Black History Month ’09 #18: One What? One Love

February 18th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

The thing about black culture, and this is something that’s often understated or ignored when discussing race in America, is that it is American culture, through and through. Black culture has permeated American culture across a variety of formats and in varying degrees. In music, the progression from gospel, blues, jazz, rock, and rap has run the industry for decades. Kids all over the country are wearing white tees and baggy jeans, no matter their racial background or upbringing.

Is it racial appropriation? Is Eminem a wigger because he’s a kid who grew up to be a rapper? Is Ill Bill out of line for making White Nigger, about his childhood growing up as a white Jew? Was it cool for Big Pun, a puerto rican from the Bronx, to be one of the best emcees that ever did it? Or did they grow up able to relate?

One of my favorite music videos is Three 6 Mafia’s “Dope Boy Fresh.” The important part is the video part of the music video. The song is straight, but beside the point. It’s a flip on the movie Being John Malkovich, and allows viewers a trip into the mind of Three 6. My favorite bits in the video are the young kid at the beginning (“Murcielago with the wings out!”) and the asian girl at the end (around 3:33, though 3:36-3:38 is on some next level amazing type thing).

The first thing I thought when I saw this video was “Man, that’s pretty dang cool.” It’s a video that stuck with me, though, which doesn’t happen with most. The more I thought about it, the more I felt like it was illustrating some seriously basic point, a point so basic that it was tough to put it into words. Realizing that these people were stepping into someone else’s shoes and clothes, but still looking normal was the key. Sure, the old white dude is kinda corny, like the old guy at the club who nobody knows but keeps dancing with the young girls, but the rest of them just look like people. They look natural.

It put something into perspective for me. I’ve never really bought into the idea of wiggers or whatever. C-Rayz Walz and 4th Pyramid’s “Blackout” basically killed that entire idea for me.

If you black, with a degree, and you work
and got a happy family, they say you wanna be white!
If you white, with bells, smoke weed, listen to rap
and live free, they say you wanna be black!

It’s all the same. The white kid on the bus with his short hair covered by a New Era isn’t jacking culture or appropriating ideas. At this point, he probably grew up with it. It’s what he knows. It’s what we both know.

Coming to this realization was the final nail in the coffin for both wiggers and blacks in comics being something special. Everybody’s got black friends. My mom listens to some rap, but she also put me on to No Doubt back when Tragic Kingdom came out. I’ve got white friends who consistently surprise me with their rap knowledge.

Comics, in general, treat white males as normal. Women and people of other races are notable, and are judged on a frankly pathetic scale. If you write a mediocre comic featuring a gay couple or a black guy or a woman, well, hey! Have these awards! Way to go! The barrier for quality is lower, since if you’re already doing something adventurous by even writing black people, you must be doing something right!

If you compare comics and real life, though, you’ll find a different story. It’s 2009. At this point, so many things are normal that were not previously that comics need to adjust to compensate. We don’t need Black Panther launching during Black History Month twice in a row. It’s nice, and I appreciate the sentiment, but break out of this idea that each new thing that isn’t white and male is an event.

At the same time, we need to stop rewarding people for doing the barest minimum. Ham-fisted allegories or cheap and emotionally manipulative scenes means that you’re a hack writer, not some revolutionary bringing the truth down off the mount.

If you go outside, you’re going to see someone who looks, talks, or acts like me. If I go outside, I’ll see someone who looks like you. We’re both normal. We are different, but we aren’t different. By and large, we share the same culture.

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Black History Month ’09 #04: Never No In-between

February 4th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Anyway. New King Kong. It’s not so good. You probably heard that from, y’know, the rest of the world.

They get to Skull Island where savages feed virgins to King Kong. And, while remaining faithful to every aspect of the ’33 Kong, bajillionaire director Peter Jackson populates the place with, as our fisherman in Casanova calls the citizens of Coldheart, “ooga booga bone-nose nigger savage motherfuckers.”

Now, I’m about as sensitive to race issues as the next middle-class white guy. But- really, Peter? Really? That’s the best you could do? You can show us the monkey and the girl ice skating in Central Park but you can’t manage to update the D.W. Griffin-level of stereotypical Savage Nergro Monster? Were there no assistants or friends, colleages or freakin’ P.A.s that took his Grande Hobbitness aside to point out that, hey, maybe we’re spending two hundred million dollars and short of top hats and canes, we’ve just filled Skull Island like it was the Isle of Misfit Al Jolsons?

It wasn’t re-envisioning, re-mastering, reinventing, or re-presenting anything but bigotry; Jackson and co. trucked in racism and wrote it off as an act of fidelity and faithfulness to flawed and ignorant source material.

