Salon demonizes comic buffs while preaching PC diversity
Superman has been the same age for roughy 77 years. He originally landed on Earth in the early 1910s. DC has fixed this problem several times since 1938 with reboots. That means they start the fictional Universe over, usually with a story-based explanation of the incontinuity. Think time-travel paradoxes and alternate Universes colliding. Suddenly Superman dropped on Earth a decade or two after he originally landed. A reboot can fix most time issues by simply moving a character’s origin story forward.Umm, years before, they didn't always use reboots to update the background of a hero like Superman, any more than Dick Tracy's origins were rebooted. What they did before Crisis on Infinite Earths was simply say at times that he was rocketed to Earth from the destroyed planet Krypton, and that's all they really needed to do. Today's mainstream writers and editors are clueless on how to tell origins without resorting to hype.
DC’s younger competitor Marvel hasn’t ever done a hard reboot. They generally solve the weird time problem by sticking their fingers in their ears and ignoring concrete numbers whenever possible.Excuse me? Just what proof do they have that all fans across the board, from start to finish, are racist? That line in parentheses is ultra-leftism at its worst: just dare to say you like superheroes the way they are, and you're immediately branded a racist. I wouldn't be surprised if these screwballs considered the late Fred Rogers from PBS's Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood a "racist" because he once penned a song there saying "I like you just the way you are." It's funny how they sound like money doesn't matter, because if the writer of this dopey piece were in the business, there's every chance he'd go where the money does, even though today, it goes nowhere. Their claim comic fans are racist is offensive to liberals and conservatives alike and no better than what such sites have ever said about the Gamergate campaign.
The long history of both major comic publishers has created a more difficult problem: the ongoing lack of diversity in comics. Hundreds of thousand of words have been devoted to dissecting this issue, but it’s actually pretty simple. All the icons of comics and the perennial best-sellers come from a time when America was way more openly racist. Stories were told only about good looking, cis-gendered, white men.
Comics are trying to course-correct, but the process is slow. Publishers are afraid to move away from characters (and skin colors) that have historically sold well. And fans who grew up with a certain version of a character have a hard time letting go of the past. (Also, unfortunately, a bunch of fans are way racist.)
The claim only cis-gendered white men were the focus of the day is false and downright exaggerated. Don't Wonder Woman and Black Canary count based on the premise that they're women? There's also Liberty Belle to consider, along with Phantom Lady, one of the original Freedom Fighters. There was a comic published in the late 1940s called "All-Negro Comics" featuring early stories written mainly by African-American writers and illustrators. And by the mid to late 60s, some of the first black superheroes and recurring cast members were beginning to turn up, like Black Panther, Robbie Robertson, Falcon, Mal Duncan, John Stewart, Luke Cage, Misty Knight, Blade, Storm, Black Lightning, Bumblebee, Glory Grant, Vixen and the second Captain Marvel Monica Rambeau. There's also been some Asian and Latino heroes and co-stars like Colleen Wing, Firebird, Sunfire, Sunspot and Linda Park. Predictably, much of these get no attention, let alone praise for conceiving them.
Then, when they start talking about the Secret Wars reboot, they say:
...It’s a great opportunity for Marvel to up their diversity, and to fix a lingering origin issue that can’t get swept away by gently fudging numbers.As if they never did so already. Even DC did it in the past decade, replacing a few characters they maimed in Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis with more "diverse" characters filling the costumes, and where did it get them? Nowhere. The changes were symbolic only, and their launching was not based on story merit or even character growth. And I wouldn't be surprised if the Salon writer has no intention of buying Marvel's new books even if they adhere to his beliefs for what counts as mainstream superheroics. Now, here's where the call for changing Magneto/Xavier begins:
It’s time to make Magneto black.Well that origin wasn't part of the original Lee/Kirby tales per se. It only came about courtesy of Chris Claremont and John Byrne in the early 80s. And it's not the premise alone that makes Magneto a great villain, but the effectiveness of the writing effort that does. Furthermore, I don't agree Claremont's premise is a problem in terms of aging. You could modify Erik Lensherr's background so that he became frozen in an iceberg not unlike Captain America, as Lee scripted it in 1964 when Cap was brought back to the modern world, and that way, if it matters, Magneto's origin could be updated without jettisoning what Claremont thought of. Or, if retconning is really so important, it's always possible to tie Magneto's origins with a fictionalized setting. There have been tales here and there using fictionalized takes on real life incidents, and if it works for DC, it could work just as well for Marvel. But not with Quesada in charge, however.
