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Wednesday, January 28, 2009 

FOX misses the mark

On the Dixonverse forum, they pointed to a report FOX News did on questions of if, with Obama's election, this could lead to a black superhero breaking through in the mainstream:
Since their inception, there have been only a few black superheroes in comic books, and fewer still have achieved mainstream appeal.

But Obama's rise to the presidency now has many people in the business of creating and marketing heroes hoping that a black superhero will finally break into mainstream pop culture.

[...]

The first black superhero was Marvel's Black Panther, who showed up in a 1966 Fantastic Four story and has gained some popularity. Another Marvel character, Blade, earned big-market attention when Wesley Snipes personified him in a film version of the comic. Some characters have vacillated between races — both Spawn and Catwoman were black in certain iterations, white in others. And characters like Storm, Luke Cage, Static, and Bishop have enjoyed a certain level of celebrity, but not the kind that has netted others their own big-budget Hollywood films.

But with Obama establishing a new role model for blacks in America, traditional depictions of blacks in popular culture could get a makeover, said culture critic David Horowitz.

"I think having a black president will have a positive impact on black images in the popular culture and will move that culture away from some of its politically correct absurdities," he said.
The problem is that this seems to base its whole argument on image alone, not on personality or talent, or even what Obama is capable of bringing to the table.

Chuck Dixon, the first to reply on this thread, had this to say in response:
Ever notice that when the "dearth" of black superheroes is discussed Blade is never mentioned?

The fact that no black superhero has broken through to superstardom is a failure of creators. These folks really think that black superheroes have been held back by institutional rascism or a prejudiced public? And the nation has been mystically transformed by the election of BHO so now Black Goliath will find his proper place in the pantheon of superheroes?

Black superheroes, like most superheroes, are one-dimensional gimmicks at best. The exception is a Batman or Wolverine that rises above the clutter. There's no hit Hispanic superhero. With the exception of Wonder Woman there's no marquee super heroine either. And let's all try and forget every attempt to create a Native American superguy.

What's needed is not to "reach out to the African American audience." Aiming at a demographic that makes up 12% of the population is a non-starter. What's needed is a universally appealing character who happens to be black. Of course, comics' track record for doing this sort of thing sucks. Most great comic characters are created by sheer accident. Even when something ambitious like Orpheus is attempted there's resistance from bickering editors, shifting priorities and finally apathy.

These articles make me tired.
Me too, because they almost always fail to clearly address artistic quality, the most important factor to creating any heroes of ethnic backgrounds.

Another problem FOX completely misses is how DC and Marvel have swamped themselves so badly in stunts like company-wide crossovers today, and one-dimensional publicity gimmicks, to say nothing of considerable character destruction of their already existing hero cast, that there's certainly no chance that anyone would be able to find a black superhero/ine getting decent writing.

The FOX article also says this:
The Black Panther, another Marvel mainstay, will undergo a life-altering new storyline and will be featured in an animated series.
What they don't mention here is Marvel's intention of replacing T'Challa in the comics with a female protagonist while possibly killing off the prince of Wakanda, which I've perceived as a case of a black protagonist being subject to ridiculous PC-diversity. If that's the case, they certainly aren't doing much to prove they're trying to promote a guy who's one of the smartest scientists in the MCU.

That aside, superheroes and the genre aren't the only place where black protagonists need advancement. There's also supporting casts, and even the adventure genre, in and of itself. Surely the argument presented on FOX isn't a bit too limited then?

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