And anyway it just pissed me off. So when, a few months later, I read about North Sentinel Island for the first time, the two thoughts collided with one another.

Fuck that guy. Here are savages to save the world.
-Matt Fraction, Casanova #5 (back matter)

I can’t help but feel like Matt Fraction, though obviously well-intentioned, missed the point.

Black Panther has Wakanda. Superman’s got Vathlo Island. Tyroc has Marzal Island. Casanova has Coldheart. They all have a few things in common. Remote or isolated countries filled with technologically advanced black people, untouched by the evils of colonialism.

If I had to put my finger on it, I guess it’s born from some kind of political correctness gone wrong. In an effort to avoid creating stereotypical black or African savages, the creators overcorrected in the opposite direction. They put the black characters on a pedestal, turning them into paragons of virtue and exemplars of everything good about humanity.

The thing is, the noble savage portrayal really isn’t better than the ooga booga bone-nose nigger savage stereotype. Both are equally unrealistic. Both of them treat black people as something outside of the norm. “Look! They aren’t stereotypical! They’re super-advanced! They’re sci-fi savages!”

There’s a line from Black Star’s Thieves In the Night that applies here. Mos Def says, “I find it distressing there’s never no in-between- we either niggas or Kings, we either bitches or Queens.” It’s a sign of the gulf between blacks in comics and blacks in real life. You’ve got your unrepentant villain or mugger (more likely the latter) and then you have your heroes, who do it because it’s right.

You don’t have that in-between guy, who tries to be faithful to his girlfriend, but man, he can’t quite make it. You don’t have the girl who strips to pay for her degree in botany. You don’t have that guy who comes home from his high paying job, rolls a blunt, and zones out for a couple hours.

No, you have virtuous-to-a-fault musclemen and super scientists. You have angry black men turned BFFs and haughty queens. You have a bunch of not-stereotypes that end up being just as bad as the stereotypes.

See what I mean?

I think that Casanova is one of the best comics in recent memory, but the Coldheart stuff was pretty eye-rolly. Just another bunch of super savages, here to save us all. Super or not, they’re still savages. Savage or not, they still don’t reflect anything but a distorted view of political correctness.

When Fraction says, “Fuck that guy. Here are savages to save the world,” he basically sums up his motivation for creating Coldheart: revenge on racism. Racism is such an ugly and hated thing that it becomes way too easy to overcorrect. It becomes a battle of extremes. For every bone-nose savage, you create a hyper-advanced doctor. For every street thug, you create a king. For every neck-rolling sass-mouth chickenhead, you make a queen. And in doing so, you get further and further from anything resembling a black experience.

It’s really easy to fall prey to unconscious racism when you’re trying to avenge a racist act. “He’s very well-spoken!” and “You people are all right!” and “All black people aren’t like that!” aren’t racist in and of themselves, but they definitely fall into that realm of “Hang on, what do you mean by that?”

I like a couple of those super savage cultures. Wakanda is pretty awesome, due in large part to Kirby throwing everything at the wall and having it stick, and like I said, I love Casanova. Tyroc’s home is pretty much the only thing I really know about the Legion, because I had a comic with him when I was a kid. Even still, the two extremes are, like most extremes, not reflective of how things really are. If you really want to fight racism, you’ll answer that extreme with something in-between.

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Ultimatum Edit Week 2: Day One

December 27th, 2008 Posted by Gavok

And we’re back. Ultimatum #2 came out this week in a one-two punch of grief alongside its brother in arms Hulk #9. Both very bad. Really, you’re better off reading the new Batman because it’s freaking awesome. I know most of you were disappointed in RIP, but it’s a cool follow-up. For reals.

In the first week of Ultimatum Edit, several characters (and countless civilians that we don’t hear much about) are killed as New York City is covered in a big tidal wave. Then Latveria is frozen. Xavier creates a mental chatroom and tells everyone that Magneto’s behind everything.

So far this has nothing to do with the word “ultimatum” other than it’s based on “ultimate” and sounds cool. As far as I know, Magneto isn’t negotiating anything.

Just to point out to those who haven’t read this issue, this is the entirety of Spider-Man and Hulk’s appearance for the comic. So to review, Spider-Man’s actions in Ultimatum #2 are as follows:

1) Have trouble lifting a car.
2) Have Hulk lift car.

Thanks to ManiacClown, who vehemently disagreed with my shilling on the splash page.

Tomorrow, jokes about Iron Man being drunk. Those never get old!

