Black History Month ’09 #02: You Can’t Win

February 2nd, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Here’s a few tips if you want to write black people in comics.

1. Find a quiet place to write
2. Use a laptop– they’re easy to get comfy with and you can research and write at the same time. Also? Music.
3. Keep a hammer by your laptop
4. Hit your laptop with the hammer, and then your hands, because you’re gonna get it wrong.

Still with me?

You’re going to piss somebody off. That’s just the way love life goes. If your character is too thuggish, he’s an idiot gangbanger thug mandingo. If he’s too bookish, he’s an Uncle Tom. If he’s not black enough, he’s just a white dude with black skin. If he’s too black, you’re just reinforcing negative stereotypes.

You can’t win. This is the unspoken rule of creating or writing black characters. Someone, somewhere, is going to hate what you do and how you did it. It could be something in your approach, dialogue, or technique. It could be nothing at all, you might have just pushed someone’s buttons on accident. You’re co-opting, appropriating, and destroying.

With that said, all of that’s no reason to not do it.

If you’ve got half a brain, you’re smart enough to write black people. You know that every black person is different, but that there are still similarities in all of us. If you’re really unsure, you’ll run it by a black friend or two. If you don’t have any black friends, go find some.

faizaPaul Cornell is a pretty smart dude. When he created Faiza Hussein, a British Muslim, he consulted actual Muslim women. Why? Because he knows that there are intricacies or in-jokes or experiences that he may not know about. It was an amazingly respectful, honest, and (to be frank) obvious move. When you’re writing detectives, serial killers, crazy people, or scientists, you do a bit of research to make sure that your ideas are sound. Same goes for race. I respect G. Willow Wilson for similar reasons– it’s clear that she’s willing to do the research necessary to make the story real. A little research goes a long way.

Scared money don’t make money. If you’re so scared of criticism that you’re going to choke when writing black people, you shouldn’t be doing it. If you’re going to seize up at the first sign of criticism, you shouldn’t do it. You’ve got to have the smarts and guts to be able to plow on through and pray that you’re right. It’s a touchy subject, and with good reason, but if no one ever tries, it will never stop being a touchy subject.

Sometimes, creators turn out to be so great at it, no matter their race and upbringing, that I’m willing to read anything from them that involves touchy subjects. Garth Ennis is probably number one on that list for me in everything but religion. He dared to try and tackle things that other people glossed over, and turned out to be pretty great at it. The man has an honestly startling grasp of character, be it white, black, or whatever. The Slavers arc of Punisher MAX was one of the saddest things I’ve ever read, and probably one of the best stories to ever come out of Marvel. It’s something that a lesser writer would have bumbled and botched. Under Ennis, it was honestly terrifying in a very sad sort of way. It makes the stupid superhero fights the Punisher is going to be getting into for the next however many years look worthless.

And that’s how you do it. You do it right, you do it well. It doesn’t matter what the subject is. Put in some work, do some research, and get it done.

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Yallah, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

May 5th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

Found via LitG today.

“So, yeah, you’ve got this Arab chick… she gonna blow any dudes up?”
“I heard that there’s a black guy in the comic. Which white girl is he trying to get with? Does he play basketball at all?”
“This Asian girl you have on the team… I’m just gonna put this out here, see if I can get a response. Two words. Happy. Ending. Hey? Yeah?”

Faiza is one of the most interesting new characters to come out of Marvel. Cornell gave an awesome interview about her a while back that sold me in basically one paragraph.

Thanks, Newsarama interviewer Benjamin Ong Pang Kean, for reducing her to being the “British Muslim” who is probably gonna kill some dudes while screaming about infidels and building mosques.

Is an apology forthcoming? I doubt it.

Funnybook Babylon let their mad dog off the chain. Jon disassembles it here.

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The Contest of Champions (and Avengers and X-Men and Alpha Flight and…)

August 3rd, 2007 Posted by Gavok

Superhero vs. superhero. Over the past couple years, it’s almost become the new status quo in the Marvel Universe and still gets a good amount of play in DC here and there. Whether it’s hatred, misunderstanding, bureaucracy or mind-control, it’s everywhere. With things like Daredevil vs. Punisher, Civil War, World War Hulk and pretty much any inter-dimensional crossover like Marvel vs. DC, JLA/Avengers and Captain Atom: Armageddon there are many miniseries based on the simple idea of our favorite heroes duking it out with each other.

It makes sense. There’s a certain feeling of bragging rights and uncertainty that comes from these fights. If there’s a story about Superman fighting Parasite, then there isn’t much mystery. We know Superman is going to come out the winner because Superman is our heroic protagonist. But toss him in against another heroic protagonist like Captain Marvel, Martian Manhunter or Green Lantern (on a good day) and we don’t know what to expect.

Originally conceived as an Olympic tie-in until the US pulled out of the Moscow Olympics, the Contest of Champions was not only the first hero-on-hero miniseries, but it was the first big crossover miniseries. This is the comic that would set the trend for Crisis on Infinite Earths and Secret Wars. It was only three issues and normal-sized, but I’m sure at the time it seemed really epic. Even now, I’d say the first issue had that feeling. I can only imagine what it would be like back in the 80’s to see all these superheroes together in the same room.

The writing credits go to Mark Gruenwald, Bill Mantlo and Steven Grant with Romita Jr. doing the art. So it’s got that going for it.

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The Top 100 What If Countdown: The Finale

March 28th, 2007 Posted by Gavok

I feel kind of silly making this article since it was supposed to be done months ago. There are several things that kept me from finishing it, but I’m going to take the easy way out. All the time I usually use to write these What If articles was really used to pretend I was writing for Lost. I love writing Sam the Butcher’s dialogue the most.

Starting it off, here’s a series of sig images I made for the Batman’s Shameful Secret sub-forum at Something Awful. I guess they worked.

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Deadshot’s Tophat and Other Beginnings: Cab to Cat

February 6th, 2007 Posted by Gavok

Welcome to the fifth installment. Took me longer than expected, but a lot of these guys are big names. If you reach the end of the article, Batman will reward you with his greatest quote ever.


New Mutants #87 (1990)

Originally, Cable appears in Uncanny X-Men #201 (1986) as a baby, but I figure it would probably make more sense to show his real introduction. The story begins with a terrorist act by a team of Stryfe’s henchmen in some facility. The only one I actually recognize is Four-Arm. After they leave, a new figure enters through a hole in the wall.

Cable tracks Stryfe’s team on their next mission, where they plan to kidnap a couple kids out of a government facility. He takes the battle to the enemies, but their numbers eventually overwhelm him. He’s left to die and the mutants get away. The issue ends with Cable in military captivity, thinking about how he went at this the wrong way. He’s going to need help.

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Deadshot’s Tophat and Other Beginnings: A to At

November 28th, 2006 Posted by Gavok

I’m still waiting on a couple artists for the What If finale, so I figured I’d start this. The idea originally came from a thread at Superdickery back when I hung around there, and I later reprised it at BSS. Sure, we all know about Action Comics #1 and Amazing Fantasy #15, but there are so many great comic characters and a lot of them have changed since their debuts in ways that would surprise you. So let’s take a look at the heroes and villains before they were stars. Back when Lobo wore spandex and Wolverine had whiskers.

I figure I’ll do one of these every two weeks or so. It’s fun and educational!

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