Archive for Race Issues

History Under the Mask

Cap-Truth

Truth: Red, White & Black

I’ve had a mind to review this one for ages, and African American History Month seems like a great time to do it. This was a seven-issue series published by Marvel back in 2003. It was written by the late Robert Morales and illustrated by Kyle Baker. It made a lot of racist douchegoblins really mad back in the day, so I figure it’s certainly worth reading.

Our setup here is that, after Steve Rogers becomes Captain America and Professor Erskine, the secretive creator of the Super-Soldier formula, is killed, the military is desperate to recreate the formula. And since they have almost no idea what was in the formula, they have to experiment with a lot of different concoctions, and they have to experiment on people they don’t give a damn about. So a bunch of black soldiers get recruited into the program, injected with variations of the formula, and die by the score.

“Why, that’s ridiculous! Black people would never be experimented on like that! All lives matter!”

To which, all you really have to say is Tuskegee. Which went on for 40 years, primarily for the sake of plain ol’ meanness.

Anyway, of the 300 men inducted into the new Super-Soldier program, only six survive, and are gifted with increased strength, stamina — and often, significant disfiguring mutations. They’re sent on dangerous missions against the Nazis, and over time, a combination of battlefield casualties and deaths from the unstable Super-Soldier formulas whittles their number down to just one — Isaiah Bradley. Frustrated by the military’s racist treatment and the inconsequential and foolish missions he’s been sent on, Bradley steals a spare Captain America uniform and takes the fight to the Nazis by himself — and he gets captured.

The story doesn’t take place entirely in the past — in the present day, Steve Rogers learns about the alternate Super-Soldier program for the first time and begins his own investigation of what happened to Isaiah Bradley. While he shuts down a number of racists who’d profited from exploiting black soldiers decades ago, he also discovers that Bradley’s ultimate legacy was perhaps even more amazing than his wartime career.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a great story, with outstanding action, characterization, empathy, and unpredictability. There are several points where you think the story is going to go one way, but it completely surprises you and goes the other.

It’s an intensely emotional book, too — not merely because the lead characters have strong emotions, but because the emotions are so realistic and raw. Early in the Super-Soldier testing process, the families of all the inductees are told that they’ve been killed — and many other black soldiers are actually murdered to cover up the crimes — and the toll on the families is covered extensively. The anguish that comes from these unexpected deaths is rendered amazingly well, and their pain is felt by the reader, too. It’s not just the writing here — Kyle Baker’s art really brings it home. Sometimes the sorrow is visible and unmistakable, and sometimes it’s hidden below the surface, but it all feels real.

Baker’s art is often very cartoony, which is initially a shock when you start reading. It’s very far from the Marvel standard, but for the most part, it’s something you get used to quickly. Baker is a cartoonist’s cartoonist, and it’s a thrill to see him work. His vision here is intensely important, too — you can tell the characters mean a lot to him, and he works hard to make everyone unique and interesting. His work is, like I said before, emotionally resonant, from the faces to the eyes to the body language.

The comic is obviously fiction, but Morales’ appendix at the end of the book is definitely worth reading. He details some of his research and outlines how some of the scenes in the story were inspired. For history buffs, it’s a good read and includes suggestions for other books worth checking out.

It’s a sad comic in a lot of ways. But it’s got its unique glories, too, in moments both crashing and quiet. It’s also not at all easy to find — you can’t get it from Amazon without paying $50 or more. But I found my copy a couple years ago in one of the local comic shops for a normal price, so do some digging around. You should also be able to find it digitally. If you can find it, you’ll be very glad you got the opportunity to read it, so go pick it up.

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Marching for Equality

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March, Book Two

We’ve already reviewed Book One — check out the review over here.

I trust you know the general background of this one — it’s the autobiography of civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis, told as a graphic novel. It’s cowritten by one of his staffers, a comics fan named Andrew Aydin, with art by Nate Powell.

This second chapter of the series gets us deeper into the weeds of the civil rights movement, just as it begins to get a lot more violent for the participants. They’re attacked at movie theaters, someone locks them in a diner, then fills it full of poison bug spray, their buses are run off the road and set on fire, they’re beaten by local thugs, the Klan, and the police, they’re attacked at churches, they’re thrown in jail.

