Remember when you were growing up and found, and fell in love with your very first comic book? And upon feeling the rush of discovering the various heroes, heroines, and villains you boldly explored their universe buying up every edition offered.
Somewhere during that classic rite of passage, someone called you a “nerd” and maybe (at the time) you denied it but now, as an adult, you lean into the title with great, great pride adding, perhaps: I am a Black Comic Book “nerd”.
And yet most of the hard-earned money went to fill the bank accounts of white people who own the intellectual property. Don’t hate the messenger. For far too long Black people were only allowed to be consumers and not creators: that was then, this is now, enter Black Streak Entertainment.
Black Streak Entertainment was started in 2011 by African American brothers Justin and Terry L. Raimey. A bold move but one planned with a sense of urgency and purpose.
The brothers began their journey by independently publishing comics, graphic novels and animated shorts for kids, teens, and families all of which feature characters and storylines that represent the African American experience.
In 2011 the industry shut their doors on the concept of Black Streak Entertainment but today, after the success of “Black Panther” Hollywood is knocking, hard at the brothers’ door and the reason is simple: Black heroes and heroines are hot and in strong demand and the money that’s generated by comic book characters have long passed the billion mark.
I offer as an example the economic strength that can be seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) which, according to the trade publications was acquired by the Walt Disney Co. (2009) for $4 billion. This is the same MCU universe that created and benefits from the characters that live inside the world’s of the “Avengers,” “Iron Man” and yes, “Black Panther.”
“Wakanda Forever,” they shouted, folding their arms, crisscrossed over their chest with pride and a sense of defiance. This symbol has shown up everywhere and at the time of filing this story, “Black Panther” has already crossed the $1 billion mark—impressive—of course. However with as much pride as most Black people feel when watching “Black Panther” it’s vital to remind those passionate consumers that it’s not owned by Black people. The owners of the intellectual property associated with “Black Panther”—the very source that creates substantial wealth—is owned by White people and the characters that populated that world are owned and are part of the MCU universe.
In a 2017 article for ComicBook/Marvel journalist Kofi Outlaw provided an excellent pie chart to explain who is owned by whom in an answer to the title of his piece “Who Owns What Marvel Characters Now?“
Now you have a much better picture why the brothers Raimey and their production company, Black Streak Entertainment is being courted, hard, by outside investors and Hollywood brass.
Justin Raimey, a graduate of Youngstown State University and a self-taught artist is the author and artist of the comedy graphic novel Fiji Random and everything Black Streak.
Terry L. Raimey is a U.S. Air Force Veteran, Park University Graduate, and author of the YA urban-fantasy and the Knights of 2nd Earth book series.
Here is a condensed and edited interview with the Raimey brothers, Justin and Terry.
Los Angeles Sentinel (LAS): Let’s talk money, the comic book world churns money. Why do you feel that Black creatives don’t have the rich intellectual property rights? Why are they afraid of us, really?
Terry Raimey (TR): He who controls the money holds the power. The ruling class wants to maintain their power over us, and not just Black folks, but the so-called “working class” and poor whites who are fooled into thinking they’re superior to people of color as well. When slavery was the law in America, Black people weren’t allowed to read. The slave masters feared that if slaves learned to read, they would attain knowledge, and if they obtained knowledge, they would attain the power to overthrow their oppressors and free themselves. Today, Black folks have the power of knowledge, and once we attain the power of controlling money, we will be on an even and fair playing field with the ruling, wealthy, White class – and that’s what they fear. They fear to have their power diminished or totally taken away. Personally, I’m all for Black people taking ownership of our finances and building great wealth in our community, but this will only become a reality if Black folks learn to support Black businesses and brands with their money. Especially since we, as a people, spend more money than any other race in America.
LAS: What’s Black Streak Entertainment mission?
TR: Through Black Streak Entertainment, [we] Justin and I want to bring about more black and Latino representation to mainstream audiences with our books and comics for kids and teens.
LAS: What’s on your superhero, super-heroine shirt?
