Michael Davis In Search Of Entrepreneur Heroes Interview
Ralph Zuranski: Hi. This is Ralph Zuranski. I’m on the phone with Michael Davis who is the creator of a new comic book line; The Guardian Line.
Ralph Zuranski: It’s a comic based series that teaches Biblical principles to kids of all ages and also of all ethnic types. So, Michael, how are you doing today?
Michael Davis: I’m good Ralph. How are you?
Ralph Zuranski: If you could, explain a little bit about your life and how you got into producing faith based comics.
Michael Davis: I was actually trained as an illustrator when I was a kid. I went to the High School of Art and Design in New York as well as the Pratt Institute. As an artist you tend to always be looking for the next job, so to speak.
Michael Davis: One day I realized that I was on the wrong side of the business. It was an advertising company who was using my art to do a calendar.
Michael Davis: They were paying me $5,000 a painting, which at the time in my twenties was a lot of money, but they were being paid a million dollars for the calendar. I realized that and the calendar was all of my art work.
Michael Davis: I realized that I was on the wrong side of the business.
Michael Davis: I started a company called Bad Boy Studios and that’s before P. Diddy, a puppy. After that, through a partnership with three friends of mine, a company called Milestone Media.. Milestone Media became the biggest African American comic book company on the planet.
Michael Davis: From that I became president and CEO of Motown Animation and Film Works, of their television and film division.
Michael Davis: At that time I really wanted to find properties which would resonate to African Americans so I started looking at the black church.
Michael Davis: I wasn’t able to pull it off back then but years later I met a guy named Jeffrey Wright who runs Urban Ministries. We started talking. We connected a few years after that conversation and that is pretty much how the faith based comics came to be.
Ralph Zuranski: That’s pretty amazing. It seems that you have had quite the success in a lot of different areas. You have an animated comic show that’s one of the best watched shows. It’s called Static Shock. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Michael Davis: Static Shock started on the WB about five years ago. I think last year we moved to the Cartoon Network. It’s an extremely highly rated show. We are very, very proud of it.
Michael Davis: Actually the original Static Bible, which I wrote, was based on my life as a teenager. It’s pretty true to that bible, which is very exciting. I’m very proud of that show.
Ralph Zuranski: I wanted to go ahead and ask you some of the heroes’ questions. I have asked quite a few heroes in the different areas of the military and the Internet industry and in nonprofit organizations. I wanted to ask you what do you want out of life, in ten words or less.
Michael Davis: Oh, that’s easy. Peace of mind and to make a difference and do some good.
Ralph Zuranski: What is the dream or vision that sets the course of your life?
Michael Davis: Realistically I would like to have some kind of impact on the lives of young people. That’s pretty much why I create universes that are filled with kids of all ages and ethnicity because it’s great for kids to recognize themselves when they see something on television or they read about themselves in a book.
Michael Davis: So, that’s pretty much my dream, to have an impact on the lives of young people.
Ralph Zuranski: How important is it to stay focused on your primary goal?
Michael Davis: Extremely important. I would say as a business person it’s the most important. I feel too many people get sidetracked and there is an old saying about being a jack of all trades and a master of none.
Michael Davis: I’m one of those tunnel vision guys. Step one, step two, step three, step four. So it’s extremely important to stay focused on your goal.
Ralph Zuranski: Do you follow your hunches and intuitions?
Michael Davis: Absolutely. I want to have complete dominion over my life. I want to be the person who decides what I do, how I do it and when I do it. It’s taken me a while to get to that point but pretty much now my hunches and intuitions are my life’s blood.
Michael Davis: When you come to Hollywood you have agents, managers and entertainment lawyers. A lot of those people are set up to say, “No.” A lot of those people are set up to try to discourage you because it doesn’t benefit what they do in terms of making money off of your labor. I absolutely follow my intuition and hunches.
Ralph Zuranski: What specific philosophy or philosophies guide your life and your decisions?
Michael Davis: Excellence in what I do. I want to be the guy who absolutely, when you look at the work that I produce and you look at the things that I’ve done, you can love me or hate me. But I would like to be respected for being original and really being good at what I do.
Michael Davis: That really drives my philosophy especially in business and in life. I like to be the best friend that I can be to people. I like to be the best relative. I like to be the best neighbor, although don’t ask me for sugar because I don’t want you coming to my house.
Ralph Zuranski: What is your perspective on goodness, ethics and moral behavior?
Michael Davis: Well, that’s easy. Do unto others. I think that real morals are what you do when no one is looking. I think it’s real easy to pretend to be a certain way.
Michael Davis: I’m a very simple person. I like to go to sleep knowing I’ve made the right decisions that day, knowing that I haven’t done or said anything that would cause anyone any pain, knowing that I made decisions based on honesty and truth as opposed to based on personal gain.
Michael Davis: Sometimes it’s easier to say no than it is to say yes but if no is what you need to say you need to say it and be okay with your decision.
Michael Davis: You can not regulate morality which is what a lot of people in government try to do. I think the best way to have a more moral society is to lead by example.
Michael Davis: Parents and people in the forefront, especially people who have influences on kids like artists, hip hop artists, rock and roll artists, heavy metal artists, it’s real easy to get caught up in that stuff but you’ve got to stick to what it is that you know.
Michael Davis: What I know is that it’s easier for me to be a morally upstanding human being as opposed to someone who is out for self. Sorry about being so long winded.
Ralph Zuranski: What place does the power of prayer have in your life?
Michael Davis: Lately, quite a lot. What I do is very, very solitary. I’m sitting at a computer most of the day. Most of the stuff that I have to do involves—it’s twofold. It involves the creation of the content, then there’s the business of the business.
Michael Davis: Oft times when you really want to be doing something creative you can’t because you’ve got to tend to the business. What prayer has done for me is it has calmed me down. It’s really like having a conversation with someone who you know is always going to support you.
Michael Davis: So lately quite a lot.
Ralph Zuranski: What principles are you willing to sacrifice your life for?
Michael Davis: My family. I hate anything that has to do with injustice. Living in Los Angeles you often see things which are less than, I’m looking for the right word here Ralph, which are less than fair. I think that’s the right word. I hate seeing that. I hate seeing people who are taken advantage of.
Michael Davis: There is a whole class of human beings out there who simply don’t have the infrastructure to combat people who are, for lack of a better word, who are just mean.
Michael Davis: I think if my family was threatened, if my family was involved, I would most likely get involved in a moralistic fight over injustice or bigotry or anything like that. I think that’s something that I would be willing to give my life for.
Ralph Zuranski: Are your actions and goals consistent with your beliefs?
Michael Davis: Absolutely. I sleep very well at night knowing that.
Ralph Zuranski: Is it valuable to have highly charged emotions about achieving your goals?
Michael Davis: Well, for me that’s a funny question because I have an extremely over the top personality. You are actually getting a very calm Michael Davis. There are three types of people in the world, so to speak, when it comes to me in terms of my life. There are people who love me. There are people who hate me.
Michael Davis: Whether you love me or you hate me everybody respects me because I can do what I say I’m going to do. I have an over the top, in your face, not shy about it personality. One of the things that I like to do, and this is not my quote, this is attributed to Yogi Berra. My thing is it’s not bragging if you can do it.
