Archive for the 'black history month ’08' Category

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Black History Month 21: Bad Mutha

February 21st, 2008 Posted by david brothers

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art from marvel comics’s black panther. art by mike deodato.
The problem with Reggie Hudlin is that Christopher Priest ruined Black Panther.

I don’t mean “ruined” in a negative way. Priest had a ridiculously fun run and I’ve enjoyed Hudlin’s run. But, following up Priest on that book is kind of like following up Grant Morrison on Doom Patrol. When you make a book so thoroughly yours, you make it hard on anyone else who steps up to bat.

I think that Reggie Hudlin knew this, so he delivered a Panther that’s different from Priest’s. Where Priest worked the intrigue angle hard, Hudlin is working on a straightforward superheroic action movie. They’re two books that couldn’t be more different, and I kind of like that.

Reggie Hudlin isn’t afraid to try new things, either. Panther marrying Storm, a Luke Cage/Black Panther buddy movie, Skrull Civil Rights leaders, and all kinds of fun things have riddled his run. There are a few subplots going on (remember those?), but the A plots tend to be fun rides where the Panther gets to show off (or be in the wrong!) and things blow up.

I like that a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I love Priest’s Panther, but I think that Hudlin’s Panther is also very fun to read. If Priest hadn’t taken Panther on a different (not better, not worse, different) path, Hudlin’s Panther wouldn’t catch half the flak it does. There’s an expectation for a book starring the Panther now, and it’s one that Hudlin has only flirted with so far.

So, I come not to bury Reggie Hudlin, but to praise him. He’s writing a book that is aimed almost directly at the black comics reader, and I don’t think that that helps the reviews any. It took me a minute, but once Hudlin wrote the issue that began with Luke Cage thinking about what the Panther means to him, I realized exactly what he was doing.

It’s a Marvel Comic book with a black american slant. Call it a black male power fantasy if you like. It’s Hudlin drawing a line in the ground and going “Here we are. We have always been here. We are just as awesome, just as capable, and just as fun as those other guys.”

I think that Hudlin’s Panther is a fun book to have out there. It serves a good purpose, even if that purpose is just “Watch Panther fight people for 22 pages.” I’d like to think that this is a book that has appeal outside of the usual spandex demographic. I’m still buying it, which is kind of a big deal for me since I don’t like floppies much. The latest arc, with the Kirby frogs and the Skrull gangsters and Malcolm X and all was fun. Just loud, bright comics about an awesome dude doing awesome things.

There are two Black Panthers. I love both of them.

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Black History Month 20: Priesthood

February 20th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

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art from marvel comics’s black panther and the crew. art by a kubert and jh williams iii, respectively.
I don’t do black music, I don’t do white music
–Eminem, “Who Knew”

Who is Christopher Priest?

Some would say that Priest is your favorite writer’s favorite writer.

Others would say that Priest was the first black editor at both Marvel and DC, in that order. He edited Spider-Man, hired Peter David, had an interesting run on Power Man & Iron Fist (which is practically the patron comic of this site, huh?), and was the source of no end of racial tension at ’80s era Marvel through no fault of his own. At DC, he wrote The Ray and served as liason for Milestone Comics. He had stints filling in on JLA, and wrote his own JLA series. He wrote Quantum & Woody at Acclaim and had a few ill-received series at Marvel after that. Excepting Black Panther, of course.

Black Panther is probably the book that most people love Priest for. He managed to successfully weave action with political intrigue, Kirby-esque plots, superheroic cameos, and romance into one cohesive whole. It wasn’t a perfect run, far from it, but Priest was never afraid to try new things over the course of his five year run. Whether it was reconciling the Kirby-era Panther with the new modern one or revealing that Panther originally joined the Avengers to spy on them, Priest was throwing out ideas at a rapid pace and hitting on almost every single one.

He’s been kind of pigeonholed as a “black writer,” but Priest is the kind of writer who could write a killer Batman or Amanda Waller book. He knows plots and he knows how to work continuity. It’s a shame that people wanted him to fit into a little box, because he can do so much.

After the last of his Marvel work dried up, Priest took a break from comics. I say “took a break” because I want him to come back.

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Black History Month 19: Don’t Start None…

February 20th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

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art from milestone comics’s static #1
Sorry this is late! It’s been a busy day (what’s that? I have two conferences in town this week?) and I’ve been running ragged.