TR: Years before “Luke Cage” and “Black Panther’s” film adaptations broke records, there was a groundbreaking cartoon on the WB network called Static Shock from DC Comics and legendary writer/artist Dwayne McDuffy. I was 14 when it premiered, and it totally changed my outlook on what a superhero in pop culture could be. For the first time in a cartoon, I saw a kid my age who looked like me, shared my personal experiences and struggles as a Black youth in America, totally kicked bad guy butt, and was unapologetically black. The characters and storylines were complex and reflected the real-life struggles African Americans face, making for emotionally driven stories of heroism to which we as a people can personally relate. Static Shock inspired my book Knights of 2nd Earth, which I began writing when I was 16. Having heroes in a story who have extraordinary abilities and circumstances, but still have to overcome the real-life ills of racism and classism is an important element in my stories, and it can be presented in so many ways that will connect with young people who are actually going through these things in real life.
LAS: What’s mainstream mean to you?
TR: Mainstream entertainment is the most influential establishment on planet Earth. Mainstream entertainment influences how people talk, what they wear, how they spend their money, and even how they view people of color. People believe what they see in mainstream media, which is why it’s important that books, TV shows, and movies from multiple African American perspectives are represented on mainstream platforms.
LAS: Now that Hollywood has caught up to Black Streak Entertainment, and congratulations what should we expect?
TR: It’s been a long, very difficult road, and we’ve caught the attention of editors and executives from Scholastic and Sony … so … since the success of “Black Panther,” there is a real quest for stories and characters that reflect our experiences as African Americans. Black Panther, started out as a comic, Luke Cage started out as a comic, so it is important that black authors’ books and comics sell lots of copies. The more books black children’s, middle-grade, and YA authors sell, the more black authors you will see signed to major publishing houses, and the more big budget black blockbusters and TV shows you’ll see that is based on those books and comics. When money talks, publishers, and entertainment executives listen.
LAS: How can we stay connected with your team?
TJR: blackstreakent.com., Blog: blackstreakent.com, Instagram: Blackstreet, YouTube: Black Streak Entertainment Channel, Twitter: @BlackStreakE and Facebook: @blackstreakentertainment
Here is an excerpt from “Knights of 2nd Earth: Tears of an Honorable King” by Terry L. Raimey.
Tylan felt a most unusual presence as if an unnatural force was somewhere in the immediate area. He heard a faint snarl in the distance, as though a large animal of some kind lurked behind the slowly dissipating cloud of white smoke, dust, and debris that was before him. Tylan focused his eyes ahead, and walking through the smoke was an image of breathtaking and terrorizing proportions! The boy’s disbelief was strong despite seeing this foreign creature as it walked and breathed before his very eyes!
The beast stood upright as a man, but its countenance was of a large feline. It was tall in stature and its muscular frame was hulking and imposing! All but its torso, massive hands, and taloned feet were covered in orange hair, and its entire body was marked with numerous stripes of gold! Its long and bulky arms reached beyond its knees, and the massive legs that it walked upon were short when compared to the rest of the creature’s body! As the beast’s image became clearer to Tylan’s vision, he could see that its face boasted three glowing eyes, two on the left side of its face and one on the right side. The beast’s fourth eye, however, appeared to have been removed from its socket and its eyelids were sewn shut.
Tylan’s worst fears came to light, for the creature had spotted him and was charging with violent intent! The boy was frozen and could not move! His legs felt as heavy as stone pillars and his mind was overwhelmed with shock and confusion, not knowing if what he was seeing was real, or the product of a smoke inhalation induced hallucination!
Out of nowhere, what looked to be a large and hazy bright-green cloud crashed into the beast! The tremendous force of the blast sent the feline sailing through the air for quite some distance! Its image vanished into the smoke cloud before its body was heard crashing into the ground! Tylan’s heart beat rapidly and his breathing was so fast and heavy that he swore he had just finished running a marathon!
He turned his eyes in the direction that the blast came from and saw the source of the incredible attack dashing through the smoke with unnatural speed!