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(Game scenario for Tales of Depravity, published by Onyx Path Publishing)

Mike really seems to have done well for himself. From a distance, your buddy is dressed in the finest threads, wearing frosted sun glasses, his curly hair properly luxuriant and driving a Ford Mustang II. As you get closer however, you can see that he seems a little… nervous.


“Hold the phone and stop the presses! I didn’t think you would make it, but as I live and breathe… C’mere, pal!”


Mike gives you an almost bone-crushing bear hug. You can smell the desperation in his sweat. It permeates through the almost choking stench of his cheap cologne. He tosses your luggage into the trunk of the car. You both peel off onto the Detroit streets with the sounds of Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band serving as your soundtrack.


“Bob Seger?” You ask incredulously. “What the hell happened to The Meters and Sly & The Family Stone, Mike?”


“Sometimes you gotta expand your horizons,” he replies in a somewhat exaggerated Italian accent. “Oh, and they call me ‘Mickey’ now. Mickey Fontaine, to be exact. Had to drop the ‘Watson’ in order to blend in, y’know. It’s kinda important in my current line of work.”


“Mickey” decides to give you the scenic tour of the city as you drive down Woodward Avenue. Your buddy is smoking a cigarette and you ask for one. “Mickey” tells you that the pack of squares are in the glove compartment and you can help yourself. You open the glove compartment and notice that along with the pack of cigarettes is a Colt .38 revolver nestled in there as well. Though you slightly stiffen when you see the heater, you don’t mention it as you grab a square from the pack and light up. 


“You saw the gun, didn’t you?” “Mickey” says as he notices you from the corner of his eye. “Don’t worry about that. It’s just for protection. You never know what kind of wackos you might encounter in my line of work, if you catch my drift.”


Ok. Busted… and duly noted. Even though “Mickey” is acting a little squirrely, he definitely pays attention to his surroundings. You try to play off your initial shock by taking a drag from your cigarette and ask “Mickey” how he’s making his money these days.


“Errr… Y’know… A little of this, a little of that. Nowadays I’m working in real estate,” he replies. “Yeah. I’m what you would call a ‘manager’ for several properties, y’know. Kinda like a landlord, if you catch my meaning. My boss owns a few apartment buildings in the Cass Corridor and every month I stop by to collect the rent from the occupants. It can get a little hairy sometimes because… Well… You know how those people can be. So, I carry the .38 for a little protection. Y’know, wave it around a little bit to let ‘em know that I can handle myself if they decide to get a little froggy.”


“But hey, you didn’t come here to see me work, you came out here to play. So let’s play!” Your friend says as he quickly changes the subject. “You wanna drink? I wanna drink. I know of this place down the road. Classy joint. Let’s get a drink there.”


You point out to “Mickey” that it’s 10am in the morning. “Yeah? Well it’s 2pm in London. That’s lunch time. Well pretend it’s lunch time in London and down a ‘couple o’ pints in the pub’,” “Mickey” says in an even more terrible approximation of a British accent.


The “classy joint” “Mickey” takes you to is a seedy pool hall on 3rd Avenue. The regulars take notice that you and your friend are not frequent customers of the establishment and regard the both of you with scrutinous eyes. Six pitchers of cheap beer and twelve games of nine ball later, you both are acting like you own the joint with your boisterous laughter and raucous behavior. In between the clacking of balls against each other and the insults that only a friendship built from years of kinship can generate, “Mickey” notices McGuiness’ book peering out of your coat pocket.


“What’s that? Let me check out what you been reading.” He grabs the book before you can protest. “Mickey” stiffens when he sees the cover, much like you did when you saw the gun in the glove compartment of his car.


“It’s real fucked-up what happened to him,” “Mickey” says in an almost intimate tone, his fake Italian accent dropping for a moment. “McGuiness was always sticking his nose in places where it didn’t belong, seeing shit he wasn’t supposed to see. Being so fucking nosy is what bought him a dirt nap. But damn, they didn’t have to do him like that. They ain’t gonna get me like that, I’ll tell you what…”


You see a bead of sweat roll down “Mickey’s” forehead as he looks at the book like it was a portent of things to come. “C’mon. Let’s get out of here before they carry us out, I got a little business to handle anyways” “Mickey” says as he quickly collects himself.