Day Two!
Day Three!
Day Four!
Day Five!
Day Six!
Day Seven!

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SuperHHero KKKomics 200Hate: A Year In Review

December 10th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

I was going over Google Reader and saw an interesting post on When Fangirls Attack. The text just said “2008: The Year of Misogyny,” so, being a fairly bright and curious fellow, I clicked on through to see what was what.

The post opens with a cheesecake motivational poster and then outlines all of the terrible things that have happened to women over the past year. I’ve seen it linked in a few spots, so I figure it’s a Thing. It’s a pretty gruesome list, and a little hard to read. Shabby treatment of female characters, female characters getting brutalized, and so on. The author asks “Aren’t you angry? If you aren’t, then why? And if you are, what are you going to do about it?”

Well, let me tell you something. After reading it, I was pretty angry. I was angry and fuming and thinking and realized that, as a race blogger, I owed it to my people, black and american and both, to examine the plight of black people in comics in 2008.

As you can tell by the title of my post, I am not happy! The list below is non-exhaustive, as I’m sure worse things have happened, but these are the ones I know of or have read. You may wish to listen to this song or this one in order to make it through this terrible list.
Read the rest of this entry �

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Ultimate Edit Week 5: Day One

September 27th, 2008 Posted by Gavok

It’s that time again. The final week of Ultimate Edit is upon is. Ten months to come out with five issues that had a two-year head start. Impressive. Unfortunately, this doesn’t beat Loeb’s other recent five-issue travesty Onslaught Reborn, illustrated by Rob Liefeld, which took well over a year for all five issues to come out.

You know, the delay of that comic hides the fact that it starts off with the end of House of M, but by the final issue, which was about a day or so later, it’s post-Civil War. What’s up with that?

Quick recap!

Issue one had Scarlet Witch get shot. Donald Blake showed up and it’s never touched on again.

Issue two had a big Ultimates vs. Brotherhood fight.

Issue three was Wolverine talking about how he used to wear an onion on his belt, as that was the style.

Issue four is about a battle in the Savage Land followed by a robot cliffhanger.

Let’s get this show on the road.

What can I say? I’m from New Jersey. I have to work in a Jovyism whenever I can.

And, as always, thanks to my collaborator (in the Vichy French sense) ManiacClown, who is indeed talking to you.

Check back in tomorrow. Especially check back on Day Seven for a special extra surprise.

Day Two!
Day Three!
Day Four!
Day Five!
Day Six!
Day Seven!

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50 Things I Like, with a twist.

August 19th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

The Hembeck Challenge, which I found via blake-reitz.livejournal.com. I think that ADD and some others did this a few years back, too, only those had panels. Here’s mine. Just for fun, each group has a theme. Some are obvious, others are not. Guess them and win a no-prize.

1.) Harley Quinn
2.) Isabel “Dizzy” Cordova
3.) Brubaker/Stewart/Cooke-era Catwoman
4.) 355
5.) Mary Jane Watson
6.) Misty Knight
7.) Colleen Wing
8.) JLA/Superman-era Natasha Irons
9.) Aunt May
10.) Cassandra Cain/Batgirl

11.) Moses Magnum
12.) Brother Voodoo
13.) Princess Zanda
14.) Blade
15.) Glory Grant
16.) Shades & Comanche
17.) Hannibal King
18.) DW Griffifth

19.) Luke Cage
20.) Spider-Man
21.) Black Panther
22.) Hawkeye
23.) Captain America

24.) Captain Marvel
25.) Captan Marvel
26.) Captan Marvel
27.) Mary Marvel
28.) Quasar

29.) Jubilee
30.) Cyclops
31.) Wolverine
32.) Beast
33.) Rogue
34.) Gambit
35.) Psylocke

36.) John Blaze
37.) X-Man
38.) David Banner
39.) Tony Stark

40.) Nat Turner
41.) Percy Carey

42.) Ed Brubaker
43.) Brian Michael Bendis
44.) Frank Miller
45.) Ann Nocenti

46.) Thinkin’ Lincoln
47.) Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
48.) Dr. McNinja
49.) Dinosaur Comics
50.) Kate Beaton

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When a whip and a chain isn’t the black american dream

August 14th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

Gonna go to Ghana!
And when I get there…
Ohh! I’m gonna dance!
Dance! Dance! Dance!

