Shaft is making a comeback. Can ya dig it? The iconic character created by Ernest Tidyman will be resurrected through a new deal announced by Dynamite Entertainment. In the works are reprints of Tidyman’s seven Shaft novels along with new prose and a comic book series based on the character, John Shaft. The man tasked with bringing Shaft back to life is David F. Walker.
Since debuting in Tidyman’s 1970 novel of the same name, Shaft has been immortalized in several forms. In 1971, Richard Roundtree portrayed Shaft on the big screen and Samuel L. Jackson reprised the role in a 2000 movie. In between there was a short-lived television series and of course, the classic Isaac Hayes soundtrack. Still, Walker believes there is more to be explored about the character.
“I’m getting into all kinds of interesting things, like his relationship with the criminal underworld that runs Harlem in the 1970s, as well as his relationship with law enforcement,” he said. “Fans of the original books will be pleased with how much I’m exploring the character. Fans of the movies will be shocked to discover that there is more depth and dimension to the character than was ever shown on screen.”
Walker also wants to make the Shaft character relevant to current issues, especially in light of this week’s decision by a grand jury not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. “The issues that impact John Shaft as a character in 1970, are still very relevant to today, which is kind of sad. Racism, poverty, the inequity of the criminal justice system—all of those things have plagued communities of color for centuries,” he noted. “Ferguson is not an isolated incident unique to 2014. So, yeah, I’ll be looking at a lot of the issues that have been plaguing the Black community for a very long time.”
The news of Shaft’s return to comic book form also arrives at a time where diversity issues in the comic book world are making headlines. The animated series “Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors” includes Miles Morales, a half-Hispanic, half-Black superhero; Captain America is now a Black hero named, Sam Wilson a.k.a Falcon; and Marvel Studios plans to produce a movie based on its first major Black superhero, Black Panther. Yet for Walker these are half-hearted concessions.
“Honestly, this wave of diversity that has been making headlines is little more than tokenism and publicity stunts. This is, for the most part, not much more than removing White characters and replacing them with characters of color. The only way diversity can become the norm in comics is if fans and the media support books like Shaft, Concrete Park, Watson and Holmes, or Bitch Planet. These are the titles that are exploring issues of diversity and representation in authentic ways, from the heart,” he said.
For updates on the forthcoming Shaft series and novel click here.
Whitney Museum hosts final event at historic building
Shaft isn’t the only transformation taking place. The Whitney Museum of American Art is preparing to move. This past Thursday the museum hosted its final event in the historic Madison Avenue Breuer Building before it relocates to New York City’s Meatpacking District.
For the final event, the museum hosted its annual gala and studio party presented by Louis Vuitton where it raised over $4.3 million. But of course it takes more than money to make a museum last. It takes talented artists. To that effect, the evening honored all 98 living artists who have had a survey exhibition at the Whitney’s Breuer Building including Glenn Ligon, Yoko Ono, Kara Walker, Jeff Koons and more.
The Whitney plans to reopen at its new site on May 1, 2015.
The weekly column, On the “A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture entertainment and philanthropy in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.