As you leave the pool hall, you hear the howling of dogs off in the distance. Not that you’re a dog expert, but it sounds like the howl of a bloodhound. You’ve seen enough prison movies  to know what bloodhounds sound like. It doesn’t mean anything to you, but “Mickey” is visibly frightened by the sound and murmurs almost inaudibly:


“When a man abandons who he is, he has sealed fate, he sacrifices his soul and his face to the Saint of Self-Hate!”

“Mickey” hurries you into his car and the both of you peel out of the pool hall like the hordes of Hell were chasing you. You ask “Mickey” what has gotten into him as you head towards the Lodge Freeway. “Nothing!” he barks. Then, collecting himself, “Mickey” repeats himself with a slightly calmer tone, “Nothing. It… It’s just that I gotta do this thing before it gets dark is all. One stop and then the party continues!” he finishes with a laugh that reeks of desperation and paranoia.


You drive northbound on the Lodge and exit at Livernois eventually reaching the Red Devil Pizza parlor on Fenkell Avenue. You pull up into the parking lot and notice two rather rough-looking men in suits standing at the entrance. You wonder out loud to “Mickey” why a pizza joint needs bouncers in a joking manner to lighten up the increasingly somber mood.


“It’s… A little more… Exclusive joint than you think,” “Mickey” responds. “Wait here and don’t get out of the car. I’ll be back in a moment.”


You see “Mickey” walk to the door only to be stopped by the two men. At first, it looks like “Mickey” is just chatting with the two toughs, but then it’s obvious that the conversation gets a little tense, then heated as the two men refuse to let “Mickey” into the establishment. Soon, you see “Mickey” get punched in the jaw by one of the toughs while the other pulls a gun out and points it at your friend as he tries to get up off the ground. “Mickey” gets the hint and slinks back to the car with a split lip and an ashen visage.


It wasn’t the split lip that drained all the color from his face.

“We gotta go,” he says like a man who has run out of every option. “We need a change of scenery.” As he starts the car, you once again hear the howl of bloodhounds, but they are louder than before. It’s as if the dogs are coming closer to you.


(Antagonist Creation for They Came From [CLASSIFIED], published by Onyx Path Publishing)

“The most useful idiot is the man who thinks he wields power...”

— Svetlana Badbitchovitch, Codename: Cold Dust (1967)

She is the ultimate femme fatale; attractive, seductive, elusive and possibly the most dangerous adversary an agent will ever face…

And she has been active for over 50 years.

Nine of her last ten targets were found naked in their beds, victims of what looked like a heart attack, with the glistening kiss of lipstick left on their cheek. Upon further analysis, the “glitter” of the lipstick is actually finely ground diamond hence the code name Cold Dust.

However, this assassin is more than a capable hand to hand combatant with an almost uncanny awareness of her surroundings. She can turn her environment into a weapon. You’ve seen the photos of her tenth job. Not a pretty sight, is it?

Codename: Cold Dust hides in plain sight. She uses the center of attention as her cover and can be often found on the arm of a CEO, head of state, dictator, tyrant, it doesn’t matter. Sometimes, Codename: Cold Dust is there to do their bidding. Often times, they’re her mark.


Codename: Cold Dust prefers her work to be clean and precise with her method of choice being poison. Our best scientists are still trying to decipher that binary compound even after some 30-odd years of study. How Codename: Cold Dust delivers the poison is a mystery, especially since some of her more paranoid targets had their food and drink tested for just such an attack.

She’s not been captured in the 50 years since her first appearance.

Codename: Cold Dust first appeared in 1944 towards the end of World War II. During that time, her name was Babette LaRue, a double agent and saboteur for the Resistance using her feminine wiles to infiltrate the highest echelon of the Nazi regime. Her efforts turned the tide of the war in the Allies favor.

In 1967, Codename: Cold Dust appeared again. This time, Svetlana Badbitchovitch worked for the Soviet Union employing her talents to beguile and befuddle the United States government. Many times, Codename: Cold Dust derailed the United States efforts to derail communist expansion thereby keeping the war between nations very cold for the next few decades.


Svetlana was Agent Phineas Sharpe’s (Active: 1963 – 1982) biggest frustration and, quite probably, his greatest ally. It’s fortunate for Sharpe that Badbitchovitch was intrigued on the self-styled ladies’ man. Otherwise, he would have met his demise some five death traps ago.

