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Monday, February 19, 2018 

Trinity University discusses racial representation in comics with predictable superficiality

The Trinitonian covered a panel held for discussion of how minorities are depicted in the comics at the university, and they even villified the Comicsgate campaign:
In anticipation of the opening of “Black Panther,” the first major film featuring a black superhero protagonist, Trinity Diversity Connection (TDC) hosted a diversity dialogue called “Who Gets to be the Hero?” on Tuesday, Feb. 13.
Everyone who believes in honesty and goodness no matter the race/nationality/ethnicity, of course. But why do just the costumed characters matter? Sometimes, I think a certain segment of society got carried away with the superhero genre, and not enough attention was even placed on the co-stars.
“For specifically black people in America, there’s never really been a representation of black super heroes,” said Nyarko. “Especially with Black Panther being from Wakanda, which is a technologically advanced isolationist fictional African country, it represents everything people of African identity hate about what colonialism did to a lot of African countries — it took them away from that prospective future.”
The cliched assertion there've never been representations of black superheroes turns up again, dampening the impact of valid complaints to be made about the history of what white colonialism did to south Africa. I've cited them before, and will again, there's also John Stewart in Green Lantern, Mal Duncan and Bumblebee in Teen Titans, Luke Cage, Black Lightning, Storm, Misty Knight, 2nd Captain Marvel Monica Rambeau, Vixen, and even the Milestone cast developed by Dwayne McDuffie. The way they put it always comes off sounding like black superheroes come in the thousands and can be met on every street corner across the city.
“This event is part of the ‘Black Panther’ movie showing that TDC is also having; the title of this talk is ‘Who Gets to be a Super Hero?’, so we’re going to discuss representation of race and gender in superheroes, and how society is impacted by who gets to be called a superhero,” said Chiev. “I think it’s super important with how Hollywood and media is getting more representation of minorities, and I think it’s important to discuss it, especially at a school like Trinity, which is majority white.”

About 15 people attended the discussion. Nyarko opened the event.
That's all? Doesn't sound like their meeting had much impact. Besides, don't most of the superpowers in comics usually come by coincidence? Fate, in a fictional world, chooses who gets to be one, we don't get to decide. It's the writers of said fiction who do.
Hughes’ presentation focused on the history of comics, and specifically the portrayal of black superheroes in the industry, going back to the Jackie Ormes comics from 1937.

Hughes noted the racial history of representations in comics, from Whitewash Jones in “Young Allies” and Ebony White in “The Spirit,” both created by white writers, and reflecting dominant racial ideologies of the time.
Wait a minute. Jones and White, superheroes?!? Vigilantes, maybe, but they were not costumed crimefighters. Whitewash was a supporting character in Young Allies and Captain America during the Golden Age, introduced by Stan Lee, while Ebony was a taxi-driving ally of the Spirit in Will Eisner's famous comic strip. What's significant about them historically is that they were both stereotypically illustrated, though on the plus side, they were otherwise treated respectfully, and Ebony acted heroically by helping Denny Colt solve crimes. If the approach to illustrating was the subject, that's one thing, but to say they're superheroes when they were anything but dulls the discussion's edge even more.
Joy Umoekpo, sophomore treasurer of TDC, finds the lack of diverse representation problematic.

“I think it does matter because I think a lot of white people might not know black people,” said Umoekpo. “Just seeing them on TV might break down those stereotypes.”

Other students present at the discussion agreed with Umoekpo’s sentiments.
How many out of 15 did or not? Oh, never mind that. What matters is that there's never been a lack of representation, on the panels or in real life. Christopher Priest (whose actual name is Jim Owsley) was one of the earliest black writers in comicdom, though he's had a pretty hit-or-miss career, as he once stated his jobs in editing demonstrated.
Black presence in the comics industry evolved in the following decades, with Black Panther’s first appearance in the Fantastic Four comics in 1966. These representations still tended to have racialized undertones, such as Luke Cage: Hero for Hire, which started running in 1972.

“Basically it was what white people imagine black people sound like …. It’s a step forward from the images we just saw [Whitewash Jones], but not what we would think of as a powerful and empowering images,” said Hughes. “Structural racism is real, and it’s real in the comics industry.”
What, you mean when Cage would exclaim, "sweet Christmas"? Please, that's just the kind of surrealism you could expect to find in a fictional world filled with science-fantasy. And here, they finally bring up another black hero, created during the boom of blaxploitation films like Richard Roundtree's Shaft. And it was all about an anti-hero who'd been framed for drug trafficking by his former buddy Willis Stryker, who was jealous over his courting of girlfriend Reva Connors, and wound up in a hellish prison at the mercy of a racist sentry where he went into an experiment and got his superhuman powers.

But today, racism in the industry, whatever the form, is not exactly what it could've been decades ago. Today, there's anti-white racism turning up too, and writers like David F. Walker make nasty comments against the audience they apparently don't want. And the panelists don't know a lot of the industry members are on their side? Then again, you couldn't possibly expect these SJWs to care either way. Certainly not after they turn to attacking fan movements trying to protect legacies of established white characters from abuse:
Even now, when writers do try to include racial minorities in comics, they are met with backlash, especially from many of the fans that have long followed the characters, a movement known as #ComicsGate.

He cited people such as John C. Wright and Vox Day, both of whom criticize Marvel and DC for promoting social justice, saying that it supersedes being able to tell a good story.

“Characters come to us with decades of history, and all kinds of legacies that creators feel they need to attend to … [like] taking Peter Parker out of the game and making Spider-Man Miles Morales,” said Hughes. “You do have creators who are doing their best to diversify the space, and you have their fans who are trying their hardest not to let them.”
Umm, Morales, thankfully, hasn't replaced Parker wholesale. That's the good news. The bad news is that writers like Dan Slott have spent nearly a decade doing their damndest to make the stories unreadable. It doesn't take a genius to tell the panelists consider Mary Jane Watson expendable either. This is all you need to know the commentators at Trinity, despite claims to the contrary, aren't fans of the original material, and if not, there's no chance they give a damn about the new material either.
Hughes concluded his discussion by showcasing Lion Forge Comics. This new comics platform included titles that are interconnected, and which are attempting to bring more diversity to comic book worlds by showcasing heroes who are queer, disabled or racial minorities, among other identities.
And that's fine. If it's such a big deal, develop your own comics, for heaven's sake, and better still, push for genuine marketing. But don't insist that legacy characters be artificially replaced by weakly scripted newcomers designed only to appeal to niche audiences without talented writing to accompany them. The article ends with this:
“I wanted to have an event that came before it that helped people understand the importance of Black Panther — going to watch the movie is great, but if you don’t know why people are obsessed about it, then you don’t understand the significance of a movie like that,” Nyarko said. “More people need to show up to TDC — if you’re going to be liberal, and talk about liberalism on campus but you’re not showing up to events that talk about things, you’re fake.”
I think even the panelists are fake. If all they care about is brand new characters in the costume and not the old, they're not and never were dedicated to the art form, nor were they ever grateful to the early pioneers. And since when didn't conservatives ever care about these ideas? Their leftist biases are way too obvious to make their stand work. If only fifteen people really did show up, then while I'm sure there's plenty of liberals who care about the BP movie, which has succeeded at the box office, it's pretty evident not many cared about some speakers on campus with such a narrow view of the world.

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