Today? Today we’ve got Dwayne McDuffie.

You might have heard the name before. I mean, he was only instrumental on one of the best comic-book based cartoons ever. You might know it as Justice League Unlimited? Before that, he worked in comics. He did a few series for Marvel. Damage Control, Deathlok, you know. Books like that.

When he moved to DC, though. Wow. He started up Milestone Comics with a group of like-minded individuals and tried to set the comics world on fire. They gave us a fleet of diverse heroes without beating anyone over the head with Issues. Static was a brand new hero in the Peter Parker mold, but with the added benefit of modern day maturity.

Where Lee and Ditko had to kind of hedge their bets with regards to bringing real life issues into their book, McDuffie, Robert Washington, and John Paul Leon didn’t have to worry about that at all. In the first few issues, Static has girl trouble, gets beaten up, gets humiliated, leaves his house with murder on his mind (he chickens out), gains powers, and loses the girl. He has those teenaged problems that we can all relate to, and he reacts about how a teenager would. He isn’t always right, he doesn’t always win, and sometimes he is hilariously in the wrong.

Did Milestone set the comics world on fire? Well, they went out of business after a while, so that’s arguable. However, they did the next best thing. They set more than a few minds on fire. They showed a generation of kids that it could be done.

From Wikipedia:

Milestone provided the opportunity for many emerging talents who had been passed over by larger established companies, beginning the careers of many comic industry professionals. Among them are John Paul Leon, Christopher Sotomayor, Christopher Williams (aka ChrisCross), Shawn Martinborough, Tommy Lee Edwards, Jason Scott Jones (aka J.Scott.J), Prentis Rollins, J.H. Williams III, Humberto Ramos, John Rozum, Eric Battle, Joseph Illidge, Madeleine Blaustein, Jamal Igle, Chris Batista and Harvey Richards.

You know what? That’s a rock solid legacy. You ever meet someone who doesn’t love Milestone Comics?

McDuffie is one of the unsung heroes of comics, as far as I’m concerned. His miniseries from a couple years ago, Beyond, was a great little spotlight on a few forgotten Marvel characters. His run on Fantastic Four was not only years in the making– it showed a remarkable grasp of character work. Characters sounded exactly like they should, and the jokes were actually funny. His recent Damage Control miniseries is off to that same start.

When he came to DC, he was put on JLA. Perfect fit, right? He rocked on the cartoon series and he’s got some comics clout. He did good work at Marvel, maybe he can bring some of that magic to DC?

I’ve been less than enthused with his JLA, to be honest. The writing is solid, but the stories keep tripping into Countdown crossovers and being covered up with pretty shoddy work on the part of Ed Benes and Joe Benitiez. Why grab a great writer and then weigh him down with sandbags? Why not just let him work?

Despite all this, I’m glad that he’s still in comics. He’s a great voice and, I believe, a necessary one. I just want a company to be brave enough to throw him on a name book, give him a hot artist, and let him go wild. I’m willing to lay 2.99 a month on the fact that we’ll get something hot.

Static made #5 on my top black male characters in comics a while back. That’s for a really good reason.

(i snuck this article in under the wire, huh? whoops.)

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Black History Month 18: The Cool

February 18th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

Just a quickie for today, as I have a ton of work to do today! This one isn’t an ISSUES post so much as it is something awesome I saw on the Marvel Comics site that relates in a way. Go check it out. That cover is the bomb.

Cover Story: Black Panther Annual #1 – Marvel.com News

Better content tomorrow, I promise– I’m gonna talk writers. Guess who’s on first!

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Black History Month 17: Return of the Gangsta

February 17th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

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art from marvel comics’s new avengers: civil war. words by bendis!, art by leinil yu
Return of the gangsta, thanks ta’
them niggas who got them kids who got enough to buy an ounce
but not enough to bounce them kids to the zoo or to the park
so they grow up in the dark
never seein’ light
so they end up being like
yo’ sorry ass
robbin’ niggas in broad ass daylight?
Get down!

–Andre 3000, “Return of the Gangsta”

Man, a nigga don’t want no trouble
a player just want to kick back with my gators off
and watch my li’l girl blow bubbles
But, still ready to rhyme
standin’ my ground, never back down
Willin’ to rob, steal, and kill any thing that threatens mine

–Big Boi, “Return of the Gangsta”

Fatherhood is a tough one for me. What makes a father? What makes a man? It’s all mixed up and entwined with each other.

