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WRITING COMICS: FUNKYTOWN and the Dolemite Comic That Never Was

My first full-length comic book story was a 32-page, self-published story called FUNKYTOWN that appeared in the pages of my magazine, BadAzz Mofo. FUNKYTOWN was my homage to blaxploitation, mixed with comedy (at least my idea of comedy at the time), and a bit horror. It was the tale of a private detective named Brick who goes toe-to-toe against a vampire pimp named Count Mackula. Along the way, Brick teams up with a badass vampire slayer named Cleaver – a cross between Foxy Brown and Buffy the Vampire Hunter. FUNKYTOWN was a fun experiment, but originally it was supposed to be something different. In its original incarnation, FUNKYTOWN was supposed be a comic book series starring Dolemite (Rudy Ray Moore).

For many years I wanted to do a comic called THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF DOLEMITE, based on the character made popular by Rudy Ray Moore in his 1970s comedy albums and the movies DOLEMITE and THE HUMAN TORNADO. Rudy has been a cult icon for decades, and with the upcoming bio-pic DOLEMITE IS MY NAME starring Eddie Murphy, Rudy Ray Moore is likely to become better known now than he was when he was alive (he died in 2008).

I first met Rudy in 1996, around the time I had started BadAzz MoFo – a ‘zine largely dedicated to film reviews and the history of blaxploitation. My plan was to grow the BadAzz MoFo brand, and eventually move into comics, including THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF DOLEMITE, which I was hoping to co-publish with someone who actually had money. I talked to Rudy about doing the comic several times, and he was interested, but there was never enough money. I needed to pay Rudy to license the Dolemite character as well as his likeness, and I needed money to pay an artist. Unfortunately, there were no publishers interested in taking on the comic book adventures of Dolemite. This didn’t stop me from developing a handful of stories, including Dolemite vs. Count Mackula (which would become FUNKYTOWN), Dolemite Meets the Pimpenstein Monster (where he battles a monster constructed from the body parts of dead pimps), and Dolemite in Space (where he joins the Jedi-like Boogie Knights).

Around 2001, it became clear that I wasn’t going to be able to get the money together to do the Dolemite comic. At the same time, my good friend Jim Hill encouraged me to rework one of the Dolemite stories into something I controlled. Jim was unemployed at the time, and interested in drawing a one-shot comic book for me. I jumped at the opportunity, and repurposed one of the Dolemite adventures into what would become FUNKYTOWN.

Interestingly enough, the animated series BLACK DYNAMITE debuted in 2011, and it was pretty much what I had wanted to do with THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF DOLEMITE. Of course, BLACK DYNAMITE (which was based on the live-action 2009 film) was way better than anything I had come up with – the show is a special kind of genius. Honestly, after seeing BLACK DYNAMITE (the animated series), I lost all desire to do a Dolemite comic (or almost all desire).

Looking back, I have mixed feelings about FUNKYTOWN. I learned a lot about making comics from the project, and had a great time working with Jim – his art still holds up for me. I also like the basic idea of the story, but my writing leaves a lot to be desired. At 32-pages, the comic is miraculously over-written and under-developed at the same time. It reads like it was written by someone who thought he had a clue about making comics, but only had half of a clue. I relied too much on pointless nudity and raunchy sex jokes – which were crucial elements of the DOLEMITE movies, but wasn’t needed in FUNKYTOWN. The sex and nudity now embarrasses me, and it is one of the main reasons I haven’t gone to great lengths to re-release the story. There are still copies of the issue of BadAzz MoFo that contain FUNKYTOWN, but I’m not going out of my way to sell it (at least not until I get hard-up for cash).

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