Michael Davis: If in fact you’ve done something remarkable, and I’ve had some pretty good things happen in my life, I think you should be as loud as you can about that and bring as many young people into that fold to let them know that yes, this is possible for you also. I did this. I grew up in the projects. This is what happened to me but this is what I have achieved.
Michael Davis: I’m probably not as smart as you are. I’m probably not as astute as you are but this is what I have achieved. This is what you can achieve also. I’m an in your face guy. I’m like, bam, bam, bam, bam, in your face.
Michael Davis: My highly charged emotions I wear right on my sleeve. Most people get it. Some people don’t but hey, I don’t eat spinach. Some people like it.
Ralph Zuranski: Is it useful to take a positive view of setbacks, misfortunes and mistakes?
Michael Davis: Yes. There is one thing that I love. What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. I think that it’s absolutely true.
Ralph Zuranski: Is optimism valuable?
Michael Davis: To me, my optimism has closed more deals. If you take a look at my resume I’ve done some huge, huge things. I’m not saying that to impress you or your listeners or readers.
Michael Davis: I’m saying that to impress upon you that my optimism has gotten me those opportunities. If you can get into a room with somebody and you can express to them how excited you are about a certain opportunity, a certain deal, a certain anything, you will most likely get those people on your side.
Michael Davis: Now, getting the deal and keeping the deal are two different things. If you are optimistic at that meeting and you have this great idea to change the world, if you are in that situation when you’ve been given the opportunity to change the world and you do not perform, well your optimism is pretty much done. My optimism is the one thing that I will never change.
Ralph Zuranski: That sounds important. Do you maintain a sense of humor in the face of serious problems?
Michael Davis: I would probably maintain my sense of humor in the face of a firing squad. I find most things funny. Given my upbringing and the tragedies which have happened in my life, I thank God that I have this kind of sense of humor. The other side would just be too depressing to even deal with.
Ralph Zuranski: Do you take time out of your day to feed your subconscious positive thoughts about you, your goals and your dreams?
Michael Davis: I think that’s very important especially if you are in the field like I am in terms of being a writer, being a creator, being anyone who has to do anything which involves you sitting alone in a room and trying to create something. I can not stress to you the importance of the ability to just be yourself in those moments.
Michael Davis: I’m not smarter than anyone else. I am cuter. (Laughter) You’ve got to take the time to really deal with yourself. You know, sometimes your subconscious is telling you stuff that you need to listen to.
Ralph Zuranski: That’s true. Do you have the courage to pursue new ideas? Do you think it takes courage to pursue new ideas?
Michael Davis: I think at this point in my career, Ralph, I don’t know if it’s courage. I don’t know at this point in my career if it’s courage but pretty much how I’ve made my living since I was 18 has been coming up with stuff that no one else is doing.
Michael Davis: And selling it to someone who has the means and the budget for me to see it through first as an illustrator, then as the owner of a company, then as the head of a division for a major company, yadda, yadda, yadda.
Michael Davis: I don’t know. I think it takes courage coming out of an environment where everyone is telling you, “Hey.” If you want to sit down and be an artist and you’re living in the inner city and being an artist is not the coolest thing in the world, that takes courage.
Michael Davis: I was lucky enough to have my mom and my cousin to support me when I was living in the projects wanting to be an artist and everybody else was outside doing things which weren’t good.
Michael Davis: For me I think it took courage when I was younger. Now, I think it takes fortitude. I just think it takes drive. You’ve got to know what your goal is. I know exactly what my goal is and a lot of young people they don’t know but once you figure out what you want it’s a lot easier to get there.
Michael Davis: So, courage for me, I don’t know if I was that brave because I had a lot of support even though I grew up in a really rotten area.
Michael Davis: But I can see how it would take courage for a lot of young people out there if they don’t have that support. That is another one of the reasons why I am so adamant about telling kids that they can do this.
Ralph Zuranski: Didn’t you grow up fatherless and weren’t your grandma and your sister killed?
Michael Davis: My grandmother and my sister were both taken by violence and I was raised by my mother, my sister and my grandmother.
Michael Davis: The thing that I had to learn really fast is I lost my grandmother and my sister but my mother lost her first born child and her mother. I had to pretty much grow up fast but it would have been really easy for me to slide the wrong way.
Ralph Zuranski: Were you willing to experience some discomfort in the pursuit of your dream?
Michael Davis: Every artist does. Every artist does. This may be cliché but if you work hard for something, you get a little hungry, it makes it all that much better when you do achieve whatever it is that you achieve.
Michael Davis: There is no doubt if you have to work for something really hard when you achieve it, it feels better. I don’t like it. Nowadays I’m in less discomfort. (Laughter) Things are looking pretty good nowadays but earlier in my career it was extremely discomforting.
Michael Davis: I never really thought of it as discomfort then. I thought of it as paying your dues. Yeah. You have to experience some kind of discomfort especially if you have a dream. If your dream is easy it’s not a dream.
Michael Davis: A dream is something which by definition is something which is so phenomenal in your life that you are willing to make the sacrifices to achieve that dream. If you have a dream that comes easy that’s not a dream. That’s a thing to do. It’s not a dream.
Ralph Zuranski: True. It’s sort of a slam dunk.
Michael Davis: Take a look at old money people. There are families in this country who have extreme wealth.
Michael Davis: More often that not, maybe I shouldn’t say more often than not, very often, not every family but in a lot of these families you will see their kids having problems with drugs, their kids having problems in school, problems with authority. Money doesn’t really make you a better person.
Michael Davis: I really think that with some of the suffering that you do, when you get that kind of money, when you get your money you tend to appreciate it.
Michael Davis: The last time my mother came to my home I was living in a loft in Tribeca in New York City.
Michael Davis: This loft is 5,000 square feet, 100 foot ceilings, beautiful, an absolutely stunning Architectural Digest loft.
Michael Davis: My mom comes over and checks my cabinets to make sure that I have enough to eat. (Laughter)
Michael Davis: That’s grounded. I still handle my money as if I don’t have another job coming. A lot of people with real wealth would get in trouble because they don’t get it.
Ralph Zuranski: Is it beneficial to make decisions quickly?
Michael Davis: Now it’s beneficial to make decisions quickly because I pretty much know what I want. I have a goal. When you’re younger I think you really need to spend some time and think about it, but not too much.
Michael Davis: There are a lot of people, especially kids of color but this applies to all kids, where they have an idea, they have written a screenplay, they’ve done some artwork, they’ve taken some pictures, they are doing something artistically but they don’t show it to anybody.
Michael Davis: They don’t show it to anybody. They just keep it in because they want to get better. They want to get better. They want to get better.
Michael Davis: That’s a big problem for a lot of people because by the time they do show it to people there are all of these problems and they get discouraged because they’ve worked forever on it. I think taking too much time is troublesome but not taking enough time is troublesome also.
Michael Davis: For me now, in this stage of my career I make my decisions very quickly because I’m sure of what it is that I want. I really don’t work with people who take their time doing stuff anymore.
Michael Davis: I just don’t. I’m just not that guy. I don’t have that kind of patience for working with people who simply take forever.
Michael Davis: The creative process is one in which decisions should be made so that you can get to the next level as opposed to taking your time trying to figure out how to jumpstart something.
