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Monday, June 22, 2020 

More examples of review sites sugarcoating Marvel's race-baiting 2003 Truth: Red White & Black

It looks like Heidi MacDonald's politically motivated backing for Robert Morales and Kyle Baker's insulting denigration of Captain America, The Truth: Red, White & Black, was just the beginning, as now, her insufferable propaganda site with very few redeeming values has published another puff piece by a different contributor clearly using the post-George Floyd riots as an excuse for additional denigration of Jack Kirby and Joe Simon's legacy, proving they were never fans of the material to start with:
The Marvel Rundown is once again looking at another milestone story from Marvel’s past. This week, amidst the past few weeks of widespread civil unrest over police brutality against black people in America, we’re looking at the 2003 series Truth: Red, White & Black. The series was recently made free to read digitally by Marvel, and we take a look at the role the story plays in the history of the Marvel Universe, and what it can tell readers about the black experience.
I'm not sure what a story laced with sci-fi elements can tell that a history account based more along the lines of facts couldn't. Not to mention one that bore more serious artwork than what this ludicrous miniseries does. Clearly, we're missing something here.
With Marvel putting a spotlight on marginalized voices by offering 100 digital comics by black creators for free, I took the advice of The Beat founder Heidi MacDonald and checked out a series I’d heard of but never read: Truth: Red, White, & Black. The seven-issue miniseries by Robert Morales, Kyle Baker, and Wes Abbott follows a battalion of black soldiers who undergo experiments in an attempt to recreate the super-soldier serum that previously turned Steve Rogers into Captain America.
Ah, so he's basically taking his cues from the head honcho of this insufferable site, who, as discovered before, has suddenly, out of the blue decided she's taking sides with a loathsomely illustrated tale coming at the expense of a fictional icon whose creators - and even early writers like Stan Lee - worked hard to build up in the first place. Tsk tsk. I seem to recall back in the day, even some leftists were distancing themselves from the book because they realized that in the long run, it doesn't hold up and there's no way to reconcile it with the original continuity first established in the Golden Age.
The three focal characters of the series — Isaiah Bradley, Maurice Canfield, and Sgt. Lucas Evans — provide a look at the varying circumstances for blacks in different positions of society, and the physical and psychological transformations the three undergo as the series progresses are striking. These are characters who are viewed as sub-human, not only by the Nazis they’re fighting in the field but also by their white superior officers, and are treated as such. The experiments performed upon them, and their subsequent utilization as weapons for the military, slowly strip each of these men (and the others in their company) of their personalities, and even of their unique physical features as the series progresses.
Sounds like quite a work of moral equivalence, and all without even laying a millimeter of criticism upon Franklin Roosevelt, a Democrat who, as POTUS at the time, was mainly responsible for allowing segregated army battalions and it wasn't until Harry Truman came along that the policy was fully reversed. And what's this about "unique" physical features in this comic, when much of the art is dreadful and teeters on the stereotypical? For example, the panel on the side from the 1st issue, set in a Cleveland pool hall, sporting art that makes the men seen in it look like they have large mouths? If the artist were white, this definitely wouldn't pass muster with anybody. It's not an intelligent way to portray blacks in a story that's allegedly serious in nature.
Morales and Baker show the three characters struggle in numerous ways throughout the series. They watch their fellow soldiers die as a result of the experiments. They take on more dangerous missions without receiving any of the adulation — or even acknowledgement of their existence — that the white Steve Rogers gets for his exploits. Every day is a struggle for respect and recognition. When Bradley finds himself the last soldier left on a mission into a Nazi camp that was supposed to team the three soldiers with Rogers himself, Bradley’s white superiors are more than okay with sending him alone on an apparent suicide mission. It’s only when he borrows a spare Captain America uniform and wears it into the field that they have a problem with what he’s doing, ultimately court-martialing and convicting Bradley for stealing the suit. As soon as he tries to be equal to a white person — and he is more than an equal for Steve Rogers already at that point both in terms of physical ability and character — he’s made to pay for it.
Well I think we can figure out why this roach of a miniseries was posted for free viewing recently by Marvel. It only wants to depict US society as no better than the National Socialists in Germany, and act as though Abe Lincoln's efforts to abolish slavery doesn't deserve gratitude. And as though Cap's teaming with the Falcon in the 70s wasn't worth gratitude either. Some way to show appreciation for Lee, along with Kirby and Simon, that's for sure. Also, look at this other panel from the 1st issue, where we see a judge in Philadelphia upholding charges against one of the African-American protagonists for opposing the war efforts, and demanding he serve the country's interests to avoid jail time instead. This is clearly one way the authors had of instilling anti-war sentiment and support for the same into the book.
Kyle Baker is an artist whose work I was primarily familiar with from the Plastic Man series he wrote and drew in the mid-‘00s, which was, to say the least, different in tone than this series was. After reading Truth, I need to go back and read more of his work. His storytelling is exceptional, particularly when it comes to his color work, which adds so much mood and emotion to the story. I worried initially that Baker’s cartoony style might detract in some way from what I imagined would be a pretty heavy story, and I’m glad to say my fears were for naught.

