Black History Month 06: Wu-Tang is For the Children

February 6th, 2008 by | Tags: , , , , , , ,

“I don’t know how you all see it, but when it comes to the children, Wu-Tang is for the children. We teach the children.”
–Ol’ Dirty Bastard

There aren’t a lot of black youths active in comics these days. Just a cursory, generous, and off-the-top-of-my-head count comes up with Natasha Irons, Night Thrasher (II), Debrii, Patriot, Prodigy… who else? DC’s got a stockpile of fashionable pretty little indistinguishable blonde girls and dark haired male sidekicks and that’s about it. We’ve got a fistful of grown-ups, and Luke Cage is leading the Avengers and playing the Captain America role (whoa), but what about the kids?

I had some harsh words about Patriot a while back, and I stand by them. His origin makes him a sucker and a weakling on a team full of people who have overcome exterior problems without falling victim to interior ones. I recently reread Young Avengers after a friend gave away the two trades and I still can’t get into it. It rubs me raw.

Patriot is an interesting character, because a young black male wearing the flag, even (or especially) now is rife with story possibilities. In a lot of ways, it flies in the face of logic. In others, it makes perfect sense. Ed Brubaker did a good job briefly discussing those issues in his issue of Young Avengers Presents. How do you reconcile history and the ideal? Do you even bother trying? Patriot is the grandson of a man who was pretty much tortured and ruined by the government who is represented by the flag he wears. What about that?

David “Prodigy” Alleyne from New X-Men is a character that I liked a lot. He had clever powers and was kind of a modern-day non-irreparably lame Doug Ramsey type of kid. He could absorb the knowledge, but not the powers, of anyone who he was close to. Then House of M hit and Kyle and Yost took over the series and bodies started dropping and I stopped reading.

But, I mean, before all that? He seemed pretty cool, even if he was only ever on maybe ten covers out of fifty-nine of the New Mutants/New X-Men run. (Yes I counted.)

I want a spectrum of characters. I want to see that young black kid who is all about fighting the power and bringing down the man. I want to see that kid who might not have grown up as poor as his other friends and has some guilt over that. I want to see that black girl who had to fight twice as hard as everyone else she knows to get half as far. I want to see those kids who reflect the people I grew up with, who run the gamut from this, to that, and the third.

I started reading comics almost twenty years ago. (I am not that old I just started reading early, shut up.) Why is the landscape barely different at all? Milestone Comics was how many years ago now? I mean, can a Brothers get a black Teen Titan who isn’t a) Cyborg and b) a shrinky bee girl? This is the pre-eminent DC teen team, you mean to tell me that they can’t get a quota kid or two to fill out the ranks? Farm some kids out of the Boys & Girls Club? I mean, blonde girls got it made! There’s one with every power under the sun! Why can’t I have a spectrum of characters to look at and show my little cousins?

“Hey, check this guy out! He’s pretty cool, right?”
“What’s his power? He looks aight.”
“Um, he got beat up so he took drugs so he could get revenge on those guys, and then decided he wanted to be a hero.”

Yeah, that’s not the business.

We’ve got a few characters. Making more isn’t even hard.

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9 comments to “Black History Month 06: Wu-Tang is For the Children”

  1. Surprisingly, Prodigy is one the characters who managed to not die (permanently), and was recently given back the knowledge he acquired prior to losing his powers. Of course, they killed the series, so who knows where he’ll end up.

    There was also Synch in Generation X, although he was killed towards the end of the series. I really liked him, actually.

  2. The current New Warriors book has Night Thrasher (probably 2 and the original’s half-brother Bandit), both Silhouette and Midnight’s Fire have shown up (Black/Cambodian IIRC) with NT trying to convince MF to join his group. Also Rage (mostly getting kicked around on Avengers: the Initiative), Angel 2, Tattoo (killed by the Zodiac Gang) and her brother whose name I forget from the Morrison X-Men run. Pity the book is such total ass…

    Avengers: Initiative…Hmmm. Of the kids in that there’s Rage as already mentioned. Triathalon seems somewhat young, but I’ve got no idea as to his age. War Machine is in it, but he’s not young. Nor is one of the other new character’s Gauntlet. Who, while a dick, is meant to be a heroic type. I can’t think of anyone else black from either of the two trainee teams they’ve used. The Philadelphia team, the Liber-teens had at least one black member that I can think of. I think it was the stretchy guy…

    Jakeem Thunder is supposed to be making a bigger appearance soon in JSA as they start debuting more Legacy characters. I don’t pay enough attention to most of DC’s books to really think of anyone else you haven’t already brought up…

    Just one more reason to miss Milestone and/or wish that the Static Shock cartoon had led to them finding a way to push Static into the main DC ‘verse. Hell if they can push the fucking Tangent ‘verse, why no love for Dakota?

  3. You can find that kid. In Aya. In Bayou. In Sentences. In MBQ. In Zapt. In Dramacon. In the upcoming Yumi and Ever by Alitha Martinez. In lead or major roles. We have to stop looking to Marvel and DC (or VIZ) for this. It’s not that these companies don’t try. It’s just that the creators of the books I’ve listed are doing a monumentally better job than they are. Let’s support them.

  4. What’s Flippa Dippa up to these days?

  5. is MGH just marvel code for PCP?

  6. I agree about Patriot, and what’s more, I find the way Heinberg granted him powers even worse. He claims to have super-soldier powers from a blood transfusion. Then it turns out he’s just shooting MGH and that whole story was bull. Then he gets a blood transfusion from a super-soldier, and lo and behold, it gives him exactly the super-soldier powers he needs in exactly the same fashion as his lies had previously ‘established’. Lazy and insulting at the same time.

  7. honestly, what i’m wondering is why wakanda hasn’t produced more superheroes. it’s one of marvel’s greatest creations. or has it, and i just haven’t been paying attention?

    i’d love to see black panther moving from the fantastic four to the idea of his own team, on his own terms.

  8. I said it in the last time the Patriot mess was brought up, so I’ll just repeat my statement here. I can see where you’re coming from with hating on the whole MGH bit, but I think that in the long run, it solidified Elijah’s role as leader of the Young Avengers.

    Everyone on the team with powers except Elijah got them through inheritance. If Patriot’s fake backstory about the blood transfusion was true, he too would have technically inherited his powers. It’s nice that you can get your powers by default and choose to use them for good, but it’s not very impressive.

    Since on paper Captain America is a guy on steroids going around saving people, I can see why Patriot would go down the MGH path. He fucked up, but he got over it and redeemed himself. Even without powers, he proved himself to be the best choice for leader of the team. While the others wanted to just run from the enemy, he had a plan. He stood up for his friends and convinced Captain America to do the right thing despite the strong possibility of galactic war. Then he sacrificed himself for Captain America, leading to him getting the real blood transfusion and getting his Super Soldier powers.

    He didn’t get that transfusion through chance. He got it as a reward for realizing his own heroism.

  9. They should have had Patriot remain completely powerless. They had the other members talk about how useful he was even without powers, but it would have been more effective if Heinberg had actually bothered to show us, instead of having Eli immediately get the transfusion.