The one thing I do know is that you gotta be hard, you gotta be strong, and you gotta leave behind a worthwhile legacy. It’s a pride thing, with a side dish of honor. This way, you end up with dudes that are solid as a rock. Men who, when faced with overwhelming odds, hopelessness, and generally poor situations, will stand tall, look it in the eye, and say, “I will not move.” It’s a kind of noble stubbornness.

Bendis’s Luke Cage, and Cage in general, is a good example of this. This scene up above is probably one of my most favorite Cage scenes. His friends have allied themselves with the government and are working to support an unfair law. They’re delivering ultimatums on behalf of their masters and are assured of their righteousness.

Luke’s response is simple. He doesn’t want his daughter to grow up thinking that her daddy went through all the things he did and punked out at that point. He doesn’t want to compromise his principles just for the sake of an easier life. He is doing the right thing and he is going to keep doing the right thing, no matter the consequences.

It’s like that old saying… “you’ll either stand for something or fall for everything.” Cage is standing tall. He’s doing this for his daughter, because once you become a parent, the only thing that matters is the next generation and the future that you can give them.

“I’m going to raise my kid right.”

Apologies for the short post. I mean, really, those two quotes up top say what I’m trying to say here better than I ever could.

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Black History Month 16: Pay Homage to the Man of Steel

February 16th, 2008 Posted by Gavok

What if I say I’m not like the others?
What if I say I’m not just another one of your plays?
You’re the pretender
What if I say I will never surrender?

—Foo Fighters, “The Pretender”

Yeah, that’s right. I’m allowed to do these articles too. hermanos said I could. So there.

When I think about black history and comics, I have to talk about the history of one of my favorite black comic characters, Steel. My first memory of the character is seeing a poster for Reign of Supermen near my local arcade back in the early 90’s. It asked the question of which one of those four S-shield-wearing superguys was the real Superman. It seemed obvious to me that it was either the cyborg guy or the dude with the visor. The George Michael one looked too young and that guy with the hammer looked nothing like Superman.

I didn’t read the whole Death and Return story for well over a decade after it came out. For a while, the only experience I had with it was that SNES game, which I still declare as good. As fun as it was, the story aspect of the game was ridiculously lacking. No Green Lantern, no Supergirl, no Lex Luthor Jr. and strangely no Mongul. All I could figure from what the game showed me was that Cyborg Superman was evil for some reason and by merging Eradicator with Black Costume Superman with his arm cannon, he returned Superman back to his normal red and blue self.

I didn’t expect much when I read the actual comic, and yet I found it to be one of my favorite Superman stories. As long as it was, everything (except a lot of Funeral for a Friend) clicked. It was a good mystery with good character moments and good action sequences. What really sold it for me was that I really like all four of the false Supermen. Each one has his own appeal. I still think it’s absolutely criminal how little DC uses Eradicator, especially after how rad that one Dan Abnett Majestic story was.

I could go into detail on a lot of fantastic Steel moments, but the thing I remember him most for is taming the Eradicator and teaching him heroism through pounding the crap out of him. It takes place during Reign of Supermen in issues Action Comics #689 (Who is the Hero True?) and Superman: The Man of Steel #24 (Impact).

Steel is the one Superman who didn’t claim to be the real deal, both out of nobility and because, let’s face it, he’s just a huge, black human in a suit of armor. It would’ve been a hard sell anyway. What he didn’t have in appearance, he had in spirit. Almost literally, but I’ll get to that in a second. Steel was the only natural hero among the four pretenders to the point that he coached Superboy into being more than Booster Gold Version 2.0.

Eradicator was the opposite. Physically he looked the part and although his power set and weaknesses were different, he was easy to accept as being Superman after something odd and comic booky happened to him. I mean… that’s how we got Superman Blue, right? It’s just that emotionally, he was a cold bastard and had no qualms over murder or maiming. Guy Gardner loved him for it. At the time of this issue, his mission is to find anyone who pretends to be Superman and eradicate them.

Steel is in the middle of dealing with a gang of armed hoods, who find that his armor deflects every one of their bullets. One of them sneaks behind Steel and aims a shotgun. A second later, he’s vaporized by the Eradicator. He fries the others’ guns and decides to let them run off as he’d rather confront Steel.