Michael Davis: My advice to younger people is to take some time to make sure it’s what you want to do. Don’t take too much time because the rest of the world will pass you on.
Ralph Zuranski: Once you make those decisions are you slow to revise or reverse them? Especially if they are important decisions?
Michael Davis: Nope. Clean it up fast, admit my mistakes and move on. I’m a paper trail guy and I think this is also important for kids to understand, especially people who want to get into the entertainment business. Write it down.
Michael Davis: If it’s something that you have to do, write it down so even if it turns out that it’s a mistake you will have a written record of what you did wrong so you can go over it in your head or at least go over it so you know not to make that mistake again.
Michael Davis: My philosophy is clean it up fast and go on to the next thing. Admit you’re wrong. If you need to apologize to somebody, apologize. Clean it up and go on to the next thing.
Ralph Zuranski: In the process of becoming successful and achieving your dreams how were you able to overcome your doubts and fears?
Michael Davis: My mom and my cousin made it really, really, really easy for me by supporting me the way that they did. I grew up in a place where if you walked out the door on a certain day, a certain time of the day, you could be shot. I never really appreciated that until I left because my mother set boundaries for me and my cousin allowed me to come and work with him on the weekends.
Michael Davis: It kept me out of that whole Saturday night fever kind of going to parties and rival gang territories and hanging with the homeboys.
Michael Davis: It kept me away from all of that even though I was literally right in the middle of it, it never really dawned on me how dangerous it was until I got out because my support system was so good.
Ralph Zuranski: Do you readily forgive those who upset, offend and oppose you?
Michael Davis: Ralph, to be perfectly frank, I’ve got a real hard time forgiving people who do stuff out of spite. I have a real hard time forgiving people who do stuff because they simply don’t like you.
Michael Davis: There is a very, very famous artist who works in the comic book community who has called me a fraud because he thinks that if you’re going to work in comics you’ve got to draw comics for 20 years and do all the rest of this stuff to get your feet wet.
Michael Davis: You have to come up through the grind stone. Well, I didn’t do that. I create business plans and get it to people who make the decisions. I sidestepped all of that stuff.
Michael Davis: Quite frankly, corporate America is not stupid. They do background checks and all of this stuff. A fraud by definition is somebody who can’t do but pretends to do what it is that they say to get you to buy into it so that you can give them money and then they abscond with the money. A fraud doesn’t do the job.
Michael Davis: I pretty much do the job. That’s what I do. I get a deal. I do the job. I service the deal. I create this stuff.
Michael Davis: It’s a little hard for me to forgive this guy because he is jealous of my success. Eventually I will but I’ve got to be honest, people who don’t like you because of your personality, I understand that. It’s human nature. But don’t tell other people that this is your opinion.
Michael Davis: He made the mistake of telling one of my best friends that he thought I was a fraud. My best friend is like, “Hey, I’m his best friend. Don’t talk that way about him to me.” Most people understand that my over the top personality is because I’m just a real knucklehead. But he is really, really, really adamant and upset.
Michael Davis: You don’t become president of a major corporation because you can’t do the job. Maybe one day I’ll forgive him but right now he’s on my hit list, figuratively speaking. (Laughter) Now people who oppose me?
Michael Davis: He hasn’t really done anything to oppose me because he’s not at a level where anything he says is important. He’s not sitting with people who make those decisions. He’s not sitting with the decision makers.
Michael Davis: People that oppose me I don’t even think about. If you take time out of your day to try to figure out how to stop Michael Davis and Michael Davis is not even thinking about you?
Michael Davis: This is my philosophy about celebrities. You’ve got all of these TV shows on the air, talking about Paris Hilton and talking about Tom Cruise and all of this nonsense.
Michael Davis: Somebody asked me as I was coming out of McDonald’s how I felt about Tom Cruise’s baby. They were interviewing people for a show. “How do you feel about the fact that Tom Cruise’s baby hasn’t been seen?”
Michael Davis: I said, “When you ask Tom Cruise how he feels about Michael Davis, I’ll comment on Tom Cruise. Other than that, what do I care?” (laughter)
Michael Davis: I spend no time thinking about people who don’t affect me in a positive way. Lastly, if you do something to me which causes me harm but you had no intentions of doing that and if it’s a mistake, if you apologize, I will forgive you in a heartbeat if you own up to what it is that you have done.
Michael Davis: Quite frankly, Ralph Zuranski, you and I both know that there are people out there who do stupid things that affect other people.
Ralph: Boy, that’s true.
Michael Davis: They don’t think about it. They do it. Those people I can forgive because that’s not out of spite.
That’s not out of malicious intention. That’s simply because they made a mistake. I can forgive mistakes all day long.
Ralph: That’s true.
Michael Davis: Again, I’ve got to apologize for being so long winded.
Ralph Zuranski: That’s okay. It’s important to share what you believe because everybody wants to relate to somebody that has emotions and they’re not just a robot. They actually live, breathe and feel. Everybody does. That’s just the true basis to life, especially in how they relate to others.
Michael Davis: I sort of went on really long about the guy who called me a fraud and I probably gave him way too much power by going on that long but I will say this. Those are the sort of things that you do if you are a lesser human being in terms of your self esteem.
Michael Davis: My self esteem is very powerful. I think I’m all that and a ham sandwich. I tell kids, “You are all that and a ham sandwich.” Some of the biggest names in the comic book and animation industry have come out of my mentor program.
Michael Davis: These kids are not kids anymore. They are grown men but they are absolutely the best at what they do. What we try to do in the program is instill in them a sense of self and a sense of purpose and their work with a sense of excellence.
Michael Davis: I still get a little pissy faced over stupid things people say about me.
Ralph Zuranski: I think we all do. Do you experience service to others as a sense of joy?
Michael Davis: Oh, yeah. That’s why my mentor program, the biggest thrill that I get out of that is seeing somebody achieve something they didn’t think they could.
Michael Davis: My favorite time of the year is Christmas because I just like doing stuff for people. I’m impossible to buy for because I collect toys. I collect GI Joe’s and Barbies but I want everybody to know out there that real men can collect Barbies.
Michael Davis: It’s impossible to buy for me at Christmas time because first of all the GI Joe’s I collect are from the 60’s and you don’t want to spend that kind of bank and not know whether or not I have one or not.
Michael Davis: Second of all I’m pretty much at peace. I don’t need a whole lot of stuff, so buying for me is like, “Hey I appreciate it but you really didn’t have to.”
Michael Davis: I get a lot of joy going out and buying stuff for my family and friends. I love that.
Michael Davis: I love the look on parents’ faces when their kid gets into a school that they didn’t think they could get into because they were tutored by people in my program or by me.
Michael Davis: They get this sense of excellence, this sense of self. So yeah; I really get a kick out of doing stuff for other people. I don’t know what it is. I just get a kick out of it.
Ralph Zuranski: When was the lowest point in your life? How did you change your life after winning a victory over the obstacles you were facing at that time?
Michael Davis: I touched on this a little before. When my sister died it would have been really easy for me to end up in jail or dead myself.
Michael Davis: My cousin, William T. William, that’s his name, and my mom, Jean, made it really, really, easy for me to overcome those obstacles, those dangers in my life.