But all of this is getting a lot of interest from the public all across the nation and the world. Some of the people who are also being attacked are members of the press, and members of President Kennedy’s staff. The violence of the segregated South was getting more and more attention and attracting more and more people who felt it was time for everyone to be equal. Thugs like Bull Connor were making things even worse for the status quo, upping the savagery of his attacks on innocent people until just about everyone in the country was disgusted.

The last quarter of the book focuses on the March on Washington — not just the videos you’ve seen on YouTube, but the behind-the-scenes negotiations that made it possible. One of the organizers was gay and was outed by Strom Thurmond in an attempt to discredit the march. Lewis’s speech had to go through extensive rewrites to keep it from sounding like an outright call for revolution. It’s a triumphant note — but the struggle was far from over. Less than a month after the march, the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed, killing four little girls.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This book is going to make you unbelievably furious. It has good reason to do so, and we should all be furious about the massive injustices of this period in our national history. Yes, the March on Washington is genuinely inspiring, but most of the book is a recounting of injustice after injustice after injustice, and anyone who doesn’t get mad about that just isn’t paying attention. And people who want us to forget this should be ashamed of themselves.

There’s another reason I get angry when I read this book. You already know there are a lot of people who want to restrict voting rights and invent barriers to keep non-white people from voting. They always tell you they’re not racist, they’re just worried about illegal voting. That’s bull. These people are racist scum, and that’s all there is to it.

Y’all have heard me rant before about liberals who’ve decided the only way to solve the problem of racism in the South is to expel the South from the United States. The thing these supposedly good liberals don’t realize is that when they say things like that, they’re also spitting in the faces of the great civil rights leaders and openly siding with the Bull Connors.

Liberals who want to expel the South would be giving Southern racists free rein to turn the clock back as far as they wanted, essentially abandoning millions of blacks, Hispanics, women, gays, trans people, atheists, and even other liberals to people who would gleefully enslave, imprison, oppress, and execute them. Liberals who want to expel the South are signaling their willingness to do the KKK’s bidding, to give the wingnuts the victory they’ve always dreamed of. They’re siding with Jefferson Davis over Abraham Lincoln. They’re looking at the hard work and sacrifices of John Lewis, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and thousands of others, and declaring they don’t care, it was all a failure, and let’s just let injustice rule again.

That’s a lot of the reason this book makes me angry. We’ve come so far — but still not far enough — and too many people are willing to abandon all that progress because they’re bored. And because they know they won’t suffer any of the consequences.

March, Book Two is a great book. You should definitely go pick it up.

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For Freedom

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Nat Turner

I’ve been meaning to review this for the last few years, always planning on posting about it during Black History Month in February, and every year, I get distracted and forget. Not this year — here’s Kyle Baker’s amazing graphic novel biography of Nat Turner, the leader of the bloodiest slave rebellion in the United States.

Turner was a slave living in Virginia. He’d taught himself to read, because it was illegal to teach slaves to read — slaveowners didn’t want educated slaves because they were more likely to rebel. Turner’s interest in reading was mainly so he could study the Bible, and his knowledge and high moral character had many fellow slaves referring to him as a prophet — he also had periodic visions which he believed came to him from God. And one of his visions, combined with a few convenient solar eclipses, eventually convinced him that God wanted him to lead a battle against the forces of evil. And in the American South of the 1830s, evil was definitely well-represented among white slaveowners.

When Turner and his accomplices began their rebellion, they initially stuck with quiet weapons — knives, axes, farming implements — rather than guns, and they didn’t just kill slaveowners — they killed women and children, too. They spared poor whites who they felt were as downtrodden as slaves, but they still ended up killing 60 people and amassing a force of 70 slaves and free blacks. Turner himself is believed to have killed only one person — he was extremely smart, but he was a lousy fighter. The rebellion was put down after two days, but Turner was able to hide out for several months. When he was finally captured, he was tried and sentenced to be hanged. He was also beheaded, and his body was buried in an unmarked grave.