And make no mistake: this is a heavy story. But it’s also a necessary one, adding powerful depth and nuance to the early days of one of Marvel’s cornerstone superheroes. The role Steve Rogers plays in this series, particularly his presence in its final issues, can serve as a model for white audiences of how to take in the stories of people other than themselves. The ability to listen is one you don’t need a super-soldier serum to possess.
I guess Lincoln never listened, huh? Does the clown who penned this grimy embrace of a screed also think the crazy convict seen near the end - a comics store owner who's in prison on charges of murder, terrorism and racism (he's alleged to be the same man who murdered the scientist who gave Cap his powers, in a bizarrely muddled moment in this spiteful garbage), and asks Cap to sign a copy of Jon Ney Reiber's disastrous Marvel Knights imprint run, which actually makes for a bizarre contradiction as it was all developed to be blame-America propaganda - is somebody who deserves to be listened to as well? Oh wait, that's right, since that character in the cell was meant to be a stand-in for a Marvel fan, that's why such characters, according to the twisted logic of the writers, aren't meant to be listened to. Isn't that something. Did I mention Axel Alonso was the editor of the miniseries?

There's more by the end that's disturbing too, such as these panels, which serve as pro-Islamic propaganda:
Some propagandists sure know how to think of everything possible to stuff into a miniseries, no matter the length, my my. And they conveniently ignore the history of black slavery in Islamic countries, a serious issue that's still around today, including in places like Tanzania. Yet all that matters is the United States of America, and nowhere else. Such a mentality reeks of selectivity, and it's horrific how they stealth-promote Islam as the perfect role model for everyone.

What's particularly telling is that the puff-piece writer clearly decided that, no matter how inappropriate the art style is for what we thought was supposed to be a serious topic and focus, he's going to embrace it anyway. This is in contrast to what some reviewers over 15 years ago thought, when even the most leftist, as mentioned before, found it embarrassing. Let's take for example, this old review from Comics Bulletin, which, while the writer seems to hint he's okay with the premise, he admits that in execution it's awful. For example:
...After six issues, we’re treated to almost a full half issue of horribly clunky exposition that served to confuse the hell out of yours truly. Apparently, the U.S. government was working with the German government (before they were Nazis) to keep white bloodlines pure. Hitler got anxious to see results, thereby starting a “Serum Race” to see who could create the first Super Soldier.
Needless to say, this is repellent writing, no matter how you look at it, and the way the US government is implicated in the story is horrifically forced. Especially as they don't seem to call out FDR for his denigrating mindset, nor do they clearly acknowledge Democrats could do something bad at the time.
Kyle Baker’s art on this series is the worst I think I have ever seen in a comic, and this issue is no exception. I don’t mind cartoony art as long as it’s consistent, and in no way, shape or form could you call this series consistent. In the beginning he has Cap striding around a cemetery (and there’s a difference between striding and walking) while talking to Price, and there’s a moment where Rogers is supposed to look surprised, only it looks like Cap’s about to throw his shield at the old man. Basically all Cap does this issue (besides listen to others drone on and on) is strike poses that are inappropriate for the situation.

