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Thursday, May 27, 2010 

Racial politics and regression: an argument with a serious flaw

The blogmaster of the Invincible Super-Blog wrote an item on Comics Alliance (via Comics Should be Good) where he's arguing about "regressive storytelling", and the Silver Age heroes coming back, shoving aside their replacements, some of whom are minority group members. I decided I'd have to respond with my own take. I'm sure it won't be perfect, but I'll do my best here to argue why I think he's got a flawed discussion at hand.

If he's dismayed by the death of Ryan Choi, I'll agree there that it certainly didn't have to happen. But while there may be some potential to the whole argument, I'm afraid there's something terribly wrong here too: where is any of the mention of how almost every one of these replacements for the Silver Age protagonists, minority member or otherwise, since the 1990s, has been ushered in after their predecessor was disgraced, as Hal Jordan was in Zero Hour? There's only one non-committal mention given of Identity Crisis, and it's superficial at best, without reminding how some of the miniseries' biggest victims were white (though if memory serves, even the new Mr. Terrific, Michael Holt, who's black, was insulted in that abomination). And here's the big question: did the white cast members really have to be disgraced for the sake of ushering in minority members? Does this mean he's got no problems with Hal's misuse and doesn't want to right a wrong, something Geoff Johns ironically hasn't done?

There's a reason why, until DiDio and Johns came along and messed everything up, Barry Allen was one of the few - maybe the only - Silver Age hero whose death and mantle-passing was ever successful: he was treated like a hero till the end, whereas Hal Jordan, in contrast, was not. If Hal - and much of the rest of the GL Corps - hadn't been trod on so badly, chances are we wouldn't be complaining so much about their departure. (Curiously enough, by contrast, DC may have had more success in replacing some of the Golden Age heroes, Johnny Thunder with Jakeem Thunder, Terry Sloane with Michael Holt as Mr. Terrific, to name but some.)

Then, there's this part, which is flawed and superficial:
"The Good Old Days" have become a driving force in the comics industry in particular and DC Specifically (and Geoff Johns even more specifically, as DC's Creative Director who is personally responsible for regressing Green Lantern, Flash, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Hawkman, Aquaman and others), and it's all built around a desire to recapture a feeling these creators got when they were kids.
First, he's wrong about recapturing the feel of the Silver-Bronze Age. Back then, there may have been deaths, and there may have been signs of bleeding, but the level of violence at the time was nowhere near as jarring as it is now, and usually had more of a point to it than you'll find in today's output. Second, whenever they created a minority group superhero, they usually created them as their own role (i.e-Black Lightning), but weren't hell-bent on making them replacements for the main heroes.

I'm also annoyed by this line:
And much of the time -- not always, but enough that it's more than notable -- they're being passed back from a non-white character to an Aryan ideal.
Good grief, that's a bit strong there to imply that the white protagonists of yore are "aryans"! It's also insulting to the writers who came up with them in the first place, like Gardner Fox and John Broome. And, it's risking criticizing the characters instead of how their written/characterized, something I argued about at least once before in past years. Come to think of it, what he's saying is practically unfair to whites. That's not how to lead an argument.

And I don't think humiliating white protagonists is something even minority members have ever asked for, which is why there's another something to consider: that the degradation of Hal Jordan, Ray Palmer, Jean Loring, Ralph and Sue Dibny, Ted Kord, Ronnie Raymond, among others, could be insulting to minority group members as well.

I also think we've become so utterly concerned about introducing minority group members to replace white heroes that we've neglected to consider that they can make just as effective members of a supporting cast. And if there really need to be minority members in superhero roles, why don't they consider for example...Bulgarians? Why does that never occur to them?

Race has been made too much of an issue already, and it's hurting DC comics more than helping. As far as that goes, I think they have to cut it out.

I don't enjoy that Ryan Choi was killed any more than anyone else does, nor will I if some of these other minority group heroes are killed off too. And I've got nothing against replacing white heroes with minority members either. I just don't believe in disgracing the white superheroes on their way out. And it's a shame that all of a sudden, we seem to have a problem with a faction of readers who're so desperate for minorities to replace the white superheroes in their roles that they're willing to go right along with whatever DC did during Zero Hour and Identity Crisis, etc, all at the white protagonists' expense. And did it ever occur to anyone who calls the Silver Age heroes "dull and devoid of personality" that the same could hold true for minority groups characters? Let us remember: a character's personality can only go as far as the writers do.

The race factor has gotten way out of hand lately. It's time to put it aside and focus on competent writing. But you can be sure that won't happen under Geoff Johns.

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Well, leaving aside the racial politics, it looks like Ray Palmer was brought back so Jean Loring could be vilified again. Ray is made a member of the Indigo tribe for his "compassion" for Jean*, then he got to kill her AGAIN, after she's done all the crazy/evil stuff that MRAs think their ex-wives do.

I don't care what race any particular hero/heroine is, but it would be nice to see comics expand their audience instead of shrinking it by catering to a dying fanbase's fears and prejudices.

*Yeah, he dumped her in Arkham where she was tortured for months while he took a powder--nice "compassion" there, Ray

I think if I were a cheerleader for more minorities in comics, I'd want them to be something more than blackface knockoffs of white heroes (Back Goliath, War Machine, Choi Atom, old new Firestorm, new Blue Beetle, John Henry Irons Steel, etc.).

I think that it is inevitable that almost any actions one may take in life can be construed as being insulting to some number of others in the world. It is the intent though that is the major factor, whether it was the intent to provide such racially motivated insults, for instance.


Steven G. Willis

And now a bit of humor: http://www.letsbefriendsagain.com/comics/2010-05-14.jpg

I don't think Chris was arguing racism here, although a few other reviewers ran with that ball. Having done two articles on that article myself, I think it was more a case of him realizing that all the "diversity" DC wanted when they destroyed the namesake predecessors is being tossed out, so that there won't be as much racial diversity. That makes all the character assassination (sometimes literally) pointless and throws some potentially interesting characters under the bus, not to mention ones that could bring in more readers.

It's an unintended byproduct of DC's current mentality to bring back and "improve" (note the quotation marks) old characters rather than move the universe forward.

My full thoughts:


I agree with Avi; DC and Marvel have both lost me in recent years due to their pandering to mulitculturalism. The writer of the Comics Alliance article is clearly misguided in his attempts to insiuate that replacing minority characters (who are often introduced in a very,very heavy-handed way) has something to do with Aryanism... it is quite insulting to the Silver Age comics creators to suggest they were Nazis. Also, the Silver Age characters may have been returned to the modenr day, but the ideals certainly have not been.


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