Lois storms over and shows them what their little brawl has done to Metropolis. Steel immediately comes to realize he was in the wrong and owns up to it. Eradicator, more driven by his unease from being near Lois, also apologizes.

“You know, I never laid claim to the name of Superman. I wear this shield and this cape to honor a man who gave me back my life. Can you honestly look me in the eyes and say that you find anything wrong in that?”

“Put in those terms… No. I cannot. I am sorry…”

Right when the two have an understanding, a process server runs over and hands over some cease and desist papers for using the Superman trademarks, owned by Superboy’s employer. Eradicator fries the papers and prepares to fry the server for his insolence. This time, it’s Steel who runs into the fight by grabbing Eradicator and flying off in order to protect that poor weasel’s life.

The thing to remember here is that within the story, they went and made it pretty clear who was stronger than who. Cyborg Superman is stronger than Eradicator, who is stronger than Superboy, who is stronger than Steel. Steel is heading into battle against an enemy out of his league.

Without thinking about casualties, Eradicator drives Steel back towards the Earth and spikes him into the ground. They end up in Coast City and the fight begins anew.

He got through to a piece of intergalactic hardware through passion and a helping of metal fists. How great is that?

Even though we know the facts of the story in hindsight, at the time of this fight, there was another dimension to it. Earlier issues of Reign of Supermen suggested the concept that both Steel and Eradicator were the real deal in different ways. Eradicator was physically Superman, but Steel was a host for Superman’s ghost. Obviously, this wasn’t true in the end, but I’m sure at the time it made this incident a bit more interesting.

What did this fight lead to with our two super friends here? Eradicator got toasted by Cyborg Superman and came back a few issues later, finally discovering his true identity and successfully helping Superman win the final battle. But before that all happened, there was this.

Not only is his dialogue snappier, but… it almost looks like he’s smiling.

As for Steel? He ran into another guy claiming to be Superman, despite a different power set and a different appearance. At first, Steel remained cynical. As time went on, by seeing the true hero behind the black tights and 90’s mullet, Steel came to realize that unlike the immature teen, the callous killer and the metal megalomaniac, this Superman was indeed legit.

Last I checked, Eradicator is in a coma, under Steel’s care. You’d think they would have done something with that by now.

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Black History Month 15: Detective Tiegel

February 15th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

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art from dc comics’s hitman, #48. words by garth ennis, art by john mccrea
Shorty, I’m there for you anytime you need me
For real girl, it’s me in your world, believe me
Nothin’ make a man feel better than a woman
Queen with a crown that be down for whatever
There are few things that’s forever, my lady
We can make war or make babies

–Method Man, “All I Need” (ain’t that a classic joint right there)

I mean, you, you and these guys who drink here– you’re killers, all of you! …and yet you show more love and care and loyalty for each other than any group of people I’ve ever known. You and Natt are like brothers. You look after the big stupid one, and that thing behind the bar. And Sixpack… I watched Sean last night, sitting with you ’til dawn and tending your wound, and I saw the fear in his eyes…

And “My God,” I thought. “No father ever loved his son more.”
–Deb Tiegel

What’s a ride or die chick? Deborah Tiegel is a perfect example, I think.

Tiegel, or Deb, was a Gotham City cop. Correction: she was a Gotham City cop who was a) female and b) not corrupt. You can imagine how well she got along with the get along/go along types in the GCPD. She made some noise about doing the right thing on the wrong day at the wrong time and caught a suspension, and then firing, for her troubles. She went on to become a zookeeper for a while, until she finally left Gotham City for good.

In between all of this, she met Tommy Monaghan. Originally, they were on opposite sides of the law. Tiegel was chasing him down for his crimes until circumstances forced them to ally. That blossomed into a rocky, but loving, relationship. She slowly began to accept the fact that he killed people for money, though it was a constant source of consternation for her.

Tiegel was kind of our window into Tommy’s world in a way. She illustrated the fact that, yes, these people are murderers. They have killed kind of a lot of people. But, at the same time, they’ve got their own code. They have their own relationships. They are people, not monsters.

Some would see Tiegel as kind of naggy with that sort of thing. But, no– she’s necessary. She keeps the reader grounded, as well as providing some quality relationship drama. Tommy and crew are just barely anti-heroes.

Tiegel serves another purpose, too. She was a cop who only ever wanted to do right. She suddenly finds herself hanging out with guys who kill bad guys, have tons of guns, and live by something of a moral code. She’s in a position to do more right than she ever did with the GCPD.