Michael Davis: They really took care of my not by preaching but by teaching. There was some preaching in there but it wasn’t over the top. It wasn’t, “You have to do this to be a better person!”
Michael Davis: It was, “Here’s what you need to do. Here is how it’s going to affect you if you do this. Here is how we are going to help you.”
Michael Davis: That was the lowest point in my life but I was able to regain it so the path to victory, so to speak, was the support system in my life.
Ralph Zuranski: So, it was family members that helped give you the ability and the willpower to change things for the better.
Michael Davis: Right.
Ralph Zuranski: How important is it to believe your financial dreams will eventually become true or a reality?
Michael Davis: For me, money has never been a big deal. When my mother and my sister and I were living in one room, our big deal was getting into the projects. We were renting one room so we all slept in the same bed.
Michael Davis: I guess I must have been around six and my sister was ten. That’s still pretty big for three people to be in the bed. We all slept in one bed and I remember when we got into the projects how that was like moving into Shangri La.
Michael Davis: Even though we were dirt poor I never knew I was poor because I didn’t have any frame of reference. I didn’t know that people had big houses. I didn’t know any of that stuff.
Michael Davis: It wasn’t until I got further along in school when people started buying Converses and Pro Keds and I went home and told my mom that I wanted sneakers for gym. She said, “Let Jim get his own sneakers.”
Michael Davis: I’ll never forget that. (Laughter) Thirty years later that still holds up.
Ralph Zuranski: Yeah.
Michael Davis: I really didn’t know that I was poor until I started making some money but money is easy to make if all you want to do is make money.
Michael Davis: That’s a quote from Citizen Kane. My main goal has never been about making money. Money is important but it’s never been my main goal.
Michael Davis: If I have to think about making money on a personal level, now when I’m in business it’s really important to create a revenue stream so that the business can be sustained. I understand that.
Michael Davis: My philosophy in business is low overhead, high revenue. But as far as personal finances, I never really worried about that.
Ralph Zuranski: Do you think it’s valuable to know how much money you want to have in your banking account, and by when, by setting goals?
Michael Davis: Absolutely. It’s very valuable because again, in business and with your family if there is something that you want to do. Knowing that you’ve got $1,000 in your account and you want something that’s going to cost you a $100, that’s nice. That’s peace of mind.
Michael Davis: You have to keep track of your finances and I would suggest that for people who are starting out. I have a money manager but I manage my money manager if you get my drift.
Ralph Zuranski: Yeah.
Michael Davis: I’m not going to be one of those guys who finds out his money manager has invested in seaweed off the coast of Jerusalem and now I’m penniless because I let somebody do that. I’m not that guy. I have a money manager specifically for my taxes to make sure that I don’t go to jail.
Michael Davis: I’m not really interested in somebody else controlling my resources. But yes, knowing exactly how much money I have is important. I want to make sure that I get this across to any young people who are listening to it. It’s not how much money you have. It’s how much money you can control.
Michael Davis: If you’ve got $15 dollars in the bank but you can call up somebody in business who has access to a lot more than that and they will let you utilize their funds for your project or whatever, that’s very powerful.
Ralph Zuranski: Yeah. I know there are a lot of people who say that you should never go into debt to achieve your dreams. There are other people who say that you can utilize the capital of others to fulfill your dreams you will achieve it a lot faster than if you tried to finance it on your own.
Michael Davis: Well, I do a lot of work in education. I do a lot of work with the school systems. I do a lot of work with kids and I hear parents telling their kids not to take out student loans. I think that is the stupidest thing that you can tell somebody.
Michael Davis: Take out the student loan. Go to college. Get a good job and pay the loan back or don’t take out a student loan, don’t go to college, starve and die.
Ralph Zuranski: Yeah. (Laughter)
Michael Davis: I’m debt free now but I pretty much had a lot of debt.
Ralph Zuranski: Do you think that by having that debt it helped you get to where you are now?
Michael Davis: Once again, I have a goal and I’ve had a goal for a pretty long time. In this day and age especially you can’t really go to college without getting some sort of financial aid.
Michael Davis: For people to make decisions who are 18 years old that they don’t want to take out a bank loan, to me it’s my personal opinion that’s just crazy.
Michael Davis: The whole thing about the student loan is that it helps you get through school. Then when you get out of school and you get a job you pay it back. That’s a beautiful thing.
Michael Davis: The debt I’ve accumulated in my life is mostly that kind of debt, student loans and business things.
Ralph Zuranski: What is your definition of heroism?
Michael Davis: I think it’s the way you act and the good things you do when you don’t expect any rewards or when people aren’t looking. I think a real hero is somebody who makes a decision to do something to help someone else just because they can.
Michael Davis: This may be a little bit controversial thing to say but not too long ago there was a sport, I won’t even mention the sport because you’ll know what I’m talking about, but let’s just say it was a very dangerous sport and a very big, big star was killed doing this.
Michael Davis: All of these people were calling him a hero.
Michael Davis: That’s not a hero. The guy got paid a lot of money to do what he loved to do. That’s not a hero.
Michael Davis: A hero is the fireman who goes into a burning building who makes not a whole lot of money as a fireman. You’ve got to have a certain kind of drive to do that.
Michael Davis: A hero is the guy who takes care of his family. A hero is the man who won’t desert his girlfriend if she gets into trouble. A hero is a man who takes care of his son. I don’t know who my father is but he ain’t no hero.
Ralph Zuranski: Yeah.
Michael Davis: He left me. He left my sister. My mom’s a hero. She never once thought of herself. She always took care of me and my sister first.
Michael Davis: I hear a lot of this stuff about heroes, man, but a hero is not somebody who does something, dies and then is called a hero because he was really good at what he was doing. No, no, no. A hero is selfless.
Ralph Zuranski: Yeah. You had a pretty rough upbringing. Did you ever create a secret hero in your mind to help you deal with life?
Michael Davis: Johnny Gent.
Ralph Zuranski: That was your hero?
Michael Davis: I haven’t thought about that in years. His name was Johnny Gent. Me and him were boys. We were imaginary friends. I had a whole history about him.
Ralph Zuranski: Really? What did he do?
Michael Davis: I should put him in one of my books now that I think about it.
Ralph Zuranski: What were the qualities or attributes he had?
Michael Davis: He just did the right thing. I would have conversations with Johnny about not doing my homework. Johnny would say to me in my head, “You had better do your homework. If not, you’ll be in trouble tomorrow.”
Michael Davis: Stuff like that. He just pretty much did the right thing, which is cool.
Ralph Zuranski: Was his last name G-E-N-T Gent?
Michael Davis: It was J-E-N-T because you know I went to public school and I couldn’t spell.
Ralph Zuranski: He was a gentleman, Johnny the Gentleman?
Michael Davis: Yeah, I never thought about that but yeah, Johnny the Gent. Yeah, G-E-N-T. He was just my imaginary very best friend who I haven’t thought of in years until you brought it up. I’m going to put him in a book!
Ralph Zuranski: Yeah, you should other than Larry the guy that you used his library card.
Michael Davis: Larry White. (Laughter) To make up for my horrible indiscretion I always create a character in homage to Larry. I realize that that was wrong, wrong, wrong what I did.
