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New York State of Mind

February 27th, 2007 by | Tags:

But, fuck it, they gonna let us in, or else we rush the door
I got too many reasons, save your “whys” and “what fors”

–Talib Kweli, “Twice Inna Lifetime”

(The blogroll is updated, by the by. Drop me a line if I missed you.)

Here’s about the most thorough coverage of the Black Panel I’ve seen so far.

I really had a good time at NYCC, but I also had something of a revelation during The Black Panel.

The comics blogosphere is a big and varied place. There are very large fanboy, feminist contingent, and gay portions to it. But, where are the black voices?

There are a few very good black boards out there. I’m fond of Dwayne McDuffie’s forum, and I was recommended Hero Talk by a guy at the con, too. I picked up UVC’s inaugural issue at NYCC, and I like The Musuem of Black Superheroes, too. Those are message boards, though. They’re incestuous by nature, though that isn’t always a bad thing.

There are even a gang of quality bloggers. I recently discovered Cheryl Lynn a few weeks ago, and think that Bahlactus is great. So is Glyphs, though its RSS feed has never, ever worked right for me. It’s just that there has to be more. Who else is there? Where is everybody?

Even more than that, though… where am I? What am I doing for this? Do I have a responsibility to stand up?

I’m leaning toward “yes.”

It’s weird. I’ve seen more posts, with no respect intended to the writers of these posts, on Cassandra Cain’s turn to villainy, Storm’s so-called subservient nature, superhero slash, and what DC character is a legacy of this other character than I have on things that relate to black characters in specific. There’s some token talk about how Night Thrasher and Goliath being two of the deaths in Civil War being more than a little suspect, and things like that, but very little of it is coming from a black blogging perspective.

Case in point. Scans Daily. I found a link to this post on Loren Javier’s excellent journal. I read this post and was just like, “Uh?” It seems way, way off base from my point of view. A quote:

While I’m no Storm expert, this seems so incredibly out of character for her it defies all reason. Hudlin’s Storm has none of the distance, the regalness, the sort of frigidity of the Storm were used to seeing. This Storm is sappy, whiny, bitchy, and way too subservient and submissive. I mean what the hell is this scene? “Yes, ma’am!”??? As bothersome as I find it that Storm has apparently chucked her concern for mutants into the can in exchange for her sudden interest in Wakanda, I can’t imagine Storm being a grounded mommy, giving up the heroics to be a dutiful mother doting on “her seed.” This is the first time I really felt that the BP & Storm marriage was a bad, bad idea. I don’t want to see Storm subjected to Hudlin’s antiquated notions of women’s limitations and place.

I respond to the post in detail here at Loren’s blog. In short, though, it just seems off. Antiquated notions of a woman’s limitations and place? Chucked her concern for mutants in the can?

I can’t see it. It’s been my experience that one of the most important things in black families is, well, the family. Storm goes to her newfound and long-lost grandparents for advice and gets it. It isn’t degrading, it isn’t subservient, it’s humble. It’s the opposite of the cold Storm that people have apparently come to know and love.

It’s like Reggie Hudlin said at the New York Comic-con. “Storm finally admitted that she was black.” Now, people see her as being weak, subservient… and all I see is a comic character acting human. This person puts “seed” in quotes like it’s some kind of epithet, instead of an apt, and not at all obscure, way to describe a child.

Skepticultist takes offense at some things which I don’t find offensive at all, and then stretches other things out, such as the “dutiful mother” bit, and makes them seem offensive, as well. A dutiful mother takes care of her children by definition, full stop. Where is it written that she can’t also do her own thing? Why does being a mother have to equate to being “a grounded mommy,” like being some kind of wuss? I’ve seen my own mother swing on a grown man because he tried to hit my little brother. In Skepticultist’s eyes, why should Storm be any different, as long as you sub lightning bolts for 5’4″ of fury?

Or am I just not getting it? Is this what Cheryl Lynn described as selective sight? Can I just not see what other people are seeing? Am I too dense, too dumb, too uneducated to see the problems these people are pointing out?

I don’t know. Time will tell, I figure. I’ll figure it out.

But, I think that I should talk about the things that bug me. I’m feeling a little underrepresented, so I should do what I can to change that. I hate that Natasha Irons had to be reduced to an idiot in order to make her story in 52 work. Patriot’s character arc. Goliath’s death was about as pointless as you can get, particularly since Millar’s writing had the villains of the book win in the end. John Stewart is still MIA, despite promises from DC. I can talk about these things and share my thoughts.

We have a bunch of black creators doing great things and getting little coverage. Michael Davis, co-founder of Milestone, has been interviewed in the Washington Post for The Guardian Line and, well, where is the comics media? Newsarama has nothing. CBR has a couple stories from last July and August. (A different) Michael & Mark Davis have a comic coming out called Blokhedz. I got a preview copy at the con and skimmed it, wanting to read the entire thing away from the hustle and bustle. It was good. I’ll read it in depth when my four boxes of books gets in on Thursday. They’re signed to Simon & Schuster, a “real” book company, they’re working on getting a cartoon out, and they’re a hit in Germany. No press low press from the comics media. Reuters covered them. Newsarama can’t? It would be nice to see Cheryl Lynn get some props for The Ormes Society.

