That’s mighty white of ya

May 13th, 2010 by | Tags: , , ,

* finally, I’m not sure I understand either Sean Collins’ piece on superhero regression or the piece that inspired it, but it seems to me kind of dopey to pin racial diversification on swapping people out of costumes. The worlds that the superheroes live on have such a hopelessly retrograde and inadequate sense of anything other than their white people that I don’t hold out for them ever getting better.

-Tom Spurgeon, Random Comics News Story Round-Up 05/12/10

He’s right, of course.

Most cape books barely have a handle on decent characterization, and expecting the Big Two to catch up with reality is dumb. Sorry, Charlie, but that just ain’t gonna happen.

I’m not saying that they don’t manage to do nice things with colored folks sometimes. I quite liked Jason Rusch as Firestorm, and Jaime Reyes as Blue Beetle gave DC a nice Spider-Man character. Cassandra Cain had a fantastic hook, and John Henry Irons was a nice twist on the super-scientist character. Even boring old John Stewart is not without his charms.

But, when you get down to brass tacks–all of these are third stringers and supporting characters now. And guess who gets the axe when the time comes to up the ante? Guess who can fade into obscurity with minimal impact on the status quo? If you expect the Big Two to push a more diverse or realistic cast rather than pandering to the idea of legacy or iconic characters… well.

How’s that working out for you?

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24 comments to “That’s mighty white of ya”

  1. “But, when you get down to brass tacks–all of these are third stringers and supporting characters now. And guess who gets the axe when the time comes to up the ante? Guess who can fade into obscurity with minimal impact on the status quo?”
    I thought this was the exact point of Sims’ piece?

  2. @James: Who said it wasn’t?

  3. @david brothers: Tom Spurgeon, maybe? Or… I don’t know, he says he’s not sure he understands and then reiterates the articles he’s criticising (is he criticising?). I’m very confused right now.

  4. Let me repeat what I said on ISB: in a motherfucking shoebox. It’s great to see a hero you had admired for two years given the same treatment as a dead pet hamster. Needless to say, Didio has a lot to answer for.

  5. Sorry for the double post. Looks like he was handed over in a matchbox, which somehow makes things even worse.

  6. I also love it when a character admired for her strong moral center is so destroyed that she is only remembered when a character suspects that she might have gone evil again (Cassandra Cain in Birds of Prey).

  7. and Jaime Reyes as Blue Beetle gave DC a nice Spider-Man character

    They had two: remember The Manhattan Guardian? SUCH a fantastic character, SUCH an awesome backdrop, SO much wasted potential.

    *frowny face*


  8. On the one hand, yeah, we shouldn’t be surprised given their track record.

    But on the other, it’s utterly bizarre that folks at DC are so utterly clueless.

    And I mean, “white power rings”?!? Who overlooks something like that? Add to that the long list of characters of colour they’ve killed off or sidelined, and no one stopped and realized that what they were doing was extremely problematic?

    The whole thing is dumbfounding.

  9. Treating white power rings as a symbol for DC’s treatment on race is a pretty huge leap to make. At this rate, people will start taking DC to task because one of Brightest Day’s leading characters, Hawk, wears white pants.

  10. Treatment OF race, I meant to say.

    I’m a little surprised neither article mentioned that John Stewart’s becoming a lead character again in Green Lantern Corps. Sure, he’ll be sharing that spotlight with Kyle Rayner and others, but it’s been a while since John’s had such a prominent role.

  11. @James: Spurgeon is saying, in part, that putting a brown face in an old costume isn’t actually encouraging diversity, a position which I mostly agree with, and that expecting comics to do right by anyway when they are hopelessly retrograde is folly.

    @Matthew Craig: Maaaaaaan, don’t even get me started on Manhattan Guardian disappearing. But I guess they wanted Dollar Store Captain America back for some reason.

