Whitey On the Blue Area of the Moon: Comics and Racism
It’s pretty sad that the death of a character like Ryan Choi from The Atom had to happen to bring this up, but now many fans and writers alike are starting to come up with a very important question: why are the minorities always getting shafted in comic books? The Atom is not an A-list DC superhero, but Choi, for many, brought a refreshing take on a character that most fans didn’t care much about. This was the beginning point of Chris Sims’ article on how regressing to old school characters is bringing an unintentional whitewashing of the DCU.
Thing is, he’s not the only case: Jaime Reyes, the current Blue Beetle, has already lost his comic run and will most likely get screwed over in the future in order for original Blue Beetle Ted Kord to get his moment, despite the fact that the Kord Beetle’s comic sales were abysmal unless he got shoved into another book. Add to that the unnecessary racial tension between the characters Jason Rausch and Ronnie Raymond in Brightest Day, along with fan responses to Dwayne McDuffie’s JLA roster a few years back, and you see how there is no love for minority characters.
It’s not just in DC, either. Ryan Mullenix at Bleeding Cool made a list of what has happened to many of the minority characters in comics, and it’s not pretty. i09 also jumped into the fray, with comments from Marvel’s Tom Brevoort and Boom! Comics’ Mark Waid basically saying because the readership of comics mostly comprised of Caucasians, most of the characters are going to follow that suit as well.
First off, it’s fair to say that DC is not actively being racist, they are just merely far too wrapped up in the nostalgia of the Silver Age to realize how the “good ol’ days” were mostly made up of white guys. With so many compelling, popular characters of different backgrounds created since then, it seems like a horrible misstep to just wipe them out for the sake of shock value or for whatever grand scheme it is they’re working on. They should also remember that a lot of us are from a generation that grew up with characters like Kyle Rayner (who is also a minority character, I found out) and for us it’s mind-boggling to see him get sent to the back burner just to bring back Hal Jordan, who despite all the great work Geoff Johns’ run has done for him, is still not terribly that interesting a character.
Comic books are such an odd medium, as massive world-shattering events happen just for the sake of fixing the status quo. You’d think they would use it to make some real progress, but lately it just feels like they are trying so hard to appease an older generation. I get that now that it’s their time to write the stories they want to bring back the characters they grew up with, but I don’t see how this helps your already dwindling sales. The people they’re catering to are a shrinking older comic fan base. Shouldn’t they be trying to get the kids back into this? And as for Brevoort’s comments, as a Latino comic nerd I actually find it insulting that they don’t give a crap about us. What, just because Spider-Man is white I’m gonna not read him? It’s that marginalizing of potential minority fans who could be a boon to the industry if they just tried to reach out that’s really frustrating to me.
The truth here is that race isn’t everything, especially in a genre where one of the most widely known characters is a refugee immigrant who has adapted to the American way of a life and is serving his duty as a citizen by saving them from a bald big business lunatic. And Junot Diaz said it best himself when he equated being a Hispanic nerd to being like a mutant fit for Professor X’s school. Comics can tell stories of the universal human experience, regardless if you’re black, Asian, Latino, or white. Please, comic heads, don’t ruin this by pushing things back to the 60s and 70s. Those times are over, move on.