Kyle Baker’s book takes most of its text from Thomas Ruffin Gray’s book, “The Confessions of Nat Turner,” which included extensive interviews with Turner during his trial and before his execution. His art illustrates passages from the book, or interprets common episodes in the lives of slaves. There is very little dialogue or word balloons, and the art is entirely black, white, and sepia-toned brown.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Turner’s story is an amazing one — I’m really surprised that Hollywood has never made a major movie about him. Maybe his character and personality are too complex for film — he’s not a pure hero or villain — yes, he fought against terrific injustice, but he committed widespread murders. Baker depicts Turner warts and all — but I think it’s clear he sympathizes with him and his cause. (As do I — knowing what we know about the horrors and monstrous injustices of slavery, I don’t blame anyone for rising up against it.)

It’s a stark and brutal story, frequently very violent. Turner and his rebels massacre families, ambush people in their homes, behead children — their actions shock us, and I think, rightfully so. But it’s still very hard not to sympathize — Turner’s actions aren’t sugarcoated, but it’s also made very clear that he’s living in a terribly unjust world, where slaves were subjected to horrible punishments for crimes like reading and playing drums. Slaveowners were said to be terrified of slave rebellions — and a lot of that terror may have been because they knew they deserved whatever the slaves would do to them.

If you only know Baker’s work from his wonderful “Plastic Man” series from a few years ago, this story will probably knock you out of your socks. His cartoonish style on DC’s comedic series is nowhere to be seen here. The art is, at turns, rough-hewn and furious, and then lushly rendered and gloriously lit, sometimes crudely emotional, sometimes shockingly beautiful, and sometimes both at once.

It’s a fantastic story about an unsung American freedom fighter, beautifully illustrated by one of our great graphic storytellers. You bet you should go pick it up.

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This Week in Comic Book Diversity

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It’s been a weirdly excellent week for diversity in the comic book world.

The biggest news has been the announcement that Marvel was introducing a new Ms. Marvel, a shapeshifting Muslim teenager who idolized the current Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers. Kamala Khan made a very brief debut in this week’s issue of “Captain Marvel” and will be appearing in her own comic book in February. She isn’t the first Muslim female character in a comic book, but it’s very likely she’s the first to grab her own starring role in a comic from the Big Two.

As was pointed out to me by a friend, while this is good news, it would be even better news if Marvel hadn’t even felt the need to publicize this — that woulda meant that having characters who were not white straight male Christians was no longer considered shocking or surprising or uncommon — that there was no longer an “other,” just people who had interesting stories we could tell.

Nevertheless, a lot of the excitement about this is because readers are excited that there are new interesting characters to read about and who are happy that the comics world is becoming a more open, less exclusionary place.

Outside of the printed page, there’s a lot of other news about TV shows. DC announced that the CW would bring a new superhero to the screen. No, not Wonder Woman — she’s still considered too weird and obscure and non-penis-endowed for TV. Instead, they’re going with Hourman. Yeah, a little-known Golden Age character who only has powers for an hour at a time after taking a pill. That’s so much more mainstream and cool and sensible than Wonder Woman, isn’t it?

On the other hand, the CW also announced that they’d be producing a new TV show based on Chris Roberson and Michael Allred’s “iZombie,” which of course stars a female character. This sounds like it may be a bit more interesting — the CW’s superhero shows (Well, “Arrow” — more are planned, of course) seem to be oriented around brooding shirtless hunks being angsty. A zombie who solves crimes by snacking on brains sounds like a meatier premise, though still probably pretty angsty, too.

Perhaps more encouraging on the TV front is that Netflix is going to make a number of shows based on Marvel characters, including Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, and the Defenders. This is pretty exciting news — Marvel has been a lot more successful with superheroes in the mass media, and it means that Marvel stands a very good chance of beating DC to getting a female superhero into a starring role on TV. If there’s anything that could push DC into taking Wonder Woman seriously as a media property, it might be Marvel stealing their thunder again.

(Though on a semi-related note, what’s up with Marvel still not starting up a Black Widow movie? You’ve got one of the most famous, most marketable movie stars on the planet playing backup roles in other people’s movies, guys. For the sake of Croesus, make a Black Widow movie and put Scarlett Johansson’s name above the title.)

