Two Posts of Note

November 21st, 2009 by | Tags:

-Colleen AF Venable at First Second/:01 is amazing. She’s got another design post up on their blog, and it’s a great read. Is there another company-sponsored blog as good as :01’s? I don’t think so.

-Graeme McMillan, the man behind the man behind the man of comics writing, wrote the best post on colored folks in comics in ages, and I’m including ones that I’ve written in that number. It’s very good.

And how did Rhodey get his start as a superhero again? Oh, that’s right; he replaced Tony as Iron Man. Just like John Stewart got his start replacing Hal Jordan as Green Lantern. And John Henry Irons, replacing Superman back when he died. Oh, and don’t forget Monica Rambeau, Marvel’s second Captain Marvel. Or, hell, the Justice Society of America’s Mr. Terrific or Johnny/JJ Thunder, the Legion of Superheroes’ Computo and Invisible Kid, DC’s Mister Miracle (and, for that matter, Manhattan Guardian) or even The Spectre (And, again, who can forget Black Goliath, who replaced Hank Pym’s original White Goliath – except, of course, the “White” was silent in his name).

Graeme pokes at Rhodey’s history and finds something interesting at work, and ends up saying a lot about what it means to be black in comics. It’s absolutely worth a read or two, and it’s something to keep in mind when looking at black characters in comics.

I hadn’t even realized how few black characters were not “fight the power” types. Storm isn’t, but that’s because she’s completely divorced from any semblance of blackness. Just Bishop and Icon? And Bishop is borderline because of how he was placed at odds with the X-Men. It’s just the “Angry Black Man” stereotype poured into a new bottle.

The post’s excellent, go read it.

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8 comments to “Two Posts of Note”

  1. All true, all known, for the savvy fan that is. I sum it all up in one question: What does it say when the most famous black “comix hero” is a charred demon from hell? [if you don’t get the spawn reference, might as well just make wikipedia your home page]

    It’s a gripe I used to bring up all the time, but I ask: where’s my Latino capes? Where’s my Asian masks? Any solid heroines? Or the rest of the globe for that matter? Apparently four Americans were the best candidates for the ring in an entire space sector?

    I do like Jaime Reyes as the Blue Beetle (though, being a legacy character, are the scraps of the table) Morrisson’s Great Ten and Super Young Team are definitely a nice start, but marvel and dc’s lores are already far gone down the beaten path for me to care like I once did.

    Overhauls galore are needed and costumed crime-fighting folk of every persuasion other than white, obviously ain’t a bad place to start.

  2. What I find hilarious is how you don’t get more diverse characters because some creators and editors say they don’t want to do them just for the sake of diversity, and then when they do actually get around to creating more like Jaime Reyes, some fans cry foul and say they were just created for the sake of diversity.

    But then again, every action in comics being a catch-22 is par for the course these days.

  3. Great post, perfectly sums up why I love Rhodey so much.

    also little nerd nitpick, but John was brought in to sub for Guy who was injured, the whole replacing Hal happened later.

  4. […] Brothers comments as […]

  5. I agree and think it’s a very succinct article, but I have one addendum to it. I believe the cyborg issue isn’t really a black-centric one, but instead is a story-telling device pulled out to make less popular characters have a gimmick. Look at Frank Castle right now. He’s a zombie cyborg. Look at Bucky and his robot arm. There’s tons of other b-list characters that “tech up” after a tragedy or crisis.

    My point is that I don’t think there’s some underlying message about the high amount of black characters as cyborgs, besides the fact that most black characters don’t have large followings or central roles to a comic universe (just like other b and c-list characters), so companies feel the need to give them a “hook” for bringing more numbers. Thus, Rhodey gets blown up in Iraq to get a little more xtreme, I guess.