In the scene above, Tommy’s been stabbed. The first three pages are most of their conversation. The fourth page comes a scene or two later, when the bad guys have found where they’re at and come ready for war. Tommy is out of commission with his wound and all, and Sean Noonan offers his friends a way out. What’s Tiegel do?

She picks up the gun like, “This ain’t no thing.”

It’s like a wise man once said… “All I need in this world of sin, is me and my girlfriend. Down to ride to the bloody end, me and my girlfriend.”

That’s ride or die.

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Black History Month 14: The Sambo Samba

February 14th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

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art from dc comics’s firestorm
This is besides the issue that some white comic creators create bland African-American characters.

Where is the African-American Guy Gardner? Where is the African-American Batman? Where is the African-American Joker? Booster Gold/Ted Kord Blue Beetle? Oracle? Wolverine? Spider-Man?

DC’s African American characters are either created to be the only person of color on a team (JSA, JLA, Teen Titans, Green Lantern Corps), or by editorial fiat to fill a diversity need (Firestorm).
–Valerie D’orazio, Three From WWII: The Twelve #2, JSA #12, Project Superpowers #0

When I was born, I was black. When I grow up, I’m black. When I’m ill, When I die, I’m black. But you – When you’re born, you’re pink. When you grow up, you’re white. When you’re ill, you’re green. When you go out in the sun, you go red. When you’re cold, you go blue. When you die, you’re purple. And you have the nerve to call me Colored?
–Malcolm X

I’ve got a habit of getting into arguments on the internet regarding race. I can’t help it, man, someone says something dumb and I feel compelled to respond. Next thing I know, it’s a week later and I’m waking up in a ditch.

Anyway, this post is about something that bugs me to death. I’m sick of hearing the word “token.” I don’t mean that I’m sick of “token” black characters.

I’m sick of people using it to describe black characters.

Token, quota hire, affirmative action case, all these words have the same root and work to the same point– the black person did not work for his position, he is less qualified, and he should not be where he is because he doesn’t deserve it. He’s only there because it’s politically correct, or editorially mandated, or because the team has to have a black character, doesn’t it?

Protip: Shut up. All you’re doing is reinforcing those ideas. Having one black guy on a team does not a token make. An editorial creation is just as valid as one from talent. It’s in the execution.

I’m gonna be honest and say that Val’s post up top there is what prompted this one. I had one all lined up about Deb Tiegel from Hitman (the best half german/half black character in comics), but I’m pushing it off for a day so that I can get this done.

In her post, she reviewed JSA #12 and said this:

The sequence with John Irons was also in need of some editing/quality control; John’s opening dialog with his wife sounded like pure exposition devoid of any human quality.

John Henry Irons is not in JSA #12. That is Jefferson Pierce, a black man with no facial hair and a wife and a grip of kids apparently (welcome to NEW EARTH). Irons is single, has a goatee, no wife, and no kids. He’s got a niece, though she’s already an established heroine in her own right.

When called on it, she said this:

I think the problem is that Johns wants to make the JSA the catch-all group that every other DC team is rolled into/connected with. Actually having Irons & the Infinity Inc cast make an appearance would make sense to me, as the two titles were historically linked to each other. But to bring not only JLA but Batman and the Outsiders…you need to have a realllly skilled hand to work within such a scope. I’m thinking a little past Johns and more like Busiek.

I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. She didn’t confuse the two. It’s just that the book would have been better with John Irons, right? ’cause he is in a book with a cast of all new characters who don’t actually have a connection to the JSA. Also Geoff Johns is a bad writer and Kurt Busiek would write this story better.

Okay.

The conversation continues and we get the gem above about bland black characters created by white dudes, and how we need the black Spider-Man, Wolverine, Joker, and so on.

The bland thing stuck in my craw. What is that about? White people can’t create interesting black people? This means that DC’s blacks all suck? Editorially created characters are bad? Yeah, sorry– no. Not the business. She closed the thread when Pedro from FBB asked her questions, which meant she didn’t get to answer any of mine.

However, I have a blog of my own and I just did my taxes tonight so I’m in a raw mood so I decided to do this post. Pedro responded to her earlier, but that kid is just trying to get some e-cred so don’t read his blog at all. He definitely doesn’t make any good points about re-appropriating characters, writers of a different race writing characters, and comics quality.

