Friday, May 14, 2010

Counterweight: It's What's Missing That Matters

"It feels like someone's missing."

Take a look at a scene from the recent Brightest Day#1:

Ok, brown-skinned slavers holding a boat full of white children prisoner? Not completely impossible, but highly unlikely. Also, nice of the writers to add the specter of child rape to the proceedings. Way to stay classy, DC!

Luckily, before anything creepier happens, they're rescued by....

...a white couple.

Ok, I'll grant you that it's Aquaman, and fighting sea crime is, well, his entire deal. And it's not like this would be an ideal setting for Static, an electricity-powered hero.

But then there's this gentleman's reaction:

I won't show the rest, but suffice it to say he does not take it well.

So brown-skinned people aren't exactly shown in the , uh, brightest light in those scenes, but black people can be shown as villains, too. But there's a counterweight, right? A dark-skinned hero in the story that serves to balance those villains? Well, no.

Sure, there's Jason Rusch, who is intangible, mostly invisible, disembodied floating head. And that's it.

And therein lies the problem, not just with Brightest Day, but with the Big Two in general. Why the dearth of brown-skinned and other minority superheroes?

Well, part of the problem involves the recent dumping of key minority legacy characters in favor by their white predecessors, a practice that's been touched upon in some well-written columns by Chris Sims , Cheryl Lynn Eaton, and ShadowWing Tronix, as well as an expletive-filled rant by yours truly. Look how easily Ryan Choi got dispatched in favor of the classic white (now with 100% more torture) Ray Palmer. Or consider the Legion of Super-Heroes, whose racial makeup has recently been regressed to the Tyroc days. No black Star Boy, no Kid Quantum, no XS, not even the Foccart siblings.

Sure, that covers the legacy characters, but how have non-legacy minority heroes been faring recently?

The answer is: Not too well.

Bill "Goliath" Foster was brought back during Civil War, only to be killed off by a Tony Stark-engineered Thor clone. No, really. And he was buried at his funeral at giant size - in chains - because Hank Pym (albeit a Skrull version) and regular Microverse visitor Reed Richards somehow couldn't shrink him down.

Vixen? Not only is she currently on the sidelines nursing a broken leg, but over the last few years her name was used as a euphemism for "whitewashing" black comic book characters.

Misty Knight? Speaking of whitewashing....

Pantha's head went a-rolling after Superboy Prime decapitated her.

Milestone? More like "millstone" in DC's eyes. All DC seemed to give a damn about was Static, and now even Virgil is on the sidelines.

It's kind of like the "Women In Refrigerators" syndrome. Sure, maybe male and female heroes get killed off in similar numbers, but it's proportionately worse for the women heroes because there were substantially fewer of them to begin with, thus creating a bigger loss with each "fridging".

The same thing applies to minority characters and their fans. Without a sufficient counterweight in the form of fully-realized heroes, the affronts seen above seem that much heavier.


At 3:32 PM , Anonymous ShadowWing Tronix said...

The "gentleman" "not taking it well" (I've seen the actual scene and all I can say is Brightest Day my [expletives]) is Black Manta, one of Aquaman's old rouges gallery who suddenly became black in the 70's because...his name was "Black..". You know, like Green Arrow. Hang on...

Anyway, he's suffering the same situation as Barry Allen's old Flash rouges. Apparently they're only evil when their particular hero is alive.

There is such a thing as a white slave trade, but from what I hear it usually involves a prostitution ring and never children that young, so it's still stupid.

At 6:42 AM , Blogger notintheface said...

I knew it was Manta even before he killed those people, let alone revealed himself.

"Black guy looking really pissed off that Aquaman's back" was enough foreshadowing for me since the only black nemeses Arthur has are Manta and Charybdis (the guy who's responsible for Aquaman losing his hand in the 90's but who has never appeared since). I just didn't reveal it in my post.

By the way, that would seem to make that slaughter scene completely unnecessary, wouldn't it?

I used "this gentleman" because I always use phrases like that before I set up an image. It's just a writing tic I have.

I enjoyed your earlier post, BTW.

At 10:43 AM , Anonymous ShadowWing Tronix said...

I noticed when I saw my blog stats. :) Thanks for the link.

Actually, it seems like Chris' article has caused quite a stir on the net. The hard part is if there is even blame to be given, much less who's responsible.

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