Once Rogers gets to Bradley’s apartment, things don’t get much better. The characters are still inhumanly disfigured, but it looks like Baker at least tried to make them look decent (except that he sometimes forgets to draw those stupid wings on the sides of Cap’s head). What really got to me was the two-page spread near the end of the book featuring a wall of photos picturing Bradley and various famous people. It wasn’t until this moment that I was aware Baker could actually draw, as most of the people in the pictures are recognizable. If Baker can draw like this, why hasn’t he been doing it the whole time? Why were the previous issues so bad? I’m sorry; I just don’t buy the idea that it was an artistic choice.
Even Rob Liefeld never drew as repulsively as seen in this monstrosity. And see, this shows that, when this miniseries first debuted in 2003, there were those on the left who weren't going to sell themselves to political correctness just for the sake of a story that denigrates what was meant to be an inspiring sci-fi adventure creation. So in the end, we see competently drawn figures in photographs amidst all the misshapen figures? Indeed, what's going on here? If this was supposed to be serious drama, why wasn't it illustrated as such? Why were the main protagonists made to look sub-human throughout much of the proceedings with very few exceptions?

It goes without saying the writers for Comics Beat have deliberately ignored the history of Steve Rogers' creation, which includes the following to consider:
After weeks of tests, Rogers was at last administered the Super-Soldier serum. Given part of the compound intravenously and another part orally, Rogers was then bombarded by "vita-rays," a special combination of exotic (in 1941) wavelengths of radiation designed to accelerate and stabilize the serum's effect on his body. Steve Rogers emerged from the vita-ray chamber with a body as perfect as a body can be and still be human. A Nazi spy who observed the experiment murdered Dr. Erskine mere minutes after its conclusion. Erskine died without fully committing the Super-Soldier formula to paper, leaving Steve Rogers the Sole beneficiary of his genius.
So it makes little difference whether the black soldiers in Morales and Baker's miniseries were used as guinea pigs in experiments leading up to Steve's testing, or whether they were given serum as a followup to the experiment Steve underwent, bewilderingly scripted as it all was - the point is that the premise used in the 2003 embarrassment does not coincide with the original continuity, and is only manipulated for the sake of denigrating not only Kirby/Simon's tale, but also assaulting the whole effort of the Allies during WW2 by depicting the US army as inherently racist from top to bottom. Thinking about this, I'm shaking my head in disbelief at how the late Martin Pasko could've once said he considers MacDonald "credible" when she and her Leninist useful idiots stoop to monstrosities like this, recalling an incredibly stupid post Pasko wrote on Facebook I'd noticed 3 years ago. When here, she goes along and embraces anti-American propaganda coming and going at Kirby/Simon/Lee's expense. This is precisely why I've come to find her propaganda site so unbearable.

And Comics Beat's not the only one. While doing some research, I also came across another puff piece on Multiversity Comics, which employs much of the same approach:
Baker utilizes his signature highly cartoonified style throughout the entire story, which some might think devalues the seriousness of the story. At first, the art’s expressiveness adds a human layer to our characters when we witness their pre-war lives. It continues to humanize them and bring their rich emotional lives to the surface as they go to war, but things soon take a turn. When the experiments start and heads start exploding, the cartoons turn messy and horrific. To me, Baker’s cartooning made the story all that much more unsettling, shocking because of the juxtaposition.

Contradictorily, the violence and tragedy is so real that only something as exaggerated as Baker’s art could get close to depicting its feeling. Also of note, Cap (the white one) is only ever drawn in his costume, which is made to look completely ridiculous by Baker. And that’s because it is ridiculous. It’s absolutely absurd to have this perfect icon of America running around when its messy history lurks behind the next page. [...]

Today, 15 years later, I genuinely can not believe that Marvel published this. There was some backlash when the book was announced which ultimately got replaced by thoughtful conversations about the work and its implications. Which leads me to consider: What would today’s knee-jerk reactionary internet culture say if this book were being released now? If the book was derided before the first issue’s release back then, imagine how deeply its creators would be harassed today. Would the resulting thoughtful conversations even happen? And that leads to greater questions: In the last 15 years, have we taken a step back in terms of our openness to re-examining our own history? And has that led to a closing-off of understanding the issues of today?
Well at least that end question is worth pondering. As a matter of fact, there are blacks on the left end of the political spectrum, for example, who'd find the art as galling as anybody else who feels it's not how to approach what are considered serious issues. And there was negative feedback even after the book went to press, as the Bulletin review I posted makes clear. Personally, I genuinely cannot believe the above site would post something so rejecting of Kirby/Simon/Lee's hard work, after all they did to offer everybody the best possible entertainment product over the years. Do they think Superman looks ridiculous too? Wonder Woman? Black Panther? This "review" is truly disgusting, and I'm losing respect for Multiversity as much as for the Comics Beat site. Even Sequart seems to embrace the same politically correct line, with the following disgust:
Amidst this flurry of activity, Morales and Baker presented a radically revisionist take on Captain America’s origin. Truth does what no version of Captain America has ever really done. It totally rethinks the Captain America project in a realistic, logical, and historically-sound manner. Morales and Baker identify the implausibility of Steve Rogers being the first test subject for the experimental super soldier serum, recognizing that any preliminary tests would’ve likely utilized more marginalized, less represented test subjects. In other words, they posit that the serum would’ve first been tested on African-American soldiers.