–Killer Mike, “Gonna Go To Ghana”

I find it’s distressin’, there’s never no in-between
We either niggas or Kings,
We either bitches or Queens

–Mos Def, “Thieves in the Night”

Black is
Black is something to laugh about
Black is something to cry about
Black is serious
Black is a feeling
Black is us, the beautiful people

–Mos Def & Talib Kweli, “Yo Yeah”

I happened upon the idea of a black Trinity entirely by accident. I wrote about Luke Cage for the 4th of July and thought the American Dream/Black Reality connection was pretty swift. Then, I wrote the piece on afro futurisim and New Gods. The ensuing conversation, which has sprawled from real life to email to twitter to IRC to AIM and back around again, has been fascinating.

The FBB4l gang, chief among them Pedro, Chris, and David, helped me think this latest step through. Luke is the American Dream/Black Reality. He’s in the thick of it and grinding to make ends meet and make sure his daughter lives a better life than he did (shades of B.I.G.). Mister Miracle, Shilo Norman, is the Black Fantasy. He’s broken the chains of slavery and oppression, and exists to bring everyone else out of it. He’s Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, MLK, and Malcolm X all rolled up into one.

Black Panther is the third part of the trinity. He’s the Black Ideal. Some context first, though.

It’s fair to say that Africa is idealized amongst Americans. You can see it in dead prez’s “I’m A African,” in the niggas/kings dichotomy, or even in those dudes who still wear those corny dashikis in public. Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, and other countries are crazy hyped. I’ve personally known a few blacks who have gone to Africa and come back with some kind of epiphany or new outlook on something. Richard Pryor decided to stop saying “nigger” after he went to Africa.

I plan to visit Africa one day. I lived in Spain during high school, so I could have easily made that trip, but I’m kind of glad that I didn’t. I’m older and hopefully wiser now, so when I finally do it, it’ll mean more. It’s like saving yourself for marriage, but way more expensive and you’re more likely to get stung by a fly and die.

Africa is in a special space for a lot of black people. It’s the Motherland. It’s where we all came from, and kind of like growing up and leaving the house, you can’t go back again. Marcus Garvey‘s (birthday next Sunday!) Back to Africa movement got derailed pretty quickly, and that was probably the most organized push. Beyond that is the much-talked about anti-black sentiment on the part of some Africans (“Some Africans don’t like us no way,” Nas) and the reality of how much it costs to visit Africa, not to mention relocation.

(Marcus Garvey looks kinda like Beanie Sigel.)

Even still, Africa is the Motherland. It’s as black as a raised right fist, red and black and green flags, drums, and dancing. You can trace the drums in hip-hop back to the drums of Africa and ciphers to villages. We’ve adopted names, terms, and various rituals into our cultural identity. We’ve even faked it up some with Kwanzaa. I personally don’t like the term, but a lot of people have adopted African-American at least in part because it’s a connection to Africa.

It was something that was common growing up. “In Africa, we weren’t slaves. We were kings and queens. We were equal. We were free.” Putting aside the idea of everyone ever being kings and queens, it’s a great sentiment. It’s another way to build up an identity.

In a curious bit of luck and serendipity, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, two old Jewish guys, created the logical endpoint of this idealization of Africa in the Black Panther. The character was ushered further in that state by Don McGregor, Christopher Priest, and Reggie Hudlin, amongst others.

There’s a few good reasons as to why this is so. He’s from a country that’s both technologically advanced and successfully avoided colonization. He’s the king of that country. And he married a Strong Black Woman(tm) and made her the queen of that country. Let’s go through in order.

Wakanda is both isolated and technologically advanced. The important part is that both of these are by choice. They are self-reliant. They didn’t need anyone to bring knowledge to them, because they are a nation of intelligent black people. Panther is smart, to be sure, but he is reaping the benefits of those who came before him. He is standing on the shoulders of giants. He’s learning from the past, in as literal a way as possible. Panther didn’t get to where he is all by himself. His family helped him along that path. He’s part of a legacy.

Wakanda has never been conquered. The clearest way I had this put to me was that “Europe was the worst thing to happen to Africa.” Without that, you’ve got no colonization, or what’s generally thought of when you say ‘colonization,’ at least. You’ve got a nation of black people who stood up against the man and didn’t buckle. They did a lot more than not buckle– they killed kind of a lot of people in the process. Their behavior was kind of like a snake. If you don’t mess with it, it won’t mess with you. “Don’t start none, won’t be none,” to be glib.

Never been conquered. That’s a big deal. That’s the guy who brags about being undefeated, never been knocked out, and can take on all comers. It’s Muhammad Ali in the form of a country. First minute, first round. Hudlin showed this in his first arc. Jason Aaron showed this to great effect in his first issue of Panther’s Secret Invasion tie-in.