Let’s go down the list.

John Henry Irons (TV’s Not Jefferson Pierce): He’s about as editorially mandated as it gets, isn’t he? He started out as the only one of the four replacement Superman to not claim to be Superman. He was carrying on in his name because it was the right thing to do. He graduated to being one of Superman’s best friends, an integral member of the JLA, buddies with Plastic Man, and one of the foremost thinkers in the DCU. Here’s his blandest moment:

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Did I say blandest? I lied. Dude has not only fooled an enemy who has taken over a decent portion of a city, but he has picked up on a plan from a teammate with little prompting, and come up with a way to take out that enemy.

DC’s African American characters are either created to be the only person of color on a team (JSA, JLA, Teen Titans, Green Lantern Corps), or by editorial fiat to fill a diversity need (Firestorm).

Blow by blow:
JSA: Jakeem Thunder is a member, and I guess Amazing Man is now, too. Jakeem is a kid with a magical wishing genie who didn’t have the benefit of a Bruce Wayne or Hal Jordan upbringing. He’s got an attitude, a rough edge or three, but he’s also trying to do right. That’s bland?

Mr. Terrific is a guy so smart that Batman copied some of his designs and regularly treats as an equal. He’s apparently the third smartest man on earth, too. Having trouble seeing the bland here.

Teen Titans: Ain’t no black people on this team.

JLA: I already went over Steel. John Stewart and Vixen are I guess who she was referring to? John Stewart is an equal GL with Hal, Guy, and Kyle. He’s portrayed as the most level-headed and may even have more willpower than his buddies according to a scene in GL where his willpower is too much for his ring in GL last month (month before last?). A guy with a wishing ring and that kind of skill? That’s pretty interesting, innit?

Vixen? She’s a question mark right now. Meltzer’s slipshod plotting left the story of what’s going on with her powers to Dwayne McDuffie, but suddenly she can duplicate the powers and skills of any superhuman she’s nearby. She can fake a Green Lantern ring. That’s a big deal, isn’t it?

Finally, Firestorm.

Poor, beleaguered Jason Rusch. First he’s seen as a ghetto-bound drug-dealing quota case and now he’s bland. Except… he’s a college-age kid who may be the most powerful metahuman on the planet. He’s got father issues, he’s inexperienced, he lost his best friend because of his powers, and now he’s searching for the mentor to the old Firestorm so that he can better learn how to take care of himself. He’s Spider-Man meets Phoenix.

Yeah. I’m not seeing the bland, boring, editorially-mandated black characters here. All of these people have been blessed with quality writers lately. Even before the past year or so, these characters never sunk to “token” status beyond what mouthbreathers on message boards had to say.

I’m not even a DC encyclopedia. I barely even like most DC books. I’ve read enough to know a little bit, though. I’m not talking out the side of my neck here. You can look all this up with a minimum of time on Google or in a comic shop.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had this issue with somebody. Around a year ago, I got into an argument with a different blogger. I’d link it, but she’s since updated her layout and that hosed the 140 comments across two posts where the relevant part of the conversation was. Long story short, she came out with the line that “all black characters are mandingos and cannot be rescued from their horrible origins.”

I wish that comments thread was still there so, so bad. You don’t even know.

Her reasoning is terrible and horrible in a few ways. First, it supports the idea that you can’t reclaim or improve something. Going by her logic, I got some family members who’re gonna be hoodlums their whole life and are going to be worthless because of that fact. You go to jail and come out a different man? Who cares, dog, you’re still a criminal.

Get outta here with that. You’re gonna look at Bendis’s Luke Cage and tell me he isn’t an improvement, in terms of realistic representation and suchlike, than the one from the ’70s? Falcon is always gonna be a sambo? Bishop is just there to make white women scared? *smh*

When you get down to calling black characters bland, mandingos, tokens, or whatever, and you aren’t naming names? You’re doing wrong. You’re painting a whole bunch of characters with an ugly, ugly brush.

I’m having trouble coming up with some tokens who still appear in comics. Triathlon, I guess? I’ve read like half a comic with him in it, so I don’t even know there. Honestly, who are some “token” characters?

You think that there are “some bland/token/boring/racist black characters?” Call out names. Otherwise, some of us get to play “Guess who” while the rest of us are just going “I knew that Luke Cage was a token! What’s he doing on the Avengers anyway?”

