Over the past 10 years, Hollywood has relied heavily on comic book adaptations to bring people into the glut of state-of-the-art theaters built across the country. Transformers, Harry Potter, Star Wars I – III, James Bond and a few other franchises have been big money-makers for Hollywood studios of late, but comic book movies – and movies based on Nicholas Sparks book s – pace the box-office.
We have pointed out the trend of the white action star being completely phased out from movie s, but because comic book characters were largely created in a time when the concept of Black-Run America (BRA) was only in its infancy, your Batman, Green Lantern, Superman, Iron Man, Wolverine, X-Men, Captain America (and all The Avengers), Daredevil, Wonder Woman, etc. are all white. This whiteness upsets a lot of people, including The American Prospect’s Gene Demby:
A purple-skinned alien hurtles across the cosmos, bearing a ring that grants its wearer unimaginable power. The alien is mortally wounded, and the ring is seeking its next wearer—the Green Lantern, Earth’s champion—by finding the planet’s most courageous inhabitant.
In a world with billions of people, what are the chances that the ring’s next owner is a white American dude?
Pretty high, apparently. In DC Comics’ Showcase #22 , released in 1959, the power ring chose Hal Jordan, a dashing military test pilot modeled on a young Paul Newman. Jordan would become a founding member of the Justice League of America, DC Comics’ flagship superhero team, and one of its most famous characters. And while comics, over time, began to challenge that whiteness, two major films to be released this summer avoid the critiques on race found in the original comics.
In the early days, whiteness was so pervasive in comics that it could actually span the universe: a Kryptonian Superman could crash-land in Kansas and pass as an ordinary white farm boy. In the 1960s, though, comic-book publishers began trying to create nonwhite heroes. As the civil-rights movement came to dominate the national conversation, a young white artist named Neal Adams tried to subtly incorporate black characters into the newspaper strip he was illustrating. “I come out of a time when bigotry was a lot more subtle than it [was] in the days of slavery,” Adams says. “Not for the people who had it working against them but for the people who walked around saying, ‘There’s no problem, right?’” His world in New York City, Adams says, was full of people who did not think of themselves as Southern-style racists.
But Adams drew and submitted an installment of a syndicated comic strip featuring a black doctor and a white ambulance driver in one panel. When he later saw proofs of the strip, he realized that higher-ups had switched the characters’ heads. The higher-ups told him audiences would be confused by a black doctor.
When Adams got to DC Comics, where he worked on the Green Lantern in the early 1970s, he started to push back. “I asked [my editor] what happens if Hal Jordan gets killed,” Adams says. “They tell me they have a backup.” That backup turned out to be a blond gym teacher from the Midwest.
Adams, however, thought that the secondary Green Lantern should be black. So, with his editor’s approval, he and writer Dennis O’Neil created John Stewart, a black architect who would later become the main Green Lantern. (In the early drafts, Adams says, an editor wanted to name the character Lincoln Washington; Adams talked him out of it.) “I’m very proud of that,” he says. “I’m glad that [my editor] was open to it and malleable. But it did have to be explained to him.”
Disingenuous White Liberals (DWLs) have to constantly apologize for America’s past whiteness, because regrettably, that past actually worked quite good compared to the strange country we have now where a space program is scrapped to care for a growing colored underclass.
Hard to believe, but as late as 1964 the United States was 90 percent white. Because of their ubiquity on television and in movies (not to mention college and professional football and basketball) people have been conditioned to believe Black people represent as much as 33 percent of the current population.
Blacks are but 13 percent of the United States population.
Historically America was a white country with a Black problem. Now, America is a country dedicated to advancing the principles of BRA, and it has a white problem.
Once Black people refused to assimilate to America; now white people refuse to fully submit to BRA.
For those who have been reading comic books and understand that most comic book heroes are white, this presents a huge problem. X-Men: First Class came out last Friday (Sailer reviews it here; James Pinkerton here; and thegrio.com here) and Black people are royally upset that none of the characters in the film were Black:
Ta-Nehesi Coates recently wrote an op-ed in the New York Times about the lack of an African-American presence in the latest X-Men movie. Despite the fact that the X-Men’s story is based on the Civil Rights movement, racism and discrimination, there is no African-American presence in the latest movie at all.
In fact, no X-Men movie has any African-American presence at all. Sure, Storm is African, but not African-American and her struggle does not represent the struggle of overcoming slavery and Jim Crow, though it is still a very real struggle.
DC Comics also has a very small Black presence. They co-opted Milestone’s comic, Static, who was later given a successful TV show for kids, but other than that has a very small presence in the DC Universe.
