There is a hardcore piece of the audience whose back goes up whenever you go into these issues, and they don’t even realize it. What kills me about it is, when they’re writing about it, they’re always hyper-rational: “Look, the fact is there are more white characters, and if you pick randomly, you would end up with all-white teams, and the fact that there are three black people on this team is statistically ridiculous. It’s obviously a quota.” And the quota arguments on fictional teams crack me up. I’m sorry, is somebody losing a job here? Which fictional character is losing a job? They’re not talking about what’s going on in the comic books – they’re talking about what they think is going on in their lives, and that’s not really going on, either.
- Dwayne McDuffie, in the video above (starts at 1:57)
The word “loss” encapsulates a lot of concepts, large and small. You lost that receipt with an idea on it — an irritation. You lost a job — financially crippling. You lost your mind at that club — not so shabby.
It is difficult to describe what it’s like to lose a person to the gaping chasm of death when you didn’t know them all that well. That’s some of my challenge with the passing of Dwayne McDuffie.
Thanks to Racialicious reader Tomas for tipping us off to this: this May, Dynamite Entertainment’s Green Hornet comic-book line will focus on the titular hero’s companion in Kato: Way Of The Ninja. The Kato character has been part of Hornet canon since the character’s beginnings in the radio era, but his most memorable incarnation came in the 1960s, when he was played by Bruce Lee. Even there, though, Lee’s character had to play second banana. Ninja writer Jai Nitztold Newsarama that in the comics, Kato is played more as the Hornet’s equal, and this particular mini-series will take him places the Hornet can’t go.
Nitz also said the story will focus on Kato’s somewhat-forced racial ambiguity:
The first actor to play Kato on the Green Hornet radio program was a Japanese actor named Raymond Hayashi, and Kato was explicitly referred to as “Japanese”. Then Kato was ambiguously changed to Filipino as American/Japanese relations deteriorated in the face of World War II (remember, Pearl Harbor wasn’t the first blow struck in the escalation to WWII, it was the last). Then after Pearl Harbor Kato was explicitly Filipino (and you have to remember the closeness of the Philippines and the US at the time to understand why). Whew. All that said, [Green Hornet: Year One writer] Matt Wagner sets Kato as a Japanese soldier that becomes disillusioned with how the Japanese conduct themselves during the war with mainland China. But, like the real-life radio dilemma, Kato hides his identity, in our story as Korean, when he and [the Green Hornet] return to the States due to the tensions with Japan.
Your run on Deathlok seemed to be full of allusions to the black experience. The lead character’s trapped in a cyborg construct and has his body stolen from him. His fear and shame at how his family would see his new form keeps him from them. He’s literally separated from his own humanity. And the dialogues between the cyborg’s computer AI and Michael Collins riffs on the twoness that W.E.B. DuBois spoke about. How much of this was explicitly in your and Greg Wright’s pitch and how much did you slip under the radar?
None of it was in the pitch, but all of it was intentional. Invisible Man was, and still is, my favorite novel. I’d just read The Souls of Black Folk and was explicitly thinking about Skip Gates’ The Signifying Monkey. Godel, Esher, Bach and Derrick Bell’s dialogues about race and law sort of crashed in my head. Deathlok was a way of sharing some of my thoughts about all of this.
Foremost, though, Deathlok was supposed to be a modern-day take on Marvel’s The Thing (a man alienated by his surface appearance), as well as my own commentary on the “grim and gritty” trend in comic book heroes. Contrary to the fashion at the time, I wanted to do a superhero who was more moral than I, not less. [...]
You’ve talked about how the character of Buck Wild came about as a commentary on the complicated love/hate relationship you had with Luke Cage. Do you still feel the need to address that relationship today? Did doing those issues with Buck help work that stuff out?
I’d worked those issues out even before I started Milestone. I just wanted to share those ideas with the comic book readership in an entertaining matter. Interestingly, those stories are about to be reprinted this summer as Icon: Mothership Connection. The excesses of Blaxploitation comics characters like Cage is the past, though. I’m much more interested in dealing with the stuff that’s going on now: more green characters with their own monthlies than black characters, a criminal lack of people of color in writing and editorial positions on mainstream books, et cetera… The last time I tried to write about that stuff in a mainstream book, my story was bounced (by the same people who asked me to write about it, mind you), and my editors wanted to replace it with clichés from twenty years ago, clichés that not coincidentally shielded mainstream readers and comicbook creators from any responsibility for the current state of affairs. I passed on that. I’ll write about those issues again when I have more control over the content.