Flashpoint: Grodd of War is about a telepathic gorilla killing half of Africa while taking over the continent as a sort of Planet of the Apes/superiority thing, maybe you saw this dumb comments thread about it.
You know you’ve got a weak bench as far as characters go when the most prominent black characters in a story set in Africa are five unnamed and generic child soldiers, four of which die on the spot. Isn’t that weird? Sure, everyone’s been murdered or whatever, but are child soldiers a better shorthand for “This is Africa” than grown men with machetes or AK-47s? Like, are child soldiers the new spear-chuckin’ African pygmy cannibals? Is this a thing I need to mark down in my hand-written appendix to the Big Book of Racism!?
It’s so hard to keep up these days. And I have dreams, too. I was hoping that either those dudes who walk hyenas or have that ill fashion sense would be the next signifier for “This is not Monaco, this is
Baghdad Mogadishu,” you know? Have you seen these guys? They’re all the way swagged out, like Dipset at their prime crossed with those cats who were cool in the ’70s and rock bright orange double breasted suits these days like they’re all that. Imagine if that was the face of Africa.
But yeah, child soldiers, cool, got it. There’s what, 200,000 kids serving in rebel armies, many of them against their will? No, wait. 200,000 boys, I mean. The girls get raped and murdered. (They call them wives.) But yeah, yo–that’s an intensely powerful idea, right? A swarm of children, a couple million dead, a million-some orphans, millions more who’ve had their lives ruined. That’s a powerful idea right there, the sort of meme that burrows deep down into your brain and rattles your fillings. I think it’s that combination of lost innocence and malice, “kids are patriotic robotic, operate catapults and goose-step over innocence/innocents,” it’s positively sexy. Some good drama in there, some really easy emotional hooks.
It’s a comfortably brown concept, too, isn’t it? We don’t really have that over here. Asia, some of the wilder parts of Europe, Mexico, a bunch of Africa, sure, but ’round here? Nah. Closest we get is gang violence, I figure. Child soldiers. Ill-fitting clothes, big guns… It’s a little edgy, but it’s just distant enough to play in Peoria. And it’s so Africa. A few panels of these little kidlets will give us some verisimilitude.
And man, how about the best guy in Grodd’s army being a white Scotsman who is cursed to become a gorilla? I mean, that’s pretty cool. Golden gorilla–that idea has legs. More like that.
Oh! I just remembered something. I read an interview with the writer of this thing, Sean Ryan, a while back. I made a joke about it on Twitter, I think. I don’t remember right now. Quoth the weblog:
SR: He really doesn’t. They ignore him. A thing I wanted to touch on in the story is how Africa is often ignored. There’s awful things happening in Africa all the time in our own world and we don’t really know about it. It usually takes some kind of celebrity to point it out to us. So that’s sort of what’s going on in Africa in Flashpoint. Grodd has taken over Africa and turned it into a mass grave, but the world could care less. They’re more focused on Aquaman and Wonder Woman.
Sure enough, on the first page, Grodd is all “I slaughter half of Africa… and most people don’t even know my name. Location, location, location.” while chilling on a throne made out of human skulls. Real world reference: complete! CHEA!
Most of all, though. Most of all. I liked that the most significant human character–the only human character left to protect Africa, the only one with a name–is that piece of crap Batman knock-off Catman. He goes down fighting, too, before Grodd pulls his head off. I wish he got some lines. He’d probably say something pretty cool. “You’ve murdered Africa, you maniac! You blew it all up!” Should maybe workshop that line. Seems a little familiar.
Catman: his return to fame was in a Kevin Smith comic (strike 1) as a fat pathetic loser (strike 2) and then he become a SUPER COOL TRAPPER HUNTER WOLVERINE GUY! in another comic (that’s three, clear out, B). He’s a regular old American fella, ain’t doing no harm. He lives with lions, and he just really gets them, you know? Like really, really really. Overhigh girl at a party talking about how beautiful the universe is, man, it makes me wanna cry it’s so unbelievably beautiful gets them.
Count it: five unnamed brown child soldiers (four dead [killed by a child], one living), one Scotsman turned golden ape (he dies), the hero of Africa (a white dude who’s probably from Nowhere, Connecticut in Mowgli drag [ooh, can we tie in the white man’s burden somehow?]), and a continent that’s implied to be a giant open grave, conquered by monkeys who are, at best, smart enough to get a high school diploma.
That smells like Africa to me, bwana.
(This was going to be maybe 150 words long, but took a weird turn around “Isn’t that weird?” and I couldn’t stop for some reason. This is a comic that makes you want to be mean to someone. Turns out somebody likes this piece of crap, though.)