And finally, dropping back to comics, former Lubbock artist Rachael Anderson was just spotlighted in Comics Alliance’s new “Hire this Woman” feature! We have our fingers crossed that this will help draw more attention to a really outstanding artist. We’d love to see her name on big-name comics soon.

Does all this big pro-diversity news mean the struggle is over, or even close to over? Obviously not. For one thing, DC Comics still exists, and it’ll be years before they let go of the “Comics are only for white male geeks” paradigm. But any progress forward is good news, and if television success can drag the comics industry a bit closer to the 21st century, I’m all for it.

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Marching for Justice

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March: Book One

When I heard about this one, I knew I’d have to get it.

It’s basically the autobiography of civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis, in graphic-novel format. The project came about because some of his staff were making jokes about staffer Andrew Aydin, who was a comics fan, but Lewis pointed out that a comic book about Martin Luther King, Jr. helped inspire him to get involved in the civil rights movement. Soon, Aydin was co-writing this book with Lewis, while Nate Powell put the art together.

Though the book starts out with what’s probably the most horrifying incident of Lewis’ life — when state troopers attacked peaceful marchers and fractured his skull on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama — we soon settle into a more straightforward biography. We visit Lewis as a child, obsessed with being a preacher and delivering passionate sermons to the family’s chickens as practice. We watch him growing up, going to college, becoming more socially aware, meeting Martin Luther King, becoming an activist…

Approximately the last half of the book focuses on the lunch counter sit-ins in Nashville, following them from the organizing and planning stages through the actual sit-ins and through the trials and aftermath. It’s simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s an amazing work of art, exciting, scary, beautiful, inspiring, and informative all at once. Part memoir, part history.

Like I said, a big chunk of the book is devoted to the sit-ins, and they’re probably the most interesting parts of the story, especially for those of us who were too young to have heard about these while they were happening.

I never knew that participants had to go through training sessions to make sure they were really willing to abide by the principles of non-violence — there was a lot of roleplaying involved, with everyone calling each other names, heaping abuse on each other, blowing cigarette smoke in their faces and dousing them with water — because that’s what they knew would happen at protests, and they had to make sure that everyone could handle the pressure without snapping and punching some Nashville cop in the neck.

And the specifics of the sit-ins were pretty interesting, too — all the detail and planning that went into them, what actually happened during the sit-ins, how people reacted, they’re all extremely informative. All of this got glazed over in school, so we never learned any of this. The history makes it worth reading.

Is there rude language? Yes, there is — racial epithets are used, just as they were used in real life. Is it still kid-friendly? I think it is. Again, this is historical info, and it’s important for kids and adults to know what happened. There’s nothing explicit — there’s no gore, no sex, no over-the-top swearing — but the difficulty of life in the South for African-Americans, and what it was like to attend protests and marches — none of this is sugar-coated, and none of it should be.

It’s a great story, it’s all true, and it’s the first graphic novel written by a member of Congress! I’d consider that a must-read. Go pick it up.

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Mighty Guys

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Mighty Avengers #1

The Avengers are all off in outer space dealing with some intergalactic threat, which makes Thanos figure he can invade Earth ’cause the Avengers aren’t around to stop him. Of course, there are plenty of other heroes running around the joint. Which brings us to the newest incarnation of the Heroes for Hire — Luke Cage, White Tiger, and Power Man (who’s a completely different guy — a smartass teenager nowadays). But that team only lasts ’til the Superior Spider-Man shows up, talks some smack, and convinces White Tiger to take a hike.

Elsewhere, Monica Rambeau is back in town, now wearing a new costume and calling herself Spectrum. She has a mysterious, shadowy benefactor, too. Aaaaanyway, Thanos’ minions finally attack New York City — does this ragtag band of do-gooders stand a chance?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Fun dialogue, action, humor, and drama. Excellent characterization, too. This is a darned interesting group, and I’d really like to read more about them as quickly as possible.

