and Tusk.

Which leads us to Jay and Silent Bob Reboot.  Now if you are a fan( and again I am), you know this movie and the podcast that proceeded it, Jay and Silent Bob Get Old, are really a congratulations for Jason Mewes.  Mewes struggled mightily with drugs in the late 90's and 2000's; to the point where it was even reported that he died.  Smith, hoping to keep his friend straight, offered up the podcast and if he stayed sober, a chance to star in another Jay and Silent Bob movie.  Thankfully Mewes has been clean and this movie is the payoff.

The problem is its just not a very good payoff.  Look, I saw Clerks in my 20's and now I am in my late 40's. And the thing is, I love a good dick and fart joke but those jokes have to be earned.  It can't be going for the cheap laugh at every turn and this movie does that.  The writing isn't smart or clever and literally many of the jokes are lifted from the previous movies.   While its great to see Jason Lee, Ben Affleck, and even Joey Lauren Adams, it just feels tired and uninspired.  The plot is nonsensical, with Jay and Bob headed to Hollywood( again) to stop the reboot of the movie made about them 20 years ago. So the movie becomes a Road Trip movie as Jay and Bob reconnect with characters from the previous movies; which essentially happened in the OG Jay and Silent Bob.  Look, there is something to be said about your life coming full circle and gaining proper perspective in your life as you get older. And you see glimpses of that in the film with Jay and Bob,  but only glimpses as the movie just moves on from one celebrity cameo to the next never allowing itself to become anything more than Kevin Smith and His Amazing Friends.

No one.  Absolutely no one is going to watch a Kevin Smith movie and expect to be blown away by his filmmaking or artistry.  You go to see characters that you grew up with have fun and do and say stupid shit that you used to say when you were dumb and said stupid shit. And if you love Kevin Smith and all he does, I am sure you will love this movie.  But if you are like me, someone who loved Kevin Smith, you will watch this with a sense of nostalgia and sadness watching someone who has not only not left childish things behind, but has refused to grow up in a way that would be meaningful for himself and his beloved characters.  See you around for the Clerks 3 and Mallrats 2 reboots! Snoogin's!

The Producer