Today’s Mathematics: De Likkle Comic Man Dem

June 19th, 2009 by | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Two instances of dumb ways to write “ethnic” characters, one counter-example, and a brief explanation.

The first two! On the left, we have Brother Voodoo Brudder Voodoo. On the right, we have the Shaolin Scientist Squad. From New Avengers #53 (Brian Michael Bendis and Billy Tan) and Punisher #6 (Rick Remender and Tan Eng Huat), respectively.


A counter-example for Brudder Voodoo, from Gambit #9 (John Layman and Georges Jeanty):


A brief explanation:
Brother Voodoo was needed to fill a role. As part of filling that role, he’s got to talk with a comic book Carribbean accent, I guess. Even though he hasn’t been portrayed as talking like that recently, nor originally, I believe. But, you know, he practices voodoo, and voodoo dudes need to have that authentic accent. Never mind that he’s a psychologist and Haitian ex-pat who’s been living in the States for years– he needs to be de likkle Claremontian stereotype, brudder. Just so you know he’s foreign.

The other is the Shaolin Scientist Squad, who are kind of like an evil Sons of the Tiger, I guess. My problem with them? Having Chinese villains refer to a “Great Western Satan” is like having a Jewish villain screaming about how Captain America is merely an avatar of Yacub, maker and creator of the Devil. GWS is something I’ve only ever seen in regards to Islamic extremist rhetoric, most notably courtesy of Iran a couple decades ago, not Chinese.

Nah, son. You got to do better.

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25 comments to “Today’s Mathematics: De Likkle Comic Man Dem”

  1. that last page of New Avengers 52 broke my heart–Brother Voodoo looked really cool, I was totally into the idea of Voodoo as the new Sorceror Supreme–and then the pidgin english. WTF, indeed.

  2. Busiek did a fine job with epic plot scope while accurately handling so many characters. He typically excels in team books (especially Avengers Forever mini). He should have been given Ultimates 3 and Ultimatum, but then we wouldn’t have characters haphazardly thrown in with no sense of rhyme or reason, much behaving “in character.” And then no Ultimate Edit to mock the horrible resultant mess with.

  3. In interviews, Bendis is now calling him ‘Doctor Voodoo’ because he has a PhD, and he is getting his own miniseries. Bendis also claims that he did a huge amount of research on Voodoo practices, etc., but didn’t actually USE any of it; he just wanted to be, I don’t know, ‘knowledgeable’.

    This, from the man apparently plotting the course for the forseeable future of Marvel.

  4. The Shaolin Scientist Squad thing is not that far off.


  5. @Matt Ampersand: I know a little about Islam in China already, but my point wasn’t so much that “Chinese people aren’t Muslim” as “‘Great Western Satan’ is a very specific phrase used by a very specific type of person, which up until now, hasn’t been Chinese.”

  6. I once told the guy in my LCS how I – like he – spent a shitload of time at work just reading comics rather than doing anything. “No,” he said “when you do it, it’s slacking – when I do it, it’s research.”

    Thus, Bendis has ‘researched’ a lot about voodoo in much the same way other writers have, I suspect: rewatched Live and Let Die and then checked out Boomerang to see if they’re repeating that episode of Chuck Norris and the Karate Kommandos where Chuck fights zombies controlled by a black guy with no shirt.

  7. The really weird thing was he didn’t talk like that in the New Avengers Civil War tie in

  8. @Matt:

    As a Black New Orleanian I can tell you there are a lot of us who do indeed talk like that. That’s not to say we couldn’t speak proper English but it is a cultural difference. While I’m not a Bendis fan, Voodoo’s “accent” felt real. Not every black character has to speak like Obama.

  9. I just read the Gambit page and I actually found that offensive. I really wish comic writers would stop writing ethnic characters either as hip-hop stars, Obama, or the black guy from college.

  10. Guys, the answer is simple. From now on, Brother Voodoo is to speak a random accent in each appearance.

  11. @AfghanAnt: Ant, I’m sure someone talks like Voodoo. I’m probably related to more than a few. My problem is that he’s never had this accent before, and he’s been around for nearly 40 years. It’s like if Blade suddenly started going “Oh, tiptop, guvna, just out to stake a vampire tonight, all roit, a bit of a sticky wicket out there and all, football cricket crumpets!” because he was born in England, or if Monica Rambeau, another character from NO, started talking like Weezy. It’s a dumb change because that’s not who the character is, it’s the stereotype of what the character could have been. Voodoo isn’t a new character, why give him a new feature that basically boils down to “Hey! This guy isn’t white!”

    I grew up in Georgia, south of ATL. I’m no stranger to accents, and I’ve never even remotely suggested that any black character should have to speak like Obama.

  12. @david brothers: Difference being, AfghanAnt knows people who talk like Brudda Voodoo, I’ve never met an Englishman who talks like you just described, and I’ve lived in the UK all my life.

  13. @Paul Wilson: But you might well have met someone who talks with a tip top inglish ahkcent. I have.

    I’ve just been reading Brother Voodoo appearances from the 70s in Werewolf by Night, and he is far more similar to the Gambit example than the recent one here.

  14. As someone noted above, the absolute worst part is that last time Brother Voodoo showed up in a Bendis book (Skrull or not) he didn’t talk like that at all.

  15. BMB, writing horribly? I think I will keel over and die from not-surprise.

  16. @Jbird: Wait, did he talk at all that time? I just remember he was the only guy SHIELD could get to try to break into Dr. Strange’s mansion.

  17. Odd that the previews now seem to show him confusedly switching from ‘The’ to ‘Da’ between alternate sentences.

    At least Rick Remender seems to have a good fix on the character,

  18. I’m a little sad that Gavok didn’t point that Rick Remender already wrote this story in a What If? What’s up Gavok, just cause your got fans of your DarkSied, you still have to bring it for your What if homies.

  19. @Paul Wilson: Yes but did Blade start having an English accent and suddenly know to play cricket once Paul Cornell reminded people that he was born here? No, he did not.

    Maybe it’s a reverse Emma Frost thing with BV though. Seems stupid either way.

  20. It’s always bothered me when novelists (Faulkner, for example) mark their African-American dialogue as thickly accented, while their white characters, who would also have thick Southern accents, remain unmarked.

    There is even less need in a visual medium for such racial marking, which is what is so troubling about Brudder Voodoo’s dialogue.

  21. @Dane: Yes, he did.


  22. @Pedro Tejeda: REMENDER wrote that? Jesus. If I knew he was behind that awful comic, I would have been more cautious in reading his Punisher run.

  23. …and now in the follow up issue he talks normally, for the most part, it seems


  24. I hate it when people get overly into typing out accents. Any time someones gone and ethnically phoneticized speech, I can’t read it without making the noises aloud and then breaking it down. Seriously, isn’t his outfit loud enough already?

    BTW, anyone else recall an issue of the 90s Heroes for Hire where Luke Cage and Brother Voodoo mock each other’s costumes? I recall its existence, but not the timbre or tastefulness.

  25. considering he switches to normal and accented in that bubble and the way he talks next issue that makes me think that people actually call him “Brudder Voodoo.”