Oh, but I do have some serious quibbles. First, the art. Hey, it’s by Greg Land, who is infamous for tracing other people’s art and photos. Looks like he’s up to the same gig here, with lots of weirdly awkward facial expressions and poses that you just know look like that because he copied them somewhere else. Why does Marvel still employ this guy? Does he have some serious blackmail photos of Joe Quesada?

Another thing that bugs me is the way Monica Rambeau looks in this. I’m not a big fan of the new costume — I actually liked the look of the jacket she wore in her previous appearances. But new costumes show up all the time for B-list characters, and really, this costume isn’t all that bad. But I do think her hair is a more serious problem.

Look, “Mighty Avengers” is pretty much getting marketed as Marvel’s “Black Avengers” comic, much like Brian Wood’s new “X-Men” book was billed as the “Female X-Men” book. It’s got more African-American characters than any mainstream superhero book has had since Milestone’s glory days.

Among the female characters we know of, Spectrum is black, White Tiger is Hispanic, and She-Hulk is, regardless of her skin color, Caucasian. And all three of them have straight hair. I might be able to excuse it if Monica had ever been depicted with straight hair, but in her most recent appearances, she had cornrows. And taking your only African-American woman and giving her chemically-straightened hair isn’t really the most enlightened thing to do. I’ve got to assume Monica’s hair has been straightened because the women Land traced had straight hair, but that’s just another reason not to use Land as your artist.

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The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys #4

Red and Blue, the porno droids on the run from BLI, are trying to make it out of Battery City. Their power will shut off once they pass the city limits, but they figure they’ll be able to die together. Elsewhere, Korse’s secret — he’s fallen in love — is revealed, and his lover has been killed. Now he’ll be taken away to be reprogrammed. And the Girl is stuck in the desert, forced to hang out with the rotten Val Velocity as he barrels down the road into paranoid psychosis and self-destruction. Can any of them survive BLI’s crackdown?

Verdict: Thumbs up. All the storylines are really picking up and turning seriously enjoyable. Great art, great storytelling, great characters — excellent pop/sci-fi comics, and it’s worth picking up.

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Red Sonja #3

Sonja is wandering the wilderness, burning with fever as the plague begins to overwhelm her. Forced to surrender to an enemy in the last issue to protect innocent villagers, she’s been cast out and humiliated — and she’s beginning to hallucinate as the plague starts to destroy her mind. She sees her long-deceased father and relives the nightmare of her childhood when sadistic raiders destroyed her family and village. Will the hopelessness of her past predict her own doom?

Verdict: Thumbs up. More excellent storytelling and art. Sonja’s childhood is simultaneously incredibly grim and grandly badass, and the latest cliffhanger is very nice, though I’m pretty sure we know how it’s going to turn out…

Today’s Cool Links:

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Fear of a Black Planet

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Super Black: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes by Adilifu Nama

Hey, it’s nonfiction time! I picked this one up a few weeks back and thought it was pretty fun — or as close as academic pop culture analysis gets to fun.

In case y’all haven’t noticed before, comic book superheroes tend to be an awfully pink bunch of people. Plenty of people wish that were different, and that comics more closely resembled our multicultural society… and unfortunately, a lot of other people seem to wish that comics were even more white than they are now. So it’s nice to see that someone has put together a history of black superheroes and how they’ve affected our culture.

The book starts out focusing on comics’ earliest attempts to address racial injustice, particularly in Dennis O’Neil’s and Neal Adams’ “Green Lantern/Green Arrow” series. From there, it’s on to the first important black superheroes — Luke Cage, the Black Panther, John Stewart, Black Lightning, and the Falcon. And Nama is very careful to note how they fit in with the comic companies and within pop culture — John Stewart as an outgrowth of O’Neil’s political-themed comics and Black Lightning as the first African-American hero at DC to get his own title; Luke Cage and Black Panther as reactions to blaxploitation films, and the Falcon as possibly the most important black hero — he shared co-billing with Captain America, got serious stories about race relations into the comics, and was the first black superhero to be able to fly.