Magneto is one of the very few comic characters inextricably tied to a specific real-world event: the Holocaust. His abuse at the hands of Nazis turns him hard and cruel. This real-world event can’t be moved forward in time, and that’s becoming a problem. When Magneto first appeared in 1963 in the pages of “X-Men #1,” he was somewhere in his fifties or sixties. This would have made him a grown man in the death camps. In Bryan Singer’s 2000 film, “X-Men,” Magneto is a boy of 10 or so when he witnesses the horrors of the camps. Magneto’s age in the camps has slowly changed over the years, so that his approximate age in current continuity can stay the same. This fix can only work for so long; Magneto has to at least remember the camps to be formed by them. He will have to have a serious origin change at some point. But part of what makes Magneto such a great villain is his base in real-world historic tragedy.
X-Men founder Professor Charles Xavier’s story will need to be updated as well. His isn’t tied to a specific event, but he has to be roughly the same age as Magneto. They started out as friends with a common goal, and were torn apart by ideology. Their conflict stems from a radically different answer to the question “How should a minority population seek safety and acceptance?”I'm wondering how and why left-wing writers who might happen to side with Magneto's belief systems are making this whole argument in the first place? That could explain why they brought up Lensherr first. But coming from them, it only does a disfavor to blacks, and answers no questions about writing talent. And say, wasn't Xavier established as taking part in a war along with his half-brother, Cain Marko, who later became Juggernaut? It was probably the Korean/Vietnamese war, so that'd only become outdated too.
The best fix for Magneto’s origin problem is to reboot him and Professor X into the heart of the Civil Rights Movement. Have them experience the heartbreak of the historic assassinations as young black men. This reboot would be true to the heart of the characters — X-Men began as a metaphor for segregation. In 1963, America couldn’t openly discuss race in comic form, so the conflict was encoded. “Negroes” became “mutants.” Professor X and Magneto are often interpreted as metaphors for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Having the characters openly admire the historical figures would give Professor X and Magneto the opportunity to argue about the nuances of the their mentors’ philosophies.Isn't metaphorical storytelling just as good? Besides, let us consider that one day, even the Civil Rights Movement premise will become outdated, and they'll have to go to all the trouble thinking of something else. Metaphors are a perfect way to get around all that frustration.
In other words, they could openly talk about race. After 50 years of coded language, it’s time to get real. The Civil Rights Moment needs to become canon.What, didn't Luke Cage ever talk about race relations, openly or not? His own premise involved race relations to some extent. So too in fact was the Falcon's (his ancestors lived in the time of slavery in the 19th century, as noted in Captain America during the mid-70s). Why don't non-X-Men cast members ever matter?
Personally, I’d have Professor X be a follower of Malcolm X, while Magneto hangs with Dr. Martin Luther King. That way, Prof. X sees Malcolm X gunned down, the tragic results of a movement divided. He tries to choose peace. Magneto watches the death of his pacifist hero Dr. King, and rejects nonviolence.Are they serious?!? This doesn't make much sense. And talk about role-reversals! So Charles Xavier would be siding with a villain, and Magneto would be siding with a hero! Now I really do understand why Magneto came up first.
This reboot would open up great new stories, and diversify the comics universe, but it comes with one big problem. Magneto is the most prominent Jewish character in comics. Erasing Jews and the Holocaust from Marvel would be a slap in the face to its founders, many of whom were Jewish. The answer is to make the many other Marvel Jewish characters interact with and respect their heritage and culture more openly. A-list characters like Kitty Pride, Iceman, and the Thing are all Jewish, but it rarely gets mentioned outside of special Christmas issues. There is also no reason that Magneto or Professor X can’t follow in the footsteps of prominent African-American Jews.Oh, it's not like I'd be bothered if writers with real talent wanted to modify the premises with metaphors instead of the real incidents. But none of Marvel's current writing bunch has talent, and far fewer people care today. Naturally, the writer can't think of suggesting new cast members be created if they need to diversify. Changing the racial background of established characters all for the sake of PC-ness, that's what really comes as a slap in the face to past writers and artists. They went to all that hard work on characters whose background isn't even Jewish, and that's how Salon's contributors thank them? Say, how come they don't even call for creating more Danish, Macedonian, Czech, Ghanian, Armenian, French and Portuguese characters in a mainstream superhero world? And if to create more Jewish characters, how come they don't call for creating more of North African background, along with some from Yemen and Iraq? Point: there's no chance today's Marvel staff would ever create a cast member whose family ancestry came from Muslim countries where they were persecuted by sharia, and as a result, Salon's feel-good diplomacy only rings hollow. (By the way, wasn't it established Magneto was at least half-Gypsy? That part seems to elude them.)
And much as I hate to say this, I don't think Kitty Pryde and Iceman have ever been A-listers. The Thing, maybe, but outside the X-books, neither Kitty nor Bobby have found true blockbuster recognition.
At the end, Salon says:
Let’s start demanding a black Magneto, and see what happens.Whatever would happen, you can be sure it wouldn't involve talented scriptwriting. Just a lot of ultra-leftism and other absurd politics that would ultimately come off as a mere botch.