The current Cold Dust is Salome Mokrani. You can’t miss her. She’s the been on the cover of every fashion magazine in Europe for the past two years (She’s so hot right now).


An Algerian national, Mokrani comes from a long line of revolutionaries. She’s reportedly an ancestor of Cheikh Mokrani, leader of the Mokrani Revolt while her grandfather served in the Foreign Legion, his sentence for inciting riots against French rule. Her parents were killed in the Algerian Civil War. Surviving in the ghettos of Paris as a thief, Mokrani was recruited and trained to be the next person to hold the title.

The only reason why we have information on the operative now is because former Cold Dust Badbitchovitch decided to share this information with the Agency.

To be clear, this adversary is less a person, but more so a title, a concept. Is she friend? Is she foe? It doesn’t matter. She’s the most beautiful woman you have ever seen but will never remember. She is Codename: Cold Dust.


Codename: Cold Dust is the ultimate independent contractor, capable of switching allegiances with less effort than it takes to put a lock of hair back in place. She has no agenda other than her own. Cold Dust ’67 has intimated that Codename: Cold Dust is part of a greater organization that moves in complete secrecy, that their goal is to keep the world in perfect balance.


However, that particular goal is being put into jeopardy as Mokrani, the current Cold Dust, constantly breaks established protocols. Cold Dust ’67 gave that as the reason for her “defection” and sharing of intelligence for the Agency. The question is, can Cold Dust ’67 be trusted?

Story Hook — Who’s That Girl

International Fund CEO Braxton McShane has been indicted on charges of wire transfer fraud. McShane’s client list includes the likes of Russian mobsters, the Italian mafia, Mexican cartels, Jamaican posses, White Power extremist groups… and the Amish.


The amount of information that McShane possesses to bring the whole house of cards down is worth about seven million dollars. Mokrani has been spotted during the hearings. You job is to figure out if she’s there to protect McShane and make sure he testifies or if she’s trying to collect. Figure it out quick and act accordingly before it’s too late!

Story Hook — Promises, Promises

In her debriefing, Cold Dust ’67 indicated that Mokrani went off the reservation because of a personal vendetta. During the Algerian Civil War, her parents were part of a resistance cell that was betrayed by one of their own, Said Fakhoury. Mokrani discovered his identity and is out for blood.


Problem is, Fakhoury wasn’t her assigned target.


To make matters worse, Said Fakhoury, now Prime Minister of Algeria, is the only thing that’s keeping the country from falling into another civil war. “It is not good for business,” Badbitchovitch said. “It upsets the balance” she cooed in that still-sexy Russian accent of hers… Dammit! She got to me, too!

Special Rules

Scent is more powerful than sight:

Codename: Cold Dust wears a distinctive perfume. This perfume has the ability to cloud one’s perceptions, never allowing them to fully register the features of Codename: Cold Dust.


This is the reason why agents in the past have not been able to identify Codename: Cold Dust with any certainty. She can activate the perfume in a turn, and if a character fails and Integrity + Stamina roll (Difficulty 3), they gain the Stunned Condition.

There can be only one:

Cold Dust has yet to encounter a target she couldn’t seduce. No man or woman is safe from her charms. Providing the Players give consent, their characters suffer a level 3 Complication when attempting to resist her charms.


These Complications typically amount to excuses for why it would be a good idea to accompany Codename: Cold Dust, how she may have appealed to their vulnerabilities, or because she has something – maybe information, but most likely something else – they want.


(Blog post from The Afrosoul Chronicles)




That’s an interesting word. Let’s check Webster’s Dictionary for the definition:




• an attendant at a gate who is employed to control who goes through it.

• a person or thing that controls access to something.

"the primary-care doctor serves as the gatekeeper to specialists"


It’s the second meaning that I see some refer to when discussing the comic book industry.

Lately, I’ve been doing  a LOT of podcasts, interviews and presentations. All of them, in one form or another, incorporate the question, “How does one get into the comic book industry?” That question is easy to answer:

Make a comic book. 

Simple answer, right? Perhaps it’s too simple an answer. There must be something more involved to the process. There’s a reason why some comics succeed and some don’t, right? There has to be.