There are, of course, plenty of other characters discussed and analyzed, as well as how they influenced and were influenced by pop culture, politics, and current events. There’s a whole chapter on black superheroes on film — but far more interesting is the lengthy discussion of the 1970s blaxploitation flicks — and how they often made the most sense when you thought of them, not as private eye or crime films, but as early superhero movies.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a solid and deeply interesting piece of analysis. This is the kind of material that gets short shrift in a lot of comics histories — usually confined to a few pages of the single “Oh yeah, here are the prominent black, Hispanic, and female characters of the ’60s and ’70s” chapter.

This is all really pretty entertaining stuff — the first chapter or two are very heavy on the academic language, and I was initially worried it’d be pretty dry and inaccessible. But once the book hits its rhythm, it really pulls you along. It’s a good, fast read, and it’s hard to put down.

If I’ve got a complaint about this book, it’d be that there are some really great characters who get very little to no attention. Milestone’s comics in the ’90s are discussed in only a couple of paragraphs — and dismissed as unimportant. Now I know — anecdotes aren’t data, but I’m a member of a Milestone Media fan page on Facebook, and everyone there sees Milestone as not just important historically, but inspirational as well — there are members there who loved Milestone’s books so much, they decided to create their own comics. That’s not an unimportant comics publisher — that’s a publisher that changed things.

Still, you got any interest in comics, history, diversity, and racial politics? You’re going to want to pick this one up.

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Alex Summers: Self-Hating Mutant

I reviewed the latest issue of “Uncanny Avengers” on Friday. And not too long after I posted it, there was this little controversy that hit the ‘net:

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Havok-Mutant2

I barely noticed this when I read the issue. I remember at the time thinking, “Hmm, that’s kind of a strange attitude for someone in Havok’s position to have.” But I didn’t think of it much beyond that.

If you’ve read the link above, you’ll see some detail on why it’s such an odd thing for Havok to say. Alex Summers is a member of a minority group — namely, mutants — which in the Marvel Universe, definitely qualifies as oppressed. The government periodically tries to outlaw and imprison them and people sometimes kill mutants, all on the basis of their genetics. Sure, on the one hand, Alex just wants to be treated like any other human, which is something that every civil rights activist would agree with. But not wanting to be identified in any way as a mutant, and even considering the word “mutant” to be a slur, makes Havok look like a self-loathing mutant.

It’s been said that, as far as their political awareness goes, Charles Xavier was the equivalent of Martin Luther King, Jr., working to improve mutant rights through (mostly) peaceful means, while Magneto (and the current version of Alex’s brother, Cyclops) would be the equivalent of Malcolm X, working to advance mutantkind “by any means necessary.”

With that speech, Alex has been cast as, basically, many of the characters from TVTropes’ “Boomerang Bigot” page. If his fellow mutants don’t bust his chops over this in future issues, they’re not doing their jobs.

It probably doesn’t help that “Uncanny Avengers” has previously been criticized for being a team of white characters — and in this issue, they added a Japanese character and two more white ones. And it also doesn’t help that writer Rick Remender is reacting to criticism by unleashing his inner douchebag.

For all the complaints, however, it must be said that Marvel could’ve handled the whole thing much, much worse. DC Comics, for instance, can barely go a month without some horrific controversy where they kill off another non-white character or ladle on the embarrassing sexism when writing about their female characters. Marvel may not be perfect, but they’re closer to where they should be.

Anyway, it bugged me that this didn’t bug me more when I read the comic, but like straight white male Alex Summers, I’ve got more than my share of privilege issues that make it easy for me to overlook these things. I try to train myself not to let these things slide by me, but the big problem with privilege is that you often have no clue you’ve got it until it’s pointed out to you after the fact. The best any of us can do is try to be better people…

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Poison in the Well

Obviously, I never read the “Weird Tales” pulp magazine back in its glory days — or really, any other time, since it mostly hasn’t been published while I’ve been alive. But any fan of horror or weird fiction reveres it because it was one of the first magazines to publish authors like H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Robert Bloch, Clark Ashton Smith, Ray Bradbury, Fritz Leiber, Manly Wade Wellman, Theodore Sturgeon, C.L. Moore, and many others. It’s been revived periodically, mostly because the “Weird Tales” name and logo still carry a lot of weight for fantasy and horror fans, but the revivals have only rarely been successful or long-lasting.