    @Maddy: I’m actually 100% okay with maimings and genocides and racisms and whatever, as long as the story is good. A little kid just (probably) bit the dust over in Amazing Spider-Man. It was fantastic and terrifying. The kid’s quiet resignation and disappointment, the fact that it’s been built up appropriately, the villain’s struggle to regain control, all of that worked in tandem to make the story a success.

    If someone wrote a story about a guy murdering a busload of brown babies while screaming “White Power!” and it knocked my socks off, I’d support it fully. The problem with what DC’s been pushing is that it isn’t well-written. It feels haphazard and dashed off.

    I think you’re right in that the cluelessness is a problem. A little more thought, a little more skill line-wide and things wouldn’t be so unreadable.

  12. Completely unrelated but I love how a couple guys are saying what happened in the Titans one-shot was “whitewashing” and against diversity

    Behold the face of “the grand wizard of the kkk”

  13. @Matthew Craig: Didn’t Morrison get really touchy when Bulleteer was used in 52 so everyone kind of backed off, I think they gave Kollings a pass on Frankenstein because the concept is old as dirt

  14. @Nathan: I don’t agree that Eric Wallace is a racist (that’s dumb), but it’s not like black people can’t be racist against black people/other races.

  15. @david brothers: Oh I’m aware of this, I just got caught completely off guard when I was browsing a forum and people seemed to be under the impression Eric Wallace and George Lincoln Rockwell were the same person.

    Internet is funny like that

  16. My letter to Dan Didio. I don’t know what else to do. And I’m trying to be reasonable . . . last thing I want to do is say something truly stupid.

  17. @Jason: I’ve written two letters to Dan Didio to protest the treatment of my favorite character, Cassandra Cain, and I never got a response back for either, so I wouldn’t hold my breath. I’m not even sure if he reads them or not. But I’m planning on writing another soon, because my plan is to inundate the DC offices with my letters until they go “Fine! Someone bring back this character so this nutcase will stop writing letters!”

  18. @Nat: Well, I might have to go to Wizard World Philadelphia and squeeze an answer out of some poor schlub editor. I mean, I’ll keep reading DC, but the way Ryan went out was disgusting.

  19. I just read the last three posts out loud.

  20. @david brothers: Ah, okay, yeah that’s fair. Sorry to jump to defensive conclusions.

  21. Well it just leaves comic fans shaking their heads muttering sometimes David.. :frown:

  22. @david brothers: I know this is way off-topic, but HOLY SHIT that scene in ASM! I’m not sure how I feel about it.

    On the one hand, it was very chilling and moving and powerful and (reasonably) tasteful, as far as on-panel violence. On the other hand, any time they kill off a kid, I have to ask “is this really worth it?”

    I have to say, though, that I have never rooted so hard for an eleven-year-old girl (or however old Ana is) to get brutally beat down. And I don’t know how I feel about THAT either.

  23. @david brothers:

    Well, it’s one thing if you’re reading the stories in isolation and aren’t interested/invested in the overall ideas/themes put out by that line of comics.

    But the problem with DC’s stuff lately is that you’re not really meant to read it in isolation (and given DC’s admitted resistance to trade-waiters and digitization, they apparently really want us reading lots of floppies and not read individual books on their own). DC wants their comics to have a kind of community of characters in a shared universe, and they intend for their readers to consume them that way.

    What they intend doesn’t always work out in reality (obviously). But given that the trend of characters of colour getting killed or ignored in favour of white characters is a pattern that may only be visible when you step back and look at the bigger picture, and knowing that DC wants you to be reading multiple books at a time…I don’t know if better storytelling would be able to excuse it.

    I’m not sure I’m explaining my point very well, here. I guess I think that even if the stories were being told well, the overall pattern is still a problem when DC intends for the reader to be enjoying their comics on a big-picture level. If they’d given Ryan Choi an awesome heroic death that was about *him* instead of using him as a prop in Deathstroke’s story, that’d probably go a long way in mitigating things, but the pattern at large still remains.

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