Comic Heroine Vixen Gets a White Wash

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

Browsing the Seeking Avalon blog, I notice that she’s provided yet another post on the racism (both subtle and overt) that plagues the comics industry.

This edition: The Visual Bait and Switch.

Willow wonders:

Who is that behind Wonder Woman?

Is that Vixen?

The yellow jumpsuit looks like it belongs to Vixen, if slightly the wrong colour. As do the bangles on the wrist and the belt on the waist.

But last I checked, Vixen was not a white woman.

*Rechecks*

Vixen, Vixen, Vixen, Vixen.

Nope, not a white woman.

And while she obviously uses relaxer on her hair, I’ve never heard of the chemicals automatically bleaching skin. So no plot or reasoning will be coming from that direction.

Seriously, what the hell is up with that? You know there is no way that from writer to printing press Superman could suddenly show up in a series that’s part of current continuity, sporting braids and a darker skin tone.

Because people would call you on that!

LOUDLY.

Interesting. First, it was just the film industry using (what I assume to be) their discretion to change the Fox’s black roots to fit big budget film draw Angelina Jolie.

However, this was done by DC Comics. Don’t y’all check these things before you go to press? I just find it amazing that an industry that is trying to diversify in order to attract younger demographics (and to keep older fans engaged) would do something as obvious as race change one of their heroines.

It’s not like there’s a glut of black female comic heroes so we can afford to let this one go.

Articles about diversifying the comics industry go back ages and ages, from this 1993 New York Times article identifying the new push toward diversity to this 2006 article…also touting the new push toward diversity.

Hmm. 1993 to 2006 and we are still talking about “new diversity initiatives?” And that’s just with the mainstream media reports that I read. I do not read comics industry trade journals, where I am sure the conversation has been happening for much longer and with more detail. (There was actually another article I had in mind to reference, but I am unable to find it as the Washington Post archives all articles over sixty days old.)

Diversity is still an issue in the daily newspapers as well as with major publishing houses like Marvel and DC. While the companies have made impressive strides in including more characters of color, more women characters, and more queer characters it appears that these initiatives were designed to give a token sense of diversity.

So, we see things like a gay character who is announced, but disappears from major plot points and group illustrations. Or the fact that we have amazing super heroines – that for some reason end up raped, tortured in the most erotic way possible, and/or turn up dead in a refrigerator. And characters of color? Well, if they can manage to stay their original coloring, they are often relegated to side roles.

Willow continues:

And in all honesty, as cool as the idea would be to randomly show the heroes as different ethnicities and cultural identities to show how universal they truly are;

Today Superman is Black.

Today Batman is Korean.

Today Wonder Woman is Latina

Today Flash is Indigenous Australian…

You aren’t that cool, DC.

You just aren’t that cool.

Instead it all comes across very much like:

“We’ve secretly switched the usual black superheroine, for a white chick. Let’s see if anyone notices.”

Exactly. There are innovative ways to work diverse characters into the comics universe. I just wish the creators would stop taking one giant step forward and then take yet another step back.