White Is The New Black

IGN has launched a mini-site dedicated to DC’s Green Lantern event, Blackest Night. The main villain of Geoff John’s epic is Black Hand, who is actually a white guy called William Hand.

Blackest Night Ad

That got me thinking, after watching a recent DVD purchase. I grew up watching Super Friends, and then Super Powers, so nostalgia led me to Amazon. On the Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show DVD there’s a neato feature on the ethnicity of the new characters they introduced. That would be Samurai, El Dorado, Apache Chief and Black Vulcan. They were all original characters created for the cartoon series and were unfortunately quite stereotypical.

There’s a lot of African, or African-American comic characters who have the word Black in their name. Black Panther, Black Lightning, Black Manta and many more. On the flip side of the coin, there’s also many characters who have colours in their names that aren’t related to their race. Green (Lantern, Arrow), Blue (Beetle) and Crimson (Dynamo) are just a few examples. However, there’s not many Black-named characters who aren’t black. I can only think of three – Black Hand and Marvel’s Black Bolt, and Black Tom Cassidy. Come to think of it comics’ first well known character, Yellow Kid was Caucasian, so perhaps there’s some historical reasoning. I’m not trying to make a statement, but as evidenced by this DC Comics survey from 1970 asking if readers would be interested in stories about “black people,” ¬†comics really are a reflection of their times, for better or worse. Oh, and thanks to Brain Cronin (who I interviewed here) for pointing the survey out in his latest Comic Book Legends Revealed column. Actually I can’t remember the last time a Black-named character was created. Those that do exist were created in more un-PC days. It’s just an interesting thought.

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2 Comments

  1. Whats interesting now is that certain internal censorship bodies won’t allow creators to depict any racial minority in anything even resembling a derogatory fashion. Which means no black villains, no black criminals (except in a multiracial gang) etc. If you want to have a black villain, you have to include a black heroic character appear regularly in his stories.

    As for black heroic characters, they’re not usually allowed to have any negative characteristics either. Consider interesting heroes with negative personality traits: Wolverine’s aggressiveness, Batman’s paranoia, Tony Stark’s alcoholims, etc.

    The result has been a series of very one-dimensionally ‘heroic’ PLAIN and DULL black characters. Not just in comics, have a look at most shows for a younger age group, with an ensemble cast of characters, and typically the ‘black’ character will be virtually without description. They’ll just be ‘good’, but there’s not much more you can say about them.

    Erik Larsen went into some detail on it when he was describing his problems with getting Savage Dragon made into a tv series. Wish I could find that interview.

    I’m not sure how I feel about this… Clearly its a case of self-censorship gone too far, but sadly its required, considering that there ARE media sources and overly sensitive civil-rights groups who will spin anything in order to attract attention to their own cause.

    Clearly the racial minority youth in any country need to see themselves represented in their heroic characters, and I think minority superheroes are a must, but seriously, Dudley Do-Right in blackface is just insulting.

    • Hmmm…interesting, and scary. Come to think of it -Luke Cage and Black Lightning spring to mind and their only fault is righteous anger.
      Kris


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