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Thursday, May 10, 2018 

NY Vulture thinks O'Neil/Adams run on Green Lantern/Arrow was "woke"

I almost missed this absurd article on NY Vulture, which tells everybody that historically, GL/GA was a moment where superhero comics became the new leftist code word - "woke":
At the time, Green Lantern sales had been down in the dumps, and this page helped turn its fortunes around, launching the series to acclaim and unprecedented mainstream media attention. Adams is proud of the page’s message — and just as proud of his draughtsmanship. “People were taught to draw white people and call them black people because they drew their hair a little kinky,” he says. “But that guy is a black guy. You have to draw black people different just like you have to draw Asians different. People are different from one another. That’s what makes the world good. That’s what makes the world great.”
Of course it's great when you can draw racial groups to resemble what they can look like in real life well. But while GL/GA's fortunes were boosted when their 1970-73 run began, it soon lost ground and was cancelled as an ongoing by the end of 1972, with the last story published as a backup in the Flash's series. So while it did have its moments, it still didn't work as well as they hoped, probably because after a while, the approach became far too much, with only so many political-style elements being shoved in, it was perceived as heavy-handed. Interestingly, here's what Adams said about his experiences in his younger years:
Adams, a Jewish Brooklynite born in 1941, recalls thinking he wasn’t prejudiced until he saw the city beyond his native Coney Island: “I pretended that I was liberal, I pretended that I understood,” he says. “And then you’d go through Harlem and it’s, ‘What are you doing here, white boy?’ And how did that happen? Excuse me, you’re just another guy, right? But you happen to have darker skin and you’re treating me like I put you there. And guess what? I did. I did put you there. That was the reality.”
But did he really think the entire white race was to blame for the hardships of the black community? Not so, and besides, wasn't it Abe Lincoln, a Republican president, who saw to it the blacks would be free of the slavery in the southern states during the 19th century? If anything, why not ask whether Democrats at the time were as negligent as Republicans allegedly were in dealing with poverty in black societies in the 20th?
The industry they ended up in wasn’t a whole lot better in terms of diversity. At the dawn of the ’70s, comics was still primarily a white man’s game. There had been talented black and mixed-race creators over the years, but they were very much the exception, and there wouldn’t be a full-time black superhero comics writer until the early 1980s. Depictions of black people on the page were also lacking. Sure, you had the hypercompetent Black Panther, but he didn’t even have his own series. More often than not, if you saw someone with dark skin in a superhero title, they were a random street tough. On the rare occasions when creators addressed racism, it was in simplistically Manichean terms: the good guys virtuously spouted generic up-with-people rhetoric and the racists were sinister hatemongers like, well, Hate-Monger, a Marvel Comics villain who was literally Hitler.
Sigh. The above isn't very accurate either, if we take Power Man and Iron Fist into consideration, along with Storm in the X-Men, and even Master of Kung Fu from 1973-83, if anybody's wondering about Asian protagonists. Those series stand out as sustained successes, so they count very well, even if the writer of the piece must not think so. And Black Panther did have his own series in the 70s, starting in Jungle Action and continuing in the late 70s with his own self-titled book. Similarly, Black Lightning made his debut around the same time with his own at DC. And if anybody's wondering about Asian protagonists with their own series, there's Master of Kung Fu starring Shang-Chi from 1973-83. And then, when they get around to discussing the time GL/GA was cancelled, all they can say is:
And then, as casually as the whole thing had come together, it dissipated. O’Neil and Adams — who, even at the height of the media circus, still hardly saw each other and rarely discussed stories — moved on to other projects and the Green Lantern / Green Arrow era was over. But its impact resonated in the years and decades that followed. A precedent had been set for superhero comics to address that “hideous moral cancer” that Oliver had talked about, and publishers and creators made repeated attempts to recapture that social relevance. Sometimes, the results were thrilling (Black Panther’s 1976 battle with the KKK, written by Don McGregor and penciled by Billy Graham, for example); other efforts are best left on the dustheap of history (a rape story line in Ms. Marvel leaps to mind, then leaps right out again).
How come they don't state clearly that the GL/GA series was cancelled, and GL relegated to a backup in the Flash for at least 3 years before they decided to resume, reuniting him with Green Arrow again, and Denny O'Neil returning to write the series at least till 1980? And how come they said BP didn't have his own series at the time, when he did more or less, just in two different formats? But hey, I can agree the whole Ms. Marvel exploited by Marcus Immortus story in Avengers was otherwise ill-advised, and Chris Claremont did have a good idea to fix things as best as possible soon after.
The legacy of the run that began with Green Lantern No. 76 can be felt today in a bevy of progressive-minded superhero tales, from the nuanced religious tolerance of the rebooted Ms. Marvel to the pointed diversity of Lion Forge’s Catalyst Prime lineup. [...]
Ah, so this is their little game now, is it? Try to insinuate the O'Neil/Adams writings from their time literally led to all these modern ultra-leftist screeds serving as apologia for Islam and anti-white racism? Please. Let's not hijack past products, whatever their merits or not, for the sake of today's embarrassments.

So let me make one thing clear - the GL/GA stories reflected the times they were written in, and to say they were the flat-out inspiration for today's tripe is no help. Besides, back at that time, the stark difference is that comics involving political themes usually were more nuanced than today's blatantly overt productions, where the biases are in plain view for everyone to see, as the politics in Captain America these past few years demonstrated, and likely will again with Ta-Nehisi Coates now in charge of Cap's book.

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The early 1970s GL/GA run was part of the "relevance" fad in TV, movies, and comics at that time. But DC was following a trend; they did not start it.

Marvel had done stories dealing with social issues, such as racism, in the 1960s (e.g., Avengers #32 and #33). And DC had begun emulating Marvel as early as 1967-68. JLA #57 had an anti-racism theme. (It was admittedly heavy-handed and corny, but the point is that they were trying to deal with such issues before 1970).

GL/GA did a drug abuse story, but only after Marvel had dealt with the same subject in Spider-Man.

O'Neil and Adams deserve credit for restoring Batman's Dark Knight image after the camp comedy fad passed. But, IMHO, their GL/GA stuff was pretentious and preachy.

DC pioneered relevance in the 1940s, with stories in the Justice Society about street gangs and about prejudice, or Superman stories about wife-beating and exploitation of mine workers and fighting on behalf of the wrongfully convicted. Marvel, or Timely, had its share of relevant stories back then too.

In the 60s, the Teen Titans did a story about juvenile prison reform, for example, in 1966.

I thought the GL/GA stories got better as the series went on; the last few issues were much better at integrating the message with the story. It got cancelled partly because Adams missed a deadline on his last issue, requiring a reprint fill in issue.

I believe the word you and NY Vulture are looking for is "weak", not "woke".

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