Ralph Zuranski: You found his library card and then you just used it and never took the books back? Do you think the library came after that guy?
Michael Davis: It was a ridiculous amount of books! Back in those days they didn’t come after you. You could actually go into a library and ask for a different card and they would just give it to you.
Ralph Zuranski: Yeah.
Michael Davis: We were on the honor system back then.
Ralph Zuranski: Yeah.
Michael Davis: I did kind of atone for it. I was fortunate enough to help create the Comic Arts Festival out here in Los Angeles in conjunction with the LA Central Public Library. I was fortunate enough to do that and to help in that endeavor when they started.
Ralph Zuranski: Who are the heroes in your life now?
Michael Davis: Well, my cousin, William T. Williams will always be my hero. My mom is my hero. She is retired now but she’s lived a real life.
Michael Davis: She is a real, real good person. A lot of people who would have faced what she faced would have just given up. Those are my personal heroes.
Michael Davis: There are some people who I really, really admire. I don’t know if I would call them my heroes but I admire them. I like Bill Gates on a business level because Gates is a smart guy, and love him or hate him, I can’t deny his accomplishments.
Michael Davis: The stuff that he’s doing with AIDS and the stuff that he’s doing with education is just phenomenal.
Michael Davis: To have that kind of bank it’s really easy to sit down and go give a couple of million dollars a year to charity because it’s a tax shelter. This guy is giving billions of dollars and he’s devoting the rest of his life to his main thrust, which is going to be helping humanity.
Michael Davis: You create something like Microsoft and then you decide at the height of your career that you are going to now help humanity?
Michael Davis: That’s a hero! People are still taking shots at him for a variety of different reasons. You know, love him or hate him, business is one thing but he’s a real man. He’s a man.
Michael Davis: Another person I admire was Frank Sinatra. Frank Sinatra back in the 40s and 50s, before the Civil Rights movement really got its national television push, was advocating equality for African Americans and Latinos.
Michael Davis: Frank Sinatra would refuse to play places if they didn’t let Sammy Davis, Jr. sit in the audience.
Michael Davis: And you know, it was really 60s.
Michael Davis: There was something very sexy about being involved in the Civil Rights movement. It was the thing to do. He did it way before it started to become a big thing in this country.
Michael Davis: One of the things I admire about him, Frank Sinatra was the biggest star in the world and he lost it all.
Michael Davis: He went back to playing saloons. Imagine selling out stadiums and then a couple of years later you’re playing saloons in Hoboken, New Jersey. But when he got back on top he never forgot his friends.
Michael Davis: Love him or hate him, he knew what he wanted. You knew what kind of person he was.
Michael Davis: But basically my heroes are, like I’ve said, my cousin, my mom. From a business standpoint I love what Bill Gates is doing. Batman. (Laughter)
Ralph Zuranski: Well, let me ask you this question because you have been through some tough times. You’ve seen life in the inner cities. Would you say there is racism going in both directions in our society?
Michael Davis: Well, I live in Los Angeles, and I am a New Yorker, basically, though I live in L.A. I can tell you, when I drive my car in certain areas of the city, I am very conscious of the police because there is just a stigma out there that young black men driving really nice cars are out there doing something wrong. I don’t know if that is racism or racial profiling.
Michael Davis: When I first moved here I lived in Beverly Hills.
Michael Davis: I listen to a lot of audio books. I was listening to an audio book outside my house once, about two o’clock in the morning, and the cops came up behind me, put the lights on, asked me what I was doing.
Michael Davis: I told them I was listening to an audio book. They asked me where I was going, I said I was going home. They asked me where did I live and I said, “I live right there,” pointing to my door.
Michael Davis: The guy said to me, and I will never forget this, “What do you do to live in that kind of a house?”
Michael Davis: And I made a really bad joke, because I though he would get the joke. He did not get the joke. He made me get out of my car and put the key in the door to make sure that that was my house.
Michael Davis: Now, again, I don’t know if that was racism as opposed to racial profiling, but I do believe that racism still exists in this country. I think it really is territorial and generational.
Michael Davis: I think it’s stupid. I think the single dumbest thing on the planet is religious wars and racism. I mean, come on. It is the stupidest thing. But on the flip side of that I think that today’s kids really don’t see color.
Michael Davis: Well, most kids don’t see color. You know, the media always gets blamed for certain things, but I think, taking a look at advertisements and TV shows, and you see more racial diversity.
Michael Davis: You see more mixed couples in shows and in commercials, you see them in print ads, and they just put it out there.
Michael Davis: If you take a look at some of these dating shows, which are horrible, you will often see two people dating who come from different races and it is never brought up. In my opinion, and I am not a psychologist, if you just let it be, people also will at some point start to just let it be.
Michael Davis: But yeah, to answer your question, I still think racism exists, and I think a lot of it is so generational and so bound up in people.
Michael Davis: I don’t think the LAPD is racist, but just like the NYPD, a lot of these guys’ dads were cops, and their grandfathers before them, and there are all these things. You get stories.
Michael Davis: “You know, once we had to break up this fight over on Crenshaw Boulevard and all these blacks …” You get this stuff embedded in you and after awhile you start making decisions based on what your forefathers have told you.
Michael Davis: Now before I moved into the house I’m in now, I was in another one. And the first day I was there, this guy comes across the street and introduces himself. He is very nice and very pleasant.
Michael Davis: He is now one of my best friends. But when he introduced himself he asked me what I did, and I told him, and I asked him what he did and he said he worked for the city.
Michael Davis: Later on when I was talking to my wife, I told her I just met the neighbor across the street, and I said I thought he was a cop. Now, he was a cop. And the reason he did not tell me he was a cop was because as an African American male in L.A., there are just these racial overtones, and he feels it.
Michael Davis: He is not responsible for it, but he feels it and is cautious about letting me in on that. I guess he thought I would figure it out.
Michael Davis: Normally you don’t say, “I work for the city.” You say you are a city planner, or “I work for sanitation,” or, “I work for the Port Authority.” He said, “I work for the city,” as opposed to, “I’m a cop.”
Michael Davis: He didn’t want to start off on the wrong foot. He is literally one of my best friends now. I would take a bullet for him, he is such a great guy, so cool. But when he gets out of his patrol car, he feels that tension. I just think a lot of this is generational, Ralph.
Michael Davis: But in the stuff we’re doing in the Guardian Line, if you take a look at the bible, the creative bible, not the Bible Bible. We’ve got maybe 300 characters and it is probably the most diverse universe in comics.
Michael Davis: It really is. It is very diverse. Urban Ministries is a Christian company. My books are really about good versus evil and doing the right thing. They are a Christian company, but in these books there are Jews and Muslims, we talk about racial, religious, political things.
Ralph Zuranski: Sort of a reflection of real life.
Michael Davis: That is exactly what it is. The city that all this takes place in is called the City of New Hope, or New Hope City. There are different neighborhoods which reflect different ethnicities, just like any other city.
Ralph Zuranski: Well, how important is it to have trusted friends or a mastermind group to bounce your ideas off?
Michael Davis: You know what? For the most part in my life I have been a loner. I am not a joiner, which is fascinating now that I work in Urban Ministries, because I actually love that company.