Leave the subliminals at home and call out names. Be specific and know what you’re talking about because someone (probably me, at this rate) will call you on it. At worst, you might learn how he isn’t a token. At best, you might gain a new appreciation for a character you never paid attention to.

Stop looking at them as “black characters.” Treat them like characters instead of pieces in your “This Is How Superteams Should Look” puzzle set. Superman isn’t a white character, why is Steel a black character? Why is Priest painted as a “black writer” instead of a “writer?”

But just know that when you’re calling someone a token, you’re denigrating their skills, their past, and their accomplishments. You’re treating that character as inherently lesser than his teammates, due solely to preconceived notions and the make-up of his team.

Be specific or don’t speak up at all.

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Black History Month 13: Wu-Wear- Garment Renaissance

February 13th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

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pictures taken from comics.org and GIS.
Fifth–hold on, turn the beat off
I had to turn the beat off for this
You talking ’bout you an eighties baby?
You thirty seven years old!
You was born in 1968!
And I open the Daily News…
How is the “King of New York” rockin’ sandals with jeans?
Open toe sandals, with chancletas, with jeans on
How is the “King of New York” rockin’ sandals with jeans when he 42 years old?
Back to business!

–Cam’ron, “Gotta Love It”

In those days, your whole ave was the spot
The scene locked with Lee patches, Cazal glasses
Suede Pumas and rumors of rap not lastin

–Buckshot, “Think Back”

Honest to goodness, man, it’s time for some real talk. Enough is enough! I guess no one gave Cheryl Lynn any love for this a while back, ’cause I’m probably gonna end up reiterating a bit.

Stop making black characters look bummy. Honest to goodness, man. There’s just no excuse for that to leave your house looking like you just woke up. Let me go down the list up top there.

Dashikis: It isn’t 1988 any more. Seriously though, I’m not trying to be a hater, and I’ll admit that a young David Brothers had a leather Africa medallion or two back in the day, but the height of all that was almost twenty years ago. I realize that Amazing Man (awful name) is trying to be all about black empowerment and Katrina and all that, but he’s leaving the house dressed like he got into a fight with a bedsheet. You could probably get away with a kufi, but that’s it. The dashiki is way, way out of date. If you aren’t from Africa, you probably shouldn’t be wearing one. Just FYI.

Mohawks: I shouldn’t even have to explain how stupid this looks, because you should already know. Storm rocking a mohawk? They used to call her Super-Perm in elementary school. How’s her hair stay up? She isn’t Grace Jones, man. Don’t go there ever again, seriously. It looks ridiculous.

Mullet and jheri curl/perm: Bishop looked ridiculous when he first appeared and he didn’t stop looking ridiculous until he shaved his head. What in the world possessed Lee/Portacio/whoever else to give him that look? I have never in my life seen that. He’d have been better off with a rat tail, or maybe an M cut into the side of his box fade on some Kid-n-Play tip. He works better as a bald head, anyway. Shut ‘em down.

Afros: My mom had an afro back when they were cool. That was a few years before I was born. I get that we need the old nostalgia blaxploitation thing… but c’mon. Afros are stopping points on the way to braids now. If you see a dude with a fro, his hair isn’t long enough for cornrows. This is also generally true for women. Do you know why this is? It is because afros are incredibly tough to take care of. My hair is short right now. A quick brush and I’m gravy. With an afro? You’re looking at twenty minutes in front of a mirror and hoping that you picked out the back of your head so that you don’t leave the house looking like you just woke up. Then you spend the rest of your day hoping that you didn’t dent your afro with the handles on the bus, by walking under that low hanging branch, or by doing anything ever, basically.

Jakeem Thunder: Oh man, we are gonna fight. You mean to tell me that a sixteen year old black kid from Keystone City, which is basically Detroit, who was a straight up latchkey kid is going to leave his house looking bummy? When he’s on a team with like four females?

Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan. You gotta be kidding.

First, Jakeem would not be coming with those smedium shirts and short jackets. He looks like an idiot. Where are the always fashionable Polo shirts? You buy jackets a size up if you’re wearing shirts that are a proper size.

And the backwards cap? Whoops look at me I’m Jakeem Thunder I live in 1996 also I wear K-Swiss and Saucony instead of Pumas or Timberlands.

