No doubt, there will be people debating over the meaning and motivation behind Sanford Greene’s cover to Shaft #2, which came out today. For the record, the idea for the cover came to me long before the grand jury hearing in the case of Mike Brown, and is not in response to that particular case. If there is one recent ripped-from-the-news incident that really inspired the cover, it was the 2014 killing of Darrien Hunt, the young cosplayer from Utah. Every death that I read about whether it is Mike Brown, or Eric Garner, or Trayvon Martin, or any of the other tragedies that have been playing out with far too much frequency, destroys me a little bit. But there was something about the death of Darrien Hunt that really got to me. You see, if I’m going to be honest, on the path of my life and my career, there was a reasonably good chance I could have met Darrien some day.
As it is, I meet young men and women like him at every convention I go to—young people of color enjoying the world of comics and pop culture. I was one of those young people (though cosplay was never my thing, and really hadn’t caught on back then). I love meeting fans of all colors, genders, ethnicities, and ages. But for me, whenever I meet a young black person who loves comic, I’m meeting myself. I live for those moments. I cherish those moments. Those moments keep me going. The death of Darrien Hunt devastated me. Not that it was any worse than any of the other deaths that have taken their toll on this country, it just felt a little different to me on a personal level. It struck at the heart of the world that I am fortunate enough to be a part of—the world of comics and creativity, where imagination frees us from the pain and the boredom and drudgery of everyday life. Comic books saved my life as a kid. They meant everything to me. They still mean a lot, as does the community that has been built around this weird and wonderful world. And to be clear, it is a community. We are all a family. I believe that. And Darrien Hunt was part of our community. None of us will ever get to meet him. He will never get the opportunity to read our works, and maybe become inspired to become a dreamer who helps free the world from the routine of the everyday. I had to say something about the loss of his life, and the loss of so many lives that haunt me.
This cover was my idea. To their credit, Dynamite agreed to run with it. Sanford drew it beautifully. But if there is any controversy or hate for this cover, let it land at my feet, for I am the instigator. I am the evil, manipulative, bleeding heart liberal that forced everyone to move forward with this cover, in my dastardly plan to honor the life of a young man needlessly killed. If there is any appreciation for this cover, however, let it inspire people to be more understanding and empathetic, and work to make this country and this world a better, safer place for everyone.