It’s bold, revisionist thinking, and not just because it’s plausible. Lots of things are plausible. Cap surviving for years in a frozen block of ice is … plausible (maybe). But the Captain America origin detailed in Truth is more than just plausible. It’s likely. Having a regiment of African-American soldiers experimented on and then discarded as preparation for the unveiling of the blonde-haired, “all-American” Steve Rogers is far more than just plausible, interesting, or challenging. It, more than any other revised version of a popular character’s origin, is almost what had to have happened. Once you’ve seen it you can’t un-see it.
"Realism". So that's their justification. Along with villification of every blond haired guy around. And they basically reject the whole concept of science fiction, along with even the simpler idea of hamsters, rats and guinea pigs serving as test subjects in real life, which shows just how dishonest their whole take on the issue really is. Above all, however, they refuse to recognize that Kirby/Simon's fictional story is just that - a fictional story built on science fiction and fantasy elements, to say nothing of surrealism. They also show no genuine thanks to those honest politicians and military officials who gave it their all during WW2. This is what decades of leftist indoctrination at universities and such has resulted in.
No one seems to talk about Truth much anymore, and Marvel didn’t even bother collecting it into a single volume until 2009. I’m not sure if the story itself remains in continuity or not. [...]
They did quietly drop it years ago, in a way that would seemingly suggest they were willing to back away from the embarrassment it represents. But they replaced it shortly before Alonso left Marvel with that whole Steve-as-Nazi/Hydra agent atrocity. While many of the same people apologizing for that roach of a story are going out of their way in the years since to sugarcoat the 2003 abomination as the absolute best thing to come down the pike in any era. If Truth: Red, White & Black is out of print now, there's surely a reason for that. It wasn't very successful then financially, which could explain why it took 6 years to reprint, though I honestly don't see the point any more than DC reprinting Gerard Jones' shoddy run on Green Lantern in the early 90s. In hindsight, I can understand why, when the 2 Emerald Dawn miniseries and first 8 issues of Jones' run were reprinted as far back as 2003, it never seemed to get any further than that. Basically, Jones flooded them with too much of his divisive politics, which is exactly the problem with Morales and Baker's insult to the intellect.

What's really sad is that, if some leftists in comicdom are talking about Marvel's Kirby/Simon-humiliating miniseries now, it's because they believe the current political climate will give them the cover they need to promote something intended to destroy the reputation of an icon along with the famous creators who worked hard to develop Cap in the first place. They don't even care that Lee worked hard to create the Falcon years before either. This is exactly what's wrong with the specialty news sites today. They have no respect for veterans of the past.

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They didn’t wait 6 years to put Truth in book form. The trade paperback came out less than a year after the periodicals, in 2004; it was the hardcover that came out 6 years later in 2009.

If you look at the appendices included in the book version, you can see that Morales grounded the story in historical research.

The book was not as groundbreaking as it seems to some. The idea that black people were used as guinea pigs for superpower experiments was there in the Luke Cage books, in the origin and later when Don McGregor showed that there had been failed experiments along that line before Lucas. Morales, like McGregor, was basing his fiction on the example of the infamous Tuskegee experiments, when black Alabamans with syphilis were left untreated by US government medical researchers over the course of 40 years in order to study the effects of untreated syphillis on the human body.

The complicated description of Captain America’s origin that you give, and to which you say Morales was not being faithful, is actually a retroactive revision. In the original stories, Steve Rogers was made Captain America by giving him an injection. When it came time to retell the story in the 1960s, the Comics Code would not allow that, so Jack Kirby had him drink the formula in a fuzzy concoction instead; and in a subsequent retelling 3 years later, had him be subject to vita-rays. Stan Lee smoothed over the difference by saying that he drank the formula off panel before being exposed to the rays.

