Reginald Hudlin is a man who has almost done it all. He has written and directed his own movies, run a major media outlet with BET, and written such characters as the Black Panther for Marvel Comics. The Dollar Bin was given the chance to submit a few questions to the man himself so Joel, Terence, and the rest of the Dollar Bin crew put our heads together and came up with the 10 best and toughest questions we could.
DB: What was your first exposure to comics?
Hudlin: My oldest brother was a very serious collector. He put together a very broad Silver Age collection Marvel, DC, Gold Key and other publishers. I got the bug from him.
DB: BET has gotten criticism over the years for promoting certain possibly negative stereotypes. In your opinion where is the line between an accurate representation of certain segments of African-American culture and helping to perpetuate negative stereotypes and how can that line be defined?
Hudlin: It’s not my job to defend BET anymore, but to answer your question broadly, at this point there is too much disagreement within our community by gender, class and education to come to any kind of consensus as to what is “appropriate” or even “real” in black representation.
DB: Did you read Christopher’s Priest’s run on Black Panther, did it influence your run and if so, how?
Hudlin: I loved it. For the first time since the characters creation by Lee and Kirby, I felt he was a total badass. The level of invention, from the Dora Milaje to the reason why he joined the Avengers, was just brilliant.
DB: It seems like a fairly large leap to go from running BET to writing a monthly comic. How were you approached and were you given a choice of projects?
Hudlin: How is that a large leap? In any case, that’s not how it happened. I was introduced to Joe Quesada and Axel Alonso at Marvel and we had a broad conversation about black characters in comics, which led to me being offered a Black Panther mini-series. When that was turned in, they asked if I would be interested in turning it into an ongoing series. I was also offered several of their A list characters, I agreed to write one of the Spider Man books.
At the same time, I got the call offering me the Presidency of BET. So I put it in my contract that I could keep writing the book. But I knew I couldn’t do both…writing two comic book series at all while doing such a demanding job was impossible…but I had to keep writing Panther.
DB: A lot of the individuals who have come from other mediums to write comics (i.e. Kevin Smith, Brad Meltzer) say that the pay was so low that they did it for the love of the medium. What was the appeal for you to try writing comics yourself?
Hudlin: Writing for Marvel means you get to play with the toys, the icons that still mean a lot to you. You pay for the privilege, because you’re working at a reduced rate than what you would paid in other mediums, but the satisfaction is great.
DB: What would your dream comic project be in terms of character, creative team, and possibly the storyline (if you can drop us a hint)?
Hudlin: I’m more focused on original characters. I’m developing a couple of ideas with other artists I’ve worked with before, and also doing some collaborations with other writers.
DB: Why do you think it is that female writers are perceived as only being able to write female characters and black writers being able to only write black characters and how can those stereotypes be overcome within the industry?
Hudlin: I don’t think that is true. Most black writers I know have written white characters. I don’t perceive women as being ghettoized either. There just aren’t a lot of women writers or writers of color working in comics, and that’s a shame. Because they would probably tell stories that would expand the readership of comics, which absurdly low considering how popular the characters are in other mediums.
DB: You wrote the screenplay for House Party and directed it. Did your experience as a writer and director of movies help or hinder you in transitioning into writing comics and in what ways was it either helpful or hurtful?
Hudlin: Experience helps you appreciate the unique strengths of each medium.
DB: You have written and directed successful movies, written well-received comics, run a major entertainment force in BET, what do you see your next challenge as being?
Hudlin: Make movies, write comics and run a major media company – all at the same time!
DB: What can comic companies do to help expand their audience in the face of shrinking readership numbers?
Hudlin: Try something different. The marketing, distribution and content of comics have come a long way, but there are too many obvious fixes left to do. Digital distribution could make a huge difference in terms of reaching audiences who have no idea where a comic book store is. With a wider potential reading audience, the subject matter of comics could widen out a lot more. And digital means it’s easier to do targeted marketing. It just takes vision and courage.