No on the backwards cap. That’s not how anyone wears it any more. It’s all about the tilt. Example:

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If you’re going to wear a baseball cap (and you shouldn’t to begin with), you’ve got it facing forward and at an angle. It might be bent, it might not, but it isn’t gonna be so bent it’s broken. In reality, Jakeem would have either a fleet of hoodies or a skull cap. See below.

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See that? Shirt a proper length, white undershirt (or wifebeater) underneath but not showing under his sleeves, jeans crisp and properly fitted. Loose, but not ridiculously loose… I’m not feeling the glasses, but hey, do you. Find your look.

It’s not hard to make a character look right. Khari Evans does it. Adrian Alphona did it. Before drawing people, at least check a fashion or pop culture magazine! Look at The Source or Vibe or XXL! Give us something up-to-date to relate to!

’cause man, cool kids don’t dress like Jakeem Thunder. Maybe they did ten years ago, but not now. It’s like Clinton Sparks says… Get familiar!

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Black History Month 12: The Wall

February 12th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

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art from dc comics’s suicide squad
(Guest article ahoy! My buddy Pedro from Funnybook Babylon wanted to talk about one of the single best black characters in comics, and who am I to say no? I’ll take a few more guest articles if anyone has any good ones in mind. Throw me an email. Thanks to Pedro for the guest article!)

Before that Christmas, just like my older sister, I was into Marvel Comics. She used to blow her cash on X-Men, and the moment I got an allowance, I would save my daily dollar to get Uncanny X-Men and whatever Spider-Man I could get my hands on. This growing pile was supplemented by those 3 for $1 bags of comics that never had any DC issues. It was when someone gave me a near complete collection of Giffen/De Matteis Justice League comics that I was introduced, along with many other things, to the Wall.

The big crossover during this time was Invasion. The forces of earth–human, hero, and villain alike–allied together to stop the alien attackers. And in charge of villainous forces, which was made up of some of the nastiest guys I had seen, was a Black woman?!

I had to pause and rewind that panel. Not only was this Amanda Waller character black and female, but she was the toughest person among an entire room of politicians, soldiers, villains, and heroes. Shit, Ronald Reagan, who was in nearly a quarter of these Giffen League comics, was in awe and a bit frightened of her. This was something even my 7th grade knowledge of history knew was crazy. You could tell that she was assigned to work with the villains because she was the only person tough enough to keep them in line. They were afraid to cross her because she seemed to have the resolve and determination to make them pay.

Thankfully, the pile o’ comics contained a Doom Patrol vs. Suicide Squad issue, which featured more Waller action. In this book, I saw the Wall at what she does best, politically outmanuvering everyone else in the room in search of what was best for the American people.

With the right words, she could do more damage than Superman’s heat vision, escape situations that would tax Mr. Miracle and his motherbox, and save the day better than Wonder Woman could. Sure, she was ruthless, did things that only benefitted United States, and worked with the worst of the worst.

And yet, I couldn’t help loving her as she did it all, because she was so different than everyone else I had read before.

No one else in comics is physically depicted the way Waller is. Very few heavyset characters, especially female ones, are portrayed in non comical roles, and the few that are taken seriously are explained as being secretly muscular. Waller seems to avoid needing to justify her weight either way, because she is too dangerous to not take seriously. The skills that make her so dangerous are unrelated to hey body type.

What makes everyone fearful of her is that she didn’t receive a magic wishing ring or powers from a bolt of lightning. Instead, she worked herself up from nothing, which has made every one of her accomplishments defined by what she is willing to do. It’s this drive to do better that also makes her a symphatetic character to me.

If you were to ask her why she goes to the extremes that she does, she would tell you that someone with the resolve has to go out there and do the awful things to keep the world safe. The closing episode of the Justice League cartoon series features a moment with an older Waller at the end of her life. She’s unapologetic and at peace with her decisions, prepared to face whatever punishments await her in the afterlife. That nails her perfectly.

When Waller is done right, she’s one of the most complicated and nuanced characters in all of comics. She’s neither villain or hero and does very little to benefit herself. Shit, one time in the cartoon, Brainiac showed up out of nowhere. What did Waller do, did she run away? No, she whipped out her gun and helped the same heroes that she had been working against all series long fight this common threat. Sometimes a character like her can be too much for the simpleness that people want in their superhero comics, but to me, comics are in a better place because of characters like her.

The world honestly can never have enough Amanda Waller.

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