When they’re going up against humans, they’re unstoppable. Your guns won’t even work. Don’t even bother. Against super advanced space aliens who planned ahead? They’re going to break down their high technology and reduce the fight to sticks and spears.

Plus, they’ve already got Skrull heads on pikes. “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

Panther being the king of Wakanda is kind of the easy one, with Storm being his wife a close second. Everyone wants to be the top dog, right? T’Challa being number one counts for a lot here. It’s a sign of not being downtrodden, being beholden to no one, and being able to chart the course of your own destiny.

The Storm and Panther marriage, regardless of your opinion on its execution, fixed that. It simultaneously fixed the problem of the most popular black character in comics ignoring basically every aspect and other member of her race and created a fertile new storytelling ground by instantly turning Wakanda into a superpower.

My favorite part of it, though, is the racial aspect. T’Challa and Ororo have become the king and queen that so many black couples want to be. They run one of the most powerful nations in the world. Wakanda is suddenly interesting again. They have land, a family, and will eventually have a dynasty.

They’re doing all of this free of oppression of any kind. Their royal status means that no authority on earth can lock them down them. No one can touch them. They’re finally at the point where they are free to live life as they wish.

Their relationship forces both of them to elevate their game. T’Challa is used to a) always being right, b) always getting his own way, and c) not being questioned. Now that Storm is there, he’s got somebody who’s going to put him in check vigorously and often. Now that Storm has T’Challa, she can open up and drop that snooty ice queen act she’s been using. She doesn’t have to be aloof and cold any more. Two strong personalities being thrown into the mix forces change.

A couple further points. A big part of Luke Cage’s character is providing for his daughter, and therefore the future. In a similar move, T’Challa has his younger sister Shuri to worry about. He comforts her when she kills her first man, gives her support when she needs it, and trusts her skill. In the future, she’s the Black Panther, so they both must have done something right between now and then. T’Challa keeps an eye on the future, and part of that is being willing to put on someone else and step down.

Panther is confident, powerful, intelligent, and free. That sounds like the Black Ideal to me, yeah?

That’s the Black Trinity there. Reality, Fantasy, and Ideal. That’s a misnomer, though. The word Trinity implies that it’s the full range of experiences, when that is kind of clearly not true. Cheryl Lynn has some interesting ideas on what the female part of the Black Experience involves, including specific takes on Storm and Misty Knight. We’ll see those one day, I’m sure.

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Ultimate Edit Week 4: Day Four

July 1st, 2008 Posted by Gavok

Continuing from yesterday’s installment, Hawkeye is getting a thrashing at the hands of Sabretooth. Now some of Ka-Zar’s little buddies join in the fight.

It’s funny. A day or so before this issue came out, I thought about how surprising it was that Loeb hadn’t resorted to a Juggernaut cameo yet. There goes that surprise.

Apologies to ManiacClown, as I ended up cutting a gag of his based around Gimpy Cain Marko being referred to as “the Buggernaut”.

Join us tomorrow for more from Valkyrie. Can’t wait.

Day Five!
Day Six!
Day Seven!

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Ultimate Edit Week 4: Day Two

June 29th, 2008 Posted by Gavok

As you may recall from yesterday, Magneto, his kids and his wacky neighbor Xavier took off towards Australia. They couldn’t have stressed harder that it was a flashback if they tried. They crashed and ran into those guys from the Ewok movies. That was then, this is now…

Actually, never mind. This first page is about “then” too.

As always, thanks to ManiacClown, who came up with that recap page. We’ll be back tomorrow to talk about robots. Plus more from Hawkeye. You kids love Hawkeye, don’t you?

Day Three!
Day Four!
Day Five!
Day Six!
Day Seven!

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Black History Month 28: We Fly High

February 28th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

Black Panther
you ain’t ready
blackpanther01.jpg blackpanther02.jpg blackpanther03.jpg
blackpanther04.jpg blackpanther05.jpg
Blade and Brother Voodoo
“There are worse things out tonight than vampires.”
blade-voodoo01.jpg blade-voodoo02.jpg blade-voodoo03.jpg
amandla, man. (sorry)
cage01.jpg cage02.jpg cage03.jpg cage04.jpg
cage05.jpg cage06.jpg cage07.jpg cage08.jpg
cage09.jpg cage10.jpg cage11.jpg

The Crew
don’t start none, won’t be none
crew01.jpg crew02.jpg crew03.jpg crew04.jpg

Flippa Dippa
look man, i got nothing.
flippa01.jpg flippa02.jpg

John Henry Irons, Steel
steel drivin’ man

John Stewart, Green Lantern
taking him for granted would be a mistake

(one more day!)

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