And these are just a few of the people from The Black Panel. I know that there is more, but how many more are we missing out on?

I’m almost done, bear with me. Melissa “Kalinara” Krause runs Pretty Fizzy Paradise, one of the blogs I read first chance I get. She’s a big DC fan and our tastes in comics don’t quite line up, but she’s a smart and engaging writer. She’s mentioned once or twice that my look at Patriot a while back made her stop and think about the character and a few of the implications he brings along. I made her stop and think.

That is cool. I like that, I like the feeling that gives, and I like that I am able to do that. That’s called building. It is worth doing.

The Black Panel at NY Comic-con wasn’t without a small bit of controversy, however. Someone, who remained unnamed throughout the proceedings but was confirmed as non-black, complained to the NYCC board or whatever that “The Black Panel” was offensive. He had it changed to “The African-American Panel.”

Davis explained why there was a weird sticker on the page featuring “The Black Panel” in the NYCC booklet and said that it said “The African-American Panel” beneath it. He had it changed. Why? “We define us.” No one else has the right to. Davis called this guy out on it. He said that he was in the audience and offered the guy a chance to stand up and explain what he thought he was doing getting the panel name changed. When he didn’t, Davis opened up on him. I’m paraphrasing here, of course, as I wasn’t recording.

“We define us,” he said. “We could call it Black Men and The White Women Who Love Us Panel if we wanted to. You don’t have to come. But your girlfriend will damn sure be there. We define us and you have no right to try and take that away.”

(I hope he’ll forgive me for mangling his quote, but I hope I got the spirit across.)

“We define us.” It’s a loaded statement. No one else can define us, and in order to be sure that that is true, we must define ourselves. That means that we must create, write, draw, and use the voice that we have in order to create change.

We’ll see where this takes me. Hopefully somewhere good.

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9 comments to “New York State of Mind”

  1. The only other blog I can think of off hand: Fortress of Soliloquy

    http://tomfoss.blogspot.com/index.html

    I could have sworn I saw a few mentions of the Ormes Society on newsarama…


  2. It’s been mentioned on Blog@, but not on the main site.


  3. I’ve little to add except a tip of the hat.


  4. Excellent commentary and even better questions we should all stop to ask ourselves. The true test comes in the answers. I am sure your mummy is very very proud to have you as her son~


  5. Michael Davis also has a weekly column on ComicMix. He’s our Prince Namor (i.e., his column appears on Fridays, just like the old Marvel cartoons in the ’60s had Namor every Friday). I’m, er, Iron Man.

    Does whatever an iron can!

    Oliver Willis (“like Kryptonite to stupid”) sometimes does comics but mostly blogs politics. Priest hasn’t blogged in months. Pam Noles has been doing more comics blogging lately, but she still hasn’t enabled comments (and Cheryl has this weird habit of closing them on some posts and not others and never telling me which. :) ) Kyle Baker’s blog is always a must-read for me.


  6. Agh! I’ve had Kyle Baker on my RSS list (101 and counting!) for ages now and he completely slipped my mind, despite being willing to chat with me at NYCC and sign my Nat Turner! It was awesome to find out that we’re both Erma Bombeck and Tom & Jerry fans.

    I discovered Michael Davis’s column earlier today, so that’s cool. I remembered him mentioning it at the Black Panel, so I went searching for it once I found a link to the site off Cheryl Lynn’s blog. I used to love reading Priest’s blog, as he’s long been one of my favorite creators.

    I’ll be sure to check out the others, as well as keeping my eye out for more. Thanks!


  7. It’s a long, uphill struggle but things like this are the little steps forward that we need.

    Rich Watson’s Glyphs, back when it was just an email, was the first thing that really plugged me into black comics and I’ve tried to stay on top of them ever since. What he’s accomplished over the past couple of years has been impressive and I’m glad I’ve been able to help him a little bit along the way. PopCultureShock, too, has always been a strong, if sometimes unfocused, voice for black (and minority, in general) comics, and has the potential to do a lot more with some able (and willing) contributors.

    Personally, I’ve never overtly identified myself as a black blogger, though, because it’s only one part of who I am and I’m not knowledgeable enough about what/who’s out there to narrow my focus like that and be effective. I find that I ignore most of the similarly narrowly focused blogs out there and I figure most non-likeminded readers do the same.

    Ultimately, as Cheryl put it a few weeks back, the real answer is that we have to “Make the f**king comics!”

    PS: Thanks for the add to the blogroll. 4thletter has become a daily visit for me over the past few months. Keep up the good work.


  8. No problem on the add. It was long overdue, honestly.

    And yeah, I’m not talking about a narrowing of focus. If anything, it’s simultaneously a widening and focusing. I want to do more (widening) and I want to be smart about it (focusing).

    Blogs with a narrow focus attract yes-men. That’s not cool.

    Thanks man.


  9. [...] Brothers covered the NY Black Panel. I’m glad he explained more about what Blokhedz was — I was only able to see part of [...]