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Thoughts On: Comics And Race


Last Sunday I was having a text conversation with fellow comicbooker Not So Silent Mike. We were talking  about  a variety of things: upcoming plans for Comic Booked, comics , movies, how awesome I am, 🙂 really! It came up! Midway through the conversation there were these two texts:

Me: I’m thinking of dropping Brightest Day 🙁

Mike: Why?

There are a few reasons : Event Fatigue, Finances, Pace of the book. I loved Blackest Night, it was monumental and in my opinion the best organized crossover I’ve ever read. To immediately go from that book to a year long biweekly event is a little too much for me, and my budget. I enjoy the direction of the series,but a few of the story lines are moving a bit slow for me. Mike and I both agreed that the series will get better as it continues, and the return of the Black Lanterns will increase the action. I was still on the fence though so I decided to look through my Brightest Day back issues before  I decided.

After looking through the issues I’ve decided to keep getting the book, for two reasons, these guys:

From time to time comments and questions are raised about ethnicity and the comic book world. About two years ago Actor and Model Tyrese entered the comic world with his book Mayhem. Tyrese started asking why there weren’t more black superheroes and why a black Superhero didn’t have a book of his own. He got a lot of opinions, many of them negative:

Black Superhero books  don’t sell well

Comic book companies are racist

I purchased and read all three issues of Mayhem. I wanted to support Image’s decision to give the book a try and hoped fans of Tyrese might give other comics a try. I found the series itself a disappointment. It was predictable and the character seemed a rehash of other more established characters, just a different race.

I’m African American. There are other limbs on my family tree: American Indian, Hispanic and probably many more I’m not aware of.

I was extremely blessed to be raised by a Mother who had a great respect for our culture and a love for learning ,and experiencing other cultures as well.  This meant as a child I had Barbie’s of all races, books that ran the gamut from African Fairy Tales to Robin Hood and was exposed to a wide array of films and cultural events.

This served me well when I entered the Geek/Comic book world. Because frankly the majority of comics and movies I loved, didn’t have a lot of racially diverse characters. That’s ok. I’ll admit it’s doubly enjoyable to read a  comic that has a great female character or a character of color, but I don’t base my comic purchases on those factors. I buy comics that I enjoy, that are fun, exciting, action packed and epic in scope.

Brightest Day has all of that, but I feel it is equally important that two of the characters involved in this story are African American. More importantly they are well written and interesting characters.

I grew up reading Firestorm and loved the character of Ronnie Raymond. I was introduced to Jason in Blackest Night  and I’m intrigued to see how Jason and Ronnie’s relationship develops. I’m also excited to learn more about Jackson Hyde the new Aqualad.

I think it’s commendable that one of “The Big Two” is prominently launching two characters of color into their comic book , collectible and animation franchises. I want to support this endeavor and I know the best way to do that is to keep  Brightest Day on my pull list.

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Comments (6)

Thanks for posting this. As a Cablinasian [like Tiger Woods!] female, I can completely understand where you're coming from. I thought it was a big deal to see Storm in XMen all the time, but as I got older, I wondered why we didn't see anyone else [but] Storm. [And yes. I'm still mad that she married Black Panther, which was ridiculously obvious instead of going with the braver choice that would have been Forge, but that's another rant, another post, another day.]

If a story can be told well and the charas happen to be African American, Japanese, Hatian, whatever, then [that] is what will sell and be successful.

Thanks for the comment Angela. I think what D. C. is doing is great and the fact that they are treating it as buisness as usual instead of hey look at us! look what werre doing! makes it even sweater. and having a Star like Johns write it is just icing on the cake 🙂

Tim (the HAMMER)

I've been reading comics for a while now and quite frankly, am disappointed in the way (the Big 2 in general) feel the need to take established white heroes and make them some other ethnicity. In particular, Firestorm.

In the vein of full-disclosure, I'm a white guy. Yes, I have many other bloodlines but if you were to look at me, you'd say; "Hey, he's a white guy!".

Personally some of my favorite heroes were black guys. To name a few? Power Man, Black Goliath, Black Vulcan, Black Lighning and Static. I even find John Stewart to be a pretty cool GL.

When a company takes an established "white" character and turns the ethnicity on it's head, it waves a HUGE banner at their OTW (Other Than White) readers that seems to say; "Hey, sorry that you have such crappy characters. To try and make it better, we'll take a more popular "white" character and make him/her black, Asian a Martian, whatever, so that you can feel good about spending your money in our reading universe.

It's lazy. And I've told creator or two the same thing. They indicated that no matter how good the writer was, that most ethnic characters would never be "iconic". This is absurd. Have you ever heard of the Black Panther? He just happens to be the freakin' king of an African nation. That's not iconic?! Okay, for fun let's throw in one of the most powerful mutants on the planet (i.e. STORM). This is just the start of the list.

Characters like Spider-MAn and Cap didn't become iconic overnight. No, they grew over time to become iconic characters.

I challenged this writer and others to CREATE ethnic characters that could one day BE iconic.

Changinig the ethnic "wrapper" on a character does more to elienate those who loved the original character than it does to generate new interest and fans.

I grew up reading Spider-Man comics. Robbie Roberts was a black character. An important one to Spider-Man. I never thought a thing of it. I am latino. When Araña got powers I didn't think anything of her being latina or a girl. It's tough for me to find a reason to tell writers that they owe us characters of this race or that sex. I was very happy Spawn did well. I was less happy when the movie industry changed Terry in the movie to a white actor just so it wouldn't be a "black" movie. That is something else. But not featuring main characters other than white isn't racist. Portraying characters other than white only in a negative matter is. I looked for this in the Marvel universe in a blog post I did some time ago. I didn't really see it.… I don't really worry about it. I may just assume that they have many branches on their family tree. Like most of us do.

Great points! You and I share similiar views on the subject unfortunately there are always people willing to believe the worst that's why I want to support DC and these two characters:)

Your right Tim that just revamping a character can be looked as lazy. I don't know much about the new aqualad but it appears the direction the tv series young justice is taking is that his dad is Black Manta and his powers are inherited. I'm not privy to DC's thought process in not giving the character a new name, maybe to keep the name and franchise of Aqualad ? For firestorm I like the fact that eventhough Ronnie is back they chose to keep Jason. He easily could have been written out. I look at the firestorm matrix as being it's own entity with different members. These characters aren't perfect . Would two new characters with ethnic backgrounds be welcome ? Absolutely but it needs to start somewhere. I Hope the success if these characters might lead to that. Thanks for commenting 🙂

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