Michael Davis: The majority of my life I have made a living all by myself, sitting in a room and not having to deal with the whole corporate thing. They are such a great company that it is really like a family. It’s like a family business, it really is.
Michael Davis: I generally don’t share a lot of stuff with people. I will get feedback from the artists and writers at Urban Ministries, and the people who are working on this stuff. But I am not one to show cousins and people, “Hey, do you want to take a look?” I just don’t do that.
Michael Davis: I really don’t like talking about my work with people who do it, because there is a disconnect. But lately I have spent a lot of time talking to people, like my best friend runs the animations on BET, so we spend a lot of time talking about certain projects we might want to do together, bouncing things back and forth.
Michael Davis: That is actually how we created Milestone. We were sitting around thinking about what would be cool, and then we said, “Hey, why don’t we make a company out of this?”
Michael Davis: So on that end it is very, very important for the big picture, but for the little things, in my day to day business and creativity, it is pretty much done before anybody sees it.
Michael Davis: Then whatever feedback I get, I change it if I have to or I make notes. I am not about to get up and say to my wife when I finish something, “Hey, Baby, want to see this and tell me how great I am?” I am just not that guy.
Ralph Zuranski: I was thinking more along the lines of your mentorship program and how important it is that people who are successful mentor other people.
Michael Davis: Now that is a different question, Ralph. That is absolutely, extremely important. One of the great things about the mentor program is when you take these kids to a professional artist’s studios and you see the look on the faces of these kids when they see that you can do this. You can live like this. You can have an exciting life doing what you love.
Michael Davis: Like one of the things I used to do when I lived in New York, we get a lot of resistance from inner city parents, because you want your kids to be doctors or lawyers, or to go to a trade school or something. But art? Oh, come on now, that is crazy!
Michael Davis: What I would do is have a parents’ night where I would invite all the parents to my house.
Michael Davis: They would come to my house and it was pretty nice, and they would see how I was living, and I would say “I made every single cent for everything that you see in this home as an illustrator, and I think your son or daughter is as talented if not more talented than I am. And they actually have a jump on what it is that they’re doing because I did not have anybody helping me at this level.”
Michael Davis: I had people supporting me but I wasn’t working with an illustrator, I wasn’t working with a photographer, I wasn’t working with a writer. I just had people telling me it was okay that I did it.
Michael Davis: And that is important. So a lot of these problems these young artists have, they go home and they are beat down by their friends and families. “Why are you doing that? You should go out and get a real job.”
Michael Davis: I actually had a girlfriend tell me that. I won’t say her name. I haven’t seen her in 20 years. With my luck, she will read this. When I lost my job, I was teaching during the day, and at night I would work on my portfolio.
Michael Davis: When I lost my job and came home, instead of telling me “Don’t worry about it, Baby, you will find another job,” she told me to give up this pipe dream of being an illustrator and get a real job. And the next day she came home with an application to the post office! It was not supportive. So it is extremely important.
Ralph Zuranski: Do you think some of our worst enemies are family and friends that love us and don’t want to see us get hurt?
Michael Davis: I won’t say they are enemies, but I certainly will say they are some of our deterrents. Here’s the thing.
Michael Davis: An enemy is out to do you harm. Family and friends really think they are helping you by telling you that you don’t want to do that. They really think they are helping you. Enemies want to see you self-destruct.
Michael Davis: But absolutely, one of the worst things to happen to you is to have someone you love and respect tell you that you can’t do something.
Michael Davis: And you know what? If you can’t do it, you will eventually find out that that is not for you. But you should be the one making that decision. I am all for people giving other people constructive criticism, but at the end of that constructive criticism there should be these words:
Michael Davis: “You need to work harder so you can get better.” As opposed to, “You suck. Do something else.”
Ralph Zuranski: Yeah. Do you think it is important to surround yourself with people who support your dream rather than people who try to crush it?
Michael Davis: Actually, my philosophy is just a little bit different. I think it is important to surround yourself with people who support your dreams, yes, and I also think it is important to surround yourself with people who do what you do who are better than you.
Michael Davis: I think competition is probably the best teacher. When you see people and you see what they can do at their age, or they are the same and you see how much better somebody is than you, that makes you work harder than anything else.
Michael Davis: One of the problems with art schools is a lot of the instructors are working professionals so they don’t tell students everything they need to know, because they are training their own competition. If you are an illustrator, and I want to be an illustrator, why am I going to tell you all of my secrets so you can go out and possibly get my job?
Michael Davis: So one of the things I tell kids is that their instructors have a responsibility up to a certain point, but your success is all on you. Your instructor is not responsible for your success. Your success is all in how hard you work when you leave that classroom, how hard you work when you leave your day job and go home to work in your studio.
Michael Davis: There are so many actresses and actors who come to Hollywood, and they get these jobs working at restaurants and such.
Michael Davis: I know this one particular young lady, very smart, who has five or six jobs, and she still thinks she is going to be a big star, although she complains all the time. I told her one time, “You know, your job is your craft. These jobs that you have are to simply make sure you can eat.
Michael Davis: Your job is your craft. So if you are working 18 hours, maybe you should work 8 hours and do 16 hour perfecting your craft. But if you don’t put in the time… Everybody who comes out here is pretty, or handsome, and can act. Everybody who comes to L.A. is that person.
Michael Davis: So you have to make sure you do due diligence, that your work ethic is far and above, because everybody is talented.”
Michael Davis: Everybody is good at what they do. When you are from Larryville, Kentucky and you come out here, it is about making a living at doing what you do. You have to raise your game.
Ralph Zuranski: You think it is important to be unique and stand out in some special way? Different than everybody else?
Michael Davis: Yeah. Absolutely. I think there are three important things. Know your craft, if you are a writer, a photographer, an actor, a cinematographer, be excellent at what you do.
Michael Davis: Never stop learning. Know the history of your craft. Some of them, their entire knowledge is based on some comic book guy they like to draw. That is like saying the only movie star you like is Wesley Snipes, but you don’t know who Humphrey Bogart is.
Michael Davis: And three, show your individuality. A lot of people come out here and go on every single audition that they can.
Michael Davis: A lot of people come out here and think it is a numbers game. In some ways, it is a numbers game. If you go to a million auditions, you are bound to book a job. Let’s say you audition for Martin Luther King. If you are a white guy, you are not getting that job.
Michael Davis: But you get people who go to auditions who are looking for people who can swim and they go there hoping they can fake it. If actors and actresses would define what they do and say, “Okay, I am making these calls to these agencies and these casting directors and I am going on these auditions because these are the things I know I would be good at.”
Michael Davis: If they would define it as a business they would do a little better, yeah. To answer your question, which I forgot!
Ralph Zuranski: To be unique, to examine oneself in that area.
Michael Davis: A lot of people out here are actresses and I am lucky enough to work in the industry. I ask people, are you a singer who can act, or are you an actress who can sing? Don’t be a singer/actress.
Michael Davis: Pick one. But this whole singer/actress thing, it is like jack of all trades, master of none. I have done a lot of different things. I have done TV, graphic design, illustration, comic books, but for me it is the same job.
Michael Davis: I create content. That is what I do. I create content. TV, comic books, illustrations; this is all the same thing to me. Creating content. I am not a TV producer; I am a guy who creates content.