Even DC’s Classic graphic novel “Watchmen,” despite its historical and social commentary, doesn’t have any African-Americans or even alludes to the Civil Rights movement; despite the fact that it focuses on several social issues of the time, including the Vietnam war, Watergate, the anti-war movement, the atomic bomb and police brutality.
Similarly, DC’s classic Batman novel, “The Dark Night Returns,” deals with several social issues as well, such as the cold war, police brutality, and the prison system; but does not refer to racism or Blacks either.
The recent DC cartoon “Justice League: The New Frontier” which is also a historical piece, set in the 60′s, alludes to an African-American super hero that was killed by the KKK and recently, the white Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, was replaced by an African American, John Stewart, who appears in many recent Justice League cartoons and DC comic books.
The lack of successful Black comic book characters cannot be blamed on DC and Marvel and the companies they work with. Reginald Hudlin produced an excellent TV series on The Black Panther for BET, but they never aired it. It was only seen in Australia and on DVD and digital download.
The lack of successful Black comic book characters is because the free market has shown that comic book readers aren’t interested in purchasing stories with melanin-enhanced heroes. Sure you can make Heimdall, Kingpin, and Nick Fury Black for the movies, but attempts to add Black characters to other comics have largely failed.
X-Men First Class did have one Black character called Darwin, and the film resurrected the time-honored tradition of the “Black guy dying first” by killing him off quickly. Set in a highly-stylized 1962, X-Men First Class worked a lot like 2009’s Watchmen (set in the mid-1980s) where there is a noticeable lack of Black people in any prominent role.
The fictionalized countries are dedicated to advancement in both films, instead of debasing the overall health of the country in a never-ending quest of Black empowerment. Today J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg’s Super 8 comes out, which is basically a homage to The Goonies, E.T. , and Indiana Jones . That movie is set in 1979 and looks to have an all-white cast, because any movie set in today’s world would be forced to include a cast brimming with diversity (see the inevitable SEALS Team 6 film).
Super 8 is going to make gobs of money, something next weeks Green Lantern will fail to do. In July, Captain America debuts and, with it being set in the 1940s, we believe it will be the sleeper hit of the year. Setting movies in a past untouched with the glorious and enriching diversity of 2011 is an easy way for film producers to appeal to that group of people who still long for Norman Rockwell’s America.
Everything has to be about racism now and how Black people are constantly discriminated against, so when X-Men First Class failed to sufficiently wallow in white guilt and Black empowerment, The New York Time’s Ta-Nehisi Coates went nuts:
But as “First Class” roars to its final climactic scene, it appeals to an insidious suspension of disbelief; the heroic mutants of America, bravely opposing bigotry and fear, are revealed as not so much a spectrum of humankind, but as Eagle Scouts from Mayfield. Thus, “First Class” proves itself not merely an incredible film, but an incredible work of American historical fiction. Here is a period piece for our postracial times — in the era of Ella Baker and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the most powerful adversaries of spectacular apartheid are a team of enlightened white dudes.
“First Class” is set in 1962. That was the year South Carolina marked the Civil War centennial by returning the Confederate Flag to the State Capitol; the year the University of Mississippi greeted its first black student, James Meredith, with a lethal race riot; the year George Wallace was elected governor of Alabama.
That was the year a small crowd of Americans gathered at the Lincoln Memorial and commemorated the 100th birthday of the Emancipation Proclamation. Only a single African-American was asked to speak (Thurgood Marshall, added under threat of boycott). In “First Class,” 1962 finds our twin protagonists, Magneto and Professor X, also rallying before the Lincoln Memorial, not for protest or commemoration, but for a game of chess. “First Class” is not blind to societal evils, so much as it works to hold evil at an ocean’s length. The film is rooted in its opposition to the comfortably foreign abomination of Nazism.
Remember when Superman denounced America? We wrote about it here. Within that article we learned how pioneering comic book and television/movie producer Bruce Timm changed the traditionally white Hal Jordan (who is the Green Lantern) to a Black character because the Justice League television show “couldn’t be another white people running around saving the world event”:
He becomes the only major black character in the Cartoon Network’s (CN) regular lineup and one of the very few in any animated series.
Executives at CN, which is part of AOL Time Warner’s Atlanta-based Turner Broadcasting System, said they have sought to have more black characters in general but that they never suggested the Green Lantern character to the making “Justice League.”
Create and producer Bruce Timm, a sort of star in the confined world of superhero TV animation, said he chose a black superhero “so it wasn’t just a bunch of white guys saving the universe every day.”