  6. One question: Why does (or should) every Black character be “Black”? For that matter, given that there are at least three separate routes for the African diaspora (North American, South American and European) plus the obvious knowledge that life among native-born Africans (sans the Euro/Latino/American qualifier) is in many ways radically different from the lifestyles embraced by their descendants, how would you go about making any and/or all new characters as “authentic” as possible? Do they have to be “fire-breathing pro-Black causeheads” or “sweet and sassy older ‘Tyler Perry-squared’ Big Mommas?” I’m not trying to sound like a dick, I just want to know. Storm, for example, was born in Harlem, but she was raised in Egypt, walked the length of the Nile before she was 13 years old and was worshipped as a goddess. If she’d debuted in X-Men by talking a lot of radical Black Panther-level politics, she would have sounded as authentic as if Jean Grey had shown up in Giant-Size X-Men wearing black leather with her hair styled into a blowout and an upraised fist Afro pick sticking out. The writers dropped the ball and let it roll as far away as possible, but she’s a six-foot tall African woman with platinum blond hair and blue eyes who controls the weather. Her mutation gave her even more trouble (discrimination-wise) than her race could ever match. Besides, one of the few things that I like about the “new” Storm is her embracing modern African/African-American culture. Now that she isn’t constantly being bombarded with forced trips to outer space, Asgard, Australia, South Af… I mean Genosha and other fucked up places to fight sentient cockroaches, evil mutants, psychopathic aliens, horridly programmed robots and motherfucking Doctor Doom, it’s sensible writing for her to actually take a liberal amount of time to figure out why someone would hate her for what she looks like (instead of hating her for what she is.)

  7. @Evil Abraham Lincoln: I went into this the other week, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask that the biggest black character in comics actually reflect some aspect of the culture she is supposed to represent, whether it’s Africa or the African diaspora. Instead, Storm’s been consciously and purposefully removed from any aspect of it, in favor of servicing someone else’s fetishes and ideas about what it means to be a mutant.

    I feel like you’re putting a lot of words in my mouth, or making a lot of assumptions about what I believe, particularly here:

    Do they have to be “fire-breathing pro-Black causeheads” or “sweet and sassy older ‘Tyler Perry-squared’ Big Mommas?”

    I never suggested anything of the sort, and I’m not sure what led you to think that I believed in either extreme. In fact, after reading Graeme’s post, I realized how few black characters were not fight the power types and remarked on it here. I wasn’t saying that there should be more. If anything, I was saying that there should be less.

    There are varying levels of authentic, just like there are varying kinds of blackness, each as authentic and real as the next. Storm doesn’t reflect anything authentic, since her writers over the years decided to make the only black X-Man, for all intents and purposes, into a magical unicorn who actively rejects her race and culture. Jean Grey, Cyclops, Wolverine, Colossus, no one else does that. Some X-Men are even “rah rah I’m canadian/irish/german/russian,” which makes Storm stick out all the more. The ones that are traditionally white don’t reject their whiteness, but the black one does? In what universe is that acceptable?

    Hudlin & McDuffie using Storm for a while was nice, because we had someone who actually respected the black experience massaging her into the place where she should’ve been from jump. In exchange, we got people saying that the marriage of Storm and T’Challa was racist and it just happened because they’re both African (setting aside the dozens of white characters who had nothing in common who’ve hooked up and the fact that black on black romance is rarer than interracial romance in superhero books) and that this wasn’t the “real” Storm. The “real” Storm would never talk about her hair like that.

  8. @davidbrothers

    I apologize for putting the words of others in your mouth. The Internet is full of people who insist on sticking to one of those depictions of “authentic Black culture”. I used to get into arguments about it on R.A.C.M.X. (DejaNews version, not the bastardized Google version) a long long *long* time ago. 😮

    But, sometimes, I do wish that this version of the “Disco Dazzler” (http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2007/09/13/comic-book-urban-legends-revealed-120/) had made it to the X-Men. Claremont being who he is, I’m sure that having two black women from differing backgrounds would have led to some very interesting conversations.