Michael Davis: That is what I do. And a lot of people, they want to be everything. “I am a singer; I am an actress; I am a ventriloquist; I am a juggler!” Nope. I create content.
Ralph Zuranski: Get to know who you are and what you are doing and what you do best.
Michael Davis: If you are a phenomenal photographer, you can take any kind of pictures. One of the reasons comic books make great movies is because they are great stories.
Michael Davis: Frank Miller, phenomenal comic book artist and writer, isn’t doing anything different with the movies. He is doing what he does. He is creating content. But now he is creating that content for a different medium.
Ralph Zuranski: Who do you feel who are the real heroes today in our society who are not getting the rewards and recognition they deserve?
Michael Davis: Teachers. I can say that without even thinking. Teachers. Teachers. Teachers. The future of our country, the future of our planet, rests in teacher’s hands and in their ability to reach young minds. I think clergymen also. One of the tenets of Christianity is that you bring other people to Christ; you give them the opportunity to come into that.
Michael Davis: A lot of times you can be in the wrong place at the wrong time trying to teach that lesson, because it gives them something to look up to. Being a rock star is very cool and glamorous, but being a teacher has real substance.
Michael Davis: I still remember my sixth grade teacher. She was phenomenal. I was a class clown, but she said, “You know, Michael, you do your work and I will give you five minutes just to be stupid.”
Michael Davis: She didn’t try to pigeonhole me. And I used to couldn’t wait for that five minutes! I was able to cut up in class! I do a lot of lecturing and public speaking and I am a motivational speaker on some levels.
Michael Davis: I talk in front of just about everybody. And I know for a fact that my ability to do that now came from Mrs. Rabenow letting me have my five minutes. The hardest thing in the world when you are a kid is to get up in front of people, and I loved it! Yeah, I think teachers are it!
Ralph Zuranski: I think that is one of our problems with our world today. Schools don’t allow kids to be individuals. They just try to look at every one of them as the same.
Michael Davis: The only reason I have any use for private schools, because I think private schools are kind of elitist and it is not fair, but it is because they really nurture individuality.
Michael Davis: One of the problems with people of color, in my opinion, is that their parents are usually so busy trying to work that quality time spent with one person at home is difficult.
Michael Davis: Reading and writing is one thing, but it is the little things that really help you get ahead.
Michael Davis: Personality, the importance of not being late, the importance of dressing well, et cetera. Private schools really nurture that individuality. I almost taught at one, which would have changed me entirely as an artist if I had gone to teach at this school. It was making it really hard for me not to because it was such a great deal.
Michael Davis: I just would have been a different person.
Ralph Zuranski: What do you think are the things parents can do that will help their children realize that they can be heroes and make positive impact on the lives of others?
Michael Davis: Listen to their kids. Talk to their kids. Be interested in what their kids do. Little things, like if a kid draws a picture and they put it on the refrigerator, that’s kind of cool for a kid. Just nurture what it is they’re doing, but be parents.
Michael Davis: My mother was not my friend. My mother was not a disciplinarian but I knew for a fact that no meant no. She was not my friend. She was not my buddy. If I did something wrong I was in trouble.
Michael Davis: I was a good kid, collectively speaking. My mother only hit me once. That’s all it took. (Laughter) That was it, dude! My mother hit me once and I knew I was never doing that again.
Michael Davis: Mostly you can listen those kids and know that those kids are not dim. You see these nanny shows on TV, Ralph, like Nanny 911 or Super Nanny?
Michael Davis: Very seldom do you see a black or Asian kid on those shows. You don’t talk back to your mother, you respect your mother and father. Martin Luther King said, “If you’re a street cleaner be the very best darn street cleaner you can be.”
Michael Davis: Respect yourself. Respect others around you. Respect others’ cultures, others’ religions.
Michael Davis: Once you get to the point where people understand you’re doing the best that you can, I think that makes you a hero. You’re doing the best that you can and you are acknowledging them in your space and you’re doing the things that people can go, “Oh.”
Michael Davis: If someone can say, “You should look at what Michael Davis is doing,” if someone can say that to their kid, I would feel like a hero.
Ralph Zuranski: You know, it’s funny. How does it feel to be recognized as a social hero? Because I’m recognizing you right now.
Michael Davis: I don’t know. As much smack as I talk, Ralph, I really am humble when it comes to talking about this sort of stuff. I’ll tell you just how. Years ago I had an auditorium named after me.
Michael Davis: It was a very big honor. They had a marching band there, they had all this stuff, they had these dignitaries and mayors and the governor. I only invited one person to come with me.
Michael Davis: You know, usually you invite fifty people to sit in the front row so you can have your moment.
Michael Davis: My mother calls me now when she sees something in the newspaper and she’ll ask, “Why didn’t you tell me about this?”
Michael Davis: “I don’t know. A guy just called me up and he wanted to interview me.”
Michael Davis: Here’s what I do know. I feel honored and privileged to be able to talk directly to the kids and to the parents of the kids who are going to be reading this.
Michael Davis: Hopefully I didn’t embarrass myself too much. I feel honored that you would say that and I feel a great pride to be grouped with the other people I’ve read about on your site. Very impressive.
Ralph Zuranski: The most important thing is making a positive difference in the lives of others. It’s really true that a hero is someone who has given their life to something bigger than themselves and they do the right thing when no one is watching.
Michael Davis: Absolutely, yes. I feel that exact same way. Absolutely.
Ralph Zuranski: How will being recognized as a hero change your life since you’re constantly creating heroes and illustrating them? How do you think being a real life hero will change your creation of the heroes you create with your art?
Michael Davis: I don’t really think it will change me at all at any level. If you love what you do, like I do, you’re pretty much content with your station in life. If I was never recognized and I could do what I’m doing, I’d be okay with that.
Michael Davis: As a matter of fact, it’s funny. We did a Guardian Line preview book. I did all the characters, I created all of the story lines, I created the universe, I created the city. But in the Guardian Line preview book my name isn’t mentioned once.
Michael Davis: Someone said, “Why isn’t your name mentioned?” And I said, “I don’t know.” It’s just not a big thing to me.
Michael Davis: I’m just glad to do what I do. I’m a very lucky individual. Luckier than some, not as lucky as others. But I’m okay with my station in life.
Ralph Zuranski: Do you have any good solutions to the problems facing society, especially racism, child and spousal abuse, and violence among young people?
Michael Davis: I don’t know if they are solutions but I certainly have opinions. I think a lot of the stuff we’re involved in, a lot of what you mentioned, are parental problems. Upbringing problems. I grew up in a horrendous neighborhood but I turned out okay because my mother, who was working two jobs, found a way to take care of me. She never complained. She just did it.
Michael Davis: Men who beat women or women who beat men should be punched in the head on national TV. I really think people should be held responsible for their actions.
Michael Davis: I’m pretty much a liberal Democrat in most things in my life except when it comes to crime. Especially against women, because I have personal issues with that because of what happened to my sister and my grandmother.
Michael Davis: I really think people should be absolutely made to take responsibility for their lives.
Michael Davis: I think society at certain levels should stop making excuses for bad behavior. You know and I know when something is wrong. Most people know when something is wrong yet they do it anyhow.
