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March 15th, 2007 by | Tags:

Myth Conceptions – Black History of Comics

Pretty good group interview with Kevin Grevioux of Underworld and New Warriors fame, Mike Sales of Type Illy Press (a company I’ve been meaning to check out for a fair few months now), Andrew West, and Adrian Wilkins. It’s must reading, as all of these fellows make good points. Here’s a bit I particularly enjoyed:

“Of course there can be a separation when it comes to Black characters,” explains Grevioux. “Being black does not encompass all of who I am. It’s a large part of me, but by no means all. It’s the same thing with fictional characters as well. At least it should be.”

“That said, I definitely have a strong sense of responsibility and there’s nothing wrong with that,” Grevioux continues. “Look at how poorly Jews were treated in the early days of America , yet two talented Jewish kids recreated the story of Moses and created one of the biggest cultural icons in the history of the world in Superman. Two Jewish kids possibly recreating the concept of the Judges in the Old Testament, who fought those who committed evil against the nation of Israel , created another cultural icon in Captain America who fought Nazi’s. That’s great stuff, and it goes to show that you can use your culture, whatever it is, and tell great stories. So once again, race is nothing that people should be afraid of.”

“But I think people have to understand to that we as blacks, can oft times bear the burden of responsibility just by virtue of our skin color, adds Grevioux. “No matter how you slice it, we are born political. There are racial assumptions, both good and bad, that people automatically think. And when it comes to industry and commerce, it can mean either suicide or salvation in terms of sales. And in comics, just a black man on the cover of a book can evoke a political response before the pages are even opened. We need to work to change that.”

It puts me in mind of Priest’s The Crew being decried as another ghetto book, unworthy of sale, acclaim, or even attention. This is all despite the fact that The Crew was really a very good book and both Priest and Joe Bennett brought their A-game to it. Even the covers were brilliant.

A book about a black character is inherently political and an “issue” book. It almost always comes up in titles starring black characters. Monica Rambeau had her “No More Hate” issue back in the day, Black Panther spent some time fighting the Klan in the late ’70s (early ’80s?), Luke Cage is really kind of obvious, and so on. Storm and Bishop managed to avoid it, to my knowledge at least. But, it often comes up and we get A Very Special Issue Of Blossom or whatever out of it. If it doesn’t come up in the title itself, it’ll come up in fan reaction to that title. Sometimes, it’ll come up both ways.

It’s kind of like this. “Black” books tend to attract a different level of critique, or maybe a different form, than other books do. I’ve seen people complain that Black Panther, Luke Cage, Blade, Brother Voodoo, and Monica Rambeau (what the crap is her code name now?) have nothing whatsoever in common besides being black, and all black people don’t know each other, so what are they doing teaming up in post-Katrina New Orleans?

In other words, “What are all these black people doing hanging around each other?”

Flip the question. What did Hank Pym, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and the Wasp have in common, pre-Avengers? Think on that for a minute.

A man in that link up above makes a good point, which is that if you want to fix something, fix it yourself. Write the comics. You must be the change you wish to see in the world, so do like Cheryl Lynn says and make the comics. I plan to, eventually, but I’m not quite at that skill level I want to be just yet. Eventually, though, I will. I’ve got a voice. I’ve got a point of view. You can make a realistic comic featuring blacks without being preachy. Milestone did it. No reason why no one else can’t, right?

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4 comments to “Hot Buttons”

  1. In Nextwave she just goes by Rambeau. But otherwise its Photon last I checked…

  2. Photon was the old one that Genis took (again). was it Pulsar?

  3. I think it was Photon that he took, again.

    Excellent post.

  4. Ah, the Crew. I think Priest swung for the fences a little early on that one. Maybe a shorter arc or a couple stand-alones, then the big caper/origin; would’ve helped the book out a little. I want to reread it since you’ve mentioned it, and it’s a book that warrants it.