Timm doesn’t think most viewers will give much thought to Green Lantern’s skin color. But, he added, “I would hope black audiences would watch those and say, ‘There is somebody I can relate to.’
More than 20 percent of the CN’s viewers are black.
It’s an effort that should be undertaken with sensitivity, said Linda Simensky, the network’s senior vice president of original animation. Cartoon characters are by nature extreme personalities, often ripe for mockery. “You don’t want your first lead African-American character on the network to be shown in a negative light,” she said.
The selection has irritated some superhero fans. “On one hand they are mad we aren’t using their favorite version of the character,” Timm said. “On the other hand they are accusing of us of being hopelessly P.C. (politically correct).”
Timm please guilty to that last one. “It’s is a P.C. kind of move, but I don’t think it hurts anything.”
A scholarly article was written by Phillip Lamarr Cunningham who asked why are there so few Black supervillain s? One Black comic writer who tried to create more Black heroes (and villains) was the late Dwayne McDuffie, who was responsible for the Black Green Lantern:
Milestone was co-founded by Dwayne McDuffie, who was black and would go on to write for a host of titles. He later became a writer for the Cartoon Network’s Justice League , which debuted in the early aughts. The writing staff chose the Stewart version of the Green Lantern specifically because the rest of the show’s superhero cast—which included an Amazon and an alien policewoman who was part hawk—was white. (Except for the Martian guy. He was green.) For a generation of superhero fans weaned on the popular cartoon series, the black Green Lantern has been the only one they’ve ever known. “If you ask a kid who Green Lanterns is, the kid will say it’s John Stewart,” Adams says.
The inclusion of nonwhite characters in the Justice League of America comic raised hackles among fans who thought McDuffie was trying to enforce a quota system on the pages. “The quota arguments … crack me up,” McDuffie said in an interview last year in the documentary Shaft or Sidney Poitier: Black Masculinity in Comic Books . “Which fictional character is losing a job?” (McDuffie died in February due to complications from heart surgery.)
McDuffie’s efforts won’t make it onto the big screen, though. When the big-budget Green Lantern movie rolls out in mid-June, white heartthrob du jour Ryan Reynolds will wield the power ring as Hal Jordan, the original white character. Captain America, another iconic superhero, is getting his own tentpole summer flick, out in July. Like the Green Lantern comic-book character’s story, Captain America’s mythology has been reimagined to explicitly comment on American racism. And like the Green Lantern film, the movie isn’t likely to touch on that critique. News reports from the start of the project said that the moviemakers were going back to the original source material and would hew to early Captain America tradition. Elisabeth Rappe, writing for Moviefone, stated, “I honestly think there would have been riots if they tried to update Captain America, so color me unsurprised by the news.”
The original Cap didn’t challenge much: Introduced in 1941, he was a scrawny, meek military recruit who becomes the only recipient of a super-soldier serum that augments him to the peak of human ability. The character was meant to be a totem of American ingenuity and grit and to drum up support for the war effort. The irony of creating a physically perfect blue-eyed blond guy as a counter to Nazi ideology was apparently lost on everyone.
Knowing that at the time of World War II – and even today – a large percentage of American’s had blue eyes and blond hair, the concept of Steve Rogers/ Captain America being drawn with those physical attributes wasn’t that shocking.
Racialicious can whine all they want to over the lack of Black characters in comics, but the fact is comic book characters that are popular – and worthy of making a movie about – are overwhelmingly white. Hollywood is trying to get rid of the white action star (think Thomas Jane), but comic book movies won’t allow that to transpire.
Even though the mutants in X-Men First Class might be gifted with extraordinary powers with Professor X and Magneto having the ability to destroy cities with their mind, Black writers and DWL-enthusiasts constantly pull out the metaphor of the X-Men representing Black people or other oppressed minorities that society shuns.
No Black person, sexual or racial minority has the ability to destroy a city with their mind (a city with a majority of Black people do however have that ability as Detroit and Birmingham evidence), so trying to have X-Men stand in for minorities makes little sense.
The real reason Black people and DWLs disliked X-Men is because it was too white. The film was drenched in an unbearable whiteness (all the good mutants were white mind you) and in 2011 this isn’t possible anymore.
Which is why you’ll find more and more movies set in an older America, one untouched by the wonders of diversity and Black-Run America.
Super 8 coming out today is just the beginning. Remember that Black people are being rejected by popular culture, and you’ll understand why they are upset about the whiteness inherent in comic book movies.