In drawing black superheros, you walk a line between just making them white people with flat noses, on the one hand, and the racist caricatures of the 1940s, on the other. Kyle Baker’s work leans on the cartoony side, but the exaggeration goes off in a whole different direction from the old stereotypes.


“It only wants to depict US society as no better than the National Socialists in Germany, and act as though Abe Lincoln's efforts to abolish slavery doesn't deserve gratitude. And as though Cap's teaming with the Falcon in the 70s wasn't worth gratitude either.”

Where do you even begin to explain why it is so wrong to phrase it this way? Abraham Lincoln was obviously a black icon for many years after the war; that is why Abraham and Lincoln began to seem like stereotypical names for black men over the years. But be grateful to the US as a country for abolishing slavery? Don’t forget, the US maintained that peculiar institution long after it was abolished in the rest of the English-speaking world. Wouldn’t it be sort of like being grateful to the bully when he stops slamming his fist into your face? Or saying thank you to the 9/11 terrorists for not hitting the White House along with the Twin Towers? Gratitude to Lincoln, and to many other courageous Americans, black and white, yes; to US society, no.

And grateful for Cap’s teaming with the Falcon? Expecting gratitude in that context itself comes across as really condescending. Stan would have been the first to say he doesn’t expect gratitude for something like that.

>Don’t forget, the US maintained that peculiar institution long after it was abolished >in the rest of the English-speaking world.

Which is only the case because Britain and Canada didn't have large scale agricultural assets which would have been significantly reduced by the elimination of slavery. They did, however eagerly buy the South's slave cultivated and picked cotton before the civil war and any they could get even after the northern blockade. Also consider this: the slaves brought into the US had been captured by other blacks or Muslims and used and abused as slaves in that context. Unfortunately, slavery ended in the rest of the world only when it became economically dis-advantageous due to the industrial revolution. The US ended it on moral grounds when it wasn't. 500,000 dead and the southern half of the country in a virtual depression for 100 years.

The British Empire's sugar industry was heavily dependent on slave labor at the time slavery was abolished. The West Indies sugar plantations were significantly affected.

The slaves sold to America from Africa were not generally people who had already been slaves in Africa. The demand was too high to be satisfied that way. They were more often people captured or conquered by rulers of other African nations for the purpose of trade. It was the American demand for slaves that drove their capture, until the trade was abolished and Americans could only legally buy American slaves. Even then, illegal slave-running from Africa did occur. The last comment makes it sound like slavery in the US was not so bad because those enslaved guys would have been enslaved in one country or another, and that was not the case.

Arab nations had African slaves, but I don't believe many were brought into the US from the Middle East, or that Muslims sold slaves to the Americans.

According to a comment up above, "Unfortunately, slavery ended in the rest of the world only when it became economically dis-advantageous due to the industrial revolution. The US ended it on moral grounds when it wasn't. 500,000 dead and the southern half of the country in a virtual depression for 100 years."

Don't forget, when trying to reckon the price in lives of ending slavery, that it was the South that started the Civil War, by seceding from the Union and then launching the first military blow by attacking a Union garrison at Fort Sumter.

The 100 year depression is a bit of an exaggeration; but remember that about 45% of the population of the Confederacy were slaves, and over 60% of the rural population. Even with a depression, the average lifestyle of southerners improved after the war because, you know, so many of them no longer had to work without pay for people who had the right to beat and torture them and were able to get away with killing them.

Slavery was an early example of the elite getting richer by bringing in immigrants who will work for nothing to take away jobs from ordinary Americans. A big difference was that they paid to get the immigrants, and brought them in in chains.

"Sounds like quite a work of moral equivalence, and all without even laying a millimeter of criticism upon Franklin Roosevelt, a Democrat who, as POTUS at the time, was mainly responsible for allowing segregated army battalions and it wasn't until Harry Truman came along that the policy was fully reversed."

Roosevelt is a mixed bag that way. Under pressure from black voters, and probably from his wife, he did ban discrimination in defence industry hiring, and set up the military flight training programs at black colleges that led to the Tuskegee airmen; he also allowed more black men to serve as combat troops rather than just support personnel. He did not desegregate the army, but his administration took steps in that direction, at a time when everything from education to water fountains was fully segregated in many parts of the country. Truman did not "fully reverse" Roosevelt policies; he took a few more steps in the same direction.

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