The latest incarnation of the magazine seems to have screwed things up badly. It seems that the current publisher decided that the magazine’s connection to the past would be to the poisonous racism held by the pulp writers in the ’20s and ’30s…

Victoria Foyt’s self-published novel Revealing Eden: Save the Pearls Part One is set in a dystopian future where solar radiation means the Coals (with dark skin) can survive better than the fair-skinned Pearls. Pearls cover their white skin with dark make-up, and the black love interest of the 17-year-old white heroine Eden – shown in blackface make-up on the front cover and in promotional videos – is described as a “powerful, beastly man”. At one point, Foyt writes: “Eden flinched. One of them was touching her. White-hot light exploded in her head. Before she knew it, she blurted out an incendiary racial slur. ‘Get your hands off of me, you damn Coal!’”

The novel has been the subject of widespread attacks across the internet, with readers criticising it as “incredibly racist to pretty much every reader. Especially readers of colour”, and as a “white supremacist fantasy”. “The coals/pearls contrast is itself offensive: after all, coal is dirty and cheap, whereas pearls are beautiful and valuable,” wrote one blogger. Some readers have said they are considering boycotting the magazine.

Foyt, who self-published Revealing Eden but has previously been published by HarperCollins, has defended herself on Facebook and in blog posts, saying that she “abhor[s] racism”, that the book has received many positive reviews, and “if you ask if all these reviewers are white then consider that you have a racist point of view”.

Here’s some more info from the previous publisher and from an author whose first story was published in “Weird Tales.”

Obviously, it’s really sad to see a magazine with the pedigree of “Weird Tales” lower itself to publishing white-supremacist screeds, and to support them by publishing editorials claiming it isn’t racist, especially when it’s clear to everyone that the editor wrote it strictly as a cynical Cover-Your-Ass maneuver.

But it’s also part of an ongoing problem we’ve seen in the geek community — particularly in comics and gaming. Most of the recent controversies have been tied to the sexism and homophobia in the comics and gaming worlds, but the only reason that racism isn’t more noticeable is because the racism hasn’t been nearly as blatant as the sexism or homophobia.

The good news is, I think, that opposition to all the -isms in geek hobbies — sexism, racism, and homophobia in particular — is growing and becoming more vocal. It used to be that this kind of garbage was just accepted, but it isn’t anymore. Wanna publish a racist story in your magazine? Guess what — you’re going to get metric tons of angry letters about it. Wanna put rape fantasies in a Tomb Raider game? You’re going to get a ton of bad publicity about it. Wanna promote sexism in your comics? You’re going to be met at every convention by people who will call you out about it.

Doesn’t mean the struggle’s over — the struggle’s probably never over. It’s still important for people like us who hate getting our geekery mixed up with racism, sexism, homophobia, and other hatemongeries to keep speaking against hate. But from a business perspective, it’s becoming more clear all the time that the way to success means you have to avoid anything that’ll make you look like a hater. It’s a big, diverse marketplace out there, and you can’t make much money by excluding potential customers.

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Because You Can’t Spell “Douche” Without “DC”

So DC has solicits up for their September comics, including their new zero issues. And one of them is the Green Lantern comic pictured above, with the new, so-far unnamed Green Lantern.

And yes, that looks like a new African-American Green Lantern wearing a ski mask and waving a gun around. Oh, Geoff Johns, your casual racism is why everyone must love you so.

A few hours after that image was made public, DC said, whoa, wait a minute, he’s not black, he’s actually Muslim.

So he’s still a marginalized and often despised minority wearing a ski mask and waving a gun around. Also, observant Muslims don’t have tattoos, like this guy sports on his arm. And he still looks black. So no matter what, it’s still insulting and racist!

Some days, I don’t know whether the people running DC are just unusually oblivious racists (and sexists) or if they think trolling their readers and trying to get people to hate them is smart marketing. “Hey, everyone’s talking about us! Success!” Too bad your comics don’t sell so well, guys.

Now how long before DC renames their “Stormwatch” comic to “Stormfront”…?

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