Michael Davis: I think, and again, this may not be politically correct, but I think if you’re caught on tape committing a crime, there shouldn’t even be a trial. You see people on tape doing something horribly bad. You know it’s them and they know it’s them. Yet they plead not guilty!
Ralph Zuranski: That’s pretty hard to believe, isn’t it?
Michael Davis: They plead not guilty because of something that happened to them when they were seven years old, or something. I think people should be responsible for their actions. I think that we as a society should stop making excuses for people when they do bad things.
Michael Davis: And I think that if you do a bad thing, say you’re sorry, beg for forgiveness, and go on with your life. Too many people say, “This is why I did it, and this is why, and this is why.”
Michael Davis: My solution is to take responsibility for your own actions. Which may or may not happen. I’ve made some horrendous mistakes and the biggest mistakes I’ve made was to not take responsibility for my actions when I did these things years ago.
Michael Davis: Now when I do something, I say, “I’m sorry. My bad, my bad.”
Ralph Zuranski: If you had three wishes for your life and the world that would come true instantly, what would they be?
Michael Davis: That’s hard! First of all we’d find true peace. Absolutely true peace. And even if you disagreed with someone it wouldn’t end with dropping another bomb on you. You can still be an individual.
Michael Davis: You can still disagree. But your fighting would be confined to verbal jousting. “I don’t like you.” “I don’t like you either, but I’m not about to bomb your country because I don’t like you.” So peace would be the first thing.
Michael Davis: The second thing would probably be to see my sister again, because at that age when she died, I didn’t really have a whole time to bond with her. Like any other brother and sister, we were mortal enemies.
Michael Davis: I loved her and she loved me, but she was my big sister and I was her little brother and it was my job to be a pain in the butt. That’s like in the little brother handbook.
Michael Davis: I was a pretty good kid, but my sister, for the most part, was always getting into trouble. She used to get a spanking fairly regularly. My mom could give a good spanking. Long story short, I told you I was only hit once?
Ralph Zuranski: Um hmm.
Michael Davis: Well, the day that I was hit it was because I talked back to my mother. I did something stupid and then I talked back to my mother when she asked me if I did it. I said, “Yeah, I did it.
Michael Davis: So what?” She said, “Alright. Tonight you’re going to get your butt kicked.” I said, “Whatever.”
Michael Davis: I can’t tell you what she used to beat us with because in the year 2006 it would be child abuse. (Laughter) Back then it was just good parenting.
Ralph Zuranski: Um hmm. It definitely got results.
Michael Davis: You know how some people have this little paddle hanging up in the kitchen for spanking? “Go get the paddle.” My mom had a .45 automatic hanging up there. “Go get the gun. I’m going to have to shoot you in the leg so you won’t do this again.”
Ralph Zuranski: I guess that got your attention!
Michael Davis: So my mother is coming into my room to beat me. My sister sees her coming into my room with the item she’s going to use to beat me. My mortal enemy, my mortal enemy, comes in.
Michael Davis: I’m thinking, “What’s the big deal?” She comes in and stands between my mother and me and says, “You can’t beat him with that. He’s not ready for it.” That’s when I knew true fear. When my sister stood up for me.
Michael Davis: So, we got closer as we got older and I just wish I could see her again. That would be my second wish. I guess I will see her eventually.
Michael Davis: I’m not very materialistic, man, so I don’t really have a whole lot of stuff that I would wish for. My life is pretty full. But I guess if I had a third wish, it would be for any stupid mistake that I’ve ever made—and I’ve made a few—for me to be able to rectify that.
Michael Davis: You know what? That’s a bad wish. Take that one out. I wish for…I said world peace, and to see my sister again. A pot of gold? Some Skittles?
Ralph Zuranski: Okay. At least you didn’t ask for more wishes!
Michael Davis: Yeah, that’s the old story. Ask for three more wishes! How about free cable?
Ralph Zuranski: Yeah, two’s okay. Peace and the pot of gold is fine! Let me ask you one more because I really don’t know how busy you are and I appreciate your time.
Michael Davis: No, hopefully I wasn’t too long winded. I pretty much talk for a living and I really get tired of doing it. But you make this very easy because these are great questions.
Ralph Zuranski: Well, it really shows how people become successful and what their thought process is. It’s not so much about the special tricks that you use but it’s about the type of person you need to become to be successful.
Michael Davis: By asking these questions of someone like you and other people who are extremely successful, young people have the opportunity to see, “Well, gee, that person is unique. They love what they do.”
Michael Davis: It gives them a good example of achieving their dream and becoming the unique person God created them to be and not being afraid but having the courage to be who God created them to be.
Michael Davis: I believe fear is the single thing that keeps most people from doing what they need to do. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of fear! I’m not being funny, I’m not being facetious, and I’m not being overly complimentary, but I will tell you this. I’m really hard to impress.
Michael Davis: People show me stuff and I say, “Yeah, that’s nice, but you know, whatever.”
Michael Davis: I’m really hard to impress. But what you’re doing with this is very impressive. For me, that is the greatest compliment I can give. It is very impressive. I just love stuff like this.
Michael Davis: There’s not enough of this kind of stuff being done! Like I said before, I feel honored to be a part of this. I do interviews all of the time, but I’m actually excited to read this one. I was on TV and someone sent me a link to the video clip. They sent it to me yesterday and I have yet to look at it.
Michael Davis: I just think, “Whatever.” But this is exciting and I am very proud to be involved in this.
Ralph Zuranski: Thank you. And you know, it’s interesting that some of the most profound interviews I’ve done so far are with black men who’ve overcome tremendous difficulties in their lives, like Willie Crawford, Stephen Pierce, Orrin Hudson. Probably one of the most amazing people in the interviews was the black cop on Bay Watch, Gregory Alan Williams.
Michael Davis: He was the first hero that one of the high school kids interviewed because he actually saved the life of an Asian man during the L.A. riots in 1992.
Michael Davis: That’s what I’m talking about.
Ralph Zuranski: It was incredible. It was one of the best interviews of anyone I’ve ever done. He was so articulate and he really just set the tone for the entire program and he inspired me to carry on for 14 years. So just for people like you that have been successful and overcome tremendous things, I know it’s so inspiring for young people. So I really appreciate your time.
Michael Davis: No, no, not at all! Anything else I can do for you, you name it. Any art work you need, whatever it is that you need, just let me know and I will get it to you yesterday.
Ralph Zuranski: Well, I’d love to get a link to some of your art work so that when people come in and listen to your interview, I’m going to break it up into like 20 different segments and post it in all the blogs, I’d love to drive people to your site so they can see your artwork.
Michael Davis: Because just how I’ve come to know you through your interview, I’m sure your art work is even more incredible and inspiring because you do it out of love.
Michael Davis: Well, the art work for the Guardian Line, I don’t do any of that stuff. I just have these great artists who work for me. But their art work is phenomenal.
Ralph Zuranski: I just really appreciate your time and I appreciate what you’re doing to make the world a better place. Creating faith based comics gives people the truth about how to successful lives by understanding the wisdom in the Word of God.
Michael Davis: Thank you very much. I don’t think I’ve gotten a higher compliment ever.
Ralph Zuranski: Thanks again. I appreciate your time.
Michael Davis: Thank you, Sir, and have a good holiday weekend!
Ralph Zuranski: You, too.