“Money for marketing. That’s it. We don’t have enough money for marketing. Naw, it’s because we’re not unified as one comic book company. Yeah. That’s the reason why our books don’t get the acclaim that DC or Marvel get. No wait, I got it! The reason why we’re not getting noticed is because of the industry gatekeepers! Yeah! Distribution! Marketing budgets! Lack of corporate funding! All them gatekeepers. That’s why!”

Ummm… No.

There are no gatekeepers.

There is nothing keeping anyone from creating, printing, distributing and marketing your comic book. There is nothing in the way of preventing said creator to find, advertise and sell to their intended audience.

Print-On-Demand (POD) printers and distributors such as Amazon, Drive Thru Comics, Ka-Blam, Barnes & Noble will not only print books as, but also place them for sale in their online marketplaces with no cost for set-up fees nor minimum print runs.


Independent creators don’t need to follow the success model of the “Corporate Two.” We don’t have to pay for that infrastructure to be successful.


In terms of marketing, I have found that independent comic book creators actually do MORE promotion than the “Corporate Two” from consistent posting on social media, podcasts, conventions, etc.


Many of us #BlackComix creators already have our own comic book companies. Many of us have our distribution streams down pat as well as promoting our products throughout social media and other venues. In addition, there is an entire network of conventions, and a growing number of Local Comic Book Stores (LCS) that are owned by and cater to the African American audience.


Independent comics are having a moment, especially #BlackComix. For example, The World of Asunda (Niobe: She Is Life) is being developed for an HBO series, Bitter Root is being developed at Legendary (directed by Regina King) and more. Hell, my book The Horsemen is part of a long-term installation in the Smithsonian.


So many independent Black creators (that apparently don’t have the budget for promotion) are making power moves that are getting noticed. You may try and write off Kickstarter, but these cats are selling in-store numbers based on the funding goals.


So, at the end of the day, the real fantasy is that #BlackComix are languishing unheard when cats like YouNeek Studios (Malika, EXO) signed major distribution deals with Dark Horse or a Black Comix company like Advent Comics signing with Diamond Distribution to get their books into your LCS or brothers like John Jennings (Kindred) are overseeing imprints like Megascope and pushing content that the public, at large, are picking up.


Nothing holds us back. Personally, I’m not competing with DC or Marvel. Different companies, different sizes, different goals. In fact, I’m not competing with anyone but myself.


There are no gatekeepers.


So, if there are no gatekeepers, how does one garner acclaim for the book that they want to create? The answer that question is simple:


Do the work.


This is doing the work:


1. Make the product.

Make sure that the product can stand shoulder to shoulder with the industry standard and make sure that your product stands out from the rest.


2. Figure out what success looks like for YOU, not the “Corporate Two.”

You don’t have corporate dollars. You don’t have damn near 100 years of market saturation. So why try to fashion your business after a model that is, honestly, outdated?


3. Market your product.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a lot of money to market effectively. Again, social media has democratized the playing field. Me interacting with you, right now, is an act of marketing. But you have to know who you are as a brand to market effectively.


4. Be an active participant in the community. Real talk, the reason why this question pisses me off is because every who asks this question is not doing their homework. Again, y’all so focused on what the “Corporate Two” is doing, y’all haven’t really been paying attention to the network that has already been created. I see more cats bitching about Black Superman than showing love to a book like Tuskegee Heirs. There is a whole history of #BlackComix that has been present since the beginning of the industry. More cats need to read up on it.


And don’t say that the work isn’t promoted because it pops up in Facebook groups & ads, Instagram and Pinterest posts as well as Twitter feeds all day, every day.


The reason why I created the 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape anthology series was to show that we don’t need one company to represent #BlackComix. Just like Hip Hop isn’t just Death Row or Tommy Boy or Disturbing Tha Peace, #BlackComix isn’t just Stranger Comics or Advent Comics or Griot Enterprises. It’s a culture hence the tagline “Comics Are Hip Hop.”


At the end of the day, those who complain and worry about gatekeepers, quite simply aren’t doing the work. They’re trying “game” the system and plan for success before putting pencil to paper. The rest of us are working the program and making it happen. There’s a whole community already there and it is strong. Y’all just need to pay attention…


Because there are no gatekeepers.

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